6 types of calisthenics workouts that will strengthen your body and muscles

Thinking of starting calisthenics as your fitness regime? It’s a classic workout style and the concept is pretty simple. Unlike many other strength and endurance exercises, you only need your body weight to do the movements of calisthenics, without any expensive gym equipment. 

As your body is focused on one ground spot, calisthenics can help with muscle strengthening, flexibility and endurance. With regular training programs, you can achieve your fitness goal through calisthenics workouts. Below are ten of the most effective types of calisthenic workouts to add to your daily fitness regimen. 

1. Plank

The primary target of this calisthenic exercise is to work on your core. Planking also has some benefits for your upper back, pectorals and serratus anterior, which is the muscle wrapping around the side of your chest and shoulders. Since planking is really a big workout challenge, you surely need both effort and patience to perform it [1]. 

Moreover, planking may look easy, but it is far more than just simply lifting your torso off the floor and striving for ‘alignment’. One research suggests that you must do two subtle bodily shifts to maximize core activation. Properly positioning your scapulae, or called shoulder blades, and pelvis is critical to activating your core [2].

To do a standard plank, follow the basic steps below: 

  1. Position your body like you are ready to perform a push-up. You must secure both your hands are placed directly under your shoulders, a little wider than shoulder-width apart. 
  2. While holding the position, you should squeeze your glutes and abdominals to stabilize your body.
  3. Stay in line while performing the movement. Ideally, you should pick a spot on the floor about a foot from your hands to execute planking more comfortably.
  4. For beginners in calisthenics, you must aim to hold the planking position for 20 seconds. As your body gets used to planking over time, you can extend doing it for much longer.
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2. Bodyweight squat

This type of calisthenic workout is considered the most popular and effective among the others. Bodyweight squat, or body mass-based squat, focuses on your lower body, particularly your quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes and calves, as well as your abdominal muscles. 

The bodyweight squat is perfect if you aim to improve your body composition and muscular strength, as proven by many research. Among them is a 2013 study published by the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, where the researchers suggest that body mass-based squat training is a feasible and effective physical activity for improving the body figure and muscle strength, particularly the knee extensors and jump performance in adolescent boys. They conducted the research on ninety-four boys who were randomly assigned to two groups and performed body mass-based squats for eight weeks [3].

6 types of calisthenics workouts that will strengthen your body and muscles
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To perform a body mass-based squat, follow the basic steps below: 

  1. Stand with your feet, ensure they are slightly wider than hip-width apart and then point your toes slightly outwards.
  2. Then, inhale and tighten your body core as you stabilize yourself. Look forward to your chest sticking forward as well. Turn your weight back into your heels whilst pushing your hips behind you. Your buttocks should be reaching towards the floor.
  3. Squat down until your thighs become almost parallel to the floor. Have your feet flat on the ground and knees over your toes all throughout the rep. 

3. Pistol squat

Think of the pistol squat as an advanced version of the bodyweight squat. It is much more complex in movements; in fact, it is the hardest calisthenics workout to learn. You definitely need an enviable level of focus, vertical balance and proper form to perform a pistol squat the right way. Why? Because the workout is all about balancing any strength deficiencies you have as you isolate each side. 

Similar to the bodyweight squat, the pistol squat also focuses on improving your lower body, specifically the hips, hamstrings, quadriceps, glutes and calves.

The pistol squat can improve your range of motion, general flexibility and stability.

Research suggests that performing the pistol squat with no load is equally similar to doing back squatting with an additional load equal to your body weight. The research aims to determine the effectiveness of doing two-legged squats and one-legged squats [4]. 

To perform the pistol squat, follow the basic steps below: 

  1. Stand with your feet parallel together. Then, extend one leg in front of you and keep it as straight as possible. 
  2. Next, extend both your arms in front of you at shoulder level. Brace your core and look straight ahead. 
  3. Bend your other knee as you send your hips down and to your back, and slowly lower yourself to the floor, similar to a regular squat. 
  4. As you lower your body with the position, you must pause when your glutes are hovering just a few inches off the ground. 
  5. Your leg and arms should stay extended the entire time. Repeat to another leg when done. 
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4. Lunges

Here’s another popular choice among the calisthenics workouts: lunges. This type of workout primarily uses your legs for the movements, most especially the glutes and quads. You can also use lunges for hamstring muscles and calves training. In fact, research suggests that walking and jumping forward lunges are effective in improving hamstring strength and running speed in young soccer players [5]. 

To perform lunges, follow the basic steps below: 

  1. Start to engage your core with your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Then, take a big step forward with one of your legs. You must shift your weight forward, so your heel hits the floor first.
  3. Lower your body up until your front leg is parallel to the ground, and keep your shin vertical as well. Ideally, you must not allow your knee to move really far forward and never past your toes.
  4. To return to your starting position, press your weight into your front foot and drive back up to complete the movement. 

5. Pull-ups or chin-ups

Pull-ups and chin-ups are perfect for improving your upper body strength. This type of calisthenics can improve your back muscles. Performing pull-ups can work your pecs and biceps, depending on the variation you choose. Meanwhile, chin-ups can build mass in your lats and biceps. 

In the fitness world, the ‘Perfect Pullup’ is one of the many discussions to know what is really the benefits of the different types of pull-up positions. Research suggests that among the three pull-up variants, such as pronated grip (pull-up), supinated grip (chin-up) and rotation during the concentric phase (Perfect-Pullup), only the pectoralis major the biceps brachialis and the lower trapezius show a relevant difference in muscle recruitment. There is no difference found for the latissimus dorsi or the erector spinae [6]. 

To perform pull-ups, follow the basic steps below: 

  1. Stand while facing a pull-up bar.
  2. Then, grab the bar as you do an overhand grip. Ensure that your arms are slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  3. With your shoulder and back muscles, you must pull yourself up until your head is over the bar.
  4. Go back to the starting position to complete one repetition.

To perform chin-ups, follow the basic steps below: 

  1. Stand while facing the pull-up bar.
  2. Then, grab the bar with an underhand grip. Ensure that your arms are slightly narrower than shoulder-width apart.
  3. With your biceps and lats, you must pull yourself up until your head is above the bar.
  4. To complete one repetition, slowly lower yourself back to the start position.
6 types of calisthenics workouts that will strengthen your body and muscles
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6. Push-ups

There are over one hundred push-up variations that you can add to your workout regimen. Push-up is one of the most popular and most-used calisthenics workouts in the world. It is helpful in building your upper body strength, and it works with the triceps, pectoral muscles and shoulders. 

In a study conducted in 2019, the researchers involved male firefighters as their participants and required them to complete at least 40 push-ups over 30 seconds. At the end of the research, they concluded that performing push-ups can significantly lower your risk of heart attack, heart failure or other cardiovascular problems over the next ten years [7]. 

To perform push-ups, follow the basic steps below: 

  1. Get on your knees and simply place your hands wide enough to be slightly outside your shoulders.
  2. Then, you should extend your legs whilst maintaining your arms outstretched to hold your upper body weight up. Your body will shift into a plank position.
  3. Next, you should engage your core and remain as straight as possible. 
  4. It’s time to perform the push-up. Slowly lower your entire body by bending your elbows close to the ground. Take note that your chest must almost touch the floor along with your arms at a 45-degree angle.

Longevity in calisthenics workouts 

Calisthenics workouts can help you achieve longevity as it generally enhances your body composition and muscular muscles. It can reduce stress on your joints, making them healthier and more active for more years to come. As the calisthenics types are forms of workouts, you can also reap many health benefits that can prevent you from having fatal diseases, decreasing your risk of death. Keeping your body active through calisthenics workouts and a proper diet can ultimately slow down aging. 

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[1] https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/straight-talk-on-planking
[2] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27787465/ 
[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3761779/ 
[4] https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Alex-Natera/publication/347623035
[5] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19387378/ 
[6] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21068680/ 
[7] https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/rise-push-ups-classic-exercise-can-motivate-get-stronger-2019021810165 

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