Calisthenics beginner workout

How to start calisthenics – Ultimate Guide

How to start calisthenics: Calisthenics, a dynamic form of strength training utilizing your body weight, is gaining global popularity, and the Netherlands is no exception with a growing community of dedicated enthusiasts. The allure of calisthenics lies in its ability to build strength, muscle mass, and endurance through bodyweight exercises. In this comprehensive blog post, discover the myriad benefits of calisthenics and gain insights into how this sport has captured the enthusiasm of individuals worldwide. And for those ready to dive in immediately, don’t miss out on our downloadable calisthenics beginner’s guide to kickstart your journey with confidence

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Calisthenics is a powerful form of strength training that harnesses your own body weight to develop strength, muscle mass, and endurance.

Now, let’s delve into the origin of the name. Where does the word calisthenics come from? It’s a fusion of two Greek words: Kalos and Sthenos. Translated, these words together mean ‘beautiful strength,’ referencing both physical and mental prowess.

Exploring the expansive world of calisthenics reveals a diverse range of exercises, all centered around using your body weight as the primary resistance. From the fundamental pull-up to the dynamic burpee and the explosive sprint, calisthenics encompasses a broad spectrum of movements that cater to various fitness levels and goals.

Within the calisthenics realm, there’s a distinct focus on specific exercises that capture the essence of this discipline. These targeted movements go beyond mere physical exertion; they embody the synergy of strength, control, and flexibility. In this blog, we’ll take a closer look at these key calisthenics exercises, dissecting their mechanics and unraveling the unique benefits they bring to your fitness journey.

Embarking on this exploration will not only broaden your understanding of calisthenics but also inspire you to incorporate these foundational exercises into your routine. Whether you’re a beginner navigating the basics or an experienced practitioner seeking to refine your skills, this deeper dive into calisthenics exercises promises insights that elevate your training to new heights.

Push & pull exercises in calisthenics

Most calisthenics exercises are essentially compound exercises, meaning they engage multiple muscle groups simultaneously.

To refine your focus on specific movements, the majority of these exercises are categorized into subgroups known as push and pull.

During push exercises, you’re exerting force to push weight away— in this context, your body weight. Logical examples include push-ups or dips. Surprisingly, even the squat falls under the category of push exercises.

Conversely, in pull exercises, the emphasis is on drawing the weight towards you. Think of classics like the pull-up or a row. For those with more advanced skills, exercises like the front lever fall into the realm of pull movements.

Understanding the dynamics of push and pull in calisthenics not only refines your training approach but also opens the door to a spectrum of exercises that cater to different muscle groups and skill levels. Whether you’re pushing the boundaries with a powerful dip or pulling yourself to new heights with a challenging pull-up, the push and pull elements in calisthenics add a dynamic and comprehensive dimension to your workout routine.

Vertical & horizontal exercises in calisthenics

In addition to the push and pull categorization, there’s a second distinction in exercises: whether the movement is executed vertically or horizontally. This differentiation plays a crucial role in targeting specific muscle groups.

Vertical exercises involve movements where the force is directed upward or downward, engaging muscles in a different plane. Classic examples of vertical exercises include pull-ups, where you pull your body upward, and dips, where you push your body away from a horizontal surface.

On the other hand, horizontal exercises focus on movements along the same plane, typically involving pushing or pulling in a parallel direction to the ground. A classic horizontal push exercise is the push-up, while rows and bodyweight exercises like the Australian pull-up are representative of horizontal pulls.

Understanding the distinction between vertical and horizontal exercises in calisthenics provides a nuanced approach to muscle engagement. It not only broadens the range of exercises you can incorporate into your routine but also allows for a more comprehensive and balanced development of muscle strength and endurance.

How to start Calisthenics beginner exercises

To establish a robust foundation in your calisthenics journey, it’s essential to proficiently master a set of fundamental exercises. These exercises not only lay the groundwork for strength and muscle development but also serve as a prerequisite for advancing to more complex movements in the future.

Many enthusiasts often bypass these foundational exercises, only to encounter challenges and minimal progress when attempting advanced calisthenics routines.

Allow me to stress this point: these 5 fundamental exercises are the bedrock of your training. Without mastering these foundational movements, diving into advanced exercises may yield less-than-optimal results.

Let’s delve into the quintessential calisthenics exercises that form the core of your training:

  1. Pull-up (Vertical Pull): Elevate your upper body with a pull-up, engaging essential vertical pulling muscles.

  2. Row (Horizontal Pull): Execute horizontal pulling movements with rows, emphasizing different muscle groups for a balanced physique.

  3. Push-up (Horizontal Push): Strengthen your chest and triceps with the classic horizontal push-up, a cornerstone for upper body development.

  4. Dip (Vertical Push): Target your triceps and shoulders with dips, a vertical pushing exercise crucial for overall upper body strength.

  5. Handstand (Balance): Develop core stability and balance with handstands, a skill that transcends strength training and enhances overall body control.

By incorporating these fundamental exercises, you ensure comprehensive coverage of all push/pull and vertical/horizontal movements for the upper body. Mastery of these foundational elements will undoubtedly pave the way for a successful progression in your calisthenics journey.

Calisthenics oefening: Front lever touch

How to start Advanced calisthenics exercises

After mastering the basics, a number of advanced exercises awaits you in the world of calisthenics. These exercises can be broadly classified into two categories: dynamic and static movements.

Dynamic exercises involve movements where your muscles change length due to bending your joints. Examples include the one-arm pull-up, the handstand push-up, and the planche push-up.

On the other hand, static exercises, also known as isometric exercises, require you to maintain a constant muscle length. You engage your entire body to hold a specific pose, as seen in exercises like the back lever, front lever, human flag, and planche.

Training for these advanced exercises typically involves progressions. You can’t expect to perform a flawless front lever or planche right from the start.

A progression serves as a stepping stone, providing a less challenging variation of the same exercise. This gradual approach allows you to build the strength required for the full-fledged exercise over time. So, whether you’re aspiring to defy gravity with dynamic feats or showcase incredible strength in static holds, progressions become your training allies in the journey of mastering advanced calisthenics exercises.

How to start calisthenics

For newcomers to calisthenics, embarking on a journey with a dedicated beginner’s training program is a wise choice.

This specialized schedule not only imparts structure to your workouts but also maintains the essential balance between push and pull exercises.

By adhering to a well-designed program, you’ll experience accelerated progress while minimizing the risk of injuries associated with overtraining. The guidance provided by a beginner’s schedule sets the foundation for a sustainable and effective introduction to the world of calisthenics, ensuring a balanced approach to building strength and skill.

How to start Calisthenics training program

Training schedules come in various shapes and sizes, typically encompassing the following elements:

  • Workout split
    • Full body, upper/lower, push/pull/legs
  • Number of training sessions per week
  • Exercises
  • Number of sets per exercise
  • Number of reps per set
  • Rest intervals between sets

For beginners, it’s advisable to opt for a full-body schedule. This approach ensures that each muscle group is trained multiple times a week, allowing ample rest between workouts (48 – 72 hours).

To expedite your journey, I’ve crafted a Free calisthenics workout plan for beginners complete with explanations. Download it below to kickstart your training right away!

Download free Calisthenics beginner plan

Disciplines within calisthenics

Within calisthenics, there are various disciplines you can focus on. Read below to discover the four main ones.

REPS & SETS

Reps&Sets centers primarily on building endurance. I’m not referring to running or cycling but, instead, to boosting the counts of pull-ups, dips, muscle-ups, and push-ups. The objective is to maximize the number of repetitions in a single set. Unlike strength-building, the emphasis here lies in muscle endurance. Each year, various competitions offer chances to gauge your performance against others within your weight class.

Statics

Static exercises, also known as isometric positions, involve holding the body in a fixed position. Many of these exercises draw inspiration from gymnastics. Here are a few examples of statics:

  • Handstand
  • Front Lever
  • Back Lever
  • Planche
  • Human Flag

In static training, the emphasis shifts from dynamic movements to maintaining precise, challenging poses that demand significant strength and stability. Each static exercise targets specific muscle groups, contributing to overall muscular development and body control.

Integrating static exercises into a calisthenics routine introduces an isometric strength dimension, enhancing overall physical prowess. The journey to mastering statics involves progressive training, gradually increasing the duration and difficulty of holds. As practitioners refine their form and endurance in these challenging positions, they cultivate not only muscular strength but also a heightened awareness of body alignment and control.

Statics in calisthenics provide a unique avenue for individuals to showcase strength in stillness, pushing the boundaries of what the human body can achieve through precision and perseverance.

freestyle

Freestyle calisthenics, also recognized as barflow, embodies the expressive dimension of calisthenics, where routines are transformed into captivating performances. In a flow, a sequence of dynamic and static exercises unfolds seamlessly, typically performed on the high bar or parallel bars. The essence of freestyle calisthenics lies in the fusion of explosiveness, strength, and momentum.

Within the realm of freestyle calisthenics, practitioners elevate their routines to artistic displays, choreographing movements that not only showcase physical prowess but also convey a creative flair. The high bar and parallel bars serve as stages for expression, where the fluidity of transitions and the artistry of movement take the spotlight.

The dynamic nature of freestyle calisthenics necessitates a unique skill set. Explosiveness is essential for powerful movements, strength is pivotal for executing challenging holds and maneuvers, and momentum serves as a crucial element linking each skill seamlessly. The result is a visually stunning and cohesive performance.

Freestyle calisthenics fosters a sense of individuality and creativity within the practice. Practitioners strive not only for technical precision but also to infuse their routines with a personal touch, making each performance a distinct reflection of their style and personality.

In contrast to Reps&Sets, street lifting is centered around cultivating sheer strength, similar to the principles observed in powerlifting. The crux of street lifting lies in optimizing your 1RM (1 rep max) for various weighted calisthenics exercises. Key exercises within street lifting encompass Weighted Dips, Weighted Pull-ups, Weighted Muscle-ups, and Squats. Tools such as a dipping belt or a weighted vest are employed to introduce additional resistance during training.

In street lifting, the primary goal is to attain the highest possible single repetition with added weight for these foundational exercises. This discipline aligns itself with traditional strength sports, placing a premium on the ability to efficiently lift heavy loads.

Street lifting demands not only physical prowess but also strategic planning in weight progression. The incorporation of tools like dipping belts and weighted vests empowers practitioners to incrementally challenge their strength thresholds. It’s a journey marked by meticulous attention to form, gradual progression, and the pursuit of personal bests in terms of raw strength.

Calisthenics Community & Competitions

In recent years, there has been a growing number of calisthenics events organized all around the world.

Bigger formats are created, for example the FinalRep streetlifting competition in Germany. But also on local level.

You’ll probably find a community connected to your local calisthenics park.

Don’t feel scared, and try to attend one of these meet-ups and connect with like-minded individuals. The calisthenics community is always open to new enthusiasts.

Check out the video below for an impression of a local meet up in The Netherlands.

Calisthenics parks

Perhaps you’ve come across them, calisthenics parks. Worldwide, there has been a significant increase in their construction in recent years. These parks are often initiated by governments to encourage people to engage in more physical activity. More and more calisthenics enthusiasts globally are reaching out to their local authorities to establish parks in their neighborhoods.

There are over thousands of calisthenics parks built worldwide. These range from expansive parks with comprehensive facilities to smaller setups featuring just the essentials.

Looking for a park near you? Check out the map below, displaying all the parks worldwide. Please note that loading may take a moment.

Calisthenics materials

If you prefer training at home rather than at the gym, you’ll need equipment for your home gym. In this section, you’ll find links to several buying guides on this site. These guides provide detailed descriptions of the best options for each product.

Essential items

Having the right equipment at home can significantly enhance your calisthenics workout experience. While you don’t need an extensive array of gear, a few key items can make a substantial difference in your training routine.

Investing in a pull-up bar or a set of rings is a great starting point. These affordable and versatile tools can be the cornerstone of your home gym, allowing you to target various muscle groups and perform a range of exercises that contribute to your overall strength and physique.

For those with more dedicated space and a desire for a broader range of exercises, a pull-up station or a power rack is an excellent choice. A pull-up station provides stability and additional options for bodyweight exercises, while a power rack opens up possibilities for barbell exercises, adding diversity to your training regimen.

Remember, the key is to choose equipment that aligns with your fitness goals and the available space in your home gym. Whether you’re starting with the basics or expanding your setup over time, having the right tools will contribute to a well-rounded and effective calisthenics training routine.

ADDITIONAL ITEMS

To maximize your application of progressive overload, consider investing in a set of resistance bands, a weight vest, and/or a dipping belt. These tools offer versatility and open up a broader range of exercises, enabling you to target different muscle groups and advance more efficiently in your training.

Resistance bands, with their varying levels of resistance, provide a dynamic way to intensify your exercises and challenge your muscles in different ways. A weight vest and dipping belt, on the other hand, add an extra load to bodyweight exercises, increasing the difficulty and promoting strength gains.

For those eager to delve deeper into the world of calisthenics, I recommend the book ‘Overcoming Gravity.’ It serves as a comprehensive guide for calisthenics athletes, offering not only detailed progressions but also extensive strength training information. With illustrations depicting progressions, the book becomes a valuable resource for understanding and implementing effective calisthenics training techniques. Whether you’re a beginner or an advanced practitioner, ‘Overcoming Gravity’ provides insights and knowledge to elevate your calisthenics journey.

FAQ

Below you will find the most frequently asked questions about calisthenics.

What are the benefits of calisthenics?

There are numerous benefits associated with practicing calisthenics. Firstly, it significantly enhances your strength in a functional manner. As calisthenics primarily involves compound exercises, it ensures constant engagement of your entire body, making everyday movements increasingly effortless.

Moreover, calisthenics is accessible to individuals of all levels. Whether you are an absolute beginner or an advanced practitioner, there are progressions tailored to your abilities. Take, for instance, the pull-up. If you’re not yet strong enough, you can use resistance bands to lighten the load. Once you master bodyweight pull-ups, you can progress to more challenging variations like wide grip pull-ups or even the one-arm pull-up.

Additionally, the beauty of calisthenics lies in its versatility. You can practice it anywhere. There’s no need for an expensive gym membership, although that’s an option. With over 300 calisthenics parks in the Netherlands, you’re likely to find one nearby. If not, simply install a pull-up bar or set of rings in or around your home, and you’re ready to start your workout.

How often should you train calisthenics per week?

How often you should train calisthenics depends on various factors.

Generally, for beginners, it’s recommended to train 2-3 times per week. This allows your body to gradually adapt to the new stimuli. An ideal approach is to follow a full-body routine with at least one rest day between each session.

As you gain more experience, you can increase the frequency. For instance, with an upper/lower split, you could train four times a week.

If you prefer training almost every day, consider a push/pull/legs split. This way, the trained muscle groups have at least two days of rest after each workout.

However, it’s essential to note that training so frequently is not advisable for beginners. Your body may not be ready for it. If you start experiencing joint or tendon pain or feel overall fatigue, take more rest days.

How do you get stronger with calisthenics?

You can become incredibly strong with calisthenics, but it’s crucial to train in the right way. For strength, you want to focus on specific training in the rep range of 1 – 6 reps.

Additionally, it’s important to make each training session slightly more challenging. For example, by increasing the number of reps or the weight, or by training a more difficult progression of the same exercise.

This concept of making your training progressively more challenging is called progressive overload, and it’s essential for your development as a calisthenics practitioner.

Can I build muscle mass with calisthenics?

Certainly! Calisthenics is a great way to build muscle mass. By training with your body weight and incorporating the right progressions, you can effectively stress your muscles and promote growth. It’s important to make your training progressive, challenging yourself with increased reps, added weight, or more advanced variations of the exercises. Combine this with a balanced diet that includes sufficient protein, and you’ll find that calisthenics is a powerful method for building muscle mass.

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