Blog Fitness Workouts Calisthenics Workout How To Get Into Calisthenics: The Beginner’s Guide to Bodyweight Training

How To Get Into Calisthenics: The Beginner’s Guide to Bodyweight Training

One of the main barriers to starting a fitness routine is not having access to a gym or a trainer. Many of us procrastinate on our fitness goals, thinking we need to join a gym or buy elaborate gear to get started. And when we do consider working out at home, we’re often overwhelmed by the array of exercises and routines available online.

Yet, calisthenics, aka bodyweight training, eliminates these barriers.

A simple way to explain calisthenics is the exercise that uses your own body weight to build strength, flexibility, and physical endurance. And no, it’s not a new-school trend; this form of exercise traces back to ancient Greek times. It involves graceful movement and physical improvement through exercises like push-ups, pull-ups, and squats.

So, how can you immerse yourself in this effective and efficient way of exercising?

This guide is a first step into the world of calisthenics, designed to help beginners understand the foundations and gradually build their strength and confidence.

Is Calisthenics Easy To Get Into?

For beginners it’s often easier to get into calisthenics than other forms of exercise. This is because you don’t need any fancy equipment or a gym membership. You already have everything you need – your body weight.

Calisthenics certainly has obvious advantages, but it’s not always as easy as it sounds. The movements may require a high level of coordination and body control. Besides, many beginners struggle to find the right progressions for their fitness level.

That being said, calisthenics is an inclusive form of exercise. Below are some reasons why it’s easy to get started with calisthenics:

  • It’s inexpensive: All you need is some floor space, your body weight, and, optionally, a pull-up bar. No additional investment required. 
  • You can do it anywhere: Since you don’t need any equipment, you can workout wherever you want – at home, in the park, or on vacation.
  • Progression is easy: With calisthenics, you can easily modify and progress exercises to your fitness level. You can start with the basic versions of each movement and gradually work your way up to advanced variations.
  • Full-body workout: Calisthenics often targets multiple muscle groups in one exercise, making it a highly efficient full-body workout (6).
  • Less pressure on joints: Calisthenics typically puts less strain on your joints compared to traditional weightlifting, reducing the risk of injury (1)
  • Functional strength: Calisthenics movements mimic real-life actions, improving your overall physical performance and making daily tasks easier (7).
  • It’s fun: With endless exercise variations and the freedom to workout anywhere, calisthenics can be a challenging yet enjoyable form of exercise.

Can You Self Learn Calisthenics?

Yes, you can teach yourself calisthenics. Online tutorials, videos, and communities make it easier than ever to learn this form of exercise on your own. You’ve probably done a few calisthenics exercises without realizing it, like push-ups, jumping jacks, or planks.

However, there are a few principles and techniques you should be aware of before diving into a calisthenics routine.

Full Range of Motion

A critical principle in calisthenics, and indeed all forms of physical training, is the concept of utilizing a full range of motion (ROM) in your exercises (2).

This principle involves moving your body or a limb through its entire possible movement span during an exercise. For example, this means going from a fully straightened arm to a deeply bent elbow in a push-up, rather than performing half-reps where the motion is incomplete.

See also
Pilates vs Calisthenics: Which Workout is More Effective for Toning and Sculpting?

The significance of a full range of motion lies in its comprehensive engagement of muscles, leading to stronger, more evenly developed muscles, improved flexibility, and a reduced risk of injury.

By working through a full ROM, you’re also enhancing your joint health and functionality, which can contribute to better overall athletic performance and ease in performing daily activities (2).

Many beginners might not get it right at first, due to a lack of flexibility, strength, or understanding of the proper form. It’s common to instinctively shorten the movement to avoid discomfort or because the muscles aren’t yet strong enough to perform a full range. 

This limited movement can become a habit if not corrected early on, leading to less effective workouts and potential plateaus in progress.

Lean and toned up body isn’t just a far-fetched fantasy. Check out the BetterMe app and watch it propel your weight loss journey into high gear!

Experienced lifters transitioning from weight training to calisthenics might also struggle with this concept, as bad habits in the gym can transfer to bad habits with calisthenics. For instance, if someone habitually performs a bench press through a limited range of motion because they are more focused on weight than proper form and sequencing, that may translate to compensations during similar bodyweight movements, such as pushup variations. In addition, long-term compensatory movement patterns may lead to neuromuscular maladaptations where a correct movement pattern needs to be relearned, and can also lead to limitations in flexibility due to years of only training a muscle group through a certain fragment of its overall expected range.

However, when transitioning to calisthenics movements like dips or push-ups where your bodyweight is the only resistance, it may become more evident if you’re not moving through a full range.

To practice utilizing a full range of motion:

  • Familiarize yourself with the proper form of each exercise, possibly with the aid of a knowledgeable trainer or instructional videos.
  • Prioritize quality over quantity; it’s more beneficial to do fewer repetitions correctly than many with poor form.
  • Gradually increase your flexibility and strength in these movements through consistent practice and complementary exercises, such as stretches or mobility drills.

Over time, your ability to execute exercises with a full ROM will improve, making your calisthenics training more effective and rewarding.

how to get into calisthenics  

Strict Form

Strict form is the principle of performing each exercise with precise technique and control, making sure that every movement is executed as perfectly as possible. This means maintaining proper body alignment, engaging the correct muscles, and moving through the exercise’s intended range of motion without using momentum to cheat the movement.

The importance of strict form cannot be overstated. It significantly reduces the risk of injury by ensuring that movements are safe and joints are not placed under undue stress (form). 

Adhering to strict form maximizes the efficiency of each exercise. In this way, the target muscles are effectively engaged and strengthened. This leads to more balanced muscle development and can help overcome plateaus in strength and muscle growth (9).

Individuals self-learning calisthenics might find maintaining strict form challenging due to the lack of feedback from a coach or trainer who can correct mistakes in real time. Without this guidance, it’s easy to unknowingly adopt poor habits which can hamper progress and increase the risk of injury (9). 

See also
Shoulder Workout Calisthenics Guide For Beginners

Read more: The Simplest Lower Back Calisthenics Guide for Beginners

Novice practitioners might also struggle with the physical demands of maintaining strict form, such as the strength and flexibility required to perform exercises correctly.

To achieve strict form in calisthenics:

  • Begin by educating yourself on the fundamentals of each exercise. Online tutorials, books, and detailed guides can provide valuable insights into the correct techniques.
  • Use video recordings of your workouts to self-assess your form and identify areas for improvement. Comparing your form with instructional videos can be particularly beneficial.
  • Incorporate exercises and drills that build the strength and flexibility necessary to maintain correct form. This might include mobility work, core strengthening exercises, and progression exercises that build up to more complex movements.
  • Focus on mastering the basics before attempting more advanced variations. Building a solid foundation with good form is essential for progress and avoiding injuries.
  • Consider periodic consultations with a personal trainer or attending workshops. Even if self-learning is your primary approach, professional advice can provide critical corrections and accelerate your learning curve.

By prioritizing strict form, individuals engaged in self-taught calisthenics can ensure their practice is safe, effective, and conducive to long-term progress. However, even those who train under a coach or in a group class can benefit from being mindful of strict form and constantly seeking to improve their technique.

Progressive Overload

Progressive overload is a foundational concept in strength training and physical conditioning, involving the gradual increase of stress placed on the body during exercise.

This principle is key to continually advancing in calisthenics, as it ensures consistent progress by systematically enhancing the resistance or difficulty of exercises as the body adapts. The intent behind progressive overload is to push the body beyond its current capabilities, thereby stimulating muscle growth, strength gains, and enhanced endurance (5).

This principle matters because, without increasing the challenge to your muscles, the body has no reason to adapt and improve. It’s how individuals progress from being able to do only a few push-ups to performing advanced calisthenics movements like planches or one-arm pull-ups.

For beginners, the struggle with progressive overload often lies in understanding how to safely and effectively increase the difficulty of exercises without access to additional weights or traditional gym equipment used in weightlifting.

Beginners may also find it challenging because recognizing when and how to appropriately adjust the intensity of workouts requires a certain level of body awareness and knowledge about training principles. There’s also the risk of adding too much stress too quickly, leading to overtraining or injury.

To implement progressive overload in a calisthenics regimen, one could:

  • Increase reps or sets: Gradually adding more repetitions or sets to an exercise routine is a straightforward method to increase workload (4).
  • Elevate the difficulty: Progressing to more challenging variations of an exercise (e.g., from knee push-ups to standard push-ups, then to decline push-ups) introduces a greater stimulus for muscle growth and strength.
  • Reduce rest time: Shortening the rest intervals between sets or exercises can enhance the intensity of the workout, challenging both muscular and cardiovascular systems (4).
  • Incorporate tempo changes: Slowing down the speed at which exercises are performed (especially during the eccentric phase) or adding pauses increases time under tension, a critical factor for muscle hypertrophy.
See also
The Calisthenics Leg Workout For Sculpting Chiseled Legs Without Weights

For beginners, it’s crucial to focus on incremental changes and listen to their bodies to avoid jumping ahead too quickly, which could hamper progress or lead to injuries. Keeping a workout journal to track progress and adjustments can be highly beneficial in managing the progressive overload principle effectively.

how to get into calisthenics  

Listening to Your Body

Calisthenics is an intense physical activity, requiring strength, stamina, and mental focus. It’s essential to listen to your body before, during, and after each workout to be sure you’re not pushing yourself too hard or risking injury (3).

Some key signs to watch out for include:

  • Persistent pain: While some discomfort is expected during intense exercise, persistent pain that does not subside after resting or interferes with daily activities could be a sign of an underlying issue.
  • Extreme fatigue: Feeling overly tired and drained before, during, or after workouts can indicate that you’re overworking your body and not allowing enough time for recovery.
  • Lack of progress: If you’ve been training consistently, but your performance or muscle development has plateaued, it might be a sign that you need to adjust your routine or give yourself more rest time.
  • Poor form: If you find yourself constantly struggling with maintaining proper form, it could be a sign of fatigue or exhaustion.

It’s also essential to listen to your body when it comes to rest and recovery. While consistency is key in calisthenics, overtraining can hinder progress and increase the risk of injury. Rest days are just as important as training days, and taking breaks when needed is crucial for long-term success in this physically demanding sport.

Find a detailed and tailored workout for beginners in our calisthenics beginner workout plan blog.

How Do Beginners Start Calisthenics?

Beginners start calisthenics by mastering the principles, finding their way around the basic movements (e.g., push-ups, pull-ups, bodyweight squats), and gradually building a foundation of strength and stability. They should also have a clear understanding of their goals, whether it’s to improve overall fitness, build muscle mass, or achieve specific calisthenics skills.

Our, intro to calisthenics blog has more information on this. 

The principles we’ve discussed in this guide – proper form, progressive overload, and listening to your body – are the building blocks for beginners starting calisthenics. 

Now, on to the practical steps:

Basic Movements In Calisthenics

The foundation of calisthenics lies in mastering the basic movements, which form the basis for more complex and advanced exercises. Some essential basic movements include:

  • Push-ups: A classic exercise that targets the chest, shoulders, triceps, and core muscles.
  • Pull-ups: A challenging movement that targets the back, biceps, and forearms.
  • Bodyweight squats: A compound exercise that works multiple muscles in the lower body, including the quads, hamstrings, and glutes.
  • Planks: An isometric hold that targets the core muscles.
  • Dips: A demanding movement that targets the triceps, chest, and shoulders.

These basic movements can be modified to suit different fitness levels and abilities. Before anything else, beginners should focus on mastering proper form and gradually increasing the difficulty as their strength and skills improve.

Training Frequency

For beginners, it’s recommended to start with 2-3 training sessions per week, allowing for rest days in between.  The idea is to give the body enough time to recover and adapt to the new demands placed on it. As you progress, you can gradually increase training frequency up to 4-5 sessions per week.

See also
Calisthenics Push-Ups 101: The Complete Beginner's Guide

Looking for a way to break the vicious cycle of weight loss and tone up all the jiggly parts? Watch the extra pounds fly off and your muscles firm up with the BetterMe app!

Training Split

A common approach for beginners in calisthenics is a full-body training split, where all muscle groups are trained in each session. This method allows for balanced development and is suitable for those with limited time to train. Alternatively, a push-pull-legs split can also be effective, where different muscle groups are targeted on different days.

Here’s a sample full body training split that you can use to get into calisthenics without equipment (exercise steps included):

Note: Perform each exercise for the prescribed number of reps or time, resting 30-60 seconds between sets. Complete all sets for a given exercise before moving on to the next one.

Push Ups (Muscles: chest, shoulders, triceps)

  1. Start in a high plank position with your hands shoulder-width apart and your body in a straight line.
  2. Lower your body towards the ground by bending at the elbows until they reach a 90-degree angle or your chest lightly touches the floor.
  3. Push back up to the starting position.
  4. Repeat for 3 sets of 10 reps (increase reps as you progress).

Regressions (for beginners):

  • Incline push-ups (using a bench, stairs, or chair): Follow the same steps as above, but with your hands on a raised surface.
  • Wall push-ups (using a wall): Stand arm’s length away from a wall and place your hands shoulder-width apart against it. Lower your body towards the wall by bending at the elbows, then push back up to the starting position.

Progressions (to increase difficulty):

  • Diamond push-ups: Bring your hands close together so that your index fingers and thumbs touch, forming a diamond shape. Follow the same steps as a regular push-up.
  • Decline push-ups (using an elevated surface): Place your feet on an elevated surface (e.g., bench or chair) and follow the same steps as a regular push-up.

Bodyweight Squats (Muscles: quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes)

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your arms in front of you for balance.
  2. Push your hips back and bend at the knees to lower yourself into a squat position.
  3. Keep your weight on your heels and your chest up as you reach a 90-degree angle with your knees.
  4. Push through your heels to return to the starting position.
  5. Repeat for 3 sets of 10 reps (increase reps as you progress).

Regressions (for beginners):

  • Chair squats: Sit on a chair and stand back up without using your hands for assistance.
  • Box squats: Use a box or bench to lower yourself onto before returning to the starting position.

Progressions (to increase difficulty):

  • Jump squats: Perform a regular squat, but instead of coming back up, jump explosively off the ground and land softly on your feet in a squat position.
  • Pistol squats: Stand on one leg and perform a single-leg squat, keeping the non-working leg straight and extended in front of you.

how to get into calisthenics  

Pull-Ups (Muscles: back, biceps, forearms)

  1. Grab an overhead bar with an overhand grip (palms facing away from you) and your hands shoulder-width apart.
  2. Hang with your arms straight and your feet off the ground.
  3. Pull yourself up by bending at the elbows and bringing your chin towards the bar.
  4. Lower yourself back down with control until your arms are straight.
  5. Repeat for 3 sets of 5 reps (increase reps as you progress).
See also
8 Core Calisthenics Moves for Getting Visible Abs

Regressions (for beginners):

  • Assisted pull-ups: Use a resistance band or have a partner assist you by holding onto your feet to lighten the load.
  • Negative pull-ups: Jump up to the top of a pull-up position and slowly lower yourself down, focusing on controlling your descent.

Progressions (to increase difficulty):

  • Wide grip pull-ups: Increase the distance between your hands on the bar to target different back muscles.

Planks (Muscles: core)

  1. Start in a high plank position with your hands shoulder-width apart and your body in a straight line.
  2. Engage your core muscles by squeezing them as if you were about to be punched in the stomach.
  3. Hold this position for 30 seconds, then rest for 30 seconds.
  4. Repeat for 3 sets.

Regressions (for beginners):

  • On elbows: Perform a plank on your forearms instead of your hands.
  • On knees: Start in a modified plank position with your knees on the ground.

Progressions (to increase difficulty):

  • Side planks: Instead of facing down, turn to one side and balance on one forearm and the side of your feet. Hold for 30 seconds, then switch to the other side.
  • Plank variations: Increase the difficulty by adding movements such as shoulder taps or leg lifts while holding the plank position.

 Dips (Muscles: chest, triceps)

  1. Place your hands shoulder-width apart on parallel bars or any sturdy surface (e.g., chairs or benches).
  2. Lift yourself up to keep your arms straight and your feet off the ground.
  3. Lower yourself by bending at the elbows until they reach a 90-degree angle.
  4. Push back up to the starting position.
  5. Repeat for 3 sets of 10 reps (increase reps as you progress).

Regressions (for beginners):

  • Assisted dips: Use a resistance band or have a partner assist you by holding onto your feet to lighten the load.
  • Chair dips: Sit on the edge of a chair and place your hands behind you on the seat. Keep your feet on the ground with your legs straight out in front of you. Bend your knees if you need further regression. Lower yourself until your arms reach a 90-degree angle, then push back up.

Progressions (to increase difficulty):

  • Weighted dips: Hold a weight between your feet or wear a weight vest to add resistance.
  • Ring dips: Use gymnastic rings instead of parallel bars for an additional challenge in stability and balance.

Tracking Progress

Tracking progress is crucial in any training regimen. It allows you to see how far you’ve come and identify areas that need improvement. Beginners can track progress by keeping a training journal, taking progress photos, or simply noting down any changes they’ve noticed in their strength and performance.

We’ve discussed more tips and guidance to help you take your first step in our, calisthenics for beginners at home blog.

Read more: Calisthenics Shoulder Exercises: Techniques and Workouts


  • Can a 14 Year Old Start Calisthenics?

A 14-year-old can start calisthenics as long as they are physically able and have proper supervision. Being at a young age, it is even more important to focus on proper form and technique rather than pushing for high intensity or complex exercise variations. It’s also essential to listen to your body and not overexert yourself.

  • Is It OK To Do Calisthenics Everyday?

It is not recommended to do calisthenics every day as it’s important to allow your muscles time to rest and recover. Overtraining can lead to injury and hinder progress. It’s best to have a balanced training schedule that includes both active and rest days for optimal results.  However, light activities such as stretching or yoga can be done on rest days to aid in muscle recovery (8).

  • Is Calisthenics Harder Than Lifting?

Calisthenics may be harder, easier, or comparable to lifting depending on the individual’s strength and fitness level and training program. Calisthenics relies heavily on bodyweight, whereas weightlifting involves using external weights to challenge muscles. Both can be challenging in their own ways, and it ultimately depends on the exercises being performed and the intensity at which they are done.

  • Is 20 Minutes of Calisthenics Enough?

It is recommended to aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per day for overall health and fitness. However, a 20-minute calisthenics session can be effective if done with high intensity and proper form. It’s important to focus on quality over quantity and listen to your body’s needs when it comes to workout duration.

The Bottom Line

Calisthenics is a challenging yet rewarding form of exercise that requires dedication, discipline, and patience to master. By understanding the principles of full range of motion, strict form, and listening to your body, individuals can ensure their calisthenics training is effective, safe, and sustainable. Whether self-taught or under the guidance of a trainer, continuously striving for improvement and prioritizing proper form will lead to consistent progress and long-term success in this dynamic discipline.


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. Developing strength through bodyweight training (2021,
  2. Effects of range of motion on muscle development during resistance training interventions: A systematic review (2020,
  3. How to avoid exercise injuries (2022,
  4. Progressive overload without progressing load? The effects of load or repetition progression on muscular adaptations (2022,
  5. Progression of volume load and muscular adaptation during resistance exercise (2014,
  6. The advantages of body-weight exercise (2022,
  7. Top 10 Benefits Of Bodyweight Training (2023,
150 million people
have chosen BetterMe

Sets up work outs that you can do…

John M.
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.

Being able to workout without the…

Jack P.
Being able to workout without the feeling of judgment. But also to feel freedom and flexibility at the same time was amazing.

Simple and no equipment needed

Nazim M.
Simple and no equipment needed. Long enough with brakes to achieve my daily workout. I like it when I feel the burn and sweat.