Calisthenics for beginners

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Have you ever heard of the phrase “A good beginning is half the battle”?

It couldn’t be truer when it comes to bodyweight training or calisthenics as we also call it.
In this article, we will not look at human flags, planche, pistols and handstand push-ups, but we will look at calisthenics for planche progressionbeginners. And by that, I really mean beginners, so everybody can start here. Basic stuff like condition and the body-fat percentage will also be covered as it’s close to impossible to progress unless we improve in these areas as well.
First of all, let’s note down some rules for this article and how we will approach calisthenics for beginners.
  • It has to be calisthenics, which means bodyweight only
  • Everybody should be able to start with this program
  • We will focus on 6 main areas which are:
    • Condition
    • Body fat
    • Pull
    • Push
    • Core
    • Legs
  • A simple progression template for the selected exercises
  • How to combine them into a weekly workout plan
When this calisthenics for beginners program is not a challenge for you any longer, you should go to this article that talks about calisthenics progression.
Guess you got it. Let’s get going!


Dragon flagSo bodyweight it is. This means there are no machines and no weights. However, equipment like pull-up bar or just bars will be needed.
If you don’t have one at home or don’t want to buy one, you can find some free-to-use outdoor gyms right here.

For everybody

For the six main areas, I will point out an acceptable beginner level. This means that you should aim for that level in all six areas. I will, of course, guide you on how to reach that level.
Chances are that you might be very close to that level in some areas and then far away in other areas. For that reason, I have added a suggestion on how to advance beyond beginner level for each area. This means you can continue to work in all areas without stopping.

Six main areas

This is of course roughly categorised and could easily be broken down into more specific areas and exercises. However, for a beginner, this will work fine.
To be honest, one of the problems you see with many people when they start to workout is that they make things too complicated. Starting out right, then progressing slowly with consistency and patience, is all it takes.
It’s now time to look at the actual exercises and focus areas.


High intensity workouts

When you start to search for calisthenics you get the impression that it’s only about strong guys doing planche and muscle-ups. However, without a proper condition, it will be extremely difficult to progress much.
We simply need to have a decent condition level, and for a lot of people that will be a great challenge.
To be able to do +20min of moderate aerobic. This means keeping your heart rate at around 75% of max for +20min. Want to know about heart rate? Look here.
How to get there:
Running is not the best option for a beginner as you might not be strong enough for it. Therefore, any other activity where you can keep a constant moderate pace is okay. Some examples could be rowing, swimming or bicycling. Also, a straightforward aerobic workout like this would be great:
For 20min without breaks, do as many rounds as possible of the following: 20 Jumping Jacks – 20 Mountain Climbers – 10 Burpees – 5+5 Lunges.
A good template would be to find your max heart rate and then with a pulse clock (yes, I know that not everybody has this) check that your workout is at 75%.
When you become too tired to keep 75%, then you rest as needed and continue again. The trick is now to make the breaks shorter and shorter for each sessions. 10-20sec is fine.
If you don’t have a pulse clock, then check your speech. You should only be able to talk in short sentences.
If you are already there, then it would be time to run 30+ min without a break or do HIIT sessions.

Body-fat percentage

You might wonder why we have to focus on this. Will it not just drop naturally when we start to work out?Flat stomach
It is possible, but it depends on your nutrition.
But why should this be a focus area for a calisthenics for beginners plan?
Because when we talk calisthenics and bodyweight training, there are only disadvantages of having too much fat. The mass that our body consists of should be something that works for us, not against us.
Of course, you can be fit and still have a higher body-fat percentage. But when it comes to calisthenics, we want to lower it. Therefore it should be part of a calisthenics for beginners program. More info on body-fat % here.
Men should aim for a body-fat percentage under 20% and girls under 35%.
How to get there:
Control your diet.
  • Remove foods with added sugar
  • Limit white bread, pasta, potatoes and rice
  • Limit processed foods
  • Control the intake of carbohydrates and make sure they are complex carbohydrates
  • Control intake of fruits
Plan ahead and create good habits based on the above.
Continue with a correct diet until you reach 10% as a man and 20% as a female.



Pull exercises will strengthen our back and biceps, especially our upper back.
+10 repetitions of horizontal pull-ups with elevated feed.
How to get there:
Select a version from the video where you can do around 5 repetitions for 5 rounds.
Now increase by 1 repetition until you can do 10 and move to the next level.
Start to work on pull-ups, like scapular pull-ups and negatives.



Push exercises are for the chest, shoulders and triceps.
+20 Push-ups with correct form.
How to get there:
Start on knees or even with palms on a wall or a table.
As mentioned above, start with something you can do, say 5-10 repetitions for 5 rounds. Increase each session by 1 repetition until you can do +20.
Pike push-ups or archer push-ups



The core is extremely important for bodyweight training. Basically, we can’t do anything without involving the core.
Plank for +2min
How to get there:
Select a version of the plank you can do for +20sec
Increase by 5-10sec for each session. Do 3-5 rounds of the plank hold.
Plank on one arm or one leg – start with hollow holds.



In bodyweight training, the legs are sometimes overlooked, which is a big mistake. Strong legs are a must for a healthy body.
+50 bodyweight squats
How to get there:
Find how many squats with good form you can do in a row. If normal squats are too difficult, do box squat.
Add 2-3 squats for every session and work in rounds of 5
Wall-sit & jumping squats.


Progression template

Under each focus area, I have given an example of progression but there are of course several ways to do progression than just adding more repetitions and rounds.
Try to do the exercise slower; that will make them more difficult.
For push-ups, it could be explosive up and then 3sec all the way down. The longer time the muscle is under tension, the more it has to work and the stronger it will become.
Another possibility is to try this beginner workout routine where progression is built in. You just have to follow the weekly schedule.Calisthenics beginner plan

A weekly workout plan

Below you have a PDF example of how a calisthenics for beginners plan could look like.
This, of course, could be put together in many ways depending on where you are in the different areas.calisthenics for beginners
As a general rule, I would say you should hit the areas you want to improve 2-3 times a week and the ones you want to maintain once a week.
Now remember what I said in the beginning:
Starting out right is half the battle. The rest is a steady and consistent progression template and finally lots of patience.
Good luck and please let me know what you think.

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