Someone asked me recently “what is the best way to work out at home” now this is going to be dependent on your goals but if you are looking for something to replace the gym, challenge you and give you similar results without the need or budget for a home gym setup then calisthenics is it
What Is Calisthenics?
The term calisthenics comes from the Greek words “Kalos” meaning beauty and “Stenos” which translates as strength.
Calisthenics is a form of exercising using the body to increase strength, fitness, flexibility, aesthetics, aerobic conditioning and health.
Calisthenics like most exercise forms uses movements such as pulling, pushing, bending, jumping and swinging the difference with calisthenics is it uses gravity and your own body for resistance (bodyweight training)
In this post, I give you all the information you need to get started training calisthenics as your at-home workout.
Keep reading for benefits, exercises and progressions you can use.
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The Benefits of Calisthenics?
Calisthenics is a very effective and versatile way to train which has many benefits
1) Increased muscle tone
Calsithenics is one of the only exercise forms to build muscle mass and strength without the use of weights.
You can build a reasonable amount of muscle mass and maintain it using calistheics.
In calisthenics not only are all muscle groups being worked but they are being worked together which improves coordination and flexibility.
3) The ability to move and control your body
Calisthenics trains and forces us to control and move our bodies like no other exercise form.
A lot of the movements in calisthenics involve your body and muscles to work together as a functional unit.
Many of the movements also have a balancing element this involves more core activation and recruits smaller muscles as stabilizers
4) Weight Loss
Calisthenics has a two-pronged approach at burning fat and thus helping with weight loss.
Not only do you have the strength training element to build muscle and burn calories but you also have the aerobic training effect from calisthenics.
The more intensively you train the better the aerobic effect.
Like any training form to more you train, the more intensively you train and the more consistently you train the fitter you will become.
Calisthenics is a great endurance builder as the exercises are often performed by doing as many repetitions as possible for as long as possible.
If endurance is your goal you can increase the benefits by adding different training methods to your callisthenics like circuits
7) Less to no equipment is needed
Due to the training style, there is little to no equipment needed for calisthenics and you certainly can do full-body workouts with no equipment if you need to, making it the perfect way to train from home or on the go.
Due to the simplicity of the moves, shorter use in calisthenics, shorter workout times and the minimal amount of equipment needed calisthenics is a perfect time saver as well as eliminating the need to go to a gym and all the prep involved with it.
9) Easier on the joints and muscles
Calisthenics helps to build and increase muscle tone without the extreme tearing and trauma that weight training can inflict.
Bodyweight exercise do not place the joints under the same amount of pressure as lifting weights
10) Self intuitive
Yes, technique is important, but a lot of the moves we perform in calisthenics are self intuitive and second nature to us.
They are the basic movement patterns and functional movements we were born with like the squat, push up and pull up and are simple to perform without any specialized knowledge.
The biggest limitation for calisthenics is progressive overload as muscle are built of the principle of progressive resistance and with calisthenics the better you get the more your reps will increase but the more your workout will turn into endurance-based training as opposed to strength or muscle building.
The good thing is that calisthenics isn’t limited to just bodyweight training adding weight to movements in calisthenics is allowed once you are still following natural movement patterns.
The benefit of adding weights gives you an extra variable to your workouts allows you to add and increase progressive overload enabling you to use calisthenics to train for multi goals and outcomes like size and strength
Calisthenics Exercises (bodyweight exercises)
- Push Up
- Incline Push Up
- Decline Push Up
- Clapping Push Up
- Diamond push up
- Pike Push-Ups
- One arm push up
- Archer Push-ups
- Sphinx push-ups
- Weighted push-ups
- Ring push-ups
- Chest Dips
- Ring flies
- Pull-up (different grip variations)
- Weighted pull-up
- Ring pull-ups
- Kipping pull up
- L-sit pullup
- One arm pull up
- Archer pull-ups
- Inverted row/pullup
- Ring rows
- Ring pull-ups (all variations)
- All push-ups
- Wall walk
- handstand (wall handstand)
- Shoulder taps
- Crab walk
- Frog Stand
- Shoulder dips
- Body weight lateral raise
- Squats (jumping)
- Pistol squat
- Split squats
- Archer squat
- Glute bridge and hip thrust
- Box jumps (step-ups)
- Lunges (jumping, walking)
- Calf raises
- Frog jumps
- Duck walks
- Hamstring curls
- Nordic curls
- Bench dips
- Elevated dips
- Ring Dips
- Straight bar dips
- Weighted dips
- All push-ups
- Bodyweight tricep extension
- Plank to push up
- Band tricep pushdowns
- Chin up
- Comando chin up
- Towel chin up
- Weighted chin up
- Ring chin-ups
- All pull-ups
- Resistance band curls
- Towel curls
- Ring rows
- Inverted rows
All the usual ab and core exercises apply to name my favourites
- Hollow bodies
- Dragon flag
- Window wipers
- Hanging knee raises (hanging leg raise)
- Weighted Plank
- Leg raises
- Flutter kicks
- Bicycle crunch
Calisthenic specific exercises
Calisthenics also has exercises you don’t see in any other exercise forms like:
- Human flag
- Levers and
As you can see the options and variations are extensive and I wouldn’t even say that this is a complete list.
The amount of equipment needed for all these exercises is minimal and with calisthencis there is a lot of crossover as in most exercises are going to be working many muscle groups
Equipment Needed For Calisthenics
Calisthenics is great when it comes to equipment the amount we need especially as a beginner is limited and the majority of what we do need is relatively low cost.
These pieces of equipment can get you set up to do full body and full calisthenics workouts from home and outside
1) Pull Up Bar
As a complete beginner probably the only thing you will need to get started is a pullup bar.
You can definitely start without one but from my experience without one the exercises you can do for your back are limited and to maintain all over muscle balance and a complete calisthenics workout experience I would recommend that you get one from the start
I also recommend investing a little bit more and getting a wall mounted one provided you have a wall to mount it on
2) Dip Bars/Dip Station
Again this piece of kit is not needed to start and less vital than a pull-up bar but when training in calisthenics consistently you will be progressing quickly and when needed you will benefit greatly from paralel bars or dip station
3) Portable calisthenics rig
- These are becoming more and more popular and what I am talking about here are the likes of pullup mate as featured in the image
- This pieces of kit are awesome and allow you to do full body and calisthenics workouts from anywhere as they are easily disassembled and come with carrying cases.
You can also just set it up at home on a level surface and you have no need for a pull-up bar or dip station
4) A Pair of Parellettes
Parellets allow you to perform some of the more advanced calisthenics exercises like l-sits, handstands and planches but can also be used for training building up basic exercises like pushups and dips
4) Gymnastic Rings
These are a great piece of calisthenics equipment
- Low cost
- Easy to transport
- Can be used anywhere you can hang them from
These are usually used as a progression as in you can progress from bar pull-ups to ring pullups or parallel bar dips to ring dips as they add in an extra element of difficulty as they are unstable and you need to use your body and more muscle recruitment to stabilise you.
But if it is your only option you can start with rings and build your calisthenics training up on rings it will just be slightly tougher at the start.
5) Resistance band/bands
Resistance bands are a great compliment to your calisthenics training not only do they allow for more exercise variations they also help with warm-up and flexibility by incorporating certain exercises.
Resistance bands can also be used as an assistance tool, you can use them to help you perform exercises such as pull-ups and dips that you might not be able to do without them.
6) Weighted vest
This is further on in your calsithenics training.
As you progress you will more than likely get to a point where you will need more of a challenge and also need to add an extra stimulus to keep your training progressing and take you to new levels
A weighted vest is great as in it straps to your torso and allows you to add and decrease weight and preform exercise as you would without it
7) Lifting belt
Another option for adding weight is a weighted/dipping belt unlike a lifting vest a weighted belt will allow you to add more weight (a greater total amount) but on the flip side, there will be fewer exercises you can use it with.
Like any training method, progressions are going key to constantly progressing your workouts, adding different levels of difficulty and aiming your workouts to your specific goal or goals.
You need to be consistently making your trainer harder as you get better so we never stagnate or plateau, remember we want to be constantly Raising The Bar.
Clients often ask me in training “when does it get easier” and the truth is and I tell them it never does you just get better and as you do progress I make it harder and that is the same way you need to approach every workout you do.
Calisthenics is no different here are five progressions you can use to progress your at-home training.
Volume (total amount of repetitions)
Volume is the first progression we can easily use to progress our calisthenics training.
You can increase the volume by performing more reps increasing the number of sets or training out more frequently per week.
To keep building muscle strength and improving your volume must consistently go up over time
We can also increase the intensity of your workouts.
With calisthenics, it is very easy to increase the intensity of the workout, you can do circuits or make your workout more HIIT style.
Training like that will not only increase the intensity of your training but also increase fat loss.
If your goals are more strength and size focus the best way to increase intensity is to add weight.
With volume there is only so far you want to go rep wise depending on your goals so when you hit that higher rep range you were aiming the next best progression is to add weight (increase intensity) and then aim for that upper rep range again.
Range of motion
An increased range of motion will lot only increase the intensity and with a lot of calisthenics exercises, it is very possible that you may not be able to achieve full range of motion starting off.
If this is the case for any exercise then increasing the range of motion each time may a better progression to start with
Time Under Tension (speed)
If you are coming from a weights background you should have heard of tempo before and be aware of time under tension the same applies for calisthenics.
Performing an exercise slower especially in the eccentric part of the movement will increase the difficulty of the exercise as your muscles will be firing for longer.
Time under tension will have bigger benefits with calisthenics because of all those stabilising muscles being used which will all be working harder and longer as you increase the time you take to perform the exercise
Exercise variations and/or position of your body
With weights it’s very easy to progress quickly as the main progression is to add more weight with calisthenics you will have a slower start as the exe4rcises need to be mastered before you can even add weight and some exercises you will have to progress to.
Variations of exercise is a big progression tool when it comes to calisthenics and also holding in our bodies in different positions during moves will help to progress the move.
For example, with a pull up we may start on an inverted row progressing to assisted pull-ups before we ever attempt a full pull-up let alone a weight pull up