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Calisthenics for Women: Pros, Cons, and The Best Exercises for an At-Home Workout

Women are just as likely as men to seek strength, endurance, and the empowerment that comes from a solid fitness routine.

They can also benefit from exercises that not only enhance physical well-being but also promote mental clarity and emotional stability. Having a convenient and effective workout regimen that can be performed within the comfort of the home will further encourage consistency and dedication.

Calisthenics for women makes sense; it’s a practice that leverages body weight for resistance and can be tailored to any fitness level.

It’s also a good starting point before venturing into more intense physical disciplines, as it requires no special equipment and minimizes the risk of injury.

Here’s a quick guide to calisthenics that are aimed at women, including a curated list of exercises to kickstart or enhance your at-home workout experience.

Can a Girl Start Calisthenics?

A girl can start calisthenics for beginners at any age, and it’s never too late to reap the benefits.

In fact, women have a few advantages in calisthenics, purely because of their biological make-up.

  • Endurance – Women have a higher proportion of slow-twitch muscle fibers, giving them an edge in longer sets of exercises that require muscle endurance (6).
  • Flexibility – Generally, women are more flexible than men, making it easier to perform certain calisthenics movements with proper form and range of motion (2).
  • Lower body strength – Women tend to store more fat on their lower bodies (4), leading to a lower center of gravity and easier execution of exercises involving the lower body.

Despite these advantages, women may still face certain challenges in calisthenics, compared to men.

Primarily this is due to differences in upper body strength and muscle mass.

Note that upper body strength is crucial in calisthenics, and so it may take longer for women to develop that strength, as compared to men. Muscle mass is also typically lower in women, which might initially make it harder to achieve certain skills that require a higher strength-to-weight ratio (6).

However, with consistent training and proper progression, women can build enough strength to perform advanced calisthenics movements such as pull-ups, push-ups, and handstands.

See also
This Calisthenics Workout For Women Is Taking Over FitTok, For All The Right Reasons

Our Upper Body Workout for Women guide has more detailed information on how to improve upper body strength, along with a recommended exercise routine.

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Is Calisthenics Good for Women?

Calisthenics is good for women; it has physical, mental, and emotional benefits that cater to their unique needs.

Physical Benefits of Calisthenics for Women

Calisthenics uses body weight as resistance, making it a highly effective way to build strength and endurance while improving overall fitness.

Some of the physical benefits include:

  • Muscle development – Calisthenics trains multiple muscle groups simultaneously, leading to balanced muscle development and increased functional strength (6).
  • Fat loss – The combination of high-intensity exercises and short rest periods in calisthenics promotes fat loss and a leaner physique (5).
  • Improved coordination – The variety of movements in calisthenics can challenge the body to work together in new and different ways than you’re used to, helping improve overall coordination and motor skills (6).

calisthenics for women  

Mental Benefits of Calisthenics for Women

Regular exercise has been proven to have positive effects on mental well-being, but calisthenics takes it a step further with its emphasis on mind-muscle connection and body control.

Some of the mental benefits include:

  • Increased focus – Performing calisthenics exercises requires concentration and awareness, leading to improved focus both in and out of training (1).
  • Stress relief – The physical exertion and mental engagement in calisthenics can help release endorphins, reducing stress levels and promoting relaxation (1).
  • Confidence boost – As women progress in their calisthenics journey and achieve new skills, this can lead to a sense of accomplishment and boost self-confidence.

Emotional Benefits of Calisthenics for Women

Engaging in regular physical activity has been linked to improved emotional well-being, and calisthenics is no exception.

Some of the emotional benefits include:

  • Increased self-esteem – As women become stronger and more skilled in calisthenics, it can have a positive impact on their body image and self-esteem.
  • Empowerment – Calisthenics allows women to physically challenge themselves and break through barriers, leading to feelings of empowerment and accomplishment.
See also
Calisthenics Push-Ups 101: The Complete Beginner's Guide

Read more: The Simplest Lower Back Calisthenics Guide for Beginners

Will Calisthenics Make Me Bulky as a Female?

Calisthenics won’t make you appear bulky; which is a word used to describe excessive muscle mass in the body.

Women typically do not have enough testosterone to build significant muscle mass, and since calisthenics training focuses on building functional strength rather than bulk (7), they won’t achieve a bulky appearance.

However, women may notice an increase in muscle definition and a more sculpted physique with consistent calisthenics training.

The 6-month female calisthenics transformation should be seen as a positive result of hard work and dedication rather than a negative appearance.

Having a higher muscle mass, which is the typical female calisthenics physique, is beneficial for multiple reasons, such as:

  • Metabolism boost – Muscle tissue is more metabolically active than fat, meaning it burns more calories at rest. Consistent calisthenics training can lead to an increase in muscle mass and a higher metabolism (3).
  • Injury prevention – Strong muscles provide better support for joints and bones, reducing the risk of injuries during physical activities (9).
  • Improved functional strength – Calisthenics trains multiple muscle groups and movements, leading to improved overall strength that can be applied in daily life activities (7).

A tailored Calisthenics Workout for Women is an excellent way to achieve a toned and functional physique while avoiding a bulky appearance. 

calisthenics for women  

Is Calisthenics Good for Weight Loss?

Calisthenics can be an effective tool for weight loss, especially when combined with a healthy diet and lifestyle.

The high-intensity nature of calisthenics exercises increases heart rate and burns calories, leading to weight loss over time (7).

Furthermore, by increasing muscle mass, calisthenics can also improve metabolism and lead to more efficient fat burning (3).

This Ab Workout for Women on our blog discusses specific exercises that target core muscles, which can aid in weight loss.

Does Calisthenics Shape Your Body?

The right choice of calisthenics exercises for women can shape and define their bodies in various ways. Some of the best calisthenics exercises for improving body shape include:

See also
The Calisthenics Diet: Everything You Need to Know for Optimum Training

Horizontal Push Exercises

Horizontal push exercises are movements where you push a resistance away from your torso horizontally. This mimics everyday activities like pushing open a door or shoving a heavy object. Incorporating these movements can lead to a more defined chest, shoulders, and triceps, contributing to the overall shape and strength of the upper body.

Push-ups

Target Muscle Groups: Chest, Shoulders, Triceps, Core

How to execute:

  1. Place your hands on the ground slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  2. Extend your legs back so that you are balanced on your hands and toes.
  3. Keep your body in a straight line from head to heels without letting your hips sag.
  4. Bend your elbows and lower your chest towards the floor.
  5. Push through your hands to extend your elbows and return to the starting position.

Vertical Push Exercises

Vertical push exercises are characterized by pressing resistance overhead, similar to placing items on a high shelf. These exercises sculpt the shoulders, upper back, and triceps, while also improving functional pushing power.

Dips

Target Muscle Groups: Triceps, Chest, Shoulders

How to execute:

  1. Grasp dip bars with your arms straight.
  2. Lean slightly forward, keeping your elbows tucked close to your body.
  3. Lower yourself by bending your elbows until they are at a 90-degree angle.
  4. Push up by extending your elbows, returning to the starting position.

calisthenics for women  

Horizontal Pull Exercises

Horizontal pull exercises involve pulling resistance towards your torso on a horizontal plane, akin to rowing a boat or pulling a heavy object towards yourself. These movements strengthen the back muscles and biceps and improve the posture and shape of the upper body.

Rows

Target Muscle Groups: Upper and Middle Back, Shoulders, Biceps

How to execute:

  1. Lean over with your hands on a bench or sturdy platform, holding a weight in the other hand.
  2. Keep your back parallel to the ground and engage your core.
  3. Pull the weight up towards your hip, keeping your elbow close to your body.
  4. Lower the weight under control and repeat.
See also
Starter Calisthenics: Shape Yourself Up With Beginner Full-Body Training

Vertical Pull Exercises

Vertical pull exercises, such as pull-ups, involve lifting your body upwards against gravity. They’re excellent for developing a strong back and defined arms, closely resembling actions like pulling yourself up to look over a wall.

Pull-ups

Target Muscle Groups: Upper Back, Biceps, Shoulders

How to execute:

  1. Grip a pull-up bar with your palms facing away from you, slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  2. Hang with your arms fully extended.
  3. Pull your body up until your chin is above the bar.
  4. Lower yourself with control back to the starting position.

Knee Flexion Exercises

Knee flexion exercises focus on bending the knee, which is essential for movements like sitting down, climbing stairs, and squatting to pick up items. These exercises help shape and tone the legs and glutes, contributing to a stronger lower body and enhanced posture.

Bodyweight Squats

Target Muscle Groups: Quadriceps, Hamstrings, Glutes, Core

How to execute:

  1. Stand with feet hip-width apart, toes pointing forward or turned slightly out.
  2. Extend your arms out straight in front of you for balance.
  3. Push your hips back and bend your knees to lower your body as if sitting back into a chair.
  4. Keep the chest lifted and back straight, ensuring knees track over your midfoot.
  5. Drive through your whole foot  into the ground to return to the standing position.

Lunges

Target Muscle Groups: Quadriceps, Hamstrings, Glutes, Calves

How to execute:

  1. Stand with feet hip-width apart, maintaining a straight posture.
  2. Step forward with one leg, shifting your weight so that the heel hits the floor first.
  3. Lower your body until the front thigh is parallel to the ground and the back knee is hovering just above the floor.
  4. Push off the front foot and return to the starting position.

Step-ups

Target Muscle Groups: Quadriceps, Hamstrings, Glutes

How to execute:

  1. Stand facing a bench, box, or sturdy elevated platform.
  2. Step up with one foot, pressing through the heel to lift your body onto the platform.
  3. Bring the other foot up so you are standing tall on the platform.
  4. Step down with the leading foot, followed by the other foot, and return to the starting position.
See also
Calisthenics For Back: How To Transform Your Body By Ditching The Weights

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Hip Extension Exercises

Hip extension exercises involve moving the legs backward and are key for walking, running, and standing from a seated position. Strengthening the muscles that participate in hip extension can enhance the curves of the glutes and help create a shapely posterior (8).

Hip Thrusts

Target Muscle Groups: Glutes, Hamstrings, Core

How to execute:

  1. Sit on the ground with your shoulder blades against a bench or stable surface.
  2. Plant feet flat on the ground, hip-distance apart, with knees bent.
  3. Drive through your heels, extending the hips vertically.
  4. Squeeze the glutes at the top of the movement for a full hip extension.
  5. Lower the hips back down to return to the starting position.

Single Leg Hip Hinges

Target Muscle Groups: Glutes, Hamstrings, Lower Back

How to execute:

  1. Stand on one leg, with the other leg slightly bent behind you.
  2. Hinge at the hips and lean forward with a straight back, extending the free leg behind for balance.
  3. Lower down until the torso is parallel to the ground, feeling the stretch in your standing leg’s hamstring.
  4. Push through the heel to return to the starting position.

Sliding Leg Curls

Target Muscle Groups: Hamstrings, Glutes, Core

How to execute:

  1. Lie on your back with your feet placed on sliding discs or towels on a smooth surface.
  2. Lift your hips into a bridge position, engaging your core.
  3. Slide your feet away from your body, straightening your legs.
  4. Use your hamstrings to pull your heels back towards your body, returning to the bridge position.

Read more: Calisthenics Shoulder Exercises: Techniques and Workouts

calisthenics for women  

FAQs

  • Who Is Calisthenics Best For?

Calisthenics is best for anyone who needs an efficient, low-impact workout that can be done anywhere.

Many people fall in one of the three categories; women who want to get stronger and leaner, older adults looking for low-impact exercise options, and travelers who need a no-equipment workout while on the go (7).

You don’t need to fall in these categories to benefit from calisthenics, as it can be adapted to any fitness level. It’s a great option for beginners looking to build strength and endurance, as well as for advanced athletes wanting to challenge their bodies in different ways.

  • Does Calisthenics Make You Look Good?

Consistent calisthenics training can lead to a well-proportioned, lean and toned physique. Along with improving strength, balance and endurance, calisthenics exercises work multiple muscle groups at once leading to a more defined and sculpted appearance overall.

  • Is Calisthenics Better Than Gym?

Calisthenics may be preferable for some people because it can be done anywhere and does not require any equipment. It also focuses on using your body weight to build strength, making it a more functional form of exercise. However, gyms offer a wider range of equipment and classes, allowing for more variety in workouts.

Ultimately, the best workout routine is one that fits an individual’s goals, preferences and lifestyle. Both calisthenics and gym workouts have their own benefits, so it’s important to determine what works best for you and your body.

The Bottom Line

Calisthenics for women can be a great addition to any fitness routine, offering numerous benefits for overall health and body composition. Understanding the basic movements and incorporating them into a regular workout schedule can help women of any age and fitness level achieve their desired 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. Exercise and mental health (2023,healthdirect.gov.au)
  2. Gender difference in effects of proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation stretching on flexibility and stiffness of hamstring muscle (2022,nih.gov)
  3. Increasing muscle mass to improve metabolism (2013,nih.gov)
  4. Learn why women carry more fat than men (2024,us.humankinetics.com)
  5. Protocol for Minute Calisthenics: a randomized controlled study of a daily, habit-based, bodyweight resistance training program (2020,nih.gov)
  6. Sex-Based Differences in Skeletal Muscle Kinetics and Fiber-Type Composition (2015,nih.gov)
  7. The advantages of body-weight exercise (2022,harvard.edu)
  8. The effect of the trunk and gluteus maximus muscle activities according to support surface and hip joint rotation during bridge exercise (2018,nih.gov)
  9. The Importance of Muscular Strength in Athletic Performance (2016,nih.gov)
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