Introduction to Calisthenics – Training Plans

Our beginner training plans will give you a calisthenics workout that focuses on the basics to get you stronger.

Both plans are quite short and can be completed in less than half an hour. That’s not a massive commitment to become stronger, healthier, and in my experience, happier.

Strength vs Muscle Mass

Strength Training

When it comes to strength training, there are two primary influences behind how strong you are, these are your nervous system and the size of your muscles.

If you have a strong nervous system for a particular movement then your brain can recruit more muscle cells to perform the said movement.

This is why you can often see rather lean athletes perform quite strong feats of strength.

To train this way, you should keep your number of repetitions (reps) low, and your number of sets (that is the number of times you perform the reps) high, this keeps your muscles relatively fresh and enables you to perform harder exercises, which require more strength.

For more detailed information on this, then check out my article on how to build strength.

Hypertrophy Training

If you have bigger muscles, then you have more muscle mass to move yourself through the movement.

To train for muscle mass you should perform high reps (but not too high), with a low number of sets, this will fatigue your muscles and tell your body that it needs to grow bigger in order to perform this again. This is commonly referred to as hypertrophy.

For more detailed information on this, then check out my article on how to build muscle.

Training Plans

This post will provide two separate plans for working to both of these goals, which one you use is up to you. Having said that I advise that strength should come first and as these are beginner exercises, they are designed to build a solid foundation.

If you’d like to then take this further, you can then either check out the free calisthenics tutorials on this site or visit our locations page to see if we have a coach near you.

5 x 5 Strength Training Plan

In this plan you’re going keep the reps low with higher sets; the goal is to be able to perform the same progression through all 5 sets, but if you’re feeling fatigued then feel free to drop down to an easier exercise.

You should work through all five exercises in turn before moving onto the second set, this way your muscles will remain a little fresher as you work different muscle groups in each exercise.

Any exercises that are uni-lateral such as one leg short bridges, should be performed 5 times on each side. Train your weaker side first and don’t go beyond this with your stronger side.

5 Sets of
5 x Incline Push-ups
5 x Inverted Rows
5 x Bodyweight Squats
5 x Lying Leg Raises
5 x Short Bridges

Once you can perform 5 sets of 5 reps for a given exercise, then next time make it more difficult, check out the progression / regression section under each guide on how to do this.

3 x 10 Hypertrophy Training Plan

With this plan you will be training higher reps to fatigue your muscles.

Unlike the strength training plan, you should pick a level of progression and stick to it for both sets.

Any exercises that are uni-lateral such as one leg short bridges, should be performed 10 times on each side, train your weaker side first and don’t go beyond this with your stronger side.

Once you can perform 10 reps in all 3 sets then it’s time to make the exercise more difficult.

10 x Incline Push-ups

One minute rest, repeat 2 times for a total of 3 sets.

10 x Inverted Rows
One minute rest, repeat 2 times for a total of 3 sets.

10 x Bodyweight Squats
One minute rest, repeat 2 times for a total of 3 sets.

10 x Lying Leg Raises
One minute rest, repeat 2 times for a total of 3 sets.

10 x Short Bridges
One minute rest, repeat 2 times for a total of 3 sets.

Next Steps

Calisthenics Fundamentals

Since writing this guide, I’ve been inundated with messages of support and asking for a plan to take this further.

This is why I’ve written the Calisthenics Fundamentals program.

It is a series of workouts that will take you from absolute beginner, to the top levels of calisthenics strength all whilst focusing on the basic movement patterns.

We teach the program both online and in-person.

For more information, click on the button below.

Calisthenics Fundamentals
By |2018-10-09T19:53:46+00:00August 12th, 2014|Introduction to Calisthenics, Training Plan|23 Comments

About the Author:

Dave Mace is the founder and head coach of Maximum Potential Calisthenics. He takes great pleasure in motivating and inspiring others to succeed with their own bodyweight training. Success for him is measured in helping others (and himself) to achieve their maximum potential and perform feats of strength that you once thought were impossible! Read more

23 Comments

  1. John Brown January 6, 2016 at 6:47 am - Reply

    Hey,

    first thanks for the great Training Plan and the beneficial advice on your Website.

    I now started as a absolute Beginner with the 5 x 5 Strength Training. It is difficult but I am able to do all 5 sets with the given exercises. Should I continue to progress with the exercises to make it more difficult? When do I have to go on with the Muscle Mass Training?

    • Dave Mace January 6, 2016 at 9:26 am - Reply

      Thanks John, glad you’re finding it beneficial. I would get 5×5 nailed down of the hardest progressions in this plan. Once you can do that, then give the muscle mass plan a go. This way you’ll have a good base strength before really hitting the muscles. Any more questions, give me a shout.

  2. Dave Bockett-Pugh July 14, 2016 at 9:33 am - Reply

    Hi Dave,

    I’m about to give this a go – I’m a fairly fit guy already, how often should I train? I can probably do this at least once per day but should I fit in more regular rest days?

    Cheers in advance
    Dave

    • Dave Mace July 18, 2016 at 9:24 am - Reply

      Hi mate, the strength session should be pushing you hard and ideally require 48-72h recovery. The hypertrophy session generally requires 24-48 hours rest. You may need to up the intensity of some of these exercises though by moving to harder variations. Cheers

  3. Jos Philipsen May 17, 2017 at 12:37 am - Reply

    Hello, I got a question. when do you reach a maximum of reps you should do. for example if you do a workout you could do 50 or 100 reps of each exersice, but what is the point when it has no use to do extra reps? Thank;)

    • Dave Mace May 26, 2017 at 8:50 pm - Reply

      So once you’ve reached the number of reps for your training goal (5 or 12), then you need to make the exercise harder. As you say there is little point in doing those kind of numbers, other than building endurance

  4. DonkeySlayer June 3, 2017 at 9:12 pm - Reply

    can i do this as a 13 year old i cant even do a single pushup

    • Dave Mace June 4, 2017 at 7:33 pm - Reply

      Yes calisthenics is perfect for training as a teenager, will you give you increased strength and muscle mass without the risks associated with weight-lifting. You should also see quick improvement due to your age 🙂

      • DonkeySlayer June 4, 2017 at 10:20 pm - Reply

        will this also help me burn fat

        • Dave Mace June 6, 2017 at 8:11 am - Reply

          It’ll help you build muscle, which will reduce your fat a little. However if you’re serious about reducing your fat, then you need to look at your diet. Eat less calories than you burn, eat plenty of veggies and protein and cut down on sugar.

          • DonkeySlayer June 9, 2017 at 2:18 am

            if i weigh 58kg and im 167cm in height should i lose fat or just continue the 5×5 training

          • Dave Mace June 10, 2017 at 1:18 pm

            If you’re only that weight, I wouldn’t worry about losing fat, just concentrate on getting stronger. Just make sure you eat enough protein and loads of veggies and you can’t go wrong.

          • DonkeySlayer June 10, 2017 at 5:57 pm

            will i lose the fat that i have after building muscle i have a mini beer belly

          • Dave Mace June 11, 2017 at 3:11 pm

            If you eat the same amount of calories, bigger muscles will require more calories to maintain and will therefore lose a small amount of fat.

  5. ahmed June 6, 2017 at 3:22 pm - Reply

    I’m kinda confused so is it like a cycle or what ?! for both strength and muscle mass

    • Dave Mace June 6, 2017 at 6:14 pm - Reply

      So the strength one is a circuit, this is only to ensure you get enough rest by the time you return to the first exercise. If you have the time then you can do them back to back, but must rest for at least 3 minutes between sets. The muscle-mass one you should do all sets back to back with a minutes rest.

  6. Luiz Bruder September 11, 2017 at 9:40 am - Reply

    Hello, great post! I’m already drawing benefits from the plans and from the general tips.

    I have a question regarding rest times of the strenght plan. Should I rest between individual exercises or only between sets? If so, for how long? Thank you very much and keep it up with the nice website!

    Best regards!
    Luiz (from Brazil)

    • Dave Mace September 11, 2017 at 6:13 pm - Reply

      Great question mate. So for strength training you should take as much rest as you need. The more rest you take, the better your form will be in the next set, the better your form, the more strength you’ll get from it.

      As a general idea, you need at least 3 minutes from when you do the start of the one set, until the start of the next set if that makes sense?

      • Luiz Bruder September 12, 2017 at 5:42 am - Reply

        Thank you, Dave, I’ll be putting it into practice tomorrow!

        Have a great day,
        Luiz

  7. Jason S. February 5, 2018 at 3:58 pm - Reply

    Hey Dave,
    Regarding the muscle building plan, should it be done every other day? Also would the single push and single pull exercise provide enough volume for hypertrophy? Thanks, really looking forward to implementing this into my own routine!

    • Dave Mace February 6, 2018 at 9:57 am - Reply

      Hey Jason, yes the body usually takes about 2 days to recover from Hypertrophy training, so every other day is perfect. Yeah for sure, you only need one of each otherwise you’ll be weaker in whichever you train second. Feel free to throw in a 3rd set though if it’s not feeling like there’s enough volume in there.

      • Jason S. February 6, 2018 at 11:40 am - Reply

        Just one last question, this program can be adapted for someone that isn’t beginner correct? Like with the progressions being different and all but, I’ve heard somewhere that at some point full body workouts like so lose its effect. Is that true or can this program be modified and used for an advanced individuals? Sorry about all the questions, I tend to get down the the nitty gritty aspects of things and often over think fitness, I appreciate it :D. I’ll be doing this program today so if you want to know how it goes, I’ll let you know.

        • Dave Mace February 6, 2018 at 12:11 pm - Reply

          Yes it can, I still do a very similar variation to this one every week (3 sets instead of 2). The only difference is I use harder progressions such as one arm rows, pistol squats etc. Full body workouts can still work at a higher level, you just have to be sensible about what exercises you do the next day. This session for example is quite a good one for me to do the day after a really high intensity workout as it’ll get blood flowing to my muscles and aid with recovery.

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