What Is Body Weight Training?

By C. Michael Woodward, MPH, Abshier House

Body weight training is exactly what it sounds like: exercise using your body weight. Although body weight training is enjoying a surge in popularity these days, it’s the oldest form of exercise. Most people have been fully equipped to do body weight training since the dawn of mankind, but those silly kettlebells and rowing machines didn’t come along until much later.

The most familiar body weight training exercise — and arguably one of the most effective —is the push-up. Sure, you can add fancy hand positions or put a medicine ball under one hand to make it more challenging. When you get right down to it, though, a push-up is really just a conversation between you, the floor, and gravity.

Credit: ©

If you do enough push-ups, you’ll develop incredible pectoral muscles (chest), biceps (arms), and deltoids (shoulders) in no time. It will do wonders for your core strength as well—without so much as lifting a feather. Effective body weight exercises can be done for all areas of the body and to address specific or general training or recovery goals. And they’re great for all people of all ages, even some with mobility issues.

Advantages of body weight training

The reasons people like training with just body weight are varied. Some reasons include the following:

  • Cost. Since there’s no cost for equipment, your only expenses are maybe a mat, an occasional tool such as a strap to assist with stretching.

  • Good for beginners. Basic body weight training moves are easy to learn, with or without a personal trainer. As your fitness improves, you can make the exercises more difficult or complicated.

  • Convenience. You don’t waste time adjusting machines or waiting for them. In fact, you don’t have to go to the gym at all. You can do most body weight training anywhere.

  • Less chance of injury. Because you’re not slinging around a bunch of weights you might not be able to control, there’s less chance you or your fellow gym mates will be injured by a stray dumbbell that came crashing down on someone’s foot.

That’s not to say you can’t get hurt doing body weight training. Proper form is extremely important to prevent injury or overextension. Buy a few sessions with a personal trainer to learn how to do it right, or find a knowledgeable workout buddy to watch your form and alignment the first few times you work out.

Studying videos online can also be helpful. Working out in front of a mirror is really helpful, too, with or without a workout partner.

Challenges of body weight training

Everyone has an opinion, but there’s no right or wrong answer as to whether body weight training is more or less effective than lifting weights. Plenty of athletes and fitness pros swear by body weight training and feel it is more than adequate for their needs.

Whether you’re a novice or a pro, the same rule applies: working against resistance builds muscle, and the mechanics of resistance is the same whether you’re lifting a barbell or your own weight.

The biggest challenge with body weight training is that it’s difficult to see your progress. If you’re working out regularly, you are no doubt getting stronger and more fit. With weightlifting, you can tell you’re getting stronger because you can lift more and more weight on the same exercise over time.

But with body weight training, it is a little different. There’s only so much you can lift: your own weight and maybe that of a weighted vest and ankle weights you strap on. After you’re able to do all the exercises at maximum difficulty, it’s hard to figure out how to grow from there. But most beginners won’t have to worry about that for quite some time. You can cross that bridge when you get there.

Another disadvantage is that might you lose that the thrill of adding yet another 10 lbs to the stack, which can be very inspiring in the heat of the moment.

Push versus pull body weight exercises

If you think about it, pushing something and pulling something are two very different moves, and they either use different muscles, or engage the same muscles differently. Pushing generally uses the muscles in the chest and shoulders as well as the triceps, while pulling engages the biceps and the back. Thus it makes sense that you might get better results if you do some of both types in your workout plan.

To prevent overworking a muscle and allow ample time for recovery, it’s usually best to do all the exercises of one type on the same day, however. So some days will be push days, others will be pull days, and when you’re not doing one of those, you’ll be working on your legs, abs, and core.

  • Day 1 — Push

  • Day 2 — Pull

  • Day 3 — Legs

  • Day 4 — Rest

  • Day 5 — Push

  • Day 6 — Pull

  • Day 7 — Legs

  • Day 8 — Rest

Hundreds of health and fitness websites offer instructions and even videos on specific exercises. These can be very helpful when planning your routine.

Examples of beginner’s pull exercises:

  • Crunches and sit-ups

  • Shoulder circles

  • Chin-ups

  • Side leg raises

Examples of beginner’s push exercises:

  • Bridge

  • Rear leg raises

  • Squats

  • Leg-up Hamstring stretch

Shoot for 10 repetitions of each exercise, to make one set. Do three sets of each exercise. Be sure to rest for about a minute between sets (no more than two minutes). You can either do all the sets of each exercise in a row, or do all of your different exercises once, then repeat the entire circuit twice.

Like all kinds of exercise, your body will get bored and quit paying attention if you just do the same body weight exercises day after day for months on end. It’s best to “keep the body guessing” and do different exercises each time you work a muscle group.

So spend some time learning about the hundreds of body weight exercises for each part of the body, and switch up your routine on a regular basis, if not every time.

Often just changing the position of your hands will change which muscle is engaged by the exercise. For example, a regular push-up calls for your hands to be shoulder-width apart. The exercise gets harder if you move both hands out about a foot into a wide pushup. Suddenly what had been a breeze is now the hardest thing you’ve ever done, at least until the muscle gets stronger in that position, too.

Dear Lifehacker,
I like the idea of getting a workout without extra equipment, but some people tell me it isn’t effective enough to really build muscle. Is that true? Are bodyweight exercises effective?


Push-Up Paul

Dear Paul,
While the process of building muscle at a cellular level is complicated to say the least, at the practical level, it’s quite simple.

In Greek Mythology, there’s a story about a boy named Milo who carried his pet calf around everywhere he went. As the calf grew more each day, Milo grew stronger and stronger. By the time Milo was an adult, he was one of the strongest in the land. (By the way, in what would have made a great Game of Thrones episode, Milo devoured his childhood friend when it was full grown.)

While there are some problems with this myth, it’s actually not too far off. Building muscle can be simplified into one simple concept: increase the weight, repetitions (also known as “reps”), or volume that you can do in a given exercise. This concept is known as ” progressive overload.” The result is an increase in muscle size—a process known as muscular hypertrophy.


In the gym, you can obviously increase the weight of the dumbbell, barbell, or machine that you’re using. But can you progressively overload using bodyweight exercises, thereby gaining muscle? Yes—to an extent.

Bodyweight Training: How Effective Is It?


Before talking about the benefits of bodyweight training, we have to understand whether or not it’s effective.

For lighter folks, the first concern is whether their body weight is enough for hypertrophy to occur. Even if you don’t weigh that much, the good news is that it’s probably enough. In one study, hypertrophy occurred using as little as 30% of the maximum weight that one could lift.


What about heavier folks who are worried that they can’t perform bodyweight exercises? That can be solved by finding versions of exercises that you can do, such as kneeling push-ups or wall push-ups instead of regular push-ups. Don’t beat yourself up if you use an easier version of an exercise. What truly matters is improvements week over week.


Basically, no matter what you weigh, you’ll be able to progressively overload. You can do so in the following ways:

  • More reps. While you won’t be able to increase the “weight” on a movement, you will be able to increase the number of reps that you can do.
  • More volume. If you can’t increase the number of reps after a certain point, you can add additional sets to increase the exercise’s volume.
  • More difficult variations. Lastly, you can progress to a more difficult version of an exercise (also called “progressions”), such as bulgarian split squats instead of regular bodyweight squats. There’s an awesome list of bodyweight exercise progressions here.


The Pros of Bodyweight Training


The largest advantage of bodyweight training is that you don’t need a gym membership. Aside from the obvious financial and convenience benefits, there’s a huge psychological benefit for beginners. Coach Ben Hessel, who runs the site Gym Free Workouts explains:

Many people are uncomfortable in a gym atmosphere. I love gym “bros” making loud noises and dropping deadlifts like your daily dose of grunting, but it completely deters my type of client from stepping foot into a gym. For them, this allows them the comfort of being in their own home – or any comfortable environment. They don’t feel judged, so they can challenge themselves to be uncomfortable and improve.


The gym can be an incredibly intimidating experience for beginners. Remember, just getting started is the most important thing you can do. Bodyweight training is a great option if it makes you more likely to start a routine.

Even if you eventually want to use free weights (dumbbells and barbells), bodyweight training is a great place to start and may be better in the long run. I asked my friend and trainer Hunter Cook, who specializes in both bodyweight and free weight training, about the connection between the two. He says:

Body weight movement isn’t something I consider an option, but more like a prerequisite. When it comes to programming my clients movement, I will teach and reinforce my clients movement patterns with their body weight alone first. It is only when they learn to move properly unloaded that they earn the option to load the movement.

Although I believe that body weight exercises are only one tool in the toolbox, I do believe they can take people farther than they imagine regardless of their goals. Proper body weight movement is extremely joint friendly and allows for a more natural range of motion. Body weight exercises teach people how to utilize full body tension which is a prerequisite for learning how to control free weights.


The Cons of Bodyweight Training


While you can gain muscle through bodyweight training, there are a few drawbacks.

First off, progressive overload is harder from a practicality standpoint. It’s easier to visualize progress knowing when you’ve increased the weight on an exercise, whereas increasing reps or changing variations may not be as tangible. Also, it’s not a question of if but when it will become necessary to increase an exercise’s resistance. Most people can actually progress further than they think on bodyweight training, but they will eventually hit a ceiling.


Even if you are able to progress with bodyweight training alone, the second drawback comes down to the return on investment (ROI) of your time.

For any strength workout, there’s a spectrum of how much work you can do and how intensely you can do it. On one end of the spectrum you have high volume workouts—doing lots of total sets—and on the other end you have high intensity workouts—getting really close to muscular failure on each set. Put another way, you can have a workout with lots of sets or a workout where you go as hard as possible. You can’t do both.


While both high volume programs and high intensity programs will lead to hypertrophy, high-volume programs require longer workouts. For example, if you already find push-ups and dips easy, you may be able to do a workout using dumbbell bench presses and weighted dips in half the time (or less).

Lastly, many of the best exercises cannot be done with bodyweight. The barbell deadlift, for example, is often called the king of exercises, because it works many different muscle groups. Unfortunately, there is no true bodyweight equivalent for barbell deadlifts. You could, of course, find a way to work each of those muscle groups individually, but again your workouts will be longer. (You could also get some workout equipment for your home, if your main concern is going to the gym.)


Practical Recommendations


Knowing all of the facts, here’s what you should do if you’re interested in bodyweight training:

  • Use the information above to determine bodyweight training is right for you. If you are a beginner who is intimidated by the gym, then bodyweight training is a great place to start. If you already have some strength training experience and you don’t have a whole lot of time, it might be best to use free weights.
  • Pick a program and stick to it. Find a program that you like and stick to it. We have a great program available, but You Are Your Own Gym, Start Body Weight, and Gym Free Workouts are great as well. It’s always important to stick to one strength training program, but this is especially true with bodyweight exercises where progressions may add an additional layer of complexity. Don’t venture off on your own unless you know what you’re doing.
  • Make sure that you have your nutrition down. Remember, exercise is just one part of the equation. In fact, if your main goal is to lose weight, it plays a much smaller role than nutrition.
  • Know when to progress to free weights, if possible. After you’ve made progress, you may want to switch to free weights in order to reach a certain level. Recognize that bodyweight training may just be a stepping stone to the program that’s best for you.


As we’ve mentioned before, there is no best program, diet, or exercise. When it comes to fitness and health, everything is contextual and depends on the individual. Done correctly, bodyweight training will build muscle, but definitely consider your time, budget, and goals when selecting the program that’s right for you.

Images by A&A Photography, Nick Royer, Rohit Mattoo, soldiersmediacenter, and Adrian Scottow.


Vitals is a new blog from Lifehacker all about heath and fitness. Follow us on Twitter here.


Climbing the Hill: The Ultimate Calisthenics Workout Transformation

All my workouts involve one thing: calisthenics or bodyweight exercises. I do all my workouts on parallel bars, pullup bars, or on the ground.

I used to be into heavy powerlifting, but recently moved to a purely bodyweight training regimen.

I noticed a big change in both my physique and strength.

I actually felt a difference in my body; doing my unique exercises opened up a totally new door.

I noticed I was using muscles that I had never even used before.

Believe it or not, all my workouts involve calisthenics circuit routines now. Circuit training is the ultimate step to getting fast results in strength, endurance, muscle mass, and conditioning. In a circuit, you move from one exercise to the next with little or no rest between moves.

Circuit training doesn’t allow your heart to rest or slow down, it keeps it up consistently throughout your workout allowing you to burn more calories faster and to shred up.

I do hundreds of different calisthenics circuits and I never touch the weights. I’ve lost 37 pounds of fat in 6 months doing my exercises. I went from 202 pounds to 165 pounds of lean muscle mass.

I get at least 50 messages a day just on my transformation and how I did it.

The best part is, anyone can do it themselves with hard work and dedication.

I train six days a week, an hour to an hour and 30 minutes, and I never have to go to a gym.

I’m going to share four of my circuit workouts with you. One for beginners, two are for more advanced exercisers, and one is only for extreme athletes.

Find the workout that’s best for you and, if you stick to it, you will see results in less than two months.

Duration Frequency Exercise Type Intensity Repetitions Rest
30-40 minutes 1-2x per week strength training high intensity varies by exercise 30 seconds

How To Stretch For A Calisthenics Circuit Workout

Follow the videos below for routines to warm up your entire body before the workout. For more tips on mobility and stretching, follow Onnit’s Durability Coach, Cristian Plascencia, on Instagram (@cristian_thedurableathlete).

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Workout #1: Beginner Calisthenics Circuit Workout

Do all the exercises in the order shown, resting 30 seconds between exercises and 3 minutes afterward. Repeat for 3 rounds.

1. 10 pullups
Do these with your palms facing away from you, hands just outside shoulder-width apart.

2. 10 chinups
Palms face toward you, hands shoulder-width apart.

3. 20 dips
Use parallel bars and lower your body until your upper arms are parallel to the floor.

4 . 25 jump squats
Squat down until your thighs are parallel to the floor and jump as high as you can.

5. 20 pushups
Lower your body until your chest is about an inch above the floor. Your body should form a straight line from your head to your heels. Actively pull your ribs and pelvis toward each other, engaging your core—don’t let your lower sag.

6. 50 crunches
Curl your torso up until your shoulder blades are off the floor.

7. 10 burpees
Stand with feet shoulder width and squat down to place your hands on the floor. Now shoot your legs behind you fast so you end up in the top position of a pushup. Jump your legs back up so they land between your hands and then stand up quickly.

8. 30 seconds jumping rope

Workout #2: Intermediate Calisthenics Circuit Workout

Rest 5 seconds between exercises and 8 minutes at the end of one round. Repeat for 2 rounds.

1. 5 muscle ups
Hang from a pullup bar with hands outside shoulder width and legs straight. Draw your shoulder blades back and together and arch your back to swing your body forward a bit. Then quickly try to bring your shoulders and hips together so that your body swings back and rises up until your hips touch the bar. Press your body straight up over the bar to lock out your elbows.

2. 50 pushups

3. 25 jump squats

4. 15 burpees

5. 15 pullups

6. 60 seconds leg flutters
Lie on your back on the floor and tuck your tailbone to flatten your lower back into the floor. Brace your core. Extend your legs overhead and then lower them as far as you can before you feel your lower back is about to buckle up from the floor. Begin raising and lowering both legs, alternately, a few inches (as if swimming). Keep your core braced so your lower back stays against the floor.

7. 10 pullups

8. 30-second sprint, nonstop
Run up a hill if you can, or run in place.

Workout #3: Advanced Calisthenics Circuit Routine

Perform each exercise for 30 seconds straight. Do NOT rest between exercises. Complete 1 round.

1. Hold a handstand for 30 seconds
You can do the handstand using a wall for support. Place your hands about six inches back from the wall and get into a downward dog pose. Step one foot toward the wall and then kick your back leg up while focusing your eyes on the floor in front of you. Press into your hands and straighten your body with your heels against the wall.

2. Jump squats

3. Wall push ups
Get into pushup position in front of a wall and walk your feet up the wall behind you. Press your feet into the wall to create tension throughout your body, and perform pushups.

4. Kick up push ups
Sit on the floor and roll backward, as if doing a reverse somersault. Stop when your feet face the ceiling and reverse the direction quickly, performing a kickup—kick your feet up and forward so you launch off the floor and land in a deep squat. From there, drop into a pushup.

5. Squat position move side to side
Get into a low squat and step side to side. Take two steps one direction and then switch directions.

6. X’s and O’s core workout
Lie on your back on the floor and extend your arms and legs to form an X-shape. Crunch and draw your knees to your chest, hugging them with your arms.

7. Dips

8. Jumping lunges
Get into a lunge position—rear knee just above the floor and front knee bent 90 degrees. Jump and switch legs in mid air, landing with the opposite leg forward.

9. Hops
Hop side to side, staying on the balls of your feet.

10. Pullups

Workout #4: Extreme Athlete Calisthenics Circuit Routine

Rest 30 seconds between exercises but do not rest between rounds. Do 3 rounds.

1. 10-second back lever hold
Grasp a bar with hands outside shoulder width and curl your knees up to pass underneath the bar and over your head. Extend your legs so your body is now inverted. Bend your knees 90 degrees and slowly lower your body until you’re parallel to the floor. See this video for more.

2. 7-second flag hold
You’ll need a ladder or other object with rungs. Push onto one rung with your stronger arm and pull on a higher rung with your weaker arm and raise your legs up off the floor until your body is parallel to the floor.

3. 5-second front lever hold
Pull your body up and extend your torso back so you are parallel to the floor.

4. 15-second bent arm planche hold
Suspend yourself over dip bars and extend your legs behind you with your arms straight so that your body is parallel to the floor. See this video for more.

5. 30-second handstand hold
Hold the top position of a handstand (arms extended).

6. 3 very slow muscle ups
Take at least 3 seconds to press your body up from the bar.

7. 10 slow dips
Take at least 3 seconds to lower your body.

8. Pull up hold position for 30 seconds
Hold the bottom of a pushup (chest just above the floor).

See many of these exercises in action in the video below.

Sample Video Workout:


Not only are you going to love the results from these workouts, you are going to find out they’re fun to try too. Good luck!

Beginner’s Calisthenics Workout Program

Welcome to our beginner’s Calisthenics workout program. Are you ready for the ultimate training method, which simply uses your body-weight and gravity for resistance? No more expensive gym memberships or gimmicky equipment, it’s time to experience the purist form of strength training.

We strongly suggest two pieces of equipment so you can workout anywhere. These are not required for this program, but they will expand your workout program to hundreds of different exercises: 1) gymnastic rings and 2) parallette bars. Both can be ordered from our online store.

Here’s what to expect from this program?

  • Learn the fundamentals of calisthenics
  • Develop muscular endurance
  • Improve your muscular tone and size
  • Realise the potential of calisthenics


Before you start the program, it’s important to set yourself some measurable goals (we recommend at least 2-3), this way you’ll be able to see your progress throughout the program. Set specific, measurable, achievable and realistic goals. Have a time-frame within which you want to hit your goals.

So an ideal goal would be: “I want to do 3 bar muscle-ups within 3 months” This type of goal allows you to monitor your progress, and also breakdown the goal, to make it less overwhelming.

Another good idea before you get started, is to sign up for our free quick-guide on “The 10 Laws of Ridiculous Bodyweight Strength and Muscle Mass”. This provides extra foundation knowledge, giving you the edge in your journey towards a stronger, leaner, tougher body.

It’s free and it’ll really help! Enter your email at the bottom of this page.

Warm Up

Every workout always starts with a good, specific warm-up. The purpose, is to fire up your cardiovascular system, as well as warming your muscles ready for exercise. Never skip the warm-up!

A good warm-up improves your athletic performance, and it also helps reduce injuries and increase mobility.

Here’s the key structure to follow for every warm-up:

1. Raise your heart rate, with some legs-based body-weight exercises.

Choose between:

  1. 30 Alternating Lunges + 20 Squats + 10 burpees
  2. 30 star jumps/jumping jacks + 30 Mountain Climbers
  3. 3-5 mins of fast skipping with a good speed rope
  4. 10 x 50 meter sprint reps with 10 seconds rest between each rep
  5. 20 squat jumps + 20 burpees + 20 Squat Thrusts

2. Mobilise your joints

Now your heart rate is elevated, start mobilising your joints ready for exercise. The key is, focus on specific exercises for the workout you’ll be doing. For example, if you are going to be focus on upper body or arms, mobilise the shoulder joint. If you are working the whole body, mobilise the hips, back and shoulders.

Spend at least 3-5 minutes performing several mobilisation exercises, and aim for around a minute on each exercise.

Shoulder mobilisation exercises

  • Shoulder Dislocations
  • Chest Openers
  • Arm Circles

Back mobilisation exercises

  • Back Extensions
  • Cat Stretch
  • Trunk Twists
  • Bridges

Hip mobilisation exercises

  • Deep Walking Lunges
  • Side to side Leg Swings
  • Back to front Leg Swings

With the warm up done, it’s time to start your workout. As you’re new to calisthenics, we would suggest breaking your training down into 3 sections:

Skills Progression Work

These skills help develop the strength and proprioception you’ll need, to progress onto the more advanced calisthenics exercises. They are perfect progression exercises, any beginner should be able to do. As they replicate certain parts of the more advanced moves, which may be impossible initially.

Dedicate at least 10-15 minutes of your workout to these skills. You don’t have to perform all of them in every session. In fact, we would actually recommend focusing on one or two per session, based on your overall goals.

They are also best performed before the strength fundamentals section of your workout, when your body is still fresh, and you can fully focus on performing the techniques properly.

Handstand Progressions

  • Handstand Kick Ups – Help you gain confidence, establishing a good handstand entry.
  • Handstand Wall Holds – Train your balance, but mainly wrist and shoulder strength and flexibility.
  • Frog Stands – Develop your balance and wrist strength and flexibility.

Muscle-Up Progressions

  • Low Bar transition work – Reinforces the motion of a muscle up, to ensure the transition from below to above the bar, is smooth and efficient.
  • Jumping Muscle Ups – Give you the feel of a bar muscle up, whilst allowing you to develop your strength.

Planche Progression

  • Pseudo Planche – Allows you to develop the wrist and shoulder strength and flexibility needed for a planche, without needing the extreme core strength for a full planche.
  • Frog Stands – Frog Stands also help develop the wrist strength and flexibility needed for the planche.
  • Tuck Planche – A progression on from frog stands.This can be further developed into the straddle planche.

L-Sit Progression

  • Seated L-sits – Reduces the resistance, so you develop core strength, with just the weight of your legs.
  • Tucked leg Bar L-sits – The next progression, as you have to hold your whole bodyweight, but it’s easier than a full L-sit.
  • Hanging leg raise holds– Takes advantage of the hanging leg raise momentum to get into the L-sit position. Holding the return for a few seconds, develops static core strength.

Strength Fundamentals

These are the foundation of a good calisthenics workout. The key exercises that develop your body, and get you ready for some of the more advanced exercises. It’s really important to focus on correct technique, which ensures maximum results as you develop.

As a beginner it’s key to work the whole body in each workout, rather than split your workouts into specific muscle groups. This provides the greatest chance of anatomical adaption and also ensures you aren’t missing any muscle groups. A rest period of 3 minutes between sets is a good rule of thumb.

Once comfortable at these reps, use a weighted vest to keep your rep range to around 3-8 reps, for maximum strength gains.

Workout A

  • 20 Squats
  • 10 Pull-ups
  • 10 Standard Push-ups
  • 10 Hanging leg raises
  • 10 Burpees
  • 10 Bench Dips
  • 1 minute rest

Repeat this cycle 6 times

Workout B

  • 8 Diamond Push-ups
  • 10 Biceps Pull-ups
  • 12 Inverted Rows
  • 20 Jumping Lunges
  • 30 second Plank
  • 1 minute rest

Repeat this cycle 5 Times

Workout C

  • 5 Pistol Squats on each leg
  • 5 Incline Push-ups
  • 5 Clap Push-ups
  • 5 Narrow Grip Pull-ups
  • 20 Burpees
  • 30 seconds rest

Repeat this cycle 5 Times

Workout D

  • 15 Squat Jumps
  • 15 Wide Arm Push-ups
  • 15 Parallel Bar or Ring Dips
  • 15 Leg Raises
  • 10 Windshield Wipers
  • 30 seconds side plank on each side
  • 1 minute rest

Repeat this cycle 4 Times

Workout E

  • 50 meter Duck Walk
  • 15 Box/Bench Jumps
  • 10 Push-ups
  • 10 Inverted Rows
  • 10 Pull-ups
  • 15 Leg Raises
  • 50 second Plank
  • 1 minute rest

Repeat this cycle 4 times


Stretch the muscles you have worked, after every session. If you skip this, you’ll not only regret it the next day, but you’ll also hinder your progress. Flexibility is key in most body-weight movements. Check out this video for a great guide to the best stretches for calisthenics.

This plan provides enough variety, to build a 6 week program using these daily workouts. Aim for 2-5 sessions per week, depending on your existing level of fitness.

Simply pick your warm up and mobilisation exercises; select a couple of skills based on your personal goals; move on to one of the strength fundamentals workouts; and then finish with stretches.

This is designed to be a high intensity program, so perform all of the strength fundamentals as quickly as possible, only resting in the dedicated rest intervals. Take your time with the skills and stretching, as these sections are not about intensity.

You’ll probably find your body hurts, as a result of the new stimulus, this is normal. There are a few common pains beginners experience, due to calisthenics workouts. These can be dealt with. Here are a few, and our tips on how to control them:

  • Sore hands/ calluses from bar work – We recommend a good set of pull-up leather gloves to reduce friction on the hands.
  • Muscle aching in legs – Can really be helped by a session on a good quality foam roller. Not only does the foam roller reduce tension, but it can flush out lactic acid and other exercise bi-products.
  • Wrist aches – Many of the above movements place a lot of pressure on the wrists, and until they are stronger, they may ache. Regular wrist stretches and mobility work help, as well as a good set of wrist wraps.


Fuel your body correctly with a clean diet, good hydration (minimum 2 litres of water a day) and plenty of quality sleep (aim for 8 hours) for optimal recovery.

As someone doing calisthenics, we strongly suggest two pieces of equipment so you can workout anywhere: 1) gymnastic rings and 2) parallette bars. These two pieces of equipment will let you expand your workout program a lot more to do hundreds of different exercises. Both can be ordered from our online store:

Good luck with your first step into the calisthenics world!

Are you seeking the best calisthenics exercise for beginners? By pure fluke, we have just met PureGym personal trainer and fitness lover Kasumi Miyake (@kaypuregym) and she would be delighted to tell you her top tips on the best calisthenics workouts. You’ll be building a stronger, more mobile body in no time.

“Calisthenics comes from ancient Greek word ‘kallos’, which means ‘beauty’ and ‘sthenos’ meaning strength. In simple terms, calisthenics is resistance training using your own bodyweight,” Kasumi explains.

“You might’ve comes across people doing calisthenics in parks, showing off their super human strength and performing things like the human flag, planche, muscle ups, front lever and pistol squats. It’s pretty impressive and – considering you don’t need a gym – it’s a great way to get into shape and build new skills without the outlay,” she explains.

But what is the best way to start calisthenics?

“Start with the basics. As with any skill, it’s good practice to nail the simple stuff first and gradually build up to some of those previously mentioned mega moves. Nailing down good habits and good form early on in your calisthenics journey will only help you reap benefits and help you to progress faster.”

  • Check out this ace push-pull workout. It only takes two days a week.
  • Best exercises for beginners – get fit in 2020
  • Best ab rollers: they may look simple but using these is the fast-track to having a six pack

6 moves to get you going


Build strength in the lower back, posterior chain and lower body with a simple round of bodyweight squats. Stand feet shoulder-width apart and keeping the back flat, hinge at the hips and lower your bottom towards the ground as if you were about to be seated. Pause at the bottom of the move, when thighs are parallel with the ground, now engage your core, glutes and leg muscles and drive through the heels of your feet to standing position. Repeat.


This simple but hugely effective move will build a rock-solid upper body and give you the strength to take calisthenics training to the next level. Grab a solid bar (or branch or piece of park apparatus) with an overhand grip. Ensure feet are off the ground and bodyweight is controlled by the upper body only. Now pull the shoulder blades back and down towards your posterior, pulling your chin above the bar or branch. Lower to the start position and repeat. If this is too tricky, seek help with a friend of resistance bands, which can be looped around the bar to assist in the upward motion.

Kay from PureGym has got top tips for becoming a Calisthenics master

(Image credit: PureGym)

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It doesn’t get simpler than this, but the humble push-up (when performed correctly) activates the chest, back muscles, abs and muscles in the legs. It’s absolutely;y brilliant for building base strength. If you want to know how to perform a push-up properly, read our extensive guide here.


Similar to the push-up, the plank activates various major muscle groups and encourages all of those small stabilising muscles to get firing. Build these diminutive groups and you’ll be able to perform much more complex bodyweight exercises in the future. From a push-up position, lower onto your forearms, keep the back flat and glutes activated. Stay in this position for 30-60 seconds and don’t let the hips sag or your butt to shoot towards the sky.

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Inverted Row

This is a slightly more advanced move and will require a solid bar that’s positioned around hip height or just above. It works best using a Smith machine in the gym, but it’s possible to find this kind off apparatus in a local park. Grab the bar with an overhand grip and extend your legs straight out in front. The move requires you to pull – or row- your chest towards the bars using your arm, back and chest muscles. Engage the powerful shoulders by pinning them back and bringing them down towards your butt.

Bench Dips

A true tricep killer, this move can be performed on a gym bench, park bench or any old bench. Sit with back facing bench and place palms on the flat surface. Lower the body by bending your elbows, keeping them close to the sides. Repeat.

Advanced calisthenics studies

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When it comes to developing an out-of-this-world physique as a woman, it can be quite a challenge.

Do you stick to straight cardio? Will weights make you bulky?

What do you need to work on to develop that aesthetic look while also being powerful?

All of these questions can actually be answered with one word — calisthenics.

Bodyweight movements that you can do on your old schoolyard jungle gym are super effective at building the body of your dreams.

And whether you’re a complete newbie to calisthenics or you can push- and pull-up with all the confidence, these exercises will turn you into an absolute warrior.

In this article, we’ll go over what calisthenics are, why they’re advantageous to include in your workout as a lady, what the best movements are for beginners, and whether or not you need any special equipment.

At the end, we’ll give you an epic full-body calisthenics workout routine you can use to build an amazing physique.

Let’s cut the chit-chat and get rolling!

What Are Calisthenics?

Calisthenics are, quite literally, “gymnastic exercises to achieve bodily fitness and grace of movement.” (Trust us, Google it.)

These are the movements that improve your skills and body composition to perform various functions your body was built for.

This includes the most fundamental motions — including pushing, pulling, bending, standing, grasping, running, and more.

Sadly, the 21st century doesn’t involve a lot of natural environments or chances to go out and simply use your body to create an incredibly flexible, strong, impressive physique.

But this isn’t an excuse for you…you’re an athletic woman! With the workout we outline below, you’ll be able to create a body that is in tune with its natural tendencies.

What Are the Benefits of Calisthenics for Women?

Because calisthenic movements are so fundamental, there are tons of advantages to using them in your regular training routine.

Here are the major benefits of training with calisthenics as a woman:

  • Minimal equipment: The beauty of calisthenics is in their simplicity. A mere collection of bars should suffice for any and all bodyweight movements. Having one higher up for pulling, another bar closer to the ground for other pulling and pushing, and maybe a vertical one for some advanced movements…that’s it. Oh, and a wall. Boom! Done.
  • Anywhere, anytime: Due to the minimal equipment, this means you can work out from anywhere with these bars. You can create your own personal gym in your backyard (additional benefit: working out outside with the sunshine and fresh air), or you can go to the local park with a play structure. This also removes the construct of time, meaning you have little to no excuses to not train on the regular. Accountability at its finest!
  • Most natural: As we said before, these movements involve only your bodyweight. In fact, you’re moving your body through planes, not moving another object through space. This basic act of pushing, pulling, squatting, and running your body from one place to another is incredibly natural — it’s what our bodies were born to do. If you decide to use calisthenics as your main training style, you’ll be doing your DNA a kindness. (Plus, they’re all compound exercises, meaning you use numerous muscle groups to perform them…just as your instincts intended.)
  • Increased strength/body composition: Yes, you can still gain muscle and lose fat with only calisthenics! Thank goodness. And not only is it strength you’re building, it’s relative strength, meaning you’re getting stronger relative to your body’s weight. This is still resistance training, but the resistance is how much you weigh. So, by using progressive overload and increased tension — which we’ll get into in the workout below — you can build an outstanding body with a few bars and a wall. (And yes, you can progress; the variations are practically endless!)
  • You look like a badass: Not only will your body be epic-looking, but you’ll turn heads when you’re doing the calisthenics as well. When you progress to the more advanced movements in the calisthenics lexicon, you’ll be performing crazy things like muscle-ups, explosive pistol squats, planches (or planche push-ups), one-armed pull-ups, handstand push-ups (unassisted), and maybe even human flags. The possibilities are endless, plus they’re super fun! Look, feel, and show off like the athletic warrior that you have the potential to be.

As you can see, calisthenics for women is the clear #1 choice for developing a jaw-dropping physique. With all of these terrific benefits, you’ll notice the difference almost immediately.

What Are the Best Bodyweight Exercises for Beginners?

If you’re just starting out on your calisthenics journey, don’t feel intimidated. Everyone begins at square one.

Lucky for you, square one for calisthenics involves some of the most basic exercises known to humans. (No doubt you’ve already tried your hand at them before.)

These are the best bodyweight exercises to create your first calisthenics training plan:

  • Push-ups (or push-up variations)
  • Pull-ups (or pull-up variations)
  • Bodyweight squats or assisted pistol squats
  • Australian rows (suspend your body beneath a horizontal bar, row your body up)
  • Dips
  • Pike push-ups
  • Glute-hamstring raises
  • Walking lunges
  • Sprints
  • Crunches (or crunch variations)

If you can’t rep push-ups or pull-ups, don’t worry: You can always use assistance whenever necessary, then build up to doing them on your own.

Otherwise, practice proper form and a full range of motion.

Get comfortable with these movements because they’re going to be your bread and butter for when you continue onto harder variations.

Which Calisthenics Are Best for Burning Fat? What About Building Muscle?

There aren’t different exercises that are good for burning fat and not good for building muscle (and vice versa). What you have to alter is the manner in which you perform these exercises.

For burning fat, you want to focus on improving your aerobic performance.

This includes things like metabolic conditioning (see: CrossFit), low-intensity steady state cardio (LISS), and, the crowd favorite, high-intensity interval training (HIIT). With calisthenics, you can do any of these methods for losing body fat, but the best one by far is HIIT.

There are certain exercises that are ideal for doing an HIIT workout.

Basic push-ups, pull-ups, bodyweight squats, dips, Australian rows, and sprints are wonderful because you can swap between them all with relative ease. You can essentially do push-ups for 45 seconds, rest for 15 seconds, then go into a 45-second set of pull-ups.

You’ll want fast sets, short rest periods, and intense reps. It’s also prevalent to circuit these movements, as it will elicit a full-body response and keep body parts from fatiguing prematurely.

Doing all of these in a row, then going for three or four rounds, will have you breathing hard and sweating heavily.

(Note: For true fat loss, your diet needs to be dialed in along with this type of workout. The same goes for building muscle.)

As for gaining muscle mass, you’ll want slower sets, more time under tension, and progressive overload. In this case, the calisthenics workout will look more like a traditional resistance training protocol. Think StrongLifts, reverse pyramid or pyramid, and other methods like isometrics and slow eccentric movements.

Again, most of the calisthenics out there are great for eliciting muscle growth. For a complete muscle building workout — that will also burn body fat, considering additional muscle leads to a higher basal metabolic rate — check out the one we’ve provided below.

Setting Up for Calisthenics: Do You Need Equipment?

As we mentioned in the benefits section, you need minimal equipment for calisthenics. A simple setup of bars and a free wall is pretty much the key.

If you want a freestanding pull-up bar, a wall-mounted pull-up bar, or a Power Tower, check out our articles on all three. (They also tell you how to set them up.)

You can always use your local park or your gym; they should all have pull-up and dip bars. Always practice safe movements and stick within your current ability as an athlete.

You can still injure yourself with only your bodyweight, so know yourself and go forth with the notion that you’re trying to build your body UP, not break it DOWN.

Calisthenics Workout for Women

This is the best calisthenics workout you can do to both build muscle and strip away fat. Plus, this workout isn’t only for women; men can also get a lot out of these exercises and methods.

Here’s the workout:


This workout seems basic as hell, but hear us out: It’s ALL about the progression of the movements, as well as feeling the tension in the muscle groups.

The first one, progressive overload, is how you get stronger with calisthenics (and with great strength comes great muscle definition).

What you do is you pick a variation of the movement, like a push-up or a decline push-up, and you perform three sets within the rep range.

Once you can do all three sets at 10 reps, you can move up to a more difficult variation of the push-up, like a deeper decline or assisted one-arm push-ups.

You can continue to do this for the push-up, the pull-up, the pike push-up (which turns into a handstand), and the squat.

As for the dips and Australian rows, this is where time under tension comes into play.

For these sets, you don’t progress as fast with the variations (like adding weight or increasing/decreasing the angle of the exercise) but that doesn’t mean you don’t feel super sore after.

Taking the Australian row as an example, you start by hanging below the bar, hands shoulder-width apart and holding the bar. Raise your body — which is straight as an arrow — to the bar, then slowly, slowly lower it back down to the bottom.

This should take at least four seconds. Lastly, before bottoming out (i.e., coming to a complete hang), switch directions and come back up.

This 4-0-1-0 approach (where you spend four seconds in the eccentric, zero at the bottom, one second in the concentric, zero at the top) will dramatically boost the time under tension, meaning your muscles get more bang for each and every rep.

Time under tension tackles another way you can increase muscle (which, one more time, will also burn body fat).

Do this workout as often as possible throughout the week, making it a habit and gradually getting better and progressing at the movements.

In as little as four weeks, you should feel and see changes in your body composition (with a proper nutrition plan, of course).


You are totally equipped for calisthenics, whether you’re male, female, or otherwise. Not only that, calisthenic movements are pivotal to developing a rock-solid, athletic aesthetic.

They can help you build muscle and burn fat (hell, even at the same time!), as well as turn you into a natural, flexible badass.

Be in complete control of your body. All women — and men, for that matter — should respect their bodies for themselves, and calisthenic workouts are an excellent way to manifest that respect.

Take a look at the workout we provided again, find out how to set up your own calisthenics jungle gym, and start playing with the movements.

In no time at all, your body composition will transform…and your thoughts on working out in general might change dramatically as well.

Training will become play; then, you’ll be an unstoppable warrior!

Women’s calisthenics routine guide

If you want to get a sexy and fit body, strength training must be in your workout routine. It helps to shape and build your muscles, supports your weight loss and keeps your body healthy. One way is lifting weights or using various machines. They work, but calisthenics for women might be an even better option for many reasons.

What are the benefits for girls?

  • Since we are talking about bodyweight training, you do not need to go to the gym since you can have a total body training at home. With that, you can save money and time. You need something to hang on and for that, a cheap doorframe pull up bar will do. Although, I suggest to have a pull-up dip station since you will be able to do all the exercises comfortably.
  • Calisthenics helps you to build functional strength. That means you can develop such a power that you can use in daily activities. You will be able to lift heavier things easier, climb the stairs or a tree. 🙂 Just think about the chin up or pull up how strong back they make for you.
  • It also supports your weight loss. Almost all the calisthenics exercises are compound moves. That means more than one muscles group is activated during the motion. This way your body needs to burn more calories. Also, because of the more working muscles, your body needs more oxygen so these exercises will improve your cardiovascular system as well.
  • People think that the only way we can build muscles is by lifting weights. But, your muscles do not care if the resistance comes from using weights or your bodyweight. They will grow and get stronger if you work them no matter which way you choose. Plus, calisthenics exercises are more natural moves to the body that we use every day. Hence, the risk of injury is lower as well.
  • Finally, there are tons of types of exercises for every muscle group, and each has simpler, intermediate and advanced variations. For example, the bodyweight squat, you can start with the support of a bench, then perform the regular squat, then you can go with the pistol squat when you use only one of your legs. Hence, bodyweight training for women is suitable for everyone from total beginners to someone who has been working out for some time.

And these are just a few of the benefits of calisthenics, but I think now you understand why this type of strength training is recommended.

Calisthenics for Women – The basics for beginners

There are a few basic bodyweight exercises that should be in your workout routine, and here we are going to focus on these. If you put these movements into your plan, you can have a full body training which is crucial. You should not neglect any body part.

Let’s see them.

1. Push-ups

The push up works your chest, shoulders, triceps and even your core. As a beginner, you may find it hard to perform one, but do not worry since you can start with easier variations until you get strong enough.

The easiest is the wall push up which is excellent for total beginners, for ladies who have never done press ups before.

The next is the knee push up which is close to the traditional one. If you can do more than 12-15 of it, you are ready for the regular one.

Although, it is essential to learn the correct form because that is the only way you will have the desired effect. Watch the video for the tutorial below.

Tips for women at better fitness level: If you feel the traditional press ups do not give you enough resistance anymore, you can learn a lot of push up variations here.

2. Bodyweight squats for the lower body

While the squat seems to be an exercise that works the muscles of your thighs, it does far more than that. It shapes your hamstrings, butt, core and develops your endurance.

If you are not strong enough to perform it correctly, start with the bench squat. So, you will be able to control the motion better.

Again, to get the best results, proper performance is vital. So follow this tutorial.

For advanced trainees: The beauty of calisthenics is that there are a lot of ways to modify an exercise to make it harder. You can learn many bodyweight squat variations here, and even more calisthenics leg exercises here.

3. Pull up /chin ups

Well, maybe these are the hardest exercises for most of the girls since we have to pull our entire body weight. But, there are many moves and techniques you can do to prepare your body. The pull up/chin up are very beneficial moves that make you back, arms, shoulder and even your core strong and shaped. So, it is worth to work for it.

From the following video, you can learn five moves and advice that help you make your first pull up.

One excellent move that is not included in the tutorial is the inverted bodyweight row. Since the weight of your lower body is on the ground, it is not as hard as the regular pull up, but it works almost the same muscles.

Advice for everyone: Learn how to do pull-ups correctly, and how to avoid typical mistakes here.

4. Dips

The dip is a fantastic compound exercise strengthening and toning your shoulders and arms. Like pull-ups, it is hard to perform dips on parallel bars since you have to lift your total body weight. But, you can start with an easier variation.

That is the bench dip when your lower body is placed on the ground, so you “just” lift the weight of your upper body.

Once, you can do more than 10 bench dips; you may want to try the parallel bar dip. Watch the tutorial below.

Notice: If you lean forward more, there is more load on your chest and front shoulder muscles.

5. Bodyweight core exercises

In most of the cases, we do core training with the help of our bodyweight like sit-ups, crunches, rotations, planks, etc.

However, there is an important thing that is you have to work your entire core. That means your lower back, lower and upper abs and oblique.

For the lower back, the hyperextension exercise on the floor is a good one to start with, but you can learn more bodyweight lower back exercises here.

For your lower abs those moves are the best that requires your lower body to lift such as leg raises. You can start with beginner’s leg lifts on the floor. But, to get v-cut midsection, hanging leg/knee raises on the bar are the killer ones. Although, they are for intermediate trainees.

For the upper abs, crunches will do.

For training your internal and external oblique various rotational moves are the most effective such as Russian twist, but you can learn different standing abs exercises here.

For advanced trainees: Find more calisthenics abs workouts here.

Women’s beginner bodyweight workout

If you put the mention exercises into a plan, you will have a workout that trains your entire body at once which is advised for a newbie.

With that, it is enough to have 2-3 workouts per a week. Per workout, you have just a few sets, but at the end of the week they will add up.

Here is a sample calisthenics workout for women, but you can find more beginner workouts here.

Calisthenics for beginners

Best female calisthenics workout

Notice: Obviously, intermediate and advanced level ladies can have a split routine when one or two particular muscle group is targeted at one session.

To sum up

I hope you find this guide to calisthenics for women useful, and you understood the basics. I’m a big fan of bodyweight workouts. I believe it is an excellent method to build beautiful and strong female body. Try it, and you will see it is better than weights. Need motivation? Find female calisthenics transformation pictures here.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask below.

Sharing is caring!

The fitness industry has experienced a rise in popularity in recent times. Terms such as “girls that squat” has become a proud tag on social media.

Females wanting to be ‘strong not skinny’ is one of our favorites. But one misconception is that you need to lift weights to become strong.

This definitely isn’t true, and women who are performing workouts based around calisthenics prove this.

For this reason, we’ve put together the best calisthenic exercises.

Calisthenics Workout For Women

The official definition of ‘calisthenics’ is this; gymnastic exercises to achieve bodily fitness and grace of movement.

But all you need to know is that it’s a workout that doesn’t involve weights.

Can you can be strong without lifting weights?

The answer to this question is ‘of course’. In fact, the U.S military use calisthenic exercises to evaluate how fit and strong their soldiers are.

To prove our point; a weightlifter might be able to bench press over 200 lbs, but they’ll struggle with chin-ups if they aren’t used to it.

But don’t get us wrong; it’s certainly beneficial to lift weights, we’re not arguing that point.

As this article focuses around calisthenics though, we’re only concerned about the benefits of body-weight exercises here.

Here’s a list of the most common calisthenic exercises:

  • Box Jumps
  • Crunches
  • Dips
  • Calf-Raises
  • Jumping Jacks
  • Lunges
  • Leg Raises
  • Push-Ups
  • Pull-Ups
  • Plank
  • Sit-Ups
  • Squat Jumps

Higher Volume

We’ve mentioned this in past articles before, but for those that don’t know; women have a high pain tolerance in the gym.

How does this benefit us? Answer: it allows us to recover faster between sets and perform higher volume workouts.

In fact, a study proved that women are MUCH better at performing higher volume than men.

For example, if a women trained at high volume at 90% of their 1RM for 3-4 weeks, then her body would respond positively. However, a man would burn-out and be at higher risk of sustaining injuries.

For this reason, calisthenics workouts are ideal for females; as you’re not using weights here, you’ll need to increase the volume to reach the ideal training intensity.

Let’s get started!

Anyway, now that you know what ‘calisthenics’ means, and what these workouts are all-about.

We’ve put together a list of the best exercises below – to help you build strength, and achieve that bikini body you’ve always wanted.

Calisthenics Workout Routine

1. Box Jumps

This is probably the most popular jump variation. It’s great for working your lower body – helping you to sculpt your dream legs and glutes.

As we mentioned, you’ll be performing high volume throughout this workout – so expect to get your sweat on!

What to do:

  • 4 sets of 10 reps
  • 1 minute rest between sets

2. Push Ups

You’ll be feeling the burn on your legs after that last exercise. So we’re bringing the focus to your upper body with push ups.

Again, aim for high volume. But if you’re new to training in the gym, then simply perform as many as you can.

What to do:

  • 4 sets of 10 reps
  • 1 minute rest between sets

3. Dips

We’re looking fto hit your upper-body again here.

Dips are a compound exercise, meaning it’s perfect for targeting numerous muscles groups at once.

What to do:

  • 4 sets of 10 reps
  • 1 minute rest between sets

4. One-Legged Squat

Back to a lower-body exercise. This is also known as a ‘pistol squat’ and are great for training your strength and balance.

It might look easy on pictures. But you’ll be struggling when you begin your first set…

If you’re unable to perform this one-legged squats, then get some lunges done instead.

What to do:

  • 4 sets of 10 reps each leg
  • 1 minute rest between sets

5. Chin Ups

This is the last exercise on this list, and you’ll be glad to give your legs a rest after those one-legged squats (or lunges).

You might not be able to perform many chin-ups at first. But don’t worry, you’ll build up your strength and become a pro in no-time!

What to do:

  • 4 sets until failure
  • 1 minute rest between sets

Summary: Calisthenic Workout For Women

As we mentioned, calisthenics workouts are great for building your strength up – especially if you’ve recently embarked on your fitness journey.

The fact that the U.S military use calisthenics exercises to determine the strength of their soldiers is great – it’s testimony to how demanding these workouts can be!

Not only that, as women, we can handle higher volume training (and pain tolerance in the gym) than men. Calisthenics allow us to take this advantage and get better results.

Bottom Line: Calisthenics exercises are body-weight only. This places less stress on your joints, and still helps you achieve your dream bikini body.

What Is Calisthenics (and Should You Be Doing It)?

Photo: microgen/

Does “calisthenics” make you think of people in retro tracksuits doing push-ups during gym class or military basic training? SAME. For whatever reason, in the modern-day era of über trendy fitness, the word “calisthenics” has gotten left a few decades behind. In reality, calisthenics is an important part of every single person’s fitness routine-and, actually, you’re probably already doing them on the regular.

So What Is Calisthenics, Anyways?

At the most basic level, “calisthenics is resistance training with your own bodyweight,” says Autumn Calabrese, Beachbody super trainer and creator of 80 Day Obsession. It’s designed to improve strength, flexibility, agility, balance, coordination, and aerobic conditioning-just about every skill you need to be a fit human being.

“It is an art form of using your own bodyweight as a means to maximize human power and athletic ability,” says Tee Major, a U.S. military fitness instructor and author of Urban Calisthenics. The fundamental goal of calisthenics should be mastering control over lifting and moving your body in space, he says.

Squats, push-ups, lunges, crunches, dips, jumping jacks, broad jumps, handstands-yep, all calisthenics.

And, considering it’s the simplest form of exercise (no fancy equipment necessary), it’s been around for a really freaking long time. “Even though calithenics is being talked about today like it’s a new phenomenon, this ancient precursor for war has been around since the Greeks coined the term ages ago, from the words kallos, which means ‘beauty’ and sthénos, meaning ‘strength,'” says Major.

However, there’s a new flavor of calisthenics gracing the modern era: Competitive calisthenics (sometimes called street workout or street-sport calisthenics) is a rapidly growing international sport that includes elements of dance, acrobatics, and gymnastics. (Read more: Urban Fitness League Is the Badass New Sport You Need to Know About.)

But you don’t need to go near a competition to have an excuse to work calisthenics into your routine. Here’s why calisthenics or bodyweight workouts are worth taking a break from the dumbbells.

The Benefits of Calisthenics Workouts

You don’t need any equipment. The beauty of calisthenics is that you can do it anywhere, anytime-all you need is your body. “It’s one of the only ways to build mass and strength without the use of weights,” says Calabrese. Read: You officially have no excuse not to work out. (See: This Beginner Bodyweight Workout Video Will Help You Build a Solid Fitness Foundation)

You can build serious strength. You might be thinking: “How, if you’re not hoisting barbells or dumbbells?” But you can accomplish a lot using just your own bodyweight, says Calabrese. If you’re a 150-lb woman doing a bodyweight pull-up, you’re effectively lifting 150 lbs.

It’s true that “you will reach a certain max point of muscle growth with calisthenics because muscle mass comes from progressive resistance, and there will only ever be so much resistance provided by your own body,” says Calabrese, but that’s where getting creative comes into play. Use elevated surfaces to change the angle of exercises, increasing the percentage of bodyweight that you’re lifting. Use vertical surfaces (i.e. walls and poles) to challenge your body in new ways, and recruit your core like you wouldn’t believe (human flagpole, anyone?). Go faster, slower, longer, upside down, or increase your range of motion to keep provoking physical and mental adaptions.

You’ll move better IRL. Since calisthenics is all about moving your body in space, it’s the ultimate kind of functional movement training. “Functional training means training in a way that will directly enhance the way you perform everyday life tasks or particular physical requirements of your work or sport,” says Major.

You likely maintain better form. “When using free weights or machines, you can continue to progress your strength and muscle mass; however, people often end up using too much resistance on a machine or weights that are too heavy and that leads to compensating, meaning you don’t execute the exercise properly using the correct muscles,” says Calabrese. Calisthenics gives you the necessary solid base of strength for when/if you do incorporate external resistance into your training. “If you can’t lift your body weight you definitely shouldn’t be trying to lift more on a machine.”

You hit every. single. muscle. “Calisthenics involves using the entire body and not emphasizing certain muscles over others,” says Major. “What I’m talking about is strength from the bottom of your feet to the tips of your fingers.”

You’ll be gentler on your joints and connective tissue. Resistance training-when performed incorrectly, with too-heavy weights, too often, or in a way that creates imbalances-can put extra stress on soft tissue structures like your tendons, ligaments, and fascia, says Major. Calisthenics, on the other hand, “only develops strength and size in proportion to your muscular system with authentic and natural movements.” (Related: 8 Essential Exercises to Correct Common Body Imbalances)

You improve your brain-body connection. “Calisthenics training develops those fine motor skills that require your brain to work hard as well as your body,” says Major. “Coordination, speed, power, acceleration, strength, quickness, and agility, are all actions that are demonstrated by a body trained in the art of calisthenics.” Think of a gymnast: It takes a lot of strength, flexibility, and stamina to perform these movements, says Calabrese, not to mention unbelievable coordination.

You’ll feel like a badass. Yes, really. “There is an unmistakable swagger about someone who knows that they have total control over their body,” says Major. Truth: Executing a super heavy deadlift or hoisting a massive kettlebell overhead can make you feel super badass, but so does banging out plyo push-ups or being able to pull off a one-arm pull-up.

Calisthenics Exercises to Master

The options are endless, but it’s crucial to get these five basic movements down pat before you try to progress. (Also see: Jen Widerstrom Shares the Bodyweight Moves Every Woman Should Master.)

Beginner Calisthenics Exercises

  • Push-Up: Works the chest, triceps, and shoulders while strengthening the core in a plank.
  • Plank: Builds stability and strength in everything below the chest and above the glutes.
  • Lunge: Builds strength and mobility in the lower body.
  • Burpee: Getting down and up off the ground is useful to practice and also does wonders for your heart, says Major. (Beginners, try half burpees: no push-up, no jump.)

Advanced Calisthenics Exercises

  • L-Sit: This under-the-radar move is taken from gymnastics, and is great for building shoulder stability and upper-body and core strength.
  • Pull-Up:Works the back and biceps while strengthening the core.
  • Burpee:Getting down and up off the ground is useful to practice and also does wonders for your heart, says Major.
  • Single-leg Squat: Also called a pistol squat, this move will challenge your balance, mobility, and leg strength.

Try These Calisthenics Workouts

  • Bodyweight Ladder Workout:This work is ladder style; you pick a selection of bodyweight exercises perform 10 repetitions of an exercise, then nine, all the way down to one.
  • Bodyweight WOD:Choose between a beginner, standard, and advanced CrossFit-inspired WOD
  • Burpee Build-Up: Alexia Clark (trainer and creator of the Fit for a Reason program) created a calisthenics workout that’ll help you get better at crushing burpees.
  • Bodyweight HIIT Workout: This creative HIIT bodyweight workout has moves you’ve probably never done before—every single one of which will work your core.
  • By Lauren Mazzo @lauren_mazzo

What are Bodyweight Exercises?

Bodyweight exercises are some of the most common and beneficial exercises that you can do. These exercises do not use free weights or any other type of machine or equipment. Rather, the person exercising uses his or her own bodyweight as the sole form of resistance for the workout. By including bodyweight exercises in your regular fitness routine, such as pull-ups, push-ups, crunches, and lunges, you can strengthen your body without needing a gym, outside tools or equipment of virtually any kind. Read on for a brief overview of these exercises and how they benefit you.

The Benefits of Bodyweight Exercises

Bodyweight exercises are beneficial for a number of reasons. First, they typically do not require the use of outside machines and equipment, meaning that they can be performed at home or in an area without a gym. There are some exceptions to this rule (for instance, pull-ups do require a hanging bar on which to lift yourself), but most bodyweight exercises can be done virtually anywhere and at any time.

Additionally, bodyweight exercises are helpful for both strengthening your various muscle groups and also for honing and sculpting your muscles as well. Depending upon the breakdown of repetitions and the type of exercises that you can do, you can work to build both your strength and your muscle shape, or one of the two.

Bodyweight exercises are in many cases much less likely to result in injury as compared with other types of exercises. For instance, the risk of dropping a heavy weight onto your body is completely eliminated. Additionally, it’s more difficult to overexert your muscles due to a massive weight, as you will be working with your own bodyweight only.

How to Perform Bodyweight Exercises Effectively

Depending upon what you’re trying to gain from exercising, you’ll adjust your bodyweight workout accordingly. For instance, increasing the number of repetitions that you do tends to add to total strength and endurance. If you’re interested in improving strength additionally, you might look toward performing the exercises in slightly different manners or by working out at the extreme ranges of motion. This typically means that you work out with your legs or arms either fully extended or mostly drawn into you so that you’re forced to exercise different types of muscles than you would normally.

When performing bodyweight exercises, it’s important to recognize that you can still cause yourself injury and other damage. Therefore, you should always remember to stretch out carefully both before and after your workout. As with any other form of exercise, it’s also a good idea to drink plenty of water while you exercise.

Tools like a bosu, which is a portion of an exercise ball mounted on top of a flat base, can be helpful in changing the resistance levels of your bodyweight exercises or in adding an additional element of challenge, like balance. For more information about how to augment your bodyweight exercises, speak with a trainer at a gym.

Even if you don’t pay monthly dues at the gym or have a dedicated workout area at home, you still have the only tool you need to get in the best shape of your life: your own body. Doing bodyweight movements, like squats and push-ups, during high-intensity interval training (HIIT), is a super-effective workout—and one that’s nearly equipment-free. If you have sneakers and a timer, you’re ready to go.

So what’s HIIT? “It’s a method of training in which you perform an exercise at your all-out, maximum effort for a short period of time, then follow it with a brief rest period,” explains Daphnie Yang, a certified personal trainer and the creator of HIIT IT!, a NYC-based fitness class. “By repeating this over and over again you create intervals of spiking your heart rate up balanced with recovery.” Even if you can’t run a mile without stopping, chances are, you can sprint in place for 30 seconds. You’ll need to push yourself, but only for short, manageable periods of time.

To get the most out of your bodyweight workout, focus on exercises that use multiple muscle groups at once. “They are more effective at raising your heart rate since they are using so much of the body at once, and they help you achieve benefits quicker than isolated strength-training exercises,” says Candice Seti, PhD, a personal trainer and nutrition coach. (Once you get the hang of it, interval training can totally transform your body. Here are 6 reasons you should stick it out.)

Here, trainers and fitness experts share 7 highly effective bodyweight moves that can help you reach your fitness goals. Don’t do them every single day, as your changing body and developing muscles need time to regroup. “It’s best to take a rest day, a weight training day, or cardio day in between if you really want to energize your results,” says Devan Kline, CEO, co-founder, and trainer at Burn Boot Camp.

(Supplement these moves with a customizable walking plan for maximum results. You’ll even get a free MP3 player!)


Liz Hronek

How to do it: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, then jump up and clap your hands above your head before bending down in a squat and jumping your feet behind you into push-up position. Lower down into a push-up, then come back up. Now jump your feet forward to your hands, stand (or jump up), and clap. (Don’t worry—they get easier. Here’s what happened when one woman did 30 burpees every day.)

Why it’s effective: The push-up engages your upper body, and the hopping gives you a burst of cardio, says Seti.

Check out how to do the perfect burpee:

Jump Squat

Liz Hronek

How to do it: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your chest lifted. Squat down, keeping your weight in your heels and your knees in line with your toes (not bowed inward or pushing in front of your knees). Make sure not to drop below your knees. You can add a jump at the top and sink straight down into the squat, or just do a standing squat to begin. ( boosts the toning power of a traditional squat using nothing more than your body weight.)

Why it’s effective: “Squats engage our lower body, which is key for building strength,” says Yang. “Lower body muscles make up some of the largest in your body, meaning more calorie burn.”

MORE: How To Do Squats And Lunges Without Killing Your Knees

Walk-Out Push-Ups

Joel Freeman

How to do it: “From a standing position with your feet hip-width apart, bend forward at the hips with a flat back and walk your hands into a high plank position,” Yang instructs. “Keep your hands outside your shoulder line to protect your elbows. Maintaining your flat back, gaze in front of your hands as you drop your chest to floor. Then imagine pushing the floor away from you as you walk your hands back toward your feet, standing all the way up.”

Why it’s effective: This movement does it all: “Walk-outs are fantastic upper body movements, as they push your muscles and condition them to endure, all while building your core stability training,” Yang says. (If you need help mastering a push-up, do these 5 moves.)


Joel Freeman

How to do it: Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Place your hands on your hips and angle your chest up. Now, step your right leg far enough forward to sink your body down without your front knee going in front of your toe. Make sure to maintain the same width between your feet as your right leg moves forward. At the same time, allow your back knee to bend toward the floor without actually touching—think of two 90-degree angles in your legs—and then push off your front foot back to standing. You can repeat the same movement stepping forward, and then alternate to the other leg.

Why it’s effective: Not only do lunges improve your balance, but they strengthen your coordination and also sculpt your lower-body muscles, Yang explains. (Two of the incredible benefits you’ll see by stretching every day.) While you might be wobbly at first, as you begin to trust your own strength, you will get to a point where you can jump to switch lunges.

MORE: 5 Exercises That Are Just As Effective As Lunges Without Killing Your Knees


Hero Images/Getty Images

How to do it: “Running sprints on a treadmill or outside is the most simple way to do HIIT (which has been proven to reverse aging) because you need next to nothing to get it done,” says Kyra Williams, CPT. She advises her clients to try five to 10 intervals of 60 seconds of flat-out running with 90 seconds of rest in between each interval. (Want to run for longer? Get started with this 8-week beginner’s plan.)

Why it’s effective: Sprints build your cardiovascular endurance, so they’ll get easier to do over time, and they improve your overall leg strength, too.

Skater Jump

Liz Hronek

How to do it: Start with your legs shoulder-width apart, and then hop to one side and balance on one leg, while your other leg is extended behind you. Now switch. As you become more advanced, you’ll be able to touch the floor each time you hop.

Why it’s effective: Skater jumps work to build agility and leg strength in one compound motion.

Prevention Premium: How To Get Rid Of Bra Fat, And Two More Fitness Updates You Need To Know

Mountain Climber

Liz Hronek

How to do it: Start in a high plank position, with your hands directly underneath your shoulders and your back in a straight line. Without pushing your bottom into the air, engage your core and start to bring one knee into your chest at a time. This should look like you’re running, but on your hands and knees.

Why it’s effective: Yang says this move is a go-to because it gets a lot done at one time—not only are you working on your cardio endurance, but you’re building abdominal and arm strength. (If your abs are on fire, you can gently strengthen your core with these 5 exercises.)

What is calisthenics?

If you’ve been around fitness circles for long enough, then it’s likely that you’ve heard of the term ‘calisthenics’, at some point. It is growing to become a popular form of exercise for many people, and many more swear by its benefits. So what is calisthenics? Well simply put, calisthenics is a form of exercise that consists of a variety of movements that are often performed with little to no equipment. It involves the use of your own bodyweight in order to carry out various kinds of exercises. These exercises make full use of your motor skills, with movement types such as pulling, bending, pushing or swinging the body in different kinds of ways to achieve certain body forms.

Thinking of it in this way, there are so many kinds of exercises that can be described as calisthenics. Pull-ups, push-ups, lunges, squats, dips and planks are typical calisthenics exercises. Within a proper calisthenics workout, they come in different variations, each designed to exercise different muscle groups of the body.

In essence, calisthenics is a form of exercise that makes full use of your weight to help you work out different parts of the body.

Where calisthenics started?

Step into a gym today and the first thing that you will notice is the countless machinery just waiting for you to get your exercise going. It is great that the wonders of science and technology have brought us this far and made our workout routines easier. However, have you ever wondered how people managed back in the day before there was any workout machinery?

The people of long ago relied on what they had; their own bodies. Some of the earliest known instances of calisthenics date back to around 400 B.C., when Greek soldiers would build body strength with calisthenics exercises.

While earliest practices were noted in Greece, it was far from the only country to apply the principles of calisthenics training. Shaolin monks in China back in 500 B.C. practiced calisthenics to strengthen their bodies, allowing them to ward off intruders if all peaceful resolutions failed. Calisthenics is in fact one of the oldest known types of training.

As an interesting fact, the word ‘calisthenics’ is actually derived from the Greek words ‘kalos’ and ‘sthenos’. ‘Kalos’ means ‘beautiful’, which refers to the pleasing aesthetic nature of the human body. The Greeks have always been fascinated with the human body; this can be seen in a lot of their scientific and artistic depictions of what they consider to be the perfect form. ‘Sthenos’ translates to ‘strength’, which refers to the mental courage, strength and determination.

Together, these two words describe calisthenics perfectly as the art of building your physique by mastering your own bodyweight.

The 4 best known benefits of calisthenics?

So what do people gain from a proper calisthenics training routine? There are a number of reasons why calisthenics is a preferable way to work out for many people.

1. Increased body strength and endurance

Every time you train, you are using the weight of your body to work out certain specific muscle groups. This makes the muscle groups stronger, and better able to support your body weight in return. Think of it as resistance training, which has been found to increase average energy expenditure by numerous studies.

The stronger your muscles get, the longer you can be able to hold certain positions and the more reps or sets of an exercise you can be able to do. It builds your overall endurance, allowing you to go the extra mile in your calisthenics training every time.

2. It improves the biomechanics of the body

Calisthenics teaches the body to be more balanced and better coordinated. Even your posture improves in the process. It is a form of gymnastics that needs you to balance to support various postures. Countless studies link this form of exercise to better motor coordination and body balance.

3. Better mental health

The best thing about calisthenics is the fact that it doesn’t benefit your body alone. Your mind stands to gain something from it as well. Once you become aware of what your body can do, it can be an enlightening and confidence boosting feeling. This form of exercise has also been linked to reduced depressive symptoms, meaning that it can uplift your mood drastically. This because a good calisthenics workout allows the body to release endorphins; and they effectively combat the effects of stress.

4. It is very affordable

You really don’t need any expensive machinery to get the most out of your calisthenics exercises. All you need is your body and a place for you to exercise it. That is all. It is a very affordable way to get your body fit without actually breaking the bank. Therefore we do not sell high expensive Calisthenics equipment.

How do you get into calisthenics?

Knowing everything that you do about calisthenics, it is understandable that you would want to know where to start. Getting into calisthenics is actually very easy. The following pointers should get you set right away.

  • Find a place to do your exercises

Since you don’t need any heavy machinery for a calisthenics workout, you can really exercise anywhere. A lot of calisthenics parks are on the rise and many of them could be a great location to get started. You could even do it in your backyard and still get the same benefits. Calisthenics parks is a worldwide map which you can find every park. Click here to see it.

  • Craft a simple beginner plan

Start with a simple routine that includes a limited set of exercises that can be carried out over a short period of time. Exercises like squats, planks, pushups, lunges, mountain climbers, leg raises, crunches and sit ups are great beginner exercises. Have about 3 to 4 cycles of 8 to 10 reps of about 5 or 6 different kinds of exercises before resting. As you continue to exercise, you can increase the intensity of each exercise and incorporate even more complex exercises in your routine.

Calisthenics is a tried and tested type of exercise that has served man for centuries. Just as the people from the days of old enjoyed its benefits, so can you! Put together a simple calisthenics workout routine and get started on your fitness journey today!

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Calisthenics has a big buzz around it in exercise circles, and with good reason. Let this calisthenics workout for beginners be your entry to the world of muscle ups and moves like the human flag… Calisthenics uses compound bodyweight exercises and focuses on increasing strength, fitness and flexibility. You can count on it being a legitimate type of workout since military organisations around the world use calisthenic exercises for baseline physical evaluations.

Using your bodyweight for resistance, performing calisthenics will have you pull, push, bend, jump and swing around to build functional – and aesthetic – muscles. So you feel fitter and look more pleasingly ripped.

One way to get disheartened quickly is to follow a plan from the buffest gals/blokes on Instagram. Sure, they work, but only if you have been working out for years. Otherwise, having to do three sets of eight pull ups will be challenging (or impossible) to perform as a beginner and you’ll lose motivation pretty rapidly.

You’re better off working up a base level of strength and losing some weight first, then head to the nearest street workout area in the park to do decline push ups with with big gals and guys. The below exercises use nothing more than your bodyweight and can be performed in a small, confined space like the living room.

  • Best running shoes: because you need to do cardio as well as resistance training
  • Best workout shoes – not essential for these exercises but you might want to consider a pair

Protein is key to muscle growth

You probably know that protein is the macronutrient you would like to consume a bit more if you would like to build muscle fast. Humans haven’t got protein reserves so you will have to continuously replenish yourself with protein in order to supply your muscles accordingly.

The most convenient way to take in protein is to to have a couple protein shakes a day, which is a combination of protein powder and water (or milk/milk substitute).

• Best cheap protein deals

If you are actively working out, you’ll need around 2 grams of protein per kilogram of bodymass per day.

Take some creatine too, that’ll help you feel more energetic during your workout. Creatine is one of the most scrutinised supplement in the world and has been proven to be 100% safe. It also works.

• Best cheap creatine deals

In case you need even more energy, you can consider taking some pre workout formulas too. Pre workout powders are a mix of active ingredients like caffeine and vitamins can help you focus even more in the gym. You can also get stimulant-free versions without any sugar or caffeine.

• Best cheap pre workout deals

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  • Best reusable water bottle

calisthenics workout for beginners – 5 bodyweight exercises to build strength at home

Before you start doing any exercises, make sure you’re all warmed up. Do 5-10 minutes of cardio which can be stationary run or a light jog around the block, just to get your heart rate up a bit.

Listening to music can also help you feel motivated throughout your workout. Streaming services like Amazon Music can supply you with all the music you might need to feel pumped all the way through your workout.

Many people (in fact, most of the people) listen to music one way or another during cardio or resistance workouts. Music can help you get into the zone easier and it also filters out distracting noises.

The only other thing you might need is a smartwatch for workout. These wearable devices can track calories burned and how hard you’re working your heart much more effectively than cheap fitness trackers – although Fitbit’s Coach app could prove inspiring. The more advanced running and gym watches mean you can analyse your workouts in more detail afterwards, and learn more about recovery time and training load.

  • Best headphones for exercising: keep yourself entertained during your workouts
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1. Mountain climbers

Muscles worked: abs, obliques, quads, hamstrings, deltoids, biceps, triceps and even the chest

Sets/Reps: Do 20 seconds three times

If you are doing one exercise only, make it mountain climbers. This exercise works pretty much your whole body, but especially your abs and obliques, your quads and hamstrings, and basically your whole upper body for stabilisation.

You start off in the standard push up position. To perform a mountain climber, pull your knees up to your chest, one at a time, in quick succession. You want to keep your body in a push up position all the way through the exercise, so don’t bob your hips up and down as you’re tucking your legs in.

Try to do mountain climbers as fast as you can without compromising on technique. It is a high-intensity exercise, after all. You’ll see that even 20 seconds of mountain climbers can be very tiring.

Calisthenics move: once you mastered mountain climbers, try hanging leg raises in the park

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(Image credit: Getty Images)

2. Walkout push up

Muscles worked: hamstrings, chest, triceps

Sets/reps: Do 3 sets of 10 reps

Starting position is you standing up, legs a little bit less then shoulder width apart. Bend over like you wanted to touch your toes, but instead, place your palms on the floor and walk forward with your arms until you reach the standard push up position.

Do a push up than walk back with your arms and straighten back up. That’s one rep.

Walkout push ups work both your pecs (chest muscles) and your shoulders too. Another benefit is the added hamstring stretch at the beginning of the movement.

Calisthenics move: Decline pushups will provide you with even more resistance (and you will look cooler too doing them).

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3. Stationary lunges

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Muscles worked: quads, glutes, calves, hamstring, core, inner thighs

Sets/Reps: Do 4 sets of 12 reps

Lunges work – not surprisingly – your legs the most, especially your quads and glutes, and what’s even better, there are a few different variations so you can keep your exercise sessions fresh. One you familiarised yourself with forward lunges, try reverse lunges or even side lunges.

The actual exercise is pretty straight forward: as you are standing straight, take a big step forward and bend your knee so your rear knee almost touches the floor. Then kick yourself back up with your front leg and return to your original position. Do the same with the other leg. Once you did both legs, that’s one rep.

Just as walkout push ups, lunges double up as a stretching exercise and it’s especially beneficial to move the inner thighs, an area often neglected by other exercises.

Calisthenics move: Try doing bodyweight squat and holds going into tuck jumps. Once you’re halfway down, hold the pose for 3-5 seconds, go deep and then push yourself up in the air. Guaranteed burn.

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4. Triceps box dip

Muscle areas activated: triceps, delts, pecs, upper back

Sets/Reps: Do 3 sets of 8 reps

Dips work your triceps and we all know that if you want bigger arms, you should concentrate on your triceps and not your biceps. Dips, and especially box dips, can be performed almost everywhere where there is an elevated surface, let it be a chair, a sofa, a low wall, anything.

Box dips are a dead-simple exercise and probably everyone knows how to do them. Rest your legs in front of you as you do your dips and concentrate on slow negative movement (as you go down) and explosive upward motion.

Calisthenics move: Bodyweight dips are one of the ultimate moves in calisthenics. They will work your arms like not many other exercise can but should you lean forward a bit, they can also work your pecs too. Killer move.

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5. Inverted rows

Muscle areas activated: all your back muscles, biceps, forearms, core

Sets/Reps: Do 3 sets of 8 reps

You don’t need dumbbells to work your biceps (it doesn’t hurt if you have a pair, though). All you need is a surface you can hang from with your legs extended in front of you. Ideally a bar of some sort, but any surface would do you can hang on to.

The starting position is you hanging onto the bar, heels on the floor, your back and legs straight – core engaged – arms a little further than shoulder width apart in a 90° angle to your body. Try underhand grip for maximum biceps activation.

To perform an inverted row, pull your body closer to the bar then straighten your arm again. As above, the negative movement (as straighten your arms) should be slow and the positive very energetic.

Calisthenics move: Muscle ups. It won’t be tomorrow when you can perform muscle ups and probably you should start off transitioning into doing pull ups/chin ups before you attempt muscle ups. Muscle ups are the ultimate power moves and a true achievement indeed.

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What is a calisthenic?

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