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Calisthenics beginners guide – what and how to do

What is calisthenics?

Calisthenics is types of exercise where you use your own body weight in different types of exercises with different intensity. This type of exercise is not new they originated from ancient Greece and became popular in the early 19th century. You’ve surely watched a movie where marines are training hard on a muddy ground during a rainstorm… well, that’s pretty much it, but in a lighter and friendlier environment.

All athletes, fitness trainers, military staff use these exercises for warming up, and some use them as a full-body workout. This includes pullups, pushups, dips, squats, crunches, jumping rope, etc.

Pros and cons of calisthenics

Of course, like any other workout routine, calisthenics has its pros and cons and depending on the results you expect, you will see on which side you lean more.


  • Free – you don’t need a gym, so no membership, all you need is a bar in your house (if you don’t have, they are cheap and easy to install), or you can visit the local playground. Using gloves can help, especially if you have more gentle hands
  • All muscle workout – almost all of the exercises are done in a matter that engages all your muscles, starting from your legs all the way to your neck and shoulder
  • Freedom to do it anywhere – if there is enough space to do a pushup and squat, then you can do all the exercises. And you can do it anytime, and use everything around you, chair, staircases, the sofa, everything!
  • Fat burner – the routine is excellent for high-intensity interval training, which burns fat really fast. The exercises are meant more for strengthening, but some of the exercises are also great for a cardio workout.


  • Hard to measure your progress – in the gym, it can be easy, you are doing well if you can increase either the weight or the number of reps. With calisthenics, it can be more difficult to measure your progress, since your body weight is all you lift.
  • Poor leg training – without weights leg training can be hard and slow. There are many exercises for leg workout, however, none of them will give you results as heavy weight lifting.
  • Not for bodybuilding – be confident that you will not be building huge muscles, and you won’t strengthen your muscles for heavy lifting. However, you will build strong lean muscles!

How does calisthenics go?

The exercise routine is pretty simple, you perform a list of exercises one after another in one circle. You can rest for 30 seconds between each set, and you rest three minutes after each circle. Usually, you should do three circles, and stick to the plan, if you have to, it is better to lower the number of reps of each exercise but do the three circles.

For a beginner, you should follow the next plan, and stick to it for two months, and if you are doing the exercises without any difficulties, then you can switch to a more advanced calisthenics routine.

  • 10 pullups – facing the exercise bar grasp it with your arms slightly apart (more than shoulders), and lift with your biceps to get your head above the bar so the bar is behind your head
  • 10 chin-ups – similar as pull-ups, but you lift your head so the bar will be in front of you (your chin should be above the bar)
  • 20 jumping squats – stand on your feet slightly apart (wider than your hips), bend your knees for a squat while keeping your back and chest upright, and then jump straight in the air
  • 20 dips – for this exercise you can use a chair. Hold the chair on the seating area with your arms behind your back, spread your legs forward and lower your back, and then lift with your triceps. If you can, keep your feet on another chair, putting more weight to lift.
  • 25 pushups – get on the ground with your hands wider than your shoulders, then extend your legs backward. Keep your back upright, like plank position, and then bend your elbows up until your chest are near the ground, and then pull up. Make sure your back and chests are upright, and your legs are extended all the way back.
  • 60 crunches – lay on the ground flat, bend your knees to 90 degrees angle to your body so your feet are firmly on the ground. With hands crossed on your chest lift your torso all the way so your arms touch your knees. It is important to keep your back as much as upright as you can.
  • 15 burpees – facing forward with your hands at your sides. Lower into a squat, and continue in a pushup starting position, extending your feet backward shoulder-width apart. Next, lift with your hands and jump your feet forward next to your hands, and jump in the air with your arms over your head.
  • Air running – get in a running position, and do static running for 30 seconds. The tempo should be medium, not too fast. Even better, if you can, you can jump rope for 30 seconds!
  • Plank – the starting position of pushups, but with hand bend in the elbows for 90 degrees, so you can rest your weight on your forearms. Do it as much as you can!

Bear in mind that this is the beginner’s guide, and in order to master the beginner’s routine you will need more than two months of practicing three days a week. If you are mastering at a faster pace, then you check the intermediate routine, which is far harder and much more demanding than beginners.

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