There are many different types of calisthenics you can try either at home or the gym.
Some people use them for training while others simply use them to lose weight and increase their fitness levels.
Either way, there are some great calisthenics workout programs for everyone no matter your current fitness level.
If you don’t know what calisthenics are or aren’t sure how to get started, here’s a brief definition:
Calisthenics is a form of training that only uses your own body weight to exercise and build muscle.
This can include push-ups, pull-ups, dips, and squats. No equipment is necessary except for maybe a pull-up bar.
Many people also choose to do calisthenic training in their own homes instead of paying for a gym membership.
Calisthenic training can be a very cost-effective way of getting in shape.
You might think of lean and muscular athletes when you hear about calisthenics, but many beginners also do these exercises.
Similar to many workout methods, some types of calisthenics are better for beginners than others.
Freestyle calisthenics resembles gymnastics in many ways.
Most users find that using a horizontal bar or parallel bars is a fun and entertaining way to exercise and build muscle.
Keep in mind though that the risk can be high with freestyle calisthenics, especially if you haven’t built your way up to it.
Professional coaching is often necessary and will help you ensure you are keeping the proper form needed to do these calisthenics without getting an injury.
Some of the most freestyle calisthenics are:
- Bar Transfer
- Extreme Muscle Ups
- Double Bar Hop
- 270 Dip
- Clapping Dip
- Clap Muscle-Up
- 360 Pull-Up
- Toe Touch Pull-Up
- 360 Muscle-Up
The best about calisthenics is that the world is your gym.
Many people have found that they can work out anywhere, even in places like playgrounds and other street areas.
Street workouts have become popular as more people want to show off their calisthenic skills.
Even if you don’t practice street calisthenics, you have probably seen videos of them on YouTube. Many people choose to make videos of themselves to showcase their skills or gain awareness of street calisthenics and help people get started with their journeys.
The most popular forms of street calisthenic workouts are:
- Pistols and shrimp squats
- One-arm chin-ups
- One-arm push-ups and variations
- Front and back levers
- The human flag
Since street workouts in calisthenics are still new, there is ample room for improvement and helping people learn what they are and how to do perform them.
Military calisthenics is basically just push-ups, pull-ups, and sit-ups.
The best way to think about this is by envisioning military exercises that they do at boot camp. Most military calisthenics is very basic movements and can be done by anyone.
The easiest way to do them is to start with low repetitions and small sets. Then you can work your way up and begin to do more.
Military calisthenics usually doesn’t have that much weight-loss potential, they are best performed to just stay in shape.
They can also be combined with other types of calisthenics or cardio workouts if your main goal is to lose weight or have more muscle definition.
Ex-military people also continue to do these movements because it has become a way of life and they know the potential it has to keep them fit.
Aesthetic calisthenics is one of the most common types and many people do this kind solo or combine it with other kinds of calisthenics.
This type is also very common among bodybuilders and people who lift weights.
Aesthetic calisthenics is basically just bodyweight building. It can cover a wide variety of exercises including advanced and beginner positions.
Most athletes do aesthetic calisthenics while also doing body-building activities.
Exercises can progressively get harder to help people build maximum strength and muscle. You can also do weighted calisthenics such as doing squats with weights in your hand.
This way you are using your body weight but also adding in extra weight to help you.
As the name suggests, these calisthenics involve learning maximum flexibility and mobility.
Balance is an absolute must when it comes to these movements.
Working on balance is also important because falling during certain positions can make you more prone to receiving an injury.
Some professionals in flexible calisthenics can hold headstands or other positions for minutes or hours at a time if they have properly trained.
Focus on the joints should be kept at all times because they need to stay aligned and in the right position. Perfect alignment can be done by many of these professionals even down-to-toe pointing.
Half of the workout of flexible calisthenics is usually stretching. Therefore, this isn’t the best kind if you are focused on losing weight.
Flexible calisthenics is best for people who want to learn a movement and then become very good at it.
It’s also great for people who may be in rehab or recovering from an injury. Stretching can people’s muscles recover and allow them to get back to their regular workouts quicker.
Static calisthenics involves holding a position or movement for a long time.
People who practice static calisthenics are usually very strong but look lean. They tend to be on the skinnier side rather than having large amounts of muscle mass.
Static calisthenics usually does not involve that much training and people can do these from the beginning.
You will begin by holding movements for a short time and short reps and then gradually making them longer as you gain balance and control.
Static calisthenics includes many well-known movements such as the planche and the front lever.
Keep in mind that static calisthenics trains your muscles differently because the muscle stays in the same length the whole time, while traditional exercises give the muscle a concentric and eccentric phase.
This simply means the muscles lengthen and shorten as you do a movement.
Static calisthenics can be more difficult because you’re holding the muscle in the same position for a very long time rather than giving it a break.
In most cases, this allows your muscles to build endurance.
However, if you notice any pain, you should get out of the position immediately. Always try not to work yourself too hard at the beginning.
Static calisthenics is hard for a few reasons:
Contact points are few
A static hold will have few points of contact with the ground or piece of equipment you are using.
This is why it’s essential to gain posture and balance before completing certain static calisthenic muscle holds.
More muscle fibres
The more muscle fibres you are using, the more energy you are using.
Most static holds will use Type II muscle fibres which can become fatigued quicker. This requires large amounts of strength and balance to maintain the pose.
Tension time is long
This goes back to the poses not giving your muscles concentric and eccentric phases.
Your muscles will be at the same length and long spouts of tension. This is why it’s important to work up to long stretches of time for holding static movements.
What Are Flashy Calisthenics?
If you have seen photos or videos of people on Instagram doing calisthenics, they are probably doing flashy calisthenics.
These exercises are for showing off your fitness level and in many cases, gaining followers for social media.
They are done by fitness gurus or professional athletes. However, anyone can learn flashy calisthenics with the right training and endurance.
Keep in mind this is not usually a full workout. People will do the position just to get a photo or video. Continuing movements are needed to keep the momentum going and ensuring you are actually losing calories.
The training for flashy calisthenics is sure to keep you fit through and keep your workout going.
Flash calisthenics can really be any movement that’s eye-catching or done to create fans or awareness.
Some of the common movements are back-flips, diving, classing behind the back, certain kinds of jumps, or superman push-ups. Flashy calisthenics is considered explosive movements.
Choosing The Right Type of Calisthenics
Choosing the right type of calisthenics is important because it will help you avoid injury and let you increase your fitness level slowly.
No matter what type you choose, progress slowly and start with small repetitions.
You can also do shorter circuits at the beginning. Make sure to research any type of calisthenics you choose and watch videos of other people doing the movements.
You can also ask a trainer or a friend to make sure you have the right form.
Start with static exercises if you want to improve flexibility. You can also alternate the type you do depending on the day and the exercises you want to complete.
What Type of Calisthenics Can You Do Without Equipment?
Virtually any type of calisthenics can be done without equipment.
For certain types, you might just need something to stabilize yourself on so you can push off it.
Here are some common exercises to do without equipment:
- Mountain climbers
- Jumping jacks
- Leg raises
Static and military calisthenics are usually done without equipment.
What Type of Calisthenics Is Best for Beginners?
Before moving onto the advanced or fancy types of calisthenics, you want to make sure you have mastered the basics.
This will make increasing repetitions and exercises much easier.
Developing strength and balance are both very important and need to be improved before trying all kinds of calisthenics.
When you are going through circuit movements try to keep going until you reach near failure. This will help you build endurance and ensure you are gaining muscle as you move through the reps.
Resting between each movement is also important because it will give you some recovery time. This will allow you to do the next movement stronger and better.
Don’t rest for too long though, usually a minute or two is enough. Between each circuit, you can rest longer for up to 3 minutes.
Perform each circuit 3 times. Try not to overwork your muscles.
If you are looking for full-body exercises, try these movements:
- Pike push-ups
- Hanging knee raises
- Chair and bench dips
- 30-second wall sit
If you are doing other full-body workouts and just want to concentrate on legs and abs you can try these workouts:
- 30-second wall sit
- 30-second wall sit
- Hanging knee raises
During your first month, only do circuits 3 times a week.
During the second month, you can work up to 4 times a week and alternate between full-body and leg circuits.
If you feel like moving on to some more intermediate exercises, you can try the following:
- Leg raises
- Decline push-ups
The following exercises are very experts and should be avoided for beginners when they are first starting:
- Dragon flags
- Handstand push-ups
- Windshield wipers
- Typewriter pull-ups
- Clapping push-ups
Remember that everything should be a slow progression and you should never force yourself into doing new movements that you aren’t sure you can do.
Be patient with yourself as you begin calisthenics.
Always pay attention to your body as well especially if you have injuries.
Even when you move onto the intermediate and expert movements, you don’t have to do all the movements that are listed.
You can switch back and forth depending on the day and how you are feeling.
Frequently asked questions about calisthenic types
How many types of calisthenics are there?
Calisthenics is a complete workout technique that is categorized differently.
Some people would categorize the exercises based on the activity performed. Others would rather categorize the program according to difficulty or who the ideal participant may be.
Thus, it is difficult to provide an accurate number on the specific number of calisthenic types that exist.
Some professionals develop new methods frequently.
This can further add confusion when trying to determine how various types differ from each other, and which one is right for a specific individual.
A common categorization is by the type of activity performed.
Many of these types hold multiple exercises, which are usually derived from the main activity.
Here are a few examples:
- Jumping jacks
- Chin-ups and pull-ups
- Trunk twists
When looking at squats, for example, a number of alternatives or modified versions are available.
Some people have different categorizes than these, however.
For example, calisthenics is sometimes classified as follow:
- Street workouts
- Playground calisthenics
- Static calisthenics
- Military calisthenics
- Aesthetic calisthenics
- Flexibility Calisthenics
This is a good starting point for a beginner. By looking at these categories, it is usually relatively easy to find a specific type of calisthenics that would suit the goals of the person.
For example, someone who wants to work on the flexibility of their body instead of building big muscles may opt for a flexible calisthenics program.
Those who want to up their game and get serious results, on the other hand, may focus on military calisthenics instead.
Many people also group the kinds of calisthenic exercises into the part of the body that they target or focus on.
For example, there are upper body pushing calisthenic exercises that focus on:
- Medial shoulders
- Anterior shoulders
With upper body pushing, there also comes upper body pulling that targets the following muscles:
- Posterior shoulders
Core stabilizing exercises are also part of calisthenics.
Most people do sit-ups and crunches to build muscles in the core but this isn’t the best exercise for stabilizing the muscles. Stabilizing means you can resist more motion under a large load.
Hip extension exercises are also important and target:
- Lower back
Try doing single-leg exercises if you want to target these muscles:
- Core musculature
There are also knee flexion exercises you can do to target the following muscles:
- Other muscles in the hips
What is 5 upper body calisthenics?
People who do calisthenics are known for having exceptionally toned and strong upper bodies.
This is because many of the exercises that form part of a typical calisthenics program will work for the upper body muscle groups.
With so many options when looking to focus on the upper body, some people do not know where to start.
Thus, taking a look at some of the essentials can be helpful.
- Pull-ups remain some of the best calisthenics moves for people who want to tone their upper body, build muscle mass, and increase their physical strength.
- In addition, to pull-ups, adding some chin-ups can also be useful. These provide similar benefits, but some do find that a chin-up works the chest and upper back muscles more.
- Push-ups are popular in various types of exercise settings – including calisthenics for the upper body.
- Banded lat stretches are also great exercises. They are ideal for enhancing the range of motion in the upper body. These stretches improve the functioning of the upper back muscles as well and can be great for enhancing posture.
- Banded exercises can also be used to work on the upper body’s muscles. These included banded pull apart, as well as a banded pass through.
Upper body exercises also include working the chest and triceps muscles.
Stand about 4 feet away from the wall and put your outstretched hands on the wall in front of you.
Keep hands shoulder-width apart and level with your chest.
Bend at the elbows and slowly go down until your forehead touches the wall.
Make sure the object you use for this is strong enough to hold your weight and allows you to push off of it.
You can start with the incline long and then make it shorter as you gain strength.
This involves you kneeling and crossing your feet behind you.
The actual motion is the same as with a regular push-up but you won’t be lifting the weight of your legs.
Bringing your hands closer together will increase the difficulty.
Doing these correctly will involve proper form and posture.
Place your hands level with your chest to get started. Keep your butt squeezed and abs engaged throughout the duration of the movement.
Make sure that your torso does not change position. Keep your scapula retracted at all times as well.
Some people wonder when they can move onto intermediate exercises.
Some fitness people and personal trainers say you should be able to 15 or more push-ups with good form. Then you should be strong enough to increase the difficulty.
Try these exercises when you’re ready to move on from beginner ones.
When you put your hands closer together, you put more weight and tension on your triceps.
This allows the arms to do more work and lets you target another muscle group. Gradually build up until you can do a full diamond push-up.
You will need a stable bench or something else to place your feet on for this exercise.
This increases the amount of weight you pull to put on your arms. It will also chain the upper chest and let you exercise and push off of more angles.
Decline close-grip push-up
This will combine the decline push-up and the close-grip push-up.
Push your feet up on a box or bench and gradually bring your hands together.
Remember to progress to the diamond push-up slowly and don’t compromise the right form.
Which calisthenics exercise is hardest?
It is well known that certain calisthenics moves are much harder than others.
While there are many moves that beginners can attempt and even succeed at early on, some moves are better left to the pros who have been doing calisthenics for years.
Five of the moves rated to be the hardest include:
- Hanging leg raises
- Decline diamond push-ups
- Pistol squats
- Korean dips
A person needs superior upper body strength and the perfect muscle balance to successfully pull this move off.
The same goes for the handstand push-up, a move that can take several years to achieve in some cases.
What type of exercise is calisthenics?
Calisthenics is often classified as a type of resistance training program.
Some also refer to calisthenics as a bodyweight workout. This is due to the principles behind these workouts.
When a person performs calisthenics exercises, they will be using the weight of their own body to add resistance to the workout.
The majority of calisthenics moves focuses on requiring as little equipment as possible. In fact, a large number of the exercises don’t require any equipment.
Push-ups, lunges, squats, and sit-ups are just a few examples of exercises that people can do at home, even when they do not own any gym equipment.
Facts & Figures / Studies
There have many studies done on calisthenics and how they can benefit the human body.
The following one was done by the National Library of Medicine and was a randomized controlled trial.
It involved studying and learning about the effects of high-intensity interval training or HIT.
It was also a study that looked at how calisthenics would affect Army ROTC cadets. The study focused on calisthenics moves that offer high intensity, but low volume.
Whole-body techniques were used to ensure there was a balance in muscle activation.
A total of 26 individuals participated in the study. All of the participants were college-aged. The study was done over four weeks, with three sessions of calisthenics per week.
The researchers divided the participants into two groups. One group performed a whole-body HIT calisthenics program. The other group was introduced to a typical exercise routine.
Variables for pre-intervention and post-intervention were collected.
The data were then compared to determine how calisthenics would affect certain vitals and measurements of the participants.
Numerous improvements were observed in the calisthenics group.
There was an enhancement in mitochondrial function. Fitness was also sustained more effectively, even with shorter durations in activities.
The researchers concluded that calisthenics offers an effective protocol for delivering enhanced fitness, as well as the maintenance of physical fitness, among individuals who do not have access to gym equipment.
There are many different types of calisthenics. Some are better for beginners while others are suited for intermediate and advanced people.
Some people also choose to practice more than one kind of calisthenics at a time.
The great part about calisthenics is that you can do them anywhere and at any time. They don’t require much equipment, just something to stabilize yourself on in some cases.
Calisthenics is a great way to use your own body weight to become fit and achieve desirable results.
Chris is an experienced Calisthenics practitioner focused on isometric exercises and street workout. He founded thehybridathlete.com in 2017, which was subsequently acquired by theyhybridathlete.com
He is based in Portland and has been working out using solely his own body weight and bars for the past 6 years.