15 Unique Benefits of Calisthenics (Why You Should Do It)

Do you want to know what the top benefits of calisthenics are?

You are in the right place.

In this post, you’ll learn:

  • 15 unique advantages calisthenics training provides,
  • the benefits of calisthenics compared to weights, and
  • how to get started with bodyweight training at home (even if you are a beginner).

Let’s dive right in.

15 unique benefits of calisthenics cover image

What Is Calisthenics?

Calisthenics is a form of training in which you use your body weight to build muscle and strength. Calisthenics is different from other traditional forms of training, which rely on additional tools or exercise equipment.

Despite the lack of fancy gym equipment, calisthenics / bodyweight training is a great way to build muscle, lose fat, and improve relative strength.

Let’s go over the 15 awesome benefits calisthenics has to offer.

alex doing a back lever, hanging from a bar with his chest facing the floor and his body completely horizontal
The Back Lever – An advanced Calisthenics Exercise

15 Unique Benefits of Calisthenic Exercises

If you are undecided about bodyweight training, here are the unique advantages that calisthenics offers.

1. You Need Little To No equipment

Calisthenics training requires little to no equipment to get started.

With calisthenics, your body is the resistance. Therefore, you don’t need to rely on external weights such as barbells, dumbbells, or kettlebells.

If you choose to get equipment (which I highly recommend that you do), they are all very affordable one-time investments.

The top three things I recommend are:

I go over all the reasons why in The Best Calisthenics Equipment You Should Get For Home Workouts.

But if you choose to get none of these, you can still get a great workout with nothing but your body.

2. Calisthenics is Free

Another significant benefit of calisthenics is that it’s free. Aside from the small one-time investments mentioned above, you won’t ever need to pay to exercise again.

If you’re like most people – exercising at home will be the most convenient.

No monthly gym membership, exercise classes, or annoying gym members.

Your living room/garage/basement can become your personal gym.


3. Calisthenics Can be done any time & anywhere

The absolute best advantage of calisthenics is that you can do it anytime and anywhere.

You can train at home, in a park, in your hotel room, or your office – you don’t need a large amount of space.

Also, you are already carrying almost all the equipment you will ever need – your body!

Calisthenics can also be done at any time. You can also do it immediately after waking up, as soon as you get home from work, or during your lunch break.

4. Calisthenics Eliminates Several Barriers To Exercise 

Since calisthenics can be done with very little equipment, with very little space, and at any time, there are few barriers to getting started.

You are just seconds away from getting started… like RIGHT now.

The mental aspect of this is enormous! Knowing that you can start a workout at any time eliminates many mental barriers associated with going to a gym.

Calisthenics is also very beginner-friendly.

I’ll go into more detail in a little bit.

5. Calisthenics Maximizes Exercise Efficiency

Calisthenics can also maximize the efficiency of your workouts which is essential if you have very little free time to exercise.

In traditional weight training exercises, you need to bounce from one piece of equipment to the next—the squat rack, the bench press, the seated row, etc.

Chances are, someone will be using the equipment you want to use, in which case, you either have to wait or find a way to work in with them.
Calisthenics eliminates these roadblocks as you can quickly go from one exercise to another. You don’t need to set up any equipment, load weights, or wait for something to become available.

At the same time, you can always use supersets with calisthenic exercises. For example, you can easily do a set of squats, immediately followed by push-ups.

6. Calisthenics mimic natural real-world movement patterns

Almost all calisthenics exercises are functional exercises. In other words, these exercises resemble real-world movement patterns that you do regularly.

The major movement patterns include:

  • pushing,
  • pulling,
  • squatting,
  • hip hinging, and
  • lunging.

With calisthenics, you are MOVING YOUR OWN body weight through space. Nothing feels more natural and uplifting than gracefully moving your body.

That is functional strength at its best.

7. Calisthenic Exercises have several progressions

You might think that some calisthenic exercises are too easy.

For example, an exercise is too easy for you if you can do 20 or more repetitions of a specific exercise.

The beauty of calisthenics is that there is always a more challenging progression to all your exercises. There are at least a dozen variations of every single movement pattern.

You just have to learn how to use your body as a lever to match your fitness level.

I go over this in more detail in Calisthenics Vs. Weights.

8. Calisthenic Exercises have several regressions

On that same token, calisthenics is also great for beginners as you can always scale back all the movements to easier variations.

We call these regressions.

Here is one straightforward example of the push-up that we break down entirely in our complete step-by-step home workout program.

four different push-up-progressions- wall pushup-incline pushup, kneeling pushup, standard pushup

Regressions also provide an excellent introduction for women who want to start with calisthenics but are afraid of getting bulky!

9. You Can Build amazingly Impressive strength

You can get as strong as you desire with calisthenics. It takes a great deal of relative bodyweight strength to be able to do

  • handstands push-ups,
  • planche push-ups,
  • and one-arm pull-ups.

You can accomplish these tremendous skills with nothing but your body weight and a pull-up bar.

10. You Can Build a lot of muscle

Similarly, you can also build a lot of muscle with calisthenics alone.

Don’t forget, building muscle requires three things:

  1. Tension
  2. Recovery
  3. and a Progressive stimulus

Your body cannot tell the difference between the tension produced by weights (barbells and dumbbells) and the tension created by your body weight.

As long as you continue providing your body with a progressively overloading stimulus, you will build muscle.

I go over more detail in 3 Principles of Fitness You Must Understand Before Exercising.

11. It Helps You Burn fat as all exercises are compound

Remember when I said that calisthenic exercises are all functional? Well, as functional exercises, they are also all compound exercises.

In other words, bodyweight exercises train several large muscle groups at once.

For example, the push-up will train your chest, shoulders, triceps, core, and serratus anterior if done correctly.

By training multiple muscle groups at once (rather than isolating them individually), you will burn more calories, build more muscle, and lose more fat than if you did regular isolation-based training.

12. Calisthenics Improves Your athleticism & Mobility

Calisthenics will automatically improve your overall athleticism as you learn to master your bodyweight.

Calisthenic exercises often require you to take your joints through full ranges of motion, which will help improve your mobility.

For example, it takes good hip, ankle, and knee flexibility to get into a full squat. You also need good shoulder mobility to do pike push-ups and handstands.

Now, this doesn’t mean you don’t need to stretch – check out these 5 Flexibility Tests to determine if you have adequate mobility or not.

13. Calisthenics Builds Core Strength

Almost all calisthenics exercises involve the activation of your core.

You cannot achieve a proper body position without maintaining tension in your abs and glute muscles in several movements.

Nevertheless, it is still good to train core exercises anyway, such as planks, hollow body holds, and hanging ab exercises like knee raises.

Check out my calisthenics ab workout to learn more.

14. Your Joints can handle a high volume of Bodyweight Exercises

In addition, bodyweight exercises lend themselves to higher volume. Your joints are better capable of handling your body’s weight than external weights like barbells and dumbbells.

In general, you can take a lot of low-intensity calisthenics-based exercises close to failure without significant issues.

High-volume training will also improve your overall muscular endurance.

To learn more about the different ranges of sets and reps (check out this article: How many sets and reps should I do?)

15. Calisthenics Looks cool

Lastly, calisthenics just looks really cool. I mean, nothing looks cooler than planche push-ups.

It’s almost like a party trick.

So those are the 15 benefits of calisthenics / bodyweight training.

In the next section, we will talk about the disadvantages of calisthenics.

The Disadvantages of Calisthenic Exercises

As with all types of exercise and training styles, there are pros and cons of calisthenics exercises.

Here are the top three disadvantages of calisthenics.

  1. Leg training is limited
  2. Some exercise variations are challenging
  3. Isolation training is difficult

Let’s go over these in more detail.

Leg Training is Limited

Your legs contain the most powerful muscles in your body. There will come a time when calisthenic leg exercises will be limiting.

If you think about it, you can only lift what your current body weight is, even if you are performing one-leg pistol squats.

alex squatting down completely with just one leg - the pistol squat

Your legs will quickly become accustomed to lifting your weight. Once you master the pistol, there isn’t much more you could do to this exercise to significantly increase the intensity.

To counteract this limitation, you will need some form of external weight to continue progressing through this challenge.

I recommend weight vests and free weights like dumbbells.

Some Exercise Variations Are Really Difficult

The goal of training is to either:

  • continue improving your fitness
  • or maintain your current level of fitness.

If your goal is to keep getting stronger and building more muscle, you will need to use harder calisthenics exercises.

Unfortunately, some of the complex movements in calisthenics can be very difficult to perform and take a lot of time to master. Some movements require coordination from multiple body parts, making them more complicated than those in weight training.

For example, handstand push-ups might be a big jump in difficulty for you after training pike push-ups.

Difficult To Isolate Specific Muscles

The last disadvantage of calisthenics is that it is fairly difficult to isolate any specific muscle groups.

If you want to train just your biceps or rotator cuff, it’ll be difficult to find calisthenic exercises that don’t train many other muscle groups.

If you think about it, this is a pro and a con.

The pro is that you can easily train your entire body using just a handful of exercises. The con is that you may not target the desired muscle to its full capability.

Either way, you should limit the number of isolation exercises you do anyway.

Other than that, there aren’t any other major disadvantages to training with your body weight.

So, are you convinced yet?

Do you want to start bodyweight training?

Let’s go over the 5 best calisthenic exercises.

What are the top 5 calisthenic exercises?

Below are the top 5 calisthenic exercises you should do.

1. Push-up

This push-up is a classic. This exercise will help train the horizontal pushing movement pattern, which targets the chest, tricep, shoulder, and core muscles. As always, it is important that you maintain a good spinal position while doing it.

Here are some simple regressions and progressions you can do based on your skill level.

Dips are a similar movement pattern with similar benefits.

2. Pull-ups

Pull-ups are the king of upper body exercises. It trains the vertical pulling pattern, strengthening the lats, the rhomboids, the traps, the biceps, and the forearms.

The movement may be difficult at first, but I believe that everyone could work their way up to do a pull-up.

If you can’t, check out my article on how to get your first pull-up.

alex-brittany doiing a pull-up

If pull-ups are too easy for you, you can do one of the many progressions seen here.

3. Lunges/Squats

Lunges and squats are equally beneficial calisthenic knee flexion exercises that you should try to master.

Either one is fine, but lunges require a higher amount of hip flexibility.

These exercises train and strengthen the quadriceps, adductors, and glute muscles. Ultimately, you should get to the point where you can do Bulgarian split squats with added weight.

4. Glute Bridges

The glute bridge and its variations are one of the best hip extension exercises you can perform to target the posterior side of your lower body.

This includes the glutes, hamstrings, and abductor muscles.

There are so many clever ways to progress this exercise. One of the best progressions is the ball leg curl.

brittany on her back with her hips extended and her legs elevated on a bosu ball as she curls the ball towards her buttocks

If you don’t have a stability ball, you can also do this exercise by sliding your heels back and forth with socks on a sleek floor.

Don’t neglect the posterior lower body muscles. You need a strong set of glutes to maintain a strong spine.

5. Pike Push-ups

The last top 5 calisthenic exercise is the vertical pushing exercise known as the pike push-up. This is a pre-requisite exercise for handstands and handstand push-ups.

This movement primarily targets the shoulder muscles, as well as the triceps. As simple as this exercise looks, many do it incorrectly. Here is how to do it properly.

By the way…

I also created two other Calisthenics Workouts PDF that you can download to give you even more workouts to use at home.

You can use these as a guide to build even more calisthenics workout plans.

The second is a PDF workout of a 3 day/week push-pull leg splits.

Other Related Questions

Is Calisthenics better than weight training?

Calisthenics is better than weight training in a few regards:

  • It’s free and accessible at all times,
  • It requires little to no equipment, and
  • It trains your body holistically

Weight training is better than calisthenics if you:

  • like training with equipment or in a gym setting
  • you desire to build more muscle than what is possible with calisthenics (especially in the lower body)
  • you specifically want to isolate certain muscle groups

Either way, both are a great way to build muscle, gain strength, and improve your overall health and fitness.

Is calisthenic effective? Can you build muscle with calisthenics?

Yes, you can build muscle with calisthenics, provided you give your body:

  1. a sufficient stimulus from resistance training
  2. proper nutrition to maximize muscle protein synthesis and recovery, and
  3. progressive overload

You can do all three of these things with your body weight!

To learn more, check out How To Build Muscle Naturally Using Scientific Principles.

How strong will Calisthenics make you?

Calisthenic training can make you very strong in terms of relative strength.

If your goal is to build strength, you must use the appropriate rep range for strength training. Choose exercise variations where you can perform no more than 4-6 repetitions per set.

The most challenging bodyweight exercises that require the greatest amount of strength include:

  • handstand push-ups
  • planche push-ups
  • one arm pull-ups
  • front levers

To build even more muscle strength, you can also add external weights to any calisthenic exercise.

Does Calisthenics burn fat Or Help With Weight Loss?

Calisthenics can help you burn fat by increasing your muscle mass percentage.

The more muscle you have, the more calories your body will burn at rest and the more calories you will burn while you exercise.

With that said, fat loss is most determined by your diet, primarily your caloric intake, nutrient intake, and consistency.

Learn more in Diet Vs. Exercise: What’s More Important?

Will calisthenics make me bulky?

Calisthenics will not make you bulky. Instead, calisthenics can help improve your body composition. Adding bulk is more likely to occur with weight training and eating in a hypercaloric state.

Is calisthenics good for skinny guys?

Calisthenics can help skinny guys build lean muscle and achieve a toned look. Although you can achieve muscle growth with bodyweight training, it likely won’t help you build bulky muscles.

Is It OK to do calisthenic exercises every day?

Yes, you can do calisthenic exercises every day, but this isn’t necessary. You can get all the benefits of bodyweight training with just a 3-5 day-a-week workout schedule.

If you choose to train more than this, just make sure to give each muscle group the appropriate amount of rest and recovery- (i.e, don’t train the same muscle group two days in a row).

Final Words On The Benefits Of Calisthenics Over Weights

So those are all the benefits you can experience from calisthenics training that weights cant provide.

Now I want to hear from you.

What do you hope to get out of a calisthenics workout? Any benefits you are most excited about?

Comment below and let us know.

Don’t forget to download your calisthenics template above!

Related Posts On Calisthenics Training


Alex Robles, MD, CPT / Brittany Robles, MD, MPH, CPT

Alex & Brittany Robles are physicians, NASM Certified Personal Trainers, and founders of The White Coat Trainer: a resource dedicated to improving the health and fitness of busy professionals using time-efficient strategies. Their advice has been featured in My Fitness Pal, Prevention, Livestrong, Reader’s Digest, Bustle, The Active Times, and more. Learn more about them here.

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