Calisthenics for Beginners: A Comprehensive Guide to Getting Started

Written by Type A Training

June 22, 2024

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by all of the options at your disposal when it comes to fitness gear, don’t worry. You already have everything you need for an effective and efficient workout: your body. Calisthenics, or bodyweight training, is a type of exercise that uses your own body weight to build strength, endurance, and functional fitness. It’s more than just a backup plan when you’re short on gear or traveling. According to trainer and functional fitness expert Jay Maryniak, “It’s essential to be able to control, move, and build strength with just your bodyweight to build a well-rounded functional physique.”

In this article, we’ll break down what calisthenics is, the benefits of this type of bodyweight training, and provide some calisthenics for beginners exercises. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced fitness enthusiast, calisthenics can be a great way to build strength and endurance without the need for expensive equipment.

Key Takeaways

  • Calisthenics is a type of exercise that uses your own body weight to build strength and endurance.
  • Bodyweight training can be done anywhere, without the need for expensive equipment.
  • Calisthenics can be a great way to build a well-rounded, functional physique.

What Are Calisthenics?

Calisthenics are exercises that use your own bodyweight as resistance instead of weights or machines. The term is derived from the ancient Greek words kallos (beauty) and sthenos (strength). Calisthenics have been around for centuries and were popularized in ancient Greece where they were used to train soldiers and athletes. They have since been adopted by the U.S. Army and are commonly used in military training.

Calisthenics can be modified to fit any fitness level and are a great way for beginners to build strength. They focus on mastering basic movements such as push-ups, squats, and lunges, which can be progressed to more advanced movements like handstands, muscle-ups, and front levers. Calisthenics can also be modified to focus on cardio by incorporating movements that spike your heart rate.

One of the benefits of calisthenics is that they help you become more aware of how to control your body through every rep. This makes them a great foundation for any fitness routine. If you cannot do basic calisthenic or bodyweight movements, you’re going to struggle adding any kind of resistance to your training routines.

Benefits of Calisthenics for Beginners

Calisthenics is an all-inclusive workout routine that can benefit beginners and athletes of all levels. It is a fun and flexible way to improve your fitness level, mobility, and flexibility. Practicing calisthenics can also aid in fat loss and provide various health benefits. According to trainer Maryniak, anyone can reap the benefits of calisthenics training and see amazing results.

No Need For Equipment

Calisthenics workouts are a great way to exercise and build muscle without the need for any equipment. While some exercises like pullups may require equipment, most workouts can be done with just your own body weight as resistance. This makes it easy for anyone, especially beginners, to get started from the comfort of their own home. You don’t have to worry about investing in expensive gear or machines. All you need is a simple space to move around and do some basic weight exercises. Resistance bands and rings can also be used to add variety to your workouts, but they are not necessary.

Workout for Free

You don’t need to spend a fortune on gym memberships or personal trainers to get fit with calisthenics. With just a few workouts under your belt, you’ll realize you can get an amazing workout done and dusted in your own home or at a public park for free. Take advantage of the outdoors and go for a walk or jog, and use your body weight for resistance exercises. Get creative with household items like chairs or stairs to add variety to your workouts.

Bodyweight Training Builds Functional Strength

Bodyweight training is an effective way to build functional strength, which means that it improves your ability to perform everyday movements. By using your own body weight as resistance, you can target multiple muscle groups at once and improve your overall strength and muscle mass. Bodyweight exercises like pushups, pullups, squats, and lunges can help you develop a strong core, shoulders, chest, and lower body. Additionally, bodyweight training can improve your balance, coordination, posture, range of motion, and power.

Less Joint Stress Than Other Resistance Training

Calisthenics training, which only uses your bodyweight as resistance, can be less stressful on your joints and connective tissues than strength training with external loads. This is especially true for beginners, but as you progress, some higher-level exercises might change that. Proper technique and necessary modifications or progressions are critical for reducing the risk of injury and promoting recovery, as with any type of exercise.

Build Strength and Endurance

Calisthenics exercises are an effective way to build strength and endurance. By increasing the intensity and progression of your workouts, you can improve your muscular endurance and become stronger. High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is a full-body workout that can help you achieve maximum results with minimum time. By monitoring your rate of perceived exertion (RPE), you can ensure that you are working at the right level of intensity for your fitness level.

How to Add Calisthenics to Your Workout Routine

If you’re looking to add calisthenics to your workout routine, it’s important to start with a plan. According to Maryniak, a great place to start is with three full-body workouts per week. Each workout session should last at least 15 to 20 minutes, but can go up to 60 minutes. Longer workouts have their benefits, but a fast and effective bodyweight workout can still deliver great results.

When it comes to reps and sets, it’s important to err towards sets with as many reps as it takes to bring your muscles close to failure. This means doing as many reps as you can without sacrificing proper form. The number of reps that bring you close to failure will vary from person to person. However, it’s important to bring your body to that point to build true strength, build muscle, and master calisthenics training.

To get started with calisthenics, you can try the following:

  • Warm up with dynamic stretching or light cardio for 5-10 minutes.
  • Incorporate a circuit of bodyweight exercises such as push-ups, squats, lunges, and pull-ups.
  • Rest for 30-60 seconds between each exercise and repeat the circuit 2-3 times.
  • As you progress, increase the number of reps or sets, or try more challenging variations of the exercises.

Remember to listen to your body and adjust the workout plan as needed. With consistency and dedication, calisthenics can be a great addition to your workout routine.

Calisthenics for Beginners

If you’re new to calisthenics, it’s important to start with foundational exercises that will help you build strength and proper form. Here are six beginner-friendly exercises to get you started:

Exercise Description
Dips Targets chest, triceps, and shoulders. Use parallel bars or two sturdy chairs.
Plank Targets core muscles. Hold a push-up position with arms straight and hands shoulder-width apart.
Jumping Jacks Targets full body. Jump with feet apart and arms overhead, then jump back to starting position.
Jump Squat Targets legs and glutes. Squat down, then jump up explosively.
Mountain Climbers Targets core and legs. Start in a push-up position and alternate bringing each knee towards your chest.
Burpees Targets full body. Start in a standing position, drop down to a push-up position, jump back up, and jump with arms overhead.

Remember to focus on proper form and gradually increase the intensity and difficulty of the exercises as you progress.


The pushup is a fundamental movement in calisthenics. If you’re having trouble completing a rep, don’t resort to knee pushups. Instead, try incline pushups by elevating your hands. Here’s how to properly perform a pushup:

  • Begin in a strong high plank position with palms under shoulders, glutes engaged, and shoulders down and back.
  • Lower your chest to the ground by bending your elbows out at a 45-degree angle from the body.
  • Push through your palms while engaging your entire body to return to the plank position.

Remember to maintain proper form throughout the movement.


Pullups are a popular exercise in calisthenics that can be done almost anywhere with a pullup bar. However, before adding pullups to your routine, it’s important to build a base of strength first. In the meantime, you can substitute bodyweight back builders like inverted rows.

Here’s how to do a pullup:

  1. Stand beneath a pullup bar and grab the bar with hands slightly further than shoulder-width apart using an overhand grip. Release your feet from the ground to hang.
  2. Engage your core and pull yourself up toward your hands, allowing your chin to reach just above the bar.
  3. Slowly lower yourself to the hanging position with control.

Remember to engage your core throughout the exercise to maintain proper form. With practice and consistency, you can build the strength necessary to perform pullups confidently.

Air Squat

The air squat, also known as the bodyweight squat, is a great exercise for building leg muscles and strength without the need for any equipment. This exercise can also be used as a conditioning tool by performing high-volume rounds. Here’s how to do it:

  • Begin by standing with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart. You can clasp your hands in front of you or out in front if you need more counterbalance.
  • Push your butt back and bend your knees, keeping your chest upright.
  • Lower your thighs until they are parallel to the ground (or deeper, if you have the mobility).
  • Push through the soles of your feet to return to standing position, squeezing your glutes at the top.

Incorporating air squats into your workout routine can help improve your lower body strength and overall fitness level.


The lunge is a unilateral exercise that targets your lower body muscles and improves your balance and stability. To perform a lunge, start by standing with your feet hip-distance apart. Take a step forward with one foot and bend both knees to come to a 90-degree position on both sides, keeping your chest tall. Avoid slamming your knee onto the ground. Push through the sole of your front foot to return to the starting position and repeat on the other side. This exercise can be performed with your hands on your hips or down by your sides.

Step Up

To perform the single-leg bodyweight exercise, you will need a sturdy platform like a weight bench. The focus here is not on moving quickly, but on driving up on your working leg. Follow these steps to perform the exercise:

  1. Stand in front of the bench or platform and place one foot on it, ensuring full foot contact with the bench.
  2. Press through the sole of your foot to come to a single-leg standing position on the bench. The other foot should be hovering to maintain tension on the working leg.
  3. Slowly lower back down to the starting position, being careful not to put your full weight back on the inactive leg between reps.

This exercise is great for building strength in your lower body, particularly in your glutes and quads. Make sure to keep your core engaged throughout the exercise and to maintain proper form.

Hollow Body Hold

The Hollow Body Hold is a bodyweight exercise that targets the abs and offers a valuable bracing challenge. This exercise will not only help to develop your six-pack but also improve your strength in moves like the pullup. If you find it difficult to hold the position, you can shorten your levers by shifting your arm position forward or bending your knees.

Here are the steps to perform the Hollow Body Hold:

  1. Lie on your back on the floor, driving your lower back down.
  2. Squeeze your abs and raise your legs up off the floor, holding your feet an inch or two above the floor.
  3. Extend your arms over your head, raising your head and shoulders off the floor.
  4. Hold for the prescribed period, maintaining full-body tension.

This exercise can be done anywhere, and it requires no equipment. It is an excellent exercise to add to your workout routine to improve your core strength. Remember to maintain proper form and keep your lower back pressed down into the floor.

Alyssa Sparacino, an ACE-certified personal trainer, recommends the Hollow Body Hold as an effective exercise for developing core strength. Her work has been published online and in print for brands including Shape, Health, Fortune, What to Expect, Men’s Journal, Ask Men, Travel & Leisure, Chewy, and more.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the essential exercises to include in a beginner’s calisthenics routine?

As a beginner, it is important to focus on the fundamental calisthenics movements, such as push-ups, pull-ups, squats, lunges, and planks. These exercises engage multiple muscle groups and help to build overall strength and endurance. Incorporating variations of these exercises, such as incline push-ups or assisted pull-ups, can also be helpful in building up to the full movement.

How often should beginners practice calisthenics to see progress?

Consistency is key when it comes to seeing progress with calisthenics. As a beginner, it is recommended to practice 2-3 times per week, allowing for adequate rest and recovery between sessions. Over time, as you become more experienced and your body adapts to the movements, you can increase the frequency and intensity of your workouts.

Can calisthenics be effectively practiced at home without any equipment?

Yes, calisthenics can be effectively practiced at home without any equipment. Bodyweight exercises such as push-ups, squats, and lunges require no equipment and can be done anywhere. However, incorporating equipment such as resistance bands or a pull-up bar can provide additional challenge and variety to your workouts.

What is the recommended duration of a calisthenics session for a beginner?

As a beginner, it is recommended to start with shorter sessions, around 20-30 minutes, to allow your body to adapt to the movements and avoid overexertion. Over time, you can gradually increase the duration of your sessions as your fitness level improves.

Are there any specific calisthenics programs or apps suited for beginners?

Yes, there are many calisthenics programs and apps available that are suited for beginners. Some popular options include the “Recommended Routine” from the subreddit r/bodyweightfitness, the “Calisthenics Mastery” program by FitnessFAQs, and the “Freeletics Bodyweight” app.

What are the progressions for the fundamental calisthenics movements?

The progressions for the fundamental calisthenics movements involve gradually increasing the difficulty of the exercise. For example, a push-up progression could involve starting with incline push-ups, then moving to knee push-ups, followed by full push-ups, and eventually progressing to more advanced variations such as diamond push-ups or one-arm push-ups. It is important to focus on proper form and technique at each stage of the progression to avoid injury and ensure proper muscle activation.

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