BODY WEIGHT TRAINING – Calisthenics VS Pole Fitness

For our second month’s focus on Body Weight Training - fitness disciplines much like Pole Fitness whereby you use your own body weight to get fit and strong - we take a look at Calisthenics with Tambe Joesha

Tambe Joesha FB cover


So, Tambe, how did you get into Calisthenics and what keeps you going?

The answer isn’t simply a digit, it’s all over the place. My Calisthenics journey is essentially broken up into three parts - each one separated by a good few years, and something I regret to this day, but I see all the years before December 2014 as build-up to what I do now.

Part 1 (2008) The Human Flag

It all started back in 2008. I was eighteen years old and I was just starting off on my path into parkour/free running. A friend and I were out on a run, trying to look for new spots that we could practice some moves. We were walking along train tracks back to our car when we spotted a random pole that was on the side of the tracks and my friend said “Why not try to flag it?”. As I am someone who will take up most challenges, I said “why the hell not”, although I knew he just wanted to see me fail for a laugh. Two seconds is all I managed that day but the fact that I could actually do a Human Flag blew both of our minds. A month later I was able to flagpole relatively easily. This is where chapter one of my Calisthenics journey ended and it wouldn’t continue for some time

Part 2 (2010) The Handstand

I saw someone on YouTube perform handstand push ups with a weighted vest on and I was in awe. This strength was something that I thought just wasn’t possible. I HAD to learn this. I HAD to get stronger. I wanted to overcome this challenge and so I set out on the path of learning to handstand – something I thought I’d never be able to do. The training for handstands was literally me walking into the lounge and each time I did, I would try to perform a handstand on the back of the leather couch we had. I remember the moment I got the balance right - I called every single available family member in to the lounge to show them. I was ecstatic!

Part 3 (2014/2015) – When Things Got Serious

I was on holiday during December 2014 until February 2015. While my family was away, I was pretty much home alone and it was then I decided that I might as well spend some time training down at the outdoor park. I had gotten my handstands strong. Weighted handstand push ups up to 32kgs were doable. I could do a few other basic body weight strength moves – back levers, front levers, weighted human flag poles etc. All the easy stuff. Muscle ups and the like, I was no-where near those. In those two months, I learned more than I had previously done in all the years from 2008 to 2014. That year I decided that I was going to test all my new moves and compete at the Calisthenics Nationals.

What keeps me going? The challenge, the love of movement and the growing interest of the sport. I love seeing new faces trying to progress and push themselves and so I need to try and keep on top of it as best I can. I just want to be stronger than I was last week. The challenge of learning new moves isn’t like weight lifting. It’s something that can take a year in the making and when you finally get it, there’s a rush of so many emotions and a sense of accomplishment that no other discipline will ever come close to.

In November 2016, you joined X-Pole South Africa’s ambassadors at Sea Point promenade for a morning of Pole Fitness vs Calisthenics. What was your experience like?

The girls are strong. VERY STRONG. It was a completely humbling experience to be put next to them when they are able to perform such amazing feats of strength with such grace and elegance. The stand out was their levels of flexibility while performing such powerful moves. To me, that was mind-blowing. Definitely very motivating to witness and something I’m going to have to work on.


One Sunday in Sea Point - Calisthenics VS Pole Fitness

Weekend in Sea Point

Watch our video of the day here.

Did you find that your background in Calisthenics made it easier to perform some of the pole moves the ambassadors showed you?


The core strength required in Pole Fitness is intense and luckily, when it comes to Calisthenics, massive core strength is called for.

Both disciplines make use of the entire human muscular chain, from head to toe. If one piece of the chain is weak, the rest will crumble. Luckily, due to intense training, my core is capable of handling quite a bit which definitely helped with all the horizontal work that’s involved in Pole Fitness.

Where I SERIOUSLY lacked was the mobility and flexibility – this is an aspect some Calisthenics athletes focus on and others don’t, and it appears I make up part of the latter (haha). Clearly, I’m going to have to spend some time fixing that.

Tambe and our X-Pole South Africa ambassadors larking around on the monkey bars

on the monkey bars


Which discipline do you find more challenging?

Both disciplines have their advanced/elite level movements that are challenging. It all just depends how far up the ladder (or pole) you decide to go in movement difficulty.

The mix of flexibility and strength is something that I struggled with, however, the straight up strength based moves were a walk in the park. But then the same can be said for Calisthenics. Strength isn’t an issue yet, some of the explosive movements might be a slight challenge for me.

I think it all comes down to the person at hand as we all have a set of ingrained skills that we just need to polish off to get good at something.

Tambe and our X-Pole South Africa ambassadors on the pole

Tambe on the pole

Do you have any safety messages with regard movements and gear?

When it comes to being safe, there are a few guidelines that I always follow.

* Never train on bars/poles if they’re wet/ it’s been raining. Give them more than enough time to dry. You’ll be surprised how slippery things can stay after a little water and all it takes is one bad grip and some serious damage can be done.
* ALWAYS CHECK THE EQUIPMENT FIRST. Do some light tests. Does it move? Does it make noise? Is there rust? If there are any warning signs, don’t risk it! Stay safe and call it quits.
* Practice in a safe environment where you don’t have objects that are risk factors in case of an accidental fall/ slip. Be sure to have as much open space as you possibly can to minimize any risk. Get your friends to spot you.

The main thing I try to get through to people is that you can’t train properly or sometimes at all, if you’re injured. Don’t be reckless in your pursuit of progress.

* Listen to your body. Let it recover.

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Or visit his website to find out how he can help you (

Date added: 02/13/2017