The 8 Best Calisthenics Books to Educate Yourself

The 8 best calisthenics books

By reading Calisthenics books, you can give yourself that edge you need. They say admiration lies furthest from understanding. If you admire that chiseled physique someone at the gym has, or you’re just envious of people with a healthier body, what you’re really doing is showing a lack of understanding. To truly understand, you must learn as much as you must endure. For that, reading Calisthenics books is a solid beginning. It is the quickest way to educate yourself and start leading that healthier lifestyle or to strive for those previously impossible goals. We’ve made a selection of the best Calisthenics books, the ones we read to get where we are now.

Why Read a Book About Calisthenics? 

If we’d tell you to do something very hard, something which makes you suffer day in and day out. And that you’d have to repeat doing that, possibly without end but you didn’t know what it was good for and we didn’t tell you either. How long would you keep up doing that very hard thing? Most likely, you’d tell us to get lost and you’d be right to do so.

But if we changed just one thing about that premise, namely that if you keep doing that hard thing, you’d become healthier, stronger, more attractive. Now fewer of you would straight up tell us to get lost. You’d be intrigued. 

Understanding why we suffer makes the suffering less of a burden. When we know the potential gains, our mind becomes more determined. If we know exactly what the gains are for which exercise, what they do to transform our bodies, our mind can set a goal. The mind becomes stronger through knowledge and the best way to obtain knowledge is to read. A strong mind can make the body endure and make it stronger. But a weak mind will never encourage the body to improve.

Calisthenics books give you that insight into why you’re doing what you’re doing. You’re no longer mindlessly repeating instructions, you’ve become aware of exactly what is happening to your body. The more you know, the better you can apply Calisthenics to your life.

“You are not only something that is. You are something that is becoming — and the potential extent of that becoming also transcends your understanding.”

― Jordan B. Peterson in “Beyond Order: 12 More Rules for Life

Kindle Unlimited is Your Friend

Calisthenics books can be expensive. They are subject matter texts, written by fitness and physiology experts. This puts them a cut above self-help books at least. You can cut a lot of costs by getting a Kindle Unlimited account. With Kindle Unlimited, you can read many Calisthenics books for free or at a greatly reduced price. For full disclosure, we read all these books via Kindle Unlimited. Once you have a Kindle Unlimited you can expand on your reading into other categories, not just the best books about Calisthenics. 

The 8 Best Calisthenics Books

In our quest for knowledge, we’ve come across a small library of Calisthenics books and books about fitness in general. Many of them are unfortunately of a cursory nature, or contain myths altogether. We’ve made the following selection of the best Calisthenics books, eight in total. Once you’ve read these (or listened to them in audiobook format), you could call yourself a journeyman in Calisthenics. Together they form a solid foundation and understanding in the subject of Calisthenics.

#1 Overcoming Gravity: A Systematic Approach to Gymnastics and Bodyweight Strength (by Steven Low)

As a strong, foundational text on Calisthenics, we recommend reading this book by Steven Low first. In Overcoming Gravity, Low builds up a personalized Calisthenics routines from the ground up. He uses and explains the scientific underlying principles of every step, every exercise and of Calisthenics as a whole. The book doesn’t stay theoretical either but offers the reader ways to put this knowledge into actionable plans, custom tailored to the scientifically backed goals. This Calisthenics book goes beyond the science and action of Calisthenics and continues into injury management, health and other contributing factors.

#2 COMPLETE CALISTHENICS: The Ultimate Guide to Bodyweight Exercise (by Asley Kalim)

Complete Calisthenics by Asley Kim offers us a very complete and in-depth reference manual for learning about the anatomy of our bodies during Calisthenics and for executing all of the most common Calisthenics exercises. With over 500 pictures depicting all the various exercises, you can build a deep and practical knowledge of movement in Calisthenics. The book also contains sampling workout plans which you can modify to suit your needs.

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#3 Convict Conditioning: How to Bust Free of All Weakness (by Paul Wade)

Convict Conditioning is a more dynamic take on Calisthenics and explores a lot of the parkour side of the sport. Wade takes a more aggressive and hands-on approach, showing ways to use Calisthenics to become a better fighter. The exercises are geared towards quick, explosive strength since a real fight rarely lasts longer than a few seconds. The body is geared towards delivering everything it has quickly, efficiently and effectively. It makes maximum use of Calisthenics without much or any equipment needed. If you’re wondering about the term “Convict” in the title, it means what you think it means. We’re not here to judge. If it works, it works.

#4 Get Strong: The Ultimate 16-Week Transformation Program For gaining Muscle and Strength―Using the Power of Progressive Calisthenics (by Al and Danny Kavadlo)

The Kavadlo brothers Calisthenics Book “Get Strong” focusses on the body-building side of Calisthenics. This comprehensive 16-week Calisthenics program is designed to build muscle fast and build muscle bulky. You are introduced to progressive muscle gain and progressive Calisthenics via an actionable example. You can then modify this example to suit your own needs and goals. This Calisthenics book is best read as a case study of a working workout routine.

#5 Calisthenics for Beginners: 50 Bodyweight Exercises (by Pure Calisthenics)

Calisthenics for Beginners is a quick and reasonably detailed introduction into Calisthenics. With 50 of the more fundamental, core Calisthenics exercises, this Calisthenics book is an easier to digest alternative to let’s say Complete Calisthenics or Overcoming Gravity. The HD photographs make the depicted exercises easy to understand and mimic. It also follows a very logical path, from the higher philosophical meaning of Calisthenics, followed by dietary advice, followed by warm-up and then a step-by-step dissection of bodily exercises by muscle group.

#6 Grind Style Calisthenics: A Holistic Program for Building Muscle and Strength with Calisthenics (by Matt Schifferle)

Another great book as a case reference for progressive muscle gain by Matt Schifferle. Schifferle dispenses with any discussion about the science behind his exercises and programs. Instead, you are given an actionable plan which even the beginner can implement for a hypertrophic workout. It also showcases ways to combine both strength and muscle size, something sorely lacking in most body building routines, with easy, low-skill exercises you can do every day.

#7 Men’s Health Your Body is Your Barbell: No Gym. Just Gravity (by BJ Gaddour)

BJ Gaddour gives us a good introduction into body-building without using any equipment in his Calisthenics book. But of particular interest is the chapter on nutrition. The reader learns all about the importance of a good diet and how dietary guidelines could look like. Gaddour goes on in great length about different sources of food and what they contain and the different food supplements you can take to enhance your gains. The plans even go into the time of day you should be eating and what you should be eating then. If you want to learn about the nitty and gritty of optimized diet down the molecules, this is a good starting point. 

#8 The Naked Warrior: Master the Secrets of the Super-Strong (by Pavel Tsatsouline)

With martial arts in mind, Pavel Tsatsouline (himself an ex-Soviet Spetsnaz instructor), guides us through the steps from being a raw recruit who can barely stand up straight, to a warrior who can hold his weapon up and straight for hours on end while in an uncomfortable position. To do this, Pavel aims for the Pistol Squat and the 1-Arm Pushup. The idea here is that if you can do these, your limbs are fit to fight. The book is rife with anecdotes about his life in the military and about the importance of a mind over matter attitude. It is an eye-opening story about perseverance while doing Calisthenics while at the same time giving you an actionable plan to become strong and fit.

Frequently Asked Questions About Calisthenics Books

Here are a couple of frequently asked questions about Calisthenics books.

What are the best Calisthenics books?

The most in-depth and foundational Calisthenics books you can read are Overcoming Gravity by Steven Low, for its completeness and deep scientific explanation, and COMPLETE CALISTHENICS by Ashley Kalim for its treasure trove of listed exercises you can learn and reference too.

What the best Calisthenics books for beginners?

For the absolute beginner, we recommend reading Calisthenics for Beginners: 50 Bodyweight Exercises by Pure Calisthenics. It is a low-bar entry point into Calisthenics which assumes no prior knowledge. The language used and picture-heavy approach is also suitable for a broad audience.

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