What if you could build muscle, develop a rock-solid core, and burn a ton of calories…
… at home… with almost no equipment?
You can! With calisthenics.
At its most basic level, calisthenics utilizes your own bodyweight for resistance training. Though these workouts primarily help you develop strength and muscle, over time you’ll also build exceptional:
- Aerobic conditioning
What kind of results can you expect to see and feel from calisthenics? In one month? 6 months? Long term?
Most people should start to reap the benefits of calisthenics after about two to three months, provided they work out a minimum of twice a week. You’ll develop exceptional strength, especially in your upper body, and start to see changes in your arms, chest, and shoulders in particular.
If you eat properly, calisthenics is an excellent weight loss tool. You can build or retain muscle while shedding fat and quickly develop a more athletic physique. Better yet, you can continue to improve in your bodyweight skills as your weight gets lighter.
Finally, the longer you do calisthenics the more you’ll notice improved core strength, stability, and agility. Many advanced bodyweight movements can’t be accomplished without phenomenal core strength.
I spoke with several people who have extensive experience with bodyweight workouts. While they each had something different to say, they were all in consensus that anyone who wants a more ripped physique should definitely bring calisthenics into the mix.
You don’t need any equipment to engage in calisthenics.
You can work out from your own home to build up muscle and eventually lose weight.
According to Livestrong, bodyweight training can definitely burn plenty of calories. Additionally, since you use your own muscles, there is no way for you to cheat. When you work out using machines, you can sometimes use different muscles to cheat to make the exercise easier.
That makes calisthenics workouts notoriously difficult.
While calisthenics is great for your health, however, it won’t do much if you don’t also take a good, hard look at your diet.
Dave Mace, co-owner and head coach of Maximum Potential Calisthenics, said it best:
“The workouts will help to tone and burn calories; however, in order to lose weight the person would need to reduce their caloric intake. In order to lose weight, it’s 80% about diet and 20% exercise.”
However, you also shouldn’t ignore how much easier it will be to lose weight if you continue with your calisthenics.
Through these workouts, you build muscle. The more muscle mass you have, the more calories you can burn.
And unlike “cutting” or losing fat while lifting weights, getting leaner pairs super well with bodyweight strength workouts. As you lose fat, calisthenics gets easier.
If weight loss is your goal, then calisthenics combined with other workout regimens can be a major asset.
(See also: Pros and cons of calisthenics.)
Starting any new workout will create new stress on different muscle sets.
It’s to be expected, but you want to make sure you don’t let the soreness slow you down.
As you start your new calisthenics workouts, it’s vital to incorporate rest days into your regimen.
The School of Calisthenics published an article precisely on this topic. You may not want to slow down, but you should know that you won’t lose progress by taking a day or two off.
In fact, you can end up saving yourself in the long run because you give your muscles a chance to relax and adjust to this newfound stress you’re placing on them.
But don’t worry. You’ll get used to the exercise over time.
That’s what Vivian Kadbi, certified ISSA fitness trainer, found when she started conducting workouts over Zoom.
According to Vivian:
“Some of the people attending the training were 100% beginners and struggled for the first week or two. But now, they ask me for additional circuits, are always eager to get the class started, and don’t mind when we incorporate a more difficult move to the routines.”
It’s good to know the difference between soreness and pain.
As time goes on, you’ll be able to go through the workouts for longer periods of time without needing to stop.
Muscle & Strength
Have you ever seen a guy doing pull-ups at the equipment by the beach?
It’s an integral component of CrossFit and bodybuilding in general, so if you want a more muscular physique, then it’s great to become familiar with calisthenics.
The exercises should become easier with time as you add strength and muscle to your frame.
That’s according to Hannah Daugherty, a certified NASM personal trainer with Fitter Living, who said:
“Within a short period of time though, you’ll notice that you’ll begin to have better form and strength with calisthenic exercises.”
Your strength will likely improve rapidly, especially at first. You’ll be able to do more pull-ups (or maybe you first one ever!) and more push-ups than before within just a few workouts.
However, it may take a little while longer to see improvements with your visible physique.
Daugherty went on to say, “Calisthenics aren’t exercises with immediate visible results, though… but over time, you’ll notice that you’ll have more toned muscles, and your endurance for the movements will improve as well.”
Most people can realistically add 1-2 pounds of muscle per month to their frame, provided they’re eating properly. Visible results may be even slower than that, so be patient.
Expect to develop a lean, chiseled body with regular calisthenics and proper diet — not a bulky bodybuilder’s physique.
And remember, it’s going to take longer than a few weeks.
But stick with it, and over time, you’ll get your dream body.
Calisthenics is most often associated with building up muscles and strength.
However, you should start to see improvements in your overall endurance over time as well.
As time goes on, your bodyweight training becomes easier. Your body adapts to the specific workout you engage in.
Soon, you’ll be able to add onto the exercise so that it becomes more intense.
Your body then adapts to that, and you soon find yourself performing feats that once seemed out of reach.
The great thing is that there are all kinds of exercises that qualify as calisthenics. You can mix up your routine so that your body gets used to working out different muscles.
Some of the most common bodyweight exercises according to VeryWellFit include:
- Jumping jacks
- One-legged deadlifts
Alec Hyde, Doctor of Physical Therapy and certified strength and conditioning specialist with Complex Health & Wellness, spoke about how you should see improvements in your endurance within the first 30 days:
He stated, “Conditioning or endurance will also see improvements probably more rapidly at the beginning and slower rate of improvement at the 3 month mark.”
But even if you see a slower rate of improvement, stick with it.
Your body is still getting better and healthier, even if it isn’t readily noticeable.
Core Strength, Abs & More
Most strength training workouts will challenge your core to some degree.
But you haven’t seen nothin’ until you’ve tried to master calisthenics.
Moves like push-ups, planks, and bodyweight squats will hit your abs harder than a crunch ever could.
And when you start moving into advanced movements like one-armed push-ups, handstand push-ups, L sits, dragon flags, and more:
You’ll develop a rock hard midsection without even realizing it.
A strong core is a necessity to continue advancing in calisthenics, and will come along automatically as you improve your strength on the key bodyweight movements.
Seriously: If you want abs, ditch the 7-minute abs videos and just do calisthenics!
Advanced calisthenics will also require and encourage:
- Better flexibility
- Improved endurance
- Exceptional coordination & muscle-muscle connection
The benefits of doing bodyweight strength workouts go far beyond just adding some muscle to your chest and shoulders.
Many of the exercises you’re already familiar with qualify as calisthenics.
It’s simply a matter of committing to performing these exercises regularly so that you can start to see improvements in your body and mind.
You’ll also need to incorporate progressive overload — advancing to more and more challenging workouts or variations as time goes on.
However, it may take a little while to see the results you want.
You should start to see gains within the first few weeks. You’ll feel stronger almost right away, but visible results in the mirror will take a little longer.
Keep working at it, and you’ll soon get that athletic physique you’ve had your eyes on for a while. Plus, if you combine a new workout regimen with a healthier diet, then you’ll definitely notice your overall health getting better.
Check out my favorite bodyweight workout program to get started.