Calisthenics for Women: A Beginner Program for Female Calisthenics

Muscular Women with black top is doing calisthenics on top of a pull-up bar

Calisthenics for women is a healthy way to shape your body and become the best version of yourself that you possible could be. Calisthenics has been around for a very long time, and women have participated in Calisthenics since its inception. The modern concept of Calisthenics was for women to begin with, as an alternative to weightlifting. Nevertheless, building muscle with Calisthenics has seen many men sculpt godlike bodies. Women often have other goals in mind when they start a sport. Sadly, this had made women wonder if Calisthenics is for them. We’re going to examine whether Calisthenics is for women (spoiler: yes, it most certainly is) and how you can start Calisthenics as a woman today.

Is Calisthenics for Women?

We shouldn’t ask if Calisthenics is for women, since if you know what Calisthenics is, the real question should be whether Calisthenics is for men. The answer is a resounding yes, Calisthenics is for women and men equally. When the Ancient Greeks first practiced what we now call Calisthenics, both men and women, boys and girls practiced bodyweight exercise. Legendary hyper-Chad Xenophon noted of Spartan girls that they trained the way their brothers trained, which would include (next to throwing spears at invaders) Calisthenics. He also lets us know that Spartan girls were the most beautiful in Greece. In the 19th century, Calisthenics was made popular again specifically for the physical education of girls and young women, in a time where weightlifting was the predominant method of getting into shape.

Since ancient times, Calisthenics was for women a method of attaining physical and mental health and of course beauty. All the movements in Calisthenics are natural and your body is meant to do them. You might not be able to do them now (yet), but from a physiological point of view, the female body is perfectly adept for Calisthenics.

There are many Calisthenics Programs you can start which aren’t meant for men or women specifically. Anyone can do these programs regardless of gender, age or beginning mobility.

Our Top 3 Recommendations of Best Calisthenics Programs for Women

Female Calisthenics vs Male Calisthenics

All the movements are the same in Calisthenics for women as that practiced by men. By and large, men and women possess the same motor control and the same types of motion. That is not to say there is no nuance. One glance at the male and female body side-by-side is enough to note that there is a difference. A woman has a different hormone balance too, emphasizing very important biological functions other than building muscle.

This difference will find its way in Calisthenics too. However, it is more a difference in parameters than it is in foundational exercises. Men might do more repetitions or add more resistance. Men generally recover faster and grow more muscle mass. The movement, however, is the same in female Calisthenics.

Women in Calisthenics may experience a greater range of motion than men, due to their naturally more supple muscles and bone structure, which leads to greater feats of agility. Many women gravitate toward more Mobility Program oriented forms of Calisthenics, which uses their natural agility to its full effect and do things most men will never be able to either.

The difference between Calisthenics for women and men is therefore mostly one of quantity, not quality. The perfect execution of the movement is equally important. Learning new techniques and performing them with perfect form is the same, male or female Calisthenics.

Mistakes Women Make in Calisthenics

Many women start Calisthenics with some destructive misunderstandings of what Calisthenics will do to their bodies. These misunderstandings lead to mistakes, well-intentioned maybe, but still mistakes you’d best avoid. Some of them even influence the way some women perform Calisthenics, which could be dangerous. Here are common mistakes we see in Calisthenics for women. These are mistakes specifically to Calisthenics for women and not general beginner Calisthenics mistakes.

#1 Women erroneously modify Calisthenics Exercise

Many women get into Calisthenics with the mindset that the exercises might be too hard for them. They then go about modifying the exercise to make it lighter, in the wrong belief that this is better suited for the female body. This is a highly destructive, potentially dangerous and injury-prone way of thinking. Calisthenics exercise has been developed over literal millennia to make the most of your body’s range of motion. Changing them is full of risks like acute injury, but also of developing long-term injury which you might not feel right away while you practice.

Always employ the original technique and use perfect form. This might mean that you can do fewer repetitions than you would like, but so be it. Everyone starts somewhere. In the case that this means you cannot do even a single repetition, practice either a lighter variation of that technique or make use of Resistance Bands to decrease resistance. Whatever you do, do not think you can just ‘modify’ a technique to appear easier and repeat that move countless times without it coming back to bite you.

#2 They Mistake Calisthenics for Isolation Exercise (Flat Abs, Big Booty)

We see many women in Calisthenics who are only interested in a specific area of their bodies. They want to hone that area and don’t care much for the rest. We have the sneaking suspicion (as in, we’re 100% right), that these women only perform Calisthenics for superficial looks. They want to flatten their belly or work on their glutes for looks alone.

Although Calisthenics can and will give you a beautiful body, this is not what Calisthenics is about or how it functions. As bodyweight exercise, Calisthenics consists almost entirely of compound exercises. Almost never is a specific muscle targeted alone but rather a set of muscles all at once. It is also the optimal method for reducing body fat and getting lean. Instead of trying to do isolation exercises for just your abs or glutes or breasts (yes, we’ve seen people try), a full-body program is much more effective and will give you the results you want.

#3 Women Hold Back Thinking They Will Bulk Muscle Like Men

Some women hold back on their progression, fearing that they would look more and more masculine as the result of their exercise. For many, this is the first time in their lives they’ve seen any muscle on their arms or abs. They are worried that they would lose their feminine beauty and come to resemble a male physique. This worry is fueled by the look of many muscular men who do the same exercises they do.

This concern is largely unnecessary, and you shouldn’t hold back on your progress because of looks alone. Women have a vastly different hormone balance than men. Especially the male growth hormone testosterone will preclude you from becoming bulked up in muscle mass like a man. Aside from your hormones, almost every cell in your body is slightly different from those of a man. Your body will react differently to exercise than male bodies would, so it is highly unlikely that Calisthenics will lead to a bulky muscle mass. Even most men need to do some specific optimizing and won’t just explode after doing a few pull-ups.

What you’ll typically find is that yes you do get more muscle, but in areas that accentuate the feminine form. These are the areas where you already had more muscle to begin with, like your glutes and hamstrings. If anything, Calisthenics for women accentuates your female form sooner than it washes it out with a male physique. 

There is one small nuance here. If you specifically train to look more masculine, like emphasizing your shoulders, then you can look more masculine as a result. It would take a lot of very goal-oriented, intentional effort on your part. Following a full body program, however, will not make you bulk muscle like a man, won’t give you a masculine appearance and will more likely bring out your feminine physique even more.

Benefits of Calisthenics for Women

Calisthenics has many benefits for women, such as a healthier body and a more attractive physique. But it also improves your mental health, increases your metabolism, and helps regulate your hormone balance. We are sometimes accused of conflating healthiness with attractiveness and to that, we plead guilty as charged. As Calisthenics enthusiasts, we can only believe that attractiveness is our biological way of showing that we are healthy potential mates. We humans try to show our health through becoming more attractive. The same then is the opposite, becoming healthier is becoming more attractive. This, of course, goes against certain current narratives which try to decouple health from attractiveness. 

If you’re into Calisthenics, you also believe that physical health is attractive and that you pursue Calisthenics with the aim of becoming the best version of yourself in terms of physical health and by extension attractiveness.

Here are a few major benefits of Calisthenics for women:

#1 Sheds Bodyfat and Become Lean

Notice how we don’t mention weight. With Calisthenics, you will shed weight eventually if you are now obese. But what tends to happen more is that as you exercise, you are substituting fat for muscle tissue. Muscle tissue is denser and weighs more than fat. You shouldn’t be surprised to see your bodyweight increase instead of decrease, if you aren’t obese but do have some fat to burn. This is perfectly normal and that is why we always recommend taking length measurements with a measuring tape instead of weight measurements. Get bum naked in front of a mirror and measure all those parts you’d like to shrink and those parts you’d like to grow. Do your Calisthenics for a couple of weeks, measure again and see the true power of Calisthenics.

We tell this to men as well, but women do seem more susceptible to the deceiving nature of the scales. There is nothing wrong with bodyweight, it depends on what that bodyweight is comprised off. If it’s made of fast food and soft drinks, it’s going to be unhealthy. If it’s made of lean muscles which only accentuate the female form and make you strong and agile, then there’s nothing wrong with weighing a couple of pounds more than average.

#2 Promotes Mobility and Avoid Injury

Calisthenics is a very dynamic sport compared to other forms of fitness. This is exceptionally well-suited for women, whose goals often don’t align with things like static weightlifting. By doing Calisthenics exercise, you make your muscles more supple, and you strengthen your joints and ligaments. This results in greater mobility and agility which in turn could allow you to do other forms of Calisthenics or other sports altogether. 

Women are more susceptible to knee injury than men are, and especially during the first half of their menstrual cycle. The levels of the female equivalent of testosterone, estrogen and progesterone are low during these times, meaning your body will recuperate and repair much slower during these days. Overburdening your joints, especially your knees, is more easily done during that time. Although this is not a universal problem, women who do experience weak knees benefit from a Mobility Program. These programs not only build strength and stamina, but also increase your agility while making your joints more resistant to injury.

An alternative to a Mobility Program is to combine a regular full-body Calisthenics workout with a HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) regime the week after your menstruation has ceased while avoiding movement sports like soccer and volleyball. Also be mindful of your knee placement during Calisthenics.

#3 Builds Physical Strength and Stamina

Calisthenics tends to build functional strength and functional stamina. The type of strength and stamina you can also use in day-to-day applications. Although it can be done, Calisthenics is not the best option for bulking up immensely in size. It is not weightlifting or bodybuilding. A lean and toned body is more likely the result you’ll get with ample strength and endurance to boot. Being physically strong and confident in your strength will open so many doors in your practical life that we can’t even being to list them like:

  • Doing new sports
  • Going on new outdoor adventures
  • Taking on new projects
  • Feeling more confident in your body
  • Feeling more attractive

#4 Builds Motivation and Fosters Happiness

In more ways than one does Calisthenics for women build motivation and give a sense of happiness. Just after your exercise, your body releases endorphins and other happiness hormones which give you that feeling of accomplishment. This alone is a huge motivator to train again. But in the long term, Calisthenics boosts confidence because your body undergoes a metamorphosis. You feel more confident in your own strength because you arestronger. You feel more confident in your ability to handle tasks because you have more stamina. You feel more attractive because physical signals about health play a huge role in our perceived attractiveness. You feel more attractive because you are more attractive.

Confident, happy and motivated people get more done, are more pleasant to be around and are better trusted by others. Not only will Calisthenics allow you to experience a better body, but also a better life. 

The Female Calisthenics Body 

To put proof to claim, here are 10 examples of women who have honed their bodies using Calisthenics. Proof that Calisthenics is for women. We’ve selected both lean, muscular women and slim and agile women to show you the diverse range of options Calisthenics presents women with. We’ve included links to their Instagram accounts, give them a follow and say Calisthenics Worldwide said hi.

#1 Melanie Driessen

Four-time Dutch national champion and two-time World Champion, Melanie Driessen shows us what Calisthenics can do for women. Her empowering, muscular but lean physique is a testament to what you can achieve as well if you apply yourself to a healthy and active lifestyle. She’s been into competitive Calisthenics for 11 years. She lives in the Netherlands and gives professional coaching classes. Melanie also likes to travel and is very engaged with the Calisthenics community, whether you’re a fellow famous athlete or not. Next to Calisthenics, she’s also into weightlifting.

Instagram: @melanie.driessen

#2 Jasmina Svilenova

World Champion of FIBO in both 2022 and 2022, Jasmina Svilenova sets an example for girls and women in Calisthenics world-wide. She always performs her exercises with a lively attitude and a positive outlook on Calisthenics and herself.  She lives in Sofia, Bulgaria and has recently finished her bachelor’s degree at the university of Sofia.

Instagram: @jasi_svilenova

#3 Malin “Malle” Jansson

Malin “Malle” Jansson is a Swedish Calisthenics athlete and coach and female heavyweight champion of 2022. With an upper-arm circumference of 13.4 inch, she’s an absolute powerhouse and proof that women can be just as strong as men, if you put your heart and your mind into it. She’s also unashamed of showing her body on Instagram, and why should she? Next to Calisthenics, she likes singing and spending time with her dog Minos.

Instagram: @malinmallejansson

#4 Alisia Persa

She is just 17 years old and already making a name for herself by winning various EU Calisthenics awards. Alisia Persa started doing Calisthenics when her mother showed her some of the exercises she did at the gym. Captivated, Alisia went all in on bodyweight exercise. When she was 13, she amazed audiences and the local press at a street festival, beating the opposition in a challenge by doing 109 Push-Ups and 510 squats. She also beat the rest with the longest bar hang. Alicia Persa is from Cluj, Romania.

Instagram: @alisia_persa

#5 Savina Gabriella

Stylish, agile and with good looks to boot, Savina Gabriella is somewhat of a CWW favorite. But that primarily comes from her being a self-made woman. She started out doing odd jobs to support herself and build her brand as a Calisthenics influencer and to pay for her schooling. Nowadays, Savina inspires many women and men alike to adopt a healthy, active and outdoors lifestyle. Savina lives in Brazil and is currently also studying for a Bachelor of Law degree. 

Instagram: @savinagabriella

#6 Maya Silva

Maya Silva from Chile is a multiple times national Calisthenics champion and 2022 champion of Battle Heroes Brazil. Her strength, lean body and toned muscles should be an aspiration for many girls and women to aim for. Like Maya, you can look strong, fit, happy and feminine as well. She graduated as a physical trainer and is also part of the Barsayans team, scoring high on the freestyle Calisthenics bar.

Instagram: @iammayasilva

#7 Estefany CNX

Representing Columbia, Estefany won two prestigious Calisthenics awards, Burningate 2022 in Italy and SWUB IV 2022 in Spain. Agile and strong, Estefany still maintains that classic Latina figure so many women want. Next to promoting an active and healthy lifestyle, she also shares insights into her personal life with her boyfriend who coincidentally is also quite the athlete himself.

Instagram: @estefany_cnx

#8 Natalia Modzelewska

Natalia Modzelewska is a Calisthenics trainer and 2018 Street Workout World Champion. Next to posting content of her achievements, she also has many instruction videos on proper technique and examples of commonly made mistakes. Next to Calisthenics and training videos, she also posts insights into her personal life. She likes hiking outdoors. Natalia lives in Krakow, Poland.

Instagram: @natalia.modzelewska_

#9 Nastyuska

Doing as she pleases, Nastyuska or simply Nastya as she’s called online, has quite the following on her Instagram and is something of a local celebrity. She specializes in freestyle Calisthenics, Parkour and the bar. She’s been practicing various forms of Calisthenics from a very young age, starting as a gymnast. Her favorite color is blue, and she likes butterflies. Nastya lives near Kemerovo-Krasnodar, in Southern Russia.

Instagram: @nastya_loik8

#10 Polina Kozhurova

Lean, slender but strong and agile, Polina Kozhurova from Russia is not only an expert in Calisthenics, but she is also an elite international gymnast representing her country. She started on the gymnastics bar in her very early teens. Polina likes to share her dynamic bar routines and show how flexible she is. Next to gymnastics and Calisthenics, Polina likes to go snowboarding in wintertime.

Instagram: @polli_kozhurova

A Beginner Calisthenics Workout for Women

You want to proceed with Calisthenics. That’s good, but you’re unsure when and how to start with Calisthenics because maybe this is the first time, or you have something else holding you back like obesity. The following Calisthenics workout consists of some easy Calisthenics moves and is a good kickstart to your new life as a Calisthenics enthusiast. If you’re feeling more up to the task, our 5-Step Beginner Calisthenics Workout is also a good place to start, offering more of the standard Calisthenics techniques.

MonTueWenThuFriSatSun
Incline Push-Ups Australian Pull-Ups Horse StanceHorizontal Leg Raises Lunges Side-Way Leg RaisesBench Dips Assisted Squats Bicycle CrunchesAssisted Squats Incline Push-Ups Australian Pull-UpsHorizontal Leg Raises Lunges Side-Way Leg RaisesRest & StretchingRest & Stretching

Here are the repetition parameters for 3 sets each (you can do more if you can or less if you really can’t):

  • 3 set of 1 to 5 Incline Push-Ups
  • 3 set of 1 to 5 Australian Pull-Ups
  • 3 set of 1 to 5 Bench Dips
  • 3 set of 3 to 10 Horizontal Leg Raises
  • 3 sets of 3 to 10 Side-Way Leg Raises
  • 3 sets of 3 to 10 Bicycle Crunches
  • 5 to 60 seconds Horse Stance
  • 3 sets of 3 to 10 Assisted Squats
  • 3 to 15 Lunges for each leg

Conclusions: Is Calisthenics for Women and Why Yes?

Calisthenics for women is a misnomer, largely. The human body differs very little between the sexes and our motor functions are by and large the same. Are men stronger than women on average? Yes. Men also recover faster and with more efficiency than women due to a difference in hormonal balances and some other biological factors you can’t escape. This does not mean anything to you as a Calisthenics practitioner. All you need to focus on is perfect form during your exercises. You’ll find that the parameters (number of repetitions, resting periods, and so on) might be different, but the exercises are the same. 

Calisthenics was for women an alternative to weightlifting, back in the day, so it’s fairer to say that men are the relative newcomers to this branch of fitness. We’re happy to be here.

What we do see women do in Calisthenics is that they try to modify exercises to make them lighter, but in the wrong ways. There are proper lighter variations of exercises and there are tools, like Resistance Bands. But modifying a technique and using suboptimal form can be very dangerous both while doing that exercise and long-term. Some will also mistake Calisthenics for isolation techniques, only desiring an area of their body to be extra flat or extra-large. Not only is isolation exercise less effective at shedding body fat, the compound exercises of Calisthenics will also tone your body quicker.

We’ve also dispelled the myth that women doing Calisthenics will bulk up muscle and become more masculine in appearance. This isn’t true unless you specifically focus on your shoulders. If you do a wholesome, full-body Calisthenics Program like the Cali Move Complete Calisthenics Program, you will build lean muscle in all the right areas. The result will be a toned body with an accentuated, female form. 

Frequently Asked Questions About Calisthenics for Women

Here are a few questions about Calisthenics for women we might have missed in the main article.

Does Calisthenics make women bulk muscle?

A full-body Calisthenics workout for women does not result in muscle bulking like you might expect with men. Female growth hormone will not result in a masculine body type from normal Calisthenics. Only if you specifically target the shoulders heavily, can you get a more masculine appearance. Normal Calisthenics for a woman will build on muscle she already has, leading to a toned body and bringing out the feminine form even more.

Is Calisthenics good for women?

Calisthenics is healthy for both women and men. It has been practiced for thousands of years by both genders and people of all ages. Calisthenics was made popular again in the 19th century as a means of physical education for girls and young women, and an alternative to weightlifting. That is why Calisthenics is good for women.

Is it harder for women to do Calisthenics?

Calisthenics is no different for women than for men when it comes to technique and mindset. The foundations remain the same regardless of gender and you should always focus on achieving perfect form. There will be differences in parameters, such as a typically lower number of repetitions per exercise than men do and a longer recuperation period between workouts. Women’s goals in Calisthenics are also typically different, with more emphasis towards lean muscle mass and body toning.

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