What is Calisthenics? Everything You Need to Know About Calisthenics Exercise, Workout and What Calisthenics is Good For

What is Calisthenics Thumbnail From Calisthenics Worldwide

What is Calisthenics is an ancient question, and perhaps the answer to it marches ahead of us as fast as we can seek out its clues. At first glance it seemed obvious to us. We do Calisthenics every day, it’s what we do, and you can see it right here. But as with so many things we take for granted, their actual meaning, if you must express it in words, proves elusive. Calisthenics is both a science as well as an idealized beauty image combined, and both are always changing. Science uncovers more truths and disproves what we held as true all the time. Our concept beauty is never static either. Nevertheless, if you’re wondering what Calisthenics is, keep reading. We’ll take a comprehensive dive into the meaning, definition, principles, history and benefits of Calisthenics.

What is Calisthenics Key Takeaways

  • Calisthenics is bodyweight exercise using minimal equipment.
  • Calisthenics as we know it was practiced as far back as in Ancient Greece. Both men and women practiced various forms of this sport both to remain healthy and beautiful and to prepare for warfare.
  • Calisthenics means “beautiful strength”, meaning both physical as well as mental strength to create both a strong and esthetically pleasing body.
  • Calisthenics has many physical and mental benefits like enhancing strength, stamina, agility, mental health and social contacts.
  • Calisthenics has no significant costs to get into.
  • The core principles of Calisthenics are progressive overload, compound exercise, high range of motion and focus on perfect form and technique.
  • Typical Calisthenics exercises are Pull-Ups, Push-Ups, Squats, Dips, Planks and Front- and Back Levers. There are many variations of each, creating both easier and harder exercises.
  • A Calisthenics Workout groups exercises that target large muscle groups together into a staggered routine, so that each muscle group is targeted on different days.
  • A Calisthenics Program encompasses various Workouts which together form a Full Body Workout, usually on a weekly cycle. 
  • Common Calisthenics Equipment includes Pull-Up Bars, Dip Bars, Parallettes, Push-Up Bars, Gymnastic Rings, Resistance Bands, Power Towers, Weighted Vests and Dip Belts.

The Benefits of Calisthenics

To know what Calisthenics is good for, we must determine the main benefits of Calisthenics. Some of these benefits are very broad, while others are in contrast very precise and exclusive to our sport. This is what Calisthenics does:

  • Improves Strength and Muscle Size[3]Calisthenics exercises help build muscular strength and endurance without needing heavy weights or equipment. By working against your body weight, you can build functional strength and develop lean muscle mass. Weighted Calisthenics can add to this.
  • Improves Biomechanics[3]: Many exercises involve full-body movements, which help to improve your range of motion and flexibility. This can help to reduce the risk of injury and improve overall mobility.
  • Enhances Stamina: exercises can include a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) format, which helps to improve cardiovascular fitness and burn calories. This can help to improve overall health and reduce the risk of chronic diseases.
  • Requires Minimal Equipment: One of the most significant advantages of Calisthenics is that you can do it anywhere, anytime, with little to no gym equipment. This makes it an excellent option for those who don’t have access to a gym or prefer to exercise outdoors, for instance in a Calisthenics Park.
  • Promotes Mental Health: Exercise improves mental health by reducing stress, anxiety, and depression[4]. It can be a fun and challenging way to improve your mood and boost your overall mental well-being.
  • Improves Social Contacts: Calisthenics is also a social event, every time you head out for the Calisthenics Park to do your exercises. There are almost always people in and around these parks doing exercises, talking and helping each other. Unless we arrive very early in the morning or very late at night (and even then), there’s always someone with time for a little chat during or between sets. Unlike gyms, where even looking at someone may get you in trouble, the park and its community is open, helpful and grateful.
Photo by Rubal N Simran Rainu from Pexels: https://www.pexels.com/photo/people-near-david-statue-inside-building-2939793/

What is Calisthenics: A Calisthenics Definition in English

Summarized, Calisthenics is a set of bodyweight strength exercises by which you work out your muscles using minimal equipment. The main type of resistance are your own bodyweight and gravity. These exercises are frequently compound exercises, targeting large muscle groups with a single workout. However, a lot of nuances are lost when we rely on a simple bodyweight exercise definition. General fitness also involves bodyweight exercise using minimal equipment.

What Calisthenics is precisely can best be described by looking at it from two different angles. The first clue that it is different from general fitness lies in the meaning of the word itself and Calisthenics’ meaning in English . It comes from the Greek “Khalos” meaning beautiful and “Sthenos” meaning strength. Calisthenics means “beautiful strength”[1]. As a sport, it is the synergy between strength or (mental) health and beauty.

In history, Calisthenics is one of the earliest, if not the earliest, exercise principal humans abided by. It requires none of the sophisticated machinery we have available now, yet ancient man knew exactly what strength and beauty looked like. A cursory glance at a Greek statue or a vase is enough to identify that they knew exactly what body type we strive for. They knew, because they had seen those types of bodies. They saw them, because they had Calisthenics as an effective means to get there.

Calisthenics vs Fitness and Bodybuilding

Fitness is healthy but doesn’t necessarily build up to any beauty standard besides that of having a healthy body. On the other side of the spectrum of exercise we may find bodybuilding, which seeks very hard to attain a beauty standard and is willing to even sacrifice your health for it.

Calisthenics takes that from general fitness what is healthy, while incorporating training techniques that lead up to building a beautiful body. It does this chiefly through hypertrophy.

By keeping or introducing dynamic forms of exercise, Calisthenics creates a body type that is healthy, lean and agile as well as strong, endurant and muscular. This is not a compromise between fitness, bodybuilding and weightlifting. Calisthenics body types can be immensely muscular yet also very agile and nimble at once. Of course, there is still a spectrum here within the sport.

Calisthenics History

What is Calisthenics is also a historical question. Calisthenics is not new and has been around since at least the time of the ancient Greeks. We find the first depictions and writings on bodyweight exercise as early as 500 B.C.. These exercises would fit into a modern routine[2], and they do. Pull-Ups, Push-Ups and Squats were already foundational exercises in Calisthenics.

Calisthenics was practiced by Greek warriors to train their bodies for war but the appeal of bodyweight exercise as a sport was more widespread than that. All walks and talks of life exercised their bodies, including women and children. General, philosopher and historian Xenophon noted that Spartan girls exercised the way their brothers did and that they were the most beautiful women in Greece. Next to horse riding, rock throwing and wrestling, this would mean bodyweight exercise. Calisthenics for women has been around a long time as well.

Weights were very rudimentary, and they had nothing like the gym equipment we have. It came down to bodyweight exercise and if their sculptures of warrior men, deities and the depictions of their beautiful women on vases are anything to go by; it was effective.

Modern Calisthenics was made popular again in the 19th century by the Germans Friedrich Ludwig Jahn and Adolf Spiess. The Swede Per Henrik Ling stressed its importance in the physical development of girls and young women, after which men also began taking an interest in it over the then more traditional weightlifting.

In the last 20 years, bodyweight exercise has really lifted off again. Not only are the same foundational exercises still there, but it has also grown to incorporate so much more. Beside these basics, Calisthenics now has two other distinct branches which both build on these basics; freestyle and power moves. Both these additions use the moves from the basics but add their own twist, making Calisthenics more versatile and even more enjoyable.

The Core Calisthenics Principles

To build muscle with Calisthenics, any workout regimen must abide by the 5 core Calisthenics principles. Together, they embody the functional ethics of bodyweight exercise.

  1. Progressive Overload: Progressive overload is the concept of gradually increasing the difficulty of an exercise over time to continue challenging your muscles and promoting growth[5]. In Calisthenics, this might involve adding reps, increasing the range of motion, or changing the exercise to a more challenging variation. Adding weights to your Calisthenics would turn it into Weighted Calisthenics, causing additional overload for the more advanced practitioner.
  2. Perfect Form and Technique: Perfect form and technique are essential with bodyweight exercise to ensure you engage the right muscles and avoid injury. Maintaining good posture, controlling movements, and engaging your core throughout each exercise is vital.
  3. Range of Motion: In Calisthenics, it’s important to use a high range of motion in each exercise to maximize muscle activation and improve flexibility. Calisthenics combines concentric with eccentric movement to improve muscle strength, size and agility efficiently and effectively.
  4. Compound Exercise: bodyweight exercise emphasizes compound exercise, which works out multiple muscles or muscle groups simultaneously. These exercises are more efficient and effective than isolation exercises[6].
  5. Static Holds to Improve Endurance: Isometric exercises (static holds while tensioning your muscles) like the Planche, human flag, front lever and back lever, et cetera, help to improve your muscle endurance as well making them stronger.
  6. Consistency and Progression: Like any exercise form, consistency and progression are crucial to seeing results in Calisthenics. Establishing a regular workout routine that gradually progresses in difficulty and scope is important[7].

What Is Calisthenics Exercise?

The gist of what Calisthenics is, can be practically defined as seeking to induce progressive overload and hypertrophy by using bodyweight exercises. In practical terms, Calisthenics needs to be a collection of effective, scalable movements that use minimal to no equipment to perform. Another important factor is that they are compound exercises, mostly, and isolation exercises are quite rare. Here are a few beginner, advanced and expert Calisthenics exercises and what they entail:

Incline Push-UpsPush-UpsWeighted Calisthenics
Straight Arm Plank HoldPull-UpsMuscle-Ups
Bar HangSquatsPistol Squats
Australian Pull-UpsDipsHandstands
Scapula DipsPlankHandstand Push-Ups
Shallow DipsChin-UpsBack Levers
Horse StanceWide-Grip Pull-UpsFront Levers
Wall SitsTuck PlancheHefesto
LungesAssisted HandstandsOne Arm Push-Ups
Shallow SquatsLow Rep Muscle-UpsPlanche

If you believe (erroneously) that Calisthenics exercise is always hard, you should read about the 10 easy Calisthenics moves which are effective but simple for the starting Calisthenics practitioner to get into. At the same time, Calisthenics exercises can be awesome to watch too, with feats of human agility and strength like the Hefesto and Handstand Push-Ups. Below, you’ll find a short description of each technique.

Push-Ups & Push-Up Variations

Place your hands on the floor slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, with your feet behind you, keeping your body straight. This position is called a Straight-Arm Plank. Lower yourself towards the ground until your chest almost touches the floor and push up while keeping your elbows at around 45 degrees from your sides. There are many variations to the Push-Up, like the Incline Push-Up where you place your hands on a raised surface (like a staircase) to reduce the acuteness of the angle, making the exercise easier. One-Armed Push-Ups push your body to the extreme by putting all your weight on one arm. You can also add weight by wearing a Weighted Vest.

Pull-Ups & Pull-Up Variations

Grip a Pull-Up bar with your hands a little wider than shoulder-width apart, with your palms facing away. Hang with your arms fully extended, then pull your body towards the bar until your chin is above it. Lower yourself back down to the starting position. There are various types of Pull-Ups like Archer pull-ups, Wide pull-ups, Close grip pull-ups, Australian Pull-ups and Front lever pull-ups as well as different grips which emphasize different muscles groups. 

You can start practicing the Pull-Up with a simple Bar Hang, where you grab the Pull-Up Bar and keep yourself suspended in the air for several seconds. This will increase your grip strength in preparation of the full exercise or beginning with a Scapula Pull-Up instead.


Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your toes pointing slightly outward. Bend your knees until they are bent 90 degrees, allowing the knees your toes during the movement[12]. Push back up. Squats, together with Calve Raises are some of the only leg exercises in Calisthenics. To facilitate further growth, many practitioners use a Resistance Band for additional resistance. Alternatively, you can start with a shallower Squat for an easier exercise. The opposite is true with Pistol Squats, where you Squat with just 1 leg, keeping the other stretched in front of you and not touching the floor.


Place your hands on the Dip Bars straight underneath your shoulders. Extend your arms to lift your body off the ground, then lower yourself by bending your elbows. Push back up to the starting position and repeat. Dips can be combined with a Dip Belt for additional resistance. Dips work on some of the weakest muscles in our arms, the triceps. Scapula Dips can be a good start where, instead of bending your elbows, you keep them just slightly bent so that there is some tension on your triceps, then you only dip with your scapula, e.g., you raise your shoulders. Another option is to use Resistance Bands to absorb some of your bodyweight.


Start in a Straight Arm Plank position (Push-Up position). Instead of doing Push-Ups, move your elbows to the floor underneath your shoulders and rest on them, while keeping the rest of your body stiff. You will need to engage your core and glutes to maintain perfect form. Hold this position until failure or for however long your routine calls for.

Back Levers and Front Levers

A lever is where you start with your body in a horizontal position and suspended off a horizontal bar with your hands. This can be a Pull-Up Bar or Dip Bars. Various exercises can then be done, like the Front Lever where you “simply” pull yourself up towards the horizontal bar. Levers require a large amount of core strength, including in your shoulders, abdomen and even legs to maintain that straight, horizontal position. Most practitioners start training for the lever with a simple hold and no additional movement at all. The Back Lever has you face down and pulling yourself up backwards, an even harder exercise. We can’t leave the Hefesto unmentioned, which combines the Back Lever with a backward chin-up and where you raise yourself diagonally upward and past the horizontal bar.


Handstands are advanced techniques involving core and arm strength and balance. Place your hands flat on the floor (or grab your Parallette bars), slightly wider than shoulder width. Push your legs off from the floor and straight up into the air. This will require practice and beginners often use a wall to lean their feet against or slowly walk up backwards until they’re upright. This eliminates much of the need for perfect balance until your arms are stronger. Once you’re mastered the basic handstand, you start doing single Push-Ups and work the number of repetitions up.

Other Exercises and Variations

The examples above are but a very small collection of the most common, foundational exercise. Each of these exercises has variations which make the exercise harder or target a slightly (or radically different) set of muscles. It is important that you learn to do these core exercises using perfect form before progressing to harder variations or doing more repetitions.

Finally, in Weighted Calisthenics, artificial free weight is added to the body itself to make existing or slightly adjusted exercises harder.

What is a Calisthenics Workout?

Calisthenics knows many great exercises which can effectively induce hypertrophy and get those results you want. But like with all tools, their proper employment is key if you want desirable results. A Calisthenics Workout combines multiple exercises into a single workout session. Typically, this workout session will target a specific area of the body, for instance the shoulders, chest, core or legs. This is particularly efficient in Calisthenics since most of our exercises are compound exercises. A single workout can then exercise all the muscles in that area, while leaving the rest of your body to rest.

The workout selects those exercises appropriate for the desired result while also considering the skill of the practitioner. Different areas of your body may be at different developmental stages (never skip leg day), so that more advanced techniques can be employed for one area while simpler techniques are used to exercise other areas.

Typically, these workouts are divided over the days of the week, resulting in sufficient resting time for each muscle group while remaining active and disciplined in your workout routine.

What is a Calisthenics Program?

With the right tools (exercises) and the correct implementation (workouts), it is time to put it all together into a plan to build your body. A Calisthenics Program puts exercises into workout routines which together target your complete body. A Calisthenics Program is progressive, in that it gradually increases resistance by exchanging easier exercises for harder ones or by increasing the number of repetitions or duration of holds. The best Calisthenics Programsconsider your current level of skill and adapt their choice of exercises and construction of workout routines.

The workout routine should in total target a whole-body exercise but do so intermittently. Different areas of your body are exercised on different days while leaving other parts to rest. By doing this strategically, the right program can work out your entire body, having you work out on a regular basis (up to every day in some cases) and in a sustainable way. 

Example Training Week

There are many programs you can start and there are also different goals to consider. Calisthenics, weightlifting, general fitness, CrossFit, and so on are siblings, and you will find overlap within Calisthenics Programs between these family members. 

Some programs will side more towards mobility and stamina, like Mobility Programs. Other programs are heavily into building huge muscles or strength. 

Progression in Calisthenics and Speed of Progress

Calisthenics functions by progressive overload. In an ideal hypertrophic world, overload is continual. As your body compensates for the new level of resistance you are exposing it too, you are keeping pace with an increase in overload. This is realistically not possible. What tends to happen, and what Calisthenics Programs do is incremental overload. You increase the resistance of your training until you almost feel comfortable at that new level, and then you increase the resistance some more. This can happen at relatively short intervals, like on a week-to-week basis or even day-to-day, or take longer than a month.

You can build muscle with Calisthenics by adhering to this progressive overload and its fundamental training principles and training parameters. We’ll discuss these in a nutshell here, but you can read our very in-depth and science-backed article “Do Calisthenics Build Muscle”, for a more comprehensive understanding.

Training Principles

We’ve already given a short introduction earlier in this article about the principles of Calisthenics. We can go deeper into the physiological science behind these principles, which we call fundamental training principles[8]. What Calisthenics is, is essentially an amalgamation of training techniques that all, without fail, combine all 5 fundamental training principles. This makes Calisthenics highly effective and highly efficient at increasing strength and endurance.

  • Overload: the principle that an exercise should cause an overload of the bodily systems beyond their ordinary demand. Without overload, there is no incentive for the body to strengthen its system for future normal use.
  • Specificity: the principle that the body can only adapt in so many ways, and that you must choose what to train and just as important, what not to train. A sprinter is not a marathon runner and so, someone who has bulked up in muscle mass is not as agile.
  • Reversibility: the principle that your body always seeks an optimal equilibrium of energy intake and energy output, and so muscles which are not used or used less will diminish over time to a level appropriate for their use. This conserves energy for the body, which is not interested in how you look rather whose sole job it is to conserve energy for as long as possible.
  • Diminishing Returns: the principle that the difficulty curve of progression is an exponential one, and that gains in the beginning are easy to come by but that further gains will become harder and harder as you become stronger, faster and more endurant. This precludes you from ever reaching your effective genetic pinnacle.
  • Supercompensation: the goal of effective exercise is to reach a state of Supercompensation. Supercompensation is where the bodily systems (muscle mass, speed, oxygen uptake, and so on) recognize they are inadequate for the required stress levels and adapt. After Supercompensation, the bodily systems can handle the new normal. In Calisthenics, you repeat this process of reaching Supercompensation over and over.

Training Parameters

Training Parameters refer to the specific numbers and math behind your exercises. How many repetitions, how many sets, what weight, resting periods, and so on. With the training fundamentals above, you can tweak these parameters to get different results (overload and specificity) or push yourself beyond your current plateau (diminishing returns and supercompensation). The training parameters are:

  • Motor action: this is the type of movement made while doing the exercise. The most effective exercises use a high range of motion and combine both concentric with eccentric movements, while isometric holds are often used as a precursor exercise.
  • Weight and volume: the weight, or resistance, of your exercise and the number of repetitions and sets. Your nRM (optimal Repetition Maximums sets) is the most efficient method to train, which will consist of 4 sets of maximum repetitions (RM) that you can successfully complete with perfect form.
  • Choice of exercise and order of exercise: compound exercises are more efficient for whole-body muscle mass growth and for overall muscle gain per caloric energy expenditure. Isolation exercises are effective for inducing high hypertrophy in a single muscle.
  • Intermittence (resting): the resting period between sets will influence what your body will prepare for during Supercompensation. Longer rests promote strength or explosive strength. Shorter rests for hypertrophy and endurance.
  • Speed: the speed at which the movements in the exercise are performed. For optimal results, an eccentric return move is performed twice as slow as a concentric move that preceded it: for instance, a 2 second pull up, followed by a 4 second descent.
  • Frequency: training frequency can be highly variable over the course of a week. For the best results, you train 3 to 5 times a week using an intermittent program. Trained individuals can train every day.

Speed at Which Calisthenics Progresses and Hypertrophy

Calisthenics can see very fast results, especially in the beginning. As bodyweight exercise, Calisthenics automatically adapts its resistance as your grow stronger. Muscle mass is heavier than fat, and as you replace fat with muscle, your bodyweight will increase. This in turn increases the resistance and thus overload you experience. There is no telling precisely how quick you will progress as an individual. If your Calisthenics Program adheres to the fundamental training principles, then you can expect the most efficient results (which results depending on the parameters it sets)[9]

From experience, most men see noticeable results after the first 3 weeks and most women after 5 weeks. The discrepancy comes from the growth hormone testosterone, which is more abundant in men. Men will find it easier to boost testosterone naturally, too[10].

Calisthenics works on the principle that we are meant to propel our own bodies forward through the world and that, for that reason, using our own bodyweight as resistance is optimal. A common, but unjust, criticism weightlifters give on Calisthenics is that without weights, your progression is inherently held back.

This is a false assertion, and a U.S. Army study shows there is little to no significant difference in strength-gain potential between weightlifting and Calisthenics[11]. For one, your own bodyweight far exceeds what the vast majority of weightlifters can repeatedly lift in a typical set. Say you weight 155 pounds, which is fairly typical for a man. How many weightlifters can actually lift that amount weight repeatedly for a decent set? Yet, there are plenty Calisthenics practitioners who do handstand push-ups.

You have all the resistance you could ever need right there in your own body. It all depends on how you use it and utilizing the right techniques.

That said, at some point you will reach a plateau where the diminishing returns will be so great that you can no longer find the effective time working out to see further gains. In theory, you will never need to add weight, but that could in practice mean that all you’re doing every day is working out. This is where weighted Calisthenics comes in to help you break down that ceiling.

Weighted Calisthenics: What Is It & When Should You Do It?

With Weighted Calisthenics we mean the addition of free weight to your regular exercise. This is different from weightlifting in that the Weighted Calisthenics exercise does not change substantially from its unweighted base form. You still primarily use your body weight as resistance, and you make movements that use your body weight effectively. The added weight serves to increase your body weight. You’re not lifting weights by themselves. 

Weighted Calisthenics is typically performed with the addition of a Weighted Vest or the use of a Dip Belt during certain exercises. The Dip Belt can add an almost unlimited amount of weight to your body but does restrict your range of motion and mobility quite severely. The Weighted Vest is worn like a vest and resembles military body armor in appearance. The vest does not impede your movement very significantly and allows for almost all your normal exercises.

A second method of increasing resistance through artificial means is the use of Resistance Bands. The Resistance Band knows a whole subset of its own exercises, as well as being implementable into normal Calisthenics exercises. They often work both ways, in that they can also make your exercise lighter as well as heavier.

You start with Weighted Calisthenics when you hit a plateau you cannot breach on your own. If you’ve tried increasing the number of repetitions or the intensity of the exercise, it is time to consider adding weight to your body. It could also be the case that you could still see gains but, due to time restrictions, it would mean you have to give up exercise time for other muscle groups. Going with Weighted Calisthenics becomes the more efficient step in those cases.

Equipment Used in Calisthenics

The beginner Calisthenics workout requires no equipment, and even the advanced practitioner will find that buying their Calisthenics equipment for a home gym is mostly optional and almost entirely for convenience’s sake. This isn’t to say that equipment is without its merit. They can aid you in your exercises and at least one of the foundational exercises, the Pull-Up, will require some object to Pull-Up on. Aside from homemade DIY Calisthenics equipment, which may differ in quality depending on your own craftsmanship, most storebought equipment is of a high quality. They are simple in construction, so material choice and fit and finish are the most important factors. 

Here is a list of some of the most common equipment, with links to reviews of individual products. You will find that, compared to some other training equipment (and we’ll include annual gym membership fees), Calisthenics Equipment is very affordable.

Pull-Up Bars

Pull-Up Bars come in different shapes and sizes, both transportable and statically mounted to some surface. Investing in a good quality Pull-Up Bar is the most solid decision you can make if you start practicing our sport. You can do Push-Ups on the floor but it’s very hard to pull yourself up on nothing but air. This means money paid upfront, which can be a barrier to entry for some. We’ve done our very best to lower this bar (pun intended) as much as possible by reviewing many excellent Pull-Up Bars. Some of them will be super fancy and have a corresponding price tag, but some of our very best rated Pull-Up Bars are super affordable. We’ve reviewed various types of Pull-Up Bar, suitable for different situations of when and where you’ll use it:

Push-Up Bars

Push-Up Bars are grips which raise you off the floor while in a Straight Arm Plank Hold (Push-Up Position). This allows for a deeper Push-Up while not sacrificing any appreciable angle to the floor (and resistance). They also allow you to use a pistol grip instead of having to bend your wrists. Find the best Push-Up Bars for your Push-Ups here.


Parallettes are the more versatile cousins of the Push-Up Bar and straddle the line between Push-Up Bar and Dip Bar. They often have a wider base and can also stand higher. This allows you to use them for Push-Ups and Dips, but they are also more suited for inverted exercise, like handstands. We have an excellent collection of the best Parrallettes bars reviewed in-depth.

Dip Bars

A Dip Bars is a set of bars standing at around hip to waist length, with a wide base. A good set of dip bars allows you to do deeper dips, while maintaining the confidence that they won’t slip away underneath you. That last phenomenon is what holds you back using simple benches or chairs for your dips, being limited in how deep and how aggressive you can do dips. You can find the best Dip Bars here.

Power Towers

A Power Tower combines the Free-Standing Pull-Up Bar with the Dip Bar and the Push-Up Bar. You obtain one product and with it, you get 99% of what you need to do your Calisthenics exercise effectively. This can be immensely cost saving for people who do want all the features, but it can also save space in your home. Power Towers aren’t all advantageous, of course. They compromise on being a jack of all trades to some degree. You can find out all about this in our article on the best Power Towers.

Resistance Bands

Simple, venerable and ever the companion of a Calisthenics practitioner since its inception, the Resistance Band is a great tool to have. They are cheap but very versatile in their use. Resistance Bands can make exercise easier, by taking part of your bodyweight away. You can focus on perfect form, while reducing the weight of the band over time. Conversely, you can also use Resistance Bands to increase the resistance you experience from exercising. If there is one product we’d say, get this first, then it’s a set of decent Resistance Bands. Luckily, we found the best Calisthenics Resistance Bands for you already.

Gymnastic Rings

The age-old Gymnastic Rings are very useful tools to us. They allow for practically any exercise you could do on a Power Tower, Pull-Ups, Push-Ups and Dips. However, Gymnastic Rings introduce an additional level of difficulty in the shape of instability. The ropes are slack unless you put tension on them. During exercise you need to maintain your balance by keeping the ropes tout in just the right way. This activates other muscles, resulting in a more wholesome but also a harder compound exercise like the Ring Muscle-Up as Jelle shows us in this video:

You’ll want one of these Olympic quality Gymnastic Rings for this.

Suspension Trainers

Suspension Trainer combines the Gymnastic Rings with the Resistance Band. You can use them for a variety of exercises, like the Gymnastic Rings but with the option to substitute the straps for Resistance Bands. This opens a world of possibility normally associated with using gym machines. We were particularly impressed with the quality and capabilities of the FREESIXD Suspension Trainer by Pullup & Dip.

Weighted Vests

The go-to choice for people getting into Weighted Calisthenics is the Weighted Vest. It is comfortable to wear, doesn’t impede your range of motion and can add enough weight to make a significant impact on your gains. The hunt for the best Weighted Vests took some time, since many tend to wear out from use quite quickly. These best Weighted Veststhough ensure quality and longevity. 

Dip Belts

If you need more weight for your exercise, the Dip Belt is your likely candidate to make that happen. Dip Belts are broad belts with chains attached. To the human body they are virtually indestructible. You can hang as much weight from them as you want too, you will fail before the Dip Belt fails. This makes Dip Belts ideal for gross motor movements, like Dips and Pull-Ups where you remain relatively static and where you use large muscle groups. Obviously, we have extensively reviewed the best Dip Belts for you already.

Wrist Wraps

Your wrists are the most articulate joints in your body and the reason why human civilization, along with our thumbs, is where it is right now. You want to protect the delicate bones that comprise your wrists from overburden but also from acute injury. Wrist Wraps do precisely that, they keep your wrists tight and secure and mitigate overburden, but also make it less likely that you’ll overextend them. Wrists Wraps don’t have to be expensive but do have to be good. That’s why we reviewed several of the best Wrists Wraps available.

Calisthenics T-Shirts

Clothes make the man, is the old expression and there is truth in that. Wearing certain clothes that are publicly associated with a certain thing makes the wearer also more confident in doing that thing. Whether that be a uniform, a suit or your sportswear. By putting on your sportswear, you psychologically transform in that moment to a sportsman or sportswoman. Of course, the right t-shirt also has practical benefits like being lightweight, breathable and allowing sweat to be soaked easily and evaporate easily. You’d think that common and famous big brands would offer the best quality clothes, but far from it. And that’s without considering the malpractices brands like Nike indulge in. Rather than give money to child slavery, these Calisthenics t-shirts do a better job, and they look much better on you too.

Calisthenics Shoes

Shoes are an important, but sadly overlooked part of your sports attire. You want comfortable shoes that are lightweight and which you barely notice during exercise. There are several types of shoes you could wear, and here are the best Calisthenics Shoes for your workout.

Liquid Chalk

Slippery hands? Liquid Chalk is there to give you the traction you need. No matter how you rub it, with a little dab of Liquid Chalk you’ll have a tighter grip, and this allows you to complete your exercise with more satisfaction and greater confidence. The best Liquid Chalk is cheap but effective.

Starting with Calisthenics

You’ve come this far, and you know what Calisthenics is, so you must be wondering how to start Calisthenics. What you do know is that bodyweight exercise has a low entry bar. You can start immediately with zero equipment. There are many exercises that have variants which are easy to begin with, like incline Push-Ups and other easy Calisthenics moves. It doesn’t matter if you’re lean or obese, weak or strong, there is a solution for you in Calisthenics that will progress you to the next level. You just need the right Calisthenics Program and the right mindset to see it through.

That first part is relatively easy. There are plenty of Calisthenics Programs out there. Only their sheer choice might make you pause. In our experience, most people who start with a program find the most enjoyment and progression from the Cali Move Complete Calisthenics Program. It’s beginner-friendly and it’s expert-friendly and most people find the level they attain through this program more than enough.

The second part, the right mindset, is all up to you. But once you become part of our community, you’ll find it very accepting and helpful.

Conclusion: What is Calisthenics Put Together?

What is Calisthenics, a thousand-year-old question we attempted to answer in a short essay. Did we succeed? We’re not sure ourselves. Sure, we touched on the core facets of which Calisthenics comprises. It is bodyweight exercise that has been around for a long time. It is governed by fundamental principles like progressive overload, specificity, diminishing returns and it seeks to cause Supercompensation. A typical exercise will feature a (hopefully) optimal number of sets and repetitions of an array of common exercises. We surely aren’t the first nor will we be the last to come to this conclusion. Taken at face value, you can say that what Calisthenics is, is defined as:

  • Bodyweight exercises,
  • Utilizing the body’s own weight and gravity to induce overload,
  • Using minimal equipment.

But ultimately these are all only surface expressions of what Calisthenics is. Sure, they are needed but so is hydrogen to make water. We humans rarely see things objectively, but rather through their meaning. A chair isn’t a collection of wood particles, but rather it is the intended use and meaning of ‘to sit on it’ that makes a chair a chair. Water to us isn’t just hydrogen and oxygen atoms, it’s something we drink and wash with.

The same, we say, holds true for sports and for us that means something like becoming strong and beautiful and whatever that might mean for the individual practitioner. What is Calisthenics, is not only a question of being, but one of becoming. Calisthenics is the becoming of a better version of yourself through exercise.

In any case, you need to experience what Calisthenics is like for yourself, and we hope that you start Calisthenics today.

Frequently Asked Questions About Calisthenics

A couple of frequently asked questions which kept prying our minds about what Calisthenics is.

What is Calisthenics?

Calisthenics is bodyweight exercise using the body’s own weight and gravity as the primary means of resistance to induce muscle overload. It uses a variety of exercise techniques that require little to no additional equipment or free weight and is governed by common scientific training principles.

Where does Calisthenics come from?

Calisthenics originates from Ancient Greece where the same bodyweight exercises were common to train the body. Both men and women engaged in this type of fitness, both for war and as a general practice to remain healthy, fit and physically pleasing. Bodyweight exercise itself is older than that even, having been practiced since at least 500 B.C.

Who invented Calisthenics workout?

Modern Calisthenics has been ‘reinvented’ in the 19th century in Germany by Friedrich Ludwig Jahn and Adolf Spiess. It was and still is the alternative to weightlifting exercise. When the Swede Per Henrik Ling promoted it as a way to improve the physical development of girls and young women, the sport took off and became popular to both men and women.

What is modern Calisthenics?

Calisthenics has been practiced since at least the times of the Ancient Greeks. Since the 19th century it has become popular again as an alternative to weightlifting. Modern bodyweight exercise still uses the same ancient techniques as its foundation and these basics are trained regularly by practitioners. On top of that, Modern Calisthenics has developed two additional and distinct styles; freestyle and Power Moves.


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