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Calisthenics – building a strong and beautiful body without going to the gym. Calisthenica – the best exercises and training program


What is Calisthenica

Bodyweight exercises are used in almost any form of sports activity. These are basic push-ups and pull-ups, which we are introduced to in physical education lessons. Approximately this is how she was earlier, until she was changed by foreign athletes. Now this is a system and complexes of certain complicated exercises, which together can be called calisthenics. This is a huge number of different variations of well-known exercises that are aimed at developing the whole body.

The difference between calisthenics and workout

Somewhere in 2013, on the territory of the post-Soviet Union, there was an explosion of the sports movement, which, later, became known as workout. Of course, the main influence came from American athletes, but among the CIS countries, there were also many who developed this culture.

Workout is a workout using your own weight. So what is its difference from calisthenics? At least in the fact that in the workout, all sets are performed mainly on horizontal bars, parallel bars, ladders and other gymnastic bars. All activities are divided into three different areas: strength, gymnastics and Jimbar.

Kalistenika, in turn, uses any space for physical development. And, also, uses more variations for active physical development, including legs. There is no need for special playgrounds or sports tools. Just you and time. Also, you can’t just attribute morning push-ups and squats to the ranks of this discipline.

It is not correct to think that workout is a kind of calisthenics, since it has a completely different direction. Although in both cases, your own body weight is used.

Features of calisthenics

The most important misconception of people is that they believe that push-ups and, for example, a horizontal bar, cannot work out all muscle groups, and, therefore, cannot be pumped up. Human imagination has given rise to a huge number of different variations of standard exercises that help to work out each muscle no worse than on simulators. The load can be adjusted by amplitude, grip and commonplace weights. For example, to make squats harder, people do them by jumping out or using only one leg.

The advantage of such training is that, in addition to a certain muscle group, the general muscles of the body are greatly strengthened: the body, flexors, back. The general tone of physical strength increases. Each exercise requires general basic training and a specific approach. Any, for example, acrobatic element requires leading training. In our case, the desired result is a body.

Calisthenics probably won’t help you lift heavy weights like in the gym. Nevertheless, this is the very path to become functional, better feel your body and cope with yourself in daily stress.

The absence of additional equipment for calisthenics makes it as convenient and versatile as possible for everyone. You can use whatever comes under your hands: floor, walls, stools, books. However, despite the current flow of fantasy, it is necessary to pay great attention to technique.

Calisthenics will help you lose weight or tighten your figure, while doing it at home in a comfortable environment. A huge number of workouts are done at high intensity. A small set of exercises is performed without rest and for about 3 circles. This will help you not only to effectively improve your physical fitness, but also to activate the hormonal work of the body. Thus, if you eat right and exercise in the morning, then the process of burning fat will work for a long time after training.


It is important to note that the best workout is in the morning, before meals. Moreover, there is a “window” system that creates a long break between meals. For example, you ate at 12:00, then 15:00, then 18:00. It turns out that between 18:00 and 12:00 there is a huge window. Fat is a store of energy that the body debugs for later. When you eat, you get energy that you spend on your activities. If you choose the wrong time to train between meals, then you will be wasting what you recently consumed, and not what you have in stock. Hence, the window will allow you to get to fat immediately and burn it efficiently.

If you want to dry yourself out, then you need to constantly drink a lot of plain water and exclude foods that contain a lot of sugar. Sweet water, desserts, cookies: they have a huge amount of carbohydrates in them that are not in harmony with other nutrients. For example, some cake can be equal to a plate of porridge, but only porridge has other positive properties that improve the body’s functioning. Sugar not only provides quick and unhealthy energy, but also increases the level of insulin in the blood. All of this together hurts your progress very much.

Your diet should be balanced: proteins, carbohydrates and even fats, for example, in nuts, olive oil or avocados. However, you must understand that sports are rarely temporary. You cannot eat properly during breaks. It is an endless process that needs to be supported. Also, do not try to change something in your diet instantly, so as not to drive the body into stress.

Weight gain

With the mass, everything is simpler in words, but more difficult in deeds. In order to increase muscle volume, the first step is to exercise slowly. That is, you must both rise and fall slowly. The most effective way is to add some weight to your body. This is easily achieved with a briefcase and whatever is in it. All the same exercises, but with additional weighting.

During the period of weight gain, you need to eat more fats and proteins, which are found in large quantities in beans, meat and eggs.

Is calisthenics suitable for girls and children

This sport is for everyone. Even if you have trouble lifting your own weight, you can always find easier exercises. For example, if you find it difficult to do push-ups, do the knee press, if you find it difficult to raise the body in the sitting position (a standard exercise for the press), do incomplete lifts, which are called twisting. The exercise variation is large. Moreover, you simply do not have an excuse, since you can practice at any time, as long as you want and wherever you want.

Calisthenica is also suitable for beginners who have no physical fitness at all, as it perfectly regulates the load on the body. Even the youngest athletes can try this sport. In addition, due to the low body weight, even with less functional muscles, they will achieve high results. The only thing worth paying attention to is to do everything technically correctly and gradually.

Basic exercises

In strength training, the exercise technique is first mastered, and then the weight of the burden increases. Workout also uses increased weight, for example, wearing backpacks or weighted vests.

But there is another type of progression – the complication of the technique of movement. The calisthenics practitioner can start pulling up with an elastic band that compensates for part of the body weight, or with the help of a friend, then perform the exercise without help. When he reaches a significant number of repetitions, he will either pull up more times, or a backpack, or a vest, or exercise with body weight, but on one arm.

In classic workout, there are three types of movement – pull-ups or deadlifts, push-ups or bench presses, and hold or static. In fitness variations, jump or plyometrics and squats are also added.

Push ups

Calisthenics - building a strong and beautiful body without going to the gym. Calisthenica - the best exercises and training program

Push-ups are the simplest push-up movement. There are horizontal push-ups, that is, flexion-extension of the arms in support, and vertical, the same flexion in the elbow and shoulder joints, but in support on the uneven bars.

Horizontal push-ups

Calisthenics - building a strong and beautiful body without going to the gym. Calisthenica - the best exercises and training program

Beginners begin to learn from the support – a bench, sofa, or something similar will do, preferably at waist level or slightly below. The emphasis is taken, palms under the shoulder joints, on inhalation, the tense body descends to the support, on exhalation – extension in the elbow joints and return to its original position.

It is important to learn to do push-ups not from the knees, but from the support, because in this variation you can feel the correct work of the muscles of the core, that is, the press and back. In order to make push-ups easier, in the starting position it is recommended to immediately remove the shoulders from the ears, bring the shoulder blades together, and, as it were, “inflate” the chest, pulling in the stomach. This will keep your back stable and easier to descend.

Vertical push-ups

Calisthenics - building a strong and beautiful body without going to the gym. Calisthenica - the best exercises and training program

They are of two types – reverse and from the bars. Anyone can do a reverse push-up. It is enough to sit on a bench or sofa, lower the pelvis down to the floor, and leave your palms in the support, and from this position, straighten your arms at the elbow joint completely. It is not necessary to “insert” your elbows until they click, the purpose of the exercise is to raise your body to the level of support. You need to push off with your legs just enough to maintain a stable position of the body, and not so that the lift is carried out at the expense of the arms.

Bar push-ups are the second level of difficulty. It is necessary to take an emphasis in a stand on the uneven bars, palms under the shoulders, the back is “collected” as in a horizontal push-up. Further, the body gently lowers down along a natural trajectory, and smoothly squeezes up. Fast, hard push-ups are the next level of difficulty. Beginners should learn to control lowering and lifting so that they do not feel discomfort in the shoulder joint.

A good beginner push-up result is over 20 reps. If you have this in your asset, it is worth starting push-ups with a pause at the bottom, or with weights.

Reverse push-ups

Although we are talking about exercises that do not require special equipment, we still cannot fail to mention the reverse push-ups.
This is one of the most effective upper body exercises.
It is found in most bodybuilding training programs as well.
There are two types of back push-ups:

  • For triceps (from the bench).
  • For the pectoral muscles (on the uneven bars, with wide elbows).

The simplest of these is the Triceps Reverse Dips, and here’s how to do it:

Calisthenics - building a strong and beautiful body without going to the gym. Calisthenica - the best exercises and training programThen you can move on to the pectoral muscles. Thus (wide apart the elbows so that the load falls on the lower and middle part of the chest muscles):

Calisthenics - building a strong and beautiful body without going to the gym. Calisthenica - the best exercises and training programThat’s all about pushing movements.


Calisthenics - building a strong and beautiful body without going to the gym. Calisthenica - the best exercises and training program

You need to learn to pull up by strengthening the grip in the hang and back muscles. Australian or parallel pull-ups are used for this purpose. You need to hang on a low crossbar, and place your feet on a bench or other support. The bar should be at mid-chest level. Due to the powerful movement, bringing the shoulder blades together, and straining the back, it is necessary to pull up until the chest touches the crossbar, and gently lower down. Australian pull-ups are more difficult to do the higher the legs. If the body is parallel to the bar, this is the most difficult option.

The second level of difficulty is reverse grip pull-ups with an elastic band. It is necessary to fix the shock absorber on the horizontal bar so that you can rest your feet on it and compensate for part of the body weight by stretching the rubber. On the horizontal bar, you need to hang with a reverse grip, that is, the palms are directed towards the body. So part of the load will be taken over by the biceps, it is usually well developed, therefore it will be easier to pull up. Having taken the position of the hang, you need to position the body so that the trajectory of movement is comfortable in the shoulder joints, tighten the press, and pull up to the crossbar. If in this position it turns out to pull up 8-12 times, it’s time to move on to the negatives.

Negative is jumping from the floor or ground to the top position before touching the bar, and slowly lowering the body to its original position. The muscles must resist the force of gravity and lower the body slowly. The point of the negative is to strengthen working muscles.

The next step is a simple reverse grip pull-up. After it is mastered, it will be necessary to go all the way with a straight grip, first shoulder-width apart, and then wide, and also behind the head.

Pull-up with an angle

It is necessary to grab the horizontal bar and raise your legs so that an angle of 90 degrees is formed. Pull-ups are counted when the navel is at or above the bar.

Typewriter pull-up

It is necessary to take a wide grip on the horizontal bar, start pulling up diagonally to one hand, so that the chin is higher than the crossbar. Then, fixing yourself in this position, without lowering your chin, smoothly horizontally transfer your body to your other hand.

Pull-ups on the bar

They will also need equipment, but the crossbar is extremely important, it can be found in any yard, and it is usually inexpensive.

To get the most out of your bodyweight workout, you definitely need to pull up.
In addition to all the major back muscles, the bar pull-up also trains the biceps.
Of course, there are many options for this exercise, but you need to start with the two main ones, and then move on to the more complex ones.
Let’s start with the reverse grip pull-ups:

Calisthenics - building a strong and beautiful body without going to the gym. Calisthenica - the best exercises and training programIf you don’t know how to pull up yet, here’s an easy way to develop the strength you need. Australian pull-ups.

Calisthenics - building a strong and beautiful body without going to the gym. Calisthenica - the best exercises and training programTraining with a tourniquet is very helpful.

Calisthenics - building a strong and beautiful body without going to the gym. Calisthenica - the best exercises and training programAnd then we move on to pull-ups with a direct grip.

Calisthenics - building a strong and beautiful body without going to the gym. Calisthenica - the best exercises and training programLast but not least, squats …

Abs workout

Calisthenics - building a strong and beautiful body without going to the gym. Calisthenica - the best exercises and training program

There are also inclined boards on the sites to swing the press while lying down, but the most important workout exercise for the press is lifting the legs in the hang to the bar. It is necessary to assume a hanging position on the bar so that the grip is slightly wider than shoulder level. As you exhale, the feet are brought to the crossbar, and then they are slowly lowered down. A more complicated version is a “corner”, that is, statics on the abdominal muscles, in which the abdomen is pulled in, the press is pulled up, and due to muscle contraction, the position of the corner is maintained.

Hanging leg raises

Hanging leg raises are very effective and train your grip strength and abs at the same time. The easiest option is to lift the legs bent at the knees, the more advanced one is to lift straight legs, the so-called “corner”. When doing it, make sure that the body does not swing.


Although the Plank is often referred to as the main exercise for training the core muscles (core), multiple studies indicate that this is a slight exaggeration.
However, it certainly deserves to be included in a bodyweight training program.Calisthenics - building a strong and beautiful body without going to the gym. Calisthenica - the best exercises and training program

Well, and most importantly, the key point is the progression of the load.

It’s not enough just to do all of these exercises regularly – you need constant progress.

The easiest way to do this when training with iron is to add weight to a barbell or dumbbell.
For loads with its own weight, in turn, there are two options:

  1. Move on to more difficult exercises (such as push-ups or pull-ups on one arm).
  2. Add weight with a vest or weight chain belt.

The first option is preferable because it does not require any additional equipment.
However, if you plan to train with your own weight for a long time, you will eventually reach a point where you can no longer make the exercises harder. Then the turn of the second option will come up.

Raising straight legs in the hang on a horizontal bar

This is one of the best exercises for developing the muscles of the entire torso (core) and rectus abdominis muscles.Calisthenics - building a strong and beautiful body without going to the gym. Calisthenica - the best exercises and training program


Let’s start with standard and simple curls.

  1. Lie on the floor.
  2. Raise your torso by keeping your hands behind your head or on your chest.

You don’t have to completely lift your back off the floor, just round it up. Lift up until your muscles contract.

Exercise “bike” for the press

This popular exercise is especially effective for targeting the oblique abdominal muscles.

Leg workout – squats and lunges

Calisthenics - building a strong and beautiful body without going to the gym. Calisthenica - the best exercises and training program

There is an opinion that the turnstiles do not swing their legs, but this is a mistake. In the workout, a simple squat is used, its more complicated versions, and lunges. A simple squat is the lowering of the pelvis below the level of the kneecaps by simultaneously flexing the knee and hip joints. When the movement becomes available for about 40 repetitions in a row, static is performed. The “chair” against the wall works out the legs perfectly. You need to lean your back on the wall, and lower the body down so that the pelvic bones are just below the level of the knee joints. In this position, tighten the hamstrings and buttocks so that the legs seem to push off the ground, and hold the static position for at least 40 seconds. A good result is from 2 minutes in this position.

After mastering the statics, you can start jumping from the squat, dropping to the bottom point, jump up in one sharp movement. And then you can do lunges, that is, “squat with scissors.” From a straight stance, step back with one foot, and keeping the body straight, lower yourself down to a comfortable angle, and then return back.

Leg exercises include stepping on a high support (bench), jumping on a support, squats on one leg (hold a pole or other support with your hands so as not to fall).

Standing bike

A standing bike will be an excellent warm-up.

  1. Stand straight.
  2. Lift your knees up one at a time.
  3. Touch your knees with the opposite elbow.

This exercise helps to activate all body work, warms up the abdominal muscles, and is also a translator in the set.

Calf muscle training

For the harmonious development of the whole body, it is necessary to pay special attention to the muscles of the lower leg. They work out the calf muscles, rising on toes from a support 7 cm high and dropping with the heels to the floor. By bringing the heels closer and apart, you can increase the load on the external and internal parts of the calf muscles. An advanced version of the exercise is single-leg lifts.

Static exercises

These calisthenics exercises include many spectacular, difficult-to-perform stands – “flag”, “crocodile”, “horizon”, handstand and others. But in order to master them, you need to start with the well-known straight and side planks that strengthen the muscles of the core.

Raising the body while kneeling in support (Russian Leg Curl)

An excellent exercise for training the muscles of the back of the thighs.

Burpi (burpi)

A classic full body exercise that also provides an excellent cardio workout (strengthens the heart muscle and respiratory system).Calisthenics - building a strong and beautiful body without going to the gym. Calisthenica - the best exercises and training program

That’s all the basic bodyweight exercises.
Before we get into the workout, let’s not forget our favorite abs …

Basic training rules

To make progress with calisthenics, you must adhere to the following rules:

  • Start your workout with a 10-minute warm-up. The best warm-up is articular gymnastics, which consists of rotations in both directions of all large joints of the body.
  • Strictly observe the observance of the execution technique.
  • Choose the complexity of each exercise so that you can perform no more than 10-20 repetitions in a row, otherwise you will not get a power load, but ordinary cardio.
  • The number of repetitions in the approach is up to muscle failure. The number of approaches is from 3 to 5.
  • Finish your workout with a cool down and stretching exercise.
  • Train every other day, giving your muscles time to recover. On break days, you can do cardio exercises.
  • Eat a balanced diet, the daily amount of protein should be at least 2 g / kg of body weight.
  • Update your training program every 2 months.

Training program for beginners

The level of physical fitness of beginners in calisthenics can be very different, therefore it is recommended to draw up an individual training program based on their capabilities. You can do this on your own, but it is better – together with a trainer.

As an example, here is a training program for beginners, compiled by the famous popularizer of calisthenics, Frank Medrano. The calisthenics training program is designed for 4 weeks. The number of repetitions in each set – until muscle failure (except for the 3rd day), the number of sets – 4, pauses between sets – 1-2 minutes. If some exercises are not yet available to you, replace them with lighter options.

1 day

  1. Push-ups from the hill;
  2. Push-ups with an emphasis on the back;
  3. Standard push-ups;
  4. Push-ups with legs on a hill;
  5. Rises on toes;
  6. Straight plank.

2nd day

  1. Standard pull-ups;
  2. Australian pull-ups;
  3. Closed grip pull-ups;
  4. Lunges;
  5. Side plank on each side.

Day 3

  1. Running with high knees – 30 seconds;
  2. Plank – 15 sec;
  3. Exercise “climber” – 30 sec;
  4. Plank – 15 sec;
  5. Jumping in place – 30 sec.

Day 4 – rest.

Day 5 – repeat the program for 1 day.

Day 6 – repeat the program for 2 days.

Day 7 – rest.

This training program is not for nothing called its creator Frank Medrano “Immersion”. By doing it for a month, you will immerse yourself in the training process, and it will be a good start for achieving impressive success in calisthenics.

How effective is calisthenics for gaining muscle mass?

“Exercise” and “training” are not the same thing.
Exercise includes any kind of vigorous physical activity, but exercise involves a methodical approach to a specific goal or set of goals.

Calisthenics - building a strong and beautiful body without going to the gym. Calisthenica - the best exercises and training programFor example, zumba is a set of exercises. And Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 program is training.
If your goal is to be lean and healthy, you can achieve this with exercise (and proper nutrition). If you want to develop a lean, muscular and strong body (improve your physique) – you need to exercise.
In this sense, calisthenics is an excellent exercise system. In fact, one of the best, as it effectively affects both the muscle and cardiovascular systems.
It also has other unique advantages:

  • Versatility and convenience. Bodyweight exercises can be done anywhere and anytime you want.
  • Availability. You don’t need to equip a home gym or pay for a gym membership.
  • Saving time. There is no need to get anywhere, wait for your turn to work out on any equipment or simulator, etc.
  • Your personal space. You don’t have to put up with the arrogant stares and show off of smug alpha males in the gym.

The bottom line is this:
If you want to stay slim and gain muscle mass and strength and not have to deal with gyms, then calisthenics is just what you need.
But if you want to gain muscle mass as quickly as possible, then bodyweight exercises are not the best choice.
The reason for this is that everything is complicated with them, as with the TRAINING method.
This is primarily because they do not lend themselves to progression as well as traditional free weights training.
If you are unfamiliar with this term, “exercise progression” refers to the increase in the level of tension in muscle fibers over time.
It is the main mechanical factor leading to increased muscle mass and strength, and the best way to achieve it is to continually increase the weight you can lift (get stronger).
This is why strength and muscle growth are so closely related. “Show me a guy who can squat with a barbell twice his own weight, and I’ll show you big, powerful legs.”
This is the serious disadvantage of calisthenics.
Bodyweight training can usually be increased by increasing the number of repetitions, rather than the severity of the projectile (weight). While this is beneficial for increasing muscle endurance, it will not go too far in terms of muscle growth and strength.
In other words, increasing pull-ups up to 30 times or push-ups up to 100 times per set will not lead to the same muscle growth as bench press (1.5 body weight) and deadlift (2 body weight).
Even approximately!

Scientists refer to this interaction between exercise, muscular endurance and strength as the “strength and endurance continuum.”

Sounds tricky, but the concept is pretty simple: if you want to be big and strong, you need to focus on lifting weights.
This does not mean that the progression of loads in calisthenics is impossible (now we will talk about this), but this is not the same as lifting heavy things and lowering them.
Another downside is that you are missing out on some of the best muscle building exercises.
Unfortunately, no bodyweight exercise can fully replicate the effects of bench presses, squats, military presses, and deadlifts.
These four basic exercises make up the backbone of all bodybuilding programs for a reason.
With their help, several muscle groups are trained at the same time, and they allow you to safely lift very heavy weights (give maximum load).
If you want to get the most out of your strength training, you need to incorporate the Big Four into your training program.
Of course, you can do without them, but anyone who claims that bodyweight exercises activate muscle fibers as well as deadlifts with 85% of the 1RM (1RM) are either out of the picture or fantasizing.
You’re probably asking, “If bodyweight exercises are so inferior to lifting weights, where did these guys get those muscles?” Really impressive! There are a few things to remember when looking at these people:

  1. Training history. When you see a guy with a great physique who only trains with his own weight, it doesn’t mean that he originally trained in the same way. There are quite a few people who have gained significant amounts of muscle mass by training with dumbbells and barbells, before turning their attention to bodyweight training (usually just to do something new and different).
  2. Duration of classes. If someone diligently engages in any kind of strength training for a long enough period of time and understands how to eat right, then they are almost guaranteed to have a good physique. Even if it wasn’t the best way to spend your time and energy.
  3. Genetics. Some people respond surprisingly well to strength training, but it also happens the other way around. You can repeat everything that a person with great genetics does, but you will not see anything similar to his results.
  4. Steroids. The consumption of pharmacology is widespread in the world of strength and muscle, and steroids change absolutely everything. Sometimes steroid athletes are immediately visible to the “naked eye”, but there are many who are very difficult to recognize.

Here’s the thing:
When you want to evaluate the effectiveness of a diet or training method, you shouldn’t look only at outstanding examples.
It is necessary to consider a wide sample of people – old and young, with outstanding genetics and abilities below average, and so on.

Main conclusions

Calisthenica has many benefits, but it is not suitable for everyone.

It is a great choice for experienced athletes looking to try something new. Bodyweight workouts are great if you want to maintain the muscles you already have and build muscle endurance.

But in terms of gaining muscle mass and strength, they are not as effective as lifting free weights (dumbbells, barbell).

If you have never exercised before and want to improve your figure, then bodyweight exercises will be a great start. And training with free weights in the future can significantly speed up your progress.


In a philosophical sense, calisthenics is a flow of fantasy. The basis for it is gymnastics, aerobics and, in general, standard physical education. But its main difference is the combination of exercises that create unique and versatile sets for your physical development. Smooth transitions from push-ups to the press, push-ups in a handstand, complicated pull-ups: this all improves the body in a complex way, making you stronger, more enduring and more beautiful.

Sources used and useful links on the topic: -i-programma-trenirovok.html

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