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Calisthenics – Taking Advantage of our Local Outdoor Spaces

The cycle of an exercise routine is addictive; once you start you can’t stop and when you stop it is often the beginning of a hiatus.

The gradual transition from winter through spring and into summer provides an opportunity to make changes to your exercise routine. Where the majority of gyms either have no outdoor space or one that is very limited, it is understandable to have the desire to balance your indoor gym routine with exercises in local public spaces. This isn’t an excuse to take a blanket and meet a friend for a Prosecco or beer on Clapham Common, but a blog aimed to inform local residents of how to fully take advantage of some of the fantastic outdoor spaces in our community.

For the last few years, Clapham Common has been blessed with three outdoor fitness areas. These spaces were designed and created to offer an accessible pathway into alternative forms of physical activity in the local community and to promote outdoor sporting engagement. These spaces have, since, become one of many focal points for body weight workouts within South London and are predominantly used for the performance of calisthenics.

I know the high bars or the dip stations may seem intimidating, in fact you may even be intimidated by the title of the sport, but this form of exercise offers so much more than meets the eye.

Calisthenics, to be put simply, is resistance training using body weight. Through disregarding weights, plates and machines from the gym, calisthenics provides a fantastic opportunity to develop coordination, speed, power and agility with little to no equipment. You probably perform calisthenics to some degree through some of the following exercises:

– Squats
– Lunges
– Star jumps
– Push ups
– Crunches

Through having one close friend who recently released a photography project on calisthenics in the UK (Bertie Oakes Photography) and another who has been practising the sport for the last four years, I have been fortunate enough to not just participate in the sport but to engage in the community and the culture. Where I think these outdoor gyms, such as on Clapham Common or in Ruskin Park, are so effective are by being accepting and inclusive to individuals from all walks of life.

For male participants, who have been raised on gym routines that purely consist of who can lift the most weight for the most amount of repetitions, callisthenics provides more of an emphasis on mobility and flexibility. Often for females involved in the sport, however, the challenge lies with the perceptions of female strength and acceptance. This is where calisthenics is so brilliant – as these stigmas are challenged constantly.

If you are keen to shake up your workout routine and take advantage of the limited amount of sunshine the UK has to offer, we recommend you to explore calisthenics in South London. For a local introduction into the sport, Barzz4Life runs summer classes for all experience levels on Clapham Common West Side – he can be contacted via his instagram handle (Barzz4Life). You can also find opportunities to practice, observe, converse and learn at Brixton Street Gym or at the Steel Warriors workout zone in Ruskin Park.

If you are keen to explore this sport further or to gain details of more calisthenics sessions that are conducted locally, please reach out to us via email.

Keep moving. Stay happy. Thanks for reading.

Coach Elliot & Coach Ben.

References and Recommended Readings:

1. Cardalda, I. M., Lopez, A., & Carral, J. M. C. (2019). The effects of different types of physical exercise on physical and cognitive function in frail institutionalized older adults with mild to moderate cognitive impairment. A randomized control trial. Archives of gerontology and geriatrics, 83, 223-230.

2. Guerra, L. A., Dos Santos, L. R. A., Pereira, P. E., Lauria, V. T., De Lima, C., Evangelista, A. L., … & Teixeira, C. V. L. S. (2019). A low-cost and time-efficient calisthenics strength training program improves fitness performance of children. Journal of Physical Education and Sport19, 58-62.

3. Shape. Why everyone should try a calisthenics for beginners workout.

4. The Guardian. Cutting edge: turning street knives into urban gyms.

5. Thomas, E., Bianco, A., Mancuso, E. P., Patti, A., Tabacchi, G., Paoli, A., … & Palma, A. (2017). The effects of a calisthenics training intervention on posture, strength and body composition. Isokinetics and exercise science25(3), 215-222.


Photography: Bertie Oakes,



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