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Calisthenics Training 101: Everything You Should Know to Get Started

Living in a hyper-competitive world can take a toll on mental and physical health. The constant struggle to stay ahead of the curve often causes us to forget about the essentials in life – our mind, body, and happiness. Associating satisfaction with material gains is one of the biggest mistakes people make nowadays. It is about time we realize that we must focus on our health. Taking much-needed breaks and working out are the two gifts we can give ourselves.

Starting out with a well-rounded calisthenics program should be our first step. These exercises rely on our body weight to increase resistance. They contribute to developing flexibility, strength, endurance, and coordination (4). These exercises are performed with varying levels of rhythm and intensity. Some of these can be performed without equipment, while others use lightweight tools like wands and rings.

Calisthenics exercises originated in ancient Greece. They became quite famous in the 19th century for their versatility and effectiveness. Today, people at all fitness levels perform some form of these exercises to build their muscles and keep them in shape. Individuals like military personnel, athletes, law enforcement people, and people who wish to stay fit, follow calisthenics programs and reap its rewards.

That said, it doesn’t matter if you are a regular gym-goer or contemplating beginning a workout plan; you should have solid calisthenics training in order to reach your fitness goals. This article starts with an intro to calisthenics, a sample plan, and tips to modify the routine.

…and away we go!

Why Calisthenics Are An Important Workout?

Calisthenics, as we mentioned earlier, is designed to improve your strength, flexibility, and balance. These are essential skills human beings need to stay healthy and fit. Tee Major, the US military fitness instructor and the author of Urban Calisthenics, explains that the primary goal of calisthenics training should be to master control over lifting and moving your body in space.

During calisthenics, your muscles push and pull against gravity. At the same time, your body is pushed on by a ground reactive force (GRF) (5). This is the force the ground exerts on the body in contact with it. These reactive and gravitational challenges to the muscles contribute to fitness by using your bodyweight against them.

The best part of calisthenics exercises is their scalability. These can be easily modified to suit different fitness levels, from beginners to advanced athletes. Progressions and regressions allow individuals to gradually increase or decrease the difficulty of exercises based on their capabilities. With this in mind, if you are just starting, look into the prospect of a calisthenics workout plan for beginners. Seek help from a certified fitness trainer to ensure you include exercises that aren’t too strenuous.

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

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What is a Calisthenics Training Example?

The trick to reap the most rewards from calisthenics training plan is to choose exercises that correspond with your current fitness level. Below, we have rounded out some exercises that could be used to create the best calisthenics workout. Select and make combos that will boost your fitness, but won’t tire you out too much.

Squats

Squats are one of the most time-effective moves that can help to shape and strengthen your lower body, particularly your backside (11). The steps to perform a squat are:

  1. Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart and toes pointing forward.
  2. Keep your tummy muscles tight and bend your hips.
  3. Push your hips back like you’re going to sit down. Bend your knees and ankles, and let your knees move slightly outwards.
  4. Lower yourself like sitting in a chair, keeping your heels and toes on the floor. Chest stays up and shoulders back. (Eventually, get your knees bent to a right angle.)
  5. Push through your heels and squeeze your bum muscles to stand straight again.
  6. As you go down,  make sure your knees don’t exceed your toes or fall inwards. Imagine pushing your knees slightly outwards against something stopping them so they stay in line with your feet.

calisthenics training

Plank

A plank is a simple and effective bodyweight exercise that doesn’t require any equipment and can be performed anywhere. Keep your body stiff and you will develop strength in your core (3).

Here is how you can perform a plank:

  1. Place your hands right under your shoulders (a little wider than yours) like you’re about to start a push-up.
  2. Push your toes into the floor and squeeze your bum muscles to keep yourself steady. Your legs should be working, too – don’t lock your knees or straighten them too much.
  3. Keep your neck and back straight by looking at a spot on the floor before your hands. Your head should be level with your back.
  4. Stay in this position for 20 seconds. When you get used to it, hold it for as long as possible without changing your position or holding your breath.
See also
Upper Body Bodyweight Exercises: Unlock Your Strength with Calisthenics

Walking Lunges

Walking lunges can help increase your range of motion by enhancing flexibility and loosening your hamstrings (6). The steps to do a walking lunge are as follows:

  1. Stand up with your feet shoulder-width apart and back straight. You can leave your hands by your sides or put them on your hips.
  2. Take a big step forward with your right leg, putting your weight on your heel.
  3. Bend your right knee and lower your body until your right thigh is parallel to the floor (like a lunge). Hold for a second.
  4. Keep your right leg where it is, and step forward with your left leg, doing the same movement on the left side. Hold for a second with your left thigh parallel to the floor.
  5. Continue this, moving forward like you are walking, and switching legs each time.

Push-ups

Push-ups may appear as an ordinary exercise that only works on the upper arms, but this exercise targets muscles throughout your body (7). They don’t need any equipment and can be performed anywhere. To perform a push-up, you have to:

  1. Start by lying on your stomach with your body straight.
  2. Put your palms flat on the ground with your arms straight under your shoulders.
  3. Keep your feet close together or a bit apart (about 1 foot), and rest your weight on the balls of your feet.
  4. Keep your back straight, and make sure your weight is balanced.
  5. Look down to make sure your neck and back are in a straight line.
  6. Slowly lower yourself by bending your elbows until they are bent at a right angle. Then, push yourself back up to the starting position.
  7. To get the most out of it, go down slowly and come up quickly. Start by taking 2 seconds to go down and 1 second to go up.

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Crunches

Like other core exercises, crunches can work on several muscle groups in your torso or trunk. In fact, there are different types of crunches, each targeting a different muscle group (8). The steps to perform the basic crunch in the right way are:

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor, about hip-width apart. Put your fingertips behind your ears with your elbows pointing out. Take a deep breath in.
  2. As you breathe out, tighten your tummy muscles and lift your head, neck, and shoulders off the floor.
  3. Breathe in and lower back to the starting position.
  4. Repeat 10 to 12 times, and do this for 5 sets.
See also
Calisthenics for Beginners: Women Edition (Benefits, Exercises and FAQ)

Note that the number of times you repeat an exercise depends on your workout routine. You can change the number and exercise combinations according to your fitness level. Also, many advanced calisthenics moves, such as chin-ups, could be added to a calisthenics training program. Ideally, you should follow a 30-Day Calisthenics Workout Plan that starts with basic exercises and progresses to trickier movements over time.

calisthenics training  

Is Calisthenics Enough to Get Fit?

Calisthenics is one of the fastest-growing forms of training on the planet. Many people train only in calisthenics and are in incredible shape today. It might not be enough, so add some weightlifting to maximize muscle growth. Whether calisthenics is enough depends on what “fitness” means to you.

Check out the benefits that you can enjoy when you perform calisthenics:

Good for the Beginners

Calisthenics is quite a beginner-friendly exercise. First-timers can excel at simple routines without fearing injury. Learning the proper form of calisthenics is pretty easy. If you have recently started your fitness journey, calisthenics can help you master basic exercises and build confidence before progressing to advanced variations or adding weights.

Minimal Expense

One remarkable perk of calisthenics is that there are minimal expenses involved. These days most weight-loss or fitness strategies require some sort of investment. But calisthenics doesn’t depend on any equipment. 

And the best part? The rewards are more or less the same!

A study in 2017 showed that calisthenics, which are exercises that use your body weight, can improve your posture, make you stronger, and even change your body (like losing fat and gaining muscle) without needing any special gym equipment (9).

Can Improve Strength

Whether doing a calisthenics beginner workout plan or training under an instructor, you can rest assured that you may experience improved strength over time. As your strength improves, you may make the exercises more challenging. A 2017 study published in the Journal of Exercise & Fitness revealed that low-load bench presses and push-ups can have similar muscle thickness outcomes. This conclusion was made after the researchers studied two groups doing the same exercise routines twice a week within 2 months (10).

See also
Calisthenics for Female Beginners: Why, How and What To Do

In Harvard Health, a study reported on how bodyweight exercises help improve endurance and muscular strength, without relying on an external load (12). Studies like this prove that calisthenics can positively impact muscle strength, mass, and endurance.

Read more: The Simplest Lower Back Calisthenics Guide for Beginners

Improves Movement in Daily Life

Calisthenics uses different muscle groups at the same time. This mimics the way we move in our everyday life. It can also help you get stronger in ways that directly translate to carrying, lifting, or just getting up from the chair.

A study in 2015 in the Journal of Exercise Physiology Online looked at how calisthenics exercises (like push-ups, squats, and lunges) affected school kids in gym class (1). They found that kids who did these exercises got stronger than kids who just played sports. This means that calisthenics really is good for kids and should be part of their exercise routine. It helps them get better at sports, stay healthy, and move better overall.

Hits Every Single Muscle

Calisthenics can be considered a full-body workout plan if you include a range of upper and lower-body exercises. You have to engage your core through many exercises that can help you maintain a good posture and balance. These can help you get a healthier weight and improve posture.

A study in 2017 found that doing calisthenics (exercises using your own body weight) for just eight weeks can make you stand straighter, get stronger, and improve your overall body composition (depending on how much muscle and fat you have) (9). Also, exercises like calisthenics, in combination with a balanced diet,  can help you lose extra weight and stay healthy.

Calisthenics have been shown to reward people of all ages and fitness levels. You, too, can reap all these rewards if you choose the correct exercises and create a plan that keeps you engaged. If you are unsure whether calisthenics can correspond with your fitness level, you should begin with the basics. Plus, there are so many different calisthenics exercises and advanced skills that you will always have something new to learn and challenge yourself.

If you feel stuck in your workouts, figure out what is holding you back.

See also
How To Start Calisthenics At Home With Zero Experience

calisthenics training

Is Calisthenics Better Than Weightlifting?

Weight training and calisthenics are both considered forms of resistance training. This means that the movements encourage the development of muscular strength. So far, we have seen that calisthenics relies solely on body weight for resistance, while weight training requires using weights like barbells and dumbbells.

Building muscle requires gradually increasing the load to maximize the benefits. This method is called the progressive overload. On the other hand, calisthenics requires the practitioner to improve their skill and increase the complexity of the exercises as they advance. As you become more proficient in calisthenic exercises, you can advance to more challenging variations of the exercises.

In short, both ways make you stronger, but they do it differently. Progressive overload adds more weight or resistance to make your body work harder. Calisthenics uses your body weight and focuses on getting better at the exercises and making them harder as you go.

Researchers found that exercising with just your body weight (calisthenics) and lifting weights can similarly make you fit, at least for a short time (2). For example, one study had 15 men lift weights, and 17 men do military-style calisthenics for 1.5 hours a day, five days a week. After eight weeks, both groups were about equally fit.

To get the fittest you can be, it is best to do a mix of different types of exercise: using your body weight (calisthenics), getting your heart rate up (cardio), and lifting weights. You can focus on one type for a few weeks and switch to another or mix them into the same workout. 

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calisthenics training  

FAQs

  • Is 20 minutes of calisthenics enough?

Yes, 20 minutes a day of calisthenics can be enough for you. If your aim is to build muscle or lose weight, you can increase the duration or reps of these exercises. Remember that consistency or proper technique is essential to maximizing the benefits of any workout, including calisthenics.

 

  • How do calisthenics people train?

People who practice calisthenics, train with bodyweight exercises like squats, planks, or push-ups. The training focuses on progressive overload, consistency, core strength, form, and technique.

  • What is calisthenics in the gym?

In a gym setting, calisthenics refers to exercises that use your body weight for resistance rather than relying on free weights or machines. These exercises include push-ups, pull-ups, dips, squats, lunges, planks, and burpees.

  • What is a calisthenics body type?

A lean and muscular physique with low body fat and a muscular physique characterizes a calisthenic body type. Regular exercises that use your body weight build this solid and healthy body. These exercises can make you stronger, help you last longer, and improve your overall fitness.

The Bottom Line

Calisthenics is generally considered a safe workout, mainly because these exercises require only your body weight. Many variations help beginners and experts improve their strength and resistance. As you start with calisthenics training, you should pay attention to your form and perform as many reps as your fitness allows. Don’t forget to start with the baby steps and allow time for your muscles to recover between workouts. Check with your healthcare professional to see if the selected exercises work for you.

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. Does a Calisthenics-Based Exercise Program Applied in School Improve Morphofunctional Parameters in Youth? (2015, researchgate.net)
  2. Effects of Two Different Eight-Week Training Programs on Military Physical Performance (2008, journals.lww.com)
  3. Exercise therapy for low back pain (2024, uptodate.com)
  4. Four Types of Exercise Can Improve Your Health and Physical Ability (2021, nia.nih.gov)
  5. Muscle Activity During Gait (n.d., physio-pedia.com)
  6. Patellar tendinopathy (2022, uptodate.com)
  7. Practical guidelines for implementing a strength training program for adults (2024, medilib.ir)
  8. The Effect of Core Exercises on Transdiaphragmatic Pressure (2024, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  9. The effects of a calisthenics training intervention on posture, strength and body composition (2017, researchgate.net)
  10. Low-load bench press and push-up induce similar muscle hypertrophy and strength gain (2017, sciencedirect.com)
  11. Running injuries of the lower extremities: Patient evaluation and common conditions (2023, medilib.ir)
  12. The advantages of body-weight exercise (2022, health.harvard.edu)
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