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:
- Trains multiple muscle groups as effectively as weighted exercises
- Great for time-efficient workouts
- Works with full-body training, upper/lower, or body-part splits
- Builds strength that carries over to exercises in the weight room
- Improves coordination and athleticism
- Open to everyone: Beginners and advanced, young and old, men and women
- Simple to modify for needs or goals, or to make exercises easier or harder
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
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
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!
Coach Carly gets you started off right. Then finish the workout strong in the full Lean at Home program!
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!