The Best Calisthenics Workout Plan For Strength, Mass & Aesthetics (2024)

It’s all about pushing big weights in the gym...or maybe not. Putting up big numbers with the barbell is definitely a feat to pursue, but it’s not the only way to sculpt the body you desire. In fact, trainees who make calisthenics their primary form of resistance training have arguably the best aesthetics on average.

Calisthenicsis thecombination of two Greek words,kállos and sthenos, with kállos referring tobeauty, and sthenos meaningstrength. When you look at what this type of training truly means, it's easy to understand why to to be successful at calisthenics,you need to be strong AND have great body composition.

All of this is awesome but you also need to know how to train correctly. As you only have your body and limited equipment, you must understand how to target specific areas. Plus, you need to know to progress to pack on muscle mass and increase strength.

That's where we come in as we cover the best calisthenics workout plan to build muscle and improve strength, crucial programming tips, and directions for performing each exercise.

Table of Contents:

  • Best Calisthenics Workout Plan
  • Training Variables & Programming Tips
  • Best Calisthenics Exercises For Every Body Part
  • Calisthenics Exercise Progressions
  • Essential Calisthenics Equipment
  • Benefits & Negatives of Calisthenics Training

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The Best Calisthenics Workout Program

Calisthenics refers to any movement where your body acts as the main load.

It's important to note that this means it's a form of exercise in which you're lifting your body weight, but you will still need some equipment to perform manyof the exercises you're about to see in this program, such as a bar, rings, or something sturdy to perform chin ups on.

This can be used as a calisthenics workout for beginners or advanced. You will simply alter the variations and intensity for your level.Here’s how it looks all together.

Upper A:

  • Decline Push Ups: 4 sets x 7-8 RPE
  • Chin Ups:4 sets x 7-8 RPE
  • Dips:4 sets x 7-8 RPE
  • Australian Rows:4 sets x 7-8 RPE
  • Push Ups: 3 sets x 9 RPE
  • Core Exercise (choose one): 3 sets x 8-9 RPE

Lower A:

  • Squats:4 sets x 7-8 RPE
  • Nordic Curls: 5 sets x 1 rep
  • Lunges:4 sets x 7-8 RPE
  • Glute Bridges: 4 sets x 9RPE
  • Calf Raises: 4 sets x 9RPE
  • Squat Jumps: 2 sets x failure
  • Core Exercise (choose one): 3 sets x 8-9 RPE

Upper B:

  • Wall Walks or Handstand Push Ups:4 sets x 7-8 RPE
  • Pull Ups:4 sets x 7-8 RPE
  • Pike Push Ups:4 sets x 7-8 RPE
  • Australian Rows:4 sets x 7-8 RPE
  • Dips:4 sets x 7-8 RPE
  • Push Ups: 3 sets x 9 RPE
  • Core Exercise (choose one): 3 sets x 7-8 RPE

Lower B:

  • Squats:4 sets x 7-8 RPE
  • Nordic Curls:5 sets x 1 rep
  • Lunges:4 sets x 7-8 RPE
  • Romanian Deadlifts/Good Mornings:4 sets x 7-8 RPE
  • Calf Raises: 3 sets x 9 RPE
  • Squat Jumps: 2 sets x failure
  • Core Exercise (choose one): 3 sets x7-8 RPE

While you’re using RPE for most of these exercises, you still need to gradually implement progressive overload. In this case, RPE is used as everyone will be using different rep ranges, so the most important thing, as listed below, is to try to implement a lighter and heavier variation which will be brought to an RPE of 7-8 (Bring it to a good burn).

Do this and include progressive overload, and you’ll be awesome.

Program Variables & Training Tips For A Calisthenic Workout Routine

Here are 4 things to keep in mind when following acalisthenics workout plan.

1) Train 4 Days Per Week.

One of the biggest misconceptions about bodyweight exercises seems to be that you can do them more often. While anecdotally, it does seem like you may recover faster, your muscles physiology works the same exact way.

When your muscles are activated, they don’t know whether you’re performing a bench press or push-ups. Therefore, the variables are going to be more or less the same. The most obvious difference is that you will have no isolating movements, and your exercise selection will be quite smaller.That being said, you will want to perform calisthenics workouts4 days a week using an upper/lower split.

2) Use RPE.

The main difference will be assigning rep ranges, as you will be performing a much higher amount of reps than normal. Further, this can differ depending on if you have an external loading system.

Therefore, you are going to use RPE(Rate of Perceived Exertion) to measure your reps.For the majority of the exercises, you will use RPE7-8, which means you’ll perform the exercise until it starts to burn.If you wanted when following RPE,you could go to failure on the LAST set once in a while.We’re also going to use 4 sets for most exercises.

3) Use The Correct Rest Times & Intensities.

You will want to have a lighter day and heavier day for your upper and lower training. As there are a limited amount of exercises, you will perform the same exercises, or very similar (chin-up & pull-ups) 2x a week. Therefore, this might mean that one day you use an easier version on the light day and then a progression on the harder day.

For rest times, most exercises work fine with 1:30-2:00 minute rest periods.The exceptions are the nordic curls which may require 2:00-3:00 rest.

4) Find What Works Best For Your Training.

There’s a ton of variability, so part of calisthenics is figuring it out for yourself. Also, some exercises allow many reps (squats) while others are more difficult (pull-ups).

For the majority of exercises, you should be able to do around 20-30 reps non-stop before trying to progress.For dips and pulling movements, this number will drop to 10-20.Again, your main goal is to always be improving and trying to push yourself.

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The Best Calisthenics Exercises (By Body Part)

You've got the workout and programming tips. Now, it's time togo over the best calisthenic exercises for every body part, so you know how to perform them correctly.

The best calisthenics exercises are:

  1. Push Ups
  2. Decline Push Ups
  3. Pike Push Ups
  4. Push Back Ups
  5. Wall Handstand Push Ups
  6. Tricep Dips
  7. Chin Ups
  8. Pull Ups
  9. Australian Rows
  10. Squats
  11. Pistol Squats
  12. Lunges
  13. Skater Squats
  14. Calf Raises
  15. Glute Bridges
  16. Romanian Deadlifts
  17. Nordic Curls
  18. Walkouts
  19. Russian Twists

This will be set up by defining a particular movement and then adding progressions to that exercise. Further, there will also be a Gymnastics and Advanced Exercises section so you can keep progressing!

Best Calisthenic Exercises For The Chest, Shoulders and Triceps:

Push ups and dips are staples for training the chest, shoulders, and tricepsusingcalisthenics.


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Push-ups are probably the most popular calisthenic exercise there is. Everyone has done them and is generally a part of fitness tests for the military, police forces, and overall health. This being said, we want to first make sure you are using good form and then provide progressions.

How To Perform Push-ups And Progress:

  1. The basic version of push-ups will have you in a typical push-up position with arms slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. The primary cue is to make sure your elbows are placed at approximately a 45-degree angle.
  2. The first option to increase the load is to use a resistance band wrapped around your back with your hands holding the loops. This will create a higher amount of tension on your muscles
  3. The third variation is to start bringing your chest down to a hand rather than the middle. This will place a more significant percentage of your body on that side. You will then come back and go down to the other side
  4. The next variation would be to start extending one hand out to the side. This will not only place a more significant percentage of your body weight on that arm; extending the arm will limit the contribution it can add. Ideally, you will put your arms out farther and farther until it’s completely extended.


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Decline push-ups are the equivalent to an incline bench press. This means you’re going to work your upper chest and shoulders a little bit more. However, as your body will be more vertical relative to regular push-ups, you will be lifting a more significant percentage of your body weight, so they will be a bit harder. That being said, the progressions will be precisely the same as the traditional push-ups.

How To Perform Decline Push-ups And Progress:

  1. To set up decline push-ups, you will need a ledge of some sort. Ideally, your body will be at about a 45-degree angle but work with what you have.
  2. The variations are then going to be precisely the same as traditional push-ups


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Pike push-ups require a bit of mobility as you will want to place your body into an upside-down V position. This will put your butt high in the air, causing your lower body and upper body to be more vertical. Therefore, you will be pressing over your head and training your shoulders.

How To Perform Pike Push-ups And Progress:

  1. The standard pike push-up can be done without any equipment. To start, get into a regular push-up position. Next, you will want to walk your feet and hands together while pushing your butt into the air. Attempt to get as high as possible
  2. The second way to perform these is to find a higher ledge, preferably one-half your height. Put your feet on the shelf, and instead of having your body straight, you want to bend at the hips. Ideally, your legs will go straight out from the ledge and your upper torso being almost vertical.
  3. Progressions for either set-up will again, look similar to traditional push-ups.


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Push-Back-Ups are one of the best exercises you’ve never done. These basically involve doing a push-up, but instead of pushing yourself up, you push yourself back into a crouching position that looks like the Child Pose but not on your knees. Since you’re pushing back, you’ll focus on the shoulders more

How To Perform Push-Back-Ups And Progress:

  1. This will have you start in a standard push-up position and go down. Now when you go down, you will want to allow your body to come forward slightly. When you hit the bottom position, you will want to push your body back instead of pushing up. This will change the force from occurring horizontally and make it happen “vertically” or over the head. Be sure to push back until you are in a crouched position which you will then come back into a standard push-up position.
  2. To progress, you’ll do a similar method as the others and put the focus to one arm. Eventually, you’ll progress so you’re pushing your entire body back with one arm.


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For most people, these will take some time to progress on. The end result will be you being completely inverted up against a wall doing handstand push-ups. While this will take a lot of practice, it’s definitely attainable by anyone. Therefore, you will get started where you’re at. Now, there are two different methods that you will use simultaneously to progress.

  1. Wall Walks:This will consist of you walking your feet up a wall with no pushing. You will simply work on being comfortable while being inverted as well as improve your balance.
  2. Wall Decline Push-ups:Wall decline push-ups will have you place your feet up on a wall as you perform push-ups. You will gradually want to increase the height of your feet

How To Perform Wall Handstand Pushups And Progress:

  1. For “Wall Walks”, you will simply gradually walk your feet up the wall more and more. The goal is to walk all the way up so that you’re vertical and then hold yourself.
  2. For “Wall Decline Push-ups”, you will find a spot on the wall that allows you to do a push-up. Again, you will gradually try to place your feet at a higher position to do the push-ups
  3. Once you’re finally able to do multiple handstand push-ups (which will take a long-time), simply start to favor one arm.


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DIps are one of the best calisthenic exercises there are. In fact, if all you did were chin-ups and dips, you’d probably be ok. Dips will target all of your pushing muscles but specifically your triceps as you’ll do “triceps dips”. For a more detailed article on other dip variations, check out our full article here.

How To Perform Dips And Progress:

  1. You will need two parallel bars. Grab each bar so that the bar sits on the meaty part at the bottom of your thumb. The bar should rest right in the middle of the rook. When you come down, you want a slight lean in your torso but not too much as we want the triceps to remain the primary muscle. Keeping your forearms straight, go down until your triceps pass parallel and come up.
  2. The first way to progress is to use an external loading system.
  3. The second way is to come down to one hand again. Eventually, you will progress so that you can come down to one hand, push your body across the bar to the other hand, and push yourself back up.

Interested in more bodyweight exercises targeting these muscle groups? Check out our articles on the bestBodyweight Chest Exercises,Bodyweight Shoulder Exercises, andBodyweight Tricep Exercises.

Best Calisthenic Exercises For The Back & Biceps Muscles:

Your back exercises are going to primarily consist of 3 movements. However, there are plenty of progressions and variations for you to work on.


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Aren’t chin-ups and push-ups the same? No, they are not. While very similar, there are several distinct differences. The primary difference is the handgrip, as chin-ups utilize a supinated or underhand grip. This forces the elbows to be in front of you and allows more flexion of the elbow. This being said, chin-ups will place more emphasis on the biceps and upper back.

How To Perform Chin-Up And Progress:

  1. The basic version will have you take an underhand grip with your hands placed shoulder-width apart. You will then perform the chin-ups by pulling your body up until your head goes above the bar.
  2. The first progression is to begin adding weight if you have an external loading position.
  3. The second way to progress is to start taking fingers off the bar from one hand. For example, instead of using a full grip, take off your thumb. Next, you would take off your pinky finger and so on. This limits the bodies ability to produce enough force which will then force the other arm to compensate.
  4. Next, have one hand using an underhand grip and the other using an overhand grip. The underhand grip is the primary arm, while the overhand grip will gradually be placed farther out on the bar to aid with support. You will use an overhand grip because you’re not able to make a wide-grip using both underhanded.

Note:Both variations of progression (fingers and placing an arm out) can be used as some trainees tend to like one more than the other. Or, you can use them together. It won’t really make a difference as long as you’re making sure to gradually increase the intensity.


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In comparison to chin-ups, pull-ups will use a pronated grip or overhand grip. This allows the elbows to be placed out to the side more to create more lat activation. Further, pull-ups are going to be the main tool to use when progressing to more challenging variations. This is simply because other variations require an overhand grip due to hand placement or movement.

Mastering pulls up is tough, but trust us when we say, it's worth it! Packed withpulls up benefits, no workout routine should be without this exercise.

How To Perform Pull-Ups And Progress:

  1. The traditional pull-up is performed using an overhand grip with hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. You are going to pull yourself up, keeping your elbows to the side of the body. Pull yourself up so that your head goes over the bar
  2. Again, the first progression is to use an external loading system to add weight.
  3. The other method to progress will be precisely like the chin-ups and includes taking off finders from one hand and placing one hand out farther. Again, both of these can be used separately or in conjunction with one another to implement progressive overload.
  4. The fourth variation, which is perhaps more fun than efficient (but let’s be honest, part of calisthenics is doing cool things), is a typewriter. This is simply pulling yourself up to one hand and then, while staying above the bar, pull yourself over to the other side and come down.

Can't perform a single pull up?It's time to take our pull up progression program.


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Australian rows, also known as inverted rows, are calisthenic answers to the bent-over row. To perform an Australian row, you will need at least one straight bar. However, having multiple heights or a TRX system would be optimal as you can adjust the height.

How To Perform Australian Rows And Progress:

  1. The traditional movement is performed using a low straight bar. Sometimes you won’t have a choice of height, so that’s not an issue. If you do have multiple heights to choose from or a set of rings, your height will be determined by how many you can. You should select a height that you can do 5-8 good reps.
  2. If you have multiple heights, you will first progress by choosing a lower height. The lower you go, will increase the load.
  3. The next option to increase your load is to elevate your feet. You should wait until you get to the lowest possible setting for you before you elevate your feet
  4. The third way to progress is using an external load. Simply place weight on your chest to increase the load.
  5. The last variation will be very similar to the pull-ups and chin-ups in that you can begin pulling your body up to one arm. Next, you can start adjusting your fingers and placing one arm out farther and farther.

For additional exercise ideas, check out our articles on the bestBodyweight Back ExercisesandBodyweight Biceps Exercises.

Best Calisthenic Exercises For The Lower Body:

The lower body is a bit “easier” to train as, generally speaking, your lower body can handle your body weight better. That being said, this means you’ll need more difficult progressions faster. No worries though as there is plenty to work on.


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Bodyweight squatsare going to be the foundational movement for your lower body, even without a barbell! As mentioned above, most people can handle bodyweight squats relatively quickly, so we will include progressions all the way up to one-legged squats.

How To Perform Squats And Progress:

  1. Traditional bodyweight squats are performed by placing your feet slightly shoulder-width apart. Extend your arms out in front of you at shoulder levels and then come down to slightly below parallel. Next, simply propel yourself back up.
  2. Next progression is to perform pulse squats. This consists of going down to a full squat then coming up ¾ of the way. You stop there and come down to about ¼ of the way. This is the “pulse”. Complete 3-5 pulses per rep
  3. After this, you’ll want to use a bit wider stance. Next, you will come down to one leg at a time.
  4. Continue doing this by extending your leg out farther.

Related: What Happens When You Do 100 Squats a Day?


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Soon enough, regular squats won’t be enough so you’ll want to add one-legged squats to your calisthenics legs workout. The two ways to do this are pistol squats and skater squats (below). A pistol squat consists of a one-legged squat by extending one leg out in front of you as you squat down.

How To Perform Pistol Squats And Progress:

If you have a TRX system or resistance bands, your best option is to use those to help assist you. Hold the TRX or resistance band as you go down and to help pull you back up. If not, you can use a bar for support.

Regardless of the tool you use, you’ll want to gradually use less and less assistance.


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Lunges are a great uni-lateral addition to your workout. While there’s a limited amount of ways to increase their intensity, they are going to massively improve your stability.

How To Perform Lunges And Progress:

  1. To begin, you’ll just perform normal bodyweight lunges. Remember that you want both knees to bend at a 90-degree angle. Before you progress, these are good movements to use as “burnout” sets or just do a ton of volume. While strictly anecdotal, top-level bodybuilders report finishing off leg days with 100-200 bodyweight lunges.
  2. The first option is to use an external loading device
  3. The second option is to perform cycle lunges or plyo lunges. This involves powering up from a lunge position, getting airborne, switching legs, and landing and repeating.
  4. The third option is to do Bulgarian split squats. Bulgarian split squats will be the best route to take when getting ready to start skater squats (That’s next!)


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Skater squats are another one-legged “squat” but actually resemble a one-legged lunge more, so these will come after you progress on lunges. As mentioned, skater squats are a one-legged squat, so in this case, the leg will go behind you like a lunge, except it won’t touch the floor.

How To Perform Skater Squats And Progress:

This method is precisely the same as with the pistol squats. Use some support to assist with the movement and while gradually lessening the amount of assistance you use.


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Nothing fancy here. These are your basic bodyweight calf raises. The best spot to perform these is on a ledge that allows your foot to drop. If not, you can simply do them on flat ground. OR, you could just walk around on your toes. Don’t overthink these. Choose either method or switch and work until you feel a burn.

For more lower body moves, check out theseBest Bodyweight Leg Exercises!

The Best Calisthenic Exercises To Train Hip-Hinges and Hamstrings:

Hip hinges are key to working the posterior chain (erector spine, glutes, and hamstrings). While there are three different variations, they will all ultimately produce the same movement.


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On sessions you do lower body, you might want to bring a towel for these since you’ll lay on your back. Glute bridges are a great movement to strengthen your glutes and hamstrings. Plus, they’re pretty easy to do.

How To Perform Glute Bridges And Progress:

  1. Lay on the floor and bend your legs so that your feet come just below the knees. Now you will want to thrust your hips up until your torso is fully extended. The key for these is to think about pushing your heels into the ground and squeezing your glutes
  2. The first way to progress is placing weight at your hips to increase the load
  3. The second method to progress includes using a single-leg
  4. The third means of progressing is placing your feet on an elevated surface if possible. This will increase the range of motion and create greater muscle activation.


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While these are different movements, they are together as they will gradually progress to a single-leg which looks basically the same. Both are great exercisesto train the entire posterior chain.When you begin, feel free to alter the movement on a weekly basis.These movements will be high rep.

How To Perform Romanian Deadlifts/Good Morning:

  1. You will begin with a normal stance. Remember, Romanian deadlifts utilize minimal knee bend while good morning will have none. Allow plenty of tension to build in the glutes and hamstrings and when you come up, focus on extending you hips and squeezing the glutes. This as opposed to using your leg to “push” up.
  2. The first progression will be to use a staggered stance, this will increase tension of the forward leg
  3. The final stage will be single-legged movements.


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Nordic curls are one of the few movements that allow you to isolate a muscle, the hamstrings. Nordic curls areone of the best exercises to improve the strength of the hamstrings and are often used among athletes to prevent injuries1.It simply involves anchoring your feet and then lowering yourself down slowly.

How To Perform Nordic Curls And Progress:

  1. Find some way to anchor your feet. The best method is to use a friend. If you are alone, try to find a low bar, or you can use your feet to “grab” a bar. These are hard, so progress will be slow. You will then slowly allow yourself to drop in a controlled manner.
  2. To progress, attempt to go down further before your body drops (this will happen when you reach a point you are no longer able to control.

The Best Calisthenic Exercises For The Core:

The best core exercises have virtually always been calisthenic-based. Regardless, here are the best calisthenic exercises for the core.


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Walkouts are the calisthenic equivalent to barbell rollouts. The barbell rollout is easily the single best exercise for the core. In fact,research shows it elicits the highest activity for every core muscle compared to other core exercises2.

For these, you will get into a normal push-up position and then walk your hands out as far as you can and then come back.Eventually you’ll want to be able to “kiss the ground” and then come back up.


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One of the main functions of the core is to facilitate the rotation of the core. Therefore, we want to include some Russian twists.When performing these, be sure to have your entire torso rotate so that your shoulders turn.It does no good to just move your hands back and forth.

Check out the30 Best Bodyweight Core Exercisesfor more ab workout ideas!

Advanced Calisthenic Exercises For The Core:

Here are some other core exercises you can work on as well.


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Window washers are going to train your core, specifically your obliques, like no other. They consist of bringing your body up so that your back is parallel with the ground and your feet are sticking straight up.

You then proceed to rotate your core so that your feet point in one direction. Then, you rotate them the other way. When done correctly, this will resemble window wipers going back and forth.


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This is a bit safer variation since now you’re holding the bar and your legs hang. The hanging knee raisewill include curling your knees up which is going to target the lower rectus abdominis3. The key is that you need to be sure to curl your pelvis up as this is what activates the lower portion.

If all you do is bring the knees to parallel, you will primarily work your hip flexors. In fact, this is the differentiation between inverted crunches. During knee raises, your upper portion remains straight and your lower portion curls up. This is opposite to what you see during inverted crunches.


Be careful with these ‘cause you’re gonna hang upside down! It should be obvious but we want to be very clear that only more advanced trainees should try this. Further, when beginning, keep your hands grabbing onto the bar until you’re comfortable.

That being said, these inverted crunches are going to be an insane ab core workout. When looking at the specific muscles, these are similar to decline reverse curls, which targets the upper rectus abdominis3.

Gymnastics, Advanced Exercises, And Easy Variations:

Here is a list of some effective and easy (relative) movements you can set a goal to work toward. You could do these on an optional day by themselves or work on some of them on your workout days.

Plus, there are some other accessible variables you can perform if your workouts get stale.

1) Crane Pose:The crane pose will improve your flexibility, mobility, and shoulder stability (as well as strength)

2) Muscle Ups:Muscle-ups are a great movement to set as a goal. Once you can perform at least 15 good pull-ups (estimate number), you could start practicing. The first thing you’d want to do is sternum pull-ups, where you do a pull-up and bring your body as high as you can. At the same time, start practicing straight bar dips. Gradually, you’ll improve on both until you get it. If you have variable height, you can start lower so that you can jump to assist you.

3) L-sits:A crazy core exercise. Start by lifting one leg at a time. Gradually increase the time you hold up a leg and then switch to two. Again, gradually increase the time you hold them up.

4) Close Grip Chin-ups: This is a simple variation that will utilize the biceps more.

5) Close Stance Squats:Again, a simple variation that will emphasize the quadriceps.

How To Best Perform & Progress These Exercises

While some calisthenics movesare bodyweight only, the difference between bodyweight training and calisthenics is that many calisthenics exercises workbest withsome type of equipment.In fact, calisthenics quickly loses its appeal without some bars, a loading component, anda rope apparatus (i.e. TRX).

Plus, as you become more advanced, adding progressions to your calisthenics workout plan through TRX training or additional loading, will ensure you continue making gains.

The Calisthenic Equipment You Will Need

As mentioned, while there’s not a ton, you will need minimal equipment to successfully perform calisthenics. This is the bare minimum to run this program (or any calisthenics program)

  1. Set of pull-up bars.
  2. Set of parallel bars (for dips).
  3. A lower straight bar (for Australian rows), but there are work arounds for this such as a hard pole set between two stable and even objects.

Check out these 7 Best Pull Up Bars to find one that will help you hit your training goals.

Calisthenic Equipment That Would Be Nice To Have

If you have the above bars, you’ll be good to go. However, here are some extras that would make training long-term much more efficient

  1. TRX system:Having a TRX-like system is the single best accessory you can buy. It can be used to assist with harder exercises, create different angles (i.e. for push-ups), and adjust height levels for progressions (Australian rows, jumping dips). Check out these 7 Best Suspension Trainers!
  2. External loading system:An external loading system will help increase the difficulty of exercises. Having a dip belt with a variety of plates or kettlebells is your best bet.Kettlebells work great as you canhook your feet through the handle for loading dips and chin-ups. Any of these 11 Best Kettlebells are great for calisthenics training.
  3. Resistance bands:Having a good set of resistance bands will assist you with exercises by either pulling your body up (i.e. pull-ups) or a support (holding while doing skater squats, similar to TRX). Consider adding one of these11 Best Resistance Bands to your calisthenics equipment collection!

Looking for more equipment to up yourcalisthenics game?Here are the 8 Best Calisthenics Equipment For Home Gyms!

The Top Benefits Of A Calisthenics Workout

Following a calisthenics workout planhosts a ton of benefits that make it a great training option.

One of the reasons I love it so much is that it'sa great form of training togauge how fit you are, as having a lower-body fat percentage means you can be more successful. Calisthenics isn’t just about being strong; it’s about being strong and aesthetically pleasing.

The top 5 benefits of calisthenics are:

  1. Emphasizes strength and aesthetics.
  2. Calisthenics is a relatively cheap form of training.
  3. Focuses on primary, functional movements.
  4. It enables you tolose fat and build muscle.
  5. Uses compound movements that target multiple muscle groups.

1. Emphasizes Strength And Aesthetics:

Calisthenics emphasizes both strength and aesthetics. However, the aesthetic aspect is different from bodybuilding, where you are judged by how you look. In calisthenics, having better aesthetics means you have better body composition, allowing you to progress further and perform more advanced movements.

In fact, calisthenics would be boring if you never improved your aesthetics, as you would never be able to progress to the “cool” movements like flags and muscle-ups. Therefore, losing weight has another benefit of being healthy and looking good; you get to do more cool moves!

2. Relatively Cheap To Participate In:

For the most part, calisthenics can be completely free or at least very cheap. Ideally, you have a local park near you with a set of bars that you can use for free. If not, installing some at your house can be done relatively inexpensively. Further, once installed, that’s it! There are no more monthly gym payments or anything.

Once you advance, you may want to invest in some gear. Some common examples of purchases you might need to make are:

  • Gymnastic handguards
  • Chalk
  • A TRX system
  • A weighted vest or another external loading system

3. Focuses On Primary, Functional Movements:

Being that your body is responsible for moving, rather than moving weight on a machine, you will only be using natural movements the way your body was supposed to move. This includes lunges, squats, push-ups, pull-ups, jumping, and pulling.

4. Calisthenics To Lose Fat AND Build Muscle:

Because you use such a large amount of muscle with calisthenic movements, you’re going to definitely put on a good amount of muscle. However, this means you’re also going to burn a lot of calories.

This makes regularly performing a calisthenic workout routine an optimal choice for whatever your goal is.

5. Primarily Uses Big, Compound Movements:

While there are some ways to isolate some muscles, virtually every exercise will be a multi-joint, compound movement. This means you’re going to be using a lot of muscle mass which means more strength gains, higher muscle hypertrophy, and more calories burned.

The Best Calisthenics Workout Plan For Strength, Mass & Aesthetics (24)

A Few Drawbacks Found With Calisthenics Training

While we think calisthenics is pretty awesome, we’d be lying to you if we said it’s perfect. Here are some things you need to consider when deciding if calisthenics is right for you.

1. Almost Impossible To Isolate Muscles:

Now I said “almost” impossible, not “impossible”. While some moves can be used to “target” specific muscles, it’s basically impossible to truly isolate them. With calf raises for the calves as an exception (and scapula pull-ups!), you won’t be able to only train one muscle. This may be an issue for someone who has a lagging body part or wants to enhance a muscle.

With that said, you can still have workouts focusing on your major body parts, as shown in our Calisthenics Back Workout Routineand our Calisthenics Chest Workout.

2. Difficult For Beginners Or Overweight Trainees:

When going to the gym and using free weights, you use what’s known as “absolute strength.” This simply means how strong you are based on the amount of weight you lift. Calisthenics uses your body as a weight, meaning it measures “relative strength”. This means it relies on how well you can manipulate your own body weight. Therefore, it’s very possible to see trainee A have higher relative strength than trainee B only to find that trainee B has higher relative strength than trainee A. This is primarily decided by the body composition of the individual.

This means that an overweight trainee or a trainee who has minimal muscle mass will find calisthenics challenging to train at first. This is caused by them not being able to lift their body. While there are ways to scale calisthenics, this difficulty can deter some people.

3. Requires Patience:

Related to the above, improving on calisthenics requires patience. When going to the gym, it’s reasonable to expect to be able to add an extra 5lbs to your lifts weekly. This isn’t going to happen with calisthenics as you rely on adding reps to your movement to improve.

For example, let’s say you weigh 150lbs and perform the bench press with your body weight, 150lbs. If you go to the gym the next week you can add 5lbs and perform the bench press with 155lbs. When using calisthenics, you will have to add an entire rep. You see how this will become very difficult.

Now, calisthenics is excellent and you will improve; it may just not be as easily measured as when going to the gym.

4. Can Be Difficult To Train With An Injury:

Due to the nature of the movements in calisthenics, it’s very difficult to “train around the pain”. This is because, unless you are advanced, every exercise will be bilateral, meaning you use both sides.

Therefore, if your right arm hurts, you’re not able to only train your left. Further, you have a limited selection of exercises to choose from. This means you cannot choose from a wide selection of exercises and find a more comfortable one.

You’ll Be Impressed WIth How Well Calisthenics Works!

We just went over anawesome calisthenics plan that will work extremely well.After running this program, you’ll believe in the effectiveness calisthenics possesses in building muscle mass and strength.

If you're new to calisthenics, we recommend first starting withour calisthenics for beginners workout plan.Packed with the best introductory exercises, it's a great program to get you started on your calisthenics journey!

Want to take your calisthenics training to the next level? Here are 8 essentials for calisthenics.

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  1. Ripley NJ, Cuthbert M, Comfort P, McMahon JJ. Effect of additional Nordic hamstring exercise or sprint training on the modifiable risk factors of hamstring strain injuries and performance. Clemente FM, ed. PLOS ONE. 2023;18(3):e0281966. doi:
  2. Escamilla RF, Lewis C, Bell D, et al. Core Muscle Activation During Swiss Ball and Traditional Abdominal Exercises. Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy. 2010;40(5):265-276. doi:
  3. Electromyographic Analysis of Traditional and Nontraditional Abdominal Exercises: Implications for Rehabilitation and Training. Physical Therapy. Published online May 1, 2006. doi:
The Best Calisthenics Workout Plan For Strength, Mass & Aesthetics (2024)
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