Body weight strength training has gone much more mainstream in recent years, there are many different calisthenics program coming on the scene, so which is the best one?
The exact details depend on your fitness level, the great thing about calisthenics is that they are easily scalable to anyone. No matter what level you are, you can use the template below to get a fantastic full-body workout in 30 minutes or less, it will also give you clear goals to work towards for months or even years on end.
I have found these five exercises and their progressive variants are enough to keep anyone busy and also develop a well-rounded physique along the way.
They will challenge you on many fronts including balance, flexibility, strength and body control. Aim for a solid set of 10 reps on each of these exercises or a 30 second hold for isometric exercises and you will be well on your way to calisthenics domination.
The pistol squat, a single-legged squat variation where you hold the opposite leg in front of your body is the gold level of bodyweight leg exercises. It is a pretty advanced move in its strictest form, the pistol can be regressed in order to suit beginners or intermediates-level trainees, it is a journey but one you can start from wherever you are.
You should have a basic command of basic two-legged bodyweight squats before starting with the pistol, this won’t take very long for any able-bodied, reasonably fit individual who is willing to commit to do the work.
You then begin with box pistols, which consist of performing the single-legged squat with a box or bench behind you to help catch your buma nd give you stability at the bottom of the movement. Start with a pretty high box and gradually move to lower boxes.
Eventually you will be able to stop using a box altogether and at this point you will be doing a full pistol squat, when those get easy you can then work towards performing full pistol squats with your hands behind your back.
The back bridge or wheel pose as it is known in yoga is a very powerful inversion that has several benefits. The full bridge is great for strengthening the whole posterior chain, that’s glutes, hamstrings, spinal erectors and upper back whilst also providing an intense stretch at the entire front of the body, including the hip flexors, abs and chest.
If you aren’t quite there yet, you can change it up with a variation where the top of your head stays on the ground and then work toward increasing your range of motion over time. Once you find a basic bridge easy, you can start to work on lifting an arm and/or leg off of the ground or even get a partner to stand on you, still technically body weight training.
Just like a back bridge, a proper L-sit demonstrates a perfect balance of strength and mobility between the front and back sides of the body. This exercise requires no equipment at all but the L-Sit can still give you a serious challenge and a lot of bang for your buck. L-sits work your arms, chets, lats, abs, hip flexors and quads whilst also stretching the hamstrings and lower back.
Begin by sitting on the floor with your hands flat on the ground just beyond your hips, place all your weight on the palms and lift your legs straight out in front of you parallel to the ground, then your body should resemble the letter ‘L’.
If you are not strong enough yet to perform a proper L-sit, you can begin with your knees brought close to your chest as a regression. Elevating your hands on blocks or handles is a handy way for newbies to begin working toward sa full L-sit on the ground. To make the move more difficult, try to get your legs above parallel so your body becomes more of a V-shape, this is known as a V-sit.
Handstands give you an intense upper-body workout as well as a proprioceptive and balance challenge. Inverting your body allows you to work your muscles from the opposite angle that they are used to. Handstands are also great for overall shoulder health and mobility.
Handstands can be a bit intimidating at first, it is best to begin with brief holds supported by a wall, then you can work towards freestanding handstands and even single-arm variants.
Bar calisthenics is well on its way to becoming a full-blown sport and it all starts with the basic pull-up. Very simple when you think about it but pretty hard in practice, the pull-up is the only exercise on this list that needs some equipment. You will need a sturdy bar or some other safe platform to hang from to practice pull-ups.
Grab the bar with an overhand grip, brace your torso and tighten your glutes and legs. Keep your shoulders engaged to lower any chances of shrugging, pull yourself up until your chin clears the bar, carefully lower yourself back down to a full hang and repeat.
If you are not ready for full pull-ups yet, you can begin with Australian pull-ups (bodyweight rows) as well as straight-arm and flexed-arm bar hangs. When a normal pull-up becomes too easy you can begin training for one-arm pull-ups.
Every movement has its own unique progressions and regression, there are so many ways to combine them, look no further if you are looking for a good place to start.
Here is a sample beginner workout that has regression of all five of these exercises, rest as required between these sets and treat this workout as practice, it doesn’t mean killing yourself to hit the rep scheme.
Beginner Bodyweight Workout
Advanced Bodyweight Workout
These are definitely some of the best body weight exercises out there that you can be doing, calisthenics is the up and coming workout program for many.
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