We often underestimate how much we can do with JUST our body in a workout program. In fact, some of the most grueling workouts involve no equipment and are just bodyweight exercises. This type of training is referred to as calisthenics training.
Calisthenics training involves a variety of bodyweight movements using little to no equipment. Movements include chin-ups, pull-ups, calf raises, leg raises planche push-ups, incline push-ups and more. It’s known to promote the growth of lean muscle mass while also helping increase endurance, strength, mobility, and flexibility.
I know what you’re thinking, "just using your body? That sounds boring." You would be surprised to see the different ways you can push yourself by just doing bodyweight exercises.
Here are several benefits to calisthenics exercises:
- Use multiple muscles groups at once, giving you a full body workout.
- Known to burn more calories than common cardio workout programs.
- Builds functional strength that you'll actually use, helping you complete everyday activities easier.
- Lower risk of injury due to no equipment involved.
- Increases your resting metabolic rate.
- Builds full body control, balance, speed, endurance, and flexibility.
Calisthenics exercises also provide a way for you to workout anywhere. Whether you're an at-home mom, traveling the world, or just don't want to pay for that gym membership - calisthenics training is designed to support anyone's goal, anywhere.
Ok, I don’t know about you, but all of those benefits listed above from calisthenics workouts sounds amazing. And especially if you can do them anywhere! But let’s review some of the basic exercises used in this training.
Start with a high plank position, hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Ground your toes to the floor so that your lower half is stable. Engage core, glutes, and hamstrings, and flatten your back so your body is neutral and straight. Begin to lower your body to the floor making sure your butt doesn't dip or stick out but remains neutral with the rest of your body. Let your chest hit the floor and then push yourself back up keeping your elbows in, close to your body.
You can find several different variations of this calisthenics exercise by making it harder or easier depending on what your goal is for the workout. It’s our go-to beginner calisthenics exercise for anyone looking to improve their calisthenics body. If you can’t get a push-up quite yet, do an incline push-up to get you there!
A challenging variation of the push-up is planche push-ups. It’s basically a push-up with your feet elevated. It’s hard. But planche push-ups can be something to work towards when gaining more calisthenics skills.
The sit-up is known for being a great calisthenics exercise that helps build core strength. If you’re wanting that calisthenics body, it all starts with building your trunk. Core calisthenics exercises train muscles in your pelvis, lower back, hips, and abdomen. This will lead to better balance and stability in your preferred sport and every-day routine/activities.
Lie on your back with an exercise mat under you. Bend your knees and place your feet roughly hip distance apart. Place your arms and hands next to your body. Exhale and pull your core up in towards your spine as you raise your torso. Once your torso is just inches from your thighs, touch your feet with your hands and then lower yourself back down to do another rep.
There are many difference ab exercises that you can do to increase your core strength. Some of the best calisthenics workouts involve a variety of core exercises that are designed to help build and promote core stability. Crunches are another variation of sit-ups that you might see in beginner calisthenics workout programs.
Squats are one of the most foundational functional movements that use almost every muscle group in your body. By performing this bodyweight calisthenics exercise every day, you’ll help build strength for real-life activities and improve your overall calisthenics body performance.
Start by placing your feet shoulder-width apart, toes pointing slightly outward. Have arms hanging loosely at your side. Begin the squat by making sure your chest is up, shoulder back, and the core is engaged. Start to bend the knees while pushing your butt and hips down and out. Bring your arms up straight in front of you while making sure to keep your chest up and shoulder back. As you lower, push your knees out while keeping your weight on your heels. Once your thighs are below parallel, straighten your legs and squeeze your butt to stand back up.
Pull-ups tend to be one of the most frustrating movements to learn, but once mastered, can take your full body calisthenic training to the next level. They help develop muscle, power, and body awareness. To perform pull-ups or chin-ups, you have to engage almost every muscle group in your body.
Grab the bar shoulder-width apart with an overhand grip (palms down). Engage your quads and core, start to pull yourself by pulling your elbows down towards the floor. Pull yourself all the way up until your chin is over the bar. Lower yourself back down until your arms are straight again.
Don't have a pull-up just yet? Check out our post, Pull-Up Routine for Anyone, to learn how to do a pull-up.
As with almost all exercises, there are many variations to a pull-up. Visit our post, Pull-Up Variations to Get Over The Bar, to check out different ways you can perform a pull-up!
Now that we’ve gone through the basics, here are some other common bodyweight exercises you might see in a beginner guide for improving calisthenics - calf raises, leg raises, alternating lunges, handstand holds, handstand push-ups, crunches, and dips, the ultimate triceps exercise.
Now where to start. Yea sure, I can do bodyweight calisthenics movements but which ones should I do, how many reps, and for how long? Figuring out the best calisthenics workout for you can sometimes be the hardest part. We've provided you with some of the best calisthenics workouts that you can do almost anywhere! Adjust movement and reps accordingly for beginners.
Calisthenics Workout #1 – Beginner
- 200 Meter Run
- 5 Push-ups
- 10 Air Squats
- 15 Sit-ups
- 20 Walking Lunges
Calisthenics Workout #2 - Beginner
- 15 Burpees
- 10 Air Squats
- 10 (5ea) Mountain Climbers
Calisthenics Workout #3 – Intermediate
- 400 Meter Run
- 10 Push-ups
- 1 Minute Hollow Hold
- 10 Pull-ups
- 1 Minute Archer Hold
Calisthenics Workout #4 – Intermediate
- 1 minute of AMRAP Jumping Jacks
- 1 minute of AMRAP Burpees
- 1 minute of AMRAP Mountain Climbers
- 1 minute of AMRAP High Knee Tucks
- 1 minute of AMRAP Russian Twists
Rest 1 minute
Calisthenics Workout #5 - Advanced
- 800 Meter Run
- 5 rounds
- 15 Pull-ups
- 15 V-ups
- 15 Clapping Push-ups
- 15 Jumping Air Squats
- 15 Alternating Jumping Lunges
- 800 Meter Run
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