Calisthenics for Beginners

What is Calisthenics?

In simple terms, the calisthenics definition is bodyweight training. This isn’t training using weights or needing to visit the gym 4 times per week. This isHealthy eating guidelines the use of your bodyweight to give resistance and the repetition of specific exercises.

calisthenicsSome people get confused because many fitness activities lean towards anaerobic or aerobic forms of exercise. A calisthenics workout plan is a balanced combination of the two.

Here are a few reasons to choose Calisthenics Vs. Weights in the Gym:

  • You can become stronger while being leaner
  • You have no gym membership costs
  • You don’t need fancy lifting equipment
  • You can choose where and when to exercise

You might be in the mind, that the only way to become fit to the levels you see other people are hitting the gym. But this is a far cry from the truth, and there is no reason for you to sacrifice fun to become fit.

It might be the case you are a complete newbie to exercising, or you do some and are new to basic calisthenics.

This doesn’t matter because this form of exercise is straightforward and can be adapted to make it easier until you have built up strength.

One word of advice, even though calisthenics exercises are straightforward and simple in function, it is highly effective and will totally transform your physique.

What are the Benefits of Calisthenics?

You might ask yourself what are calisthenics benefits compared to using a gym and lifting weights.

The main advantage is everything is more natural and you are far less prone to injury. The body also requires less time to recover in between days of exercise. Here are seven other significant benefits:

FlexibilityFlexibility as Benefits of Calisthenics

When you start becoming stronger your body will begin to be more flexible. It is a fact that you can’t increase become flexible unless you increase your strength. Much of this is due to a strong muscle not having to strain as much as a weaker muscle does when it performs an action.

When you undertake calisthenic workouts for beginner’s your flexibility will increase through more toned muscles.


This relates to how long you can perform actions for before fatigue sets in. If you have seen circuit training calisthenics, these include an endless number of repetitions on each exercise and old stopping once you have hit the point of fatigue.

When you undertake exercises in this way and perform them every day, and while resting each evening (allowing muscles to heal) your levels of endurance will increase. This allows for more reps until fatigue of the tissues has been reached.

Further to this, once you have worked through all the muscle groups in the body, endurance levels increase all over including the cardiovascular system.

It is an excellent way to improve overall fitness and body health, and it doesn’t matter what your physical characteristics are when you first start, everyone can benefit.

Weight LossWeight Loss as Benefits of Calisthenics

Many individuals perform exercise to lose weight. Calisthenics tackles this problem from two differing directions.

First up is your strength training which will build muscle mass while toning your body. With an increase in muscle mass the metabolic rate increases, thus you burn more calories throughout the day.

Secondly, with a regular calisthenics exercise regimen, your heart rate will increase. This is where it converts to an aerobic form of exercise, which happens to be one of the most effective ways of burning fat build-up.

Increased Tone and Muscle

It doesn’t sound possible, but you can build muscle without the use of weights when you perform calisthenics.

Although if you are into bodybuilding, this might not be effective enough. Muscles are built when progressive resistance is introduced to them.

This will limit the extent to which muscles will be able to grow, but, you will be able to build a decent amount of muscle and easily maintain it.

This is more than ideal when starting, and a beginner calisthenics workout can be followed to achieve a moderate amount of muscle growth.

One of the benefits of building muscle this way is, it doesn’t add trauma to the muscles in the same way as lifting heavy weights.

How to Start Calisthenics

One of the main mistakes beginners to calisthenics makes is not correctly performing the exercises. If the exercises aren’t implemented correctly, then you won’t be able to see the results you were expecting.

An excellent example of doing them correctly is the benefit you could get from 5 pushups which are performed correctly compared to twenty or more incorrectly performed ones. The secret is you being in total control of your motions.

Any results will take time, but as long as you steadily increase the number of reps and sets you do, then you can begin adding tougher exercises.

Aside from this, if you feel one part of your body is weaker than others, you can perform more exercises to enhance and build strength in that part.

For individuals who are packing a few extra pounds. Now is the best time to perform some cardio training and starting a diet, or at least eat healthier foods such as fruit and vegetables.

This can help you accomplish more callisthenic exercise than you thought would be possible. As a note, when you see cross-fit training advertised, this is calisthenics wrapped up under a different label and marketed in a different way.


Before any form of exercising you should perform a proper warm-up routine. One of the best is by performing stretches to fully loosen your muscles before you introduce any strain on them.

Stretches before calisthenicsSuch is the same after you have completed a routine, and these stretches can be used to cool down. This helps relax the muscles and goes a long way in preventing injury.

Warm ups and cool downs are as important as the exercises themselves. Any muscle injury would be made worse if you proceeded directly into an exercise which placed stress on the injured in question.

Upper Body Exercises

There are four categories into which upper body exercises fall into, and these are as follows:

  • Horizontal pushing exercises which would include something like push-ups
  • Horizontal pulling exercises which could consist of inverted rowing exercises
  • Vertical pushing exercises like the pike press or handstand push-ups
  • Vertical pulling exercise which would consist of something as simple as pull-ups

Lower Body Exercises

There is only one category for the lower body, and this is a squat, but there are many variations of squats which can target all of your lower body muscles.

Calisthenics Exercises List

AbsQuadsGlutes & LegsTricepsBicepsBackChest
Sit-UpsLungesSquatsPunchesDoorframe RowsElbow LiftsPlank Rotations
Bicycle CrunchesHigh Knee KicksSprintsGet-UpsBody RowsSupermanChest Squeezes
Reverse CrunchesPlank Jump-InsBridgesSide To Side ChopsSitting Pull-UpsPull-UpsPush-Ups
Leg RaisesTurning KicksRunning ManTricep ExtensionsPseudo PlankStar PlankShoulder Press
Elbow PlankClimbersSquat JumpsClose Grip Push-UpsInverted RowsAlternate Arm & Leg PlankShoulder Taps
Flutter KicksLunges Step-UpsJumping Knee TuckTricep DipsChin Pull-UpsFull ArchClapping Push-Ups

Exercise Examples

Even with the above table, you might find it hard to know which exercises do what just from a title. Here are nine examples of callisthenic exercises which cover the entire body. These can be a sound basis on which to build a complete calisthenics routine:

Biceps: The Chin UpThe Chin Up

This is one of the best exercises for strengthening your biceps, it does, unfortunately, need a bar to lift yourself against. If you find you can’t do many, that isn’t a problem, and you can switch to doing negative chin-ups.

Triceps: The Diamond Push-Up

This variation on a regular push-up can make you feel the burn in your triceps. If you attempt this and you feel any pain in your wrist, you can revert to a regular push-up or a close grip push-up.

To make your muscles harder once you have gained strength. You can raise your feet onto a sturdy chair or step to put more body weight onto your arms and shoulders.

Abs: Flutter Crunches

This is straightforward but highly effective. All you need to do is lay on the floor with the palms of your hands under your hips.

Abs Flutter CrunchesNext lift your head and shoulders off the floor followed by raising your legs. With tightened abs, you then alternate between lifting each leg to a 45-degree angle and lowering it back down.

Chest Muscles: Push-Ups

This regular form of push-up works wonders on all areas of the chest. Once you find it easier you can move on to the many other varieties of push-up, or slow down the action (3-5 seconds lifting and 3-5 seconds lowering) to really feel the tension.

Shoulders: Pike Push-Ups with Elevated Feet

Shoulders Pike Push-Ups with Elevated FeetThis is a little more advanced, but it does give an indication of how extreme some of the exercises can become. With this, the higher your feet, the more burn will be felt.

Glutes and Quads: The Bulgarian Split Squat

This requires you to raise one foot and rest it on a box or low chair (or step). Next, lower your body on your front leg. This really pumps the muscles in the one leg while helping you maintain and improve balance. Just remember to change legs after each set.

Calves: Simple Calf Raises

The calves can be a hard muscle group to target. This is better performed barefoot so you can lift yourself up on your toes easier. After a while of lifting weight on your toes, you can do it while holding a weight.

The Back: Pull-Ups

Again this needs a bar to perform. Keeping your elbows tucked into your body. Now start the pull using your lats as if you are attempting to pull your shoulder blades together.

Overall Upper Body: Headstand to Handstand Push-Ups

The Back Pull-UpsThis exercise focuses on the traps, but it is excellent for making the upper body look stronger and does target many muscle groups. This is also at the more advanced end of a calisthenics workout routine and isn’t for everyone.

Do a headstand against the wall. With your hands flat on the ground push up to a handstand. It sounds easy, but it is very far from it.

This is a handful of exercises which you can do to start you off in your calisthenics workout for beginners. Mastering these can take time and will have a dramatic effect on your body when reps and sets are performed several days per week.

What Results to Expect

When you undertake a calisthenics regime your body will become more naturally built because no muscle group is being overworked. You will also give your body an increase in control, speed, flexibility, balance, and endurance.

Your resting metabolic rate will increase after a while when your body starts to gain the extra muscle. A lot of this aids in decreasing your overall body fat so you will appear more toned in every area.

Reaction times when you are thinking or reacting to an action will also be improved due to the nature of some exercises.

A good example is jumping jacks. You don’t have much chance to pause while performing these, so the brain is continually active, and this frame of mind tends to stay with you while you are not exercising.

Increased strength will be visible at around 2 – 4 weeks once you begin increasing the number of reps and sets.

Increased visible muscle and weight loss do depend on other factors apart from merely performing calisthenics.

Healthy eating guidelines should be followed to reap the full benefits. As well as this, you should take into consideration your workout plans for beginners. Your fitness level and the use of any equipment, although this will be minimal.

When you follow a good calisthenics workout routine, you should see dramatic results anywhere from 3 months to 6 months of exercising.

About the author

Robert Hudson

I'm Robert Hudson aka Robbo, a personal trainer for over 10 years. I love helping people get into the best shape of their lives - the fastest and healthiest way possible.

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