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Calisthenics Workouts: Fire Up Your Fitness!

Holly Smith

By: Holly Smith, M.D. - Osteopathic Medicine, B.S. - Dietetics, NASM-PES Certified Trainer,

Writer, The Fit Father Project & Fit Mother Project

calisthenics workouts

Many people have heard the word calisthenics thrown around when talking about workouts, but not many know what calisthenics workouts actually entail.

And before you know if you should be working calisthenics into your fitness regime, it’s important to know what aspects of fitness this actually encompasses.

You have likely been doing calisthenics all along, even if you didn’t realize it!

Calisthenics is a form of exercise that uses body weight and gravity to build muscular strength and cardiovascular endurance.

In addition, calisthenics workouts are an excellent way to enhance balance and coordination.

Ready to learn more and start doing calisthenics workouts you'll actually realize you're doing?

Before you start any new workout, you need a plan. Check out this home workout plan for weight loss and toning!


The Benefits of Calisthenics

Since calisthenics involves full-body exercises, you will be building muscle strength and improving endurance and cardiovascular health.

By increasing muscle mass through calisthenics, you will also increase your basal metabolic rate, which will help you burn calories both during exercise and at rest.

Studies also show that calisthenics can help treat and reduce the risk of developing chronic health issues, like hypertension.

And since calisthenic also improves pulmonary function there is evidence that calisthenic is also helpful in the treatment of lung issues like COPD.

Calisthenics also requires you to focus on core strength and body balance. This can, in turn, improve coordination.

One study looked at women that were divided into calisthenic training, pilates training, or no training. It found that calisthenic exercises actually improved coordination more than Pilates exercises.

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Calisthenics Versus Weight Training

Both weight training and calisthenics are excellent ways to build strength and increase muscle tone.

And research has shown that both of these modes of exercise can increase fitness to a similar degree.

For example, in one study in the US Army compared a weight-based training workout and against the U.S. Army’s calisthenics-based Standardized Physical Training program.

This was done for one and a half hours a day, five days a week, for eight weeks. At the end of the eight weeks, both groups’ fitness increased to a similar degree.

And with calisthenics, you don’t need weights or equipment.

This makes calisthenics a great fitness activity to do at home or at any time you don’t have access to a gym.

However, you can add equipment like resistance bands or a pull-up bar to challenge yourself with different calisthenic body moves.

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Beginner Calisthenics Workouts

Here is a calisthenics workout for beginners that works various parts of the body for a complete, full-body workout.

Perform each exercise for 30 seconds, and then rest 30 seconds before moving on to the next move.

Rest for two minutes, then repeat the circuit two to three more times depending on your current fitness level.

Jump Rope

Since calisthenic workouts don’t involve heavy weights, it is easier to combine cardio with bodyweight strength training.

Jump rope is one of these great calisthenic exercises that gets your heart pumping while working your whole body.

Grasp the jump rope handles with your hands. Rotate the rope with your wrists — not your elbows or shoulders — while jumping off the ground about one to two inches into the air, to clear the rope.

As you progress, you can try doing single leg jump ropes, where you hop on one leg for two hops then switch to the other leg for two hops and continue alternating.

This will improve not only your leg strength but also your balance and coordination.


Push-Ups are the ultimate bodyweight exercise to hit the chest, shoulders, and triceps while also challenging your core.

If you want to start off a little easier, try starting out on your knees. Or you can practice while leaning against a wall.


Squats are included in virtually every calisthenic workout and for good reason.

They are among the most versatile calisthenic exercises because they can be performed easily in most environments and with a limited amount of space.

Plus, squats train the quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, gluteal muscles, and core.

Standing with feet shoulder-width apart, squat down until your thighs are parallel with the floor, then explode back up to the starting position.

You can add a bit of cardio by adding a jump at the top of the movement.

You can change the height of your squat to deeper or shallower depending on your fitness level.

You can squat down lower to make this exercise more difficult, but just be sure that your knees don’t track over your toes as you go down.


This full-body calisthenics exercise works abdominal muscles, chest, arms, legs, and parts of the back.

Stand facing forward with your feet shoulder-width apart, keeping your weight in your heels and your arms at your sides.

Push your hips back, bend your knees, and lower into a squat.

Put your hands palms down on the floor in front of you and jump your feet back, landing softly on the balls of your feet with your body in a plank position.

Do one push up, then jump your feet forward so they land next to your hands.

Push your arms up over your head and jump quickly into the air to complete one rep.

Mountain Climbers

Mountain climbers can sort of be thought of as a moving plank.

This move will strengthen your core and seriously tone your arms, while also adding in some cardio.

Start in a push-up position with your hands under your shoulders.

Drive your right knee to your chest and tap your right foot to the floor then quickly move it back to the starting position.

Then repeat this on the left.

Continue alternating legs back and forth as quickly as you can.

Want more? This full-body, at-home workout requires no equipment!


Advanced Calisthenics Workouts

Follow the same outline for the beginner’s workout, however, perform each exercise for 45 seconds, and then rest for 15 seconds before moving to the next move.

Repeat a total of three times.

If you really want to challenge yourself, you can even add on a fourth circuit:

Shuttle Runs

Shuttle runs will get your heart rate up to start your workout and also test your ability to quickly change direction and accelerate.

Set up two cones, or pick two points 10 meters, or about 30 feet, apart.

Run between these two points as fast as possible.

When you get to the opposite cone, bend down to touch the cone, then sprint back.


If you have access to a pull-up bar, pull-ups are the ultimate bodyweight move to increase strength in your arms and back.

Grasp the bar at shoulder-width and lift your body up until your chin is level with the bar, then slowly lower back down.

If you cannot do an unassisted pull-up, start with negative pull-ups!

For a negative pull up, start by standing under a pull-up bar.

Jump up, grabbing the bar with a slightly wider than shoulder-width grip.

Using the momentum from your jump, pull yourself upwards until your chin is above the bar.

Slowly lower yourself. Slowly extend.

Pistol Squats

As mentioned above, squats are one of the ultimate lower body workouts since you are hitting your glutes, hamstrings, and quads all at once.

Pistol squats challenge you further by focusing on one leg at a time so that you really isolate these muscle groups while also improving your balance.

Stand with your feet together, then lift your left foot off of the ground and extend it in front of you.

Push your hips back and hold your hands in front of you for balance as you go down into a one-legged squat with your right leg.

Then drive through your right heel to stand back up.

Switch legs and repeat. Continue alternating legs for the full 45 seconds.

If you are having trouble with this exercise you can use a chair to help you balance until you get the movement down.

Superman Pulses

Superman pulses are a great way to work the core muscles in your low back while also seriously burning out your shoulders and upper back muscles.

Lay on your stomach on the floor or exercise mat.

Extend your arms in front of you.

Contract our glutes and back to raise your arms, legs, and chest off of the floor.

Once in this position, pulse your arms up and down by squeezing your shoulder blades together.

Lower your arms, legs, and chest back down after the 45-second interval.

Up-Down Plank

Anyone can do a standard plank, but with this move, you will be toning up and arms and challenging your core as you try to maintain your balance.

Begin in a full plank with your arms extended.

Lower your right elbow to the ground followed by your left elbow so that you are in an elbow plank.

Then put your right hand on the ground and straighten your right arm.

Then do the same with the left arm to return the full plank.

Want to go deeper? Try this full-body dumbbell workout – all you need is a set of dumbbells and some floor space!


Fire Up Your Fitness With Calisthenics

If you are looking for a way to spice up your fitness routine, these calisthenics workouts are for you!

By incorporating bodyweight movements you will not only build strength and coordination but will also improve your overall health.

Plus, you’ll get an awesome, toned body in the process!

Holly Smith
Holly Smith

Writer, The Fit Father Project & Fit Mother Project

Holly is an osteopathic physician, runner, triathlete, and fitness and nutrition enthusiast.

She is board certified in nephrology and internal medicine, has a bachelors degree in dietetics and is a certified personal trainer with NASM-PES certification.

Holly has completed four full ironmans, twelve marathons, countless half ironmans, olympic distance triathlons, half marathons and numerous other road races.

Holly joined the Fit Father Project in May 2019 as a regular writer, contributing articles on health, wellness, exercise, and nutrition.

She has also recently qualified for the 2020 World Championships for Ironman 70.3, in New Zealand!

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If you’re a busy mom who wants to finally lose weight, get healthy, and actually keep the pounds off for good, this is the simple program you’ll love sticking to…

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*Please know that weight loss results & health changes/improvements vary from individual to individual; you may not achieve similar results. Always consult with your doctor before making health decisions. This is not medical advice – simply very well-researched info on calisthenics workouts.

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