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10 Calisthenics Exercises for Beginners

You’ve probably seen skilled athletes pulling off incredible feats of strength and agility, like effortlessly holding a handstand or executing a flawless muscle up. These moves may be the very reason you chose to get into calisthenics in the first place.

Ok, but don’t make the mistake of jumping into advanced maneuvers without first having a solid foundation. Mastering the foundational exercises is crucial to progressing in calisthenics safely and effectively.

For many reasons, beginners should start with basic movements to build strength, improve flexibility, and prevent injury. These foundational exercises lay the groundwork for more complex skills and ensure a well-rounded development in body control and fitness.

Here are the top 10 calisthenics exercises designed for beginners. These are meant to introduce you to the world of bodyweight training and set the stage for more advanced techniques in the future.

What Are The Big 3 Calisthenics?

The big 3 calisthenics refers to the three fundamental exercises that are essential for any beginner in calisthenics: push-ups, pull-ups, and squats. These exercises together work your entire body and help you build strength and muscle mass.

1. Push-Ups

A push-up is a classic calisthenics exercise that works your chest, arms, shoulders, core, and back muscles. It is a compound exercise, meaning it involves multiple joints and works multiple muscle groups at once. It’s also a functional movement that mimics everyday pushing actions, making it a practical exercise for daily life (4).

Push-ups not only serve as a significant strength-building exercise but also as a metric for physical fitness. If you’ve ever done a fitness test, chances are you had to do push-ups.

They challenge the body by utilizing one’s own weight as resistance. By engaging a wide range of muscles—from the pectorals and deltoids to the triceps and core—push-ups facilitate a comprehensive upper-body workout.

Modifications can be made to increase or decrease difficulty, making them suitable for various fitness levels. This accessibility ensures that beginners can start with basic forms and progressively adapt to more challenging variations as their strength and confidence grow.

How to Perform a Standard Push-Up

  1. Start in a Plank Position: Begin with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and your arms straight. Your body should form a straight line from your heels to your head.
  2. Lower Your Body: While keeping your elbows close to your body, lower yourself until your chest nearly touches the floor. Make sure your body remains straight throughout the movement.
  3. Push Back Up: Exhale as you push back to the starting plank position, engaging your chest and arm muscles.
  4. Maintain Core Engagement: Throughout the exercise, keep your core engaged and avoid letting your hips sag or lift too high. Your body should remain in a straight line for the duration of the exercise.
  5. Repeat: Aim for a set of repetitions that challenges you while maintaining proper form.
See also
Cardio Calisthenics: Why & How To Combine These Two Forms Of Exercise

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2. Pull-Ups

Pull-ups are another fundamental exercise in calisthenics that targets the back muscles, specifically the lats (latissimus dorsi). They also engage your biceps and forearms to a significant extent.

Pull-ups are considered one of the best calisthenics exercises for building upper body strength and sculpting a V-shaped torso. If you’ve heard of muscle ups, you need to be able to do pull-ups well before attempting this advanced move (3).

Unlike most calisthenics exercises, you’ll need equipment for pull-ups, such as a pull-up bar or sturdy tree branch. While this may seem like an inconvenience, it provides a unique challenge and variety to your workout routine.

How to Perform a Pull-Up

  1. Hang from the Bar: Grab a pull-up bar with an overhand grip (palms facing away from you), shoulder-width apart. Hang from the bar with your arms fully extended and your feet off the ground.
  2. Engage Your Back Muscles: Squeeze your shoulder blades together and pull yourself up towards the bar, keeping your elbows close to your body. Focus on engaging your back muscles rather than relying solely on arm strength.
  3. Chin Over Bar: Continue pulling until your chin is above the bar, then slowly lower yourself back to starting position.
  4. Maintain Form: Keep your body straight throughout the movement, and avoid swinging or using momentum to complete the exercise.
  5. Repeat: Aim for a set of repetitions that challenges you while maintaining proper form.

10 calisthenics exercises  

3. Squats

Squats are a lower body exercise that targets the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and core muscles. They are a functional movement that mimics sitting down and standing up, making them essential for daily activities.

Squats not only help build lower body strength but also improve flexibility and balance. Proper squat form involves engaging the core and keeping your knees from caving inwards, which helps develop overall stability and reduces the risk of injury (2).

When done correctly, squats are an excellent exercise for building strength and muscle mass in the legs. They can also be modified to increase or decrease difficulty, making them suitable for all fitness levels.

How to Perform a Squat

  1. Stand with Feet Shoulder-Width Apart: Begin by standing tall with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Your toes should be pointed slightly outwards.
  2. Lower Your Body: Keep your chest up, and lower yourself as if sitting back into a chair, ensuring that your knees do not extend past your toes. Aim to get your thighs parallel to the floor or as low as you can comfortably go without pain or losing proper alignment.
  3. Push Through Your Heels: Engage your glutes and quads to push yourself back up to standing position, keeping your weight on your heels.
  4. Maintain Form: Keep your chest up and core engaged throughout the movement. Avoid leaning forward or letting your knees cave inwards.
  5. Repeat: Aim for a set of repetitions that challenges you while maintaining proper form.
See also
Calisthenics Push-Ups 101: The Complete Beginner's Guide

These are just three of the many calisthenics exercises that beginners can start with to build strength and muscle mass. As you progress, you can explore more advanced variations and incorporate other bodyweight exercises into your routine for a well-rounded workout.

Read more: The Simplest Lower Back Calisthenics Guide for Beginners

What Are The Basic Exercises for Calisthenics?

Aside from the big 3 (push-ups, pull-ups, and squats), other fundamental calisthenics exercises include planks, lunges, dips, jumping jacks, burpees, mountain climbers and more. 

These exercises target different muscle groups, providing a calisthenics body workout without the need for equipment or weights.

Plank

The plank is an isometric core exercise that targets the abdominal and back muscles. It involves holding a position similar to a push-up for an extended period, challenging your body’s stability and strengthening your core.

Planking variations include side planks, reverse planks, and plank jacks, each targeting different muscle groups for a well-rounded workout. Beginners can decrease difficulty by starting on their knees instead of toes and gradually working up to a full plank position.

To perform a basic plank:

  1. Start in a Push-Up Position: Begin on the floor with your hands shoulder-width apart, and your arms straight. Your body should form a straight line from your head to your heels.
  2. Lower onto Your Forearms: Keeping your body straight, lower yourself onto your forearms, elbows directly below your shoulders.
  3. Engage Your Core: Squeeze your glutes and engage your core muscles. Your hips should not sag or lift too high.
  4. Hold the Position: Hold the plank for as long as you can while maintaining proper form, aiming to increase duration over time.

Learn all about the core and explore more strengthening exercises in our blog – Core Calisthenics.

Lunges

Lunges are a lower body exercise that targets the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and calves. They also engage the core for stability and balance. Lunges can be done in different directions (forward, backward, or to the side) to target muscles from various angles.

See also
Calisthenics Arm Workouts: Build Massive Arms Without The Gym

To perform a basic lunge:

  1. Begin Standing: Start by standing tall with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Take a Step Forward: Take a big step forward with your right foot, making sure to land heel first.
  3. Lower Your Body: Bend both knees to lower your body until your right thigh is parallel to the floor, keeping your front knee aligned with your ankle. At the bottom of the movement your back knee should be directly under your hip (or slightly behind), while your front knee is in line with your ankle. If you find that your foot placement isn’t quite right, adjust your step length accordingly for the next rep.
  4. Push Through Your Heel: Engage your leg muscles and push yourself back up to standing position, bringing your feet together. Repeat on the other side.
  1. Repeat: Aim for a set of repetitions on each leg while maintaining proper form.

Dips

Dips are a compound exercise that targets the chest, shoulders, and triceps. They can be done using parallel bars or sturdy chairs/benches at home. Dips are an advanced calisthenics exercise and may require some additional strength training before attempting.

To perform a basic dip:

  1. Begin in Starting Position: Stand between two parallel bars, grip each bar with an overhand grip and lift yourself off the ground, arms fully extended, and feet crossed behind you.
  2. Lower Your Body: Keeping your elbows close to your body, lower yourself until your upper arms are parallel to the floor.
  3. Push Yourself Back Up: Engage your triceps and chest muscles to push yourself back up to starting position.
  4. Repeat: Aim for a set of repetitions that challenges you while maintaining proper form. Beginners can start by using a bench or chair for support until they build enough strength to perform dips on parallel bars.

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Jumping Jacks

Jumping jacks are a full-body calisthenics exercise that gets your heart rate up and activates multiple muscle groups simultaneously. These target the legs, core, arms, and shoulders while also providing a cardio workout.

Many of us are familiar with jumping jacks from childhood, making them an easy exercise to incorporate into a workout routine. To perform a basic jumping jack:

  1. Start Standing: Begin standing tall with your feet together and your arms at your sides.
  2. Jump outwards: Jump both feet out to the side while simultaneously swooping your arms above your head.
  3. Jump back in: Jump your feet back together, bringing your arms back to your sides.
  4. Repeat: Aim for a set of repetitions while maintaining proper form and increasing speed to increase intensity.
See also
The Simplest Lower Back Calisthenics Guide for Beginners

10 calisthenics exercises  

Burpees

Burpees are a challenging full-body exercise that targets the chest, arms, core, and legs. They also provide a cardiovascular workout. When done correctly, burpees can be an effective calorie burner and muscle builder. Beginners may need to modify the movement to decrease difficulty. Advanced variations include adding push-ups or a jump at the end of the movement.

To perform a basic burpee:

  1. Begin in Standing Position: Start standing tall with your feet shoulder-width apart and arms by your sides.
  2. Squat Down: Squat down and place your hands on the floor in front of you.
  3. Jump Back into Plank Position: Jump your feet back, landing in a plank position with hands shoulder-width apart.
  4. Perform One Push-Up: Lower yourself into a push-up, keeping your elbows close to your body and chest touching the ground.
  5. Jump Feet Forward: Jump your feet forward towards your hands, returning to a squat position.
  6. Stand Up and Jump: Use momentum to jump up from the squat position, extending your arms above your head.
  7. Repeat: Aim for a set of repetitions while maintaining proper form and increasing speed to increase intensity.

Mountain Climbers

Mountain climbers are a dynamic full-body exercise that targets the core, arms, and legs. They also provide a cardio workout and can be done at high intensity to increase heart rate and calorie burn. Those with knee issues may need to modify the movement by stepping slower.

To perform mountain climbers:

  1. Start in Plank Position: Begin in a plank position, hands shoulder-width apart, and arms straight.
  2. Bring Knee Towards Chest: Bring your right knee towards your chest, engaging your core muscles and keeping your hips low.
  3. Switch Legs: Return your right leg to starting position while simultaneously bringing your left knee towards your chest. Continue alternating legs in a fast-paced, running-like motion.
  4. Repeat: Aim for a set of repetitions while maintaining proper form and increasing speed to increase intensity. 

Doorway Face Pulls

Doorway face pulls are an upper body exercise that targets the rear deltoids, rotator cuff muscles, and upper back. It also engages the core for stability. This exercise can be done at home using a resistance band and a sturdy door frame. For safety, make sure the door is securely closed and locked.

To perform doorway face pulls:

  1. Attach Resistance Band: Securely attach a resistance band to a doorknob or door handle at chest level.
  2. Stand Away from Door: Stand a few feet away from the door, facing away from it.
  3. Grab Ends of Resistance Band: Grab each end of the resistance band with your palms facing each other.
  4. Pull Band Towards Face: Starting with your arms straight, pull the band towards your face, bringing your elbows out to the sides.
  5. Squeeze Shoulder Blades Together: As you pull the band towards you, squeeze your shoulder blades together to engage the upper back muscles.
  6. Return to Starting Position: Slowly return to starting position with arms extended.
  7. Repeat: Aim for a set of repetitions while maintaining proper form and increasing resistance as needed.
See also
Calisthenics Pull Ups: A Step-by-Step Guide for Beginners

Advanced variations can include standing further away from the door or using a heavier resistance band. This exercise is mainly a corrective exercise that helps improve posture and balance out the muscles in the upper body.

Our previous post – Calisthenics for Beginners at Home provides tips on how to workout from the comfort of your home to build strength while preventing injuries.

What Is The Best Calisthenic Workout?

The best calisthenic workout is one that suits your fitness level, goals, and preferences. It should also include a variety of exercises to engage different muscle groups and provide a well-rounded workout. Some factors to consider when designing a calisthenics workout plan include:

  • Fitness Level: Beginners may need to start with modified versions of exercises or focus on building foundational strength before progressing to more challenging movements.
  • Goals: Are you looking to improve strength, build muscle, or increase cardiovascular endurance? Your goals will influence the exercises and intensity levels in your workout plan.
  • Equipment Availability: Calisthenics can be done with little to no equipment, but you can expand your exercise options by having access to a pull-up bar, resistance bands, or parallel bars.
  • Personal Preferences: It’s essential to enjoy your workout and find exercises that you look forward to doing. Incorporating different variations and modifications of  workouts from this calisthenics exercises list can keep your routine interesting and challenging.

Ultimately, the best calisthenic workout is one that you can stick with consistently and progress in over time. Don’t be afraid to adjust your routine as needed and continue challenging yourself to see results.

Read more: Calisthenics Shoulder Exercises: Techniques and Workouts

10 calisthenics exercises  

FAQs

  • What Common Exercise Is an Example of Calisthenics?

A push up is an example of calisthenics. Other common examples include squats, lunges, pull-ups, and planks.

  • Is Calisthenics Better Than Gym Training?

Calisthenics and gym workouts both have their own benefits. Calisthenics is more convenient, can be done anywhere, and often requires little to no equipment (1). On the other hand, a gym may offer a wider variety of equipment and weights for a more targeted muscle-building approach. It ultimately depends on personal preference and goals.

  • Can You Do Calisthenics Daily?

You shouldn’t do the same calisthenics routine daily, as your muscles need time to rest and recover for proper growth and progress (5). However, you can incorporate calisthenics exercises into your daily routine by focusing on different muscle groups each day or including active recovery days with low-intensity calisthenics movements.

Find more about the benefits of this exercise in our previous blog – Calisthenics Body Type: 6 Real-Life Benefits You Need to Know.

  • What Is The 3 3 3 Workout?

The 3 3 3 workout is a form of calisthenics where you perform three sets of three different exercises, with each set increasing in intensity. 

For example, you could do three sets of push-ups, squats, and lunges, starting with 10 reps for the first set, 15 reps for the second set, and 20 reps for the third set. This workout can be modified and customized to fit your fitness level and goals.

The Bottom Line

Beginners should master the foundational calisthenics exercises before progressing to more advanced movements. This ensures proper form and reduces the risk of injury. As you progress, add variations and modifications to keep challenging your muscles and continue seeing results.

DISCLAIMER:

This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!

SOURCES

  1. Calisthenics: Benefits, Types of Exercises, and More (2024, webmd.com)
  2. Health Benefits of Squats (2023, webmd.com)
  3. How to Do Pull-ups (2022, webmd.com)
  4. The rise of push-ups: A classic exercise that can help you get stronger – Harvard Health (2019, health.harvard.edu)
  5. Why Rest Days Are Important for Muscle Building (n.d., blog.nasm.org)
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Sets up work outs that you can do anywhere any time. Completed two thirty day series of calistetics and am now moving on to other work outs.

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