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What is the Best Calisthenics Workout?

what-is-the-best-calisthenics-workout?

Designing a calisthenics workout that builds a balanced body and targets every muscle group requires a bit more creativity than just hopping from one machine to the next. But the results are worth it!

Not feeling creative? Don’t worry, we are. Bodybuilding.com has been a believer in the power of bodyweight training since the start, and we’ve got three full calisthenics workout plans to help you use your body to build full-body strength, add muscle, or burn fat.

What Are Calisthenics?

In the 1980s, the word “calisthenics” brought to mind cardio workouts on TV and VHS tapes, complete with upbeat music and teachers wearing legwarmers. But in recent years, the term has been used by a new generation of lifters focusing on bodyweight strength training and embracing no-weights training as a way to achieve the type of results that were once thought to be exclusive to the weight room.

There are plenty of people who choose to strength train almost exclusively with bodyweight exercises. But there are plenty more who didn’t get serious about training with minimal equipment until they had to, maybe because their gym got closed down during the 2020-2021 Covid-19 lockdowns. 

No matter how you came to calisthenics, why to do it is simple:

Here are three very different calisthenics routines to help you build strength, increase size, and improve athletic performance.

The Best Calisthenics Routine to Build Strength

When working out at a gym, the easiest way to progressively overload the muscle is to move the pin on the stack or add a plate to the bar. When your body is your barbell, this isn’t an option. So how do you increase strength without using more weight? These workouts incorporate negatives, isometric holds, and single-sided exercises to maximize the load on each muscle group in your body.

All you need is a pull-up bar and a wall, and you’ll have everything you need to build total-body strength. A jump rope for a warm-up is always a good idea, too. On your off days, do some sprints for conditioning.

Strength coach Paul Carter’s full program Jacked at Home: Bodyweight Muscle-Building Workouts ups the reps and intensity even further, matching up three full-body workouts per week with sprints on active rest days and outdoor walking every day. This combo is perfect for creating surprising results once (or maybe if) you hit the weight room again. Think lunges and push-ups are easy? You’ll think differently soon enough.

Best Calisthenics Routine to Build Strength

1

Push-up

Perform each set to failure.

3 sets, to failure (rest 1 min. )




2

Chin-Up

Perform each set to failure.

3 sets, to failure (rest 90 sec. )




3

Typewriter push-up

Perform each set to failure.

3 sets, to failure (rest 90 sec.)




4

Smith machine inverted row

Perform each set to failure.

3 sets, to failure (rest 1 min. )




5

Close-Grip Push-up

Perform each set to failure.

3 sets, to failure (rest 1 min. )




6

Negative pull-up

Perform each set to failure.

3 sets, to failure (rest 90 sec. )




1

3 sets, 40 reps (alternating, 20 reps per side, rest 90 sec.)




2

3 sets, 1 mins (rest 1 min. )




3

Hip Thrust Step-Out

Perform each set to failure or 8-10 reps, whichever comes first. If these are too difficult, perform 3 sets of max reps of exercise ball hamstring curls with 1 min. of rest between.

3 sets, 8-10 reps (rest 1 min. )




4

SINGLE-LEG BOX SQUAT

Perform all reps on one side before switching to the other side. Don’t rest between sides, and rest 1 min. between sets.

Single-leg box squat

Alternately, perform pistol squats or skater squats for additional intensity if you are able.

3 sets, 5-10 reps (left side, no rest)




Single-leg box squat

Alternately, perform pistol squats or skater squats for additional intensity if you are able.

3 sets, 5-10 reps (right side, rest 1 min. )




5

3 sets, 8 reps (rest 1 min. )




6

3 sets, 8 reps (rest 1 min. )




1

3 sets, 16 reps (alternating, 8 reps per side, rest 90 sec.)




2

3 sets, 1 mins (rest 1 min. )




3

3 sets, 1 mins (rest 90 sec. )




Repping out with body weight? A pre-workout can help control fatigue and maximize the pump.

Best Calisthenics Routine to Build Muscle

When size is the goal with bodyweight training, it’s time to up the volume rather than taking just a few sets to failure. And instead of doing bodyweight supersets, you’ll hammer one muscle group at a time.

Increasing the number of sets, not just reps, is a tried-and-true way to increase your volume. Then, once you can handle the volume, you can start mixing sets of traditional reps with explosive or plyometric reps. That’s strength coach Chris Smith’s approach in the full program Bodyweight Bodybuilding: 6-Week Mass-Building Calisthenics Plan. It’s ideal for taxing both fast-twitch and slow-twitch muscle fibers, ensuring your growth plan is firing on all cylinders.

Nail each rep, follow the growth-focused nutrition and supplement plan, and you’ll surprise everyone—especially yourself.

Best Calisthenics Routine to Build Muscle

1

Hand-release push-up, chest-bump push-up

Perform as many reps as possible in each set, resting in the top position of the push-up as needed.

3 sets, 30 sec (rest 90 sec.)




2

4 sets, 10 reps (rest 1 min. )




3

Triceps dip

If you can’t do 8-10 bodyweight reps, perform band-assisted or partner-assisted reps instead.

4 sets, 8-10 reps (rest 90 sec. )




4

Chin-Up

If you can’t do 8-10 bodyweight reps, perform band-assisted or partner-assisted reps instead.

4 sets, 8-10 reps (rest 90 sec. )




5

4 sets, 15-20 reps (rest 90 sec. )




6

4 sets, 15-20 reps (rest 1 min. )




1

BULGARIAN SPLIT SQUAT

Perform all of the reps on one side before switching to the other side. Don’t rest between sides and rest 1 min. between sets.

4 sets, 10-15 reps (left side, no rest)




4 sets, 10-15 reps (right side, rest 1 min. )




2

4 sets, 10 reps (rest 90 sec. )




3

Exercise ball leg curl

Alternately, perform slider curls with your heels on plates, furniture sliders, or towels.

4 sets, 15-20 reps (rest 1 min. )




4

4 sets, 25 reps (rest 30 sec. )




5

Handstand push-up

Alternately, perform handstand holds against a wall for 45-60 sec.

4 sets, 8-10 reps (rest 90 sec. )




6

4 sets, 30 sec (rest 1 min. )




7

4 sets, 16 reps (alternating, 8 reps per side, rest 1 min.)




8

Bear crawl

If your shoulders or legs burn out before the set is over, hold the stationary crawling position for the rest of the 30 sec.

4 sets, 30 sec (rest 90 sec. )




1

4 sets, 10 reps (rest 1 min. )




2

4 sets, 12 reps (rest 1 min. )




3

4 sets, 10 reps (rest 1 min. )




4

SIDE PLANK HIP DIP

Perform all reps on one side before switching to the other side. Don’t rest between sides, and rest 1 min. between sets.

4 sets, 8 reps (left side, no rest)




4 sets, 8 reps (right side, rest 1 min. )




Best Calisthenics Routine to Lose Weight

You don’t have to be an athlete to want to look and move like one. These two interval and superset workouts from the program Lean at Home: No-Equipment Weight-Loss Workouts will push your heartrate through the roof and burn serious calories, but they’re fun and athletic, too. There’s nothing wrong with that, right?

Doing this workout at home? Consider a yoga mat to help keep your back and knees comfortable during the ab superset.

In the full Lean at Home program, these two workouts get a systematic upgrade by being placed strategically in a progressive plan with other follow-along video workouts, a complete cardio protocol, and a leanness-focused nutrition and supplement plan. Expect to sweat, and expect to love it.

Warm up for the first round with Coach Jen. Then check out the full Lean at Home program to finish the workout!

Superset and Interval Workout 1

1

Superset

Perform the exercises in order, resting as little as possible between movements and up to 1 min. between sets.

3 sets, 10 reps (no rest)




3 sets, 10 reps (right side, no rest)




3 sets, 10 reps (left side, rest 1 min.)




2

CIRCUIT

Perform 1 round of the exercises in order, resting as little as possible between them.

3

SUPERSET

Perform the exercises in order, resting as little as possible between movements and up to 1 min. between sets.

3 sets, 10 reps (no rest)




3 sets, 10 reps (rest 1 min.)




4

CIRCUIT

Perform 1 round of the exercises in order, resting as little as possible between them.

5

SUPERSET

Perform the exercises in order, resting as little as possible between movements and up to 1 min. between sets.

3 sets, 10 reps (no rest)




Bench Dip

If you don’t have a bench, use a chair, couch, bed, or ottoman.

3 sets, 10 reps (rest 1 min.)




6

CIRCUIT

Perform 1 round of the exercises in order, resting as little as possible between them.

Coach Carly gets you started off right. Then finish the workout strong in the full Lean at Home program!

Superset and Intervals Workout 2

1

SUPERSET

Perform the exercises in order, resting as little as possible between movements and up to 1 min. between sets.

3 sets, 10 reps (no rest)




3 sets, 16 reps (alternating, 8 reps per side, rest 1 min.)




2

CIRCUIT

Perform 1 round of the exercises in order, resting as little as possible between them.

1 set, 30 sec (right side, no rest)




1 set, 30 sec (left side)




3

SUPERSET

Perform the exercises in order, resting as little as possible between movements and up to 1 min. between sets.

3 sets, 10 reps (no rest)




3 sets, 10 reps (rest 1 min. )




4

CIRCUIT

Perform 1 round of the exercises in order, resting as little as possible between them.

5

SUPERSET

Perform the exercises in order, resting as little as possible between movements and up to 1 min. between sets.

3 sets, 10 reps (alternating, 5 reps per side, no rest)




Exercise ball hip thrust

Perform using a bench or with a stability ball if a bench is unavailable.

3 sets, 12 reps (rest 1 min. )




6

CIRCUIT

Perform 1 round of the exercises in order, resting as little as possible between them.

It’s time to take pride in your home workouts. Kym Nonstop can show you how in the BodyFit program Home Body: 8-Week At-Home Fitness Plan!

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