Whenever you start something new, you’re probably going to make some mistakes. These are a few common ones I’ve seen happen to beginners in calisthenics. The list isn’t exhaustive. There are lots more general mistakes, such as skipping warm up, comparing yourself to others, rushing ahead, etc., that apply to other disciplines as well, but I tried to make this post a little bit more specific and based on what I’ve seen in the past months.
Many people mistakenly pronounce it with an extra T that shouldn’t be there, as “calisthen – tics”. If pronounciation syntax means anything to you, it looks like this: /ˌkæl.ɪsˈθen.ɪks/. But for the rest of us, listen to it here to learn.
In case you didn’t know, the name comes from two ancient Greek words: “kallos” meaning beauty/beautiful and “sthenos” meaning strength.
2. Not knowing the difference between pull ups and chin ups
There is a very simple difference between the two, but I’ve seen many beginners mix them up over and over again. Assuming you are using a straight bar, in pull ups, your palms are facing away from you. This is also called an overhand or pronated grip. In chin ups, the palms are facing towards you, which is called an underhand or supinated grip.
Other grip variations exist and go by different names, but those are the two key ones you should know.
3. Not using full range of motion in pull ups
Another pull-up related thing to note is whether you are actually using your full range of motion. It may depend on what you’re trying to achieve, but often the target is to do full range of motion pull ups: from dead hang (arms straight) up to getting your chin above the bar. There are two common ways people cut corners here: either just getting their face to the bar but not actually over it, or not straightening their arms at the bottom. This also applies to chin ups.
4. Not engaging core and shoulders properly when hanging
When hanging from a bar, either for pull ups or just to train your grip, your core and shoulders should be engaged. This means that your body should basically be in a hollow body position, and your shoulders shouldn’t be relaxed and up by your ears. Legs should be straight and feet together, not flopping around. Of course you can hold on for longer if you ignore your form, but then you’re risking injury.
5. Push up form
This one is maybe a bit more debatable. If the instructor just asks for push ups (not a specific type of push ups), they’re probably asking for your arms to be fairly close to the body. But it’s not uncommon to see beginners doing wide grip push ups (where your arms are basically at a 90° angle to your body, hands much wider than your shoulders) because they find regular push ups too challenging, or don’t know the difference. If it’s the former, you might be better off doing more knee push ups until you can do full ones, since wide grip trains slightly different muscles.