Calisthenics Exercises for Strength and Muscle

Build Strength Without Equipment

Focused woman holding plank in exercise class. Hero Images/ GettyImages

"Calisthenics" is a term describing physical training involving body movement that is more or less grounded around one spot and involves little to no equipment. It is has fallen from favor among trainers. Much more meaningful to trainers these days is "PT" or "Bootcamp."

However, calisthenics can provide muscle strengthening, flexibility and even muscle endurance in a regular program. Here are 10 must-have exercises.


The Burpee, the exercise with the funny name, is challenging when done correctly with high energy. This can genuinely be called a full-body exercise. Start standing, squat down and thrust the legs out to the rear, recover to standing and jump in the air thrusting hands upward, and then repeat.


We all know the standard pushup, but you can change add variety to them by changing the position of hands, shifting them closer to the body to make them more difficult. You can also perform them with knees on the ground to make them easier. Either way, pushups are a must in any calisthenic workout.

Jumping Jack

Jump up, legs outstretched and clap your hands above your head with arms extended and return to ground for one repetition. Keep repeating this cycle for a set number of repetitions or time. An old favorite, especially for children getting started with calisthenics, jumping jacks develop rhythm, balance and other physical attributes.


You can do many types of free squats without weights. Two-legged, one-legged, half-way, full squat to floor, arms crossed, arms outstretched and arms overhead. Try them all because they build lower-body strength and endurance. Be careful you don't overstress the knee joints, though.


Now for a relative rest. The lunge is great work for the butt and legs without too much high-intensity commitment. Do forward or rear, side or 45 degrees for variety.

Combo Crunch

One great abdominals exercise is the combo crunch. It combines a standard crunch with legs raised or legs moving in a cycling motion.


How long can you hold the plank? Suspend your body on bent forearms and toe tips, knees off the ground. Brace the abdominals and hold tight. If you can get to three minutes you are doing well.​

Wall Squat Isometric

This is an isometric variation of the standard squat, except you brace yourself against a wall in the squat position with quads roughly parallel to the floor. Hold, hold, hold. Reaching 60 seconds is good, 90 seconds is very good.

Bench Dip

On a secure chair, bench or platform, face outward with hands on the chair, heels on the ground. Push up from the chair for a set of 12-15 dips. Straight legs increase intensity and bent knees make it easier.

Star Jump

The Star Jump is not the same as the Jumping Jack but it is somewhat similar. The Star Jump is more dynamic as you thrust arms and legs to the side and back together in a unified movement. This is a high-energy exercise.

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