Calisthenics For Women [How To Start + Free Beginner Workout]

If you’re a woman who wants to get strong without lifting weights then this article is for you!

Specifically, you’ll learn

  • advantages women have over men when it comes to training,
  • the 6 best calisthenics exercises for women, and
  • a simple workout routine you can do at home with minimal equipment

Let’s get started.

calisthenics for women- how to get started even as a busy professional cover image


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Okay, let’s get started.

Advantages Women Have Over Men In Training

Compared to men, women:

  • can handle more training volume than men,
  • are able to recover faster from their workouts, and
  • naturally have strong lower bodies.

With that said, women have lower testosterone levels than men and have lower baseline muscle mass.

As a result, you may not progress as quickly as a male in some movement patterns.

However, you can still achieve amazing results as long as you follow a proper training program.

This leads me to the benefits of training with bodyweight for women.

The Major Benefits of Calisthenics for Women

Here are the main benefits of bodyweight training for women.

Provides A Simple Way To Tone Your Upper Body

Women tend to have strong lower bodies compared to their upper bodies. Calisthenics provides a simple, safe, and progressive way to develop the muscles of the upper body.

The best part is, there are only four movement patterns you need to learn.

(More on that later).

Calisthenics Won’t Make You Bulky

Getting bulky is a common fear you might have regarding training.

The good news is- you won’t get bulky from calisthenics.

This is especially true since you are only handling your own body weight.

Improve Your Fitness With Minimal Time Commitment

Calisthenics is perfect for women trying to get strong and healthy while maintaining a busy schedule.

That’s because calisthenics exercises are very efficient due to their compound nature. This means that you can get multiple muscle groups worked out at the same time.

In addition, you don’t need to spend a lot of time warming up for bodyweight exercises like you need to do for weight training.

benefits-of-calisthenics-for-women-1. many-exercises-tone-upper-body-2. wont-make-you-bulky-3. workout-efficiently-4. low-impact-5. can-do-it-anywhere

Calisthenics Is Low Impact

Another major benefit with calisthenics is that you are only using your body weight – so it can be easier on your joints compared to heavy weights.

This is perfect for beginners just learning the movements, or for experienced women needing more volume.

It Can Be Done Anywhere

Last but not least…

You get all the other major benefits of bodyweight training. You don’t need a gym membership or any fancy equipment to do these exercises.

You can literally work out anywhere, anytime.

Now let’s go over the actual exercises.

The Best Bodyweight Exercises For Women

The best calisthenics exercises for women are:

  • The Horizontal Push,
  • The Vertical Push,
  • The Horizontal Pull,
  • The Vertical Pull,
  • The Knee Flexion Movements, and
  • The Hip Extension Movements

These six exercises will train the entire body and should make up the start of your calisthenics journey.

Now let’s go over each one by one.

The Horizontal Push:

Push-ups are the classic bodyweight movement that trains the horizontal pushing pattern.

This movement develops the

  • chest,
  • shoulders,
  • triceps, and
  • core

The beauty of this exercise is that there are many variations you can do, regardless of your fitness level.

It starts with the incline push-up.

brittany doing a pushup on an incline with her hands elevated on a tall stool

To do it, find a bench or chair and place your hands on it.

The taller the incline the easier the exercise. Start with the height where you feel most comfortable!

Step back, rise up onto the balls of your feet, lean forward, and keep your torso neutral.

Keep your butt muscles engaged and brace your core.

Lower yourself to the chair by bending both elbows simultaneously-keeping them tucked close to your body.

Once you’ve made contact with the chair, reverse the movement by extending your elbows while keeping your core braced.

As you get stronger, continue to lower the incline as needed.

The Vertical Push:

The vertical push traditionally trains the shoulders from an overhead position. It is the prerequisite to learning the handstand.

But many people will also throw dips into the vertical push category as it focuses on the shoulders and triceps.

Dips are an amazing exercise to develop a lot of pushing strength!

The best beginner progression is the foot-assisted dip.

Here’s what the movement looks like.

brittany crouching between two chairs with her hands on the seats and bending her elbows to dip down and then press back up

When doing this exercise make sure to keep your shoulder blades back at the bottom position.

As you get stronger you can then progress to full dips.

The Horizontal Pull:

If you’re looking to build some strength in your upper back, the horizontal row is one of the best ways to do it.

This exercise does require some equipment, but it is cheap and simple to get.

You can do it with a

suspension trainer,

gymnastic rings,

brittany holding her body horizontally hanging on gymnastic rings as she pulls her upper body up towards the rings

or a sturdy table.

brittany holding her body horizontally hanging from the edge of a strudy table with her lower body under the table, pulling her upper body up towards the table

So, set your equipment to about hip height and place both hands on it.

Position your legs underneath it so that your torso is parallel to the ground.

Keeping your core braced, pull yourself up towards the bar by bending at the elbow joints.

In the top position, you should squeeze your shoulder blades together and pause for 1 second.

Lower yourself back down under control until you have returned to starting position by extending at the elbow joints.

The Vertical Pull

The vertical pull -aka the pull-up develops the muscles of the upper back as well as the biceps.

I know that many women can’t do this exercise but I will show you how to get your first pull-up!

If you can’t do a pull-up – here is a four-step progression to help you get there!

  1. Active Hangs
  2. Chin-up isometrics
  3. Band Assist chin-ups
  4. Chin-up negatives

Active Hangs

The active hang teaches you what a pull-up should feel like in the first part of the movement.

In other words, it develops the bottom half of the movement.

While hanging from the bar with arms fully extended and feet off the ground, actively engage your back muscle to pull yourself up towards the bar without bending your elbows.

brittany hanging from a pullup bar and retracting her shoulder blades

The movement should only come from squeezing your shoulder blades together.

Slowly release and return back to the starting position.

Chin-up Isometrics

A chin-up isometric will help strengthen your biceps for the top half of the exercise.

We start with a chin-up grip because you will naturally be stronger with this grip than with the standard pull-up grip.

Grab the bar with an underhand/supinated grip that’s slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Next, use a chair or a bench to jump up to the top of the chin-up position.

brittany at the top of a chin up position with her palms facing toward her

Hold this position for as long as you can while maintaining your chin above the bar.

Band Assist Chin-ups

To do the band-assist chin-up, you will need access to a long closed-loop resistance band.

Anchor one loop of the band on the bar and let the other loop dangle down.

Next, place one or both feet into the band and grab the bar with an underhand grip.

brittany performing a pullup using a resistance band anchored on the bar and under her left knee to help assist her on the way up

Pull yourself up by engaging your shoulder blades and bending your elbows. The band will help you get your chin above the bar. Slowly lower yourself back down and repeat.

Chin-up Negatives

The chin-up negative will strengthen the entire range of motion of the exercise but in reverse order.

Grab the bar with an underhand grip that’s just wider than shoulder-width apart. Next, jump up to the top of a chin-up position as you did before. Next, Slowly lower yourself down as slow as you can possibly go.

Make sure to extend all the way down by letting your elbows completely straighten.

Jump back to the top and repeat.

Once you have mastered these four exercises, you should be able to do pull-ups on your own!

Knee Flexion Exercises

Knee flexion exercises encompass all quadricep dominant movements such as bodyweight squats, lunges, and step-ups.

There are so many different variations to choose from and so many ways to progress each exercise.

Here are some of the more advanced exercises you can do if you find regular squats and lunges too easy.

Single-Leg Box Squats

brittany squatting down to a high chair with just one leg

Split Squats

brittany lunging down as her front foot is elevated on a small stepping stool

Step Ups

brittany stepping up on a small stepping stool with one leg at a time

Hip Extension Exercises

Hip extension exercises work the backside of your legs. Specifically, the gluteus muscles, and the hamstrings.

Hip extension exercises are also great for athletic performance as well as spinal health, pelvic alignment, and aesthetics.

Here are some of my favorites:

Hip Thrust

brittany sitting in front of a bench with knees bent and feet flat on the ground and extending her hips up toward the ceiling

Single Leg Hip Hinges

brittany bending at the hips and bringing her torso parallel to the ground on one leg

Sliding Leg Curls

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

Core Exercises

Last but not least, you should also train your core.

brittany lying on her back with her lower back flat on the ground with her arms and legs straight and off the floor- the hollow-body-hold-exercise

I have an entire article on the best core exercises for calisthenics right here.

Okay now that you have the best bodyweight exercises, it’s time to turn them into a workout!

A Simple Calisthenics Workout For Beginners

Okay here is a super simple bodyweight strength training workout you can do from home!

For this workout, you will need access to a pull-up bar and something to do the horizontal pulling movements.

Here it is:

The Upper Body Workout

Incline Push-ups210-12
Inverted Row212
Foot Assisted Dips28
Chin-up Regression2Max

The Lower Body Workout

Squat /Knee Flexion Exercise315
Hip Thrusts315
Core Exercise310-12

How To Use This Bodyweight Workout

I recommend that you alternate between the two workouts, for three sessions per week.

So your schedule will look like this.

Week 1

  • Monday: Upper Body Workout
  • Tuesday: Off
  • Wednesday: Lower Body Workout
  • Thursday: Off
  • Friday: Upper Body Workout
  • Saturday/Sunday: Off

Week 2

  • Monday: Lower Body Workout
  • Tuesday: Off
  • Wednesday: Upper Body Workout
  • Thursday: Off
  • Friday: Lower Body Workout
  • Saturday/Sunday: Off

And here is a calisthenics warm up you can prior to each workout.

Women’s Calisthenics Workout Plan PDF

I have also created a PDF version of this workout that includes a 3-day plan or a 4-day workout plan.

It also goes over more details on how to structure your workout.

If you’re interested, enter your email below and I’ll send it to you!

Other Related Questions

Calisthenics vs weights- Which one is better?

You should do calisthenics if you

  • want to work out using little to no equipment,
  • you like the option of being able to exercise anywhere,
  • and you have very little time to workout. (More time is usually needed to warm up for weight lifting)

You should do weights if

  • you enjoy using external resistance,
  • want to build a lot of muscle in the lower body,
  • and you feel comfortable handling weights.

Both have amazing benefits, and you can’t go wrong with either.

How often should women train calisthenics?

Women who are new to fitness might want to start with three days a week. This will allow your body to recover and adapt before progressing to more intense routines.

You shouldn’t need to exercise more than four to five times per week.

Can you build muscle with calisthenics?

You can build muscle with calisthenics, but the amount of muscle you build will depend on your diet and your consistency.

You likely won’t build as much muscle in the lower body compared to weights, but you can gain a lot of relative strength!

Can everyone do calisthenics?

Everyone can do calisthenics because anyone of any fitness level can find exercises to challenge themselves.

This is especially true if you are a beginner with no experience.

Every exercise regresses, and every exercise progresses.

Final Words On Calisthenics Training For Women

So in conclusion, calisthenics is a great way to get started with fitness. You’ll be able to take your workout anywhere, and there are so many different exercises you can do! It’s perfect for women who want an all-around healthy lifestyle while being realistic in their goals.

Now I want to hear from you.

Why do you want to start calisthenics?

Comment below and let us know!


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

Alex & Brittany Robles are physicians, NASM CPTs, health & fitness experts, and founders of The White Coat Trainer: a site dedicated to improving the health and fitness of busy professionals. Their advice has been featured on KevinMD, The Doctor Weighs In, My Fitness Pal, Reader’s Digest, Livestrong, and The Active Times. Learn more about them here.

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