Are you interested in calisthenics but need help figuring out how to get started? You’ve come to the right place. We have a calisthenics roadmap that brings you from beginner to expert with our helpful guidelines. Keep reading to learn what you need to know to be a pro calisthenics athlete.
Calisthenics’ Exercises and Benefits
Calisthenics training focuses on muscle-building using body weight with little to no equipment. Sounds perfect for your at-home workout, right? Developed in the early 19th century, calisthenics has come a long way to where it is today.
There are six types of calisthenics exercises:
- Upper body pushing
- Upper body pulling
- Lower body pushing
- Lower body pulling
Check out the various benefits of calisthenics listed below:
- Since it requires little to no equipment, calisthenics is affordable and accessible for most people.
- By using body weight, calisthenics builds muscles using holds and exercises like push-ups and pull-ups to engage multiple muscle groups simultaneously.
- Along with muscle-building, calisthenics improves cardiovascular health, flexibility, mobility, balance, and coordination with compound and dynamic movements.
- Like many exercises, calisthenics improves mood by boosting serotonin levels and increases self-esteem as you become more muscular and fit.
- A variety of options for exercises keeps calisthenics fun and interesting.
Certain Drawbacks to Calisthenics
We wouldn’t be sincere if we didn’t advise you on some potential drawbacks to calisthenics:
- Calisthenics makes it harder to increase intensity without adding external weights once you reach a certain level.
- Since calisthenics works for major muscle groups simultaneously, it is difficult to isolate specific muscles individually.
- Once you know most of the exercises, it can get tedious.
- It puts a lot of stress on joints like wrists and elbows and can result in injury if done improperly.
A Beginner’s Roadmap to Calisthenics
We’ll take you through your calisthenics roadmap month by month to show you how to become a pro from a beginner in six months.
Month 1 – The Full Body Workout Plan
For the first month, you will learn the basics of calisthenics and start building a foundation of endurance, strength, and mobility. The main exercises are push-ups, chin-ups, squats, dips, and hanging leg raises. Perform the following activities three times in the sequence below with a 1-3 minute rest between each complete set.
- 5 push-ups
- 5 dips
- 5 squats
- 5 pull-ups or chin-ups
- 5 hanging leg raises
Plan this workout three to four times a week with a rest day between each workout day.
Month 2 – The Upper Body Workout Plan
Moving on to the second month, we focus more on your upper body, increasing intensity and volume to develop more power and explosiveness. Exercises include explosive pull-ups, clapping push-ups, typewriter pull-ups, straight bar dips, and pike push-ups.
Perform the sequence below three times with a 1-3 minute rest between each series:
- 3 explosive pull-ups
- 5 clapping push-ups
- 3 typewriter pull-ups
- 5 straight bar dips
- 5 pike push-ups
Perform this workout three times a week, alternating with the full-body workout plan from month 1.
Month 3 – The Level Up Workout Plan
Things are getting more complex as we move to month 3. We’ll focus on challenging the body with advanced movements while increasing the time you hold tension and range of motion. The exercises are front lever raises, back lever raises, dragon flags, pistol squats, and skin the cat.
Work through each sequence listed below three times with a 1-3 minute rest between each series:
- 3 front lever raises
- 3 back lever raises
- 3 dragon flags
- 5 pistol squats per leg
- 3 skin the cats
Perform these exercises three times a week, alternating with the upper body workout plan from month 2.
Month 4 – The Muscle Up Hunt
Are you starting to see some muscle definition? Before you get too excited, month 4 introduces you to the ultimate calisthenics skill called the muscle up. You’ll need explosiveness, strength, coordination, and technique to achieve this skill.
The exercises you’ll do are muscle-up transitions (with or without bands), straight bar dips (with or without bands), eccentric muscle-ups (slowly lowering from the top position), shoulder activation (rotating the shoulders in opposite directions while hanging from the bar), and false grip practice (gripping the bar with the wrists on top of it).
We’ll perform the below sequence of exercises three times with 1-3 minutes of rest between each series:
- 60 seconds of shoulder activation
- 60 seconds of muscle-up transitions with or without bands
- 5 straight bar dips with or without bands
- 5 eccentric muscle ups
- 60 seconds of false grip practice
This month is difficult, so modify your workout as needed. Fewer reps, thicker bands, or eliminating the eccentric muscle-ups make the training easier. To make it harder, try thinner bands, perform more reps, and add a clap at the top of the muscle-up.
Perform this workout plan three times a week, alternating with the Level Up workout from month 3.
Month 5 – Muscle Up Progression to Get Your First Clean Muscle Up
We teased the muscle-up by developing some techniques to perform it. Now, it’s time to master the muscle-up.
The exercises are the same as the previous month, with some variations:
- 60 seconds of shoulder activation to include shoulder circles, scapular shrugs, and band pull-aparts
- 60 seconds of muscle-up transitions with bands or without, practicing the movement from the pull-up to the straight bar dip smoothly and explosively.
- 5 straight bar dips with or without bands, focusing on locking the elbows at the top and lower down until the arms are at a 90-degree angle or lower.
- 5 eccentric muscle ups with or without bands, starting from the top of the muscle up and lowering slowly until you hang from the bar.
- 60 seconds false grip with your wrists over the bar or rings to create a hook with the hands to help you transition from the pull-up to the dip during the muscle up.
Perform this sequence three or four times with rest as needed between each series. Remember to modify if it’s too tricky by lowering rep counts, using thicker bands, or not using bands. Do this workout twice a week with a day of rest in between.
Month 6 – The Final Countdown
You made it to your final month! It’s time to test your strength, endurance, and skills.
Perform the sequence of exercises below in three minutes:
It’s a challenge, people!
- 4 muscle ups
- 15 dips
- 20 push-ups
- 10 jumping squats
- 10 leg raises
- 4 muscle ups
To fully prepare for this challenge, do your workout plans from months 1 and 2 to continue your overall fitness and conditioning while performing month 5’s exercise sequence. This process will prepare you for the challenge. The goal is to keep practicing throughout the month and achieving the challenge before the end of month 6.
Remember that you can practice individual exercises to help you complete the challenge. Ensure you always try the challenge after a rest day to avoid injuries or over-training.
Roadmap to Calisthenic Movements
We gave you the roadmap to complete the challenge and become a master at calisthenics, but what about how to develop the exercises included in that roadmap? Here are a few ways to develop the muscle up, front lever, and handstand to become successful.
Muscle Up Roadmap
Muscle-ups require core, shoulder, and explosive pull-up power. Sounds easy, right? Not so much, but it is possible with some training techniques.
To progress to muscle ups, try this sequence of exercises:
- Pull-ups – Begin by performing pull-ups until you can do 10 reps with proper form. The back and bicep work prepares you for what lies ahead.
- Explosive Pull-ups – Practice pulling your body up as high and fast as possible. This fast-twitch muscle fiber exercise develops your skills to generate the power required for the muscle-up transition. Try to get your chest or waist level with the pull-up bar.
- Straight Bar Dips – Perform straight bar dips where you push your body straight up from the bar with your chest over the bar. Working your chest, shoulders, and triceps gives you what you need for the second part of the muscle-up.
- Muscle-Up Transition – The transition where you move from the pull-up to the dip in one motion is the muscle-up transition. This exercise requires significant strength, coordination, and timing and is the most challenging part of the muscle-up. Grab a partner to spot you during the muscle-up transition until your perfect it.
Front Lever Roadmap
You’ll need straight arm, core, and back strength to rock this exercise. Good thing we have been doing all of those pull-ups, right?
Progress to a front lever by using this progression of exercises:
- Hanging Leg Raises – Lifting your legs to a 90-degree angle while hanging from a bar is no joke. Practice this movement by engaging your core and igniting your hip flexors to lift your legs.
- Tucked Front Lever Hold – Bring your knees to your chest while hanging from a bar with straight legs. This exercise works your back, core, and arms by working to keep the body stable as your knees lift to your chest.
- Advanced Tuck Front Lever Hold – Bring your knees to your chest while hanging, and then lower your knees back down from your chest. This exercise will be more difficult as it prepares you for the front lever.
- Straddle Front Lever Hold – While hanging from the bar, extend your legs out to the side, increasing the difficulty further for preparation for the front lever.
- Full Front Lever Hold – Lift your extended legs together with straight arms while hanging from the bar. It requires significant control and strength but is the final progression for your front lever.
Why were handstands so easy when we were kids? As adults, it requires shoulder strength and mobility with core and wrist strength and balance. Totally doable.
To progress to a handstand, try this:
- Wall-assisted handstand – Perform this handstand by kicking your legs up and balancing your back against the wall and your hands on the floor. Hold the position for at least ten seconds to help you adjust to being upside down and finding your balance.
- Wall-assisted handstand with one leg off – Do this handstand just like the wall-assisted one, but lift one leg off the wall and hold that position for 10 seconds. Alternate your legs and hold to understand better the balance and strength required for a full handstand.
- Chest-to-wall handstand – Channeling Spiderman, walk up the wall with your legs, hands on the ground, and chest facing the wall. This handstand helps your alignment and posture while reducing your reliance on the wall to hold yourself in the handstand.
- Chest-to-wall handstand with one leg off – Do the chest-to-wall handstand, lift one leg off the wall, and hold for 10 seconds. Alternate your legs to increase balance and stability.
- Free-standing handstand – It’s the ultimate prize after your progressions. Kick up without using the wall onto your hands, and hold the handstand for as long as possible. Use your core, shoulder, and wrist strength to maintain balance and stability.
You’re a Calisthenic Pro!
You are on your way to becoming a calisthenic pro! Following our guidelines, you join the calisthenics communities that build muscle, endurance, and stability with bodyweight training. If you want more, check out our article about the different calisthenics apps available. Working out at home just got more fun!