Calisthenics Resistance Exercises

Women jumping rope in a gym

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Calisthenics is a term a lot of us probably heard years and years ago in gym class...a word that may make you cringe. The term calisthenics refers to exercises that are done in a rhythmic, systematic way using bodyweight for resistance.

The purpose of calisthenics is simple—to help you build strength, endurance, and flexibility with no equipment needed.

These days, we regularly see calisthenic exercises in traditional strength training workouts as well as in circuit training and boot camp training.

Why Calisthenics?

Bodyweight exercises are simple to do, whether you're a beginner, you're on the road with no equipment, or you don't have much equipment at home. Your body can easily be enough resistance to help you build strength and endurance, depending on the exercise and how hard you work at it.

Common Calisthenic Exercises

Typical calisthenic exercises are ones you'll easily recognize:

Fitting Calisthenic Workouts in Your Schedule

The great thing about calisthenics is that you can do them anywhere—in your hotel room, your grandma's basement, your kitchen while you're cooking, or while you're watching TV. They're a great way to exercise and stay active all day long.

  • When you get up in the morning: Try doing push-ups or crunches when you get up to wake your body up and get the blood flowing
  • When you're taking a break from work: Every time you take a break, pick 5 exercises and do each one 10 times. Can't do them at work? Try adding some office exercises.
  • When you're doing chores: Add squats every time you pick something up off the floor. Lift the laundry basket overhead a few times or do lunges on the way to the laundry room.
  • While you're making dinner: Waiting for water to boil? See how many squats you can do. While waiting for the chicken to bake, do a circuit—push-ups, squats, lunges, dips, jumping jacks, and a plank. Do each one for 10-15 reps (hold the plank for as long as you can) and then see how many rounds you can do.
  • While watching TV: Instead of zoning out while you're watching TV, get down on the floor for some push-ups or crunches. See how many dips you can do off the couch. Challenge your spouse to a push-up competition.

You can also create an entire workout out of calisthenic exercises. Take the exercises listed above and do each one for 10-15 reps, one after the other without resting (if you can). When you get to the end, see if you can do it all again for a tough, total body workout.

How to Make Bodyweight Exercises Work

The drawback of bodyweight exercises is that they may not be as intense as when you use weights to add more resistance. Still, that doesn't mean they can't work for you. There are plenty of tricks you can use to add intensity to your bodyweight work without having to pick up a set of dumbbells.

  • Go slow. Let's say you're doing a squat, which most of us would need heavy weights for. Instead of weights, slow the move down, doing 8 counts down and 8 counts up. You'll really feel it when you increase your muscle's time under tension.
  • Do it on one leg. Let's take that same squat that may feel too easy without weights and let's stand on one leg and do a one-legged squat. Now you're happy you're not holding any weights.

Those are just a couple of ways you can make calisthenics into a challenging workout.

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