Calisthenics is one of the best ways for you to start any new workout regimen.
You can hit the ground running and start on different levels. It’s fairly simple to start, but eventually, you have to graduate.
This calisthenics workout plan has three different modes.
It has a beginner version, just like the title suggests, but eventually, you have to push yourself a bit more to see the results you really want.
This beginner plan will also show you how to graduate your workout to more powerful and effective heights.
There’s no point in time where you have to stop calisthenics, pick up your stuff, and move to a different exercise type.
Plenty of men and women choose to do calisthenics for life, see excellent health results, and maintain chiseled yet lean bodies that are genuinely strong and fiercely sexy.
If all of that sounds good to you, let’s start with the basics and work our way up from there.
- 1 Basic Calisthenic Workouts
- 2 Advanced Calisthenics Workouts
- 3 Expert Calisthenics Workouts
- 4 Remember to Keep Optimal Nutrition During Calisthenics
- 5 Will Calisthenics Shape my Body Faster Than Traditional Workouts?
- 6 You’re Ready to Hit the Ground Running
Basic Calisthenic Workouts
These beginner workouts are things you can do right now without equipment.
You can move your office chair to the other side of the room, clear some space, and just straight to work.
Remember, it’s all about using your own bodyweight.
#1 Leg Raises
Lay on your back with both arms by your side. You can use your palms to apply tension to the floor when doing these exercises.
Raise one leg up while holding it straight, let it rest at the peak of what you can do for 1-3 seconds, and then lower your leg.
Do that with the other leg as well, and you’ve got one set (one on each leg equals a set).
These may seem simple at first, but when you hit about ten, you’re going to feel the burn in your thighs. With proper form, these work your lower abdomen as well.
You know them, you might hate them, but they’re a core part of calisthenics. In essence, they’re the number one way to use your own bodyweight for muscle training and development.
Proper form is everything here. It helps avoid injuries, but it also ensures that you’re actively engaging all of those muscle groups.
This means that you might not be able to do as many proper push-ups as you thought, but five proper push-ups over fifteen half-done ones are still better for your strength.
You’ll work your way up to more over time.
Lunges or walking lunges are both acceptable here. Lunges are all about the legs… so people think.
They actually really help your lower abdomen when you keep your core tight and your body straight.
When you lean into a lunge and bend that knee, the only thing you’re doing is positioning your body.
When you hold it there for 1-3 seconds, you’re using your legs to hold up your own weight, which is helpful, but pulling yourself back up requires your lower abdomen and legs to really fire up and develop.
#4 Jump Squats
You might not like me for this one, but jump squats are integral to calisthenics.
A proper squat is when you actually lean down into it and use your muscles (not momentum) to pull yourself out of that squat.
Well, add a jumping jack before then, and you’ve got a jump squat. You jump up (while holding your body straight), then when you come back down, you lower yourself into a squat.
Hold that squat before coming back up. When you come back up, you’re going to spring right into a jump again and continue for as long as you can.
There’s a wrong way to do these, which will result in injury and putting off your calisthenics workout for quite some time.
Just know that it’s important to have a properly formed crunch over a neck-bending, ineffective series of crunches.
It’s not about the number, it’s about muscle engagement. Elbows pointed out, knees raised, and core engaged—use your core muscles to pull yourself up.
If you’re using calisthenics for weight loss, just know that there are abdominal muscles beneath layers of fat, and you will actively feel the burn once you stand up.
Even if body fat doesn’t allow you to pull up as much as you want, take it for what it’s worth, and keep going.
Advanced Calisthenics Workouts
Time to kick it up a notch.
These intermediate or advanced calisthenics workouts will do far more for you than simple crunches or pull-ups will.
There are variations of other exercise types here, but we mostly focused on high impact, high reward exercise methods.
These are the bane of a lot of people’s workouts, but those are the ones who are too weak to keep going.
You’re not that person. Burpees are when you go from a stand position to a squat, with your hands forward on the ground.
You then kick your feet backward so you’re in a plank-like push-up position.
From there, hold it for a second while keeping that core engaged, and then pull your feet back, kick-off and jump up. Rinse, lather, repeat until you can anymore.
Pull-ups were the reason most of us hated gym class in elementary school. However, they’re a core part of calisthenics, and wildly helpful once you get the rhythm down.
Pull-ups require you to pull all of your body weight up by just using your arms, and a bit of your back/pec muscles as well.
The reason these are so difficult when you start calisthenics is that, even if you are technically slender, you still have more body fat on you than you will have in a month or two of doing hardcore calisthenics.
Muscles pull you up, body fat doesn’t, so the more of these you do and the more weight loss you see, the easier they will get.
#3 Pistol Squats
Lean back into a squat position, but keep your arms folded in front of you. When you go to squat down, only rely on one leg.
The other will stick straight out in front of you so that at the bottom of your squat, your heel will touch the ground and keep that leg straight.
These are absolutely insane for your glutes, but you’ll also feel some upper thigh muscles start kicking in as well. Keep your core engaged, and work on that balance and you’ll do just fine.
#4 Russian Twist
These are the best-kept secret in calisthenics for a tighter core, and six-pack abs. They’re not miracle worker exercises, but they seriously focus on the upper and middle abdomen.
You put your legs like you’re going to do a crunch—bent at the knees, heels on the ground or surface you’re on.
Then keep your torso at a 45° angle, and put your hands together.
You can do this with or without a dumbbell/weight in your hands, though it’s recommended at later levels since there’s no methodology change for Russian twists.
You then twist your body left and right in quick movements, and keep your core tight. Do this for 45 seconds to a minute per rep.
#5 Low Planks to High Planks
High planks are basically keeping your body straight while in a push-up position. You hold it there, keep your core tight, and strain those muscles.
That’s a great exercise, but let’s turn up the heat on it. A low plank is when you do that same position with your body and core, but you lean on your forearms instead of relying on your palms.
Alternate between low to high planks, and you’ll see more muscle engagement, and better results.
Expert Calisthenics Workouts
So you’ve either progressed to here or found that some of the beginner and intermediate exercises just didn’t cut it for you.
We’re introducing you to calisthenics with this post, so it’s important to introduce you to all levels of difficulty.
If you find these exercises to be better suited for your workout style, by all means, run with them right from the start.
Think of pull-ups, but then make them more difficult. Those are dips. You push yourself up on a series of cross-bars, and then lower your body using only your arms, to dip in between them.
Push yourself back up, then lean into another dip. They’re simple in form, but bloody difficult to pull off successfully. You’re going to feel muscle engagement across the board.
#2 Horizontal Pull-Ups
Using a low pull up bar (usually not a door frame model), you’re going to keep your body as flat and horizontal as possible.
From there, it’s time to use your arms to pull yourself straight up. Messing up your form on this one is so ridiculously easy.
It’s not simple to pull yourself up like this, which is what makes it all the most rewarding. This is a marker of serious strength and determination.
#3 One Arm Chin Ups
If you can’t do a single chin-up now, imagine what it’s going to feel like with one arm. For your hand that is not in use, you will put it on your side to help bolster the strain on your body.
One-armed pull-ups work your obliques, arms, and also help your upper abdomen while working those pecs.
They’re a signal of strength, and while they are tough to do, the benefits are astronomical.
#4 Full Planche
You’re going to need those dip bars for this one.
A full planche is when you raise yourself up on both arms in between those dip bars, which sounds simple enough at this point, but there’s a twist.
You’re going to hold your body horizontally above the bar, and then do push-ups in this position.
You won’t be able to remain fully horizontal without feeling major strain and blood pressure spikes.
Instead, it’s okay to lean your legs down at about a 15° angle so your upper body is a little bit raised compared to your lower body.
Planches require you to grip onto bars near your center of gravity (lower abdomen), and since your upper body is heavier than your lower body, it’s going to be tricky to perfectly balance.
This slight angular change won’t negatively impact your performance or benefits.
#5 Handstand Push-Ups
Do a handstand, then brace yourself. You’re going to lower your upper body down in a push up like format.
In planches, we talked about your center of gravity and balance. Since your COG is going to be tested here, you’re going to naturally feel your legs dip to one side, and that’s okay.
You should be doing these near or up against a wall for safety. Getting into position is as important as getting out of position; practice makes perfect.
Remember to Keep Optimal Nutrition During Calisthenics
One great thing about calisthenics is that you never need to bulk.
You’re not trying to Dwayne Johnson this stuff, you just want to keep optimal nutrition without spending all day inhaling calories for the eventual burnoff.
You can keep meals smaller, so long as you’re focusing on core nutrition.
This makes things cheaper because God knows we’re all struggling out there and upping the food budget isn’t really going to help anybody out.
Do what you would do for any healthy diet: stave off sugar, fried foods, all junk food, and trade-off soda for water, make brown rice your daily snack, and eat no less than fifteen different vegetables every single week.
With this, you should also consider intermittent fasting.
Intermittent fasting is like the superpower of exercise nutrition that has tons of proven benefits.
Most commonly, this will follow the 16/8 rule—16 hours of fasting where you can’t consume anything other than water (half of this is your sleep cycle), and eight hours where you are allowed to eat.
This can take some getting used to, but it’s wildly effective and super helpful to continuously burn body fat even when you’re already getting lea. Just be sure to ingest enough calories to maintain.
I’ll tell you now, the hardest part of this is waiting until the start of your eight-hour window, at least for the first two weeks.
You might be sitting there, staring at the clock, only to find that when your time starts you want to eat everything in sight. This is normal, just be careful about what you eat.
Despite what advertisements will tell you, you shouldn’t just eat whatever you want during these eight hours.
They’re always trying to sell you on some intermittent fasting program—I’m not doing that, I’m just explaining that it does work, just don’t go crazy and hit the drive-thru when your time starts.
Have some lean meals ready, and start cooking them so they’ll be done at the exact minute you can begin eating.
After a few minutes, all those cravings will diminish, and you’ll be right back on track.
Will Calisthenics Shape my Body Faster Than Traditional Workouts?
It depends. I would put calisthenics in between cardio and weightlifting.
Weightlifting means that you’re going for a bulkier, beefier posterior.
It requires a lot of physical strain, and it’s definitely going to shape your body. It’s going to make you bigger than if you did calisthenics alone.
Cardio trims fat, and will definitely shape your body. Some muscles are enhanced, but those usually aren’t aesthetic muscles. It isn’t going to turn you into Channing Tatum.
But calisthenics takes a different approach. Calisthenics build lean muscle quickly and greatly exceeds what your standard workouts will do for you.
They’re more thorough workouts, and they get you toned faster.
But there is a limit. You will begin to see a quick decrease in progress once your body gets down to a certain weight.
Your muscles are changing, but because you aren’t using anything other than your own bodyweight to shape yourself, you’re actually working with less and less weight as time goes on.
It’s not like lifting a dumbbell where you can just pop another plate on there.
It’s called relative strength, which can shred your midsection and help you lose weight quickly, but your bulkiness will eventually freeze in place (but at a good lean muscle mass).
You’re Ready to Hit the Ground Running
Calisthenics is one of the greatest ways to get started with physical fitness.
There’s no reason that you can’t just drop to the floor right now and just start with simple pull-ups, push-ups or leg raises.
Everyone can get started. Unlike weightlifting, you can’t accidentally overdo it with weights—your body is the weight that you’re measuring your progress and success by.
From beginner up to expert, hit the ground running, and enjoy the hell out of the fruits of your labor.