Calisthenics is a form of physical exercise that targets large muscle groups by doing sets of coordinated activities using mainly one’s body weight or minimal weights as resistance.
Unlike bodybuilding, which focuses on stimulating muscle hypertrophy by repeatedly lifting heavier sets of weights, calisthenics is a more complete form of exercise.
Calisthenics workouts are great aerobic exercises that stimulate muscle growth, help in developing balance, agility, endurance, and coordination. In addition, they have far-reaching psychological benefits, so they’re good for both your physical and mental health.
The best thing about calisthenics is that it doesn’t require an expensive gym membership or overpriced, complicated equipment that can leave you with chronic damage if improperly used. All you need is a few simple types of equipment, your own body, and a basic understanding of the principles involved.
There are a few basic calisthenic exercises that any guy could do at home, the gym or a local park. Put on your workout clothes as we guide you through some basic calisthenics exercises for beginners.
One of the most dreaded exercises from gym class, this workout is truly a test of upper body strength. The basic principle is simple: using only the strength of your arms and shoulders, pull your head a certain distance over a horizontal bar without letting your feet touch the ground.
In practice, it’s actually a lot more difficult than that, as most of us found out the hard way. This seemingly easy exercise requires a lot of major muscle groups, including the arms, shoulders and back.
How To Perform A Basic Pull-up
Stand facing a sturdy horizontal bar, placed just out of reach of your upraised arm.
Reach up and grip the bar with either your palms facing forwards or backward, whatever feels more comfortable for you.
Hold the bar firmly with your arms a little more than shoulder-width apart.
Now focusing on using only your shoulder muscles, try to pull yourself up, bringing your chin above the bar.
This is a full upper body workout that helps build functional muscle, balance, and stability. It also works your chest and arm muscles to give you rock-hard pecs and solid biceps. There are different variations to the push-up but we will be focusing on the most basic form here.
This involves basically lifting a portion of your body weight off the ground using only your arms and shoulders while stabilizing the rest of your body with your core and back muscles. This means you make use of several major muscle groups in one exercise.
How To Perform A Push-up
Get into a basic plank position, using your two arms and feet as support.
Place your arms slightly wider apart than your shoulders and ensure you are properly balanced.
Try to be as horizontal as possible. Avoid allowing your back to sag or elevating your butt, as this can lead to lower back pain eventually.
Lower your body towards the ground by bending your elbows while keeping your back straight. Lower yourself till your arms form a 45-degree angle at the elbow. Control your speed; your form is more important in this exercise.
Hold this position for a second, then raise yourself back up to your starting position at a moderate pace. Remember to keep your core flexed throughout the entire exercise.
First of all, let’s throw out the myth that you have to do thousands of sit-ups to get the perfect six-pack. If you really want that flat stomach and chiseled washboard abs, then crunches are the way to go.
As the name suggests, this exercise involves “crunching” or contracting your abs to really work your core. It isolates and targets the abs specifically to help you build those six-pack muscles you’ve always wanted.
How To Perform A Crunch
Start by lying flat on your back.
Place your feet flat against the ground. For a more intense ab crunch, you can lift your feet off the ground and bend your knees at a 90-degree angle.
Fold your arms over your chest, behind your head or place them flat against the ground.
Remembering to keep your core tight, sit up until your upper back and shoulders are raised slightly off the ground.
Concentrate on using your core muscles to pull you up, breathing out slowly as you do and breathing in as you lie down.
Most guys focus so much on their upper body that they completely skip leg day. Squats are good for toning your legs to give you those thick muscular thighs.
When doing this exercise, you are relying on weight (either your body weight or any additional weights) and gravity to work your quads, hamstrings, and glutes. So throw in a few squats into your routine, if you want to have some beach-ready legs to show off for the summer.
How To Perform A Squat
Stand firmly with your feet shoulder-width apart and toes pointed forward.
Now lower yourself into a squat, pushing your hips back and down while bending your knees at a constant pace.
Keep your head facing forward and your chest as upright as possible.
If you’re not using any weights, stretch your arms out in front of you or clasp in front of your chest.
Lower yourself until your thighs are parallel to the ground, then extend your body back up to the starting position.
Make sure to not let your knees extend over your toes, as that moves the strain of the squat to the knee joints. This can injure your knee joints.
To do this exercise, it’s best to use a pair of dip bars. Try checking out a few local parks around your neighborhood; they might have the equipment you need. Alternatively, you can buy a dip bar station to use at home.
If you don’t have a dip bar, you might have to improvise a bit for this one; feel free to get creative with your equipment. All you need essentially is an elevated flat surface which allows you to lower your body until your arms reach about a 90-degree angle. A bench or chair might work for this if it’s high enough. This modified dip is known as a bench dip.
How To Perform A Dip
Stand between the dip bars and grip on to them firmly.
Use your arms and shoulders to lift yourself off the ground.
Bend your elbows and using your tricep muscles, move up and down at a controlled pace.
Bench dip variation: Face outwards with your hands behind you on the elevated surface and your legs stretched out in front. Steadily move up and down, keeping your arms at a 90-degree angle as you lower yourself.
This is another great exercise for your quads, hamstrings, and glutes that is worth adding to your leg day routine. There are quite a few different variations, each aimed at focusing on a different muscle group or adding another muscle group.
For beginners, just keep it simple and stick to the standard technique first. You can change this up and up the difficulty level later when you’re more comfortable. If done properly, this is sure to leave you sweating and feeling accomplished.
How To Perform A Lunge
1. Stand firmly with your feet pointing forward.
2. Take a huge step forward with the right leg. Ensure to shift your weight forward so your heel makes contact with the ground first.
3. Lower your body until your right thigh is practically parallel to the floor and your right shin is perpendicular to the ground.
4. Press into your right heel to drive yourself back up to the starting position.
5. Repeat on the other side and remember to maintain your form.
Last but not least we end this list with something we all know. Sit-ups might not be the most efficient way to develop abs compared to crunches, but they help you build a strong core.
Sit-ups are an awesome way to build your abs, obliques and lower abdominal muscles. A key difference between sit-ups and crunches is that sit-ups work other muscles besides the core, including the neck, chest, lower legs and lower back.
How To Do A Sit-up
1. Lie down flat on your back.
2. Bend your legs, placing your feet firmly on the ground to stabilize your body. You can anchor your feet under something or get someone else to hold your legs down for you.
3. Fold your arms across your chest or place them behind your head.
4. Raise your upper body slowly up toward your knees until you’re almost sitting upright. Remember to exhale as you lift.
5. Lower yourself down, returning to your starting point. Inhale deeply as you go down.
Benefits Of Calisthenics
You Gain Functional Strength
The main plus point of calisthenics is that you engage entire major muscle groups in a single exercise, instead of focusing on individual muscles.
As you perform movements that are natural to the human body, such as pushing and pulling, your movements become more efficient, well-connected and smoother over time with practice.
Keeps Your Body Proportionate
Callisthenics works out the entire body, leaving you with a much more balanced, flattering physique that isn’t too top-heavy or bottom-heavy. One single workout engages multiple major muscle groups, making sure you’re not overworking some parts and ignoring others.
Increases Your Flexibility
Calisthenic exercises are very versatile as they involve a lot of stretches and a wide range of movements designed to keep you limber and agile. These exercises are also much easier on your joints and have been seen to prevent or delay degenerative joint diseases in men.
Helps Burn Fat
Calisthenics is a great way to lose weight and build endurance. Not only do you burn fat, but you also simultaneously build muscle, leaving you with a much fitter physique.
Convenient and Cheap
Calisthenics requires practically minimal or no equipment besides your own body weight, saving you huge bucks in gym memberships and costly equipment.
Calisthenics is also convenient and can be done almost anywhere — at home, on vacation, even during business trips. You never have to miss a workout due to inconvenience or location.