Basic calisthenics uses a person’s whole bodyweight with minimal or no equipment at all. This form of exercise focuses more on strength training.
Luckily, the exercises are not as challenging to perform as the word “calisthenics” is to say. Chances are that you already include some calisthenics exercises in your workout routine.
Think along the lines of squats, pushups, pullups, jumping rope, and more. We’ll take you through what a basic calisthenics workout is, the benefits, and the best exercises here.
What Is Calisthenics?
Calisthenics is strength training. It targets large muscle groups with movements (often compound exercises) such as pushing, pulling, jumping, and gripping.
These exercises can be performed with varying reps, sets, and circuits. You don’t need calisthenics equipment, but that option is available. If you’re a major calisthenics fan, you may want to look at pull-up rigs, plyo boxes, and parallettes.
Interesting fact: During the ancient Greek period, it was seen as an art to use bodyweight to develop an aesthetically-pleasing form. Not only that, it helped build strong armies with good battle form during the ancient wars.
Full Body Calisthenics Workout Benefits
Full body calisthenics has just as many benefits as other forms of exercise, like weightlifting.
Let’s take a look.
Target multiple muscle groups
Bodyweight exercises, like pull-ups and jumping lunges, all activate multiple muscle groups.
For example, a pull-up doesn’t just work biceps, it also targets your back and shoulder muscles. Same for squats. A squat can activate quads, glutes, and core when the proper form is used.
The activation of several muscle groups results in an excellent full body workout.
Save time and money
Twenty to 30 minutes of calisthenics in your living room saves the money you would pay for a gym contract. It also saves you money on gas by cutting out the drive to and from the gym.
Working out in a home gym or any room is convenient. You don’t have to wait for a machine or other people. Plus, after your workout, you can wind down and shower in privacy.
Calisthenics burn fat
Calisthenics uses compound exercises, which means that multiple muscle groups are working at the same time. One of the major benefits of calisthenic workouts is that it burns fat.
To burn fat, it helps to do an intense workout that requires a lot of movement. Through a high intensity movement, you can lose more calories in a shorter period of time. This results in lower body fat and can give your body the lean defined shape you’re looking for.
Less risk of injury
Calisthenics does not require equipment. It’s bodyweight training, which means less things for you to fall off or drop onto your toes!
Since you are not lifting heavy weights, you run less risk of hurting yourself with barbells and weight plates.
In this way, calisthenics is easier on your tendons, joints, and muscles. However, we strongly recommend you warm up and cool down properly before and after these workouts.
Injury is still possible. Consult with a fitness professional or doctor before performing new exercises.
Endurance training has great health benefits. Exercises like calisthenics increase your resting metabolic rate and reduce cardiovascular risk.
In addition, calisthenics training enhances and develops lower-body coordination compared to pilates within the same period of time.
Best Calisthenics Exercises
So, what basic calisthenics exercises can you add to your routine? Mix and match some of the bodyweight exercises below and you’ll have a great strength training workout planned out in no time at all.
Squats help to burn calories, build lower body strength, and help you lose weight. Squats also assist in preventing knee and ankle injuries. Muscles that benefit from squats are hip muscles, calves, hamstrings, and obliques.
Here’s how to do it:
- Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Bend both knees and push your hips backwards, like you’re sitting down on a chair. Do not let your knees go beyond your feet.
- Complete the movement by returning to the starting position and squeezing the glutes as you raise up.
Form tip: Keep your neck and back straight during this exercise.
Push ups have great benefits by increasing functional strength, improving upper body strength and core stability. These also improve your posture and prevent lower back injuries.
Here’s how to do it:
- Start flat on the floor facing downwards.
- Place your hands on the floor slightly wider than your shoulders. Your elbows should face your toes.
- Raise your legs up so your toes are on the ground.
- Tighten your core muscles.
- Straighten your arms, pushing the ground away from you to lift your body.
- Bend your arms and lower the body until your chest almost touches the ground.
Tip: Don’t let your arms flare out too much when performing the movement.
Crunches help to build muscle. Crunches work specifically with the abdominal muscles. This workout makes it a popular exercise for people who are trying to get a toned stomach or a six-pack.
Here’s the move:
- Start by laying on your back. Keep your feet flat on the ground, hip-width apart.
- Cross your hands over your chest or behind your head.
- Engage your core muscles and curl the upper body toward your knees.
- Remain in this position for a few seconds before returning to the floor.
Tip: Keep your head and neck relaxed while lifting the upper body to avoid unnecessary strain.
Planks are a great workout that leads to better core strength and posture. It helps with balancing and coordination.
This is how you can perform this hold:
- Start in a push-up position but with your forearms flat on the ground.
- Engage your core muscles and keep your body straight. Keep your tail “tucked in” and don’t allow yourself to sag.
- Hold the position as long as you possibly can.
- Release to the ground.
Form tip: Avoid lifting your lower body upwards during the hold. It interferes with core engagement and makes the exercise less effective.
Beginner tip: Aim for 20 seconds first. Then progress onto 30 seconds, 45 seconds, and so on as you get stronger.
Burpees help you to burn fat and provide various cardio benefits, such as a stronger heart and lungs. Not just that, this move also improves blood flow and lowers the risk of heart disease and diabetes.
Here is how to do it:
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Go into a squat position with your knees until your palms touch the ground.
- From the bottom squat, jump your legs backwards. You’ll be in a plank position.
- From the plank position, pull your legs forward towards your hands.
- Then, use your hands and legs to push yourself up from the floor in a powerful jump.
Lunges assist to tone your body, targeting your core, glutes, and legs. These can help to tone up your appearance and sculpt your lower body.
Here are some steps for how to do it:
- Stand up straight and have your feet hip-width apart.
- Put your right foot in front of your body, bending your knee at a right angle.
- Your opposite knee should almost touch the ground behind you as your right leg extends in front of you.
- Use the heel of the right foot to push back to a standing position, bringing both feet together.
- Repeat for the left leg
Form tip: Similar to the squat, do not let your knees go beyond your toes during the lunge.
Pull ups are considered a basic calisthenics exercise. But, many beginners need to develop their upper body strength to be able to perform one.
The benefits of pullups are that you achieve a strong upper body and improve your pulling movements. For beginners, you may want to start with negative pullups before progressing to the standard pullup.
Perform a pull-up by following these steps:
- You will need a pull-up bar for this calisthenics exercise.
- Stand up straight facing the pull-up bar.
- With your palms facing away from your body, grip the bar.
- Pull your body upwards until your chin is above the bar.
- Lower yourself down back to your starting position.
Tip: Avoid the unnecessary movement of your feet. Lock them together.
Side planks work your core without adding extra stress to your back. Studies have suggested that this plank variation leads to a lower risk of back injuries.
Performing this exercise results in better balance and can help to protect your spine by targeting deep spinal support muscles.
Try this out:
- Lie on your right side with your legs straight and pressed together.
- Position your right elbow directly under your right shoulder.
- Your forearm should face forward and away from you. Use the picture above as a guide.
- Lift your hips upwards off the floor while engaging your core.
- Hold yourself here until you feel your form start to slip.
- Release to the ground.
- Repeat on other side.
Tip: Keep your neck relaxed and pull your stomach towards your back throughout the exercise. Try and keep your body in a straight line from your head to your toes.
Jumping rope is something that many of us enjoyed doing as kids. And, it shouldn’t be left in the past.
Jump rope benefits you because it:
- Increases your cardio fitness,
- Strengthens muscles,
- Improves balance and coordination, and
- Can lead to healthier bones.
Skip for 3-5 minutes as a full body warm-up before diving into your calisthenics workout.
Tip: If you want a high-intensity, vigorous calisthenics workout that torches calories, add skipping between your strength training moves.
Leg raises, aka leg lifts, target your core, hips, lower back, and other stabilizing muscles. This makes them an effective addition to any calisthenics ab workout or lower body session.
Here is how you can perform the move:
- Lie flat on your back with your legs straight.
- Keep your legs straight and lift them towards the ceiling.
- Slowly bring your legs back down again until they hover just above the floor.
Tip: Keep your core tight throughout the move and point your toes.
Calisthenics Workout Plan For Beginners
A calisthenics beginner workout is a great starting point for your fitness journey. Ultimately, you need to start where you feel most comfortable. Your workout can expand and change in intensity as you become stronger and fitter.
Consulting a health practitioner before doing exercise is something we highly recommend. We all need to know our limits and move in a way that improves our health.
That said, here are some tips to help you build a solid calisthenics workout plan:
- Write down your fitness goals.
- Plan your workouts by creating a schedule.
- Add a few exercises into your daily routine, for instance squats or planks.
- If you have a busy life, set alarms on your phone or use sticky notes as reminders to work out.
- Start with 2 sessions a week and see where you go from there.
- Prioritize quality over quantity. Aim to do less and maintain good form, rather than too many reps with poor technique.
- Include rest days for recovery.
- Avoid advanced movements until you have developed enough strength and stability to attempt them.
Just remember, if you want to improve, you have to put in the work. Consistency is key.
We suggest you start calisthenics at a slow to moderate pace to build strength. This will improve coordination, power, and flexibility. And, lessen the chances of burning out.
Final Thoughts On Basic Calisthenics Training
Calisthenics exercises work out your whole body. You don’t need a ton of expensive equipment for calisthenics training.
Maximise convenience and enjoy the benefits of basic calisthenics at home. Combine any of the exercises we mentioned into a circuit and get going!