Calisthenics is a type of exercise that uses your own bodyweight as resistance to build strength and muscle.
It requires little to no equipment and can be performed almost anywhere, making it a convenient and effective way to stay in shape.
Here are 20 calisthenics moves that you can master, starting out with some of the easier moves, and progressing to advanced feats of bodyweight strength.
This classic exercise targets the chest, shoulders, and triceps.
To perform a push-up, start in a plank position with your hands shoulder-width apart and your feet together.
Keep your core engaged and your back straight throughout the exercise.
Lower your body towards the ground by bending your elbows and aiming to touch your chest to the ground.
Keep your elbows close to your sides and avoid flaring them out to the sides.
Push through your hands to return to the starting position, extending your arms and returning to a high plank position.
Pull-ups are a great exercise for building upper body strength, particularly in the lats and biceps.
To perform a pull-up, hang from a pull-up bar with your hands shoulder-width apart and your palms facing away from you.
Keep your legs straight and in front of your body, engage your scapula by retracting and depressing them, this will help activate your lats.
Pull your body up towards the bar, keeping your elbows close to your sides and your shoulders back.
Avoid kipping or swinging your body.
Lower your body back down to the starting position with control.
A lache is a calisthenics move that involves jumping from one bar to another; it combines elements of a pull-up and a swing.
To perform a lache, start by hanging from a bar with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
Swing your legs forward and jump to grab another bar; keep your eyes focused on the bar you are trying to reach.
The pull-over is a calisthenics exercise that primarily targets the lats, and the back muscles, but also engages the core and biceps.
To perform a pull-over, start by hanging from a pull-up bar with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
Bring your legs up in front of you and over the bar, pulling your chest towards the bar using your lats. As your legs pass the bar, use the momentum to pull yourself up and spin over the top of the bar, finishing at the top of a dip position.
Lower your body back to the starting position with control.
Make sure to use your lats to pull your body over the bar and avoid swinging or kipping.
5. Pistol Squat
The pistol squat is a challenging single-leg exercise that targets the lower body, particularly the quadriceps, and glutes.
To perform a pistol squat, start standing on one leg with your other leg extended out in front of you.
Lower your body towards the ground by bending your standing knee and extending your non-supporting leg in front of you.
Push through your heel to return to the starting position.
Keep your chest up and your core engaged throughout the exercise.
Maintaining good form and control is important to avoid overcompensating with your other leg or using momentum to complete the movement.
The muscle-up is a calisthenics exercise that primarily targets the lats, but also engages the chest, shoulders, and triceps.
To perform a muscle-up, start by hanging from a pull-up bar with your hands shoulder-width apart.
Pull your body up and around the bar, using the momentum to help you transition to a dip position.
As you improve your strength and skill, aim to remove all momentum and complete the movement using only your upper body strength.
Lower your body back to the hanging position with control.
The freestanding handstand is an exercise that targets the shoulders, arms, and core.
This is a challenging exercise that requires a good level of upper body and core strength, as well as balance and coordination.
It’s important to have a good understanding of how to bail out of a handstand safely before attempting, and it’s a skill that takes a lot of practice.
The L-sit is a calisthenics exercise that targets the core, particularly the abs and hip flexors.
To perform an L-sit, start by sitting on the ground with your legs extended out in front of you or, alternatively, use parallel bars.
Place your hands on the ground beside your hips or on the bars and lift your body off the ground, keeping your legs straight and your body in an L-shape.
Holding the L-sit on parallel bars is considered easier than on the ground as your hands are elevated higher, reducing the need to push your butt off the ground.
Hold this position for as long as you can maintain good form, and then lower your body back down to the starting position with control.
It’s important to keep your core engaged and your body in an L-shape throughout the exercise.
This challenging exercise requires a good level of core strength.
9. Back Lever
The back lever is a calisthenics exercise that targets the back, particularly the lats, erector spinae, and front delts.
To perform a back lever, start hanging from a pull-up bar with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
Tuck your knees and pull your legs up past your head and under the bar until you pass the bar and your body is upside down, with your legs extended straight up in the air.
Slowly lower yourself as low as you can or until you reach parallel.
Hold this position for as long as you can maintain good form. It’s important to keep your core engaged throughout the exercise.
This is a challenging exercise that requires a good level of upper body and core strength, as well as flexibility and control.
10. One Arm Push-up
The one-arm push-up is a calisthenics exercise that targets the chest, triceps, and shoulders.
To perform a one-arm push-up, start in a traditional push-up position, but with one hand placed directly under the shoulder and the other hand behind the back, legs straddled.
Lower your body towards the ground by bending your arm, keeping your core engaged and your body as straight as you can, minimizing the twisting of the hips and trying to keep your shoulders even.
Push yourself back up to the starting position by straightening your arm. It’s essential to keep your core tight throughout the exercise.
Having your legs wider apart is considered an easier variation.
This is a challenging exercise that requires a good level of upper body and core strength.
11. Bodyweight Quad Extension
The bodyweight quad extension is an exercise that targets the quadriceps muscles.
To perform a bodyweight quad extension with full range of motion, begin by kneeling down on the ground with your hip-width apart and a straight line from your hips to your shoulders.
Bend you knees and lean back until the back of your head touches the ground, keeping your core engaged.
Lift your body back up to the starting position by contracting your quadriceps, maintaining a straight line from your knees, through the hips to your shoulders.
This exercise is a challenging one that requires a good level of quadriceps and core strength, as well as flexibility.
12. Straight Arm, Straight Leg Bridge
The straight arm, straight leg bridge is an advanced calisthenics exercise requiring excellent flexibility of the delts, lats, spine and hip flexors.
To perform this exercise, start by lying on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the ground.
Place your hands on the ground beside your head with your fingers pointing towards your shoulders.
Push your hips and chest up towards the ceiling by contracting your glutes and triceps while pushing through your hands and feet to bring your head off the ground.
As you reach the top position of the bridge, straighten your arms and legs, leaning your shoulders over your hands and extending your legs.
Hold this position for as long as you can maintain good form. Slowly lower back down to the starting position with control.
This exercise is challenging and requires a lot of flexibility and control.
13. Human Flag
The human flag is an advanced calisthenics exercise that targets the lateral chain, particularly the shoulders, obliques and grip.
To perform the human flag, you will need a sturdy vertical surface, such as a pole or a lamppost.
Start by facing the surface and gripping it with both hands.
Use a kicking motion to initiate the movement and bring your body parallel to the surface, keeping your body as straight as possible.
Hold this position for as long as you can maintain good form.
To release, slowly lower your feet back to the ground.
This exercise requires a lot of upper body, core, and grip strength, so it’s crucial to gradually build up to it and practice with proper form using appropriate progressions.
14. Front Lever
The Front Lever is an advanced calisthenics exercise that targets the back and abs.
A Front Lever involves holding your body parallel to the ground from the bar with the front of your body facing up.
To keep it strict, your shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles should be in one utterly straight line.
Hold this position for as long as you can maintain good form.
This exercise requires an exceptional level of upper body and core strength. It is a challenging exercise that takes time and practice to master, but it is a great way to build strength and improve your overall athletic ability.
15. Freestanding Handstand Push-up
A freestanding handstand push-up is an advanced calisthenics exercise that targets the upper body and core. It requires a high level of strength, balance, and control.
To perform a freestanding handstand push-up, start by finding a clear, open space where you feel comfortable flipping into a handstand. Place your hands on the ground, shoulder-width apart, and kick up into a handstand. Ensure you control your balance, as this exercise can be dangerous if you cannot bail out safely.
Once in the handstand position, lower your body towards the ground by bending at the elbows. Keep your body as straight as possible, minimising arching of the back. When you reach a low point where your head is close to the ground, push yourself back to the starting position by straightening your arms.
It’s important to note that this is an advanced exercise and should not be attempted until you have developed the necessary skills and strength. If you’re new to handstands, it’s best to start with wall handstands and work your way up to the freestanding version.
16. 360 Muscle-up
The 360 muscle-up combines the muscle-up with an explosive, dynamic element at the top of the muscle-up, where you throw your body in one direction, completing a whole spin before grabbing the bar.
This should be practised as two separate moves to begin with, with appropriate safety equipment, before combining the two into one ultra-explosive move.
17. One Arm Pull-up
The ultimate test of pull-up strength, the one arm pull-up involves pulling your chin over the bar from a dead-hang with just one arm.
It is considered easier with an underhand grip (chin-up) and more difficult with the overhand grip (pull-up).
To unlock this move you should either follow a series of progressions that will take you from a pull-up to a one arm pull-up or use weighted pull-ups until you can lift 90-100% of your bodyweight added.
The planche is the ultimate test of shoulder and core strength, it involves holding the push-up position with a big forward lean and your feet off the ground.
To unlock this move, you will need to follow a series of progressions that gradually increase the amount of weight through the shoulders
The Victorian is similar to the Front Lever, in that your body should be completely straight, facing up towards the sky. However, instead of your arms hanging down from the bar, they should be almost horizontal, holding you very close to the bar.
The strict Victorian should have arms completely straight, but this level of strength is usually only seen in the upper level of gymnastics. Most casual practitioners who reach this level will still have a slight bend in the arm, decreasing the strength required.
20. Iron Cross
This exercise is performed on gymnastics rings and is probably one of the hardest moves that an amateur calisthenics athlete might hope to achieve.
It involved, holding your full bodyweight with your arms out straight to the wide, in a cross like shape.
As with the Victorian, most casual practitioners who reach this level are more likely to have a slight bend in the arm.
To reach the pinnacle of upper body strength, it should be performed with completely straight arms.