Look, we understand that in the grand scheme of exercise and fitness, calisthenics is a pretty niche market. A lot of people don’t think (as we do) it’s the best way to achieve a healthy body. A lot of people just don’t give it a chance, which is funny, considering just about everyone who uses bodyweight training finds it effective. If you don’t think that’s true, Google the phrase “calisthenics doesn’t work,” and the only results you’ll see are websites and testimonials about all the great things calisthenics does for you.
“Sure,” some critics may be thinking, “it can help you become more flexible and build a little muscle, but can it really help you transform your body?”
Simply put — yes! Calisthenics, in its many different disciplines, are responsible for countless body transformations. This may shock a lot of people, but you don’t need to starve yourself while spending hours a day lifting heavy weights to lose weight or build muscle. You can do it with just your body — along with some determination and mental toughness.
We all have reasons we want to have a healthier body. Maybe it’s so you can be more involved with your family. Maybe it’s so you can get back into a sport or activity about which you are passionate. Or perhaps you’re just tired of not being the best version of you that you can be.
Whatever your motive, the first step is deciding you want to make a change. The next is deciding how you’ll make it. Now, unfortunately, transforming your body isn’t as easy as Steve Urkel led us to believe. It’s a lot less “letting a sitcom go completely off the rails for the sake of a ridiculous plot” and a lot more “hard work and discipline.” But if you are looking to transform your body and be a fitter, healthier person, we’d like to help you get there. And again, we’re talking no weights, no clunky gym machines, and no excuses.
To show you it can be done, we’re counting down our five favorite calisthenics transformation stories. As you’ll see, these people had different motivations for wanting to change their bodies and their lives. And they used calisthenics in different ways to do it. But they’re about to prove, you’re never too old, or too young, or too whatever, to get the body of your dreams.
It’s our hope that more people will see stories like these, and share their own personal journeys of bodyweight transformations — and if you’ve got one of your own, PLEASE comment below or send us an email. We would love to hear about it!
Now get ready to be inspired.
5) Eero Westerberg
Our first entry takes us across the Atlantic to Finland. Eero Westerberg from Vahva Fitness recently shared a video detailing his progression from a guy with an average body to a personal trainer specializing in movement.
Westerberg was one of those people constantly searching for a passion to call their own. He admits that, in his early years as an athlete, he would try a new sport or method of training, and eventually forget about it. Then, in his early 20s, he decided to start lifting heavy weights in order to build muscle. But that caused more issues than it solved.
“I ended up getting a lot of problems,” he says, “like in my hip … my lower back was in pain … groin, glutes, hamstrings [were] very tight. Just a lot of problems.”
Faced with what he called “a wall” in regards to his desire to have a more muscular physique and the pain associated with weight lifting, he started reading more about mobility and fitness. That blossomed into a passion, and a new style of training for him. He was experimenting on his own, and best of all, not being beholden to one discipline.
“I just tried something for a period of time, and if it worked, then I maybe continued. And if it didn’t, then I discarded it. But this was the process that pretty much taught me everything.”
As a result, Westerberg has become a movement and calisthenics master. In the video, you’ll see he can move gracefully on the ground as well as dominate the gymnastics rings, all with a rock solid body.
4) Christian H. Nielsen
In 2013, Christian H. Nielsen was just 16 years old and could barely do a handstand. He had been a tall, skinny kid his whole life with no real muscle to speak of, until he decided to make a change.
Deciding that bodyweight training was his best option, his first attempts at bodyweight training were, in all likelihood, very humbling. But he didn’t give up, and in one year he went from doing a fair amount of kipping in his pull-ups to doing different variations of muscle-ups with ease.
As the video shows, there were plenty of failures, but he kept at it. And just look at what this guy can do now: perfect handstands with shoulder taps, walking pull-ups, pistol squats on a balance board … he can do it all.
If that weren’t enough, he posted a follow-up video a year later, showing that he’s done everything but slow down:
3) Bendik Hovland
Here’s another great example of someone showing us you’re never too young to go after the body of your dreams. Bendik Hovland was just 13 years old when he decided to transform himself, but when he started, he could barely do twenty push-ups.
He worked out every chance he got, even at night. And that hard work paid off. In just one year, Hovland was doing very impressive bar tricks, superman push-ups, human flags, muscle-ups into front levers (wow!) and just about anything else you can think of.
2) Enes Selimovic
From Bosnia comes Enes Selimovic, another young man who started with an average body and, through bodyweight training, developed an absolutely shredded physique.
As you’ll see in the video, Selimovic doesn’t believe in excuses. That’s evident when he builds his dip bar himself out of two tree stumps and a steel bar. In the beginning, his form, he admits, is a little shaky. But that didn’t deter him in the slightest. Beginning with standard calisthenics moves like standard push-ups and pike push-ups, Selimovic slowly started noticing improvement.
The video below documents two years’ worth of training. And in this time, Selimovic put on an amazing 17 pounds of solid, lean muscle. This is in addition to all the highly advanced calisthenics tricks he’s able to pull off, including Russian dips, back levers and planche handstands.
As he writes in his video “Be patient, nothing happens overnight.” So remember, this took him two years. But we’ll bet he’d be the first to tell you, it was worth it.
1) Arthur Boorman
And now we come to what we consider to be, hands down, one of the most beautiful and inspiring stories on the internet — not just involving weight loss, but the indomitability of the human spirit. It involves an unlikely person getting the most unlikely help, resulting in the most unlikely transformation you’ve probably ever seen. Yeah, it’s that good.
When Arthur Boorman began his transformation, he was already 47 years old. His younger years were spent as a paratrooper in the Gulf War. As he puts it in the video, “Too many jumps took its toll on my back and my knees. I gained weight. A LOT of weight.”
Having been told by doctors that he would never walk again, Boorman relegated himself to using hand crutches to get around. He looked for help, but every yoga instructor turned him away. The only guy that considered helping him was a guy who had spent his previous career throwing men in spandex through tables.
After retiring from professional wrestling, Diamond Dallas Page (better known as DDP) began DDP Yoga, and that’s how Boorman found him. Boorman reached out to DDP for help, and that’s how their unlikely bond was formed.
Boorman recorded his entire journey. No pull-ups or dips here, folks. This was all about regaining control of a body that experts had told Boorman was never going to be fully functional again. So with the help of this special yoga program, the 47-year-old set to work.
As you will see in the video, he fell hard, and he fell often. But he kept getting back up, saying at one point in the video, “Just because I can’t do it today, doesn’t mean I’m not going to be able to do it someday.”
In ten months, Boorman lost an astonishing 140 pounds, all thanks to the way he was able to use yoga and bodyweight training to take control back over his body.
And as for his mobility, well … he tells it better than we can, so just enjoy the video.
The video has been viral for a while and Boorman has garnered some internet fame for it. In an interview with Prevention.com, he said “I can do things now that I couldn’t do. Everybody told me it wouldn’t happen. My regular doctors said, ‘Don’t get your hopes up.’ But I said to Dallas, ‘I’m going to walk again,’ and Dallas said, ‘Go for it.’ The weight loss is fantastic. But if I didn’t lose a single ounce and my body still felt the way it does now, I’d still consider this a raging success.”
Remember, we are all ordinary people capable of extraordinary things. Nothing worth having comes easily. But don’t ever limit yourself or think it’s either too early or too late to change your life.