Calisthenics can produce some amazing results, including a perfectly proportioned body and the ability to perform moves that seem impossible to the regular onlooker.
With moves and stretches that can transform the body over time, can this extend into making a person appear taller if they perform the right exercises?
The quick answer is that calisthenics can't make you physically gain height because how tall we are is mainly determined by genetics. However, it can over time, help stretch out the body and improve posture, making you stand straighter and appear taller.
In this article, we'll show you what you can do to stretch out the spine, improve posture, and some helpful yoga moves often used in calisthenics that can work on problem areas — all of which can help you to stand taller.
Calisthenics Exercises to Stretch Out the Body
It's a proven scientific fact that our bodies can actually shrink by a whole centimeter by the end of each day. This happens because the spine compresses as we're upright throughout the day and then recompresses to our natural heights the next morning following sleep.
Certain exercises could help stretch out the spine to gain a small amount of height which is lost during the day. However, again, you can't increase your height overall because how tall you are is determined by genetics and other factors such as diet as you grow up. Once we reach adulthood, we stop growing, and there's not much we can do about that.
So let's take a look at some calisthenics exercises that are great for stretching out the body, which can help you to regain your natural height.
1. Back Bridge
Although it can be a little tricky if you're new to calisthenics, the back bridge is a great way to stretch out the spine, and it also helps to work other muscle groups around the hips, core, shoulders, and arms.
How to do a Back Bridge:
- Lie on your back with your feet flat on the ground, knees bent, and toes facing forwards.
- Place your hands behind your head with your fingers pointing in the same direction as your toes.
- Slowly lift your hips and back off the ground and arch your back.
- Hold the stretch and gently lower yourself back down.
2. Bar Hangs
Bar hangs use gravity and body weight to suspend from a bar using the hands, this can help stretch out the spine, and it's also great for the arms and shoulders.
Providing you can support your body weight on a high bar, bar hangs are easy to do.
To perform a bar hang, you simply need to hang from the bar with hands facing forward, a shoulder width apart, and hold for a time that feels comfortable before carefully releasing.
3. Standing Toe Touches
Standing toe touches are a simple yet effective way to stretch out the spine as well as the hamstrings and calves.
They're suitable for beginners and if you can't reach your toes to start with, just reach as far as you can without causing pain or discomfort.
How to do Standing Toe Touches:
- Lean forward with your arms straight and slowly bend over and reach towards your toes as far as you feel comfortable.
- Hold the stretch for around five seconds and then slowly come back up to standing position.
The more you do toe touches, the further you'll be able to reach and the more benefit you'll get from the exercise, so it can take time and effort before you can get all the way down.
4. Jefferson Curl
The Jefferson Curl is similar to a standing toe touch, but it goes a little further by increasing the height of the move so you can reach further than the feet. Some people incorporate weight into this move, which helps make the stretch more productive and helps gravity do its job.
- Standing upright on the edge of a bench (or something raised and safe), fold your chin down towards your chest and gradually bend downwards using your body weight from the head and shoulders, not the hips.
- If you're using a weight such as a kettlebell, or dumbbell, hold it with both hands with the arms straight and pointing downwards.
- Keep the knees locked and legs straight; move the hands towards the ground as far as you feel comfortable and hold.
- When you're ready to come back up, move slowly and gradually in the opposite way you went down.
5. Jump Squats or Burpees
Jump Squats are a good exercise for stretching out the spine as you jump and reach up out of the squat. They're also excellent for working the glutes and inner thighs.
A jump squat is performed by squatting and then, instead of returning to a normal standing position, you jump up with straight arms and hands pointing upwards.
To make things more challenging, you can try burpees, which is a press-up that effectively leads to a jump squat.
Improve Posture and Stand Tall
Another way to ensure you're standing at your true height is by improving posture.
With our modern lives come bad habits, such as slouching over at a desk on a laptop or stooping when we stand. These habits all lead to bad posture, which prevents us from standing or sitting straight as nature intended.
The good news is exercise, particularly certain calisthenic moves, can help straighten out bad posture and make us stand taller and straighter.
In fact, many calisthenics exercises help improve posture without you even knowing it because performing a wide range of moves strengthens all muscle groups, which helps with alignment and stability.
Calisthenics Exercises to Improve Posture
Below are some calisthenics exercises that are particularly good for improving posture and can help you stand taller and straighter.
Remember to hold a proper stance when you perform calisthenics exercises because this helps ensure you're doing the move correctly and maintaining posture throughout.
1. Seated Shoulder Extensions
Seated Shoulder Extensions are a simple mobility exercise that can help improve posture and mobility in the shoulders and upper back, which are often problem areas when it comes to slouching and bad posture.
How to do Seated Shoulder Extensions:
- Sit on the ground with your knees up and hands behind your back and pointing away from you shoulder-width apart.
- Lock the elbow so your arm is straight.
- Shuffle your feet forwards, laying the legs flat, and bring the arms down for a maximum stretch.
- If you feel the exercise needs to be a little harder, move your hands closer together to make it more challenging.
Pull-ups are one of the most well-used calisthenics moves, which can help improve posture if performed regularly.
As well as strengthening muscles in the arms and shoulders, pull-ups also work back muscles and help strengthen the neck, which is key for good posture, and keeping the head up and straight.
The move is made by hanging from a pull-up bar by the hands (palms facing away) shoulder width apart and simply lifting the body upwards and then back down.
If you're not ready for pull-ups, try some bar hangs to engage the shoulders without pulling up (see above). Just hanging from a bar or engaging the shoulder blades while holding the bar is an excellent way to improve posture.
Done regularly, planks help strengthen the core and improve stability, which in turn can make you stand straighter from the lower back.
There are various ways to perform a plank, and you can make them more challenging by lifting one leg at a time or reaching an arm out as you're holding the position.
How to do a Plank:
- Get into the plank position by raising the body in a straight line using only the forearms and the toes.
- The forearms should be on the ground directly beneath the shoulders with the hands flat on the floor.
- Toes and feet should be pointing downwards.
- Engage the core muscles and hold for around 10 seconds.
Once you get stronger and with practice, you can increase the hold time in stages for up to a minute.
To ensure the plank is done effectively, it's important to keep the back straight, shoulders down, and the hips and neck straight and inline with the body.
Handstands take practice, strength, and control, but if you manage to master them, they can be an amazing way to improve posture and stability.
Handstands are good for the core, shoulders, arms, back, and neck muscles, all of which help strengthen the areas responsible for stooping and bad posture.
They can be performed in various ways, including the basic handstand, complex handstands using parallette bars, and beginner handstands where you can use a wall for support.
It's important to be physically strong (especially in the wrists, arms, and shoulders) before you venture into handstands, so they're not for beginners.
The L-Sit is often used in calisthenics and is excellent for improving posture because they work the shoulder, core, and back muscles.
L-sits can be performed using various kinds of equipment, including the high bar, parallel or parallette bars, or from the ground using dumbbells with a flat edge for support.
Whichever way you prefer to do them, the principle of the move is the same, with the back straight and legs out to make a sitting L-shape.
Holding a good form during this move is key to ensuring you get the best potential benefits which helps encourage good posture.
Incorporating Yoga Moves into Calisthenics
Yoga moves are often incorporated into calisthenics workouts or are used as post-workout stretches to help improve mobility and flexibility. As well as these benefits, yoga is also excellent for improving posture, which can help you stand taller.
Below are just some of the yoga poses you could consider using with calisthenics to improve posture and stability:
- The Cat-Cow is two moves rolled into one, the first (the cat) arches the back with the head up, and the second (the cow) pushes the back and head down in an opposite move.
- The Downward Dog is one of the most well-known yoga moves that helps stretch the back and shoulders.
- The Upward Dog is the reverse of the downward dog that uses different muscle groups.
- The Bridge Pose, not to be confused with the back bridge (see above), keeps shoulders on the ground while pushing up the hips and is good for improving posture because it stretches muscles in the chest and shoulders.
- The Shoulder Opener is a simple pose that works well to improve posture in the upper body if performed regularly.
- The Tiger Pose involves holding out an opposite arm and leg from an all-fours position and is good for stretching the back and core, which over time helps improve posture.
Being Mindful About Posture
If you spend time and effort improving posture using calisthenics exercises, you don't want to undo all your hard work by falling into bad habits again.
Below are some things you can do everyday to help avoid bad posture, such as stooping or slouching that can make you look shorter than you actually are:
- When you notice you're not standing or sitting straight, correct your posture, so you're straight and not slouching.
- Make sure your back and neck are aligned and straight when you're sitting at a desk.
- Pull in your abdomen.
- If you often carry a backpack, put both straps over your shoulders to avoid being pulled down on one side.
- Avoid bowing your head down when reading or looking at a screen.
- Balance your weight evenly on each foot.
So we've looked at the various ways in which you can stretch out your body (particularly the spine) and improve posture by using calisthenics.
Ultimately, we can't make ourselves physically taller using calisthenics or any kind of exercise, we can only regain our natural height and posture. If you're unhappy with your height, it's probably not a good idea to sweat this too much, because it’s not something that can be changed.
Although it might not be able to put inches on your height, calisthenics can make you feel stronger and more confident in other, more important ways.