Calisthenics for Beginners: The Ultimate Guide

Calisthenics workouts are beneficial exercise routines that can help build muscle using minimal equipment. Calisthenics is a form of exercise that has been around for a long time and continues to grow in popularity. You can do these bodyweight workouts anywhere, and it tends to focus on larger muscle groups. 

Calisthenics exercises are great for those just beginning their fitness journey. Not only does this style of exercise provide a full-body workout, but it also helps build a good basis for a workout routine moving forward. Once you build up strength, you can start to incorporate more weight training and equipment, if you so choose. 

In this article, we will discuss what calisthenics are, what the benefits of calisthenics are, and how calisthenics are incorporated into other fitness routines. We will also touch base on how you can get real fitness results with only bodyweight exercises.


What Is Calisthenics?

Calisthenics is a form of bodyweight resistance exercise. Calisthenic exercises include, but are not limited to, squats, push-ups, lunges, chin-ups, crunches, jump squats, and jumping jacks. When doing calisthenic exercises, you use your body weight and gravity as resistance to help develop strength, endurance, flexibility, and coordination. 

Calisthenic exercises can include various movements and degrees of difficulty. For instance, you can keep your movements simple by doing standard squats or you can try more difficult calisthenic movements such as muscle-ups (which are the same as a pull-up, except you pull your entire upper body over the bar). 

You can also incorporate gymnastics-style movements into your calisthenics practice, as you use an apparatus like a pull-up bar to do inversions like flips. You may also notice some similarities between calisthenics workout plans and other different training styles, such as CrossFit.


Calisthenics and CrossFit

CrossFit is a strength, conditioning, and overall fitness regimen that incorporates components of aerobic exercises, calisthenic exercises, and Olympic lifts. CrossFit focuses on high-intensity interval training (HIIT) to help build strength and muscle mass. 

Many people immediately assume CrossFit is all about complex, heavy lifts. However, CrossFit focuses more on functional movements, meaning that calisthenics often comes into play, especially when it comes to core strength. 

Below is a list of different calisthenic exercises used in CrossFit workouts: 

  • Pull-Ups
  • Muscle-Ups
  • Handstand Holds 
  • Hollow Rocks/Hollow Holds 
  • L-Sit Holds 

Warming up is also very important in CrossFit. During warm-up, calisthenic exercises are used for warming up specific muscle groups to help prep the body for specific lifts. 


Calisthenics in Functional Exercise Programs

Calisthenics exercises go hand in hand with functional fitness programs. The goal of functional fitness is to improve one’s ability to perform activities related to daily life. Functional fitness can be geared towards everyday activities such as sitting, standing, walking, and picking items up, or it can be geared towards specific activities like throwing, swinging, and kicking. 

Calisthenics plays a huge role in functional fitness workout routines because almost anyone can perform calisthenics exercises. Also, with functional fitness, you are not focused on lifting heavy weights, since most calisthenics exercises only require your own body weight. 

Calisthenics is also easier on your tendons, joints, and muscles than heavy lifting or plyometrics might be. With proper care, you will also recover more quickly, allowing you to increase your workload more rapidly over time. Therefore, calisthenics exercises are great for building functional strength while making everyday tasks easier. 


Calisthenics in the Military

The military frequently utilizes calisthenics routines, since these exercises are beneficial to key drills and army exercise routines.

Calisthenics workouts are great for military workouts because they are adaptable and can be tweaked to whatever needs you may have. Military calisthenics workouts often involve tried-and-true bodyweight exercises mixed with conditioning drills to help build a solid foundation for military personnel. 

These bodyweight exercises are a perfect way for military personnel to utilize all muscle groups by using their entire body for specific movements 


The Benefits of Calisthenics 

There are many benefits of calisthenics training. 

  • No Gym Membership Needed: Because calisthenics can be done anytime and anywhere, there is no need for a gym membership or a personal trainer. 
  • Safer Workouts: Since calisthenics are primarily bodyweight exercises, the risk of injury while working is significantly reduced. 
  • Gain Functional Strength and Mobility: Calisthenics exercises are compound movements, meaning they work multiple muscle groups. They not only help you get stronger but they also can help aid in weight loss and improve range of motion. 
  • Great Full-Body Workout: One of the best things about calisthenics is that the number of exercises is endless. From push-ups and pull-ups to burpees and Turkish get-ups, the workouts can be very diverse and provide an entire body workout with just bodyweight training. 
  • No equipment needed: Calisthenics are bodyweight movements, so there is no need for special equipment. However, if you want to spice up your body weight workouts, you can incorporate weighted vests, resistance bands, or a pull-up bar. 


Calisthenics 101: Exercises To Try

Below are some great beginner calisthenics workouts to try. 


  1. You can start on your knees or your toes (whichever is more comfortable for you) while placing your hands slightly outside your shoulders. 

  2. Once in the starting position, be careful not to let your back sag or stick too high up in the air. 

  3. Begin by bending your elbows and lowering your chest toward the floor. Be sure to keep your elbows close to your body. 

  4. Once in the lowered position, your upper arms should be at a 45-degree angle. Then push your body weight up back to the starting position again. 

  5. The key is to keep your core engaged during the entire movement. 

  6. Continue the exercise for as many reps as desired. 



  1. Stand facing the pull-up bar.

  2. Grip the pull-up bar from the top with your arms shoulder-width apart. 

  3. Use your shoulder muscles to pull your body weight up. You want to bring your head up over the pull-up bar. 


Bodyweight Squats

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and toes slightly turned outward. 

  2. Ensure your core is engaged, and start to shift your weight back into your heels while pushing your hips back as you squat down.

  3. Continue to lower your body weight until you are almost parallel to the floor. Your feet should always remain flat, and never lift your heels when squatting. 

  4. Your spine should remain neutral and your chest up as you return to the starting position.'



  1. Start by laying on the ground with your back flat on the floor. 

  2. Place your feet flat on the floor with your feet about a foot away from your hips.

  3. Cross your hands on top of your chest and keep your neck and head engaged.

  4. Keeping your core tight, sit up until your elbow or chest touch your knees. 

  5. Be sure to use your core muscles to pull yourself up, rather than straining your neck.



  1. Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart. Keep your weight in your heels.

  2. Push your hips back, bending your knees and lowering your body into a squat-like position. 

  3. Place your hands (palms down) on the floor in front of you. 

  4. Shift your weight into your hands and jump your feet back, landing softly on the balls of your feet, with your body in a plank position. 

  5. Then jump your feet forward so they land next to your hands. 

  6. Push your arms up over your head and jump into the air. 

  7. Repeat the movement. 


Get Real Results From Bodyweight Exercise

Believe it or not, bodyweight training can help build strength and muscle mass. In order to see real results from calisthenic exercises, you must plan a strength training workout program. This can be accomplished by increasing repetitions, decreasing rest times, performing variations, training to failure, and increasing time under tension. 


Bottom Line

Calisthenic workouts are a great way for people of all fitness levels to improve and maintain their fitness. Whether it be athletic work, home workouts, or just wanting to maintain functional movements, calisthenic workouts are a terrific way to maintain overall wellness. 

And whether you’re doing calisthenics or focusing on plyo, Haven Athletic Duffels can help you focus on organization, so you can get the most out of your workout. 



Effects of Low-Volume, High-Intensity Whole-Body Calisthenics on Army ROTC Cadets | Military Medicine | Oxford Academic (

​​What is CrossFit? And is it right for you? Here's what you need to know | NBC

Calisthenics For Beginners: How To Get Started | SWEAT

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