Calisthenics (Bodyweight training)  is becoming more and more popular.


Why pop down the gym for a workout when you can do it in your back yard practising Calisthenics, in the park or on the beach or anywhere you want for that matter using just your own bodyweight ? I know which one sounds more fun to me.

Now you might have read my last post which has brought you to this one and got you thinking about calisthenics, or you stumbled upon this one first. Either way, I want to try break the topic down as much as possible so that anyone can experiment with this training modality.

If you are looking for a change and want to take your first steps into moving away from lifting weight to lifting your own body, come take a walk with me  and let´s look at the easiest ways to go about it.

Where do I start?

Whether you are active already, you workout out or a newbie , there are so many options and progression to every exercise in calisthenics that anyone can jump in at any level.

Another great thing about calisthenics is that you don´t really need a lot of apparatus .To begin just your body will be enough .


If you later see that you enjoy and want to get more advanced you could look atgetting some olympic rings or a TRX( if you decide on this route go for a much more economic option like the RIP60). Another option would be some resistance bands whichyou can find on ebay or amazon. Either way, they are inexpensive and probably cost the same as a month or two in the gym.

However I  am getting ahead of myself  – let´s take a look at how you can start with just the body you were born with.

What are your goals?

To be able to get the most out of your bodyweight training, you need to decide what you want to achieve .

For example I want to be as strong as I can possibly be whilst keeping a small muscle mass. Weight loss is not important to me. With that in mind, I can look at what type of training is important to me to be able to set up a training routine.

Other people will have weight loss and toning as a priority, which will mean using a completely different training method.

Calisthenics can be used for many different objectives so think about yours before you start as it will play a key factor in the way that you train.

Baby steps

So you found a place to train, you´re wearing comfortable clothes and footwear and have a drink at hand.

Did you eat beforehand?

A lot of people have the mistaken belief that training on an empty stomach will speed up their weight loss (and a lot of people train for the sole purpose of losing weight). WRONG!

Your body need energy to move your muscles.  By not feeding your muscles before you train, you will fatigue much more quickly and therefore have a less productive session. Guess what, less productive means less calories burned.


I will eat a banana or some dates 10 minutes before training to make sure I don´t tireprematurely.

Anything filled with natural sugars and carbs work best for me. Not everyone has the same digestive speeds however, and for some people this will be too soon before working out. Find your best time by experimenting and keep it for the future.


What now?

So you´re ready and have decided what your goals are.

If you´re looking to lose weight and tone, you are going to need high intensity, high rep workouts with very little rest.

Weight loss and toning

Luckily these types of workouts have already been named for us. HIIT and Tabata are two that might ring a bell as these are the main training protocols that are used these days.

They are both very high intensity , will make you train hard and sweat harder! They give very little rest times so you need to start slowly with these.

Example  of a HIIT workout:

20 seconds workout time / 10 seconds rest

So as it suggests, you would train for 20 seconds as hard as you can, then rest for 10 seconds. The circuit can be as many or as few exercises as you want. Obviously you need to have a minimum of about 4 exercises but could go upto 10-12 or even more if you feel up to it. What´s for sure is the harder and longer you train the more quickly the results will be noticeable.  Do this twice a week and it won´t be as effective as 4/5 times a week.

  • pushups train 20 seconds
  • rest 10 seconds
  • squats     train 20 seconds
  • rest 10 seconds
  • bodyweight rows train 20 seconds
  • rest 10 seconds
  • lunges train 20 seconds
  • rest 10 seconds
  • situps train 20 seconds
  • rest 10 seconds
  • skater lunges train 20 seconds
  • rest 10 second
  • bicep curls train 20 seconds
  • rest 10 seconds
  • tricep press train 20 seconds
  • End of set 1 – repeat 4 – 6 times more

This is just an example of some exercises that you could put together , in reality you can literally do anything you want as long as you are pushing yourself throughout.

Example of a Tabata workout

There is a similarity with Tabata and HIIT workouts which is the intensity of training and the combination of workout/rest periods.

The difference between the two is that whilst HIIT is more of a circuit workout, Tabata workouts will see you performing the same exercise for 8 sets in a row, before moving onto the next exercise .It is advised that this type of workout should not be used too frequently to avoid over training.

  • Monitor your intensity frequently. The intensity accumulates as you go through each cycle, peaking as you reach the end of the workout when muscles are fatigued and form gets sloppy, making you more vulnerable to injury

Let´s take the same exercises we mentioned in the HIIT workout , and use them for a Tabata workout.

  • pushups train 20 seconds
  • rest 10 seconds
  • squats     train 20 seconds
  • rest 10 seconds
  • lunges train 20 seconds
  • rest 10 seconds
  • situps train 20 seconds
  • rest 10 seconds
  • skater lunges train 20 seconds
  • rest 10 second
  • bicep curls train 20 seconds
  • rest 10 seconds
  • tricep press train 20 seconds
  • rest 10 seconds
  • End of workout

Intensity is key

To make sure you are training to your maximum intensity, you can up the training period from 20 seconds to 25, then 30 – once you find 20 seconds is becoming manageable. Apart from increasing the timing, you could also add more difficult exercises into the routine.  That way you can ensure you body keeps guessing about what´s coming next.

The worst thing you can do when training is plateau, meaning your body is becoming used to the intensity and no longer need to push itself.  You in turn start failing to see results and might give up altogether.


Rest periods

On the flip side, at the very beginning you will find this type of training very punishing. Increase the rest periods from 10 seconds to 20 or even 30 seconds. This way you will give yourself time to recover in the short term, plus as you get fitter you willnoticeably be able track your fitness by lowering the resting periods as well as increasing the workout time.

Hypertrophy  – (the enlargement of an organ or tissue from the increase in size of its cells)

As the name suggests this type of training is more about growing the muscle itself. If your main aim is to have a more muscular/toned looking body, this is the type of training you need.

Unlike the weightloss and toning, you definitely want to avoid lots of reps with little weight.

The ideal way to achieve muscle growth would be a rep range of between 8 – 12 reps , performing 3-6 sets.


So for example if you were training pullups :Pullup-walkthrough

First set of pullups  8 – 12 repetitions

rest for 1-2 minutes

Repeat up to another 3 – 5 times.

You would look at repeating this with whatever muscle groups you are training that day.

Some people like to do all over body workouts 3-4 times a week where you would train all the major muscle groups in one day.

Whereas you could also look at isolating muscle groups on different days i.e. Chest on Monday / back on Wednesday / legs on Friday.

However you decide to train is entirely up to you.

I prefer to train several muscle groups each day so that the whole body is always being pushed, rather than chest once a week, legs once a week etc. I find that there is too long between training each muscle for it to get good at any one exercise in a relatively short time. Plus, I have seen the evidence with my clients where they quickly improve at a certain exercise after training at it  3 times a week instead of once.

An added benefit to constantly training the same muscle groups through the week is that it can help to avoid the dreaded DOMS(delayed onset muscle soreness).

Pure Strength training

As the name suggests, this is designed to create strength primarily.

The training style would be similar to Hypertrophy but in this case what changes is the number of reps per set and the intensity .

Instead of performing 8-12 repetitions in a set, you would now look at performing 2-5 reps only.

The important part of this training as I mentioned is the intensity.

How do you judge intensity?

Imagine only doing one repetition of an exercise, in this case let´s take a pullup.

One rep max, means the maximum amount of weight you could lift with one pullup. Some people who are used to training and are strong already, may even need to

add weight to their body with a weighted vest or even from a weighted belt hanging between their legs.weighted-pullup

For others just lifting their own weight once will be enough.

That is what we call a one rep max. 

For strength training to work, you need to lift around 90% -95% of your one rep max for as many times as you can – which will always be only a few reps more than one for obvious reasons.

Now repeat this for 3-5 sets, again for each muscle group that you are training that day.

This is the quickest way to get stronger. You will not be gaining muscle toning as fast as in the hypertrophy training modality, but that is not our aim in this situation.

Time under tension ( a bonus addition to your training)


Time under tension (or TUT for short) is a commonly used term in the strength and conditioning and bodybuilding fields.

In short, TUT refers to how long the muscle is under strain during a set. A typical set of 10 repetitions for an average lifter will take anywhere from 15-25 seconds depending on lifting speed. Duration of stimulus and tension are key factors in determining muscle growth. By putting the muscle under longer bouts of strain, you can cause extensive muscle breakdown leading to sleeve-busting muscles.

By timing your sets, you can cause even more tension to the muscle helping it grow even more quickly.

How can you do this? By maintaining a tempo when performing an exercise.

Let´s take our beloved pullups again.

Instead of justg performing 10 pullups as quickly as possible, we set a tempo for the pullups which will look something like this.

2 / 1 / 2 / 0

The numbers refer to each phase of the pullup :

2 seconds pulling up

1 second holding at the top

2 seconds lowering

0 seconds at the bottom part of the pullup meaning you go straight back up again.

Now your 10 reps will last 50 seconds.

I will warn you that this type of training modality is more mind of matter , especially when you are fatigued as your mind and body will want to give up even when it has more to give.

Use at least 60% of your 1-rep max for a lift to maximize gains.


Rest periods will also need to be lengthened to give the body adecuate rest before the next set. Instead of 1-2 minutes you will probably need 3-4 minutes rest.

You will note that this type of training method requires a lot of time and patience as a workout can last 1.5 – 2 hours. It will also yield results so decide whether you can give your time to this type of workout.

Having said that at least have a go at it to test your strength of body AND mind  🙂


So when can I expect results? (the million dollar question)

The answer to this question is that there is no definitive answer. Disappointing to hear, right?

Your results will greatly depend on your frequency of training and the intensity and effort that you put into your training. There is no magic time frame and anyone who tells you differently must be an omniscient wizard.

Having said that, there is one huuuuge factor that is way more important than all your training and intensity put together , and that is what you eat and how much you eat.


What you put into your body on a daily basis is largely going to sway your affects, and how quickly you will see them.

For me there are a few big no no´s when it comes to eating. Bread, potatoes, pasta/rice, crisps, processed food,  and the Mother of them all, sugar. I´m not saying you can´t eat them but cutting down will make a big difference in how quickly you start seeing results.

The next time you go shopping or eat anything, check the sugar content before you put it in the trolley or in your mouth. You will be shocked if you do , at just how much sugar is in EVERYTHING that we eat.

I´m not talking about natural sugars either that are contained in fruit for example, I mean the refined stuff which is added to practically all foods.

If there is one think you take from this article, it´s check the labels for sugarsugar , seriously check them all!

I think it´s time for me to stop here, as the theme of nutrition is way too huge to for this blog.

All clear?

I hope this has helped any wannabe calisthenics people out there, and if there is anything which did not come across clearly or has left you with more questions, just let me know. I will be more than happy to explain.