When you see the word “calisthenics”, one of two thoughts comes to mind immediately. It's either a grandparent talking about exercising and that was all they needed, or a PE teacher with a sweaty hoodie and whistle yelling out numbers while a bunch of kids were doing their best to perform some random exercise.
In all seriousness, calisthenics are exercises that involve your bodyweight providing the resistance. These movements read like they are simple to perform, but they can provide a surprising challenge if you give your best effort towards them. Not to mention, they can help you burn some calories too. Using them in conjunction with a bodybuilding training program can help you improve your overall fitness and physique.
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A Full-Body Calisthenics Program
There are some calisthenics that you already may be doing as a part of your training. I’m talking about movements like pullups, dips, and planks. We won’t add those into this program. Instead, we’re going to focus on other calisthenics and create a workout you can do twice a week in place of your cardio session.
When you choose to work in the two workouts is up to you. If you want to do them after a normal training session, that’s fine. You could also do them on their own day when you have more energy. Just make sure you don’t do them directly before your weight training.
Before we talk about the workouts, let’s get into the exercises themselves. There are 9 on this list plus one other one that we will cover on its own. Each of them have their own purpose, but when grouped together, you will feel like you’ve done a full-body session.
What you will notice is that all of these exercises are bodyweight only. You shouldn’t need any equipment to do any of these. If you have access to a bench or bar and want to add exercises like dips and pullups in, feel free to do so. These exercises should be pretty basic, but if you do need form instruction, refer to the exercise guide section here on M&S.
- Mountain Climber
- Side Bend
- Squat Jump
- Straight Leg Toe Touch
- Calf Raises
The 10th Exercise
When the topic of calisthenics come up, someone always ask about the biceps. This one is the closest one I have that will directly work the biceps, but it may be more of an isometric exercise than a calisthenic. This exercise is Zottman Hand Curls. It will also benefit your triceps slightly.
Hold your hands down to your sides at arms’ length. Spread your fingers as wide as you can. Bend the elbows and lift your hands up while keeping your upper arms to your sides. In other words, pretend you’re doing a curl. Squeeze the biceps as the hands come up. Flex them as hard as you can as if you have a heavy plate in your hand.
Once your elbows are bent and your biceps are flexed, turn your hands so your thumbs are closer to each other. Now imagine you’re pushing something down to the floor and straighten your arms. Once your arms are back to your sides, that’s one rep. Repeat for the desired reps.
Prepare for this workout by committing 10-15 minutes to walking and stretching. While you’re walking, listen to upbeat music or a podcast to help yourself meditate or get your mind right. Your focus and attention are just as important as your ability and effort.
When you’re stretching, establish that connection with each muscle. How do they feel? How warm and loose are you right now? Can you give your best effort? Knowing your body will help you use it to achieve your maximum potential.
Calisthenics Workout 1: Upper/Lower Split
The first workout of this program breaks down the exercises into two groups; upper body/abs and lower body. You’re going to perform each exercise for time. So instead of counting reps, you’ll do as many reps as you can in a time limit. Do all five exercises in each group as a giant set. You will do three rounds of each group with rest periods in between.
Upper Body Giant Set
|Zottoman Hand Curl||3||30s||None|
|*Rest for 2 minutes after sit-up's and repeat from the top for 3 rounds|
Lower Body Giant Set
|Straight Leg Toe Touch||3||30s||None|
|*Rest for 2 minutes after mountain climbers and repeat from the top for 3 rounds|
Calisthenics Workout 2: Full Body Circuit
For the second workout of this program, you will perform circuits. That means you’ll do all ten exercises in a row before taking a break. You’ll do 10 reps of each exercise totaling a 100 rep circuit. For movements like lunges and mountain climbers, you’ll do that 10 reps for each side.
The challenge for this workout is individualized. It’s based on your fitness levels. For the first workout, go for four total circuits. If that is enough to challenge you, then great. Stick with those and make it a goal to improve so you can eventually do five or six. If you have to stop early, do so but make it a goal to try for four next time.
For those of you who weren't satisfied with four rounds, do as many as you can for up to eight. That would be 800 total reps in one workout. You’re sure to torch some calories and increase muscular endurance if you can pull that off. You could even see a little more muscle as well.
|Zottman Hand Curl||4-8||10||None|
|Straight Leg Toe Touch||4-8||10||None|
|Calf Raise||4-8||10||2 min|
|*Rest for 2 minutes after sit-up's and repeat from the top for 4-8 rounds|
In Between Sets
What you do in between these circuits or giant sets is just as important as doing the work. Actually, what you don’t do matters as well. For example, don’t sit down. You may be tempted to sit on a bench or the ground, but doing so will make getting ready for that next set even tougher than it already will be. Stand, walk around, take deep breaths, and then get into the starting position you need to be in so you can start when your rest period ends.
Also, drink water or an intraworkout drink. Sip it slowly but don’t go without fluids while performing this workout. This is especially true if you’re going to do it outside and the temperatures are higher. Staying hydrated is paramount when doing this type of training. Even if you’re slightly dehydrated, your performance will not be optimal and you stand a greater chance of injury.
As soon as the workout is over, relax for a few minutes so you can cool down. Then, go home and recover. Eat a solid meal with proper sources of protein, fats, and slow digesting carbs. How you feel after can make you more excited about doing the workout again next time.