The fundamentals of calisthenics exercises
There are several exercises you can do with your own body. However, it can be difficult to know which exercises to start with. The basics for calisthenics is in any case hanging from a bar or rings, support between two bars and a shelf on the floor. With these three exercises you have already started calisthenics and from there you can start with other basic exercises. On this page we have the most famous basic calisthenics exercises for you on a setup so that starting with calisthenics becomes a bit easier! At the bottom of this page you will find the links to the many other types of exercises.
Everyone knows it, pushing up on your hands and feet. The Push-up is an important basic exercise in calisthenics that allows you to train your chest muscles, schoulders, arms and core. Because the Push-up can be done anywhere, it is a very accessible exercise for beginners. You perform the Push-up by resting on your hands and feet on the floor and by bending your arms with the aim of touching the floor with your chest, then push yourself back up to the starting position.
An important point of attention in the Push-up is that you want to make sure that you do not let your elbows go out too much, but rather backwards. It is also recommended to look slightly forward with your head so that your neck remains in a neutral position.
Did you know that there are a hundred different ways to perform a Push-up?
The most important variants for beginners are the Scapula Push-up (you keep your arms straight and you only make the movement with your shoulders) and the Knee Push-up (press-ups on your knees). It can be very motivating to try out different variants, where you will notice that you get stronger with every workout.
When the regular Push-up is no longer difficult for you, there are challenging variants such as the Clapping Push-ups (a push-up with a hand clap), Diamond Push-ups (a push-up with your hands close together) or the Pike Push-up (a push-up with your hip at a 90 degree angle and your upper body upside down).
With all the different types of push-ups you can fill complete workouts. Some Push-ups can help you achieve specific advanced exercises such as the Muscle-up or the Handstand Push-up. It is always important to properly assess what you are currently able to do, so that you can do the most effective types of Push-ups for your desired progression during your workouts.
The Squat is a well-known leg exercise in which you bend down through your legs with your back as straight as possible and press them out again. With the Squat you mainly train your upper leg muscles and glutes. When you do calisthenics you would think that the Squat is not very heavy to provide a desired load, but there are many variants to play with, making this absolutely possible without extra weights.
In Squats, one of the main focuses is to keep your heels on the floor when you press yourself up. This puts minimal strain on your knee joint and allows you to train your leg muscles properly. If you want to try some more challenging variations of the Squat, increasing the explosiveness during your Squats is a good start. Variations such as the Jump Squat (doing a jump when you push yourself up) or the Broad Jump (doing a distance jump forward from the squat and landing back in a squat) are excellent exercises for this. If you want to make it really difficult, you can try variations such as the Pistol Squat (a Squat on one leg with the other leg stretched out in front). The Pistol Squat is also listed on the advanced exercises page.
There is also plenty to vary with Squats, where there is enough challenge to give your legs a heavy load. Developing strong legs without extra weights is absolutely possible!
The Pull-up is a challenging basic exercise in calisthenics. The most effective way to properly perform a pull-up is to pull yourself up from a fully hanging position (with your arms outstretched) until your chin is above the bar. You mainly train your back muscles and arm muscles.
Another well-known way of pulling up is also called the Chin-up, the difference is in the position of your hands. With a Pull-up your palms are turned forward, while with the Chin-up you have your palms turned towards yourself.
An important point of attention is to keep your lower body and legs straight down, because when you retract your legs or knees during the Pull-up, you ask less of your back and arm muscles because your abs will help.
It can be extremely difficult to do a good pull-up when you’re new to calisthenics. This is why it is recommended to start with Australian Pull-ups (pull up from a low bar with your heels on the floor) or with Jumping Pull-ups (pull up from a jump). If you would like to train the full Pull-ups on a high bar, the ideal accessory is a Resistance band, these bands can help you get that little bit of extra help so that you can still perform a Pull-up completely yourself. Because there are different thicknesses in the bands, you can start with a strong one and then reduce it.
With Pull-ups you can vary a lot and there are many challenging types of Pull-ups that can help you learn advanced exercises such as the Muscle-up. Some cool variants are, for example, the Clapping Pull-up (a Pull-up with a hand clap at the top) or the Small to Wide Pull-up (a Pull-up where you change width at the top). Advanced athletes often also hang extra weights around their body for extra difficult pull-ups.
Pull-ups are one of the most effective ways to train your upper body and build strong muscles, which is why we recommend using pull-ups regularly in your calisthenics workouts.
A very well-known leg exercise in calisthenics are lunges. With Lunges you mainly train your thigh muscles, hamstrings and glutes. It is a very complete exercise to make your lower body strong. You perform a Lunge by taking a big step forward from a standing position and lowering your legs so that your knee touches the ground almost. From here, push yourself back up and back to end up standing again.
One of the main points to consider with the Lunge is that you want to make sure that you don’t go past your front foot with your front knee at the bottom. If you do this correctly, there will be approximately equal weight on both legs. It is also important to keep your upper body upright.
Lunges also come in many different types, The Walking Lunge (by steps forward and to a lunge with the other leg) or the Jumping Lunge (jumping to a lunge with the other leg) are good variations that give you more challenge and variety in your workouts.
Dips are a very well-known calisthenics exercise. You support yourself between two bars (a dip bar) and bend your arms until they are 90 degrees, then push yourself back up to the starting position. With Dips, an important point of attention is not to let your elbows go out but straight back. When you do this correctly, not all the load will be on your shoulders, but will be nicely distributed between your arm muscles, chest muscles and shoulders.
Performing a good dip can be very difficult when you are just starting out with calisthenics.
To learn Dips, it is smart to start with Push-ups that strengthen your arm and chest muscles. Performing Scapula Dips is also a good start, where in fact you only perform the exercise with your shoulder blades, while your arms remain straight. With Scapula dips you strengthen the shoulder blades so that you can perform a good dip faster. Other ways to learn Dips are jumping Dips, slow negative Dips (top down only) or Dips with Resistance band.
There are also a number of effective variations on Dips such as Bar Dips (a Dip on one bar), Russian Dips (from leaning on your forearms to a Dip) or Plyometric Dips (airtime at the top of the Dip). Some variations can be very challenging and offer a good new load for athletes who are already good at the normal Dip. Advanced athletes often also hang extra weights around their bodies to make Dips heavier.
A truly iconic calisthenics exercise and one of the first static holds you can learn is the L-sit. You support yourself between 2 bars, paralettes or on the floor and keep your legs stretched forward. The body becomes, as it were, the shape of an L.
The L-sit is a very effective exercise to train your abs, thigh muscles and shoulder blades. The most important thing here is that you keep your legs fully extended and your upper body upright. When you’re just starting out with calisthenics, it can be difficult to immediately perform an L-sit, but with good practice and perseverance, everyone should be able to learn this well-known hold.
You can learn the L-sit by first trying it (possibly with your legs not yet completely horizontal) between two bars. It also helps if you simply raise your legs without holding it, we call this the Dip bar Leg raise. If you want to practice on the floor, you can start from a sitting position and then push your hip off the floor with your arms. Many people quickly manage to do an L-sit on the floor with one leg, making it a matter of time before you can fully perform and hold the L-sit.
Hanging abdominal exercises
There are many abdominal exercises you can perform while hanging. The advantage of this is that you not only train your abs, but also your shoulders, arms and legs.
The most famous is the Hanging Knee-raise, where you pull your knees up while you are hanging. A slightly more difficult version of this is the Hanging Leg raise, where you raise not only your knees, but your straight legs. When this becomes too easy for you, you can switch to the Toe to bar, where you raise your legs straight up until your toes can touch the bar. The Toe to bar is already a fairly advanced exercise!
Hanging abdominal exercises can also be performed slightly sideways, so that you appeal more to the oblique abdominal muscles. In addition, all hanging abdominal exercises can also be done as a static posture or in combination with other hanging exercises such as the pull-up.
There are a huge number of variations on hanging abdominal exercises and all types are good elsewhere, all in all they are good for at least one specific thing: your six-pack!
Core exercises on the floor
Many people start with the Plank, where you rest on the floor on your forearms and feet. The Plank is one of the many core exercises you can do on the floor.
Your core actually means your entire torso. Because so many different muscles revolve around this and all your strength efforts start from here, we can say that almost every exercise is also done with your core. Still, by ”your core” we mainly mean your abs, obliques, lower back muscles and middle back muscles.
Of the many hundreds of different core exercises you can do, the plank is one of the best known. Planks can be done on two forearms with your stomach down, but did you know there is also such a thing as the Reverse Plank? Here you lie exactly the other way around, with your back down. There is also the Side Plank, which you perform on one arm with your body rotated to the side. From the Side plank you can also raise your hips from the bottom up, which we call the Side Raise. You can of course apply this on both sides of your body.
Furthermore, abdominal exercises such as the Leg flutters (lying with your hands under your hip, lifting your outstretched legs alternately) and Leg raises (lying with your hands under your hip, lifting two outstretched legs at the same time) are excellent exercises that everyone can do. The Superman is a good exercise for all your back muscles, you lie on your stomach with arms up, and lift your legs and arms off the ground at the same time.
One of the best among all these exercises has to be the Iron Butterfly, where you lie on your back with arms and legs spread and off the ground, and then contract all abdominal muscles and move to a sitting position where you make yourself completely small. Because the Iron Butterfly literally addresses the entire front of your body, this exercise is difficult but very effective!
Cardiovascular full-body exercises
With calisthenics you can train your entire body very effectively. There are many exercises that appeal to your entire body and promote muscle cooperation. Conditional full-body exercises are suitable for everyone and there are endless variations to make your workouts fun. In addition, these exercises are good for your endurance and strength at the same time.
The most famous full-body exercise of all is the Burpee, cursed by many for the enormous fatigue that can come from it. In a Burpee, you place your hands on the floor from a standing position, jump back to do a Push-up, jump back forward to stand on your legs again and jump up with a Jump Squat and your arms in the air. Due to the enormous variety of the movement, you can hit your entire body in one exercise. Did you know that in our club we also train Burpee Pull-ups, Burpee Toes to bar and even Burpee Muscle-ups?!
Another good full-body exercise is rope jumping. Because you are jumping, you train your calf and leg muscles very well for endurance, and thanks to the rope, your wrists and forearm muscles become a lot stronger! There are dozens of different ways to vary rope jumping which can make it very challenging and fun to learn new forms of this.
You can also make a very effective full-body workout with the Battleropes, although using Battleropes is not entirely on your own body weight. Some accessories such as Battleropes require your body to move in such a way that you can train your entire body on strength, speed and endurance.
An absolute banger among the conditional full-body exercises is the Wall Mountain Climber. Here you stand with your stomach to the wall in a handstand at 45 degrees, and then pull your knees in one by one and perform practically Mountain climbers. A very effective exercise to train your entire body on strength and condition!
Technical basic exercises
When you are building the basic strength you can quickly work with the technical basic exercises to various advanced calisthenics exercises. One of the most famous technical basic exercises in calisthenics is the Frog stand, where you support and balance on your hands while leaning your knees on your elbows. The Frog stance is the first exercise to learn a handstand and you can usually learn this position within a week if you try it every day.
The Handstand against the wall is also a basic technical exercise that is very scary for some to do. To support your entire weight on your arms, you must have enough strength not to sink through them. A good start can be to do a handstand with your stomach to the wall and walk further and further towards the wall. This builds up your strength and before you know it you can also do the Handstand against the wall with your back towards the wall. There are several steps you can take to learn this, but the main thing is that you practice on a regular basis and build confidence.
A very important technical basic exercise is also called the Skin-the-cat, where you rotate your legs through your arms from a hanging position and then lower them as deeply as possible. You hang, as it were, at the end of your shoulder joint and the challenge is to turn back from there. The Skin-the-cat is an essential exercise to master if you would like to learn advanced calisthenics exercises such as the Frontlever or Backlever.
A nice technical static pose is the elbow lever. Here you lie on the floor or a bar with your body on your elbows, where you want to put your elbows as low as possible against your hip bone. By calmly seeking your balance, it should be possible to get your body horizontal. The elbow lever can also be performed straddle (legs straight and open) or even with one arm.
Finally, we have the Pullover. Here you pull yourself from a hanging position all the way back around the bar, ending in a supporting position. This basic technical exercise is quite difficult, and is best learned at a lower bar. It also helps enormously when you have already built up the strength to do a Pull-up.
Advanced calisthenics exercises
Are you ready to learn the advanced calisthenics exercises or are you curious about which ones there are? click below for all cool calisthenics exercises for advanced practitioners!
Freestyle calisthenics exercises
Can’t get enough of calisthenics and want to know which Freestyle exercises there are? Then click the button below!
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