How to get started with Calisthenics

The beauty of calisthenics strength training is its absolute freedom! You can workout anywhere, any time, with a huge variety of exercises and routines. That’s wonderful isn’t it?

Well, yes and no. It’s absolutely amazing if you know what you are doing, but if you’re new to this type of training or even to training in general too much freedom of choice will most likely leave you confused. Especially for beginners it’s great to have a structured program to start building off a strength basis. This process of building foundation strength will teach you how your body reacts to certain types of exercising, training frequency and intensity, that way giving you the tools to always get the right workout for yourself!

So how do you start?

As with everything in life, start with the basics! Before you mess around with Muscle-Ups, Human Flags and Front Lever you need to be strong at the basics: pull-ups, push-ups, dips, squats and leg raises. Those are pretty much all the exercises you will ever do. All other, more advanced exercises are variations or combinations of these basic exercises!

Be consistent in those basic compound exercises and you will build strength and muscle!

So how do you start? Go down to the floor and do some push-ups. It’s that easy!

Is there a secret?

Everybody looks for secrets, shortcuts and magic pills. So what is the secret to get a ripped physique and build up strength for the advanced calisthenics moves?

To be honest, there are THREE secrets:

  1. It takes time. Don’t expect to turn into a muscle machine overnight. Continuously set short term goals to keep you motivated in the long run. Don’t make it a short term commitment, make it a lifestyle!
  2. Full range of motion! It’s astounding how many people claim that push-ups are useless to build muscle when they can’t even perform them correctly! Performing all your repetitions in a controlled way and with full range of motion, all the way down, all the way up, will make a huge difference in whether you train for success or just waste your time. It is humbling to perform only 3 “real pull-ups” instead of the 15 you might have been doing before, but committing to clean form will really force your body to adapt!
  3. Progressive overload: In order to get bigger and better, you need to become stronger.

So if you are not doing more reps, more sets, harder exercises or having shorter rest periods you won’t get stronger and your body composition will not change to the better!

That’t it! Keep these three secrets in mind, eat right, and you WILL see results!


If you’re a complete beginner and have not really engaged in strength training before, don’t worry too much about programming, just stick to the basic exercises get your numbers up.

Beginner routine 1:

  • Pull-ups
  • Inverted rows
  • Dips
  • Push-ups
  • Squats

Do 3 sets per each exercise and 5 sets of squats, doing as many repetitions as you can, stopping just before you hit muscle failure. Given that not every beginner will be able to do sets of pull-ups use assisted or negative pull-ups if you’re not strong enough yet.

When performing the inverted rows, the difficulty of the exercise increases the closer your body comes to a horizontal position. Pick an angle that allows you to perform 15 full and clean rows.


Beginner routine 2:

Circuit A:

  • Pull-ups
  • Dips
  • Squats


Circuit B:

  • Inverted rows
  • Push-ups
  • Split squats (each leg)


Perform all the exercises in one circle nonstop. Then rest a minute and repeat. Do 3 rounds per circle.

Always remember, keep your body straight and use full range of motion! Espiecially when doing push-ups make sure that your body is in line and your hips don’t sag. This will cause an increase activation of your core muscles, so that you work your abs on every exercise!

Optionally, you can end each workout with a little beginner ab-routine:

Beginner Abs-Routine:

  •  Hanging knee raises (15x)
  • 1 min elbow plank
  • Max Crunches


Repeat this abs routine 3 times performing all exercises non stop, with 1 min between rounds.

Once you progressed, or if you’ve been training with weights before and already have a solid strength base you can try a more advanced routine:

 Intermediate Routine

  • Muscle-ups
  • Straight bar Dips
  • Wide Pull-Ups
  • Handstand Push-Ups
  • Wide Push-ups
  • Pistol Squats
  • Jumping Squats

Perform 3 Sets of each exercise with as many repetitions as possible with perfect form and full range of motion. If you can’t perform Muscle-Ups and Pistol Squats yet, use exercises of the progression for these moves.

 To build up core strength perform 3 rounds of these exercises:

 Core Routine

  • Front lever progression
  • Dragonflags
  • Straight Leg Raises

As stated before, Calisthenics offers a lot of different ways to exercise, all of which will help you progress and become stronger. There is a lot more to say about programming, different types of routines and training techniques, but those routines are a great and simple way to start.