Calisthenics Equipment: Everything a Beginner Needs For Home Workouts
The appeal of training calisthenics is that bodyweight exercises can be done with no equipment, making calisthenics great for those wanting to train at home and beginners who are only just starting to commit to a new training regime.
But investing in some calisthenics equipment can greatly increase the variety of exercises you can try and will help you progress much faster in with your fitness goals as you find you are able to mix up your workouts easier and train different muscle groups with greater ease.
In this guide, I'm going to share with you the calisthenics equipment that I'd recommend purchasing to get the best out of your calisthenics workouts.
Essential Calisthenics Equipment
A Pull Up Bar
The first piece of equipment I recommend that you buy should absolutely be a pull-up bar.
When most people think of working out at home they would think of 'push' type exercises such as push-ups and squats, as these are the type of exercises you can easily complete using nothing more than your own bodyweight, but it is important to also include 'pull' type exercises to prevent muscle imbalance which can lead to bad posture.
'Pull' type exercises are harder to achieve with just your bodyweight, but that's where a pull-up bar will become useful. You can also use a pull-up bar to hang other calisthenics equipment from, such as resistance bands and gymnastic rings (more on those shortly...!).
When it comes to buying a pull-up bar there are a number of different types of bar available, with free-standing, doorframe, wall-mounted and ceiling-mounted pull-up bars all being good choices. Which bar you choose will depend on a number of different factors, so I recommend reading our guide to the different pull-up bar types to find the pull-up bar best suited to you.
A Set of Resistance Bands
When you think of resistance bands, you may think of those flimsy bands used in Pilates and Yoga that are used for stretching and rehabilitating purposes, however, in this recommendation, I'm talking about the larger 'flat-loop' type resistance bands that can be used to assist you when exercising.
Think about this example for a moment; if you were bench pressing with a barbell in the gym, you'd simply add or remove weight to the barbell until you found a resistance that you are comfortable pushing. As you become stronger, you'd then add weight to the barbell to increase the resistance.
With bodyweight training, you can't simply adjust your bodyweight in the same way, but you can use resistance bands to assist your bodyweight, using different size resistance bands to change the amount of assistance offered.
If you were learning how to do a pull-up, you could hang a resistance band from the pull-up bar and loop it around your feet to support some of your weight and make the exercise easier. As you improve, swap the resistance band for a lighter resistance band, and continue to do this until you progress enough to be able to complete a pull-up without the need for assistance.
There are tons of different resistance bands available, so make sure you avoid the cheaper bands which can't be used to assist your bodyweight. Read our guide to the best resistance bands available here for further guidance.
A Pair of Parallettes
Parallettes are great for training push exercises, dips and L-sits on and if you're a more advanced user you can also use them to train handstands and planche on too.
My Gravity Fitness Pro Parallettes were one of the first pieces of calisthenics equipment I bought and is still one of the most frequently used items I use in my home workouts today. The parallettes can easily be stored away and I can quickly take them out; either for a quick workout in my living room or for some handstand training out in the back yard.
Chalk (Dry or Liquid)
Chalk is used to help improve your grip, especially when your hands begin to get sweaty. It's very cheap to buy with a simple climbers ball costing less than £5.
Some people prefer liquid chalk, though personally, I prefer the powdered chalk ball that climbers use. Liquid chalk is less messy as you won't get specs of chalk dusting everywhere but has a sticky feeling to me which I'm not a big fan of.
Some users opt for a pair of gloves to help with their grip but I'd recommend trying to refrain from using gloves as much as possible, as it is important to condition your hands by training without gloves where possible. It will pay off in the long run!
A Pair of Gymnastic Rings
Gymnastics Rings have become extremely popular within the calisthenics and CrossFit community over recent years, and this is mainly due to the fact they target muscles in a way that most other equipment and exercises simply can't compete with.
Some of the top names within the fitness industry have even moved their sole focus towards ring training, with some of the best ring training programs being advocated by those such as Gold Medal Bodies and Reddit's r/bodyweightfitness legend Antranik.
There are many different gymnastic rings available on the market, but most of them are very similar to each other. My recommendation would be to opt for a wooden gymnastic ring (which feels much more natural and is easier to grip) such as those by Pellor or Gravity Fitness.
A Weighted Vest (Advanced Users)
As your ability to perform certain calisthenics exercises improves, you will eventually hit a point where your own bodyweight is no longer offering you enough resistance to (optimally) build strength.
Simply put, strength is best achieved by training lower reps but with a higher weight. Using the pull-up for example, if you are at a stage where you can easily perform a set of 10 reps, then you are moving towards volume training.
To counteract this, a weighted vest can be used to add additional resistance to your reps and keep you in the optimal strength training zone.
Read our guide to the best weighted vests available here to see our weighted vest recommendations.
A Large Water Bottle
If you're working out away from home; whether that's at the gym, at the park, or simply in your garden and away from a tap, then you'll be glad to have a large water bottle at your side.
There really is nothing worse than having to end a work out prematurely to go and find some water, so invest in a quality bottle with a large capacity.
The bottle I use is the Jungle Sports 2.2L bottle which is great quality and will last you a long time (unless like me you accidentally put it down and forget about it whilst out on a long run...).
Additional Recommended Items
When I first started training calisthenics, I found myself getting really annoyed at people who would always record themselves training. I thought it was just "showing off for the 'Gram" and used to really bother me!
I've since realised how important it is to film yourself regularly, as there is no better way to improve your form than to watch a recording of yourself back. After all, it often feels like you've nailed a calisthenics skill, only to find you were way off the mark when looking back at the video footage. This is especially true for handstands and front/back levers!
One of my favourite purchases recently has been a Mpow Flexible Camera Phone Tripod, as I can use this to mount my iPhone without having to try and prop it up using a shoe or water bottle! Even better, the tripod uses flexible legs which allow it to be mounted to anything, so I've also been mounting it to the arms of a calisthenics rig to capture footage at eye-level.
As much as I hate to say it, you shouldn't neglect training cardio when following a calisthenics workout.
The easiest way to train cardio in the comfort of your own home is by using a treadmill or skipping rope (or why not both?).
I previously discussed the benefits of Fat Gripz in the 'How to Improve Your Dead Hang and Increase Your Grip Strength' article and recommend investing in a pair to help work on your forearm strength.
Fat Gripz simply wrap around any pull-up bar to increase the thickness of the bar, which is highly beneficial for developing grip strength.
Better yet, you can purchase a pair of Fat Gripz for under £20.