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Calisthenics for Beginners: 7 Best Moves to Start With

9 min read
a man is working out, in a starting position to perform push-ups, Calisthenics for Beginners
Picture of David J. Sautter

David J. Sautter

The article is verified by David J. Sautter,
NASM Personal Trainer, NASM Fitness Nutrition Specialist, ACE Sports Conditioning Specialist, NASM Performance Enhancement Specialist

Table of Contents

Despite what you might have heard, you don’t have to defy the laws of gravity with handstands and pull-ups to do a beginner’s calisthenics workout. 

Calisthenics simply means exercising with your body weight. And exercises like squats, push-ups, and burpees are all examples of exercises you can expect to find in a calisthenics workout. 

Below, we cover what calisthenics is, the best beginner’s calisthenics exercises, and a 30-minute workout anyone can try, anywhere.

What is a Calisthenics Workout?

Calisthenics is an umbrella term for exercising with your body weight — forget dumbbells, kettlebells, and barbells. 

It spans compound exercises like push-ups and lunges to advanced gymnastics commonly found in CrossFit and functional strength training programs. 

Bodyweight exercise is endlessly accessible, which means beginners are just as likely to reap the benefits as advanced weightlifters. If you’re new to lifting weights, calisthenics is considered a handy stepping stone for moving into strength training. 

It also lends itself to building functional, foundational strength, although beginners could notice an initial increase in muscle mass. The first step is to master the basics. From there, you can build upward with a robust and injury-resistant foundation using daily calisthenics

Benefits of Calisthenics for Beginners

Why all the fuss about calisthenics workouts?

This workout method is soaring in popularity as people find more ways to sculpt a powerful body without defaulting to high-impact weight training.

There are several benefits for at-home calisthenics. Here are some of them:

A study by the Journal of Strength and Conditioning found significant increases in upper body strength following a calisthenics program compared with a bench press group.

Calisthenics movements lay a strong foundation by training the body’s stabilizing muscles, which can be beneficial when transitioning to weightlifting, ensuring better form and technique.

Calisthenics exercises are bodyweight movements that emphasize controlled motion, reducing the risk of injury as no external weights are added, ensuring a safer workout experience.

These workouts not only strengthen muscles but also improve joint health, mobility, and overall body coordination, promoting a more versatile and agile physique.

Since many calisthenics movements require stabilization from the core, regularly practicing these exercises leads to a more robust and well-defined midsection.

Calisthenics focuses on using one’s body weight, which can result in hypertrophy (muscle growth) over time, leading to a toned and lean physique without the bulkiness that heavy weightlifting might produce.

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Calisthenics vs. Weight Exercises: What’s the Difference?

The most obvious difference is that calisthenics relies on body weight alone, while weight training includes weights — think kettlebells, barbells, resistance bands, and dumbbells. 

Weight training can be divided into two groups: strength training and hypertrophy. 

Without equipment, you’ll work with your own size during calisthenics, although you can work with pull-up bars, benches, and outdoor terrain. It’s more accessible, but you won’t be able to build maximal strength like you can with heavy weights.

That said, weight lifting can lead more easily to overtraining, injury, and high impact on the joints, which you’ll find less of during a calisthenics program. 

We reckon everyone who can should be able to pull and push their body weight, and calisthenics teaches you these skills from the ground up.

How To Start Calisthenics At Home: Best Exercises for Beginners

Calisthenics offers a solution for those who prefer the comfort of their homes over crowded gyms or simply wish to integrate a new regimen into their routine. 

Unsure how to start training calisthenics at home? We’ve got you covered. 

Here are some tips and exercises to get you started with a calisthenics workout at home.

Here are 7 beginner calisthenics exercises to get you started.

1. Superman W-Pull

a man is working out, doing Pullup Superman, Calisthenics for Beginners


Target muscles: rear deltoids (backs of the shoulders), erector spinae (muscles that hug your spine), upper back, glutes, hamstrings, core.

2. Reverse Crunch

a man is working out, doing Reverse Crunch, Calisthenics for Beginners


Target muscles: abs, transverse abdominis, hip flexors, lower back, legs.

Place your hands under your lower back for an easier variation. 

3. Back Extensions

a man is working out, doing Lying Back Extensions, Calisthenics for Beginners


Target muscles: erector spinae, glutes, hamstrings, calves.

Focus on lifting your chest with control and squeeze your glutes at the top. To make the exercise harder, slow it down. 

4. Squats

a man is working out, doing squats, Calisthenics for Beginners


Target muscles: core, hips, glutes, quads, hamstrings, calves.

You could practice with different foot positions. A narrow stance provides a quad bias, while a wider stance (a sumo squat) targets the outer glutes. 

5. Reverse Lunge

a man is working out, doing Reverse Lunge Alternating, Calisthenics for Beginners


Target muscles: core, hips, quads, hamstrings, calves

Elevate your back leg on a bench for a variation called Bulgarian split squats, which hits the glutes harder. Lower with control, then explosive push up through your front heel. 

6. Front Plank

a man is working out, doing Front Plank, Calisthenics for Beginners


Target muscles: This isometric exercise builds strength without the muscles lengthening or shortening and hits pretty much every muscle group.

It’s low impact, but there are various ways to scale your plank gains. Lift one leg or arm at a time for a progression, or lower the knees to the floor to make it easier.

7. Close-Grip Push-Up

a man is working out, doing Close Grip Push Up, Calisthenics for Beginners


Target muscles: triceps, chest.

Move to your knees if you struggle with full-range push-ups. 

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30-Minute Full-Body Calisthenics Workout: At-Home, No Equipment

Unsure how to start calisthenics at home? This full-body calisthenics no-equipment workout can be done anywhere, anytime, at any ability level.

30-Minute Calisthenics Workout for Beginners:

Try this simple calisthenics workout to get you started. 


Superset 1 x 3 rounds, 30sec rest

  • Superman — 15reps
  • Lying Leg Raises — 10-12 reps

Superset 2 x 3 rounds, 30sec rest

  • Back Extensions — 10-12 reps
  • Squats — 10-12 reps

Superset 3 x 3 rounds, 30sec rest

  • Reverse Lunges — 10-12 reps
  • Close-Grip Push-Ups — 10-12 reps

Front Plank x 3 rounds, 30-60sec rest

Bottom Line

Unsure how to start calisthenics at home? This full-body calisthenics no-equipment workout can be done anywhere, anytime, at any ability level.

Disclaimer This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!

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