What is Calisthenics?
Calisthenics is a training method that relies on using body weight and gravity to build strength. Well, calisthenics workouts are not just limited to building strength but also to improving muscle endurance, flexibility, mobility, and bodily functions.
Since it uses your bodyweight alone, the mind-muscle connection will be much strong and sharp. You can read here about conscious calisthenics.
Calisthenics workouts consist of regular bodyweight exercises to advanced movements like Muscle Up, Dragon flag, hanging leg raises, etc., and additionally skyrocketing your physical standards with calisthenics exercises like human flag, front lever, handstands, etc…
Calisthenics for Women
It is a misconception that calisthenics is not for women as they have comparatively less upper body strength. Many of the calisthenics exercises involve upper body exercises such as pull-ups, dips, muscle-ups, etc…
Women do have significantly less upper body strength than men, which means it can take longer to build strength and master calisthenics exercises.
It just takes a longer time, dedication, patience to get stronger.
What are the Benefits of Calisthenics?
Best for Beginners
It uses your bodyweight to build strength and endurance. Anyone who cannot master workouts with their bodyweight must rethink their ideas on free weight training.
Builds Muscle Strength & Endurance
Calisthenics beginners who can do 10-12 reps, these workouts help in building muscle strength. If you are someone who can perform more reps consistently, calisthenics can help increase your muscle endurance – meaning how long can you keep up the exercises.
You can increase your level of training by modifying the body position and calisthenics can help any individual goals either to get lean or grow bulky.
Make the body more flexible
The range of movements involved in calisthenics exercise will bring a high level of shift in your flexibility. Calisthenics consists of full-body workouts that will build strength and optimal levels of flexibility.
You can do it anywhere
Since calisthenics exercises use your body weight and it removes the barrier of needing a special workout place like the gym, park, etc… Even then you can go ahead and work out at calisthenics park.
You can do it anywhere at the home, park, even in your hotel room while you are on a vacation.
It helps you move better in everyday life
Calisthenics movements are part of functional training which builds mobility and strength, coordination in your everyday life beyond the GYM.
Once you have passed the beginner stage of calisthenics. It introduces you to some pretty fascinating moves like human flag, handstand push up, Muscle-up, Dragon flag, etc… that can just stun people and make you look like a badass.
Improves Brain-Body Connection
Calisthenics exercises can help develop your fine motor skills that require your brain to work as hard as your body.
Gentle on Joints and Connective Tissue
Compared to Weight Training, Calisthenics can improve your body by treating it well in developing strength and size in proportion to your muscular system with authentic and natural movements.
Calisthenics vs Weight Training
The common misconception is that calisthenics cannot build muscle like weight training. Calisthenics might rely on body weight, but the additional resistance from gravity can increase the gains.
Moving your body in multiple directions can enhance your mobility, flexibility, and endurance. The movements in calisthenics can greatly advance your muscle-building process.
The benefits of calisthenics are very versatile. Calisthenics exercises can be regarded as functional training, these movements will build a solid base for your daily life activities.
The advanced movements like dragon flag, front lever, handstand push up, etc… are not common in any other form of training. These will improve your mind-muscle connection.
How do Beginners start calisthenics?
Here, let’s see what are the necessary things to keep in mind and follow when you are a beginner to calisthenics training. So, let’s go:
Always aim to get at least 10 – 15 mins of a warmup for a full body with more focus on shoulders, wrists, and elbows. Since most of the load is carried by these in calisthenics workouts.
Hollow Body position
The hollow body is a position that is used in most workouts like pull-ups, dips, planche, leg raises, and many more. It is very important to maintain a good hollow body position.
Particularly, this will ensure you with stability and will avoid any lower back issues that can arise with improper form.
So, how to do this?
First thing is to get rid of the anterior pelvic tilt if you have any. Maintain a posterior pelvic tilt, squeeze your glutes and contract your abs., legs.
Posterior pelvic tilt
This is one crucial step and we need to avoid any form and posture mistakes as this will put stress on your muscles.
Your elbows must be IN while doing pushing exercises, otherwise, there will be a lot of stress on your rotator cuffs since you internally rotate your shoulders. Elbows close to the body and rotated outwards will increase your muscle activation.
This is a very critical part of training, one of the most important parts of training with hanging exercises is your scapula. Your scapula can be protracted, retracted, elevated, depressed, or rotated upward or downward.
During active hang, your scapula must be retracted and depressed. This will ensure your body is stable during workouts like pull-ups, chin-ups and leg raises & decrease swinging.
If you feel any stress in your wrists, try some strengthening exercises for it, a quick fix would be to rotate your wrists 45-degrees outwards and this is useful in movements like handstand, planche but also basic exercises like push-ups.
Start with Basics
It is important to learn the basic positions and the technique. You need to prepare your muscles and tendons to carry the load while doing advanced workouts. Start by doing a consistent amount of pull-ups, dips, push-ups, and leg raises.
Progression & Regression
This means to grow your strength over time by breaking down the workout into little steps or by starting with the least amount of intensity.
These are 2 variations:
Regression is to decrease the load; if you can’t do a regular push-up, then do it on your knees.
Progression is to increase the load gradually, example: if regular push-ups get easy then go ahead for decline push-ups.
Anyone who wants to see progress in their training and change their level of training from basic to intermediate or advanced. They must gradually change the workout procedure.
- Increase reps
- Increase sets
- Increase intensity
- Adjusting Tempo
How many Sets & Reps?
This is most common among beginners to find a good rep count and set. Well, the first thing is to understand what your body strength levels are and adjust your workout according to them.
Optimally, you can follow this.
- Strength – 3 to 5 sets
- Hypertrophy – 6 to 14 sets
- Endurance – 14+ sets
Also, you need to shape the sets based on rep counts.
- LOW REPS – 5 or more sets
- HIGH REPS – 3 to 5 sets
Every beginner must learn this, it simply indicates the speed at which you raise and lower your body.
A reasonable tempo is 2 0 1 0.
- 2 seconds – eccentric
- 0 seconds – pause
- 1 second – concentric
- 0 seconds – pause
This will improve your method and stability and also make the workout more challenging.
It is a widely asked question, it is very advisable to set rest time based on your workout goals. The most common rest time is at least 1.5 minutes – 3 minutes between each set.
Unless you are concentrating on muscle endurance, there is no use of short rest time.
The Importance of Negatives
Being a beginner in calisthenics can be tough as your strength levels might not match your workouts. One way to improve form and strength is by doing workouts in the negatives.
Increase the duration of the eccentric phase and see yourself getting stronger
The Problem with Legs in Calisthenics
Calisthenics will not give greater options in leg training. After a few options of workouts, you can try pistol squat, Bulgarian split squat but over time you need to incorporate weights to improve your progression.
This inclusion of weights into calisthenics is called Hybrid Calisthenics.
Calisthenics Exercises Routine
There are 2 ways to plan your workout:
This style of a workout routine will include workouts that target all muscle groups from your upper body, lower body, your core and build strength and endurance.
Split Body Workouts
In split body workouts, you will spread your workouts across a timeline, preferably a week, that target specific muscle groups in each workout session.
For a beginner, full-body workouts are the most recommended, and to have a rest day between 2 days of workout. This will build good strength and increase muscle movements during a workout. You can learn the basic techniques and forms much faster and progress sooner.
This is an essential piece of equipment in calisthenics training. You can do all sorts of workouts and perform pretty much all movements on this equipment alone.
You can call them either Gymnastic Rings or T Rings or TRX Rings. The benefits from this are very great. We can use them for pull-ups, rows, leg raises, front levers, etc.. and many more.
Bands give us great support for training as a beginner and also act as resistance as we progress from beginner to advanced stage. They are very versatile, flexible, and provide good help for stretching and intense workouts.
Pull up Bars
Everybody knows this is non-negotiable for anybody who wants to start working out and particularly in calisthenics, we use this for at least 85% of movements. So, getting a good pull-up bar is essential for calisthenics workouts.
Get the best pull-up bar right now, click here for pull-up bar.
These help in dips, push-ups, handstands, mostly push workouts. Building your triceps goes to the next level with these.
Calisthenics for Beginners
Pull Workout training will help in building your back, shoulders, triceps, and upper body muscles. You can also train your back with isolation workouts or these calisthenics back workouts.
You can also call these Australian pull-ups, these are very effective in helping you master the movement with minimum load. Pulling exercises can be incredibly tough when you are a beginner. So, building strength in the initial stage is essential for progressing in your workouts.
This workout is very effective in building your upper body strength. If you are not able to do at least one pull-up. You can start training with our pull-up progression guide.
Start as minimum as you can and work your way up to the top. This can be just hanging on to the pull-up bar as your first stage and then working to actually pull up.
This exercise will work on your biceps, it is done on the pull-up bar itself but in the case of the pull-up, we use pronated grip and when performing chin-ups, we use supinated grip.
Push-ups or Press-ups are a great workout on your chest and triceps. They work complementary with the pull workout routine. This is one of the basic exercises that every beginner should master and it is also important to take care of the form.
If you see yourself struggling with push-ups, you can use our push-up progression guide to level up your strength and master the push-up workout.
These are similar to push-ups but not on the floor. These are done hanging onto dip bar and using your entire bodyweight, much harder than push-ups and very effective as well.
Diamond Grip Push-Ups
These are done similar to push-ups but the position of your arms must be closer to each other and this will work on your triceps like Blast!
One of the most basic leg workouts is squats, keep your legs shoulder-width apart and bring your hips down until your legs are parallel to the ground and knees make 90-degrees.
Another workout along with squats is great for building strength. Lunges will work on your hamstrings, glutes, and quads extremely hard. And you can increase the intensity by performing walking lunges or alternate lunges or even jumping lunges. But as a beginner just concentrate on doing regular lunges for 10 reps on each side.
These are also similar to lunges but the movement is a little different. Instead of lowering down, you will lift yourself by taking some support of the high box.
This is a simple workout for strengthening your calf muscles. We shouldn’t be neglecting them as they are very responsible for supporting your entire body.
Now, let’s hit the most sought-after workouts that display killer aesthetics. Remember, it is also important to show your discipline in the kitchen. A proper diet is essential to show your gains or cuts, whether it is building a lean body or bulking up. You need to maintain consistency in both areas/
Lay your back on the floor and your knees bent with feet flat on the floor. Now inhale deeply and lift your upper torso by exhaling.
Return to the starting position and repeat this movement at least 10 times for 3 sets.
This workout is done in the same fashion as crunches but you will bring your head much closer to your knees in situps.
Both crunches and situps are great for building a strong core which will bring a good aesthetic and reduce any back pains as well.
This is one of the toughest and hardcore exercises for abs. You need to base your entire body horizontally on your feet and arms. You need to maintain proper form for maximum effectiveness and see some good results from this exercise.
Calisthenics Workouts – How many times a week?
The very basic plan for beginners must be to perform the above-listed workouts 3 times a week with a rest day between. This will ensure optimal recovery and build enough muscle strength to see your training bring great results. Oh! By the way, you also need to bring some dietary changes to your daily life.
Calisthenics Progression Workout
This is very important when transitioning from beginner to advanced exercises. Let’s consider this as the intermediate stage and you are preparing to introduce yourself to calisthenics hardcore movements.
You need to start experimenting with your workouts by bringing some variations into the workout routine.
Increase Range of Motion
Extending the range of motion, stretch your muscles to the extent where they are completely involved in the exercise. This will bring bore time under tension and build your body.
Increase Challenge or Difficulty
Here, bring some difficulty to your workouts by removing assistance. If you are doing calf raises, now perform with only one leg. For push-ups, change the angle from regular push-ups to decline push-ups.
These changes can help you build some strength and prepare you for advanced workouts.
Increasing the reps from 8 to 12 can be challenging and involve more muscle work.
Increasing the sets from 3 to 5 can also add some more strength gaining benefits.
Drop your rest time from 1 minute to 45 seconds or 30 seconds and see your body getting lit up like hell.
Increase of Exercises
Add some more workouts, probably compound workouts can be much beneficial at this stage. Target each muscle part and make your body more functional.
Adding resistance bands to your workouts can also increase your work for muscles.
These changes can help your body improve stamina, strength, and appearance as well. Make Slow and Steady changes over time. Focus on form and quality before progressing.
Calisthenics Advanced Workouts
These are some of the advanced workouts which can bring your calisthenics workout to another level and help your body reach the next level of performance.
The advanced stage of the pull-up exercise is where we lift our torso above the pull-up bar without any assistance. This is a very hard exercise and assesses your pulling strength by performing 10 reps of pull-ups for 3 sets and also with minimal fatigue before going to muscle up.
This is a great workout for someone who can display great control over their body. Lift your body vertically on your arms and now perform the push-up movement. This will work on your shoulder in a great way.
Squatting with a single leg and keeping your free leg extended will bring your body into a pistol shape. This works on your legs greatly, and do not forget to work on both legs. You can also try different variants like pause squat, tempo squats.
Hanging Leg Raises
This is a great workout for abs on the pull-up bar. You need to have good control over your body and we have already learned how to control our body above in beginners guide. This exercise is not a walk in the park but one that greatly helps you in building ripped abs. You can learn here from the Hanging Leg Raises Progression Guide.
This is another fantastic and game-changing workout that helps in building great abs. You can learn how to progress for this exercise here in our Dragon Flags Progression Guide.
This exercise can be a mark for extreme physical strength and stability. This workout will also test your mind-muscle coordination. You need to help yourself hang horizontally with the support from your arms alone.
This is also performed on the pull-up bar and it is also a hanging exercise. So, it also brings your body stability to the maximum level.
This is one great workout on your whole body. The planche itself can test your body coordination and strength but the full planche is to keep your body in the air hanging horizontally on your arms (much different from the human flag)
Can you build muscle with only calisthenics?
It is believed that calisthenics doesn’t allow you to build muscle mass like weight training. Although, results with weight training can be seen much quicker than calisthenics. It is still an effective and sustainable way to build a stronger body just not rapidly.
Progress Resistance with Calisthenics
There is a common assumption that your training cannot progress beyond your body weight. This is not entirely true. You can certainly increase resistance in a no. of ways:
- Add in a resistance band
- Change your body position to increase gravity resistance
- Increase the reps that you do
- Add in a weight vest or dumbbells
- Do jumping versions of the exercises to increase heart rate