Tyler Sellers
Published by Tyler Sellers
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED

Just because you’re unable to go to the gym for your regular workout session doesn’t mean you shouldn’t break a sweat every now and then.

Fortunately for you, there is a little thing called calisthenics exercises that can be performed pretty much anywhere, as long as there is adequate space to move around in. By utilizing some of the best bodyweight exercises and targeting a specific muscle group with each dip, squat, lunge, push-up, and more - it is possible to sculpt your body with basically no expense.

In this article, we have explained every nook and cranny behind some of the best calisthenics exercises out there so that you can hopefully start building muscle and strength faster than anticipated.

Here's a complete list of calisthenics exercises that will serve as a great addition to your workout plan.

What Are The Benefits Of Calisthenics?

Calisthenics Dip Bars thumb

There are a number of health benefits you can experience while performing Calisthenics exercises, such as:

  • An increase in muscle mass and tone. To build muscles, you will need to provide it with progressive resistance [1]. While you may only be able to go so far with bodyweight alone (sorry bodybuilders), but for beginners, you should be able to experience moderate muscle growth with certain calisthenics exercises.
  • Improved flexibility. As you get stronger, you will likely become more flexible in the process, too [2].
  • Weight loss and fat loss. This can occur in two ways. Firstly, as you work out, your resting metabolic rate may increase [3]. Secondly, any form of resistance training will cause your metabolism to stay raised long after the conclusion of the workout [4].
  • Increased endurance. A Calisthenics workout will involve performing multiple repetitions of the same exercise, without rest, until you are fatigued. As you recover from these workouts your strength will increase, you will experience muscle growth, and your overall fitness levels and endurance will improve too [5].

Top 10 Calisthenics Exercises List

Ever heard of the human flag? Well, besides being able to hold yourself horizontally on a pole, below you will find a complete list of some of the best calisthenics exercises around. If you perform these movements correctly, you will be able to target each muscle group and give your entire body a great workout.

Try and challenge yourself by seeing how many of the body exercises on this list can you perform and later decide which ones you might even include in your workout plan.

And while Calisthenics is deemed one of the best bodyweight exercises, if you have a spare dumbbell, you could use one or two for additional resistance whenever possible.

Exercise #1: Bodyweight Squat

Woman doing workout in gym.

The bodyweight squat is one of the most popular and effective calisthenics exercises on this list.

It works your lower body including your quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and calves, as well as your abdominal muscles.

To perform a bodyweight squat, follow these steps:

  1. Start off by standing with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart. Point your toes slightly outwards.
  2. Next, inhale and tighten your core to stabilize yourself, look forward with your chest sticking forward. Shift your weight back into your heels while pushing your hips behind yourself as your buttocks reach towards the floor.
  3. Aim to squat down until your thighs are almost parallel to the floor. Keep your feet flat on the ground throughout this calisthenics movement and to keep your knees over your toes.
  4. To return to the starting position, keep your chest sticking out, exhale, and then push yourself back up until you are standing upright.

Exercise #2: Pistol Squat

Pistol Squat

The pistol squat is a much more advanced version of the bodyweight squat. In fact, it may be one of the hardest skills to learn, which requires an enviable level of focus, vertical balance, and proper form.

Unsurprisingly, this calisthenics exercise will work your lower body, particularly your hips, hamstrings, quadriceps, glutes, and calves.

The reason this is one of the more advanced body exercises is that it balances any strength deficiencies as you are isolating each side, plus it can help improve your range of motion, general flexibility, and stability.

You can perform a pistol squat using the following steps:

  1. The first step is to stand with your feet together and parallel.
  2. You will then extend one leg in front of yourself, trying to keep it as straight as possible. As your leg raises a little bit off the floor, keep it in that hovering position. Your arms should also be raised straight out in front of you.
  3. Next, keep your core engaged with your back straight and bend your standing leg. Your body will lower as you extend your other extremity out in front of you.
  4. Continue to bend your standing leg as far as you can. The aim is to get your extended leg parallel to the floor.
  5. Once you have reached the appropriate depth, you should straighten your leg to return to the starting position. You should keep your extended leg straight until you reach the top, you can then switch legs and repeat the movement.

Calisthenics training is a feasible and effective training solution to improve posture, strength and body composition without the use of any major training equipment.

- Ewan Thomas, Movement Specialist Professor, Università degli Studi di Palermo

Exercise #3: Lunges

walking lunges

Lunges are a popular choice for calisthenics a.k.a. bodyweight exercises. They are primarily used for training your legs, particularly your quads and glutes.

It is also used for training your hamstring muscles and calves.

While performing this calisthenics movement, your abdominals and lower back muscle groups will act as stabilizers.

To perform a lunge, use the following steps:

  1. Start off by engaging your core with your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Simply take a big step forward with one of your legs, you should shift your weight forward so that your heel hits the floor first.
  3. After landing you will lower your body until your front leg is parallel to the floor, your shin should be vertical. If possible, try to avoid allowing your knee to move too far forward, and never past your toes.
  4. To move back to the start position press your weight into your front foot and drive back up to complete the repetition.
  5. Repeat this calisthenics movement with your other leg.

Related Articles:

Exercise #4: Push-Ups

Push-Ups

There are 100’s of push-up variations you can try, it is also one of the most popular calisthenics exercises, with each variation able to target different parts of your upper body.

Typically a push-up will target your chest muscles (pectorals), shoulders (deltoids), your triceps, and the abdominals.

To perform a regular press-up, follow these steps:

  1. Start off by getting on your knees and simply placing your hands wide enough to be slightly outside your shoulders.
  2. Next, extend your legs while keeping your arms outstretched to hold your upper body weight up. You are going to be moving into a “plank” position.
  3. At this stage, it is important that you engage your core and try to stay as straight as possible. You must not let your back muscles sag, or push your backside into the air.
  4. To perform the push-up, you will have to lower your body by bending your elbows close to your body. Your chest should almost touch the floor, with your arms at a 45-degree angle.
  5. While in the lowest position, have a pause before you propel yourself back up to the starting position.

Exercise #5: Pull-Ups/Chin-Ups

man doing chin up

Bodyweight exercises like pull-ups and chin-ups are a true test of upper body strength, and being able to knock out double figures of either is going to be nothing short of impressive.

The popular pull-up works your back muscles primarily, including your lats (latissimus dorsi), traps (trapezius), and delts (deltoids). They can also work your pecs and biceps depending on the variation you choose.

Chin-ups, on the other hand, are usually performed to build mass in your lats and biceps.

For pull-ups and chin-ups, you will need a securely mounted pull-up bar.

Use the following steps to perform pull-ups:

  1. Start off by standing facing a pull-up bar.
  2. Grab the bar with an overhand grip. Your arms should be slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  3. Next, using your shoulder and back muscles pull yourself up until your head is over the bar.
  4. Return to the starting position to complete one repetition.

For chin-ups, use the following steps:

  1. Again, start by facing the pull-up bar.
  2. This time you will be grabbing the bar with an underhand grip. Your arms will be slightly narrower than shoulder-width apart.
  3. You will be using your biceps and your lats to pull yourself up until your head is above the bar.
  4. Finally, to complete a repetition, slowly lower yourself back to the start position.

Related Articles:

  1. Standing pull-up bars
  2. Wall pull-up bars
  3. Pull-Up Bar Exercises

Exercise #6: Burpees

Burpees

The burpee will train your entire body, while also giving you an intense cardio workout.

With every repetition performed, you will be working your arms, chest, legs, and abs. Just a few reps and you will be struggling, that I swear.

No wonder it is one of the most hated calisthenic exercises. It certainly does take skill but it is not impossible to learn.

To do a burpee, follow these steps:

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, aim to keep your weight in your heels and your arms wide at the side.
  2. Start by pushing your hips back and bending your knees into a squat.
  3. You will then place your hand on the floor in front of you, preferably slightly narrower than your feet.
  4. Place your weight onto your hands and jump your feet back. Try to land softly onto the balls of your feet. Your back should be straight throughout this movement.
  5. You are then going to perform a push-up before jumping your feet forward so that they land next to your hands.
  6. To finish one repetition, you are going to then quickly jump up onto your feet. Some variations of the burpee will have you raising your hand above your head as you jump, while others will allow you to keep them at your side.

Exercise #7: Jump Squats

woman doing a squat exercise

Jump squats are similar to the bodyweight squat, except you are adding a jump to the regular routine.

This added movement will work slightly different muscles, and will also help to improve your aerobic fitness.

If you are a complete beginner to calisthenics, you may want to start with a low jump.

Then as you become more experienced and fitter, you may want to move onto a more explosive jump.

To do a jump squat, follow the steps (1-3) laid out for the bodyweight squat shown above. Then add the following steps:

  1. Once you reach the stage of the squat where your legs are almost parallel to the floor, you will need to keep your core engaged while you explode forcefully as you jump up.
  2. As you land, aim to land softly midfoot, with your trunk aiming a little forward. You will then immediately lower into the squat position ready for another repetition.
  3. For this particular bodyweight exercise, each set should include 10-12 reps. Alternatively, you could perform as many as possible during a set time limit. For example, how many can you perform in 30 seconds?

Exercise #8: Plank

Plank

There are plenty of variations to the standard plank, each with varying degrees of difficulty.

Primarily, this calisthenics exercise will work your core, although some benefit will be felt in your upper back, your pectorals, and the serratus anterior (the muscle that wraps around the side of your chest and shoulders).

Use the following steps to complete a standard plank:

  1. Start off in a position ready to perform a push-up. Your hands should be placed directly under your shoulders, a little wider than shoulder-width apart.
  2. While in this position, squeeze your glutes and abdominals to stabilize your body.
  3. It is important to remain in line while performing this movement. A helpful tip to help you achieve this is to pick a spot on the floor about a foot from your hands.
  4. If you are new to calisthenics then you should aim to hold this position for 20 seconds. As you become more experienced then you will be able to extend this time.

Exercise #9: Dips

dips thumb

Doing dips is one of those body exercises where you are going to need a dip bar (these are sometimes referred to as parallel bars) or a dip station, although certain variations can be performed on a chair or sturdy box.

Dips will work your triceps primarily, although they can also work your deltoids, your pecs, and the rhomboid muscle group of your back.

To perform dips using a dip bar, follow these steps:

  1. Stand inside the dip bar and lift yourself off the ground using your arms and shoulders.
  2. Your elbows should be bent back so that you are using your triceps to move up and down.

Exercise #10: Mountain Climbers

mountain climbers exercises

Mountain Climbers can be used when training for fitness rather than strength.

This particular calisthenics exercise will get your heart rate up quickly, while also working your deltoids, biceps, triceps, chest, obliques, abdominals, quads, hamstrings, and hip abductors.

To do this calisthenics movement, follow these steps:

  1. Get into the plank position, distributing your weight evenly between your hands and toes. Your arms should be shoulder-width apart with your back flat, your abs engaged and your head in alignment.
  2. Pull your right leg into your chest as far as it can go as quickly as you can, then return back to the starting position.
  3. Next, use your left leg to perform the same movement.
  4. Continue alternating your legs while keeping your hips down, performing as many repetitions as you can manage.

Should You Try Calisthenics Exercises Training?

calisthenics workout banner

You may think that Calisthenics has no place in the fitness industry, yet the benefits of performing these bodyweight exercises are impressive.

Yes, weight training is important, but if you have very little equipment of your own, and do not have access to the gym, then it is entirely possible to build muscle and strength using just your body weight.

Perhaps you could try some of the above Calisthenics exercises yourself and come back later to give your own opinion about such body-focused workouts. I am sure you will be surprised at just how difficult some of these movements are. Yes, it may take time and dedication to get the hang of some of the more advanced body exercises, but there is literally nothing to stop you from working your way from the ground up. After all, the best bodyweight exercises require no fees and admissions so everything is entirely up to you - and you only.

Supercharge your training by pairing it with a workout diet plan to build muscle

Like building strength and muscles using your own bodyweight? Tell us what types of calisthenics training do you do!

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Referrals

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5684326/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25858653
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3661116/
  4. http://www.unm.edu/~lkravitz/Article%20folder/epocarticle.html
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/4033406

 

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