From Cut and Jacked
Some people remember the word calisthenics from way back, maybe from their grandparents. But believe me, there’s nothing old or outdated about it.
Calisthenics is the foundation of all exercise routines. In fact, after witnessing a decrease of interest in the past, with all the new fitness machines coming up, recently, bodyweight exercises are back in the spotlight. And for good reason.
They can increase strength, resistance, and help you build lean muscle. Did I mention you can do all of that from the comfort of your home, with no equipment whatsoever?
If you’re still not convinced, I’m going to show you the benefits of calisthenics and how you can create a great workout only with bodyweight exercises.
Guide to Calisthenics
In short, calisthenics are exercises you can do with no equipment, just your body weight. You can create circuits, high-intensity interval training sessions, but also low impact workouts.
Benefits of calisthenics include improving cardiovascular health, resistance, and aiding in lowering blood sugar. (1)
Calisthenics has several effects on fitness performance starting from an early age and continuing to adults. It is also a quick and easy way to get back to a normal fitness routine after an injury. (2)
When doing bodyweight exercises it is important to focus on proper form. Just because you’re not using heavy weights, doesn’t mean you can’t get injured. Always be mindful of how you feel.
Push yourself just enough to see progress, but not so much that you end up in pain.
If you’re a beginner, remember to start small. Most exercises can be adapted for any fitness level, so use the one that suits you the most.
Remember, you should aim for progress, not perfection. You may not be able to do 3 sets of 15 repetitions of an exercise today, but if you do just one more rep than yesterday, it means you’re making progress.
Best Upper Body Calisthenics Workout Plan
You begin in a plank position just like before. However, for the push-up, you have a few modifications available.
Your feet can be as wide or as close to each other as it feels comfortable. The wider they will be, the more support and stability you’ll have, so having wider than hip or even shoulder-width is a good idea for beginners.
Depending on your fitness level, you can also choose to have your knees on the ground.
Focus on having a straight line from your head to your navel, regardless of the position you choose for your feet.
Once you find your correct starting position, begin lowering down. Your elbows will be close to your body.
Once your chin is close to the ground, or you have a 90-degree angle in your elbows, come back up.
If you’re a beginner, do as many as you can, ideally a minimum of 10. If you’re more advanced aim for 15-20 push-ups per repetition.
For chest dips, you will need a bit of support. It’s ideal to use dip stations. But if you don’t want to invest, don’t worry! You can use a couple of chairs (just make sure they’re sturdy and stable), the couch, or even the kitchen counter!
To begin, position yourself between the two bars/chairs/tables. Push yourself up until your arms are straight. Your feet shouldn’t be touching the ground while you do the exercise, so keep them bent if you need to.
Lower yourself until you have a 90-degree angle at your elbows. When you reach this point, push back up until your arms are straight. Make sure your elbows are pointing straight, your abs are engaged, spine straight.
At this moment, you are doing a simple tricep dip. To turn it into a chest dip, all you need to do is lean your body forward. Do not swing forward and back between a straight and forward-leaning torso. Maintain the leaning position while you do the exercise.
For pull-ups, you’ll need a bar or a pull-up stand – somewhere you can easily hang from without the risk of injury.
Hold on to the bar with a grip slightly wider than shoulder-width. The palms can be facing forward or towards you, whichever you want.
Palms out make your biceps and lats work harder but it is considered a more difficult way of performing the exercise, so I wouldn’t recommend it for beginners.
Whichever way you choose for your palms, make sure your arms are straight, core engaged.
Now pull yourself up until your chin is above the bar, then lower back down. Try to do 3 sets of 10-12 reps.
Beginners will probably need to stop quicker, and that’s ok, just do as much as you can safely.
Finally, holding a plank is an amazing core exercise. Start on all fours, then lift yourself on your hands and toes.
Arms should be just slightly wider than shoulder-width and feet about hip-width or a bit wider if you need more stability.
Make sure your body forms a straight line from your head to your navel. Avoid tilting your head back, but don’t look down on the ground either. Ideally, find a point about 1-2 feet in front of you, on the ground and look there.
The idea is to make sure your head is in line with your spine so that you don’t injure your neck. Simply hold this position for 1-2 minutes.
If you are a beginner, you can place your knees on the ground, making sure your body forms a straight line from head to knees.
As you can see, you can have a great workout with just upper body calisthenics.
For a complete workout, always start with a warm-up. It can be a short low impact cardio session, for instance, followed by some dynamic stretches to warm up all the muscles involved.
Then take each exercise in order – or do them in a different order if you prefer. Do 3 sets for each exercise and aim for 10-12 repetitions.
If you are advanced, you can aim for more repetitions, but be mindful not to overdo it.
End you a short cool down, by stretching all the muscles you’ve worked.