Are you looking to get into calisthenics but don’t know exactly where or how to start? I have been there, and at the start I progressed very slowly because I didn’t do it right, and I want to help you avoid my mistakes. So, if you are wondering how to start calisthenics for beginners, I got you.
What you will learn in this article:
- What is calisthenics?
- Benefits of calisthenics
- What equipment do you need?
- How to warm up
- How to start calisthenics for beginners
What is calisthenics?
Calisthenics is a super-effective, super-efficient way of training. In calisthenics, you train using only your bodyweight, but there is an exception if you do weighted calisthenics, where you add weight to things like pull-ups and dips. Since calisthenics is 99% bodyweight training, you don’t need a gym membership or fancy equipment; all you need is some bars and your own body.
Calisthenics consists of exercises like pull-ups, dips, push-ups, Australian pull-ups, etc. Calisthenics does not only focus on these exercises but also on learning skills like the handstand, muscle-up, front lever, etc. and mastering your bodyweight. Calisthenics also helps you build a ton of strength.
Benefits of calisthenics
You can do it anywhere
Seriously, anywhere. There is no need to go to the gym or buy fancy equipment. All you need is your own body and some open space, and you’re good to go. Home, park, beach—you name it.
It helps you with everyday tasks
Calisthenics builds a ton of bodyweight strength, which can help you with a lot of tasks. Calisthenics also helps with mobility, which will also help you move better and easier.
It’s great for beginners
If you are just starting out, calisthenics is perfect for you. It’s super beginner-friendly. For every calisthenics exercise, there are easier variations you can do, and if you can’t do those easier variations, you can make them even easier.
It builds strength
And I’m not talking just a little bit of strength; I mean real, functional strength. You’ll find yourself getting better at everyday tasks and feeling more capable overall.
It’s more fun than normal weightlifting
Lifting weights can get a bit repetitive, but that is where calisthenics comes in. It is way more fun and interesting, and you get to learn cool-looking skills.
Hits Every. Single. Muscle
Most calisthenics exercises are compound exercises, meaning that they hit multiple muscles. If you are doing calisthenics exercises and you are wondering how you are going to hit a specific muscle, you most likely already have.
Improves Brain-Body Connection
This one’s a bit fancy, but it basically means your brain gets better at telling your body what to do. You become more coordinated and agile, and that’s a win in anyone’s book.
Now, you don’t need a lot of equipment for calisthenics. In fact, you don’t even need all these pieces of calisthenics equipment I’m going to show you, but they can help.
In calisthenics, your wrists take a ton of pressure, and they can start hurting. Wrist wraps are a great solution; they help you with hurting wrists, give you a lot more stability, and protect your wrists against injuries.
These are used very often in calisthenics. They help when doing exercises like L-sits. You can also use them for handstands, handstand push-ups, planches, etc.
This is the one piece of equipment that is a must-have. Most of the pulling exercises in calisthenics are done with a pull-up bar. Getting one of these is a must-have if you want to take calisthenics seriously.
Once you get a bit more advanced and want to start adding some extra weight to your pull-ups, dips, muscle-ups, etc.,. A dip belt might just be what you need. There are a couple of ways to add extra weight to your exercises, but a dip belt is one of the best.
Sweaty palms? Are your hands slipping on the bars? Chalk is what you need. Chalk will help you grip the bars harder and longer. It helps a ton, believe me.
These are used all throughout calisthenics. You can use them for warming up, mobility training, learning skills, etc. Resistance bands are used for a ton of things in calisthenics, and I would definitely recommend looking into getting some.
Alright, folks, it’s time to dive into the exciting world of calisthenics for beginners! But before you start busting out those pull-ups and dips, there’s something crucial you shouldn’t skip, and that is warming up.
Why warm up?
Warming up is one of the most important things you can do in calisthenics. Here’s why:
- Prevents Injuries: Warming up gradually increases blood flow to your muscles, making them more flexible and less prone to injuries.
- Boosts Performance: It gets your body ready for the workout, helps you get smoother movements, and even boosts your strength a bit.
- Improves Mobility: Your joints play a huge role in how freely you can move, so you have to loosen them up before training.
Now, here’s a quick warm-up routine you can follow.
Warm-Up Routine (5-7 minutes):
- Wrist Rolls (30 seconds): Grab your hands together in front of your body and start rolling your hands together in circles.
- Wrist Circles on the Ground (30 seconds): Place your palms on the ground, one hand pointing towards you and the other pointing away. Now just make circles over your wrists.
- Shoulder Circles (15 reps forward, 15 reps backward): Keep your arms straight out to the side, and make circle movements with your arms.
- Scapula Push-Ups (12 reps): Get into a plank position, and then push your shoulder blades apart while keeping your arms straight at all times (like you’re pushing the ground away), and then squeeze them together.
- Scapula Pull-Ups (8 reps): Hang from your pull-up bar and try to pinch your shoulder blades together. Lower yourself back down and repeat.
- Jump Rope (3 minutes): Some light cardio is always good to warm up.
This is just a quick example of a warm-up routine; you can customise it as you want.
How to start calisthenics for beginners
Alright, so the place to start calisthenics for beginners is the basics. Before you can move up to any advanced skills, you need to have the basics down. Start by mastering the following exercises:
Pull-ups are a cornerstone of calisthenics for beginners, targeting your upper body like nothing else. Here’s how to do it:
- Grab the bar with your palms facing away from you (an overhand grip), hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
- Hang from the bar with your arms fully extended.
- Engage your back muscles and pull your body upward until your chin crosses the bar.
- Lower yourself down with control until your arms are fully extended again.
If You Can’t Do Pull-Ups Yet:
- Assisted Pull-Ups: Use a resistance band or assistance machine to reduce the amount of bodyweight you need to lift. Place your foot or knee in the band or use the assistance machine’s counterweight.
- Negative Pull-Ups: Jump up to the top position of the pull-up (chin above the bar) and then lower yourself down slowly, focusing on the lowering phase.
If pull-ups are too easy for you,
- Wide-Grip Pull-Ups: Widen your hand placement on the bar to target different muscle groups, particularly the outer back and shoulders.
- L-Sit Pull-Ups: Lift your legs in front of you during the pull-up, keeping them in an “L” shape throughout the movement. This engages your core and increases the difficulty.
- Weighted Pull-Ups: Add additional weight by wearing a dip belt with weight plates to increase the challenge and build more strength.
Mastering the Push-Up:
Push-ups are one of the best exercises in calisthenics for beginners. Push-ups strengthen your chest, shoulders, and triceps while engaging your core. Here’s how to do them:
- Start in a plank position with your hands placed slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
- Lower your body by bending your elbows while keeping your body in a straight line from head to heels.
- Push your body back up to the starting position, fully extending your arms.
If You Can’t Do Push-Ups Yet:
- Knee Push-Ups: Start with knee push-ups. Position yourself as in a regular push-up, but with your knees on the ground instead of your toes. This reduces the load on your upper body and allows you to build strength.
- Incline Push-Ups: Perform push-ups with your hands elevated on a stable surface, like a bench or countertop. The higher the surface, the easier the exercise.
If push-ups are too easy for you:
- Diamond Push-Ups: Place your hands close together under your chest, forming a diamond shape with your thumbs and index fingers. This variation intensifies the engagement of your triceps and chest.
- Clap Push-Ups: Add an explosive element to your push-ups by pushing off the ground with enough force to clap your hands together before landing. This builds power and explosiveness.
Mastering the Dip:
Dips are fantastic for building upper body strength, particularly in the triceps and chest. Find parallel bars or dip stations for this exercise:
- Stand between the bars and hold onto them with your palms facing inward (a neutral grip).
- Lower your body by bending your elbows until your shoulders are below your elbows.
- Push yourself back up to the starting position by extending your arms.
If You Can’t Do Dips Yet:
- Bench Dips: Sit on a bench or a sturdy surface, place your hands beside your hips, and lower your body by bending your elbows. Keep your feet flat on the ground for support.
- Assisted Dips with Resistance Bands: Attach resistance bands to the bars, place your knees in the loops, and use them for assistance. The bands help by reducing the amount of bodyweight you need to lift.
If Dips Are Too Easy for You:
- Weighted Dips: To increase the challenge, hold a dumbbell or weight plate between your legs or use a dip belt with added weight while performing the exercise.
Mastering the Squat:
Squats are a fundamental lower-body exercise in calisthenics for beginners that targets your quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes. Here’s how to perform a bodyweight squat:
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, toes pointing slightly outward.
- Bend your knees and hips, pushing your buttocks back as if you’re sitting in an imaginary chair. Keep your chest up and back straight.
- Lower your body until your thighs are parallel to the ground or as far as your mobility allows.
- Push through your heels and return to the starting position.
If You Can’t Do Squats Yet:
- Chair Squats: Use a chair or bench for support. Sit and stand on the chair while focusing on form and control. As you progress, gradually reduce the chair’s assistance.
- Assisted Squats: Hold onto a sturdy object or rail for balance and support as you practice your squats. Use your arms to assist in standing back up.
If Squats Are Too Easy for You:
- Pistol Squats: Perform single-leg squats by extending one leg in front of you while squatting on the other leg. Keep the non-working leg elevated throughout the movement.
- Jump Squats: Add an explosive element to your squats by jumping up as you rise from the squatting position. This enhances power and agility, requiring more effort.
Mastering the Plank:
Planks are exceptional for their core strength and stability. Follow these steps:
- Begin in a push-up position with your forearms resting on the ground. Keep your elbows aligned under your shoulders.
- Maintain a straight line from head to heels, engaging your core muscles to prevent your hips from sagging.
- Stay in this position for as long as you can while maintaining good form.
If You Can’t Do a Plank Yet:
- Knee Plank: Start on your knees instead of your toes, maintaining the same straight alignment and engaging your core. Gradually work up to a full plank.
- Elevated Plank: Place your forearms on an elevated surface, like a bench, to reduce the difficulty. Focus on maintaining proper form and gradually transition to a standard plank.
If planks are too easy for you:
- Side Planks: Rotate into a side plank position, balancing on one forearm and stacking your feet on top of each other. For an added challenge, lift your top leg or perform hip dips.
- Plank Variations: Add challenges like leg lifts, arm reaches, or shoulder taps to intensify your plank routine. These variations engage more muscle groups and enhance core stability.
Pick a workout split:
Start by picking a workout split, like one of the following:
- Push, Pull, and legs
- Upper-body, Lower-body
Decide what exercises you want to implement into your workouts:
Now you need to decide what exercises you want to implement based on your level. You can find a lot of exercises for beginners, intermediates and advanced at this article: 35 Best Calisthenics Exercises from Beginner to Advanced – Jaco Jansen van Vuuren (jacojv.com)
It should look something like this:
- Push ups
- Pike push-ups
- Archer push-ups
- Pull ups
- Scapula pull-ups
- Wide-grip pull-ups
- Australian pull-ups
- Sissy squats
- calve raises
- Bulgarian split squats