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Calisthenics for Beginners: Ultimate Guide (2019)

calisthenics for beginners: header image for article

If you’ve ever wondered ‘what is calisthenics?’ or how to conquer basic calisthenic exercises like squats or push-ups, you’re in the right place.

Our ultimate guide to calisthenics for beginners will leave you feeling super confident to give it a try! After all, anyone can do calisthenics no matter their current fitness level.

If you want to get clued up on calisthenics for beginners, stick with us and learn everything there is to know.

What is Calisthenics?

You might have a vague idea, but what is calisthenics and why is it so popular?

The word ‘calisthenics’ is actually derived from the Greek words ‘kallos’ and ‘sthenos’, which translate to ‘beautiful’ and ‘strength’. In essence, the answer to ‘what is calisthenics?’ is beautiful strength!

However, there is a lot more to the exercise than the gravity-defying moves that dominate Instagram.

calisthenics for beginners: calisthenics movement

Speaking in fitness terms calisthenics fall under the category of compound exercises, as they work large muscle groups at the same time.

They utilize your own bodyweight in order to build muscle mass and power as well as improving your overall strength, agility, functionality, endurance, and mobility. It’s a multiple win!

To dispel the confusion behind the fancy name, you likely already know the answer to ‘what is calisthenics?’ without even realising it.

Common exercises such as push-ups and sit-ups actually fall under the category of basic calisthenic exercises, so hopefully, this widens your understanding!

Benefits of Calisthenics

If you’re still asking ‘what is calisthenics?’ at this point, that’s not a problem. This is an article on calisthenics for beginners after all!

Let’s take a look at the benefits of calisthenics on the body and mind to give you a better grasp.

  • You don’t need any equipment - just your own body (unless you’re wanting to do pull-ups, but you can always take a trip to the park for these!)
  • They allow you to rack up some serious strength without using weights
  • They’re easy on your joints in comparison to other exercises
  • Your mobility and agility will soar, meaning that you’ll be less likely to injure yourself and move better in everyday life
  • You gain significant control over your body
  • They promote mindfulness through the focus it takes to execute movements
  • They’re addictive (and much more fun than long duration cardio!)

The list goes on, but these are some of the most popular and meaningful benefits of calisthenics.

 

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The article as a whole will explore these in more detail, but you can always skip to the Calisthenics vs Weight Training section if you want to see them weighed up against a more well-known workout.

We recommend that every fitness enthusiast check out this exercise technique in more detail. There couldn’t be a more natural or exciting way to build muscle!

calisthenics for beginners: handstand

Who doesn’t want to bust out some handstands as a party trick?

The reason that we’re passionate about spreading the word about calisthenics for beginners is that as compound exercises, they are crucial for developing your coordination and agility which is something that most of us miss out on.

In a world where we get wrapped up in weight lifting and isolation exercises, we need to balance out the exercise that we do more than ever.

What’s better for beating a sedentary lifestyle than an effective yet completely portable exercise that requires no equipment?

This is perhaps one of the most important yet overlooked benefits of calisthenics; it’s ability to defeat the ever-growing problem of inactive lifestyles!

Basic Calisthenics Exercises

Now that you can confidently answer the question ‘what is calisthenics?’ and you know the reasons behind giving them a try… well, it’s time to give them a try!

It’s more than likely that you will have tried some of these exercises before, but as this is an introduction to calisthenics for beginners we will be covering the absolute basics.

After all, it can be overwhelming when looking up calisthenics for the first time.

#1 Squats

calisthenics for beginners: air squat

We know that we’re probably preaching to the choir here, so feel free to skip forward if you’ve already nailed this one!

If not, you could easily have it by the end of the day if you dedicate yourself. Squats are really not as hard as they first seem, and as with any of the basic calisthenics exercises, they’re all about form.

While squats are a full body exercise, they’re especially great for your legs and glutes, and lower body stabilising muscles that help with your balance in everyday life.

It’s these very same stabilising muscles that allow you to progress when it comes to calisthenics for beginners!

TIPS:

  • Start by standing straight with your legs about hip or shoulder-width apart
  • Keep your core engaged and your arms out in front of you
  • As you descend, maintain balance and keep your body weight on your heels
  • Ensure that your knees stay behind your toes

There’s no limit to how many squats you can do per workout, but 3 sets of 12-15 reps is a great start.

#2 Tricep Dips

calisthenics for beginners: tricep dips

There are a few variations of tricep dips, but we’ll stick with the beginner's version as this is a section on the basic calisthenics exercises after all.

As you will have guessed, the focus of tricep dips is the tricep muscles. However, your arms, shoulders, and chest are worked during the exercise, including the smaller upper body stabilizer muscles.

Nail your tricep dips form and practise them regularly, and you’ll find it an easier transition from basic calisthenics exercises to the more advanced.

TIPS:

  • Start out by using a set of stairs or a stable chair/bench
  • Have a tight grip with your hands, keep your legs straight, and balance on your heels
  • As you get stronger, have your feet at the same level as your upper body (balance them on another chair or bench)

In your first few weeks of training, work on your form more than anything. Once you’ve got this, aim for 3 sets of 10-15 reps per workout. Eventually, you’ll be able to move to a more advanced variation!

#3 Wall Sits

calisthenics for beginners: wallsit

If you’ve perfected your squat form and want to really work on those stabilizers and lower body muscle groups, then wall sits are a great option.

They’re one of the less intense exercises in calisthenics for beginners, but that’s not to say that they’re easy.

The best thing about them is that you control how long you remain in the position for, so they’re a great opportunity to push yourself to your limits. There’s something different about holding a still position than performing reps!

TIPS:

  • Find a wall and slide into a squat against it, keeping your knees at a 90-degree angle
  • Ensure that your back is flat against the wall
  • Keep your hands by your sides for stabilization
  • Engage your core during the hold to maximise effectiveness

As a beginner, you should aim to hold wall sits for 3 sets of 15-30 seconds.

#4 Push Ups

calisthenics for beginners: push ups

If you can’t manage a single push up yet, don’t let this put you off.  

We’ve all been there, even the masters of calisthenics. You wouldn’t catch them posting it on Instagram but it will have taken them time to practice and master the basic calisthenics exercises, just as it will for you.

Push-ups are great for your entire body, especially the core. This makes them one of the most important basic calisthenics exercises to master as they work as a foundation for more advanced techniques.

Dedicate yourself to perfecting your form, and you’ll get that first rep in no time. Even if you have to practise the plank for the first month of your exercise plan, that’s absolutely fine.

TIPS:

  • Work your way up to them with planks (learn to keep your back straight)
  • Have your elbows at a 45-degree angle from your sides, rather than at 90-degrees
  • Squeeze your glutes and engage your abs
  • Move slowly and go for quality over quantity (really tighten up your form)
  • If you’re struggling, try elevated or knee push ups

Push yourself to your limit, and focus on your core and upper body strength. Once you’ve nailed the form, aim for 3 sets of 10 reps on every workout day and build up from there.

#5 Leg Raises

calisthenics for beginners: leg raises

Leg raises are not an exercise for absolute beginners, and you should focus on nailing the basic calisthenics exercises that we have already listed before trying them.

However, leg raises are seen as one of the base moves for calisthenics.

If you want to master them, you should give it your all when practising the previously listed exercises as they will allow you to build the strength that you need to progress to more advanced movements.

Leg raises from the bar mainly utilize the core and arm muscles, and are great for increasing strength in both areas.

TIPS:

  • Ensure you’ve built significant core strength before attempting the exercise
  • Practise the toes-to-bar technique before trying to lift straight legs (you can find it listed in our guide to getting better at CrossFit)
  • Engage your core at all times during leg raises
  • Experiment with different grip distances on the bar
  • Avoid releasing tension when your legs reach the bar
  • Keep your reps controlled - quality beats quantity in calisthenics!

#6 Pull-Ups

calisthenics for beginners: pull-ups

Pull-ups attack the upper body and core, and the strength that you gain from practising them is vital in progressing to the calisthenics movements that you see on Instagram.

You may not be able to get them overnight as they are probably the most difficult of the calisthenics for beginners exercises.

However, if you follow our tips and master each of the basic calisthenics exercises one-by-one, you’ll have a much greater chance of advancement.

TIPS:

  • Find a solid and safe bar to practice on (either in the gym, at your local park, or you can pick one up pretty cheap online)
  • Grip the bar with your palms facing forwards at shoulder-width and your body behind the bar
  • Keep your elbows at a 45-degree angle as you lift up, and lead with your chest
  • Keep your shoulders back and make sure you focus the tension on your upper arms rather than the shoulder blades
  • Keep your head neutral, looking at a fixed point in front of you
  • Have your back straight and knees slightly bent, with your feet crossed over for stabilization
  • Keep your core and glutes engaged at all times!

It is true that you don’t need to use equipment for calisthenics, but the few suggested exercises that do require some minimal equipment are certainly helpful in advancing your skills.

With pull-ups, you should aim for 3 sets of 5-10 reps depending on your current strength level.

Remember: fewer controlled reps are far superior to busting out a ton of strained ones.

Calisthenics Progression: Make it harder!

It may take a while for you to get to this point, but that’s not a problem. If you have calisthenics progression in sight then you’re more likely to do better overall and keep at it. We all do better when we have tangible goals on the horizon!

Let’s take a look at how you can progress the exercises listed above once you’re finding them a little too easy (and when you should start calisthenics progression for each exercise).

#1 Squats - The pistol squat

So you’ve mastered squats and you’re finding them a little repetitive. You’ll be glad to know that there’s a quick fix to your boredom!

(Trust us, you won’t find this boring for a long while).

calisthenics for beginners: pistol squat

TIPS:

  • Start off with your feet close together (less than hip-width)
  • Carefully raise one leg and point it straight forwards
  • Keep the raised leg straight
  • Keep your arms out for balance
  • Push and keep your hips backwards
  • Maintain tension in the hamstrings as you descend
  • Aim to break parallel
  • Raise back up whilst maintaining tension

Pistol Squat with Toes Assist

As this is a calisthenics for beginners article (and this is a difficult exercise to move up to), here’s a way of progressing more gradually.

Using your toes to assist you when working on your pistol squat form is something you should definitely try.

Making the calisthenics progression from air squat to pistol squat can be pretty intense, but this could be your missing link!

NOTE: before progressing to the pistol squat, you should be able to comfortably perform 3 sets of 15 reps with the assisted version.

TIPS:

  • Start off with one foot slightly behind the other
  • Descend with most of your weight on the front leg (but supported by the rear foot)
  • Keep the tension in your hamstrings
  • Stay balanced on your toes
  • Break parallel with your front leg, but don’t touch your rear knee to the floor (it’s all about loading onto the front leg)

It’s all about learning how to load your weight onto one leg, and how to balance whilst doing so.

Keeping this in mind when practising the pistol squat with toes assist will not only help you to master the technique, but your calisthenics progression will run a lot smoother.

#2 Tricep Dips - Gear yourself right for muscle ups!

One memorable step in calisthenics progression for most experts are muscle ups.

Once you’ve achieved your first muscle up, it’s like the heavens open and you finally feel like you can call yourself a calisthenics athlete.

What is the missing link between tricep dips and muscle ups? Tricep dip progressions, of course!

Get your feet off the floor!

Make things harder for yourself once you’re comfortable with the original exercise, and get those muscles trained up for one of the most difficult movements yet…

NOTE: there are creative ways to perform this move, but check out the parallettes in our calisthenics equipment section - they’d be a perfect piece of equipment to use at home! (you need some sort of parallel bars)

calisthenics for beginners: tricep dips variation

TIPS:

  • Grip each of the bars with your hands
  • Cross over your feet and pull them slightly off the floor (so that you’re supporting your body weight)
  • Work on keeping your body as stable as possible
  • Descend carefully, keeping your elbows as still as you can and the head inline with the spine
  • Ensure that your elbows are slightly below the elbow at the bottom of the dip
  • Maintain tension in the triceps

Push yourself safely until you get your first rep. If you’ve been practising those tricep dips on the stairs for a good few weeks or months, then you’ll have this one in the bag in no time.

Master tricep dips on the bars/parallettes, and you’ll soon be joining the muscle up pros.

Once you’re confident with this variation, you can always try it with your legs at a 90-degree angle like the image below!

calisthenics for beginners: tricep dips on parallettes

For each of these tricep dips variations, you should aim for at least 3 sets of 10-15 reps.

NOTE: before progressing to the tricep dips at a 90-degree angle, you should be able to comfortably perform 3 sets of 15 reps with the easier version.

#3 Wall Sits - The single leg variation

calisthenics for beginners: wall sit with one leg

TIPS:

  • Assume usual wall sit starting position
  • Ensure that your back is flat against the wall
  • Keep your hands by your sides or on your hips for stabilization
  • Remember to engage your core
  • Bend one leg whilst keeping the opposite leg straight on descent

You should aim for at least 3 sets of 30 seconds.

NOTE: before progressing to the single leg variation, you should use our calisthenics progression criteria and be able to perform 3 sets of 30 seconds of the original version.

Getting used to these isometric holds will really benefit your calisthenics progression in the long run!

#4 Push-ups - Switch pressure to the triceps

Tricep Push-ups

Getting a little too confident with push ups? We can solve that.

calisthenics for beginners: diamond push ups

To get some calisthenics progression going with your push-up technique and the muscles that you’re working, tricep push-ups will be your saving grace.

They’re more or less identical to usual push-ups, but involve changing your hand position. They’re actually also known as diamond push-ups, because your arms make a diamond shape when you’re using the correct form.

TIPS:

  • Place your hands close together on the ground
  • Engage your core and squeeze your glutes (as you usually would)
  • Keep your elbows tucked in
  • Allow your chest to slightly touch the floor on descent

Aim for 3 sets of 10-15 reps.

NOTE: before progressing to tricep push-ups, ensure that you can perform the same amount of sets and reps comfortably with normal push-ups, otherwise you won’t make good calisthenics progression and may find it took difficult/injure yourself.

#5 Hanging Leg Raises - Hit the bar with straight legs!

calisthenics for beginners: leg raises on pull up bar

Earlier in our guide to calisthenics for beginners, we spoke about hanging leg raises, and using the toes-to-bar technique to close the gap between your feet and the bar.

However, if you want to make some serious calisthenics progression then nailing hanging leg raises with straight legs will open up many doors. This is especially due to them working your abs, hip flexors, forearms, and the stabiliser muscles in your shoulders and upper back.

Hitting these areas with more advanced rather than basic calisthenics exercises will only help you to progress further. Challenge yourself!

TIPS:

  • Grip the bar with your hands a little over shoulder-width apart
  • Engage your core at all times
  • Keep the shoulder blades tight/almost together
  • Avoid using momentum at any point during the exercise (keeping your shoulder blades tight prevents this)
  • Keep your legs as straight as possible on the way up to the bar
  • As always, control your reps! (especially on the way down)

NOTE: you should completely master the hanging leg raises first without attempting to touch the bar. You really need to earn that core strength and learn to move without momentum.

Practise the basic version for the first couple of weeks or months, listen to your body, and then take your calisthenics progression to the next level!

#6 Pull-ups

Looking to get your biceps and just about every muscle working harder when you’re doing pull-ups?

Pause pull-ups are the answer.

Not only do they improve your strength and grip over time, but they will allow you to progress into more advanced isometric holds further down the line in your calisthenics progression.

TIPS:

  • Perform a usual pull-up, but instead of descending, lock yourself at the top of the rep for 5 seconds
  • Come back down, then pull-up and hold at a 60-degree angle for 5 seconds
  • Repeat again with a 20-degree angle hold, and a 180-degree angle hold (usual hanging position)
  • Lock your shoulder blades tighter for better stabilisation

There are only 4 reps to this exercise, but it isn’t as easy as it looks and we can guarantee that you will see it as a new challenge.

If you’re wanting to move into a world of isometric holds that you see on Instagram, then this variation on the pull-up will certainly take you there.

It hits all the right muscles and even allows you to develop the mental toughness that it takes to withstand the pain of holding yourself in a fixed position.

NOTE: you should only progress to this exercise once you are fully confident with usual pull-ups, and can perform 3 sets of 15 reps with no issues.

Calisthenics for Beginners: How often should I do calisthenics?

When researching calisthenics for beginners, the question ‘how often should I do calisthenics?’ is a popular one. It’s also an important one to know the answer to!

While there’s no straight answer as it can depend on the individual and their current fitness level, we can certainly give you the most accurate guidelines.

calisthenics for beginners: questioning

If you’re already pretty experienced in other areas of fitness or have been training regularly for a while, then there’s no harm in training calisthenics every 2 days.

However, if you’re new to exercise as a whole then you should train calisthenics every 3 days, or 3 times per week to start things off.

Training every day is not something we’d recommend. If you train your muscles hard every day, then you’re not allowing any rest time in between for your muscles to recover or grow stronger.

Incase you didn’t already know, your muscle fibres repair themselves on rest days, and it is this process that causes them to grow in size. They don’t grow during your workout!

Working them daily leaves you at risk of making significantly less gains, which as you can see is very counterproductive. Stick to training 3-4 times per week for optimal results!

Rest Gaps

So you know the answer to how often should I do calisthenics?, but there’s one more thing to know before finishing our calisthenics for beginners guide.

‘How long should I rest between sets?’

This is a question we see all the time, closely behind ‘how often should I do calisthenics?’.

The answer depends on a few factors:

  • How hard are you hitting the exercise/how many reps are you performing?
  • Does your body feel very fatigued during the exercise?
  • What do you want to gain from the exercise? (weight loss, muscle mass, improved strength?)

The good news is we have some great tips that will allow you to find your own ideal rest gaps. It’s important to get this right so that your rest gaps effectively compliment your workouts!

How many reps are you performing?

If you’re hitting the lower end of our recommended rep ranges with high intensity, then you will need additional rest.

If you’re performing more reps but at a lower intensity which is how it should be, you will need a smaller rest gap.

Hopefully this should make sense to you!

calisthenics for beginners: more reps

Does your body become very fatigued during the exercise?

Leading on from our previous point, the ideology remains pretty much the same for this one!

If an exercise is really harsh on your body, then you should take a longer resting gap.

On the other hand, if you’re finding an exercise less demanding, then you should take a shorter resting gap.

The harder you’re working, the more rest you need. It really is that simple!

Finding a Specific Resting Gap

While we know it’s difficult to give someone a resting gap without prior knowledge to the structure of their workouts etc., we can certainly give guidance that you can use to construct your own concrete resting gaps for use in calisthenics for beginners.

It all boils down to your goals, and the type of exercise that you wish to complete. Here are the 3 most common options:

High rep workout, low intensity = 20-60 seconds rest gap.

If the workout is really taking its toll on you, go with up to 60 seconds. If you’re not finding it too intense, then take a shorter rest gap of around 20-30 seconds.

calisthenics for beginners: chart on reps and intensity

Low rep workout, high intensity = 1-2 minutes rest gap

The harder the workout, the more rest you take. If it’s quite intense and you’re working to exhaustion then go ahead and take the full 2 minutes.

If it’s intense but you’re not giving it your absolute maximum effort, then a rest gap of around 1-1 ½ minutes should suit you just fine.

Calisthenics Equipment

We’ve touched on the fact that calisthenics doesn’t require equipment, and we stand by our claim.

Still, out of a large number of possible movements, there are a select few that benefit from the use of inexpensive calisthenics equipment.

To give you an idea of the cost of each item, we have used Amazon to compare price ranges and provided these for your benefit.

#1 - Pull-Up Bar

calisthenics for beginners: pull up bar for home use

If you’re going to use one piece of calisthenics equipment, the pull-up bar is an obvious choice.

As you’ll see from our basic calisthenics exercises section, pull-ups are often seen as one of the pillar movements of the exercise. Most hold the view that they’re a doorway to Instagram-worthy calisthenics!

Whether you purchase a pull-up bar for use in your own home, use one at the gym, or head down to your local park and use a goal post, you should consider the pull-up bar as your first port of call.

Who doesn’t want to master pull-ups?

Price Range: £15-60

#2 - Ab Wheel

calisthenics for beginners: ab wheel

Although calisthenics are compound exercises there’s no harm in focusing on the core for part of your calisthenics for beginners workout, especially considering its role in assisting the rest of the body.

The ab wheel is the perfect way to do so. Not only does it target most abdominal muscles in a small number of sets, but it strengthens the arms, shoulders, chest, and lower back simultaneously.

You can purchase one online for as little as £5 in the UK, which isn’t bad at all considering how much use you’ll be able to get out of it.

Price Range: £5-15

#3 - Skipping Rope

calisthenics for beginners: skipping rope for double unders

Having a skipping rope as part of your calisthenics equipment may seem random, but trust us.

One thing that you should know about calisthenics for beginners is that getting a good warm-up is essential. Without a warm-up, not only will your performance be jeopardized but so will your safety.

What better way is there to warm-up than using a skipping rope? It’s much cheaper than a treadmill and makes for an exciting as well as intense cardio workout. Surely no one has time to complain about an opportunity to shed more calories…

A skipping rope is an incredibly cheap piece of equipment that will provide you will a challenge whilst warming up; take it as an opportunity to practice your double-unders!

Price Range: £1-11.99

#4 - Resistance Bands

calisthenics for beginners: resistance band squat

We can’t think of a more versatile piece of calisthenics equipment. You can virtually use resistance bands to aid or challenge you in any of the calisthenics for beginners exercises!

For example, if you’re struggling with pull-ups then you can tie one to the bar and hold its other end between your feet to improve your form.

Alternatively, if you were practising tricep dips you could drape a band over your shoulders to add more weight to work against.

Resistance bands are on the cheaper end of the scale of calisthenics equipment and will work wonders in tightening up your form and fluidity. Why not give them a try?

Price Range: £5.99-20

#5 - Gymnastic Rings

calisthenics for beginners: gymnastic rings

Yes, they’re very difficult and shouldn’t always be used in calisthenics for beginners.

That being said, everyone is different and some may benefit from including them in their list of calisthenics equipment during early days.  

Gymnastic rings are tough and we’re not trying to sugar-coat that fact. If you use them for push-ups, then your muscles will find the exercise much more challenging than your average bar pull-up.

This is because the rings move every which way and your stabilizers have to work double-time to balance your body.

The upside to this is that with plenty of practice, you can double the balance and strength that you had before, and prepare yourself even more for the toughest of calisthenics movements.

Price Range:  £11.99-50

#6 - Parallette

calisthenics for beginners: parallettes in different sizes

Ever wanted to do the perfect handstand? With parallettes it’s a lot easier than you thought it would be, especially since they take a lot of the strain from your wrists.

There are two main types of parallettes; the larger ones are for performing exercises such as tricep dips, whereas the smaller models are for practising push-ups and handstands.

The smaller ones work in a similar way to resistance bands. They can either be used to make handstands easier, or handstand push-ups more challenging through introducing a fuller range of motion.  

They’re a great idea for those wanting to work on these exercises in the comfort of their own home, so we’d highly recommend taking a look if this sounds like you!

Price Range: £14.99-60

#8 - Power Tower

calisthenics for beginners: power tower calisthenics equipment 

Last but certainly not least for our calisthenics equipment is perhaps one of the most expensive yet exciting pieces.

Although it is expensive in comparison to other calisthenics equipment, it’s certainly not unreasonable for its potential to transform your fitness and ability level.

So, what is the mysterious power tower for?

Put simply, it’s a piece of equipment used for sit-ups, pull-ups, chin-ups, tricep dips, knee-raises, and more. It’s the ultimate piece of equipment in calisthenics for beginners, especially for its focus on utilising bodyweight in workouts.  

If we were to pick one thing from this list, the power tower is what we’d go for. After all, a one-off payment of around £100 is still less than a year-long gym membership, so it’s certainly not a bad idea for your home gym!

Price Range: £50-200

Calisthenics VS Weight Training

It’s not unusual for those looking up calisthenics for beginners to weigh them up against other exercises that they are already aware of.

Ultimately, witnessing the battle of calisthenics vs weight training (which is one of the most popular exercise techniques on the planet) can help you to make an informed decision over which one to choose!

To give each side fair game, we’re going to take a quick look at the benefits and weaknesses of both.

We’ve already explored the benefits of calisthenics, but to recap:

  • Equipment isn’t necessary for a full calisthenics workout
  • They’re effective in building strength
  • They enhance your mobility and agility in real life situations
  • They’re easy on your joints
  • You can do them anywhere and don’t need a gym membership

calisthenics for beginners: handstand calisthenics balancing

What we haven’t yet talked about are the drawbacks of calisthenics, especially when viewed as calisthenics vs weight training.

Essentially it all boils down to what your individual fitness goals and priorities are, and whether you’re looking to improve your inner strength or appearance.

Some of the drawbacks of calisthenics include:

  • They’re not as effective in piling on muscle mass fast
  • Some see calisthenics training as limiting
  • They can sometimes be risky if not performed carefully
  • Calisthenics for beginners is not always accessible straight away, depending on starting body composition

If gaining muscle mass as swiftly as possible is your goal, then calisthenics isn’t the right way to go. With calisthenics vs weight training, it’s fair to say that lifting heavy weights to make gains is more effective than using your own body weight if you want to see speedy changes.

The reason that some fitness enthusiasts choose to see calisthenics as limiting is for a similar reason to the previous point.

Once you’ve built on your strength and gotten used to lifting your own body weight, you may struggle to build more muscle mass. However, in weight training, it’s harder to hit a plateau in this area.

As we said, it’s all down to personal preference. If you’re more focused on your appearance during your fitness journey then weights may be the right selection.

calisthenics for beginners: holding gymnastics rings

Body composition certainly plays a part when it comes to calisthenics for beginners. The lighter you are, the more likely you will be to progress faster. You may struggle with some of the bodyweight moves at first, which is completely fine.

If you’re impatient and likely to get discouraged by this, then you may want to try a barbell on for size.

Benefits of weight training

It would be unfair in the battle between calisthenics vs weight training to leave out the benefits of weight training. No matter our preferences, let’s take a look:

  • An unmatched way of building muscle mass quickly
  • There is a choice between free weights or weight machines, two very different exercises (the choice to isolate or train muscles in unison)
  • A method that allows the resistance to be increased or decreased significantly

It’s true that weightlifting is good for allowing you to customize your workout by isolation training, and therefore manipulating your appearance. This is one of the most prevalent arguments made by weight training enthusiasts in this battle, mainly due to their own goals.

Weight training is also great for switching up the resistance of workouts. This is very important to some but not so much to others, so it’s a matter of opinion!

With every successful and popular exercise, there are drawbacks just like any other. For weight training, these happen to be:

  • Weights aren’t very portable, you have to rely on a gym membership or buying expensive equipment
  • Isolating certain muscles in training doesn’t relate to everyday situations, whereas the stabilizing muscles trained in calisthenics training do
  • Lifting free weights poses a similar risk to performing calisthenics with poor posture

After taking in all this information, it’s clear to see that the winner of the battle of calisthenics vs weight training isn’t obvious. At the end of the day, it does all relate back to what you prefer as an individual.

calisthenics for beginners: weight training with barbell

Are you looking to bulk up quickly? Are there certain muscles that you want to focus on when training in calisthenics for beginners? Do you enjoy being able to control the resistance of your workouts accurately?

If so, then weight training is your winner.

However, if you want an inexpensive and portable but incredibly intense and impressive workout that will develop your agility and flexibility like nothing else, calisthenics will be your friend.

What is OriGym’s answer?

In truth, we can’t see the harm in training through both methods. We’re gym addicts, but we also love throwing in a handstand or two.

We like to adopt the more the merrier approach when it comes to exercise methods!

Calisthenics for Beginners: Calisthenics Diet

As you probably already know, the ratio for nutrition vs exercise is around 80% nutrition and 20% exercise.

This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t put your maximum effort into exercise though; it just means that this is the percentage that it counts towards your overall progress.

calisthenics for beginners: healthy food calisthenics diet

With a calisthenics diet, the aim should be to fuel yourself with nutritious food that will also aid in decreasing your overall body fat percentage, and contribute to building lean muscle.

On exercise days, you should consume a good amount of healthy carbs and fats. Examples include:

  • Sweet potatoes
  • Avocados
  • Eggs
  • Legumes
  • Oils
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Wholegrains

The reason why we suggest healthy carbs and fats is that your body will use these to restore healthy energy levels.

Consuming healthy versions of these food groups also means that your body will burn off saturated fat, which is one of the ultimate goals through a calisthenics diet and exercise routine.

On rest days, you should aim to stock up on protein. If you’re looking for healthy and whole sources of protein, the following are a great start:

  • Chicken
  • Salmon
  • Sardines
  • Lean beef
  • Cottage cheese
  • Lentils
  • Flaxseed
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Oats

It’s vital to absorb healthy levels of protein on rest days, as it is protein that repairs our torn muscle fibres and promotes lean muscle growth.

calisthenics for beginners: healthy food for a calisthenics diet

Without protein, you’ll struggle to get that lean and toned physique that you are trying to achieve!

In terms of how much you should eat on a calisthenics diet, you should always stick to your individual calorific needs.You can start by working out your BMR (basal metabolic rate), or calculating your needs on the nutrition app myfitnesspal.  

When it comes to when you should eat, it’s a matter of personal preference. The most popular options include:

  • 3 healthy meals per day, adding up to your calorific needs
  • 3 healthy meals per day with 2 snacks, equalling the same calories
  • 5 healthy but smaller meals per day, equalling the same calories
  • Intermittent Fasting (skip on the 24-hour fast method when exercising)

There are many more approaches to dieting and nutrition, but these are proven healthy ways to approach a calisthenics diet.

As long as you’re sticking to the right amount of calories for your goals and activity level, calculating your macronutrients, eating whole foods, and balancing out the food groups that you are consuming, you can’t go far wrong.

Before you go!

After reading our ultimate guide on calisthenics for beginners, you should be feeling ready to take the fitness world by storm. And by that, we mean starting a fitness Instagram to post all those new moves to!

Got any questions about calisthenics for beginners? If so, let us know on Twitter or Facebook, and remember to keep an eye on the OriGym Blog for more great content.

Want to become a Personal Trainer? Give our team a call on 0800 002 9599, and they’ll happily talk you through our range of courses!

 

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Written by Chloe Twist

Fitness Professional & Blogger

Chloe is a nerd turned fitness addict with a passion for blogging, gaming, and playing guitar. She can be found in her room either swinging kettlebells or binging on Netflix.