Best Calisthenics Workouts and Challenges

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Calisthenics is a great way to gain strength and get fit, and because you don't need a gym you can easily workout in various places and at no cost. Calisthenics workouts can be quick and simple, they can target a specific move or muscle-group, and they can be done alone or with friends. The freedom is yours!

Below are a few workout ideas to try. Have a go and don't be afraid to put your own twist on them. Don't forget the key is to adapt them to your goals, so make sure you change up the reps/exercises to get the most from your workout.

Pyramid Sets

For this exercise you want to pyramid set the the dips and pull-ups, starting at 10 and working your way down to one. You can make this easier (or shorter if you're tight for time) by starting from a number lower than 10, so work within your own limits by choosing a starting rep number which allows you to finish the sets. 

Perform the following reps in one single set so your feet don't touch the ground between start and finish. The muscle-up should take you from the ground to above the bar, the dips should then be done above the bar, then drop under the bar on the last dip to finish the pull-ups: 

  • 1x Muscle-up, 10x Dips, 10x Pull-ups
  • 1x Muscle-up, 9x Dips, 9x Pull-ups
  • ....repeat until...
  • 1x Muscle-up, 1x Dip, 1x Pull-up

Lazar Novovic Workout (modified)

Props to Bar Brothers Team for the basis for this one. The original is challenging for even the more advanced of us, so for a much more manageable workout try the following variation:

  • 10x Regular Pull-Ups
  • 10x Diamond Push-ups
  • 10x Wide Grip Pull-ups
  • 10x Dips
  • 10x Close Grip Pull-ups
  • 10x Regular Push-ups
  • 5x Muscle-ups (or to failure)

Take 30 seconds to 1 minute between each set, with a 3 to 5 minute rest between each cycle. Aim for 3 cycles.

Press-up Challenge

This one is great for a quick workout at home since it's solely press-ups.

Simply choose any 8 press-up variations from this list and perform either 10, 15 or 20 reps of each set with only a little rest between sets. Mix it up to keep it fresh and of course feel free to add other press-up variations as you wish.

The "Bring Sally Up" Challenge

A personal favourite of mine, and one that's going to introduce you to some of the toughest three and a half minutes of your life!

The premise to the Bring Sally Up challenge is quite simple: you want to pick an exercise and execute the up and down movements alongside the song Flower by Moby. For example, if Press Ups are your exercise of choice you would start in the press up position with arms straight, and when you the hear the lyrics "Bring Sally Down" you perform the down part of the movement, and when you hear "Bring Sally Up" you perform the up part of the movement.

You must stay in each position till the lyrics 'instruct' you to change, so the harder part here is the numerous breaks in the song where you will stay in the down position for longer durations. (FYI: The breaks refer to the lyrics "Old miss Lucy's dead and gone, left me here to weep and moan").

Because the song is only 3.5 minutes long, the challenge is a fun addition to the end of a workout, rather than as a workout by itself. All in all over you will perform 8 reps, hold, 5 reps, hold, 5 reps, hold, 12 reps, then finish on a final hold.

Recommended exercises for the Bring Sally Up challenge are:

  • Press Ups
  • Burpees
  • Squats

For those interested, here's a great example of the challenge with Press Ups: