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Calisthenics is a type of exercise that develops the flexibility, mobility, control, balance, and strength of the body. It is derived from the Greek words, kallos (beauty) and sthenos (strength).
Also known as a street workout, it is a form of training where you make use of your body weight to build your muscles. Some of these exercises include pistol squats, dips, push-ups, and pull-ups.
Every calisthenics exercise you do builds and strengthens the muscles without the need for fancy gym equipment like barbells or dumbbells; it is just you and your body. While calisthenics training is mostly associated with sprightly and lean athletes, there is much more to it than just simple push-up exercises with the help of a proper calisthenics workout plan.
Here is the best calisthenics exercises list:
Calisthenics exercises for biceps and back
Some calisthenics exercises that are good for bicep curls and back are:
Pull-ups are an upper body calisthenics and strength exercise that involves closed-chain movement where the body is suspended by the hands and you need to pull up. In doing so, you flex your elbows, adduct your shoulders and extend to bring your elbows to the torso.
It is considered as one of the most aerobic forms of calisthenics exercises. All you need for this exercise is a bar that you can easily find at a part or purchase one to attach on your door; if everything else fails, you can make use of a tree branch!
How to perform a pull-up?
- Find a bar to hand from and grip fully it with your hands at least shoulder-width apart.
- Bend your knees to raise your feet and keep your elbows close and pull yourself away until your chin passes the bar.
- Perform the reps at least 10 times.
Chin-up is a strength training exercise that people do frequently to strengthen their muscles and latissimus dorsi, which will flex the elbow and extend the shoulder respectively. The range of motion is established according to your chin.
Due to the grip variation, chin-ups are much easier than pull-ups. Despite being challenging, this calisthenics workout regime is one of the best upper body exercises that will train dozens of key muscles.
How to perform a chin-up?
- Chin-ups are like pull-ups, except that your palms will face you instead of the other side.
- Your hands will be spaced a bit closer as well.
- Pull yourself up and down in a repeating motion.
3. Australian pull-ups
This exercise is very popular among beginners because this variation of pull-up is slightly easier than the standard pull-up exercise.
Because of the angle of the workout, this exercise will work on your muscles from a different angle than standard pull-ups, playing more emphasis on your mid-back section, as well as the upper back, abs, and biceps.
How to perform an Australian pull-up?
- For an Australian pull-up, you need the bar to be placed a lot lower (as low as the waist height)
- Place yourself under the bar so that your feet are facing towards it and the bar is just in front of your shoulders.
- Hold the bar as you would in a normal pull-up and pull yourself up. The resistance level is far less in this pull-up variant.
4. Wide Grip pull-ups
This is an advanced calisthenics exercise that focuses on the strength of your upper body. The muscles involved are the biceps and the back.
This wider grip will work on your back more and will help in its muscle mass development. It will also work on other muscles of your body like the external oblique, erector spinae, pecs, infraspinatus, etc.
How to perform a wide grip pull-up?
- You need to grip the bar with your palms facing away from you and the hands should be at least shoulder-width apart.
- Your arms should hang in a fully extended position.
- Pull yourself up and down in a repeating motion.
5. Back extension
The back extension is a simple isometric callisthenic exercise that works on your lower back muscles. Exercises on your back will increase your ability to coordinate movement through your lower back.
How to perform a back extension?
- You need to lie on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground.
- Then, you can lift your buttocks off the floor so that your back is in line with your thighs.
- Hold this position for as long as you can.
- Calisthenics exercises for triceps and chest
6. Regular dips
Regular dips are one of the most popular calisthenics upper-body exercises that work great on your triceps and chest. The exercise makes use of your body weight against you.
How to perform regular dips?
- You need to raise yourself on two dip bars with the help of your straight arms.
- Lower your body until your shoulders are below your elbows.
- Do not let your shoulders roll forward or shrug; this will cause pain on your chest and shoulders.
- Lower yourself only to the extent that your body allows you to. Lift up back again and repeat.
Calisthenics exercises for chest and triceps
Some common calisthenics exercises for triceps and chest include:
1. Regular push-ups
Push-ups are yet another popular calisthenics exercise that is quite popular among gym-goers. As a matter of fact, it is said that the exercise becomes so easy for some people that they stop doing it at all.
Since you are using your own body weight as resistance, push-ups will help develop your abdominals, triceps, shoulders, and chest muscles.
How to perform a regular push-up?
- For this exercise, you need to get on the floor and straighten your body.
- Place your hands at least shoulder-width apart.
- You have to push yourself to the floor and pull up again; this is one rep.
2. Diamond push-ups
Diamond push-ups are a type of push-up that is primarily targeted for triceps muscle more than normal push-ups.
This exercise focuses on the triceps muscles that run on the back of your arm. It is also helpful in stabilizing the shoulder joint.
How to perform a diamond push-up?
- You need to get into the basic push-up position and move your hands close to each other, rotated slightly inwards.
- Spread your legs wider than usual and continue with the push-up exercise.
- Incline push-ups
- Incline push-ups are considered the easiest of all push-up variations. Instead of the floor, you make use of an inclined surface such as a table.
Calisthenics exercises for shoulders
Some great exercises for your shoulders are:
1. Handstand push-ups
While this calisthenics exercise is hard to perfect, the learning curve can be reduced with the help of different progression exercises. This type of calisthenics exercise is tough to execute because it requires tremendous strength of your upper body as well as a good balance.
Regular push-ups activate your chest and arms while a handstand will involve the chest, arms, backs, and shoulders. Combined into one, this particular push-up will activate your entire body.
How to perform a handstand push-up?
- Perform a handstand at first. You can also make use of a wall structure for additional balance.
- Once you achieve the handstand position, you need to lower yourself lower and push back up again.
- Repeat the exercise for as many times as you can.
2. Pike Push-ups
For working on your shoulders, the pike push-ups are considered one of the simplest calisthenics exercise.
This exercise is great for improving core muscles stability and building shoulder strength. Additionally, it also works on the back, chest, and the entire upper body.
How to perform a pike push-up?
- You will have to get on your feet and hands with your rear in the air; the position can be better described as the upside-down V position.
- The arms should be in-line with the back so that weight is placed over your shoulders.
- Bend your elbows, lower your head till it reaches the ground, and push right back up.
3. Hindu Push-ups
This calisthenics exercise will develop the muscles in your upper body like abs, chest, shoulders, and triceps. Additionally, the push-up will also develop your lung power, thanks to repetitive and rhythmic deep breathing.
How to perform a Hindu push-up?
- The Hindu push-up is exactly like the pike push-ups except that there is a twist at the end.
- Once you get down to the upside-down V position, you will have to pretend as if you are moving something underneath, pushing and moving back with the help of your shoulders.
- If you are a beginner, you can keep your feet wider than the shoulder width. As you advance, you can draw your feet closer accordingly.
4. T-Bar push-ups
This calisthenics push-up exercise makes use of a bar that is placed lower than the waist height.
This exercise will offer you a higher range of motion. It has also been studied that this motion is better for getting stronger and growing muscles.
How to perform a T-Bar push-up?
- You will need to grip the bar and move your legs to the back so that you are inclined in an angle.
- You need to keep your head tucked in as you go lower to the bar and the back of your shoulder blades should touch the underside of the bar.
- Push right back up.
Calisthenics exercises for legs
These exercises below will be great for your legs:
Squats are one of those basic calisthenics exercises that people love the most. When there is no other resistance, this probably the easiest exercise.
Just like the hanging leg raises, squats are great exercises for the legs and the rear end. They also help in keeping the back healthy.
How to perform squats?
- To perform a squat, you need to stand straight and keep your hands at a 90° angle.
- Then bend your knees without compromising on the body structure as far as you can.
- Repeat the exercise.
Lunges are a type of squat has been proven to be good for building several muscles like the hamstrings, buttocks, and the thighs. Similar to jumping jacks, the exercise is fairly very simple to do, especially for beginner athletes.
Additionally, lunges can also be seen in modern yoga. They are mostly incorporated into the Surya Namaskar and the vinyasa styles of yoga.
How to perform lunges?
- Stand tall and keep your feet at least hip-width apart. Step forward with your right legand shift your weight forward so that the heels touch the floor.
- Lower your body until your right thigh and shin are vertical. If you can, tap your left knee lightly to the ground while maintaining the weight on your right heel.
- Press into your right heel and come back to the starting position.
- Repeat the exercise on the other leg.
3. Wall sit
Wall sit is a type of exercise that is great of carving the lower abs, calves, hips, and thighs. The exercise is very easy on your knees as well and can be done by anyone.
How to perform a wall sit?
- You need to lean against the wall with your feet at least shoulder-length apart and planted on the ground.
- You need to be very observant about the angle because if your thighs are not parallel to the ground, your legs will not get a good workout.
- Engage your core strength and start moving downwards, while leaning against the wall.
- Continue going down until your legs are bent at a right angle.
- Come back up again and repeat.
4. Pistol squats
Pistol squats are an advanced calisthenics exercise that is done to strengthen the leg and improve the movement mechanics and the balance of the lower body. This exercise will work on your muscles like quadriceps, abs, and ankle muscles.
How to perform pistol squats?
- Stand on one leg and point your toes forward or slightly turned out. Start bending in the same direction as the toes.
- With one foot pointed in front of you and perform a straight leg raise; the core will activate for prime movement.
- Make sure that your torso has a slight forward lean.
- Once you reach the deep squat position, apply pressure on the entire foot and stand up.
- Repeat the same with the other leg.
5. Calf raise
Calf raise is a great calisthenics exercise for the calf muscles. It can be done very easily at any place, for instance waiting for the kettle to boil or while brushing your teeth.
Thanks to the easy procedure, calf raises are one of the easiest exercises to execute. You can do them while performing your daily chores as well.
How to perform a calf raise?
- Stand up straight on the balls of your feet and keep pushing yourself till you can stand on your toes.
- Lower yourself back down to where you began. Stretch and repeat.
Calisthenics exercises for core
For the best core, you can try these exercises below:
1. Bear crawl
A bear crawl is an easy stabilizing and strengthening cardio exercise that involves all the muscles in the body like the core, upper body, and lower body. This exercise is quite dynamic and fires all these muscle groups to burn calories and increases the heart rate.
The overall exercise might feel a bit awkward at first since it is not familiar. However, if you continue, you will get great results.
How to perform a bear crawl?
- You need to crouch down with your hands (shoulder-width apart) and feet behind you with your hips up in the air and eyes straight forward.
- Start crawling forward with your left foot and right hand and vice versa.
- Repeat the exercise five times each side.
2. Bicycle crunches
Bicycle crunches are a great ab exercise to target your lower body. While you can also go for regular crunches, they tend to get boring very soon.
How to perform a bicycle crunch?
- You need to lie flat on your lower back pressed to the ground.
- Put your hands behind your head and perform a knee raises towards your chest.
- Lift your shoulders off the ground as well.
- Be sure that if you are lifting your right leg, then you need to lift your left shoulder off the ground and vice versa.
Repeat this pattern over again.
3. Side plank
The side plank exercise is great for strengthening the abdominal muscles, which do not get worked on a lot with exercises like crunches, etc. This exercise is great for beginners to build balance and strength that are needed for different warm-up exercises.
How to perform a side plank?
- Lie down on your right side, legs stacked and extended from hip to feet. Keep your right elbow directly under your shoulder.
- Make sure that your head is aligning with your spine and the left arm is in line alongside the left side of your body.
- Engage your abs muscles and lift your hips and knees from the mat. Hold this position.
- After some time, return to the original position and change sides.
The L-sit is an exercise that is performed on parallel bars. This exercise is not only about strength, but also control and flexibility.
This static hold exercise is often overlooked, but it really offers a lot of bang for your buck. This exercise is especially good for your lower back, arms, and stamina.
How to perform L-sit?
- Lift your knees as high as possible in a bent position and hold. This will create a compressed position necessary to maintain a hold.
- Extend your legs out straight and pull them back into the tuck position.
- Repeat this exercise; you can also try to hold your straight leg position for increasing time durations.
The above are just some of the many calisthenics exercises that you can perform without the need of any equipment or visiting a gym. As a matter of fact, calisthenics exercises are great for your body.
Advanced calisthenics exercises
There are some exercises that are a huge favorite among ardent calisthenics followers. These advanced exercises are difficult yet fun to do. Take a look at some of the advanced calisthenics exercises written below.
1. Human flag
Human flag exercise tests your balancing skills. This exercise can be done with specific strength and good technique in three main areas. These include the top pulling arm, the bottom pushing arm, and the top obliques that hold up the hips. The main muscles involved in the human flag are the obliques, lats, and delts.
How to perform a full human flag?
There are two ways of getting the right position in the human flag. Either you can do it from the top down or you can do it from bottom up. The bottom-up human flag is a more difficult method since it requires you to press yourself into a horizontal position from the floor. Therefore, you can practice the top-down method, which is listed below:
- In the top-down human flag method, you need to gradually augment the load on your body in order to prime your neurological system.
- You can begin with a vertical flag.
- Slowly lower your hips and body until your body is fully perpendicular to the pole so that your body forms a full human flag position.
2. Back lever
The back lever exercise works on the whole body but places special emphasis on the core and back. It requires flexibility and strength in the shoulders and the arms need to be in an untrained position.
How to perform a full back lever?
- Begin by pulling yourself up until your head faces the ground with your legs overhead.
- Now, straighten out your legs at the hips and knees while keeping your legs together.
- Make sure your body forms a straight line through your legs and your toes should point forward, away from your body.
- Now, maintain this alignment lower until you’re parallel with the ground and then hold this position.
3. Front lever
The front lever exercise builds as well as develops the core strength. It looks like a simple resting position but it’s not so simple. It involves your back muscles, including your abdomen, spinal erectors, rhomboids, and the lats so that you can maintain the right posture.
How to perform a full front lever?
- Start with the tuck lever position.
- While keeping both your legs together, gradually extend your legs out at the knees and hips until they are fully straight.
- Your whole body should be in one straight line and parallel to the ground.
- Now, pull down hard with your hands and lats, while working on the pulling-apart action in order to stabilize.
Planche develops your strength, stability, and coordination. It mainly assists in building straight arm strength, strong wrists, and powerful wrists. In this exercise, the body is held parallel to the ground with the support of straight arms. This exercise requires great balance and strength.
Planche includes two types, the straddle planche, and the full planche. Here, we’ll tell you how you can perform a full planche. This exercise primarily involves your abdominals, chest, upper back, shoulders, glutes, and lower back.
How to perform a full planche?
- When it comes to a full planche, it requires you to hold your body steady and balance on your hands.
- Balance on your hands and extend your legs out from the side of your arms.
- Now, slowly bring your legs together in a straight position.
- Your legs and hips should be aligned with your upper body.
The above exercises prove that just because some exercises make use of one’s own bodyweight does not mean that the exercises have to be dull. The above-mentioned exercises pack much more punch than your average squats and push-ups.
You can also choose to challenge yourself by adding some extra free weights to perform a deadlift to all these exercises. These weight lifting workout exercises are simple to execute and will positively bring some changes to your body.
Founder of EWS. Research writer and test performance hacker, avid intermittent faster, and weight loss specialist. Improve your health and torch fat by clicking here and downloading FREE Intermittent Fasting guide for weight loss. (Testing NEW I-Fasting method, eBook & formulated tracking sheet available for download coming soon!)