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The Complete List of Callisthenic Exercises for Beginners

callisthenic exercises
What Are Callisthenic exercises

Callisthenic is a form of training in which you use bodyweight exercises to build muscle. Calisthenics training is about improving your body and improving strength, balance, control, mobility, and flexibility.

No gym memberships – no expensive accessories. Just you and your body.

Before we go into callisthenic exercises, let’s clear up the air about the common misconceptions about it.

Common misconceptions about callisthenic exercises

There are many common misconceptions about callisthenic exercises that can prevent people from trying this style of training or adding it to their exercise program.

  1. You cannot build muscle with callisthenic exercises

It is suggested that calisthenics do not allow you to build muscle mass as it does weight training. And while weight training tends to bring you muscle mass faster than calisthenics, calisthenics can be a sustainable and effective way to gain strength and build muscle but not as fast as weight training.

  1. You cannot progress resistance with callisthenic exercises

There is a perception that without the option to increase weights, you cannot improve your training beyond your bodyweight. This is not entirely true. To develop resistance to certain exercises, there are many things you can do. You can:

  • Incorporate a resistance belt
  • Increase your reps and sets
  • Increase the difficulty of the exercise (for example, progressing from a push up to a pike push up and eventually a handstand pushups).
  • Use a weighted vest
  • Perform ‘jumping’ variations of certain exercise (jumping squats) to increase your heart rate.
Benefits of callisthenic exercises

Callisthenic exercises has many benefits. Not only your body, but also make life easier, too. Let’s look at the benefits of calisthenics.

  1. You can do it anywhere

Since callisthenic exercises use your body weight as resistance, equipment is not necessary. IT’S FREE. You do not need gym memberships or anything. All you need is your local playground or a pull up bar in your home. This means you can do calisthenics almost anywhere: at home, in the park, or in your hotel room while on vacation or on a business trip.

  1. Good for beginners

Most callisthenic exercises are simple and commonly used. If you are just starting to exercise, starting with calisthenics can help you learn the right form safely before moving on to weight training exercise.

  1. It uses the whole body

Unlike traditional training, most callisthenic exercises are designed to incorporate your whole body in the workout. This means you are increasing your energy throughout your body, rather than just focusing on one area at a time.

  1. It improves functionality

The Calisthenics movement is an “active” movement, which means it will help with coordination, strength, stability, and mobility in your daily life beyond the gym.

  1. It makes you stronger

Callisthenic exercises allow you to build strength in a sustainable way, and will make your whole body stronger over time.

  1. It burns Fat.

Callisthenic exercises are ideal for HIIT (high-intensity training) and AMRAP circuits, which are proven to accelerate fat loss. Don’t get me wrong – traditional weight lifting is good for fat burning too, but it’s just hard to incorporate HIIT training into weight training.

  1. It’s fun

Lastly, calisthenics are fun to do. Once you get to know the basics well, calisthenics can allow you to build strength and flexibility to the point where you will be able to do awesome things with your body that you could never do before.

The Best Callisthenic Exercises for Back
  1. Archer pullups

This exercise will target the back with the biceps also.  Keep working on your basics such as negative or resistance band pull ups, as this exercise requires a very solid foundation.

How to do the archer pullups:
  • Keep one of your arms straight and pull your body up to the side of the pulling arm.
  • Then repeat with the other arm. Be sure to, as always, to engage your shoulders and keep your body straight.

Remember that wide, neutral and close grips are focused on different parts of your back and try to do a variety of grips.

  1. Wide Grip Pull-Ups

callisthenic exercises

This is a very tough variation of pull ups but it’s worth it. It will really engage your whole upper body, it’s best you do it at the beginning of your workout when you are still fresh and strong before moving to the regular pull-ups.

How to do the wide grip pull-ups:
  • With a wider than shoulder width grip, grab the bar with an over hand.
  • Next, squeeze your glutes and tighten your core.
  • Start by pulling yourself towards the bar till your chest touches the bar.
  • Keep your head neutral and do not move your chin.
  • Slowly lower yourself to the starting point.
  1. Inverted rows

This is also called the Australian pull up or the horizontal pull up.

How to do the inverted rows:
  • Find a sturdy table that can support your full weight. For safety, place a heavy object on the table opposite from the place you will be pulling from.
  • Hold on to the edge of the table with a shoulder- width grip, your knees bent with your feet on the floor.
  • Squeeze your glutes and start pulling yourself up towards the table.
  • Do this slowly, avoid shrugging.
  1. Back Lever

This is an advanced calisthenics exercise that strengthens all the back muscles while improving shoulder, and thoracic movement.

This exercise should be done with caution, it’s best to master the pull up very well before advancing into this.

How to do the back lever:
  • Grab the bar a little bit wider than the shoulder width grip.
  • Keep the palms pronated, assume a upside down tuck position.
  • Raise your legs till your body is hanging upside down. Make sure your body is completely straight at the top of this position.
  • Then, slowly lower the body from the toes down to a horizontal hold with your body parallel to the ground.
  • Keep your core and glutes activated throughout this movement.
  1. Band Pull Apart

This exercise is similar to a reverse fly exercise, just in this case you will you will be using resistance bands, strengthening the upper back and the posterior shoulder.

How to do the band pull apart:
  • Hold the two ends of the resistance band at chest height.
  • Keep your palms facing up to the ceiling. From here, start pulling the bands apart until you start to feel a stretch in your chest.
  • Keep your elbows locked, and actively engage your back muscles.
  • Slowly return to the starting position.
  1. Band face pulls

This exercise targets the almost entirely the upper back muscles and the shoulders such as the posterior deltoids, infraspinatus, the teres minor, rhomboids and the trapezius.

How to do the band face pull:
  • Wrap a resistance band around a sturdy object to anchor the band against it.
  • Hold the handles and keep the elbows higher than the forearms, until your knuckles face your cheeks.
  • Pull the band towards your face.
  1. Band Bent Over Row

The band bent over row is very much similar to the inverted row, but in this particular one you are going to be using a band make it more challenging.

How to do the band bent over row:
  • Stand in the middle of a band and grab the two ends with your palms facing each other.
  • Start by bending from the hips down, keeping your back straight throughout the whole exercise.
  • Engage your core and start pulling the band towards your waist, driving your elbows towards the celling and actively squeezing your back.
  • Slowly lower back down to the starting position.
  1. Band Lat Pulldowns

Also using resistance band in this exercise. This exercise will improve your posture and also strengthen your back.

How to do the band lat pull down:
  • Attach your resistance band to a sturdy structure overhead either a door frame or an elevated hook.
  • Kneel down and grab the handles of the bands with your palms facing forward and your hands slightly wider than shoulder width apart.
  • Brace your core, keep your elbows close to your body bring your shoulder blades down and back, then pull the band down towards your sternum.
  • Pause briefly at the bottom, squeeze your lats, and slowly return to the starting position.

The Best Callisthenic exercises for arms

  1. Bench Dips

If the regular dips are too difficult for you, try the bench dips instead.

Sit on the edge of the bench with your legs straight in front of you, feet down, and your hands facing the bench next to you.

Lift your bum off the bench, move your feet forward slightly, and lower your hips to the ground until your arms reach the right angle. Push back up.

  1. Diamond Push-ups

callisthenic exercises

This variation of pull up places more emphasis on the triceps more.

How to do the diamond push-ups:
  • Assume a plank position, place your hands in a close grip, create a diamond shape (let your fore fingers and your thumbs touch together) as you join your hands on the floor.
  • Lower your body down in a slow and controlled manner till your chest touches your finger, then raise yourself up while straightening the arms.
  • Keep your core tight and your back flat throughout this exercise.
  1. Triceps Dips

callisthenic exercises

This variation of dip is much harder than a bench dip, it is great for working the chest and triceps but places more emphasis on the triceps, try keeping your body straight not bent.

How to do the triceps dips:
  • Grab a parallel bar while keeping your body straight with your knees bent.
  • Lower yourself slowly as you can by bending the arm, hold the position for a second or two.
  • Then, push yourself back up, ensuring you keep your core and your glutes tight to prevent the body from swinging.
  1. Close grip chin-ups

callisthenic exercises

This variation of pull up is the exact opposite of the wide grip pull-ups, this pull up variation targets the biceps more than in a standard pull up.

How to do the close grip chin-ups:
  • With a close- grip, grab the bar with an over hand.
  • Next, squeeze your glutes and include your core.
  • Start by pulling yourself towards the bar till your chest touches the bar.
  • Keep your head neutral and do not move your chin.
  • Slowly lower yourself to the starting point.
Best Callisthenic Exercises for Legs
  1. Squats

callisthenic exercises

This exercise is really great, it’s a full body exercise and this can be done anywhere and anytime with limited space and your bodyweight. For beginners finding it hard to do the squats, you can use assistance techniques such as suspension trainers or gymnastics ring. To advance on this exercise a weighted vest can be used.

How to do the squats:
  • Stand with your feet shoulder width apart, tighten your abs and squeeze the glutes.
  • Begin by bending slowly at the knees to lower your body. Make sure to keep your back straight throughout this exercise, avoid rounding your back to prevent strain or injury.
  • Pause at the bottom for a second, then push back up to the starting position.
  1. Lunges

callisthenic exercises

This exercise is great for working the glutes and the thighs.

How to do it:
  • Stand with one foot in front of the other, stand straight with eyes, knees and toes pointing straight ahead.
  • Clap your hands in front of your chest to maintain balance.
  • Bend the knees to lower the body until the front knee is aligned with the toes.
  • Keep your body straight and your abs tight as you push through the front heel back to the starting position.
  1. Pistol squats

callisthenic exercises

The pistol squat is an exercise done on one leg. It improves balance, flexibility and increase single leg strength.

How to do it:
  • Stand on one leg, arms open for balance and your toes pointed forward.
  • With the other leg extended forward, activate the core and the hip flexors.
  • Slowly lower yourself by bending at the waist and knee of the weight-bearing leg, until the buttocks touch the heel
  • Do not let the other leg touch the ground
  • Push back up to a standing position on the working leg
  • Repeat with the other leg.
  1. Jump squats

This exercise works your lower abs, glutes and your leg muscles. They also help to burn fat and improve strength and balance.

How to do it:
  • Stand with shoulder width apart with your feet pointed out.
  • Engage your core and your glutes and keep a straight back.
  • Lower your body down into a deep squat.
  • Then, jump as high as you can and land softly on your feet.
  1. Wall squat hold

Wall squat hold is a great way to build up leg strength in your quads so that you can progress to more advanced squat exercises.

How to do it:
  • Start by standing with your back against the wall, with your feet 1-1.5 meters away from the wall.
  • Slowly sit down into a squat making sure your back is still against the wall, you will want to get as close as possible so that your thighs are parallel with the ground.
  • After that just hold this position for as long as possible.
  1. Wide squats

Wide squats are regular squats with your feet wider than shoulder width apart, just to give you more resistance. The wider stance squat makes it more challenging.

  1. Sprints

Spring may not be pure callisthenic, but explosive intense movements are an important part of calisthenics training.

Sprints have an effect on weight loss and muscle building. The intensity of sprinting will maintain your heart rate throughout the rest.

One of the main things; Sprinting has a long distance of cardio is EPOC which means you continue to burn calories after your workout. But with the benefits of running, don’t stop there. Sprints work the whole leg, which helps build lower body muscles, fat loss and improve nutrient portioning.

  1. Calf raises

The lifting of the calf is done by simply finding a step or edge on the ground and placing your feet on it. Do not use another part of your body, lift your feet up and down and squeeze your calves as you do it.

It is best to do this on one leg for maximum resistance.

The Best Callisthenic Exercises for Core
  1. Plank Hold

This exercise works wonders for your core. They are pretty easy to do.

How to do it:
  • Place your hands on the floor directly under your shoulders.
  • Plant your toes into the floor and squeeze your glutes.
  • Keep your shoulders in line with your elbows.
  • Keep your back straight.
  • Try to hold the position for as long as possible.
  1. Hanging leg raise

This is an advance exercise that works your abs in a different way from many other ab exercises. This exercise works your entire midsection and places emphasis on your lower abdominals and hip flexors.

You need a bar high enough that you can grab at a heigh above your head, it should be stable and able to support your full body weight and withstand the added pressure as you lift and lower your legs. A chin-up bar is a good choice or a door frame.

How to do it:
  • Hold the bar above your head. You can try to hold it tight with your thumb near the bar to improve stability.
  • With your legs together, tighten your abdomen and hip flexors to lift your legs down by lifting your legs out in front of you, keeping them straight. Exhale while lifting your legs. Feel the abdominal muscles work as hard as you do this.
  • Lower your legs slightly to the floor straight back to the starting position.
  1. Bird dog

This is an isolation exercise which strengthens the abdominal muscles, the thighs and the lower back. This exercise is great as it not only works the core but can also be used as a recovery exercise from lower back pain.

Find a soft surface to kneel on and enough space to extend both an arm and a leg at the same time. An exercise mat is a good choice of surface.

How to do it:
  • Begin by kneeling on an exercise mat hip-width apart Kneel with knees hip-width apart and hands firmly on the ground.
  • Engage your core while simultaneously lifting your right arm and left leg balancing on the other hand and knee and keeping your weight centered.
  • Your arm should be pointed out straight in front of you and Your foot flexed as you kick back.
  • Pause for a few seconds, then return your hands and knees.
  • Then switch to the other side.
  1. Bicycle Crunches

Lay down with your hands behind your head. Bring one knee to your chest, then rotate your upper body so that your elbow is touching your knee, then switch sides.

Keep the other leg straight in front of you and raised as this makes it challenging.

  1. Reverse Crunch

This is done by laying on the floor, then pulling your knees to your stomach, then lifting your bum to the ground, then lowering yourself to the floor.

  1. Side Plank

“Girl Exercising Side plank” by PTPioneer is licensed under CC BY 2.0

This exercise is very great for targeting the obliques. Lay on your side, place your arm directly under your shoulder, and lift your hips up. Hold this position, then switch sides.

  1. V-Hold

This exercise builds core balance and strength.

How to do it:
  • Sit down, tighten your abs and raise your legs in the air at a 45-degree angle with your body.
  • Make sure you keep your back straight.
  • You can keep your arms on the floor to make it easier to keep your balance.
  • Or challenge yourself with your arms in front of you and try to find balance.
  • Try to hold the position when your legs are raised for as long as possible.
  1. Flutter Kicks

This exercise works the lower portion of your abdominals.

This can be done by using dip bars, on the floor or hanging from a bar. Alternatively kick each leg up in the air, but do not let them touch the floor on the way back down.

  1. Mountain Climbers

This exercise is being done by getting in a push-up position, with your arms straight and slightly wide. Then, one at a time, quickly raise your knees to your chest.

The Best Callisthenic Exercise for Shoulders
  1. Handstand Push-ups

Handstand Push-Ups are one of the most effective body weight shoulder exercise. They may look easy but can be very challenging, this exercise is more than just a show-off. It works almost the entire upper body muscles the chest, trapezius, arms and more specifically the shoulders.

How to Do It:
  • To get started, you need to get into a hand-stand position near a wall.
  • Place the palms of your hands shoulder width apart and as close as possible to the wall.
  • Kick up, your legs straight up and the heels touching the wall.
  • Tighten your abs and squeeze your glutes.
  • Lower your body by lowering your elbows until your head is down.
  • Push upwards to the starting position straightening the arms.
  1. Pike Push-ups

For those finding it difficult to do the handstand pushups or getting into the handstand position, you cannot go wrong with the Pike Push-Ups.

Very similar to handstand push, this exercise works the shoulder and a great exercise for advancing into the handstand pushups. It requires you to place your feet on a bench or chair to remove some weight from your hands.

Keep your arms aligned with your back, so the weight is placed over your shoulders, then bend your elbows and bend them until your head touches the floor, then back down.

  1. ONE ARM PUSH-UP

To do a one-arm push-up spread your feet as far away as possible to give yourself balance. Take a high, or extended Push-Up position with both out arms extended.

When ready, remove one hand from the ground and place it behind you, near the base of the spine. Slow down using the active hand and press back up.

or if you can’t do a lot of reps (if any), just work with movement by doing a “modified” version with your knees on the ground instead of your feet.

  1. Pseudo Push-ups

Pseudo-push-ups are actually the same as a standard pushup just that your hands are rotated outwards, so your fingers are facing away from you. The way your hands are placed places a lot of emphasis on your shoulders and also your wrists, be sure to warm up first before doing this.

  1. Single Arm push-up Plank

An amazing exercise to strengthen the stabilizing muscles in the shoulder.

This is a continuous flow movement; instead of resting on your forearms as you would on a traditional plank, you will simply place yourself on a high or extended push-up position for as long as possible with one arm off the ground and raised in front of you.

Strengthening the shoulder stabilizing muscles will help you progress for you to be able to perform a handstand pushup.

  1. Decline push ups

The Push-Ups drop is an intermediate point between regular Push-Ups (mainly working for the chest muscles) and Handstand Push-Ups (mainly working for the shoulder muscles).

Decline pushups are an excellent bodyweight shoulder movement because even beginners can do this exercise.

The downward position places more stress on your upper body than the regular push up. You can do this with your feet elevated on a chair, bench or a box, the higher the surface the harder it becomes.

How to do it:
  • Place your hands on the floor with shoulder width apart.
  • Raise your feet to an elevated surface.
  • Lower yourself down towards the flow slow and controlled.
  • Pause at the bottom of the movement then press back up to starting position.
  • Be sure to squeeze the glutes and tighten the abs as you do this. Keeping your back straight and looking forward.
  1. Alternate Push-up Hold

This is the exercise can be used as a recovery exercise from an injury and it is fairly easy to do.

Begin in a pike push-up position, with your arms straight. Hold this for 15-20 seconds, then head straight to the normal push position, then hold this for the same length of time. After that the final grip is in the position where you would be at the end of the hindu push-up, without the chest in front of your arms.

Best Callisthenic Exercises for Chest
  1. Dip

Dips are a great for working the chest and triceps but to place more emphasis on the chest more, make sure to lean forward until your shoulders are below your elbows.

How to do it:
  • Hold the bars, press yourself up and straighten your arms.
  • Maintain a slight bend throughout this movement to engage the chest muscles.
  • Lower your body slowly by bending your arms. Till a 45-degree elbow bent.
  • Hold the position for a second, then push yourself up by straighten the arms.
  1. Clap push-ups

Clap push-ups are great for targeting the chest. They require good deal of speed and strength. If you do 30 standard Push-Ups, then you are strong enough to do the clap push up.

How to do it:
  • Get into a normal pushup position, your hands shoulder width apart.
  • Squeeze your glutes and tighten your abs.
  • Lower your body down, then push yourself all the way up letting your hands leave the floor.
  • Bring your hands together clapping while in the air.
  • Return back to starting position.
  1. Straight bar dips

This variation of dip is similar to a regular dip. This variation becomes more difficult due to the way you have to hold the bar.

How to do it:
  • Put your hands on a straight bar (dip station) and jump on it;
  • Lower your body by bending your arms; be sure to lean forward;
  • Immerse yourself until your shoulders are below your elbows;
  • Raise your arms;
  • Lock your elbows up.
  1. Wide push ups

Wide push-ups work on your chest more than regular push-ups. Spread both hands 6-8 inches wide.

How to do it:
  • Keep your hands slightly wider than shoulder width apart;
  • Point your fingers forward or slightly outward;
  • Lower your body face down by bending your elbows slightly;
  • Make sure to engage your core and your lower back muscles as to keep a rigid body.
  • Then, press yourself up and straightening your arms.
  1. Incline push-ups

Incline push-ups are the easiest of the push up variations, they are easy to do. The only difference is your hands are placed on a higher surface as opposed to a decline push-up where your legs are elevated.

I’d recommend doing this exercise with one arm it makes it more challenging making your chest muscles to work more.

How to do it:
  • Place your hands shoulder width apart on a surface which is I meter high.
  • Bring your feet in a position so that your arms and body are fully aligned.
  • Lower chest slightly down slowly by bending your elbows.
  • Be sure to keep your body straight.
  • Push yourself up until your arms are fully straight.

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