Calisthenics is a type of workout that uses a person’s body weight with little or no equipment.
The exercises involve movements that use large muscle groups, such as pushups. People typically perform these exercises at a moderate pace. They help to improve coordination, flexibility, and strength.
Calisthenics originated in Ancient Greece and remains popular today. Most people can perform these exercises, regardless of the level of their athletic ability. Many of them do not require any equipment.
Here is a list of 10 common calisthenics exercises and instructions on how to do them.
- Start by standing with the feet shoulder-width apart.
- Bend the knees and push the hips back, as if sitting down on a chair.
- Squat down as far as possible.
- From the bottom of the movement, push with the legs to return up.
Keep the head and back straight during this exercise. Avoid extending the knees farther than the toes as this can damage the knee joints.
- Start in a face-down position on the floor.
- Place the hands flat on the floor slightly wider than the shoulders, with the elbows facing the toes.
- Extend the legs backward, with the toes on the ground.
- Tighten the core muscles to keep the body in a straight line.
- Straighten the arms and push the ground away from you to raise the body.
- Bend the arms and lower the body until the chest almost touches the ground.
While doing a pushup, keep the elbows from flaring outward. To make the pushup easier, start with the knees resting on the ground.
- Start by laying on the back with the feet flat on the floor, bending the knees at a 90-degree angle.
- Cross the hands over the chest.
- Engage the core muscles and curl the upper body toward the knees.
- Hold the position for a moment before returning to the floor.
Keep the head and next relaxed while lifting the upper body.
- Get into a pushup position but with the forearms flat on the ground.
- Flex the core muscles to keep the body in a straight line.
- Hold the position for as long as possible without letting the hips drop downward.
- Start by standing with feet shoulder-width apart.
- Bend the knees and lower into a squat position until the palms can touch the ground.
- From the bottom of the squat, jump down into a plank position, landing on the balls of the feet.
- From the plank position, jump to swing the legs forward, so the feet reach the hands.
- Jump upward with the hands in the air, returning to a standing position.
- Start by standing up straight with the feet in a neutral position.
- Step the right foot in front of the body, bending the knee at a right angle.
- The left knee should almost touch the floor as the leg extends.
- Use the heel of the right foot to push back up to a standing position, bringing both feet together.
- Repeat for the left leg.
This exercise requires a pullup bar.
- Stand facing the pullup bar.
- Grip the bar in an overhand grip (palms facing away) and hands at or wider than shoulder-width apart.
- Use the shoulder and arm muscles to pull the body up until the head is over the bar.
- Slowly drop the body back down under the bar.
This exercise also requires a pullup bar.
- Stand in front of the pullup bar.
- Grip the bar in an underhand grip (palms facing toward the body) and hands closer or at shoulder-width apart.
- Use the bicep muscles to pull the body up until the chin is over the bar.
- Return under the bar.
This exercise requires a jump rope.
- Grasp the jump rope by its handle.
- Keep the arms the same width from the center of the body.
- Rotate the rope with the wrists to swing the rope over and under the body.
- Jump over the rope, letting it clear beneath the feet.
- Keep a slight bend in the knees and point the toes to protect the ankle and knee joints.
This exercise requires a dip bar.
- Start by standing inside the dip bar.
- Grip both sides with the hands.
- Bend the elbows back and push with the tricep muscles to move up and down.
Those just starting to exercise might consider:
Getting a health checkup
Checking in with a doctor before beginning a new exercise routine might be helpful for some people, such as older adults. A health checkup will help to work out the right intensity and type of exercise.
Setting goals and developing good habits
Setting measurable and attainable goals is an excellent way to improve motivation and track progress. It might help to keep an exercise journal or calendar.
Start slow and gradually build up activity to avoid becoming overwhelmed or getting an injury.
Here is an example of a calisthenics routine for someone who is just getting started:
- pushups, 5 to 20 reps
- rest 30 seconds
- squats, 5 to 20 reps
- rest 30 seconds
- plank, hold for 30 to 45 seconds
- rest 30 seconds
- lunges, 10 to 15 on each leg
- rest 30 seconds
- jump rope for 30 seconds
It is a good idea to start with a lower number of reps and gradually increase with practice. Perform this set of exercises 2–3 times, resting for around 2 minutes between each set.
Calisthenics is unique because it only involves bodyweight exercises and little equipment. Whereas other forms of exercise require weights, such as dumbells or barbells.
For most people looking to get into shape, calisthenics is an excellent alternative to weight exercises. Research has found that both weight training and calisthenics produce similar improvements in military physical performance.
It is possible to perform most calisthenic exercises without any equipment at all, which means a person can do them almost anywhere.
However, some types of equipment might be useful and enhance a workout. These include:
- parallel bars and rings
- a jump rope
- a dip bar
- a pullup bar
A study published in 2019 found that strength training and calisthenics had benefits for mental well-being and physical health in older institutionalized adults.
Another study found that people using weight training machines were more likely to report low back pain than those performing calisthenic exercises or free weights.
A study in Neuro Rehabilitation found that a program that included calisthenic exercises increased muscle strength and decreased anxiety in people with multiple sclerosis. It also led to improvements in balance.
Calisthenics is a form of exercise that uses a person’s body weight and requires little to no equipment. Examples of calisthenic exercises include pushups, crunches, and burpees.
There are many health benefits to calisthenics, and most people can start exercising right away.