Calisthenics For Beginners: How to Master Calisthenics Skills– So you’ve finally decided to gain some muscles, get into shape, get fit, and become healthy. So you’ve decided to hit the gym to achieve this. Yeah, indeed the gym can be very helpful in getting you all buffed up.
But before jumping into the gym, there is one thing that’s worth considering i.e ‘calisthenics’. So for those who don’t know what calisthenics is. It is nothing but a set of exercises that uses the weight of your body as resistance.
In other words, calisthenics replaces external weight equipment with the weight of your own body. Just like weight training, calisthenics helps in promoting your muscles and strengthens your body. Calisthenics generally involves performing activities like- lifting, lunging, pulling, and pushing movements. But you may wonder why calisthenics?
- Calisthenics For Beginners: How to Master Calisthenics Skills -Part-1
- Why You Must Try Calisthenics Before Joining a Gym
- #3-Burning fat
- #4-Total body workout
- #5-Its fun
- Calisthenics For Beginners: How to Master Calisthenics Skills -Part-2
- Calisthenics For Beginners: How to Master Calisthenics Skills -Part-3
Calisthenics For Beginners: How to Master Calisthenics Skills -Part-1
Why You Must Try Calisthenics Before Joining a Gym
One of the most important benefits that calisthenics provides is low or zero expense. Weight training requires you to purchase weights or purchasing a gym membership.
Whereas calisthenics is done solely with your body weight. If you want to go a step further or to the next level. You can find almost all of the equipment required for calisthenics, in a nearby public park. (like a pull-up bar, push-up bar, etc.) But if you want to do it from your home or require more advanced training you could purchase some parallettes, pull-up bar,pylo boxes, etc.
Following calisthenic equipment can be used anywhere at ease. They can help you get started and even reach the advanced level. If you cannot join a gym or buy expensive equipment, then these are your next best option-
Another notable benefit that calisthenics provide is ‘flexibility. Flexibility is one of the key aspects of physical fitness that is often overlooked. Weight training generally puts excessive strain on your body and especially on your joints. Whereas calisthenics, on the other hand, involves movements of your body through space which can make your body more flexible and strengthen your muscles at the same time. Hence calisthenics can also help you increase your endurance and flexibility.
Generally, the essence of burning fat requires activities that involve abundant usage of energy. When you are doing calisthenics you simply burn more calories than you would if you were weightlifting. This is because calisthenics involves activities that require more muscle movement which in turn requires more energy. Thus calisthenics can be an effective way to burn fat.
#4-Total body workout
Most weight training exercises solely focus on large muscle groups and often overlook small muscle groups. This doesn’t result in a total body workout. Calisthenics, on the other hand, is perfect for total body workouts as it involves compound exercises. ( i.e it involves exercises that require different muscle groups of your body to work together to accurately complete the motion.)
Finally, calisthenics is way more creative and fun than routine weight lifting exercises at the gym. Most of the people who start off to workout turn out to become easily bored and demotivated after a while.
Due to routine exercises, calisthenics helps you solve this by providing various options to be creative with your workout. In calisthenics, you can combine various movements and create personal challenges, or compete against your friends. Calisthenics makes your workout more engaging and provides you with a huge scope of learning new techniques every day.
Calisthenics For Beginners: How to Master Calisthenics Skills -Part-2
How to Get Started with Calisthenics-
Even though calisthenics is fun, effective, and very helpful. Many give up on it very soon. The main reasons for giving up early are –
- Not starting properly
- Doing pro moves too early
- Not following a proper schedule for different moves
- Being inconsistent
- Not taking the right nutrition
- Overdoing it at the beginning
Calisthenics V/S Weight Training-
Another reason many give up calisthenics is that they think regular weight training is better for them. Now there’s nothing wrong with this each person has his own goals and preferences. But knowing what does what is very crucial before you commit to either one.
So basically weight lifting is best for building strength and muscle size. Whereas calisthenics is better for losing weight and defining your muscles.
Another thing to remember is as calisthenics involves compound movements it gives you a lean look with visibly toned muscles in simple words it helps in total body toning.
Whereas weight lifting is better suited for isolation, i.e if you want to increase the mass or strength of a specific muscle group(ex-biceps, triceps, etc)
Which is better for weight loss?– When it comes to weight loss calisthenics is clearly the winner. Because as of earlier said it involves compound movements that require the entire body to perform. As a result, more calories are burnt, making weight loss easy.
Which is better for Bulking?-Now bulking up is subjective, some might just wanna put on some mass whereas others might want to have a body like a model or a bodybuilder. If your goal is to just gain some mass and get a toned body then calisthenics can definitely help you.
But if your goal is to get very huge then choose weight lifting. Since calisthenics is a natural way of building the body there is a limit to how much you can bulk or increase the mass of the muscles with it. After that, you may wanna add some weights.
Who is stronger?-When it comes to strength calisthenics is again the winner. Because it provides you with a better strength to mass ratio.
#Conclusion-Whatever your goal might be incorporating calisthenics into your plan can benefit you a lot. Because it’s the natural way of building your body it will give you more natural-looking toned muscles along with the right strength.
You can add calisthenics to your weight training, whether cutting(weight loss) or bulking(weight gain). If you are cutting it helps you by burning more calories. And if you are bulking it helps you by giving the right strength to your heavy-looking muscles.
So How to Start Calisthenics without giving up in the middle? And how to make it to the top in a short amount of time? Keeping such questions in mind, we tried to derive the best plan of action for calisthenics so without much delay let’s get into it-
Calisthenics For Beginners: How to Master Calisthenics Skills -Part-3
#Best way to Start Calisthenics for the Beginner-
#1-Perfect the Basics-
Following are the basics that you will need to learn to master calisthenics-
A)Regular Pushups-These is the most fundamental bodyweight workout. While doing regular pushups make sure your arms are at a 45 degrees angle to the floor or slightly in an “L” shape to the floor. Also, make sure that your back is straight.
And don’t try to do them at large when you start. Try to do fewer numbers and more reps for example- Don’t try to do 40 pushups at once instead divided them into 4 reps of 10 each until you are perfect. Remember here form is more important than quantity
The right form will help you build proper muscles with less pain and also help you progress to the next level. Once you are comfortable, try 20 per rep and keep increasing until you can do at least 30-50 pushups in a single rep.
If you have difficulty maintaining the form, try mastering Knee pushups, inclined pushups, and declined pushups.
B)Wide arm pushup-The wide-hand pushups are similar to the regular pushups only thing that’s different is the hand placement. As the name suggests the wide-arm pushups require you to place your arms wide apart.
As earlier discussed many people just skip the basics and move to the advanced ones. Getting the basics right is the key. Now mastering the basics can be subjective to each person. But here’s the standard goal that everyone can set.
In regular pushups, your elbows are pointed towards your toes and are place nearer to the chest, whereas in wide-arm pushups your elbows are pointed outwards and far away from the chest.
Just like regular push-ups, if you cannot maintain proper form for a long period, try doing wide-arm -Knee pushups for a while till you become perfect. Wide-arm pushups are a great way to build a bigger chest.
C)Triangle/Diamond pushups-Diamond pushups help in developing the upper body, core, and triceps. Start with a plank position and then bring your hands together to form a triangle facing your chest. Keep your elbows tight and bend towards the triangle and reverse the movement for one rep.
D)Pull-ups-The pull-ups are one of the hardest fundamentals of calisthenics. They strengthen the back, arms, and shoulder muscles.
To do a pull-up grab an exercise bar by placing your arms slightly more than shoulder-width apart. Then use your shoulder muscles to pull you up, bringing your head up over the bar.
After that slowly reverse the movement to complete in rep. If you have trouble doing it, try raising your knees until your thighs are slightly beyond parallel to the floor. Finally, make sure you are using an over-hand grip while doing any kind of pull-ups.
E)Wide-arm pullups- As the name suggests the wide-arm pullups are the pullups done by placing the arms wider apart than in regular pull-ups i.e grab the bar with an overhand grip wider than shoulder-width apart. The wide-arm pullups are an upper body strength movement that targets your back, chest, shoulders, and arms.
F)Narrow/Close-Grip pull-ups-You might have guessed it by now. In this type of pull-up, you should use an overhand grip and grab the exercise bar by placing the arms apart less than the shoulder-width apart or slightly nearer to regular pull-ups.
The narrow grip pull-ups are one of the best ways in calisthenics to target your biceps and chest muscles. They also help in developing inner lats and strengthening the back, arms, and core muscles.
G)Knee-Twist pullup-Inorder to do knee-twist pullups first start with the regular or wide-hand pull-ups and move up the exercise bar. Once you are at the top of the bar draw your knees into your chest before twisting to the left then to the right before lowering down.
Knee-twist pullups target your lower back and can increase both muscular size and strength. It also increases grip, stability and strengthens the core, forearms, upper back, and shoulders.
F)Leg-Raise pullups-Inorder to do the leg-raise-pullups start with regular or wide-arm pullups and move up the exercise bar. Once you are at the top of the bar, raise your legs out in front of you until they are parallel to the floor and at a right angle before lowering.
Leg-raise pullups target your anterior hip flexors and give you better stability, crucial for any calisthenics exercises. They also help in strengthening your core muscles.
G)Chin-ups– Chin-ups are similar to pull-ups, the only difference being is your hand position while doing them. When you do pull-ups you grab the exercise bar you are using an overhand grip i.e your palms are facing away from you. In chin-ups, you grab the exercise bar using an underhand grip i.e the palms facing you.
Now many believe that chin-ups give a better grip and are more doable. The pull-ups pre-dominantly target your back and shoulders whereas the chin-ups target your biceps more. So if your target is to build bigger biceps then chin-ups are the way to go.
Just like pull-ups if you are having trouble with the chin-ups at the beginning. Then first try to do them by raising your knees until your thighs are slightly beyond parallel to the floor.
Almost all pull-up variations can also be done with chin-ups like-close-grip chin-ups,knee-twist chin-ups, leg-raise chin-ups, etc.
H)Dips-The dips are one of the best bodyweight workouts. They, target your chest, shoulders, and back. And are one of the best ways to build stronger and larger triceps. Not only that but they also improve your pushing power and increase stability.
To do dips, stand in between two parallel rods or inside a dip bar. And use your shoulders and arms to lift you off the ground. Now slowly come down using your tricep muscles to complete one rep.
Make sure your knees are bent and parallel to the ground while you go up. And slightly land them when you almost reach the ground while getting down.
If you have trouble doing regular dips or don’t have a parallel dip bar, try doing bench dips. To do bench dips keep your hands back on a bench at a 90-degree angle(perpendicular to the bench). You can either bend your knees at 0 degrees to the floor or keep them straight.
Slowly go up and come down using your tricep muscles to complete one rep.
I)Muscle-ups-The muscle-ups are slightly an advanced calisthenics movement. It combines a pull-up and a dip exercise, hence very powerful and effective. It gives you mobility, stability, and strength. They target-
- latissimus dorsi (back)
- deltoids (shoulders)
- biceps and triceps (arms)
- trapezius (upper back)
- pectorals (chest)
Hence it is a compound exercise. The muscle-ups generally involve three stages-
First- the pullup
Third- The dip
Muscle-ups can be done either by using an exercise bar or gymnastic rings. However, the gymnastic rings require more stability. So if it is your first time then start with the usual exercise bar.
Order to do a muscle-up first swing on an exercise bar using an overhand grip to give some movement
Using that momentum makes your chin reach above the bar using a pullup. Now while you are at it don’t give up and go down. Instead, use your arms strength to move further above the bar until your elbows are straight at the top of the bar.
Now slowly come down as if you were doing dips.
J)Squats-Now enough of upper body movements, let’s also focus on the lower body. When it comes to lower body toning squats are one of the best. They target the front thigh, back thigh, medius, and hip flexors and help lose belly fat to some extent.
To do squats first start with your legs shoulder-width apart. Then lift your arms in front of you for balance.
Make sure your back is straight. Now push your hips back as though you are sitting on a chair. Your hips and thighs must be parallel to the floor. Maintaining your form, come up to the initial position. And while you sit down in a squat position make sure your knees don’t collapse.
K)Crunches-The crunches are one of the most popular ways to build abs. They are also ideal for strengthening your core, which includes your lower back muscles and obliques. They also improve the posture, and mobility, and flexibility of the muscles.
To do crunches, first lie down on the floor and hands beyond your head for stability. Bend your knees so that they form a ‘V’ shape with the floor.
Now crunch forward to squeeze the muscles just below the rib cage. The form involves just the upper back and the middle back crunching forward to squeeze the upper abs, while doing this don’t bend your neck forward.
After reaching the peak position return back to the neutral position. Breathe in while you come up and breathe out while you go down.
#2-Get the Setup Ready
Many give up on calisthenics way too early mainly because of a lack of proper setup. You don’t have any equipment for calisthenics right? all you need to do is go to a nearby park right? This can be true only if you are a little above the beginner level.
But as a beginner, you need some basic calisthenics equipment to get through the initial hardships. For example-Even tough pull-ups, are one of the most fundamental calisthenics movements. Still, they can be really hard to master and can take a lot of time.
However, you can avoid this by using a resistance band for pull-ups. The resistance bands can give you the required support, making pull-ups more doable without tarnishing their benefits. They can easily be tethered to many inanimate objects such as bars, poles, trees, etc.
Not only that but they can offer a variety of exercises such as band rows, pulls, pushes, etc. Making your calisthenics workout more easy and more fun.
Thus we have listed the must-have equipment for calisthenics. These will make calisthenics more fun and easy and be useful as you go further in your calisthenics journey.
A)Resistance Bands-As earlier said resistance bands have a wide range of usage not only in calisthenics but in any sort of strength training. However, the sole purpose of resistance bands is not to ease up an exercise alone, it can also do the opposite. Yes, resistance bands are also used to make exercise harder. For example -resisted dips resisted pushups, etc.
Few basic calisthenic exercises that can be done with the help of resistance bands are-
- Assisted Pullups
- Resistance Pushups
- Assisted dips
- Resisted Dips
- front Lever-Assisted
- One arm pushup-Assisted
- Onearm pullup-Assisted
Finally, resistance bands will also help you learn complex calisthenics movements which otherwise are very difficult to master. Thus resistance bands are a must for calisthenics as a beginner.
B)Pull-up Bar-Nowadays it’s quite easy to find an exercise bar in a park, but it may not be at the required height or the park might be crowded. If you are a fan of homework out then you can always go for a home pullup bar.
It is easy to install, you can fix it at the required height, and comes with a chin-up variation. Finally, when you are bored, you can always do some pullups or chin-ups in the comfort of your home.
C)Parallel Dip Bars-The parallel dip bars are one of the most versatile pieces of calisthenics equipment that anyone could have. There is a range of exercises that can be done with the help of parallel dip bars.
And if you are a beginner then they can provide great assistance to master the basics. For example, if you want to master push-ups, you could practice inclined and declined pushups using parallel dip bars, providing superior grip and support.
Similarly, if you want to master pull-ups or chin-ups, you could start by practicing them using parallel-dip bars which are relatively quite easy to do.
You can also practice various forms of dips with it
Apart from toning up the basics, you can even try various intermediate and pro calisthenics movements with parallel dip bars like-
- Assisted Dips
- Knee-up Hold
- Tricep dips
- Bulgarian split-up squats
- Verticle Rows
- Single Bar Verticle Rows
- Tricep Extensions
- Elevated Pike Pushups
- L-sit Hold
- L-sit chin up Hold
- Leg Raises
- Australian Pull-ups
- Tuck Planche Hold
And the list goes on. It is portable, offers you a range of calisthenics movements, and is quite affordable. Hence it is a must for calisthenics training.
D)Ab roller-The ab roller is one of the best equipment to build core muscles, lats, and triceps. They are well known to decrease belly fat, tone the upper body, and lower back.
Hence the movements associated with an ab roller lead to a full-body workout. Even though it may appear to be a simple tool, the movements associated with it require a good amount of strength and coordination.
If you are a beginner then start with knee ab-rollouts, then move on to regular roll-outs. Once you get the hang of it then you can try more advanced exercises like the ones mentioned below-
- Wide-Stance Front Roll-Out.
- Narrow-Stance Front Roll-Out.
- V Roll-Outs.
- Knee Tucks.
- Plank to Pike
E) Gymnastics Rings-The gymnastic rings are by far the best workout for the upper body, no barbells, dumbbells, and kettlebells can match with them. The reasons for that are simple – they are easy, simple to adjust, cheap and you can do a lot of exercises on them. And as earlier said calisthenics is not all about strength, you also need stability to master it.
And the gymnastic rings are no exception. They are unstable and you need to work hard to support your position. But once you are done with the basics it becomes a lot easier. The exercises with gymnastic rings will also help you appreciate the movements, which is the essence of calisthenics. Not only that but you will develop upper-body strength, mobility, stabilization.
It won’t bore you out easily because it is versatile, fun, and creative. Since it is hard to achieve it will also leave you with great satisfaction. Not only that but since gymnastic rings give you great mobility and flexibility they will make you gym-ready. Without mobility and flexibility, you could injure yourself while lifting heavyweights.
For example, the rings may be attached to trees, steel beams, laundry poles, and many other objects and of course also to a pullup bar. They can be set up very quickly, easily be adjusted, and are handy and easy to carry. And due to variable height adjustments you can train both push and pull exercises.
Thus the rings will help you to move a level higher in your calisthenics journey. Once you have mastered the basic movements like push-ups and pull-ups and other exercises with a parallel dip bar. It’s time for you to use gymnastic rings and advance to the next level. You can even set the two rings at different heights and widths and they can move independently which has many advantages for coordination and stabilization. Further ore this can intensify the exercises.
Following are a few exercises that can be performed using the gymnastic rings-
- Bulgarian Pull-ups
- Front Lever on Rings
- Iron Cross
- One-Arm Ring Row
- L-Sit with rings
- Muscle-up with rings
- Pull-up / Chin-up with rings
- Push-up with rings
- Support Position
- Rows / Body Rows with rings
- Rollout with rings
- Dips with rings
- Ring Fly
- Ring Handstand
And many more…
In short, the secret recipe to master calisthenics is by
- Perfect the Basics
- Learn and master the basic exercises using the calisthenics equipment
- Finally move onto higher level of exercises using gymnastic rings and other calisthenics equipment mentioned above.
But just exercising and training regularly isn’t enough to master calisthenics. Unfortunately, our body isn’t a programmable computer. Other things are to be taken care of to master the calisthenics right from the basics without giving up in the middle.
#3-Diet and Lifestyle
If you really want to give your all-out for calisthenics, you need to make some changes to your diet and lifestyle. This could include the following basic stuff.
This might sound like the regular stuff but is often overlooked. Poor sleep could result in muscle loss, increase pain, make you fat, reduce your cognition and athletic skills which are much needed for calisthenics.
So here are how you can improve your sleep-
- Quality of sleep also matters- We all know that we all need 7-8 hours of sleep. But most people overlook at what time they are going to bed. In simple words getting 7-8 hours of sleep at night is not the same as getting 7-8 hours of sleep in the morning.This is because of our carcadian rythm.
- It is is a natural, internal process that regulates the sleep–wake cycle and repeats roughly every 24 hours.
- Hence goinng to bed at consistent times during he night is more important than achieving your 7-8 hours of sleep target.
- Do a blue-light detox 1 hour before you go to sleep i.e keep all your mobiles , Pc’s , laptops away for one hour before you sleep.
- If you are distracted by a series of thoughts then try reading a book or write something 30 mins before you go to bed.
- Use sleep apps to track your sleep quality.
- Finally make sure ou sleep in a pleasant environment.
They say ‘Muscles are built in the Kitchen” and this is somewhat true because just working out without a proper diet won’t get you muscles or make you lose fat. Instead, it will make you malnourished, weak and increase the toxins in your body. Now when it comes to a fitness diet most avoid carbohydrates and solely focus on proteins. Yes, proteins are indeed the building blocks of muscles, but you still need the energy to work out and grow muscles. This energy is provided by carbs. Try adding healthy carbohydrates like whole-grain cereals, whole-wheat toast, brown rice pasta, etc.
Now moving on to the proteins they depend on what your fitness goal is. If your goal is bulking then you need 1.4g to 2g of proteins for every kilogram of body weight, for example, if you weigh 60kg then you need 84g to 120g of protein each and every day. But if your goal is cutting then 0.8 to 1 gram of proteins per day will be sufficient to maintain that muscle after fat loss.
Also, make sure you are covering micronutrients like vitamins and minerals. Take care of pre-workout and post-workout foods and finally drink a lot of water!
Each and everyone’s body is different their metabolism is different hence there are no guidelines other than the above-mentioned ones that you have to follow. You, yourself need to experiment and learn what’s best for your body.
Most people get over-excited at the beginning of their workout routine. They try to do everything in one go. Few even try to push their body limits from the beginning itself. However, this can turn out very bad as it can lead to injuries and demotivate you.
Have realistic goals depending on your body. Don’t move on to the next level without perfecting the current level. For example-don’t hastily do 10 push-ups daily and start doing 15 pushups from the next time. Keep on doing 10 pushups until you do it with the correct posture and at the proper pace. This gradual increase of goals can help you stay motivated to work out and give your brain the right dopamine rush making it easier to meet your goals.
Here are other things that you can do to properly progress through your fitness goals while maintaining consistency-
A) Dealing with Post Workout Muscle Soreness and Cramps
This is another one of the main reasons that many people give up their fitness routine. It’s true that post-workout cramps can be painful and major de-motivators for our fitness routine. But as they say ‘no pain no gain’.If it were easy everyone would do it, and what’s fun in that. So here are a few effective ways to deal with your post-workout muscle soreness-
1)Coldwater shower-There are several benefits of a cold water shower. It can increase circulation, give you glowing skin and hair, boost weight loss, wake you up, and nonetheless reduce your muscle soreness.
That was our blog on “Calisthenics For Beginners: How to Master Calisthenics Skills”.