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How to Start Calisthenics at Home With MINIMAL Equipment!

Updated: Jan 20, 2022

So you want to get started with calisthenics.

You dream of building a strong, muscular physique and mastering all those crazy looking party tricks you see people doing on Instagram and TikTok.

But you don't know where to begin.

In a world of so many opinions and crazy promises that seem too good to be true, it's hard to know what really works and what doesn't.

That's why we've sat down and come up with a complete beginner's guide to starting calisthenics and bodyweight training from home, covering everything that you need to know from the best exercises, to sample workouts and equipment requirements.

The key to getting anywhere is to simply get started, and we're here to help you do that.

Workout beginner doing pull ups and getting started with calisthenics

The Beginner's Guide to Starting Calisthenics From Home

First of All: What Even is Calisthenics?

Calisthenics is another name for bodyweight training, which is exactly what the name suggests.

You're training to build strength, muscle and control with your very own bodyweight.

Even if you don't fully understand what it is, you've surely seen it before.

At the most basic level, the push ups that we used to do in our bedrooms as kids were an example of calisthenics and bodyweight training.

The pull ups that we did at the local park were an example of calisthenics.

And as you get more advanced, you'll see people doing exercises such as the planche (left of image) and the human flag (right of image).

Calisthenics exercises for advanced athletes and for beginners to learn

These are the party tricks that everybody loves to show off.

By the time you reach and master these advanced movements, you're going to have developed a ton of strength and muscle mass in your body already.

However, to progress even further and really take the cap off of what you can do and achieve, you can go weighted and add external resistance to your exercises.

For example, you can get yourself a pull up/dip belt and add some weight plates to your exercises.

Some people get good enough to do weighted dips with over 80kgs strapped to their waists!

If that isn't crazy impressive in your books, we don't know what is.

Calisthenics is a very creative kind of exercise that can be fun, unique and INCREDIBLY effective at building strength and muscle if you do it properly.

As long as you're performing a strength exercise with just your bodyweight, you're going to be training with calisthenics.

How Does Calisthenics Compare to Weight Training?

Calisthenics and weight training are both popular forms of strength training that can be used effectively yo achieve similar goals.

Most of the time, the main goal to be achieved through these two exercise types are: gaining strength and building muscle.

And while the end goals are pretty similar, each one does actually have its own advantages over the other when it comes to effectiveness and what you're able to achieve.

We do have a complete article breaking this down, which you can read here. (It'll take about 15 minutes to get through the whole thing).

However just for this post, we'll give you a run down of the benefits that each one has to offer over the other.

The Advantages of Calisthenics:

  • Minimal equipment required

  • More core engagement

  • More creative

  • Can be more fun

  • Could help burn more calories

  • More training flexibility

The Advantages of Weight Training:

  • Easier muscle isolation

  • More straightforward progressions

  • Better for lower body development

  • Could be more beginner friendly

  • Better for raw strength gain

  • Slightly better for optimal muscle development

As you can see, both training styles do have their own advantages over the other.

And neither one is going to be the 'best' overall choice, you just have to weigh everything and take it all into consideration when you come to choose the one you're going to go with.

If you've had a look and decided that you'd rather train with weights, go ahead and check out our beginner's guide to that, which we'll leave a link to here.

Otherwise, if you've decided to stick with calisthenics, great. You can keep on reading!

The Best Bodyweight Exercises

There are a TON of bodyweight exercises that you can choose to perform to suit your preference and meet your goals.

No, you're not just stuck to push ups and pull ups.

There are loads of variations to each basic exercise that can either be easier or tougher to perform, depending on your choices and how you go about doing them.

We'll start with the most basic movements, show you some of the more advanced exercises that you can expect to work towards and then get into easier alternatives in the next section.

We'll divide the exercises up into three categories:

  • Pushing exercises (pressing with the upper body)

  • Pulling exercises (pulling with the upper body)

  • Leg exercises (all lower body movements)

We'll give you a couple of exercises for each so that you can learn about all the movements you need to hit your entire body.

The Basic Movements

The Push Up

This is the most basic bodyweight movement.

Almost everybody on this planet knows the push up. Everyone has done (or at least tried) a push up at some point in their lifetime.

This is a great foundational calisthenics movement for the chest, shoulders and triceps. Plus, you'll get some good activation in the abs as well.

To do the push up:

  1. Assume a high plank position

  2. Tighten your core and align your body into a straight line

  3. Put your hands just outside of shoulder width apart.

  4. Keeping your elbows tucked in at 30-45 degrees, lower yourself down with control until your chest reaches just above the floor.

  5. Explode back up by pressing your hands hard into the ground.

  6. Lock out the elbows at the top to complete one rep.

  7. Repeat

Check out the video below by CrossFit® to see a demonstration!

Please note that taking a slightly narrower grip and tucking the elbows in a little more is going to shift the emphasis of the weight onto your triceps.

For most people, the push up is going to be your foundational upper body pressing movement if you're training with just your bodyweight.

The Pull Up

While the push up and the pull up are clearly both upper body exercises, the pull up is going to work the rest of the major muscle groups that the push up does not.

The pull up is going to work the muscles of the back and the biceps, with some great engagement in the abs and the forearms at the same time if done correctly.

Similarly to the push up, most people are going to have attempted a pull up at least once in their lifetime.

It's not necessarily an easy exercise, but it's a very basic movement in the world of calisthenics and bodyweight training.

Here's how to do it:

  1. Hang completely relaxed on a bar with your palms facing away from you. Hands should be just outside of shoulder width.

  2. Pull your shoulder blades down and back. You should feel tension in your back immediately.

  3. Keeping your back arched, pull yourself up by thinking about driving your elbows down into your side.

  4. Get your chest up until it's just under the bar and squeeze the muscles of the back.

  5. Lower yourself back down with control.

  6. Repeat.

See the video below by Pivot Cycles to see what this movement looks like!

Please note that gripping the bar with your palms facing towards you instead is going to have you performing chin ups, which basically work the biceps a little more and shift some of the emphasis away from the upper back.

Both are great movements, and you can learn about the difference as well as the better overall choice in our blog article about that.

Air Squats

Air squats or bodyweight squats are an easy way to target the muscles of the quads and glutes, with a little bit of assistance from the hamstrings.

However, the lags are a very strong muscle group, and air squats simply aren't going to be challenging enough for most people to actually get a good workout and stimulus.

Even for some complete beginners, a set of 30+ bodyweight squats is going to feel like a walk in the park.

Still, it's worth noting as some of you reading this will still be able to get a good stimulus for growth with this exercise.

And, it can be played around with in terms of time under tension and other techniques to make it more difficult.

To perform the air squat:

  1. Stand with your feet just outside of shoulder width to start. Or stand wherever feels the most comfortable and you feel you're the strongest in.

  2. Make sure you're standing stable and are feeling the majority of the weight on your mid foot.

  3. Brace your core by taking a breath in and holding it. Keep a neutral spine throughout the exercise.

  4. Squat down by bending at the knees and hips until your upper thighs are parallel to the ground.

  5. Bend forwards as much as you need to to keep the weight centered.

  6. Drive yourself back up by pressing your feet hard into the ground.

  7. Squeeze the quads and glutes hard at the top of the movement.

  8. Repeat.

Check out the video below by Bupa Health UK to see what this looks like!

If you find that this exercise is too easy (there's a high chance you will), then you can look to perform some of the tougher variations that we'll share with you below.

The Dip

The dip is another great compound pressing exercise that also works the muscles of the chest, shoulders and triceps.

Dips are slightly tougher than push ups due to you carrying much more of your bodyweight, but they're still a pretty basic movement. Most people will be able to perform them with control after a little while of consistent training.

To do the dip:

  1. Get yourself up onto the parallel bars, either by jumping or using a footpad if your dip station has one.

  2. Lean forward a little, as this will shift the emphasis onto the chest and away from the triceps.

  3. Lower yourself down with control, and try to make the downward portion of the movement span 2-3 seconds.

  4. Do not go below 90 degree flexion of the elbows, as going too low will place unnecessary stress on the shoulders and can lead to injury over time.

  5. Pause at the bottom for one second, and then explode back up by driving your hands into the bars downwards.

  6. Squeeze hard at the top of the movement.

  7. Repeat.

Check out the video by Howcast to see a demonstration!

Like the push up, the dip can be altered to shift the emphasis onto back and forth between the chest and the triceps.

Leaning forwards more and taking a slightly wider grip is going to emphasize the chest more, and keeping an upright torso with a narrower grip is going to cause you to work the triceps a little more.

The dip can be used in conjunction with the push up for a pretty well rounded training program in terms of chest, shoulder and tricep development.

The Inverted Row

When it comes to back training, there are two primary types of movement patterns: vertical pulls and horizontal pulls.

It's important to train the back through both of these movement patterns so that we can get a well rounded training program and make sure we hit all the muscles sufficiently (there are lots of different muscles in the back that each get biased in different ways).

We already covered vertical pulling with the pull up, and we'll now cover horizontal pulling through the use of bodyweight inverted rows.

They're a great exercise that you can use and modify to target different muscles of the back, as well as get some great activation in the biceps and forearms.

The inverted row is going to work the same muscles as the pull up does, but some to a different degree and from a different angle.

To do it:

  1. Set a bar (smith machine or in a rack) to about waist height.

  2. Lie down under the bar and grab onto it with a shoulder width grip.

  3. Straighten your body and bring your feet back or forth, adjusting until you can pull yourself up and finish with the bar at your sternum.

  4. Pull yourself up, and squeeze your shoulder blades together.

  5. Hold for a second, before lowering yourself back down with control.

  6. Repeat.

Check out Tom Merrick's awesome guide below for how to do this! (Skip to 4:48 to see Tom demonstrate the more advanced, unsupported variation).

Again, the inverted row can be modified to bias different parts of the back and involve the biceps to different degrees.

Taking a slightly wider grip with more flared elbows is going to bias your upper back a little more, whereas taking a narrower grip and tucking your elbows in is going to target the lats and biceps a little more.

Paired with pull ups, the inverted row is great at building foundational pulling strength with just your bodyweight.

Bodyweight Romanian Deadlifts

The bodyweight Romanian deadlift is a great exercise that beginners can use to build up some strength and muscle in the hamstrings, glutes, spinal erectors and adductors.

Paired with air squats or some variation of them, you're going to be able to work the entire lower body and get a pretty well rounded workout in for them.

However, like air squats, this movement is quickly going to become too easy for most people. And if this is the case for you, check out the advanced variations we've given you below to learn how you can continue to get a proper stimulus for the lower body!

To perform the bodyweight Romanian deadlift:

  1. Set your feet to shoulder width, pointing slightly outwards away from each other at about 10 degrees.

  2. Brace by lifting your chest and stomach up. You should find that this helps to keep your spine neutral.

  3. Maintaining a neutral spine throughout, hinge down at the hips by pushing your hips and glutes back towards the back of the room.

  4. Allow your arms to naturally hang down straight.

  5. Go down until your hands are mid shin level, or until you feel a good stretch in your hamstrings. (The stretch is very important.

  6. Explode back up by thrusting your hips forwards until you're back in a standing position.

  7. Repeat.

Check out the video below by Palladino Personal Training to see what this looks like!

On this exercise, make sure that you go slow on the way down and really get as much of a stretch on the hamstrings as you can.

The whole point of this exercise is to load the hamstrings heavily in their stretched position, creating lots of muscle damage and unfortunately, DOMs.

More Advanced Bodyweight Exercises

Those exercises that we listed above are the more basic movements that beginners like you should be looking to master and get good at.

However, you will want to look to do some slightly more advanced movements to really ensure you're getting the most out of your time spent training.

We'll go through these exercises in the same format as we did in the previous section. We'll go in ascending order of difficulty.

The Decline Push Up

This are a variation of the push up that has you lifting slightly more of your bodyweight than the regular push up does.

The decline push up is going to change the angle that you're pressing your bodyweight up in, which is going to cause you to actually work more of your upper chest, or the clavicular head of your pec.

It's also going to shift a little bit more of the emphasis onto the delts (shoulders).

To do it:

  • Elevate your feet by 30-40cm to start with.

  • Keep your core tight and do everything that you would in a regular push up.

  • Lower yourself down with control, feeling the tension in the upper portion of your chest.

  • Explode back up and squeeze the muscles of the upper chest hard at the top of the movement.

  • Repeat.

Check out the video below by Julie Lohre to see what this looks like!

The Archer Push Up

The archer push up is a great variation to the regular push up that works one side of the pec more than the other during a rep.

It's done by alternating arms going left and right, ensuring that you don't develop muscular imbalances in the left and right side of your torso.

The archer push up helps to build unilateral pressing strength, and is a step below the one arm push up.

To do it:

  1. Assume a wide push up stance with hands pointing out to the side (hands just under 2x shoulder width).

  2. Brace your core and tighten it to keep your body in a straight line.

  3. Lower yourself down to one side until you end up down in a flat position, with your weight on one side of your chest.

  4. You should find that your other arm is somewhat straightened (keep it as straight as possible) out to the side like an archer would be.

  5. Press yourself back up to the center with as much of the work being done by the target side as possible. Try to assist as little as you can with the other hand.

  6. Repeat for the other side and continue to do so for reps.

See the video below by Victory Calisthenics for a demonstration!

We recommend starting with your weaker side first and only matching that number with your strong side (yes, the feeling sucks).

This is going to minimize muscle imbalances and help keep your body as well rounded as possible.

This is one of our favorite exercises to do at home when we're training with minimal equipment!

There are several more advanced 'pushing' exercises, but we've just included the two that are going to be most relevant for beginners (that's what we're assuming you are if you're reading this post). Learn more: Boost your gains at home with these 10 push up variations.

The Commando Pull Up

The commando pull up is a variation to the regular pull up that has you biasing one side of the upper body slightly more than the other.

By pulling yourself up onto one side of the bar, you're going to shift more of the weight onto one side, meaning it's a way to overload the muscles and make each side work harder.

To do the commando pull up:

  1. Grip the bar with your hands facing towards each other.

  2. You should be directly under the bar looking down the middle of it.

  3. Pull your shoulder blades down and back to create a little bit of tension in the back.

  4. Pull yourself up and get your head onto one side of the bar (start with your weaker side).

  5. Squeeze the muscles of the back hard a the top of the movement.

  6. Lower yourself back down with control.

  7. Repeat for the other side.

  8. Continue to do so for reps, making sure you do the same number for each side.

Check out BodY-ProoF Calisthenics' video below to see what this looks like!

The Archer Pull Up

This is actually a VERY tough bodyweight movement that most people will never be able to do properly in a lifetime.

However, we had to pick this as there aren't very many other 'pulling' movements with your bodyweight that you can perform. Most of them are simply going to be the regular pull up/chin up with added intensifying techniques such as paused pull ups.

The archer pull up is pretty much like the archer push up. It's going to bias one side of the upper body more than the other, and thus have slightly more of a strength building component to it.

To do it:

  1. Hang on the bar with a wide grip (just outside of 2x shoulder width).

  2. Pull your shoulder blades down and back.

  3. Pull yourself up and towards one of the sides simultaneously.

  4. Pull yourself up until your can straight your other arm over the bar.

  5. Lower yourself back down with control.

  6. Repeat for the other side.

  7. Continue to do so for reps.

Watch T Nation's video below for a demonstration!

The Pistol Squat

Pistol squats are a more advanced bodyweight lower body exercise that shifts all of the weight onto one leg, drastically increasing the difficulty of the exercise.

Pistol squats also require a lot of balance, which is always good to have and is especially important if you're training for athletic purposes such as a competitive sport.

This exercise requires a lot of quad and glute strength, and is significantly harder than regular air squats are.

To do them:

  1. Stand on one leg.

  2. Point your other leg forward and grab onto it (or do whatever else you have to to keep stable).

  3. Lower yourself down with control until your thigh is parallel to the ground.

  4. Explode back up by driving your foot hard into the ground.

  5. Squeeze the legs hard at the top.

  6. Repeat for reps and repeat for other side.

Check out the video by CrossFit® to see what this looks like!

The Nordic Hamstring Curl

This is also a much tougher bodyweight exercise that's going to work the hamstrings to a very high degree.

Essentially, it's a hamstring curl that you'd do in the gym, but with your own bodyweight.

Please note that this is a very tough exercise, and you likely won't be able to do it straight away. You likely won't be able to fully master it for a very long time.

Again, pair this with air or pistol squats and some Romanian deadlifts, and you've got yourself a pretty well rounded workout program for targeting the muscles of the lower body if you're a beginner.

To do the Nordic hamstring curl:

  1. Place your heels under a couch or a platform that you can comfortably rest them on. (You may need a partner or someone else to sit on this object so it doesn't rise up).

  2. Kneeling with the heels still under the platform, lower your body down (let gravity do the work, but resist the weight as much as you can by pushing your heels up).

  3. Do down until the weight becomes too heavy (we assume you're not that strong), and then press yourself back up with your hands just enough to assist your hamstrings.

  4. Curl your bodyweight up back into the starting position with your legs.

  5. Repeat.

Check out Andres Vargas' video below to see what this looks like!

These two are really going to be your most advanced lower body exercises with just your bodyweight. The legs are a very strong muscle group, and it's going to be tough for many people after a couple years of consistent training to get a proper stimulus in the legs.

You could argue that you can do single leg Nordic hamstring curls, but they're INCREDIBLY tough and we doubt very many on this planet can do them with proper form.

Easier Alternatives

Chances are, you won't actually be able to do the exercises we've listed above if you're a complete beginner.

They are pretty difficult, and you may have to look to do some easier alternatives to the exercise so that you're actually able to do your reps and practise technique.

We'll give and show you how to do two exercises for each movement type (push, pull and legs), and then give you a list of some other ones that you could perform as well.

The Knee Push Up

These are a step down from the regular push up and drastically reduce the amount of your bodyweight that you're lifting and pressing upwards.

Most people will start here at knee push ups when they first begin, and that is absolutely find. There's nothing to be ashamed about.

They will work the exact same muscles as the regular push up, by have you lifting a little bit less weight.

Here's how to do them:

  1. Kneel on both knees, and allow your body to drop down towards the ground.

  2. Catch yourself with your hands. You should find yourself in a high plank position, just with your knees on the ground instead of your feet.

  3. Tighten your core and keep your body in a straight line.

  4. Lower yourself down with control until your chest reaches just above the floor.

  5. Press yourself back up by driving your hands hard into the ground.

  6. Repeat.

Check out the video below by South Landing Fitness to see what this looks like!

The Incline Push Up

The incline push up is another great variation to the regular push up that reduces the amount of weight you're pressing upwards.

The inclined position is actually going to work your lower chest slightly more, like a dip would.

The higher you place your on an incline, the easier the exercise is going to be.

A good way to get started is to start with you hands high, and then gradually decrease the height of them as you get strong until you can eventually do full push ups.

Here's how to do them:

  1. Elevate your hands by 30-60cm to start with (depending on how strong you are).

  2. Tighten your core and get your body in a straight line.

  3. Lower yourself down with control until your chest reaches just above the box/elevated surface.

  4. Press yourself back up by driving your hands hard into the ground.

  5. Repeat.

Check out the video below by Tiger Fitness for a demonstration!

These two exercises are both great starting movements that you can use to build up the strength to do regular push ups and dips.

Other easier examples include:

  • Band-assisted dips

  • Chair/bench dips

  • Negative push ups

  • Wall push ups

We'll now get into the easier 'pull' variations.

The Jumping Negative Pull Up

The jumping negative pull up is a great variation of the regular pull up that helps you build up your foundational strength in the eccentric portion of the movement, when you're lowering yourself down.

To do it:

  1. Jump up to the bar and use the momentum of your jump to pull yourself up to the top of a regular pull up.

  2. Hold yourself up there for a second if you can, and then lower yourself back down but resist it as much as possible.

  3. Go slow and really try to think about pulling with your back by drawing the elbows in instead of curling and flexing at the elbow.

  4. Go all the way down and jump back up to repeat.

Watch the video by MovementLink to see what this looks like!

The Bent Knee Inverted Row

This is a variation to the regular inverted row that's going to reduce some of the weight you're pulling up by placing more of it onto your feet.

By bending your knees and pulling your mass closer to your feet, they're going to carry more of the load and you'll be able to perform the movement without having to carry as much weight.

To do it:

  1. Set a bar (smith machine or in a rack) to about waist height.

  2. Lie down under the bar and grab onto it with a shoulder width grip.

  3. Straighten your body and bend your knees to bring them closer to you, adjusting until you can pull yourself up and finish with the bar at your sternum.

  4. Pull yourself up, and squeeze your shoulder blades together.

  5. Hold for a second, before lowering yourself back down with control.

  6. Repeat.

Check out the video by Live Lean TV Daily Exercises to see what this looks like!

Once again, we'll leave you with a list of some other easier variations that you can do.

  • Band assisted pull ups

  • Dead hangs (improve grip strength)

  • Jumping pull ups

Now we'll get into the easier leg exercises.

The Box Squat

These are a great way to train both parts of the regular squat without having to hold yourself and catch the weight of your body in the bottom position.

To do them:

  1. Grab a box/bench that's about as high as your hips would be in the bottom end of a squat.

  2. Stand in front of the platform and face away from it.

  3. Simply squat down (control the weight) until you're sitting on the platform.

  4. Stand back up (try not to cheat by creating momentum with your body).

  5. Repeat.

See the video below by Origym Personal Trainer Courses to see what this looks like!

The Lateral Lunge

This is a great lower body movement that you can use to strengthen the quads, glutes and hamstrings.

The sideways lunge pattern places a big stretch on the hamstrings at the bottom end of the movement, and really helps to round out your lower body training with calisthenics if you're a beginner.

To do the lateral lunge:

  1. Step out to your weaker side and squat down onto that side as low as you can get.

  2. Ensure your feet are pointing forwards and are flat on the ground.

  3. Keep the other leg straight.

  4. Really try to feel the stretch in the hamstring of the leg that's straightened.

  5. Press yourself back up by driving your foot into the ground and repeat for reps.

Again, watch Live Lean TV Daily Exercises' video below to see what this looks like!

And once again we'll give you a list of more easier variations.

  • Glute bridges

  • Forward lunges

  • Reverse lunges

  • Skipping

  • Stiff legged deadlifts

  • Good mornings

As you can see, there are lots of bodyweight exercises that you can do and learn to build some great foundational strength and muscle as a beginner in calisthenics.

Equipment Requirements

One of the great things about calisthenics is that it really doesn't require very much equipment for you to get started.

Really, the only things you're going to need are a pull up bar and some everyday household items such as stools and benches, or a pair of parallel push up bars if you're really serious about it.

Learn more:

Aside from that, you can work your entire body with just your bodyweight from home.

Exercises such as push ups, squats, Romanian deadlifts and so on don't require any extra equipment. All you need it a little bit of space.

Now even if you don't have some of this equipment, it can definitely be substituted for with some pretty basic household items.

For example, you can do pull ups on a door frame.

You can do inverted rows with a sturdy table.

You can do push ups with a stack of books or some stools, and you can do dips on a kitchen countertop.

Sometimes, you just have to get a little creative with what you do and how you approach things.

How to Train and Get Started

When you get started with calisthenics at home, it's important for you to remember that the results you get are going to be determine by how hard you work and how much you're willing to put into this.

It's important for you to understand that your goals aren't going to be achieved in just a couple weeks of training. It's certainly not going to happen overnight.

It requires several months and years of hard work to get to where you want to be.

However, with that being said, the key to getting ahead is to simply get started. And we'll help you do that now.

So we're assuming that you have read the list of the best exercises to perform and have a rough idea of what you're going to be able to do.

For example, you should know approximately how many push ups you're able to do, pull ups, bodyweight or pistol squats you can do, and so on.

If you don't, just give it a quick test!

Knowing roughly what you're capable of doing is going to go a long way in helping you create or get the best workout program possible and help you see results the quickest.

To get started with anything in fitness, you need a workout program.

This is basically the map of everything that you're going to do in terms of your workouts from week to week.

We do have an article breaking this down which we'll leave a link to here, but we'll still give you a brief rundown of how you should be doing this and how you can apply it to your calisthenics training program.

Still, we highly recommend checking out our full blog post on that so that we can really grasp the idea and create the best one for yourself.

Everything below is going to be covered in more detail in that blog post.

A bad workout program is going to cost you lots of gains over time, and you'll end up wishing you'd taken the time to properly learn how to create one on your own or had gotten one made for you instead.

1. Choosing Your Goals

Fit woman stretching in the sunset and looking very inspirational to fitness beginners in calisthenics

The first step to any workout program is to pick your goals and know exactly what they are.

Are you looking to build some strength?

Gain muscle mass?

Do you also want to lose fat at the same time?

These are all things that you have to think about and take into consideration when you're creating your workout program.

The things you're trying to achieve are going to have an influence and impact on the approach that you take with your training, and it's important for you to know exactly why you're doing this.

2. Picking a Workout Split

The next step to creating your workout program is to know what workout split you're going to run and how you're going to plan our your sessions throughout the week.

If you're not sure what a workout split is, you're going to want to check out this blog post to learn all about them and what the best ones are.

Picking a workout split is crucial as it's going to determine the exercises that you do each session, as well as the volume that you do and the way you approach your workout.

We do need to clear up that with calisthenics, you're not going to have as many options when it comes to workout splits as you would with weight training in the gym.

The main reason for this is the fact that there aren't very many isolation exercises you can perform when you're training with just your bodyweight.

For example, you can isolation your pecs with a cable fly or isolate your lateral deltoid with a lateral raise.

However with bodyweight training, exercises like this don't exist.

There are very few isolation exercises with just your bodyweight that you can do during your workouts.

This makes it tough to run workout splits that involve lots of volume, as you're mainly stuck to compound exercises (which are more taxing on the body and won't allow you to do as much volume).

But you've still got choices in training splits.

The ones that we would recommend you to choose from are:

  • Push, pull, legs

  • Upper/lower

  • Full body

  • Combination of the three

All of these splits each have their own advantages and drawbacks, and it's up to you to weigh everything and look at your own individual situation to make an informed choice.

3. Creating Your Workout Routines

We do also have an article breaking this down completely, which we'll leave a link to here.

We won't go into too much detail about that in this article, but there is something that we still need to address.

The post we've linked to is geared towards lifters in the gym, whereas you're an aspiring calisthenics athlete.

Everything in the post is going to remain the same, aside from the list of exercises that we've given you to primarily choose from.

You'll see these lists when you read through the post.

We'll give you the list of calisthenics exercises here so that you can flick back and forth between the tabs and create a good workout routine for yourself.

From easiest to most advanced:

Best 'Push' Exercises (Chest, Shoulders and Triceps)

  • Knee push ups

  • Incline push ups

  • Negative push ups

  • Wall push ups

  • Regular push ups

  • Dips

  • Decline push ups

  • Archer push ups

Best 'Pull' Exercises (Back and Biceps)

  • Jumping negative pull ups

  • Bent knee inverted rows

  • Band assisted pull ups

  • Dead hangs

  • Jumping pull ups

  • Pull ups/chin ups

  • Inverted rows

  • Commando Pull up

  • Archer pull up

Best Leg Exercises (Quads, Glutes, Hamstrings and Calves)

  • Box squats

  • Lateral lunges

  • Glute bridges

  • Forward lunges

  • Reverse lunges

  • Skipping

  • Stiff legged deadlifts

  • Good mornings

  • Air squats

  • Romanian deadlifts

  • Pistol squats

  • Nordic hamstring curls

So when you come to pick your exercises, choose from these instead of the weight training exercises that we've provided you with in the blog post we linked to above.

Aside from that, everything is laid out for you in the blog post above, and you just have to follow it correctly to create a banger workout routine for yourself!

4. Check That Your Program is Effective

Again, this is covered in the workout routine guide.

We'll just leave you with the check list that you should be able to tick off in order for your workout routines to be effective. (The checklist is backed by science).

  • Your program has you doing 10-20 working sets per muscle per week

  • No muscle is being hit two days in a row

  • You're working each muscle at least twice a week

If you would like this checklist broken down and would like to see some of the science behind it, just click here.

5. Knowing Your Nutrition

Person following a workout diet and trying to get as fit as possible through bodyweight training.

Nutrition is just as important as the workouts themselves when it comes to making progress in fitness.

Putting the wrong foods and the wrong amount of it into your body is going to have serious impacts on your ability to see progress towards your goals. It might even kill it completely.

We've covered this in quite a lot of detail in our workout program guide, so you should really go check it out. Seriously, it's going to be worth the read (and it's not that long to begin with).

Basically, you need to be able to track your macros and have a rough idea of how much you're supposed to be eating and what you're going to be eating to reach your daily intake goals.

6. Know Your Recovery

Recovery is important as it's going to help you prevent injuries and help keep you training as efficiently as possible for as long as possible.

This is especially important in calisthenics and bodyweight training where you're constantly doing compound exercises that place a lot of stress on your joints and muscles.

By recovery, we mean your static stretching and foam rolling, as well as your post-workout recovery and getting enough sleep.

Fit woman doing stretching and calisthenics, using just bodyweight to build strength and muscle.

Just 5-10 minutes after your workout spent on recovery can go a long way in helping you stay safe and train efficiently in the future, and it's definitely worth it.

Look to get at least 7 hours of sleep each night and make sure that you're doing these 6 things to maximize your rest days!

7. Figure Out How You're Going to Progress

This is one of the most important steps to working out.

You absolutely have to be applying progressive overload and making your workouts more difficult in one way or another.

The link above leads to an article breaking down what progressive overload is, but it is slightly more geared towards progressive overload for weight training in the gym.

Progressively overloading in calisthenics is slightly more difficult as you can't simply increase the weight that you're lifting each week or so.

Instead you have to find other ways to do it.

Click here to learn how you can train efficiently with minimal equipment and make the most out of your hard work at home!

The blog post covers specific training techniques that you can implement to make the most out of each rep you do at home and to make your workouts as, if not more effective than they would be in a gym.

Once you've done all of that, you should have yourself a pretty good looking workout program already. Yes, it takes A LOT of work.

We realize that most people don't have the time to sit down and spend so much making a workout program on their own.

If you would like our team to just create a fully personalized workout program for you (and only you) by looking at your goals, needs and preferences starting at just a few dollars, click below to check out our custom training programs feature.

We'll be able to create a program for you, even if you're training at home and don't have very much equipment. (Although it is highly preferable that you have a pull up bar).

Once you have your workout program, and you have a rough idea of what you're going to be doing with your diet, you're pretty much all set to get started!

The last thing left from us in this guide is to give you a couple of important notes that you have to consider. Don't worry, this isn't going to take too long.

Important Notes

In this final section we'll just cover a couple of important things that you have to note if you're going to be training with calisthenics.

Calisthenics is Not Great for Lower Body Development

One of the main things that you have to note about calisthenics is the fact that it's not great for lower body development.

Beginners can definitely get a solid leg workout in with just their bodyweight. Intermediate trainees can as well if they train hard enough.

However, some intermediate and most advanced trainees will find it very difficult to create a challenge for their legs with just their bodyweight.

The legs are a very strong muscle group, and most f the time, bodyweight exercises aren't going to be enough if you're an advanced athlete.

With calisthenics, there are very difficult exercises such as the one arm push up, one arm pull up, archer pull up, planche push up, etc.

These are very tough movements that most people will only dream of ever getting close to performing.

However, the most advanced leg exercise (probably the pistol squat) is pretty doable for most intermediate trainees provided they've got a decent level of athleticism.

Simply put, calisthenics is not the best option for lower body development. Weight training is going to be quite a lot better in that aspect.

You Have to Train Hard

Fit man and woman doing push ups on push up bars, building lots of muscle through calisthenics and bodyweight training.

If you're reading this, we're assuming that you're a beginner.

And if you want to make progress in the gym, you absolutely have to train hard.

With most of your sets in your bodyweight workouts, you should be looking to take them to failure, or at least 2-3 reps shy of it. That's properly training hard, and it's extremely important if you're serious about reaching your goals in fitness.

Click here to learn about 11 key reasons why people fail to get in shape, and how you can train to avoid this and make the best progress for yourself!

You Can Include Both Weight Training and Calisthenics Into Your Program

You're not just limited to one of the training styles. You can definitely include both in your program and get the best of both worlds.

However to do this, we would highly recommend that you get our team to create a program for you if you haven't already so that there aren't any mistakes and you can train with confidence knowing that your program is as good as it can be.

You Should Continue to Educate Yourself About Training More Efficiently

There is tons of great content online. You'll find a lot of it here in the Gympulsive blog.

You'll find great content on YouTube, TikTok, Instagram and more (although you need to be careful and not trust everything you see).

Sit down and take the time to educate yourself as much as possible, so that you can be the most efficient trainee possible and make the best progress!

Even if you think you know about fitness, there's always tons and tons more to learn. Everybody is still learning (or should be anyways).

We'll finish off this section with a great quote.

"Learning how to learn is a lifelong process." - Kay Peterson

Final Thoughts

Calisthenics is a great training style that many people would be able to benefit from, and it's also a great place to start if you're looking to build strength and muscle with minimal equipment from home.

You don't have to commit too much money and other resources at first, which is great for beginners who may not have fully decided whether or not fitness is for them or not.

Getting started from scratch takes quite a lot of careful consideration and decision making, but it's going to be well worth your time if you can do it properly and really give yourself a good headstart.

If you found this post helpful, remember to share it with your friends so that we can reach more people and help more reach their goals in fitness!

For more high-quality content like this, upgrade your account to Gympulsive Pro for full access to the site and exclusive, unlimited access to all our blog posts!

And remember, if you would like some help with getting started, you don't want to do all of this hard work and would rather have our team do it properly for you, you can always head on over to our custom training programs feature to get started.

You're now all set to get started with your journey in calisthenics and bodyweight training!

The world is in your hands. Go make it happen!

Best of luck,

The team at Gympulsive


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