Calisthenics Exercise Routine

Woman doing pushups

A calisthenics exercise routine differs from your average workout in that it doesn't rely on any equipment worth mentioning. The benefits are obvious; there's no expensive gym membership fee or need for space-hogging home equipment, and no interruptions in your training regimen when you travel. The downside is that you have to be a little more tuned into your body's feedback, and in some cases be a little more imaginative to target the right muscles.

Sample Calisthenics for Your Workout

Here's a suggestion for a full-body workout using nothing but your bodyweight.

Push-Ups

Lie facedown on the floor resting your bodyweight on your toes and hands. Feet should be together, elbows out to the sides (or angled slightly down towards your waist) and your body straight. Push yourself up, then descend and repeat. Make the turn at the bottom smooth but distinct before your chest touches the floor with no jerking motions. If you're a beginner, you can use your knees instead of your toes.

Triangle Push-Ups

Same as the regular push-up, this targets the triceps more in that you put your hands together so your thumbs and index fingers form a little triangle under your chest.

Dips Pull up two sturdy chairs so that they're back to back with you between them. Grab the top of the backs and hoist yourself up. Bend your knees and cross your feet to avoid touching the floor as you descend. Don't go beyond the point where your upper arms are about parallel to the floor as this puts undue stress on the shoulder joints.

Chins

Grab a bar, protruding door jamb, tree branch or whatever can support your weight using a semi-wide grip so that you resemble a large Y as you hang straight down. Pull yourself up as far as you can, squeeze the scapulas together for a second, then slowly let yourself sink back down to the starting position.

Reverse-Grip Chins

Same as the regular chin, simply switch to a narrower, reverse grip with your thumbs pointing towards you instead of away. This also has the benefit of targeting biceps to a higher degree.

Crunches

Lie down on the floor with your knees bent and feet firmly on the ground. Place your hands next to your neck or ears -- don't tug at the back of your head. As you crunch, focus on pressing your lower back into the ground. It's a short movement where your shoulders don't lift very far from the floor.

Squats

Stand on one leg while resting one hand against a wall for balance. Squat down until your upper leg is about parallel to the floor, then propel yourself up pushing the heel into the floor.

Lunges

Stand straight and take a big step forward. Descend until the knee of your "back leg" almost touches the floor, then use your "front leg" to push off back up to standing. Alternate legs in a continuous, fluid sequence.

One-Legged Calf Presses

Stand with one foot on the edge of a stair step, brick, rock or anything else that lets your heel hang down enough to give your calf a full stretch. Hold something for balance so you can focus on the calf. To exercise, simply contract the calf until you're in a one-foot, "standing on tiptoes" position. Hold for a second before slowly descending back into full stretch.

Follow This Routine

So, putting these pieces together into a real-world calisthenics exercise routine, you might end up with something like this:

  • Warm-up - 5 minutes jogging on the spot
  • Push-ups - 3 sets to failure
  • Triangle push-ups - 2 sets to failure
  • Dips - 3 sets to failure
  • Chins - 3 sets to failure
  • Reverse-grip chins - 2 sets to failure
  • Crunches - 3 sets to failure
  • Squats - 3 sets to failure
  • Lunges - 2 sets to failure
  • One-legged calf presses - 3 sets to failure

Add More Variety to Your Routine

Of course, there are plenty more exercises that you can and should rotate into your calisthenics exercise routine. The quadruped, the bicycle, the plank, plank sidestands are but a few examples, but the routine above should be enough to get you started on the right foot. Good luck!

Calisthenics Exercise Routine