For many trainees, getting fit means spending endless hours lifting weights and slaving away on a treadmill. It’s doesn’t have to be this way!
Bodyweight training, or as calisthenics, is one of the best options you got to improve your fitness, lose weight, and build the body of your dreams without paying for expensive gym fees or buying fancy equipment.
That said, jumping into the calisthenics world can be very scary, especially if you’re really out of shape or spend a lot of time watching YouTube clips of athletes accomplishing superhuman feats (human flag, anyone?).
Don’t lose heart! As we’re going to see in today’s post, calisthenics is not rocket science.
Bodyweight training is simple and can be done by individuals of all fitness levels, and the challenge can be gradually up upped as you get stronger. The rest is just details.
Without further ado, here’s your complete guide on how to start bodyweight training as a beginner. In this sweet guide, you’ll learn:
- The benefits of calisthenics
- How to get started
- The basic exercises you need
- How to develop proper technique
- And so much more.
Let’s get started.
Bodyweight training, or calisthenics, is a type of training that utilizes body weight to create resistance for the muscles instead of equipment like dumbbells or barbells.
Any exercise that mainly relies on your body weight can technically be considered calisthenics. Typical workouts can range from straightforward sessions of push-ups and pull-ups to an elaborate routine of muscle-ups and jackhammers.
Bodyweight training is simple to learn, efficient, and can be done virtually anywhere, at work, at home, while traveling, etc. Think of it as a portable gym.
What I like the most about calisthenics is scalability. You can easily modify and re-adjust your routine to match your fitness skill, whether you’re a newbie couch potato or an elite gymnast.
Basic Calistethincs Exercises For Beginners
If you’re starting from the zero or haven’t exercised in a long time, a good segway to the world of calisthenics is starting with basic exercises—think push-ups and pull-ups.
I consider these exercises the building blocks of strength training. They form the foundation of almost every move you’re going to make in the future.
Just make sure to do them with good form. Proper technique is especially vital for beginners, as the movement habits you develop off the bat will stick you as you progress—and will be much harder to unlearn afterward.
Once you master the basic callisthenic exercises shared below, the fancier moves will start to seem much more doable.
The push-up is one of the most classic bodyweight moves out there. It works the biceps, triceps, and pecks like nothing else.
Begin by setting up your weight supported on to your toes and hands beneath your shoulders, body in a plank position.
Lower your body down by bending your elbows until your chest is hovering off the floor, then rise back up by fully extending your arms. That’s one rep.
Engage your core and buttocks and keep your elbows tucked in to your sides throughout the movement. This helps keep your body in a straight line from head to heels.
Can’t perform a single push-up? Use a bench or an elevated surface to put your hands on. I won’t recommend dropping to your knees as it instills lousy form.
As you get stronger, opt for lower surfaces for your hands until you can do clean pushups with no assistance.
Push-up variations: Military pushups, wide-stance pushups, incline/decline pushups, archer push-ups, one-hand push-ups, Hindu push-ups, etc.
Also known as a triceps dip, this is a classic bodyweight exercise. Dips target the chest and triceps and are best performed off the platform of a chair or a bench.
Start facing away from a chair or bench, then the front of the platform with both hands shoulder-width distance apart, extending legs out in front of you.
Engage your core, flex at the elbows to slowly lower your body until your arm at the forearm forms a 90-degree angle. Pause at the bottom for a one to tow count, then lift yourself powerfully using your triceps. That’s one rep.
Once you can breeze through 12 to 16 reps, move on to a more advanced move, like close grip push up.
Bench Dips Variations: band assisted dips, dip to leg raise, assisted dip machine, weighted dips, jumping dips with negatives, etc.
Squats target your lower body muscles. That includes your glutes, quads, hamstrings, and calves.
They may seem easy, but form eludes many. Unlike the other exercise, it’s quite easy to cheat with squats—and that’s not only inefficient but can also increase injury risk.
Stand tall with your feet just past shoulder-width apart, pointed slightly out.
Next, while keeping your back flat and weight on your heels, lower your entire upper body toward your feet. Go down as far as possible, at least until your quads are parallel to the ground, then drive back up by engaging your glutes and quads.
Be careful if you have any history of knee problems or experience knee pain at any stage during the exercise.
Squats variations: sumo squats, jump squats, front squats, pistols (one legged squats), shrimp squats, etc.
Pull-ups are maybe the best back exercise and better done with a pull-up bar. It’s also one of the hardest, so take your time and start with easier variations.
Grab a horizontal bar with both hands so that you hang, palm facing away from you and hands at shoulder-width apart.
Next, while flexing your traps and shifting your shoulders up and back, pull your body up toward the bar, then slowly lower down to complete one rep.
Pull-ups variations: chair assisted pull-ups, close grip pull-ups, wide grip pulls, butterfly pull-ups, kipping pull-ups, etc.
Also known as crunches, sit up can be monotonous, but their effectiveness when it comes to building core strength cannot be tossed to the side, especially if you’re starting out.
Begin by lying on the ground feet flat on the floor and knees bent at a 45-degree angle. Next, while keeping your foot anchored to the ground, tuck your chin into your chest, raise your shoulders off the floor, and lift your torso as close to your thighs as possible.
Last up, slowly return to starting position to complete one rep.
Sit-ups variations: reverse crunch, Russian twists, scissors, raised leg crunch, bicycle crunch, stability ball crunch, etc.
The Bodyweight Beginner Plan You Need
We’ve all heard of the saying, “failing to plan is planning fail.” This couldn’t be more relevant when it comes to calisthenics.
You need a concrete plan if you want to reach your fitness goals. Not only does it improve your training consistency, but it also allows you to monitor your progress and see where you need more work.
The following plan has been designed to increase endurance, build strength while burning some mad calories in the process.
Perform the exercises in order, two to three times a week, with at least one day of full recovery between each go. Take 30 to 60 seconds to rest after each round. Repeat five times.
Whatever you do, make sure to start in line with your current fitness skill, training goals, schedule, and personal preferences. Give it a few months, and you’ll be a leaner, stronger athlete for it.
To get you started, try the following 3-day program.
Monday, Wednesday, Friday: Full body circuit
- 10 push-ups
- 30 squats
- 20 sit-ups
- 10 chair dips
- 5 pull-ups
Repeat the entire circuit 5 times.
There you have it! If you’re looking to get started with bodyweight training without breaking your back, then the above guidelines should get you off on the right foot. You just need to take action ASAP! The rest is just detail.
Please feel free to leave your comments and questions in the section below.
In the meantime, thank you for dropping by.
Keep exercising hard.