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A beginner’s guide to calisthenics

Last Updated: 15.04.19


Was your New Year’s resolution to become more active and adopt a healthier lifestyle? It is never too late to change your old habits and pick up a new routine that will not only help you lose some weight but also increase your endurance, build up strength, and make you more active.

However, if you are tired of the same picture-perfect Instagram influencers promoting costly gym equipment and ridiculous diets, perhaps you should find something more appealing to you.

Although “out with the old, in with the new” saying should apply to almost all aspects of your life, sometimes, the old is also worthy of your attention. Take calisthenics, for example, a popular form of training back in the 1980s that fell into oblivion after society decided we need more proteins and bodybuilding hormones, more gyms, and more expensive equipment.

What is calisthenics?

With a name coming from the Ancient Greek words “kallos” (beauty) and “sthenos” (strength), this bodyweight-based physical activity is all the workout you need to stay active within a budget. It is a combination of light gymnastic moves and strength training that doesn’t involve anything outside the ordinary as with many of today’s en-vogue workout routines.

The best part? You get to use everything that’s inside and outside, without having to spend money on fancy yoga swings or other expensive gym equipment.

So what do you need?

As one coach would put it, you need “nothing but a strong will to learn.” This is half true as you will, in fact, require some help with your training, especially if you’re new in the field. As far as the equipment goes, calisthenics is one of the few sports that allows you to use your imagination and improvise rather than just buy.

You don’t need protective gear as you will work most of your muscle groups without the help of gym exercise machines. However, if you choose to conduct your training outside and solely base it on the infrastructure from parks and playgrounds, make sure to at least wear a pair of protective workout gloves that will keep you away from calluses, blisters, and joint pain.

If you’re a good carpenter or an excellent improviser, you can build your own equipment in the comfort of your home. Pull-up bars and pull-up stations are easy to build or mount if you buy them directly from the store.

If you decided to build your own equipment, make sure to use high-quality materials like stainless steel and solid wood that won’t bend or fall under the pressure of your body weight. Harnesses are supposed to have metal rings that won’t rust and will provide a secure grip, no matter how sweaty your palms are.

You should avoid rope and other fabrics as they can harm your hands, especially if you’re not used to wearing gloves or protectors.

How often should you train?

If you’re an absolute newbie in the field, don’t set goals that are too hard to reach. Don’t expect to be able to train seven days a week only to get faster results. Most of the times, if you push your limits too hard from the beginning, you will end up with a muscular soreness that will keep you on the bench for the next week, making it easier to quit.

We suggest starting with a couple of mild training sessions per day, three times a week. It shouldn’t take more than 30 minutes in total per day, enough to help you build strength and increase your endurance. Squats, planks, lunges, and push-ups are the only types of exercises you should focus on in the first month of calisthenics.


Examples of calisthenics workout routines

If you’re a visual learner, the easiest way to start practicing would be to look at some motivational videos. However, we would like to show you that you can start training right away, without requiring anything else than the following exercises: max planks, eight squats, eight lunges for each leg, eight push-ups, 8 laying down leg raises, and eight pike push-ups.

This is the absolute beginner training that doesn’t require any physical strength and can be done by anyone, no matter their weight or health condition. If you think our proposed routine is too easy, you can increase the number of each type of exercises to 10 or repeat the whole routine a couple of times.

Moving on to another set of exercises, the following calisthenic routine will require the use of a bar to hang from. If you don’t own one at your place, you can try these exercises in parks or playgrounds.

You will have to do seven close hand chin-ups, five pull-ups, 15 push-ups, 15 Australian pull-ups, five leg raises, and six dips. Repeat the entire set four times. Do you feel your muscles working already?

If you choose to perform the workout routines described in two consecutive days, you should rest the next day. It will give you plenty of time to relax your muscles and prevent injuries, sprained ankles or back pains later on.

Don’t forget to stay hydrated and reduce the number of carbs you eat daily. Stick to a high-protein diet based on white meat and fish that will help you burn fats easier.

After building up your strength and maintaining a healthy diet, you should start diversifying your routines.

Don’t forget that calisthenics focuses on all types of physical activities that could help you improve the aspect of your body without requiring gym equipment. So, apart from the regular push up and dips, why not add some running in your routine? A 100-meter race is the best cardio exercise that will increase your effort resistance.

You can choose to diversify some of your exercises by using a light kettlebell when performing your planks or stretching your arms.



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