How To Start Calisthenics: Quick Beginner’s Guide

Group performing calisthenics plank

Before you start calisthenics training, you may want to get a grasp of the discipline’s basics. Read our previous post on the basics of calisthenics – it will help you to lay the groundwork before you begin.

You’ve probably seen a ton of posts about calisthenics and bodyweight training. With so much out there, you might struggle with figuring out where to begin.

Luckily, we’ve compiled this mini guide to help you cut through the noise and discover how to start calisthenics.

Calisthenics for Beginners

a side plank performed by a woman

If you’re starting from scratch with calisthenics, it’s important to get into workouts that are suitable for your fitness level. Calisthenics is bodyweight training so it’s a good starting point.

Curiously, you might already have a training background in calisthenics exercises. Many people aren’t aware that the bodyweight exercises that stimulate muscle growth are part of calisthenics.

When you do exercises such as push-ups, pull-ups, walking lunges, weighted dips, and even handstands, you’re performing calisthenics exercises.

We recommend starting slow with lower reps of straightforward exercises like squats and incline pushups. You’ll be surprised, how with consistency and effort, you’ll be able to progress to more advanced versions of these exercises.

But first, you need to take an honest evaluation of where you are in your fitness journey. Ask yourself these questions:

  • How often do I work out and for how long?
  • What is my current fitness level?
  • Do I already use movements like squats and pushups in my workouts?
  • Do I start at the beginning or am I more suited to an advanced level of calisthenics?

Your answers will give you a better idea of where to start, how often you should train, and what you want to achieve.

How to start calisthenics at home

a group of people performing lunges

Different calisthenics training variations can include equipment like pull-up bars, dip stations, skipping ropes, and resistance bands. But, you don’t need any of them.

A door frame, firm floor, staircase, and raised surfaces are just as good for pullups, different pushup variations, and planks.

Find a suitable space to use as a home gym – a place that gives you room to lunge, jump, and plank. Remove any obstacles, like wires or kids’ toys, that might trip you up.

Take a bottle of water, a good-quality gym mat, and a towel for the workout. The little comforts go a long way. Once the stage is prepped, you’re ready to dive into a starting routine.

Starter routine

Now, let’s get down to the business of how to get started in calisthenics. We have outlined a routine you can use as a guideline. Increase or decrease the reps and sets according to your ability.

Do not strain yourself. Focus on the quality of each exercise rather than quantity. Form is always the most important thing in any workout.

Consult a physician or a fitness professional before doing any exercises you haven’t tried before, or if you have injuries

  • Pushups: 5 to 20 reps
  • Rest for 35 seconds
  • Squats: 5 to 20 reps
  • Rest 35 seconds
  • Plank hold for 20to 35 seconds
  • Rest for 35 seconds
  • Lunges: 5 to 10 per leg
  • Rest for 30 seconds
  • Jump rope for 35 seconds

Tip: You can increase/decrease the length of rest periods according to your needs.

Building Muscle with Calisthenics

Calisthenics muscle building

One of the major benefits of calisthenics workouts involves compound exercises. These are workouts that target multiple muscle groups at once.

Calisthenics challenges your body and increases both your strength and power. But, compared to weight training, does it encourage muscle growth?

Does calisthenics build muscles?

Fact: Calisthenics can lead to effective muscle growth as these exercises target several muscular groups at once. This may be better than weight lifting isolation exercises that only target one specific area.

An example of a compound calisthenics exercise is the push-up. A push-up, when performed correctly, will activate your chest, shoulders, triceps, and other upper body muscles. But, it doesn’t stop there.

Your core engages and your lower body works against gravity while being raised off the floor. It effectively targets the entire body, just to different degrees.

Fact: Calisthenics also leads to an increase in muscular endurance, which also grows your muscle mass. It improves your overall strength, making challenging activities like running, carrying, and pushing easier.

Dynamic calisthenics exercises like jumping lunges and jumping squats also bolster your cardiovascular fitness, flexibility, balance, mobility, power, and strength.

Calisthenics for Weight Loss

Losing weight with calisthenics training

There are no specific calisthenic workouts for weight loss. Yet, if one of your goals is to lose weight, you should aim to get your heart rate up. When you’ve got the exercise form down, perform them as fast as you can and with shorter resting periods.

Squats, pushups, dips, skipping, pullups, running, burpees, planks, and shuttles are amazing exercises to include in your weight loss journey.

Try and do workouts that target both your upper and lower body to gain optimal results for your weight loss journey. Building muscle and strength across the body while cutting fat will help you to get a fit and lean physique.

Calisthenics Physique

men performing static calisthenics workouts

Society and social media have increased our appreciation of striking visuals and attractive aesthetics. With fitness and nutrition influencers on the rise, many people train to change their figures.

Bodybuilders are known for shape, muscularity, symmetry, and conditioning. Weightlifters aim to increase muscle size, but not with the same focus on symmetry and shapeliness.

While no two bodies will look the same, there are similarities across calisthenics athletes. Due to the nature of bodyweight training, they don’t gain as much muscle as weightlifters or bodybuilders.

However, if you’re consistent and dedicated with your calisthenics training, you can achieve a ripped and muscular build. Your posture will be improved and you’ll be able to perform out-of-this-world bodyweight moves.

Here’s an example of Serbian legend Dejan Stipke’s calisthenics body transformation below.

Calisthenics Guide: Injuries & Recovery

woman jogging on the beach performing calisthenics training

Performing calisthenics body weight exercises rather than weightlifting does not mean that you won’t be injured. But the injuries can be less invasive. And, getting back to your workouts can be easier.

According to a study done by the German Journal of Sports Medicine, calisthenics was found to have a lower injury rate than sports with similar exertion and demands. These sports included CrossFit, gymnastics, and Olympic lifting, among others.

Added to a reduced risk of injury is the decreased strain on joints, muscles, and tendons. You recover quicker and can increase your workload faster. A win-win for anyone who wants to train in both a challenging and safe way.

Common Mistakes

As you get into calisthenics, be aware of these common mistakes.

Try to avoid:

  • Neglecting calluses
  • Cheating on your range of motion,
  • Focusing only on one exercise
  • Targeting only one main body area
  • Increasing your workload too quickly
  • Skipping recovery days
  • Not fuelling yourself properly

It’s easy not to think about these things when we’re caught up in the excitement of a new routine. But, consistency and listening to your body are crucial.

A good calisthenics routine targets the major muscles and points of strength holistically. Stick with it and trust the process.

Final Thoughts on How to Start Calisthenics

lady showing off how calisthenics improved her body

Calisthenics training may not require a lot of equipment. But it does require an intense level of consciousness for muscle and strength training.

When looking at how to start calisthenics, assess your current fitness ability. Begin with the number of reps, sets, and rest periods that works for you. Perform the exercises intentionally and prioritise form over quantity.

If you listen to your body, rest well, and keep up the consistency, you’ll improve your confidence and strength in no time at all.

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