Please note: We have recently published a full review of the different calisthenics workouts and programs available, and would recommend those of you who are looking for a calisthenics program to visit that page instead.
Hey, Calisthenics 101 fans, I’m Nick and today we’re going to learn how to get fit anywhere with a proven bodyweight workout!
Too often than not, I hear people making excuses about why they can’t work out. “I don’t have enough time.” , “The gym costs too much money to join.”, “Driving to go to the gym is too much of a commitment.” I’ve heard it all before. Unfortunately for those people, I know those are all lies. With a bodyweight workout, you can achieve an excellent workout right from the comfort of your own home. All you need is a pull-up bar and the will to change. With a bodyweight workout, you can get fit and stay fit no matter where you are.
Even if you’re on vacation, you won’t have an excuse to get out of shape when you train with bodyweight. Really, is your excuse going to be you can’t workout because you don’t have weights to workout with? You’ve got the only weight you need to get fit with you at all times!
Now let’s get into the bodyweight workout.
Table of Contents
What do you need in a bodyweight workout?
Every good exercise program will have a few core components in it.
1. Compound Exercises
Compound exercises are exercises which move at least two joints through a range of motion. A great example of a compound movement is the chin up. During the chin up you have to move at both the elbow joint, and the shoulder joint to complete the movement. In a traditional barbell curl, only the elbow joint is moving.
The reason we want to use compound movements is that they recruit more muscles to complete them. More muscles working = more muscle mass able to be gained from that movement. Not only will it give you better muscular gains, it will also put you at less of a risk of injury, and decrease the length of the workout.
Stretching is vital for any good exercise program. Overly tight muscles are a chronic issue within the exercise community. More often than not, overly tight pectorals are developed and a forward hunch is developed. Not only will this lead to pain and issues down the line, but it may be detracting from your exercise right now.
3. Cardiovascular Training
What would health and fitness be without its heart? Making sure to train your cardiovascular endurance may seem boring for some. It is still a vital aspect of training though. The heart pumps blood through the body. Blood is rich in nutrients to repair the damaged muscle from working out. Plus, working on cardiovascular health is imperative to fight off heart disease.
Other Key Aspects
Obtaining enough reps is imperative to gaining muscle. Keep this in mind and align them with your goals.
Strength: 1-5 Reps
Hypertrophy: 8-15 Reps
Endurance: 15+ Reps
Aim for 3-5 sets of any of these rep schemes to achieve an adequate workout volume for your goal.
Rest is needed to recover enough to perform optimally in the next set of exercises.
Strength Rest: 2+ Minutes
Hypertrophy Rest: 1-2 Minutes
Endurance Rest: <1 Minute
The shorter the rest, the harder it’ll be to achieve your target rep goal in the next set.
I always suggest one of two exercises for this.
If you can find a place to do them, I highly suggest doing chin ups or pull ups. They are the go-to high-intensity bodyweight strength move. You can build an amazing amount of muscle with these movements alone. Another good fact about them is you can do them almost anywhere you can hang. You may need to be a bit creative about the ways you can do them though.
Alternatively, you can go with rowing exercises or do superman exercises.
I like rows because you can do an underhand variation on most tables, even in hotels. Just make sure the table is secure and sturdy before starting to row all of your weight on it.
Superman’s are a great lower back exercise if you have no other alternative for your back. It requires no equipment and can create a serious burn in your lats if done right. I highly suggest trying them out.
For this one, I pick the classics.
Diamond pushups are my go-to tricep destroyer. No matter how good you are at pushups, diamond pushups will give you a run for your money. If you add a decline to them, they get even harder. The beauty with the pushup is it really is the no equipment needed bodyweight exercise. You can do them anywhere you have space for your body. They take very little time to complete, and they’re hard exercises in their own right. Plus you can’t beat the muscle building benefits of this no equipment exercise.
Secondly, I have to pick dips. Dips are a monster in their own right. If you can find a bar or two sturdy chairs you can dip. Dips can be modified to better hit your chest muscles or triceps by altering your position during the dip. Elbows in and chest as vertical as you can make it will target your triceps more. Learning forward and flaring the elbows out a bit more may target the chest more. Both are great for building up your chest and triceps no matter where you are.
I’ll keep this one short and sweet.
A mixture of full depth bodyweight squats and lunges are the go-to leg destroyer. I don’t know if you’ve ever followed a set of hard lunges with a max rep bodyweight squat set but it is horrific. The soreness that develops in your legs will be making you wish you only had to go with one exercise.
Now that I’m done trying to scare you with those horror stories pertaining to my legs, I can tell you this. Lunges are great for opening up your hip flexors. Hip flexors are overly tight in most individuals so it’s an excellent choice for those who want to stretch it while also working out. It’s killing two birds with one stone.
Aswell, full bodyweight squats are excellent for developing adequate flexibility in the ankles. Many people struggle with squatting with their heels on the floor. This is a sign that you have overly tight ankles and need to work on their mobility. Bodyweight squats will help develop that mobility.
How this all comes together to form our bodyweight workout?
This is where things become simple.
|Warm Up||1||Until Your Pulse Is Increased|
|Decline Diamond Pushups||3||8-12|
|Stretching Routine||1||30 Secs – 1 Minute Each Stretch|
This is just an example routine. You can change the reps and set scheme and change out any exercise you need to. I integrated burpees so you could get your cardio in as well.
Burpees are high-intensity exercises and they should be adapted to your specific conditioning level. Don’t push yourself too far too fast. This is how injuries are developed and we don’t want that.
Lastly, for the stretching and warm-up, I don’t list anything. Often times your warm-up can be something as simple as doing jumping jacks or a slight jog. Whatever gets your pulse up and the blood flowing will work.
As for the stretching routine, I always suggest other peoples stretching routines. Googling it will give you a more than adequate answer on this subject. I don’t go into depth here or this article would become too long. As well, I would lose the level of detail I would like to give to you if I integrated the stretching routine in this article. None the less, hold each stretch for 30 seconds to a minute.
For those who don’t know how to come up with creative solutions, I have some here for you.
If you don’t have enough time to complete the whole routine, cut the volume in half or a quarter. Anything is better than nothing.
Alternatively, you can decrease the amount of rest time between sets and superset your pushing exercise with your pulling exercise. By immediately following one set of exercise with another opposing muscle group, you save valuable time.
If an exercise hurts, find another exercise to swap out for it. Nothing is set in stone for this program, if a movement hurts to do, don’t do it! There are plenty of bodyweight exercise progressions you can swap that doesn’t hurt. Take the routine and make it your own. If you bullheadedly continue with a progression that hurts, an injury will more than likely occur.
If you have nowhere to pull up, you can choose to pull up on your door frame. I don’t suggest this for most people, but it is an alternative. Likewise, you can use a door frame to row your bodyweight as well. There is always an option of some kind to pull yourself with, you just have to open your eyes and get creative.
I hope this helps you build the self-efficacy to get strong anywhere.
This bodyweight workout is easy enough for anyone to start. Yet it can scale to the highest level of difficulty you want it to. All it takes is a little modification and making it your own.
It was lovely writing this article for you all and I hope to hear and see everyone’s amazing bodyweight transformations.
Stay strong Calisthenics 101 crowd. Remember; your health is in your control, no one else’s. Take the responsibility and thrive.
A note from the author:
My names Nickolas McKeever and I run UnmeasuredFitness, a website for calisthenics. At one point in my life I was close to 300 pounds. I was unhappy with my body and my life and I decided to change. I’ve been a weightlifter, a calisthenics practitioner, and a runner. Throughout all of my experiences, I’ve had ups and downs but I’ve always stayed true to one goal. “Working hard and becoming the best version that I can be.”
My goal is to help everyone overcome their self-imposed limits and learn how to train anywhere for whatever their goal is.
Hell, I got my original start and motivation from playing video games and wanting to do a pull up like Nathan Drake.
Anyone can do great things with their bodies, I’m just here to show you that you can.
Founder of calisthenics-101.co.uk. Training calisthenics since 2012.
Currently working on: 30 second one-arm handstand, muscle-up 360, straddle planche.