In this post, I am going to show you a list of the best calisthenic exercises of all time.
If you are too busy to make it to the gym, or you don’t have access to one, I have some good news for you.
You don’t need a gym.
You can use calisthenics to do a full body workout in the comforts of your own home.
And in this guide, I’m going to show you everything you need to build the ultimate bodyweight home workout routine. I’ll also break down each exercise into beginner, intermediate, and advanced variations.
Now go cancel that unused gym membership you have been holding onto for years.
Let’s dive right in.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Chapter 1: 5 Incredible Benefits of Calisthenic Training
Your life is extremely busy.
It’s tough to take time out of your day to workout, let alone go to the gym to do it.
Thankfully, you already have everything you need to develop a comprehensive exercise program.
Your own bodyweight.
What Is Calisthenics?
Calisthenics is the practice of using your own body weight as resistance.
Instead of going to the gym to lift weights, you are lifting yourself.
While you may only weigh 140 lbs or even 200 lbs, you can actually create numerous variations of each exercise to make them more challenging, regardless of how much you weigh.
This guide will go over the best calisthenics exercises for every single body part, and teach you how to scale them so that you never run out of exercises to choose from.
Top 5 Benefits of Calisthenics / Bodyweight Training
There are several reasons why you should use your own body weight to work out.
Here are the top 5 benefits of calisthenic training…
1) You Can Do A Bodyweight Workout With No Equipment
Gym equipment is expensive. Gym memberships are expensive. Time spent traveling to and from the gym is expensive.
If you create a comprehensive calisthenic program, you will need to invest very little time and very little money to get started.
2) Bodyweight Training Can Be Done At Home
Not having access to a gym is one of the biggest barriers to fitness. Calisthenics fixes that.
The second biggest advantage of calisthenic training is that it can be done anytime, anywhere, including your own home.
No gym? No problem.
3) Bodyweight Training is Scalable To Your Level
It does not matter what level of strength you possess. I can find a bodyweight exercise that you will struggle with.
There are multiple ways to make any of these exercises more difficult. This guide will show you how to do that.
But that’s not all:
I will also show you how to make any exercise easier. Perhaps you aren’t yet strong enough to do a single pull-up. That’s okay, this guide will show you how to scale back the exercises too.
4) Bodyweight Exercises Increase Your Athleticism and Mobility
Bodyweight movements tend to be extremely functional. This means that they often mimic things we already do in real life.
As such, any strength you build through bodyweight programming is transferable to different skills in life that require any kind of athleticism.
5) Your Joints Can Handle High Bodyweight Training Volume
Unlike weight training, bodyweight exercises tend to respond better to higher volume.
This means you can and should do sets of 15+ reps.
When you do higher repetitions,
You incorporate a cardio component to your routine, giving you a 2 for 1 benefit
You increase blood flow to your joints which helps rehabilitate any injuries you may have
You increase your core engagement, as all calisthenic exercises require some degree of core stabilization
and the best part?
You burn more fat: Every bodyweight exercise incorporates multiple muscle groups at once, so more reps = more work = more calories burned!
Alright are you convinced yet?
Now let’s talk about the bodyweight exercises…
Chapter 2: The 6 Types of Calisthenic Exercises
Every calisthenic exercise should be classified into one of six functional movement patterns.
These are the only type of bodyweight exercises you need to build muscle, gain strength, and tone up.
#1 Upper Body Pushing Exercises:
The upper body pushing exercises train the pressing muscles of your upper body.
These muscles include
the anterior shoulders,
the medial shoulders
and the powerful triceps.
These exercises are important because they help teach you how to keep a stable shoulder position when you are pushing things away from you.
The upper body push can also be sub-classified into a horizontal push and a vertical push.
More on that later…
#2 Upper Body Pulling Exercises:
The upper body pulling exercises train the muscles of your back that bring objects towards you.
These muscles include
the posterior shoulders,
and the biceps
These exercises are important because they help to fix any muscular imbalances you may have in your shoulders and train your ability to pull yourself up off the ground or up onto a ledge.
The upper body pull can also be sub-classified into a horizontal pull and a vertical pull.
Again, more on that later…
#3 Knee Flexion Exercises:
The knee flexion exercises train the muscles that allow you to squat down and squat back up.
These muscles include
the various other muscles in the hip
and the glutes
These exercises are important because they ingrain your ability to squat down in a proper position. Before toilets were invented, we squatted down to relieve ourselves.
#4 Single Leg Exercises:
Single leg exercises train your ability to balance yourself on each leg individually. If you haven’t noticed already. You spend the majority of your day on one leg.
These exercises will strengthen
the core musculature
and all of the small stabilizer muscles that normally aren’t stimulated during bilateral exercises.
These exercises are important because they improve your overall balance and coordination while fixing any imbalances that may exist between your legs.
#5 Hip Extension Exercises:
The hip extension exercises train the powerful muscles of the posterior chain to help you flex and extend at the hip.
These muscles include
and the low back.
These exercises are important because they teach you the correct way to bend at the hips and decrease your chances of developing a lower back injury.
Lastly, we have…
#6 Core Stabilizing Exercises:
If you didn’t already know, sit-ups and crunches are not the best way to train your abs. is not the correct way to train your abs.
Instead, you need to train core stabilization. This is the ability to resist motion under load.
A common example of a core stabilization exercise is the plank and all of its variations.
In this post, we are going to focus on these Core 6 Movement Patterns. These are the exercises that 99% of the world should be able to do.
Alright, now that we have covered all of the basics, let’s actually move onto the fun stuff.
The next several chapters will cover the full list of calisthenic exercises by body part and by difficulty.
Chapter 3: The Best Calisthenic Exercises For Your Chest and Triceps
Everyone knows that the push-up is the most fundamental calisthenic movement.
And that’s with good reason. The push-up is one of the best exercises for developing upper body strength.
It gets better:
There are several different push-up variations you can choose from. It doesn’t matter if you are a novice or a skilled athlete.
Let’s go over the best ones.
The Standard Push-Up
The standard pushup is already a pretty good exercise all by itself.
In order to do it correctly, place your hands at the level of your chest, keep your butt squeezed and your abs engaged, and only bend at the elbows. Your torso should never change its position throughout the movement.
Here’s the most important part.
You must keep your scapula retracted at the bottom of the exercise, or else your shoulder can dip into internal rotation causing wear and tear of your shoulder joint.
It is also important to perform a full range of motion. In other words, your chest should gently graze the floor and your elbows should lockout every single rep.
Beginner Calisthenic Chest and Tricep Exercises
What if you struggle to do regular standard push-ups?
Here are three ways to scale the push-up back.
1) Wall Push-Ups
Stand approximately 4 feet away from a wall, and place your out-stretched hands on the wall at shoulder width, at the level of your chest.
Bend at the elbows and go down until your forehead touches the wall.
2) Incline Push-Ups
Find any object where you can press yourself off of. The higher the incline, the easier the exercise. As you continue to get stronger, make the incline shorter and shorter.
3) Kneeling Push-Ups
In this variation, you simply kneel and cross your feet behind you. The motion is the same as a standard push-up, but you aren’t lifting the weight of your legs.
From here you can increase the difficulty over time by bringing your hands closer together.
Intermediate Calisthenic Chest & Tricep Exercises
If you can easily do multiple sets of 15+ pushups (with good form) then you can increase the difficulty.
Here are the easiest ways to scale the pushup.
1) The Close Grip Push-Up
The closer your hands move, the more tricep dominant the lift becomes. This variation changes the leverage of the movement, allowing the arms to do more work.
Keep working on this variation until you could do pushups with your hands touching, aka diamond push-ups.
2) The Decline Push-Up
By placing your feet on a bench, you increase the amount of weight your arms have to lift. The decline push-up will train the upper chest a lot more since the angle at which you are pressing becomes more acute.
All of the standard push-up rules apply.
3) Decline Close Grip Push-Up
This variation combines the previous two exercises. Put your feet up on a box or bench and continuously bring your hands closer together until they can touch just like you did in step 2.
4) The Wide Grip Push-Up
In the wide push-up, simply set your hands much further than shoulder width. In order to do it properly, you will have to flare your elbows out more than a standard push-up.
One of the easiest ways to make the push-up more challenging is to change the tempo. In other words, simply do the reps slower.
Focus on doing a slow eccentric (the part where you lower yourself), pausing at the bottom of the movement and then doing a slow concentric (the part where you lift yourself.)
You can do 2 counts, or 3 counts, whatever you desire.
Advanced Calisthenic Chest & Tricep Exercises
Lastly, here are some of the more difficult push-up variations.
1) Uneven Pushups
The uneven push-up begins to train each arm individually.
By placing one hand higher than the other, you isolate the bottom arm to do more work overall. Just make sure to train both sides evenly.
As you get stronger, you can continue to elevate the platform on which you perform this exercise. The higher the elevation, the more work the bottom hand has to do.
The 1 Handed Push-up
The one hand push-up is an exercise that demonstrates a good deal of strength. Only attempt it if you have developed a great deal of strength in all of the other variations.
Initially, you may only be able to do it with a wide foot stance and a slight bend in the upper body, but as you get stronger, you can bring your feet closer together.
The Dynamic Push-Up
In the dynamic push-up, you simply explode up and propel your hands off the floor in between reps. Most people will add a clap to make the exercise look cooler than what it actually is.
Either way, the dynamic push-up is a great way to build explosive strength.
This is another handy-dandy way to make the push-up more difficult.
Put something heavy on your back.
If you really wanna show off, have someone sit on your upper back.
Or you can be one of the cool kids on the block and walk around with a weight vest.
Weight vests are great to have since they can be used in numerous types of exercise, including walking. If you can do the 1 handed push-up with a weight vest on, then you are a beast.
The Psuedo Planche Push-Up
The Psuedo Planche push-up brings your hands further down than a standard push-up, which changes the leverages of the exercise. The purpose of this exercise is to train your ability to press from your center of gravity.
It is a good idea to turn your hands down facing your feet to do this exercise.
As you get stronger, keep bringing your hands down closer to your waistline. Ultimately you should be able to do planche push-ups like shown below.
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Okay, now that we have just hammered our chest and triceps, let’s move on to the back and biceps.
Who wouldn’t like to have nice arms?
If you do, then keep reading.
Chapter 4: The Best Calisthenic Exercises For Your Back – The Pull
If you are like most people, you probably neglect your back muscles.
This is because we live in an anterior dominant society, and we focus on things in front of us. As a result, we tend to create muscular imbalances between the anterior side of our body and the posterior side.
But the good news is:
The bodyweight exercise library includes some of the best pulling movements to develop a strong back and even out those imbalances.
We will cover the absolute best ones below.
So with that, we will start with…
The Standard Pull-Up
The pull-up is to the upper body, what the squat is to the lower body.
It is a great measure of upper body strength and develops the entire upper back into a shredded map.
If you do not have one. Get one now on Amazon.
This is what a proper pull-up should look like.
Most people do this exercise incorrectly. You must focus on bringing your chest to the bar, not your chin!
I have seen people do whatever it takes to make sure they get their chin over the bar. Do not forget, we are training our back, not our neck extension.
Please don’t be one of those people.
Beginner Calisthenic Back Exercises
Many of you won’t be able to do a single pull-up.
That’s fine. Below is a list of great bodyweight exercises to help you get your first pull-up.
1) Wall Pulls
Find a doorway or a wall that is only ~8 inches wide where you can easily grasp both sides of it.
Make sure that you can grip it safely. Bring your feet as close to the wall as possible and let your arms fully extend which will shift your bodyweight backward.
Pull yourself back towards the wall and pinch your scapula together at the top. Slowly return back to the start.
2) Pull-Up Negatives
This is one of my favorite exercises. Find a box or a bench that will allow you to jump to the very top of the pull-up motion.
From there, slowly (and I mean slowly) lower yourself down to outstretched arms. Take at least 5 seconds on the descent. Repeat.
3) Feet Supported Pull-Ups
In this variation, find a box or chair that you can position in front of the bar to help you offload some of the weight. Rest your lower legs on the support and use your heels to help pull yourself up.
Do a pull-up negative to lower yourself back down to the starting position.
Once you feel comfortable performing all of the other scaled variations, chin-ups are another great way to start mastering the pull-up.
The exercise is almost exactly the same. Instead, you will use an underhand or supinated grip.
The chin-up is a little easier than pull-ups because you get to recruit more arm strength with an underhand grip. If you can do chin-ups, you should be able to do pull-ups.
The Inverted Row/Horizontal Pull-Up
This is the perfect exercise if you do not have a pull-up bar.
They can be done on a kitchen table (just make sure someone or something is supporting the other end just to be safe).
You can increase the difficulty of the horizontal pull-up by going from a bent knee to a straight knee variation.
Intermediate Calisthenic Back Exercises
Maybe you are in the top 20% and you can easily get 12+ reps of clean, full range of motion pull-ups.
If you are, then here is how to keep progressing.
Close Grip Pull-Ups
The closer your hands move, the more work your arms have to do to get yourself above the bar.
Keep bringing your hands closer together until you do pull-ups with your hands touching.
Chest To Bar Pull-ups
This variation increases the difficulty of the exercise because it requires you to bring your chest to physically touch the bar on each repetition. You may need some momentum to help you, but it is important to not swing excessively.
Just like the dynamic push-ups, this exercise can help train explosive strength.
The Wide Grip Pull-Up
Wide grip pull-ups place a greater emphasis in upper back development, particularly the lattissimus dorsi. Place your hands at least 2 fist-widths further than shoulder width on each side.
In this exercise, you are simply going to extend your legs out in front of you creating an L shape with your body. You will do pull-ups like you normally would while maintaining the L shape.
This exercise helps stabilize your body and activates your core musculature.
Advanced Calisthenic Back Exercises
Lastly, here are the most advanced calisthenic exercises for your back.
Pseudo 1-Arm Pull-ups
Here is when you get to show off. Grasp the bar with an underhand grip with one hand, then grasp your forearm with the other hand. Do as many as you can on each side.
Assisted 1 Arm Pull-ups
Straddle a towel on the bar and grip the towel with one hand and the bar with your other hand. The hand on the bar has to do more work. The lower down you grasp on the towel, the harder the exercise becomes.
Just make sure to train both sides evenly.
If you have mastered all of these variations. Then there’s nothing left but to add some external resistance. You can do this by.
3) A dumbbell between your crossed legs
Here is a great youtube video showing how to do it properly.
The Muscle Up
Another great pull-up variation is the muscle up. This is an advanced exercise, so unless you have mastered all of the other steps, do not attempt this.
Remember the chest to bar pull-ups from earlier?
In order to do a muscle up, you need to be able to bring your waist to the bar!
From this position, you can quickly flip your elbows upward and go into a bodyweight dip.
Don’t try this at home.
Alright, so that wraps up the pulling section.
Now let’s move onto vertical pushing, to develop shoulders stronger than boulders.
Chapter 5: The Best Calisthenic Exercises For Your Shoulders- The Vertical Push
Who doesn’t like a nice set of arms?
Well developed arms have always been a sign of strength.
Sadly, our generation believes that the best way to develop your arm muscles is to do an endless amount of bicep curls and tricep push downs.
Thankfully, there are much more functional ways to develop your ‘gunz.’
In this chapter, we will go over some powerful bodyweight movements to help shape your triceps and your shoulders.
First up is…
The Pike Push-Up
Now it’s time to develop the shoulders in a vertical pressing motion. The pike push-up is the best way to do just that.
What’s a pike pushup?
It is the intermediate exercise between the standard push-up and the handstand push-up.
The truth is…
You need to be able to get into a comfortable handstand position to maximize the health and strength of your shoulders.
So let’s get started with the pike pushup.
Bend down and put your hands on the floor at shoulder width. From here, get onto your tippy-toes and try to create a V shape by bringing your hands and feet as close together as possible.
From this position, bend at the elbows at a ~60-degree angle from your body until the top of your head touches the ground.
Pause for a second, and press back up by pushing hard against the floor with your hands.
Beginner Calisthenic Shoulder Exercises
For some of you, pike push-ups might be too difficult.
That’s ok. The shoulder muscles are small and often very weak compared to some of the other muscles in the upper body.
Here are a couple of ways to scale the exercise back.
1) Kneeling Pike Push-Ups
Similar to the kneeling push-up, kneel down on a mat and then create the pike position. From here bring the top of your head to the floor.
2) Incline Pike Push-Ups
Place your hands on the edge of a table or chair and get into the V shape of the pike push-up (on your tippy toes). From here perform the pike push-up as seen above. The higher the ledge, the easier the exercise and vice versa.
As you get stronger, continue lowering the incline.
Eventually, you should be able to do them on the floor.
Intermediate Calisthenic Shoulder Exercises
If you are an intermediate, you may find pike push-ups easy.
If you can get 15+ reps of pike push-ups easily, then you can try adding a progression.
Here’s how to do it.
1) Close Grip Pike Push-Ups
Just like the push-up, the pike push-up becomes much harder as your hands move closer together. Keep bringing your hands closer together until you do them with your hands touching.
2) Decline Pike Push-ups
Ok, get ready. This variation gets much harder.
Elevate your feet on top of a chair and position yourself in the same V shape. The chair will put significantly more weight on to your shoulders, making the exercise much more difficult.
3) Wall Hand Stands
At this point, you should be ready to tackle a handstand. Face a wall and stand ~6 inches away from it. Kneel down on your hands and knees and bend one knee up towards your head while the other is extended straight behind you.
Secure your hands on the floor at approximately shoulder width, with your arms extended and locked.
From here, kick off hard with the bent knee, which should help you propel both legs up into the air and towards the wall. Gently find the wall with the heels of your feet and extend your entire body.
Keep everything tight and locked.
Advanced Calisthenic Shoulder Exercises
Alright, now to the tough exercises.
Once you are comfortable in a handstand, feel free to begin bending at the elbows and performing push-ups until your head is touching the floor on every rep.
Close Grip Hand Stand Push-ups
This is the most difficult variation of all. Bring your hands closer than shoulder width to increase the demand on your arms.
If you can do close grip handstand push-ups, then you are a certified beast.
Free Standing Hand Stand Push-ups
Once you are good at hand stand push-ups. Start working your way towards free standing hand stands with push-ups.
The shoulders are a complex muscle group – so much so that we created an entire post just for the shoulders.
Okay, so I think we have sufficiently hit the upper body. Did I mention that all of the exercises above also train your core?
That’s the beauty of calisthenic exercises. They are automatically compound exercises whether you meant for them to be or not.
Now, the next chapter will teach you how to develop legs that are strong and aesthetic!
Chapter 6: The Best Calisthenic Exercises For Your Legs- The Squat
Legs are starting to become one of the most popular muscle groups in the fitness industry.
As the strongest muscle group in the entire body, they can do some serious things! With that said, if you want to develop your legs, you need to perform some type of squatting exercise.
In this chapter, we cover the best squatting exercises you can perform, regardless of your level.
Of course, we are going to start with…
Now its time to move on to the best bodyweight exercises for legs: the squat.
You may not want to read this, but here we go…
You probably don’t know how to squat.
Most people don’t.
The squat is the most fundamental human movement. If you didn’t already know, toilets are a man-made creation. Before the invention of toilets, we had to poop on the floor in a deep squat.
But because you are constantly sitting down all day, you probably have lost the ability to do it correctly.
In a perfect squat,
Your hips should be below your knees when looking from the side
Your feet should remain flat on the floor the entire time
Your knees should never create a valgus angle (i.e, never let your knees be more medial than your feet)
Your spine should remain in a neutral position.
Beginner Calisthenic Leg Exercises
If you cannot perform basic squats, don’t be embarrassed. Many people can’t.
But here’s the truth.
99% of people in this world, can and should be able to perform perfect squats.
Here’s how to work up to them.
1) The Half Squat
Not everyone will be able to do a full squat simply due to flexibility. If you can’t, then perform the squat as low as you can comfortably go. Over time, you will gain more range of motion and be able to go lower.
2) The Full Depth Supported Squat
In this exercise, you will simply have a chair or something that you can use to help push yourself back up from the bottom position.
The purpose of this exercise is to get you comfortable going all the way down to a full range of motion squat.
Basically, you will then use both your arms and your legs to squat back up.
3) The Box Squat
Here’s another variation you can add to the mix that will help you get to full squats. Simply squat down onto a chair or a sturdy box and pause at the sitting position for a 1 count.
From here, push down firmly into the ground to stand back up without the use of your hands.
Start out with a high chair, and slowly make the chair or the box lower and lower.
The Wall Sit
I hate this exercise.
Why? Because it burns like crazy. Simply squat down to the bottom position with your back firmly against a wall and hold it. You can also add weight in the form of books or people on your thighs to make the exercise harder.
Intermediate Calisthenic Leg Exercises
It is absolutely important that you can do squats correctly before making them harder.
Your form should be perfect!
Is your form perfect and you can do 20+ reps? Ok, so let’s move on.
Here’s how to make squats more challenging.
1) Weighted Squats
Strange that we are starting with this one right?
Unlike many of the other muscles in your body, your legs have already been carrying all of your body weight since you started walking. They are already strong!
You are already squatting several times per day each time you sit, stand and pick something up (regardless of how ugly your form may be.)
That’s why it is important to add weight to this exercise early. Your legs can handle it.
You can simply use old dumbbells lying around, a weight vest, heck you can even place heavy books in a backpack and wear that.
2) Close Stance Squats
Just like the upper body exercises, you can increase the difficulty of the squat by moving your feet closer together.
Unlike the push-ups, you will eventually be limited by your flexibility. But if you can perform squats with your heels touching, then you are bad-ass.
3) Tempo Pause Squats
Another simple way to add variety and difficulty is to perform the reps slowly and pause at the bottom. Perform them with a 3-2-3 tempo.
Simple, yet effective.
Advanced Calisthenic Leg Exercises
The only thing left to do is squat on one leg. Here’s how.
1 Leg Box Squat
This exercise requires a sturdy box or a chair. Simple stand ~6 inches in front of it and balance yourself on one leg. From here, begin squatting down in a smooth controlled motion while keeping your other leg straight out in front of you for balance.
Slowly sit down on the box, pause for a 1 count and push back up with the working leg, while never letting your other leg touch the ground.
Here is the most difficult progression. The 1 leg squat, also known as pistol squats. There is no box, and you are squatting all the way down on one leg and coming all the way back up.
It should come as no surprise that you need to have adequate flexibility in all of the joints in your lower body to do this exercise.
If you cannot perform this exercise, you can perform pistol negatives off of a box, or a supported pistol where you use your arms to help you come back up.
While not technically a squat, the box jump is another variation of the explosive squat. Crouch down, forcefully extend at the hips and jump onto a sturdy box in a semi squat position.
This exercise is included in the advanced section as it requires a great degree of athleticism, coordination, and balance. Don’t underestimate this exercise, and do it correct!
Alright, so that wraps up the squat chapter.
But we aren’t done with the legs. You still have to be able to demonstrate split strength too.
I’ll show you.
Chapter 7: The Best Calisthenic Exercises For Balance and Coordination: Single Leg Training
If you want to improve your overall strength and athleticism, you also have to include single leg training in your exercise routine.
Here’s the deal:
Single leg exercises will improve your balance, your coordination and strengthen stabilizer muscles you didn’t even know existed.
Which single leg exercises are the best? This chapter will cover them in detail.
Leading off is…
Lunges are what separate the adults from the children.
They require intense concentration, above average balance, and excellent coordination.
Plus, they increase functional strength and hip mobility. Not too many exercises can do all of that at once!
So how do you perform lunges correctly?
Stand with your feet together and step backward as far as you comfortably can with one foot while you begin to crouch into a lunge.
You will know that you are in an optimal lunge position if your front leg is at least at a 90-degree angle in the bottom position, and the back knee is directly under or behind your hip.
Pause at the bottom of the lunge and push back up with the front leg to the starting position with your feet together. As always, never let your front knee deviate inwards (fall into a valgus position.)
Beginner Single Leg Calisthenic Exercises
If you have poor hip flexibility, you will probably struggle with maintaining good form on the lunge.
No worries, here are a few simple ways to scale back this incredible exercise.
1) The Split Squat
Simply stand with your feet as far apart as you comfortably can. Point your toes forward and maintain a tall neutral spine. From here squat straight down slowly, and come right back up slowly.
If you need to, you can hold onto something for support.
2) The Step Up
Everyone has seen this exercise before.
But did you know you can use it as a great progression exercise for the lunge? Find a sturdy box or a low chair that you can step onto with one leg at a time.
AVOID using momentum and focus on really driving all of the pressure into the front foot. DO NOT push off with the back leg.
Always start with a low box. (Disclaimer – In this picture, the box is relatively high!)
Over time, find a box that is taller as you get stronger.
Intermediate/Advanced Single Leg Calisthenic Exercises
Everyone does lunges on a regular basis. It happens every time you bend down to pick something up or to tie your shoes.
But after a while, doing a reverse lunge will become easy. If you can master 15+ balanced, beautiful reps per side, then you can make the exercise more challenging.
1) Walking Lunges
One of the easiest ways to increase the difficulty of the exercise is to start walking.
Instead of doing reverse lunges like before, you have to step forward. You will notice that moving forward will require more balance and coordination.
You don’t need a lot of room to do it. I live in a small NYC apartment and there’s ample room to do walking lunges.
All you need is enough space to take at least 3-4 steps forward, then turn around and forward lunge back to where you started and so on and so forth.
2) Lateral Lunge
In this variation, you lunge towards your side rather than in front/behind you. This exercise trains the adductor muscles more than anything, but another exercise you can add to your arsenal.
3) Deficit Reverse Lunge
This exercise simply increases the difficulty of the reverse lunge by increasing the range of motion of the exercise. Simply keep the front foot elevated on a sturdy box.
4) The Bulgarian Split Squat
If you are up for a challenge, then here it is. Place the dorsal aspect of one foot on a chair/box and step forward with your other foot as far as you comfortably can. From here go down into a deep lunge and come back up.
This exercise increases the stability demands of the exercise, while further opening up your hip flexors.
5) Weighted Bulgarian Split Squats
Just like the squat, you will notice that your lunge strength is pretty darn strong.
It will be an exercise that you can add resistance to pretty quickly. You know how to do this.
Ok, so we have hit the front of our legs pretty good there.
Now it’s time to hit the back. The moment the ladies have been waiting for.
Chapter 8: The Best Calisthenic Exercises For Your Glutes- Hip Extension
No guide to bodyweight exercises is complete without including a chapter on the glutes.
Having a strong, well-developed set of glutes has two major benefits.
1) It looks good
2) They help to stabilize your pelvis and keep your spine healthy
So training for a bigger butt doesn’t have to be all about vanity.
Here is the top list of calisthenic glute exercises…
The Glute Bridge
This exercise looks deceptively simple. Well, that’s because it is.
But here’s the truth:
The glute bridge is a highly effective exercise at training hip extension, a key movement pattern we can all improve!
It does this by activating the glute muscles while stabilizing your core.
This exercise is best performed for high repetitions.
Work your way up to 30+ repetitions. You may also feel this exercise in your hamstrings, and that’s ok. However, the focus should be primarily on your glutes.
Beginner Calisthenic Glute Exercises
Not many people will have difficulty with the glute bridge but if you do, here’s a similar exercise you can perform to obtain the same training effect.
1) The Kneeling Squat
Simply kneel down with your feet behind you and sit on your heels. From this position, forcefully extend at the hips by squeezing your glutes hard. Naturally, you will rise to the final position.
This is a great exercise to learn the difference between hip extension and lumbar extension.
You can then increase the difficulty of this exercise by adding external resistance.
The Hip Thrust
This variation is useful because 1) It increases the distance you have to extend and 2) it allows you to easily load the exercise up with external resistance by placing weight on your lap.
To make this exercise more challenging, you can also elevate your legs to increase the distance you have to work.
Intermediate Calisthenic Glute Exercises
It shouldn’t take you long to be able to master the glute bridge. However, I do recommend that you be able to perform around 30 repetitions of this exercise before moving on.
Here’s how to make them harder.
The Straight Bridge
This is a more challenging version of the lying glute bridge. In this bodyweight exercise, you will sit up with your legs extended in front of you and your hands by your side. From here, you will push up hard by squeezing your glutes until your hips achieve a neutral position.
1) Single Leg Glute Bridge
The exercise is as simple as it sounds. Extend one leg out in front of you and pick yourself up using just one glute at a time. This is not as easy as it looks.
Focus on achieving complete extension. There shouldn’t be a bend at your waist.
2) Feet Elevated Glute Bridge
By raising your feet onto a box or a chair, you increase the distance you have to extend.
From here, you can also progress to a single leg variation of the foot elevated glute bridge.
Advanced Calisthenic Glute Exercises
There isn’t a ton of variety when it comes to advanced calisthenic glute exericses. Here is the best one.
The Ball Leg Curl
This exercise requires the use of an inflatable stability ball. Place your heels on a stability ball while lying completely flat on your back. From this position, squeeze your glutes to extend your hips and then flex your hamstrings to curl the ball towards you.
Slowly return to the starting position while making sure that your hips are still extended.
So that takes care of both the upper body and the legs.
There’s only 1 thing left to tackle.
The most important muscle group of all, the core.
Chapter 9: The Best Calisthenic Exercises For Your Abs
It’s no secret that almost everyone has desired to have a six pack at some point in their lives.
Maybe you still do.
Either way, it is important to train your core muscles with functional bodyweight exercises.
Contrary to popular belief, the sit-up is not the best way to train or develop your core.
Instead, you need to focus on core stabilizing exercises like the ones we will cover in this chapter.
So in order to get started, we need to begin with the most fundamental core exercise of all. Here is a list of the best calisthenic core exercises.
Beginner Calisthenic Ab Exercises
So simple, yet so intricate.
The plank is one of the few exercises that actually requires activation of almost every major muscle group in the body.
The best part?
It gets your abs ready to tackle other more challenging core exercises.
In order to do this exercise correctly, make sure that you are on your tippy toes with your body as straight as possible. Squeeze everything! Your core, your glutes, your quads, your chest, and your triceps.
This will get you into the habit of achieving total body tightness.
Lying Knee Tucks
This is the simplest variation of the leg raise. Simply sit on the floor and place your hands on the floor at your sides for support.
Bring your knees towards your chest, pause for a 1 count and extend your knees back out without letting your feet touch the ground.
Cross your arms across your chest and elevate your upper back so that your lower back is flush against the wall.
Straight Leg Raises
While lying completely flat on the floor, you are going to bring your legs straight up until they are perfectly parallel to the ground and slowly return them back to the starting position.
Do not let your feet touch the ground and do not bend your knees.
Intermediate Calisthenic Ab Exercises
You must be able to hold the plank for at least 1 minute before moving on.
Some experts even advocate to hold it for 2 minutes!
If you can do at least 1 minute of perfect form, then here’s how to progress.
1) The 3 Limb Plank
This is simple. All you have to do is elevate one foot off the ground and balance yourself on the other 3 limbs. Make sure that you do both sides. Go for at least 45 seconds on each side.
2) The 2 Limb Plank
This variation increases the difficulty by requiring you to lift one leg and the contralateral arm.
Aim for 30 seconds on each side.
3) The Decline Plank
By elevating your feet on a chair, you are increasing the demands that your core has to work. Once you have mastered this variation, you can then perform the 3 Limb Plank followed by a 2 Limb Plan while on the decline.
4) The Weighted Plank
This is one of my favorite exercises. Simply load up a great deal of external resistance onto your mid back and let it rip.
You can also have someone sit on your back if you are really strong. 30 seconds is the goal.
5) The Side Plank
Then there’s the trusty side plank variation. The side plank hammers the oblique muscle, which has been found to improve low back pain when strengthened.
In this exercise, you will be supported on just one elbow and the side of your foot.
Keep your body in as straight a line as possible and don’t forget to squeeze your glutes and brace your core hard. Aim for 45 seconds on each side.
Advanced Calisthenic Ab Exercises
Once you have mastered the plank and the lying leg raises, it is time to move on to some more advanced exercises.
Here is a video demonstrating the progression to this challenging exercise.
Hanging Leg Raises/Toes To Bar
1) Hanging Straight Leg Raises
For this variation, you will not bend your knees at all. Keep your legs locked out and bring them up towards your chest by flexing your abs hard.
The goal is to reach a perfect 90-degree angle with your legs.
Slowly lower back down to the start. DO NOT SWING.
2) Hanging Knees To Elbows
Next, you are going to increase the distance you have to work. Brace your core and bring your knees to touch your elbows in a slow controlled manner. It is ok to have your knees bent.
You will have to gently lean back in order to fully accomplish this exercise.
3) Toes To Bar
For the final variation, you are expected to bring your feet from the bottom position, all the way up to touch the bar without bending your knees.
This exercise requires a great deal of core strength. Just like the knees to elbows, you will have to gently lean back to perform it.
Dragon Flag Negatives
For this exercise you will need something to hold onto behind you for support such as a pole or the back of a bench if you are laying on one.
The video below will demonstrate all of the progressions leading to this exercise.
In the first variation, simply bring your knees to your elbows and slowly return back to the starting position
The second variation requires you to bring your knees to your elbows and then extend your legs straight up to the ceiling, before bringing your knees back down to your elbows and finally back to the starting position
Lastly, in the third variation, you will perform dragon flag negatives, by slowly lowering your legs from the fully extended position back down to the starting position.
Alright, so that just about wraps it up for our bodyweight training manual.
There’s one last thing we need to cover.
Chapter 10: How To Start Calisthenics – Creating Your Own Bodyweight Program
Now it’s time for me to show you how to put it all together.
In this chapter, I will teach you how to start calisthenics today.
Not next week, not in the new year.
How To Use This Bodyweight Program
So what’s the best way to use this guide?
Just follow these 7 steps.
Pick one exercise from each of the 7 chapters above and perform them 1-2 times per week.
Do 2-3 exercises per day on each training session. You can divide the workouts up however you like. You can do upper/lower body splits or you can mix and match and do full body training splits.
Perform anywhere from 8-15 repetitions of each exercise for at least 2-4 sets.
If you cannot perform at least 8-15 repetitions per set, then scale the exercise back to an easier variation.
If you can easily do more than 12-15 reps, scale the exercise up to a more difficult variation.
Your training session can be done in the morning before work, or after work.
Do not spend more than 20 minutes on the workout.
As you have already seen, you don’t need much. You already possess most of what you will ever need.
Here is a sample week of what your home workout program may look like.
Sample Calisthenics Workout Plan For Beginners
Continue mixing and matching the exercises until you have reached the advanced level calisthenic exercises.
We have a complete guide covering how to design your workout more thoroughly which you can find here – Calisthenics For Beginners: The Complete Guide.
Or, if you prefer not to make your own program, you can follow a proven calisthenic workout plan.
This is why we created the WCT Home Workout Program; a comprehensive exercise routine that trains the full body in as little as 20 minutes a day.
It doesn’t matter if you are an absolute beginner or you have a lot of experience.
All exercises come with progressions and regressions so that you can challenge yourself regardless of your skill level.
Calisthenic Training Goals- How do You Measure Up?
If you want to be a bodyweight champion, then you need to have some numbers to back it up.
These are what I would consider as ‘Advanced’ and what you should strive to achieve.
How long will it take you to achieve this? It depends on how hard you work, and how bad you want the goal.
So what are the standards?
Here they go…
One Hand Push-Up Standard:
Men: 8 repetitions each side 1 set
Women: 3 repetitions each side 1 set
Chest To Bar Pull-Up Standard:
Men: 15 repetitions 1 set
Women: 8 repetitions 1 set
Hand Stand Push-Up Standard:
Men: 5 repetition 1 set
Women: 1 repetition 1 set
Pistol Squat Standard:
Men: 5 repetitions each leg 1 set
Women: 5 repetitions each leg 1 set
Bulgarian Split Squat Standard:
Men: 25 repetitions each leg 1 set
Women: 25 repetitions each leg 1 set
Men: 2-minute hold
Women: 2-minute hold
Go Use This List of Calisthenic Exercises To Build, Tone, and Strengthen Your Muscles Today
So that’s my ultimate list of calisthenic exercises.
Next you should read:
- Calisthenics For Beginners: Full Guide + Free Workout
- How Many Days A Week Should I Workout?
- How Long Should I Workout For?
- How Many Exercises Should I Do Per Workout?
Now I want to turn it over to you: what did you think about this guide?
Or maybe there’s something I missed.
Let me know by leaving a comment below, and don’t forget to share this guide if you found it useful.