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Calisthenics Push-Ups 101: The Complete Beginner’s Guide

We all know what a push-up is, so much so that we imagine a muscular person doing push-ups when we hear “exercise.” If you want to progress beyond regular push-ups, you should explore the world of calisthenics push-ups. With its roots in bodyweight training, calisthenics push-ups combine a holistic approach that may improve stability, engage multiple muscle groups, and challenge your body in unconventional ways (2). Calisthenic exercises help to enhance the lifespan of joints while saving you the costs of joining fancy gyms. You may want to look online or take virtual lessons from an instructor to help you ace these movements. If you are a fitness enthusiast seeking a new challenge or just now embarking on a fitness journey, delve into the world of calisthenics push-ups. Keep reading to discover your true potential through this timeless exercise regime!

Are Push-Ups Good For Calisthenics?

Yes, push-ups are one of the most fundamental calisthenics exercises.  They are a simple movement that engages multiple muscles simultaneously. This exercise is also suitable for beginners as it can be progressed and regressed to your current level and can be performed anywhere. In addition, there is no need for heavy and expensive equipment to perform a push-up.

Following on from push-ups, you can customize calisthenics training using different workouts. These can offer similar physical results as regular weight training (1). Experts have classified calisthenics into multiple categories. These include (3):

  • Military calisthenics
  • Flexibility calisthenics
  • Street workout
  • Playground calisthenics etc.

Being aware of these categories is a suitable starting point for a beginner. You evaluate your goals and then a hybrid calisthenics push-up plan to align.

Regardless of your chosen category, push-ups are a cornerstone of a calisthenics workout. It is an effective exercise that can greatly contribute to muscle growth and strength (2). Push-ups provide comprehensive upper-body training options that can be easily modified to suit different weight levels, abilities, and goals.

What Push-Ups Should I Do For Calisthenics?

Performing too many push-ups without any other variation may not be a good training strategy as it could result in overtraining specific muscles. When it comes to calisthenics, there are several variations you can do to target multiple muscle groups.

Check out a few super calisthenics push-ups that will elevate your workout regime:

Knee Push-Up

The knee push-up is a variation of the standard push-up and is usually categorized as one of the easiest parts of the routine, making it a suitable option for a beginner. To perform them: :

  1.  Start on your hands and knees, with hands slightly wider than shoulder width.
  2.  Lean forward and make sure your hands are planted firmly on the floor.
  3. Ensure your body remains in a straight line from your shoulders to your hips, keeping your core engaged.
  4. Lower your body as far as you can control and push back up
See also
6 Lower Body Calisthenics Exercises to Consider for Your At-Home Workout

Incline Push-Up

You will need an elevated, stable surface to perform the exercise. This makes it easier for beginners. To do this:

  1. Position your hands on a stable surface, such as a bench or sturdy table. Make sure your hands are positioned slightly wider than your shoulders.
  2. Step back to create a suitable angle. The further away you place your feet, the harder it will be.
  3. Lower yourself down until your chest touches the surface, then push back up to the start position.
  4. Be sure to keep your core engaged through the entire movement.

Read More: Is Radio Calisthenics For Everyone? Here’s What You Need To Know

calisthenics push-ups

Wide-Grip Push-Ups

To work on your chest, include wide-grip push-ups in your workout regime. To perform this exercise:

  1. Begin in a plank position with hands positioned wider than your shoulders
  2. Face your fingers slightly outside and make sure your hands are planted firmly onto the floor
  3. Bend your elbows outwards while lowering yourself to the floor
  4. Stop when your chest touches the floor 
  5.  Push forcefully through your hands into the ground to drive your body back to the initial position. 
  6. Remember to maintain a tight core throughout the movement.

Diamond Push-Ups

The diamond or close-grip push-up is the perfect exercise to work your triceps. (4). To perform  a diamond push-up:

  1. Sit on a mat and move into a push-up position
  2. Face the mat and stretch your limbs to warm up
  3. Put your hands under your chest and make a diamond with your fingers. This is done by touching thumbs and forefingers together.
  4. Lower your body towards the floor and then move upwards. Make sure that your back and abs remain straight.

Archer Push-Ups

Archer push-ups are one of the advanced variations that can promote strength development. This variation allows you to train one side of your upper body with greater intensity and focus (5). To perform this exercise: :

  1. Start in a high plank position with your hands positioned wider than your shoulders. 
  2. Lower your body, bending one elbow while keeping the other arm straight
  3. Push up from this position and switch the sides, counting one rep when you change the position.
See also
Morning Calisthenics: Kickstart Your Day With a Powerful Routine

Decline Push-Up

The main benefit of decline push-ups is that they target your upper chest and shoulder muscles (6). A strong upper body will help ease the difficulty of daily tasks such as lifting a backpack or groceries. When performing a decline push-up:

  1. . Place your hands on the ground, elbows at a 45-degree angle, and shoulders over the wrists. Place your feet on a higher surface than your hands.
  2. Bend your elbows and lower your chest towards the floor while maintaining a straight body line from your shoulders to hips. 
  3. Push forcefully into the floor to return to the starting position

calisthenics push-ups

One-Arm Push-Up

The one-arm push-up is another advanced exercise that can help build your upper body and core strength  (7). To  perform a one-arm push-up:

  1. Set up in a push-up position with your shoulders stacked over your wrists and your feet just wider than your hips.
  2. Keep your core engaged and lift your right hand off the ground, moving it behind your back.
  3. Bend your left elbow to lower your body towards the floor.
  4. Push away from the floor to return to the starting position. Do the same number of repetitions on both arms.

Handstand Push-Up

The Handstand push-up is another advanced variation that is performed against a wall or with the help of parallettes. This variation develops shoulder strength and stability. To perform this exercise: :

  1. Place your hands about 6-12 inches away from the wall, a bit wider than your shoulders. Make sure your palms are facing forward or slightly turned out.
  2. Kick up against the wall to get into a handstand position with your heels touching the wall. If you find it difficult to kick up, you can practice a drill called the donkey kick.
  3. Once in the handstand position, ensure your body is straight and tight, like a plank. Keep your core tight and ribs stacked over your hips.
  4.  Slowly lower yourself until the top of your head touches the floor or mat. Try to keep your elbows at a 45-degree angle as you lower yourself.
  5. Once your head touches the floor, push back up until your elbows are fully extended,  while maintaining the same tightness through your core.

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See also
Calisthenics Warm Up 101: Bodyweight Exercises To Get Your Blood Flowing Before Your Workout

Pike Push-Up

This push-up resembles the downward-facing dog or a dolphin pose and can also be a progression towards a handstand push-up. To perform a pike push-up: 

  1. Begin by making a plank position on the floor. Place your hands on the ground beside your shoulders.
  2. Keep your back flat, tighten your core, and engage your hamstrings and glutes.   make sure your whole body is aligned.
  3. Lift your hips and back until your body is an inverted V shape.
  4. Bend your elbows and then lower your upper body towards the ground with control.
  5. Remain steady in that position, then push backward to return to the start position.

Once you have mastered the traditional calisthenics push-ups, you can choose a suitable variation to challenge yourself further. Everyone will have different strengths, starting points, and physical abilities. Choose a variation that seems most appropriate to your current level. 

Furthermore, different push-up variations may suit individuals of varying age groups and physical capacities.  Including a diverse range of push-up variations in your calisthenics training plan could help keep you engaged and excited.


How Many Push-Ups Are Best For Muscle?

For starters, there is no fixed number of push-ups stated to be most effective  Several factors should be considered when determining a suitable number of push-ups. It is essential to understand that everyone will respond differently to training methods and ample rest is also required for proper development Push-ups are a form of resistance training, and regular repeitions can create micro-tears in the fibers of skeletal muscles which require adequate rest and recovery in order to grow and repair (8).

Generally, the number of push-ups an individual can do may depend on factors such as :

  • Gender and age
  • Current body mass
  • Medical conditions
  • Exercise experience

Below is a brief insight into the ideal amount of push-ups to build muscle. Remember that these numbers assume you are not training daily, which could hinder muscle growth.

Read More: Calisthenics Vs Bodybuilding: Which One Is Right For You?

The Newbies

A suitable starting point for beginners would be to do 1-2 sets of around 6 to 12  repetitions. These can be performed from an elevated surface or off the knees to start. Once strength has been developed in the easier variations, they could increase the number of sets or repetitions and then move on to regular push-ups when appropriate. Incorporating push-ups as part of a whole-body plan, with other key movements such as squats, will ensure progress throughout the entire body and allow for more variety.

See also
Calisthenics Exercises For Any Fitness Level To Maximize Fitness And Full-Body Training

The Intermediates And Experts

Stating a certain number of push-ups for intermediates or experts can be challenging as physical development begins to slow down as individuals become more advanced. 

Performing 3-4 sets of 15-20 repetitions for intermediate individuals can be a suitable start. Advanced individuals could try increasing the difficulty by reducing rest time, increasing reps or sets, or incorporating more challenging variations such as weighted or clapping push-ups. These variations may yield better results for them.

It is important to take appropriate rest between workouts. This can support proper recovery, allowing for continuous improvements to be made.  Although it may vary, most studies state that skeletal muscles may take up to 48 hours to recover from an intense resistance training session. This may make you wonder how often you should engage in a calisthenics push-up routine.

Overall, you could perform push-ups on three separate days of the week. Every day should be followed by one to two days of recovery. These recovery days could include training focused on other major muscle groups.

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calisthenics push-ups

Is Calisthenics Enough To Stay Fit?

Calisthenics improves muscular strength by using your own body as a resistance. The variety of calisthenics movements can create a fun and motivating training program. So yes, calisthenics can be enough to stay fit, but you must ensure you target all muscle groups in a well-developed program.

Your physique, genetics, and strength may also influence your muscle gain. Furthermore,  the stimulus you place on your body can also influence your results. Listed below are the three training rules to follow when trying to gain muscle with calisthenics:

Regular Training

In order to build muscle through calisthenics training, you will need to train regularly and consistently. You should train frequently to stimulate muscle growth by following a proper training schedule that accounts for all major muscle groups and adequate recovery. 

Progressive Overload

Progressive overload refers to increasing exercise intensity in order to progress over time. As calisthenics uses body weight rather than external weights,  progressive overload can be applied by adding more sets, and reps or reducing rest time. It could also indicate increasing the frequency of training sessions or other approaches such as increasing time under tension. These variables can all increase the difficulty and in turn, enable further progression. 

See also
This Stretching Calisthenics Routine Will Have You Loose and Limber for Your Next Workout

Diversify Training

It is important to incorporate all muscle groups in your program. There is no predetermined amount of push-ups to build muscle. An effective program requires appropriate frequency, load, and volume for each muscle group. Utilize multiple exercises and variations in your routine, to develop well-rounded strength and fitness. 

A major benefit of calisthenics is that it involves compound exercises. Compound exercises utilize multiple muscle groups simultaneously leading to increased movement intensity. This can result in more calories being burnt in a shorter period, which can further support a reduction in body fat and promote a lean body composition (9).


Why Is Calisthenics Better Than Lifting?

The comparison between calisthenics and weightlifting is subjective. It depends on the individual’s goals, circumstances, and preferences. Here are some reasons why some people prefer calisthenics over weightlifting:

Body control and functional strength

Calisthenics exercises typically involve compound movements that engage multiple muscle groups simultaneously, enhancing functional strength and improving body control.

Accessibility and Convenience

Calisthenics can be performed anywhere without the need for specialized equipment. You can use your body weight and minimal props like pull-up bars or resistance bands for a full-body workout.

Stability and Core Strength

Many calisthenics exercises engage the core muscles to stabilize the body during movements. This can improve core strength, which is crucial for overall stability and balance.

Likewise, weightlifting also has many benefits. Increasing the amount of weight that can be lifted, can promote greater muscle hypertrophy and total strength development.


  • How many push-ups are good for a calisthenics routine?

Push-ups can be performed in 3-5 sets of 10-20 repetitions, depending on your current level and ability. It is best to ensure you incorporate push-ups as part of a well-developed program, that includes a balance of upper and lower body exercises. You could incorporate push-ups 2-3 times per week while mixing up the variation or exercise.

  • How many push-ups a day?

There is no calisthenics workout plan with no push-ups. If you are a beginner you should start with a smaller number,   such as 10 or 20 push-ups. Over time, you can gradually increase the number of repetitions, when you become comfortable and make noticeable improvements in your strength.

  • Are push-ups calisthenics?

Yes, push-ups are a calisthenics exercise. This classic workout targets the shoulders, chest, triceps, and core muscles.

  • Are decline push-ups good for calisthenics?

Decline push-ups are an effective push-up variation that can help strengthen your upper body muscles. They work your chest, shoulders, and triceps more than regular push-ups. Adding decline push-ups to your calisthenics workout can be an effective way to target specific muscles while incorporating more variety.


Calisthenics dates back to ancient Greece. That said, you don’t have to be a Hercules to complete the workout. Calisthenics push-ups are effective and versatile for improving your overall strength and fitness. Mastering push-ups can boost your power, enhance endurance, and increase muscle definition.

By practicing proper form and incorporating a well-rounded calisthenics routine, you can benefit from push-ups as a regular part of your program. So, whether you are a beginner, an intermediate, or an expert, incorporating calisthenics push-ups can be a valuable step toward achieving your fitness goals.


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!


  1. Effects of Two Different Eight-Week Training Programs on Military Physical Performance (2008,
  2. Effect of Progressive Calisthenic Push-up Training on Muscle Strength and Thickness (2018,
  3. Types of Calisthenics: Everything You Need to Know to Get Started (n.d.,
  4. Diamond Push-ups: Benefits, Muscles Used, and More (2023,
  5. Archer Push-Up (n.d.,
  6. The Decline Push-up (2019,
  8. How Many Push Ups a Day to Build Muscle? (2023,
  9. Building Muscle with Calisthenics (2021,
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