You are interested in calisthenics and don’t know where to start? Everywhere you look you just see impressive skills and undoable seeming workouts? Then let me say you – I know exactly how you feel right now.
For me, it was the same nearly 4 years ago. That’s why I created this beginner’s program to give everyone wishing to start everything he really needs. The one thing I did not have but did wish for as I started.
Over the course of this five-part long post series, you will get a complete program. It consists of three pure calisthenics strength sessions:
Alternatively, you can get the whole program as an ebook, if you sign up above for my newsletter as a little thank you. The ebook includes basically the same as the post series, but has some extra mobility routines within, is naturally organized better and has some ready-to-print templates.
…and first contact points with being on your hands.
From here you can progress well and build some foundational strength to work later on some more advanced skills. If that’s what you want of course!
Quality beats quantity – every time
Internalize this mindset as fast as possible. It will save you some injuries! As you notice that your repetitions get sloppy and you can’t get the planned work done, end your set.
One great tip would be to have an elongated break – that can help.
Don’t be the guy trading technique for some crappy reps.While doing biceps curls that can work. But most of calisthenics exercises are more complex!
Therefore, don’t get into this bad habit.
Autoregulation – listen to your body
All the prewritten sets and reps are rough guidelines.
Unfortunately, I wrote this program without knowing you the slightest.2 And I don’t want you to be trashed every session just because I’ve written down 3 sets of 12 reps.
And that’s what autoregulation is all about – being mindul how you are each particular day.
It is totally fine to start slow and build up from there. Get comfortable with the calisthenics exercises first – you can push yourself after this is done.
If you still feel the previous push day in your body or had a horrible workday nor feel a bit motivated to do calisthenics, take it slower, too.
If you feel unstoppable – go for it and kick ***! Have a great time!
Prerequisite – no program without them
It is likewise proclaimers and trigger warnings3 …
First off, you shouldn’t be severely overweight. If this is the case you should work on this beforehand before attempting bodyweight training. Be true to yourself.
Next, make sure you aren’t injured right now – you’d be better of seeing a health professional
You shouldn’t have any severe past injuries – if so maybe speak with a physiotherapist beforehand or go at your own risk and wisdom
Some baseline fitness would be great but isn’t needed
Mindfulness – be there
As previously mentioned – mindfulness is important. Think of your training as a practice. Be in the present moment and learn something from it.
Set a goal for your practice before each session and analyze afterward how it went. This doesn’t have to be long – but a little thought about improvement or things you did really good that day can go a long way!
Intensity – don’t trash yourself
Try to not work at your limits all too often. As this is a beginner’s program err on the side of doing not enough. When starting out it is hard to know where your limits are – so don’t test them out immediately.
First, learn the movements, proper technique and how your body responds to all that stress. These insights can help you avoid some unnecessary aches and pains.
Wall Handstand First, you have to learn to bail from a handstand safely. After this is done you have to learn to kickup to get into a back to wall handstand. I would practice the back to wall as well as the chest to wall handstand. To explain all of this would blow up this post. Watch this video by Tom Merrick instead. He explains the way towards a free handstand really well.
Free Handstand A long way to go pal!
Dips with legs elevated I am sure everyone and his dog knows this exercise! The only thing you need is an elevated surface like a bench to get your legs onto. From there you perform a dip. When your arms start to flare out to the side means that you went to low. You aren’t mobile enough yet. Avoid this and the mobility will come itself! Check out this guide for much more on dips!
Dips aided by a resistance band As mentioned 1000 times before resistance bands* are awesome! They make for great warmups AND can scale exercises back by taking some of your bodyweight out of the equation. Therefore, put a back around the parallel bars*, step into it and go into a hollow body shape. From there you simply perform regular dips. As you get stronger choose a lighter band or remove it entirely.
Incline Pushups Yeah – elevated pushups. Not much to say to that. Choose a hight that enables you to perform 5-8 pushups and work yourself down from there.
Planche Lean Pushups Go slow here – these can get hellish really fast. Start in a basic pushup and lean forward a bit. Perform a pushup then and maintain your lean throughout the entire movement. Eventually, this exercise stays with you until you can planche…
Hollow Body Hold
Tuck Hollow Body Hold
Full Hollow Body Hold
A great tutorial on the hollow body is this one by GMB.
The hollow body shape is a base position of calisthenics. While in it all your joints are stacked, you are stable and ready to generate force more efficiently.
For many advanced moves, this shape is a prerogative – like the front lever. Therefore, getting it down really good early on is a good thing to do.
Choose a difficulty you can hold for 30-60s. From there build upon the full hollow body with extended arms and legs.
Scapula Pushups shouldn’t be challenging for anyone. What this exercise aims at is proper scapular movement. Push your shoulder blades throughout their entire range.
The caterpillar is a fun animal move that works even better on basic scapular movement. If possible try not to bend your legs.
Push at all times actively into the two parallel bars and hold this positon for 30-60s. And as always – hollow body shape!
Some cues for the calisthenics push session
Your wrists are your most holy body part. So care for them and look after them. Calisthenics uses your wrists all the time for push as well as pulling movements – that can be a new stimulus if you have no background as a gymnast, breaker or carpenter. That is why you should avoid injuries over there at all costs.
If something feels confusing or aches – stop the set and make a break. Circle your wrists a bit, stretch them lightly and come back. Where does it hurt?
Do your muscles hurt symmetrically? You might push through that!
Does your joint hurt on one site? Don’t push through that and stop at once.
Knowing your pain and develop a deep understanding of it is a long journey. But embrace it it is rewarding!
Nonetheless, my advice, in the beginning, would be – if it doesn’t get better stop entirely, don’t push through it and move on.
I surely get on your nerves – stay hollowed!
I can understand if you wanna punch me in the face because I’ve said that and will say it even more often on the course of this whole program.
But my point is – better learned early, then it gets done unconsciously later on.
‘Today is not my day’ – doesn’t count!
Hold yourself accountable to perform at least the warmup on EVERY training day.
If you still feel like hit by 3 trucks after your warmup – stop it and go home. Or do some cardio. Work on your mobility if you are into that. But donÄt force yourself to something.
While the above case won’t happen that often when training 3 times or even 5 times a week more often the following will happen:
You feel energized by warming up and see that you have power left. Some days you get motivated right now. Others you still don’t wanna do anything. But that’s fine – do it anyway. If you are feeling half-way fine after a warmup. Do the session!
And how can you have great technique when starting out? Everyone sucks in the beginning. I even suck at most things now. But that’s what it is partly about. Accepting to suck and building up from there, to not be a totally-sucking-dude and become instead a half-of-the-time-sucking-dude.
But we can change that – HMU on Instagram and tell me your thoughts! Do you love my stuff? Do I suck big time? Let me know!
No one would believe me this is real otherwise! It would be like taking a video, loading it to youtube, without adding 100 disclaimers to not try it or that one link of all the thousands you used is an affiliate.