A Complete Beginner’s Guide to Calisthenics

Calisthenics workout involves those exercises which can be performed without any added weight. To put it in a more simple way, these are those exercises which can be done using your own bodyweight to build strength and muscle. Calisthenics exercises are also commonly referred to as bodyweight training exercises.

Calisthenics workout requires no special and expensive equipment and can basically be performed anywhere and anytime.

Calisthenics is a discipline where you learn to train your body using different bodyweight exercises. You may have seen fitness fanatics do gravity-defying moves like muscle up and Planches. These exercises are nothing but calisthenics workout where you train your body from different angles using only your bodyweight.

Introduction to Calisthenics

Calisthenics workout helps you to enhance your body flexibility, strength, endurance, and coordination. It not only helps you to build core strength and muscle power but also gives you an overall aesthetic body shape and figure. With calisthenics, there is no need for you to opt for expensive gym memberships.

You can simply use your own gravity as resistance and workout at your own home, office or garden area. That is the simplicity of this immensely functional workout routine, which is captivating the eye and mind of many fitness enthusiasts all over the world.

The calisthenics workout can be performed at different level from beginner to intermediate and to advanced level. From basic level exercises like press up, push up, pull up to the more exciting and heart throbbing exercises like back levers, muscle up and human flag, calisthenics is growing exponentially in popularity.

Little do people know the number of variables which can be used to perform basic exercises like push up. Not only push up, but other exercises like a pull-up, dips, and squats can also be performed with different variations, which helps you train different muscles of your body.

Most of these exercises leave a compounded effect on your body, and if done with the proper technique and body shape, you can attain a body and muscular strength of a beast, and that too without using any expensive machines and gym equipment.

This beginners guide to calisthenics exercises speaks in detail about the various aspects of bodyweight training along with the different advantages and disadvantages of it. We will also discuss the various beginners’ level exercise and the technique involved to master the art of these exercises.

At the latter end of the post, we discuss and compare calisthenics exercises with other fitness routine and will see how each of them helps you to train your body and gain muscular strength. We will also discuss how you can incorporate calisthenics in your fitness regime.

Pros of Calisthenics Workout

In this section, we’ll be discussing various benefits of a calisthenic workout. This list can be endless, but, we’ll just try and mention the few most important ones here.

1. No Fancy Gym Equipment and Memberships Required

The thing with calisthenics is that it saves you a lot of money. Come the first day of the Year, and people start flooding the gyms and don’t even hesitate to buy expensive gym memberships. However, only a few stick to their New Years’ resolution till the following December.

Perhaps, for people who are motivated on the first day of New Year, should try out their fitness routine with calisthenics and once they get a nag of fitness, they can join and buy expensive memberships. This is the beauty of bodyweight exercises; it saves you money and lets you do your thing as well.

2. It can be Done Anywhere and Everywhere

Bodyweight training exercises are more beneficial for people who have got a very tight business and personal schedule and finds very little to no time to spend on any kind of fitness exercises or to even drive to their gym across a few miles, for that matter.

For such business people and other fitness enthusiasts, bodyweight exercises is a life saver. Since these exercises require no to very small little gym equipment, people can perform these exercises anywhere and everywhere.

All you need to have is a floor mat, and you are all set to go. Be it your office or home; if you have 10 – 15 minutes of time, you can keep your body in shape and gain some strength as well. Moreover, you can’t even make an excuse of not having any time to go to the gym, because with bodyweight training, there is no need for it.

3. Single Calisthenic Exercise Can Train Different Muscles

Bodyweight exercises are versatile and serve different muscle group in your body. This is not the case with weight training exercises. With so many different variations of bodyweight exercises, each of these new variations basically focuses on different muscle in your body.

This remains to be one of the biggest advantages of calisthenics training as it helps to keep the different muscle group in your body active. Each of the variations of these bodyweight exercises uses at least 3 – 4 muscle group in your body.

For example, regular pushups serve your shoulder, chest, triceps, and core at the same time. This is not the case with other weight training exercises.

4. You can try Different Progression and Fancy Moves

There are numerous variations which can be tried out with different bodyweight training exercises. With mastering each new move, you can progress to the new level and then the new one and then the new one.

Bodyweight training makes sure that your fitness routine doesn’t ever becomes monotonous and keeps the energy level always high. You can even try to invent your very own new move if you have mastered everything that there is to do in calisthenics training.

Keep trying out new moves and keep progressing towards the more difficult variations which it has to offer. There is plenty to try and become good at.

Cons of Calisthenics Workout

Although bodyweight exercises are my favourite fitness routine, there is no perfect training plan. Below are some of the major disadvantages of the calisthenic workout.

1. It is Difficult to Measure your Progress

Body weight training definitely helps you to tone up your body. However, if you are looking for extremely muscle improvement, then it can be a little difficult to do it with bodyweight training exercises.

Moreover, with bodyweight training, you can gain immense core strength, but it is difficult to measure it in real-time. And if you are not doing the exercises in the proper form and that too without experts’ opinion, you might never know if what you are doing is right.

And since you cannot measure it directly, you cannot even say it is right by looking at your physique. Bodyweight training exercises must be done slowly. There is no need to rush anything. In fact, these exercises are meant to be done slowly and then gradually increasing the pace as and when you get comfortable with these exercises.

2. It is Difficult to Isolate Certain Muscle Group

If you are looking to improve certain weak muscle group in your body or to get rehab from a particular injury, it can be extremely difficult to isolate certain muscle group with body weight exercise.

Thus, it is not ideal to do bodyweight workout when you are trying to focus on a particular muscle in your body. In such instances, weight training exercises can be more beneficial as compared to bodyweight exercises, as they allow you to isolate certain areas of your body which requires more specific attention.

Beginner Calisthenics Workout

As mentioned earlier anyone can innovate new bodyweight/ calisthenics exercises, so the list of calisthenics training is limitless. However, most of the exercises are nothing but the modification of few basic exercises. Below are the basic exercises that you need o master in order to move further with calisthenics.

1. Push Ups

The pushup is one of the basic calisthenics exercises that helps you build incredible upper body strength. The regular push up helps you to build core strength and balance, which is required in a number of different sports and exercises.

The push up is a great compounded exercise that works mostly on the upper body muscles. The major muscle group that pushups work on, are pectoral muscles, triceps, front and rear deltoids, biceps and latissimus dorsi.

The movement involved activates the entire body which increases the overall functional strength and stability. It enhances your cardiovascular system by making your heart to deliver more oxygen-rich blood to various muscle tissues.

1. Once you are in the starting up position, lower the body and bend the elbows towards the ground in a slow motion.

2. The time when your elbows come at a 90-degree angle, slowly start pushing the body in the starting position.

3. When going down with the motion, make sure the chest does not come in contact with the floor. Elbows must be fully stretched out, with your arms being straight when you get back in the starting position.

4. Hold your position for a few seconds and rest the body there to attain full benefits of regular push-up style.

5. Ensure that the body remains in a straight line and does not sag away. There is no point in doing it if it is not done in the proper form.

6. Continue doing as many pushups as possible. The more, the better. Always strive to do one extra push-up in each set and keep on increasing the numbers.

2. Pull Ups

The Pull Up is one of the simple calisthenic workouts which can be performed almost anywhere. All you need to have is a sturdy bar to hold on, and you are fine to get some pull-ups going.

It is a compounded exercise which mainly works on your lats that are located on the sides of your chest. In addition to this, it also works on your shoulders, biceps, and core to give it a nice workout.

Triceps and biceps serve as the important muscular stabilizers when you are working out some pull-ups.

Do not confuse yourself between pull ups and chin ups. Those are two different things. In chin-ups, you have an underhand grip on the bar. It is important to grab the bar in the right way to attain its full benefits.

1. Grab the bar with your palm facing away from your body. The thumb must go underneath the bar, and the other four fingers must be wrapped on top of the bar.

2. Place the hands about shoulder width from each other and slowly lift your legs from the ground. Hang yourself completely on the bar with your arms straightened out.

3. Pull the body in upward motion with your arms and do not step on the ground. Make sure you do not swing your body sideways to generate momentum.

4. Keep pulling the body upward until your chest almost touches the bar. From the up position, slowly lower your body down to the starting position.

5. Perform as many control pull-ups as possible. Push your body for that one extra pull up each time and keep testing your limits.

3. Triceps Dips

Triceps dips is another basic bodyweight training which helps to tone up your tricep. It is a relatively small compound movement exercise which works heavily on your tricep and the same time also improves strength in your shoulders and chest.

This bodyweight exercise helps to add mass to your triceps. Like any other calisthenics routine, all you need to have is a bench to be able to perform this exercise. Even if you don’t have a bench, it is perfectly alright as you can also perform this exercise on the ground.

tricep dips calisthenics
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Following are the steps involved to perform the entire range of motion involved in a triceps dips.

1. Your hands must be shoulder width apart placed on a bench behind you. Extend your legs in front of you, with your butt slightly in front of the bench.

2. Keep the arms in a straight position with a slightly bent position of your elbow to maintain the tension on your elbow.

3. Now slowly lower your body in the downward motion towards the floor, until the elbows are in a 90-degree position.

4. Once you are in the bottom position, press down on the bench and push yourself up in the starting position.

5. Perform as many control dips as possible. Push your body for that one extra dip each time and keep testing your limits.

4. Squats

Squat is one of the best compound exercise movements. Most of the fitness experts suggest that you must start by learning squat before you learn anything else.

Squat provides overall body benefits. It creates an anabolic environment which in return maintains the high metabolism and burn the fat faster. In addition to fat loss, it also improves your body posture and mobility.

This basic exercise is known to improve the blood circulation in your body, providing oxygen-rich blood to vital organs of your body.

And just like any other calisthenic exercises, this to can be performed anywhere and everywhere. To make it more challenging, you can try variations like pistol squat.

1. Get in the position by standing tall and facing forward with your chest out. Place your feet shoulder-width apart.

2. Now extend your hands out straight in front of you and maintain your balance. Now imagine a chair behind you and try to sit back.

3. Now keep your head facing in the front direction as you bend forward. Get your thighs down and as parallel to the floor as possible.

4. Push your weight back onto your heels. Maintain a stiff body and push through your heels to get back in the starting position.

5. Perform as many control squats as possible. Push your body for that one extra movement each time and keep testing your limits.

Frequently Asked Questions About Calisthenics

1. Is Calisthenics Enough?

The meaning of the word ‘Enough’ may differ from individual to individual as their end goal may be different. However, in general, the answer is yes.

Bodyweight training exercises are a great way of attaining impressive physique, improved strength, flexibility, mobility and overall performance.

Anyone including those who have never had a faceoff with fitness exercises can jump straight into beginners’ level bodyweight training and can work their way up to more difficult variants of it.

Yes, we use our own body weight as resistance, but for people who have mastered the art of calisthenics exercises can make use of weighted vests to intensify their fitness routine.

2. Can Calisthenics Build Muscles?

It might seem difficult to build some muscles through bodyweight training exercises. Though it might not allow you to stimulate optimal muscle growth, however, you can still be able to build some muscle growth if you do it the right way.

It is a known fact that you can build muscles through high weight, low repetitions exercises. In the same fashion, you can also build muscles through low weight, high repetitions as long as you fatigue your body muscles within 1 – 2 minutes.

For instance, if you can pull off 50 pushups within a minute, then yes, you can build muscles using calisthenics.

3. Is Calisthenics good for Weight Loss?

Body weight training program is an efficient weight loss program. It not only has several health-related advantages but it also helps to reduce fat and weight dramatically.

Bodyweight training exercises can help you tone up your body and get in a proper shape and physique. Using your own bodyweight as a resistance, this is one of the best solutions to lose some weight and fat.

In fact, there are exercises, like squats and pushups which helps you to lose weight and unwanted fat really quickly. And once these basic exercises are combined with advanced level exercises like burpees and climbers the fat loss rate increases drastically.

4. Is Calisthenics Aerobic and Anaerobic?

In some sense, calisthenics exercise can be termed as aerobic as well as anaerobic.

Aerobic exercises are those which improves your cardiovascular system by raising your heart rate by 60 percent of the maximum heart rate. Whereas, anaerobic exercises are those exercises which are performed with high intensity and only last for about a minute or two.

Resistance exercises like bodyweight training like push-up can be termed as anaerobic as well as aerobic exercises. Thus, it is right to say that calisthenics can be aerobic as well as anaerobic.

5. Is Calisthenics good for Ectomorphs?

Calisthenics isn’t too good for ectomorphs and at the same time isn’t too bad either. If you want to build muscle completely based on bodyweight training than that won’t be a good idea.

You would want your own genetics to build some muscles. If you are too lean and skinny, then you would want to use more weight than bodyweight. Perhaps, you would want to be in the best of both worlds.

A good combination of both weight training and bodyweight training can be fruitful for ectomorphs.

6. Can Calisthenics Build Strength?

Calisthenics or bodyweight training exercises are an efficient way of building overall body strength. They not only help you to build core stability but also improves various muscle group of the body by building strength and endurance in them.

Bodyweight training is an effective exercise that improves mobility in your body and makes your body less prone to injuries. Bodyweight exercises like push up and others can help you strengthen your upper body which includes shoulder, chest, biceps, and triceps amongst other.

These exercises can definitely help you to build an unimaginable amount of strength in your body and become the beast that you always dreamt off.

7. Can Calisthenics be done Every Day?

Working with the same bodyweight exercise can have a negative effect on your body. If you are planning to involve calisthenics in your daily routine, then it is must for you to keep trying out new moves and exercises.

Yes, you can do it every day, but training the same set of muscle can do more harm than good. And with so many variants available for bodyweight training exercises, there should not be any problem incorporating them with your daily routine and keep changing them regularly.

8. Is Calisthenics Harder than Weight Training?

Something being harder and difficult is a matter of perception. Calisthenics and weight training are basically both forms of strength training and are used for developing strength and muscles in your entire body.

Being said that, some of the variations of calisthenics can be extremely difficult to perform. However, if you progress with the right technique and form than there is no bodyweight exercise which cannot be mastered. One needs to follow the right structure and plan accurately when it comes to calisthenics.

Calisthenics vs. Other Fitness Routine

1. Calisthenics vs. Weight Training

Both calisthenics and weight training are a form of strength training exercises which are used to enhance strength, muscles, flexibility, and stamina. As we discussed, calisthenics exercises use your own bodyweight as resistance to develop strength and muscles in your body. Whereas, weight training requires heavy usage of external weights as resistance to do the same.

Both of these forms are used to increase your metabolic rate. Calisthenics and weight training have a lot of similarities between them. These exercises are an efficient way of relieving excessive stress and at the same time reduce some unwanted fat in your body.

In addition to stress and fat loss, these forms of training also strengthen your ligaments.

Benefits and Limitations of Calisthenics

The biggest advantage of bodyweight training lies in its simplicity and ease of the exercise. As we have discussed above, bodyweight exercises can be performed anywhere and everywhere. You do not need to have any expensive training equipment, and you can do it in the comfort of your own home.

All you need to know is the proper technique and form of the exercise, and there is nothing that can stop you from attaining a full ripped body, which you dreamt off. Calisthenics exercises help you to build strength, flexibility, and endurance in your body. However, if you are someone who is looking to build a lot of muscle mass quickly, then calisthenics exercises has some limitations related to it.

Yes, you can build muscle with this exercise, but it takes time and cannot be achieved solely based on bodyweight training. Being said all, it is important to focus on the correct form and technique, if you are looking for improvements in your body.

As progress can be difficult to measure with calisthenics, it will be hard to determine whether what you are doing is correct or not. Thus spending considerable time on learning the basics is the best way to move forward.

Benefits and Limitations of Weight Training

For someone who wants to beat the time and build muscles rather quickly and dramatically, weight training is the way forward. With weight training, you can isolate a certain muscle group in your body, which requires more attention.

For people who had recent injuries and damage to their muscle group, must go for weight training exercises as these are far better than bodyweight exercises in such cases. Bodyweight exercises are compound exercises which work on 3 – 4 muscle group at the same time and thus might not be perfectly suitable for situations like rehab and isolated training.

However, with weight training exercises, comes heavy expenses. You are required to buy a gym membership and travel each day to your gym to get some workout going. It cannot be done at the convenience of your own house.

Also, weight training exercises can become mundane quite soon, which can bring boredom to your fitness regime. This is not the case with bodyweight training as there are so many fun variations to try out each day of the year.

2. Calisthenics vs. Yoga

Bodyweight training is used to attain flexibility, stability, strength, endurance and somewhat muscular structure in your body. Whereas, yoga will help you to attain peace of mind, flexibility, stability and nice stature of your body.

However, what yoga doesn’t help with is to gain weight and excessive muscle. Yoga is more about getting flexibility in your body, but it doesn’t help much with the core strength that you are looking for. It is great for your ligaments and joints, but it won’t help you much the core stability.

Calisthenics vs. Yoga
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Bodyweight training exercises, on the other hand, are more helpful in such instances. They can provide you with an unimaginable amount of strength and endurance in your body.

Both these forms of exercises can be performed in the comfort of your home and also doesn’t require any much set up with equipment. All you need to have is a floor mat, and you are good to go. So if you are someone who is looking for peace of mind and or someone who is interested in the rehab process, yoga is definitely the way forward.

And in cases where someone is looking to gain strength at their own home, bodyweight training is definitely the way forward.

3. Calisthenics vs. Power Lifting

Powerlifting programs are designed over a long period of time and are something that requires a lot of commitment and planning. You need to build yourself properly for this program and keep increasing the number of the set of each exercise as you progress with the number of weeks.

The main goal of powerlifting exercises is to increase and attain the maximum weight that you can lift and achieve and in the process gain beast like muscular structure. Posture is of ultimate importance in such exercise.

Calisthenics vs. Power Lifting
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However, the danger of powerlifting exercise can be quite frightening. These exercises can cause damage and injuries within a blink of a second. They can be quite precarious.

These not the case with calisthenics exercises. They do more good than harm. The chances of you getting injured are quite less. With powerlifting exercises, you require lots of weight, dumbbells, benches, and bars. Calisthenics exercises don’t require any of these.

All you need to have is yourself, and you are good to go. Being said that, they are equally efficient and but serves different purposes. If you are a businessman, who is simply looking for some efficient workout sessions, bodyweight training fits perfectly in that ally.

If you are an athlete or invaded in some sports which requires strong and masculine stature, powerlifting is the way to go forward.

4. Calisthenics vs. Cross Fit

Cross fit training combines’ cardio and weight training that helps in building muscle and is more efficient in burning calories as compared to calisthenics. We are not saying that bodyweight exercises don’t help to do it, it is just that cross fit are more efficient.

Cross fit programs are measurable and can be highly competitive, as the exercises are normally like, ‘do a certain amount of sets or exercises in particular time.’ No wonder cross fit training exercises require a lot of machine and equipment, which is certainly not the case with bodyweight training exercises.

Cross fit training programs are way expensive as compared to bodyweight programs, where you can perform any exercise at your own comfort. The success of cross fit programs is measured by the speed with which it is done.

This entails to poorer form as an individual might rush into the set completion to do the exercise in less time. Whereas, bodyweight is all about getting the right form. It doesn’t matter how quickly or slowly you do it until you do it the right way.

5. Calisthenics vs. Gymnastics

In some way, calisthenics and gymnastics go hand in hand. Calisthenics is known to have adopted some principles from gymnastics. Like gymnastics, calisthenics too requires a disciplined way of exercising, with the combined physical and acrobatic skills.

Gymnastics, on the one hand, is a form of professional sport, which is done by professionals and definitely involves some of the craziest moves in the fitness world. However, bodyweight exercises have also evolved over the years with its fancy human flag and other moves that are more or less adopted from gymnastics.

Calisthenics vs. Gymnastics
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This is the reason; we said that gymnastics and calisthenics or bodyweight training exercises go hand in hand, where some moves in bodyweight exercises are adopted from the world of gymnastics.

Gymnastics can be quite difficult for beginners’ level to try out and not everyone can have the ability to perform gymnastics. However, no matter what your level is, anyone and everyone can definitely dive into the world of calisthenics.

Though, both these forms of exercises require a lot of discipline and strength to be able to do them perfectly.

Wrapping Up

Calisthenics is fun and exciting, and anyone and everyone can do it. It is not restricted to anyone specific and can be done by men and women of all age groups. In addition to this, with so many variations of bodyweight exercises like push up and others, there is no way you can ever get bored with calisthenics.

Our guide to calisthenics exercises for beginners is all you need to start your journey to fitness. It has all the information that you need to know from advantages to disadvantages, to the basic forms of these exercises, to comparing calisthenics with another fitness routines.

In addition to this exercises, be sure to maintain a good diet, drink plenty of water (at least 3 – 4 liters of water each day) and get plenty of sleep. A healthy lifestyle with a fitness routine is equally important, to achieve great physique and strength in your overall body.

If you have any question and doubts, feel free to reach out to us by dropping a comment below and share your stories to inspire others.

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