What is a Calisthenics Workout Plan?
Calisthenics is a form of physical activity that uses your body weight, and sometimes gravity, as resistance. Sometimes a basic piece of equipment, such as a bar, may be used. Dating back as far as ancient Greece, the modern day calisthenics definition is simply “body weight training.”
A common component of P.E. programs in schools all over the world, it’s often used as a basis for military tests. It involves using gross motor movements like running, jumping, pushing, pulling and climbing. Many people use it as a weight loss exercise plan.
A varied routine could involve a combination of:
- Body weight exercises like squats, push ups and chin ups to work the muscles.
- Cardiovascular (“huffy puffy”) exercises such as jogging, sprinting and star jumps.
- Selected stretches to help lengthen the muscles.
Gymnastics and Pilates are both examples of calisthenics workouts.
Benefits of a well-designed calisthenics workout program.
- The ability to do your workout anytime, anywhere with minimal or no equipment. You can easily design some calisthenics workout plans with no equipment at all, or you could utilize a public playground instead of needing to purchase an expensive gym membership.
- Calisthenics workouts can be a great way to improve both muscular strength and endurance. There are endless variations you can do for body weight exercises, so you can select an appropriate variation according to your strength level, without having to add weight.
- Exercises focus on moving the joints through a full, natural range of motion. You may find that you improve your flexibility just from doing basic body weight exercises. Additionally, the inclusion of specific stretches can help to improve flexibility.
- Cardiovascular fitness quickly improves through calisthenics workouts. Exercises such as sprinting and star jumps get your heart rate up quickly and strengthen your heart and lungs. Some exercises such as burpees and squat jumps provide pretty major strength and cardio benefits from just one exercise!
- Improve agility, balance, coordination and proprioception (awareness of your body in space).
- If it is done safely, calisthenics should bring with it a reduced risk of injury seeing as weights and other equipment are not used. Less stress is placed on the joints as compared with weight training.
- Calisthenics is considered a functional form of training. It involves moving your body in the way it was designed to move, and the exercises are transferable to a number of sports and activities of daily living. Many of the exercises are “compound exercises” so they use large portions of muscle mass and more than one joint. This, combined with the potential for the workouts to be high intensity in nature, produce a powerful fat burning effect.
Calisthenics workouts can be adapted to suit any level of fitness. Calisthenics for beginners should be focused around:
- Primarily low impact movements, with the option to increase intensity if required.
- Basic movement patterns, without any complex add-ons.
- Exercises that can easily be modified for a beginners strength level.
Some easy calisthenics exercises you could include in a beginners workout are:
Body Weight Resistance Exercises:
- Body weight squats and lunges. If you need to, lightly hold onto a chair to help you balance in your lunges.
- Push ups on knees, or as a regression if required, try a “box” push up. A box push up involves starting in a “box position.” Place your hands slightly wider than your shoulders, shoulders over your wrists at a 90 degree angle. Place your knees on the ground with your hips directly above your knees. Bend your elbows and lower your chest towards the ground keeping your hips in the air, and then push back to the top.
- Plank on knees. Place your elbows underneath your shoulders in a prone position on the floor. Lift your stomach, chest and thighs up off the ground, but keep your feet and knees on the floor. Focus on keeping your abdominal muscles strong and your body in a straight line.
- Glute bride. This isolates and and strengthens the buttock muscles. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet and knees hip distance apart, and feet flat on the floor. Slowly raise your hips up off the ground and squeeze your buttocks together, then lower back to the start position.
Cardio Exercises and Stretches
- Jogging in place, or take it down to a march for a low impact version.
- Modified star jumps. Tap one foot out to the side while raising your arms up overhead and then bring your arms back down and your foot back in. Repeat on the other side and continue alternating left and right for a specified duration.
- Stretches relevant to the muscles you have been working. For example, if you have been doing squats and lunges, stretch your quads, hamstrings and calves. After push ups, stretch your chest and triceps.
30-Minute Calisthenics Workout
Endless variations are possible with calisthenics workouts. Let’s go over a couple of 30-minute calisthenics workout options to cover each level of fitness.
Beginner Calisthenics Workout
- General warm up (4 minutes):
- Walk around the block or march in place. Take it up to a light jog if desired.
- Specific warm up (4 minutes):
- Dynamic stretches such as arm circles, arm swings, hip circles and leg swings. Shallow squats and lunges (to half depth). This part of the workout warms up the nervous system by connecting the brain with the body to safely prepare you for the movements you will do in the main part of the workout
Main body of workout (15 minutes):
- Squats (1 minute)
- Box or half push ups (1 minute)
- Modified star jumps (tapping to each side as described above – 1 minute)
- Plank on knees (1 minute)
- Glute raises (1 minute)
- Jog or march on the spot (1 minute)
- Upper body raise (prone position on floor – 1 minute)
- Rest (1 minute)
Repeat for round two
- Cool down (3 minutes): light jog or walk, or march on the spot, gradually reducing in intensity.
- Stretches (4 minutes): Quads, hamstrings, calves, glutes, chest, triceps, shoulders and lower back.
Intermediate-Advanced Calisthenics Workout
General warm up (4 minutes):
Jog around the block, or try five minutes of skipping.
Specific warm up (4 minutes):
Dynamic stretches such as arm circles, arm swings, hip circles and leg swings. Shallow squats and lunges (to half depth).
Main body of workout (15 minutes):
- 10 squats followed by 10 jump squats. Repeat for 1 minute duration
- Chin ups to failure (use a spotter to help if needed).
- 30 seconds full push ups (intermediate) or clap push ups (advanced) followed by 30 seconds chair dips (intermediate) or bar dips (advanced).
- Star jumps (1 minute).
- Plank on feet for 1 minute (intermediate) or with one leg raised for 30 seconds on each side (advanced).
- 30 seconds power lunges (intermediate) or jumping lunges (advanced) (1 minute).
- Burpees (1 minute).
- Shuttle runs (sprint and/or jog) for 1 minute.
No rest – go straight into round two.
Cool down (3 minutes): light jog, easing down into a walk in the last minute or two.
Stretches (4 minutes): Quads, hamstrings, calves, glutes, chest, upper back, biceps, triceps, shoulders and lower back.
How will you include calisthenics as part of your workout plan? You don’t need anything to get started, and you’ll be able to get an amazing workout that will challenge you to take your fitness and strength to the next level.