Have you ever wondered how to set up a Calisthenics workout routine? How to organize all the exercises, how to include all the muscles of your body into your training, how much rest should you have between exercises, how long should you make every workout, how many sets and reps and so on…?
If so, you are exactly where you need to be. I am going to answer all of your questions in this post and I am going to walk you through the principles of setting up a Calisthenics workout routine. Also, I am going to give you a good example that I have created for you which you can follow.
Now remember that there is NO perfect workout, as I explained in my previous post, How to Start Calisthenics – 8 Basic Principles. If you didn’t read it, I recommend you to do so; there you can find the basic rules you need to understand when starting Calisthenics.
A Few Things to Take in Consideration
It is very important to understand that there are a few things to take in consideration before jumping into a workout routine. Below I have created a list with all the factors that I want you to consider:
- Work on basics
If you are a beginner, it is utterly important that you understand how you are going to progress in Calisthenics and what is the best way to train without increasing the risk of injuries.
The most of the people tend to skip some steps when they are starting something, which is something terribly wrong to do. You need to be patient and to go through the entire process in order to grow and to get to the final point. You might be tempted to do the same mistake at some point and I really don’t want you to do it.
Before trying advanced exercises and skills, you have to work a lot of time on basics and the progressions of the basic exercises. This will improve your form and will strengthen your joints, so later on you will be able to work on more advanced skills without getting injured.
- DO NOT rush
It takes some time for your body to adapt to this new sport and to this new kind of movement. It’s absolutely normal, because your joints and muscles aren’t used to these exercises yet. Remember that in order to build a beautiful house, you first need a strong foundation.
I strongly recommend you to work on basics (and the progressions of them) for at least 70-80 days. There are a lot of people that do not work on basics because they want to progress fast and believe me, they do the opposite. Instead of progressing, they regress, and in just a month or two they feel their body fatigued and they experience injuries, which leads to their give up call.
- It doesn’t matter how it looks, just TRY
If you train in a local park or in a place where somebody else can see you, it is important to keep in mind one thing, and that is no matter how it looks, just try. What I want to mean by that, exactly? Let’s say that you’re capable of doing only 2 pull-ups. You go in that park, you do your warm-up (ALWAYS warm-up before your training) and after that you want to see if you are now able to do 3 pull-ups, but there’s another guy training there. DON’T be afraid of how you are going to look because you can do only a few pull-ups.
Your only competition is yourself and you should write this down every single morning for a boost of motivation. You should remember that no one is controlling your life and the only way of progressing is TO TRY. That guy’s opinion should not matter to you at all. Have courage and be proud of yourself for what you are doing!
So try, try, try and then try again until you will achieve it!
- Make sure you include some stretching between your workouts
Another thing that you need to consider is that you should include a stretching workout in your training routine at least once per week or in your rest day. Reason? When you work out (and after that), your muscles are in stress. When you are performing a stretching routine, you are discharging the muscles from all the tension accumulated throughout the week.
By doing this, you will reduce the risk of injuries, you will increase your mobility and you will become stronger.
Always Choose Quality over Quantity
It is much, much better to perform 10 perfect-form push-ups than 50 sloppy push-ups. Once you get a very good sense and you understand what is the perfect form for every kind of exercise, you can learn variations of these. In the beginning you must concentrate your attention on the quality of your form, not the quantity.
You are not going to get very far with bad posture! When I first started working out, I didn’t have the knowledge about Calisthenics that I have today. I didn’t know the perfect form for every exercise and I was performing some of them in a bad form. Slowly, I started to get myself very well-informed about all the areas in matter of Calisthenics because I just fell in love with this sport, but I want you to begin working out with PERFECT FORM.
Tell me this: It’s hard to break the bad, old habits, isn’t it? I know better than anyone (you can read my About Alex post if you are interested in my story). It is the same with the exercises. If you start doing them wrong, it will be much harder to correct your form down the road, but if you learn to do them the right way, you will create a good habit that will last forever!
So please, don’t get discouraged if you can not do a lot of repetitions of a certain exercise, everyone has to start from somewhere, and that somewhere is always the bottom. Again, you should not be disappointed, you should be proud of yourself because you’re getting out of your comfort zone. I am proud of you too! Always choose quality over quantity.
Make Sure You WARM UP Before Every Workout
Would you want to start working out today and after two weeks to be already injured? I don’t think so. THIS will certainly get you disappointed and will slow your progress. You need to see the warm up as a part of your routine. It is actually the first part of your workout, and as I said before, you DO NOT want to skip steps, ever.
Warming up will allow your joints to get ready for the tension you are going to put them through and will ‘tell’ your muscles to prepare for what’s coming for them. No matter the age, going directly into the workout will increase the chance of injuries up to 60%. The same can be told about the cool-down, which should be done after your training and should be based on mobility and static stretching.
The best way to do a warm up is to start from the highest point you need to warm (your neck) and to finish at the bottom (your ankles). There is no right or wrong way to do the warm up, though you need to make sure that you hit all of your body parts. The way I do it is like this:
- First I’m implementing some active movements to my joints, so I prepare them to be ‘stressed’
- Then I’m stretching my muscles in more active than static movements (which I recommend, since static movements are used for cooling down especially)
- And finally I do 1-2 HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) exercises to raise my heart rate
I recommend you follow the same structure for warming up, because going from the highest point to the lowest it’s easier to remember what you have to do next and it keeps a rhythm. You wanna make sure you hit all of these throughout your warm up:
In matter of muscles, you will hit them all by doing those stretching exercises and by those 1 or 2 HIIT exercises.
After you’re done warming up your joints and muscles I recommend you to do at least one of the next HIIT exercises for 45 seconds:
- High Knee Taps
- Mountain Climbers
- Jumping Rope
- Jumping Jacks
- Medium-High Speed Running
- Jumping Squats
The Workout Routine
As I was explaining in my previous post, there ISN’T a perfect workout. Depending on everyone’s level, the workouts are structured differently. Here I will show you how to structure your own training routine based on your level. If you don’t know your current level, you HAVE to. If you don’t know how, check my How to Start Calisthenics – 8 Basic Principles post.
However, the BEST workout for you is that one that you create by yourself, because you are the only one who knows your current level.
When you want to set up a workout routine you need to consider 5 things:
- The number of days you want to workout
Because you are at the beginner level, I would recommend you to work out 4 days a week in the first month (the best way is to put your rest days on your 2nd, 4th and 6th day of the week, but if your schedule doesn’t let you do that, it’s not a problem). Starting with your second month, you can raise your level and work out 5 days a week.
Respect your rest days! It is important so you won’t get injured and you give your muscles enough time to recover from the previous training.
- Full-Body or Split Workout
For those who don’t know, Full-Body workout is the workout in which you’re training ALL of your body muscles, and the Split Workout consists in training 1-2 big muscle groups per day.
At the beginning, for one month I’d recommend you the Full-Body training, so you can put all of your muscles to effort and you get them used to the movements.
- The reps and sets for each exercise
Depending on your level, you have to set the reps you are going to do for each exercise and the sets you want to do for each workout. Now, let me tell you the principle of setting the reps.
You will choose the amount of repetitions in a way that YOU CAN perform the exercise, but also in a way that it CHALLENGES you to failure.
For example, if you can do 10 correct push-ups, you will want to do 3 sets of 7 push-ups. And if you can not continue from some point on, you will continue anyway, but with the next progression of that exercise. In this case, knee push-ups.
- The rest time between exercises and between sets
One of the biggest questions when it comes to training is “How much time should I rest?”. Well…find out that this depends too. It depends on the training intensity and on your endurance.
Because you are at the beginner level, I would recommend you a rest time between 50s – 1m30s, depending on your endurance.
- Try to have at least 2 different workouts set up
The benefit of having at least 2 different Full-Body workouts is that you don’t let your muscles get used to a type of exercise. You don’t want your muscles to get used to your workout because from some point on you will not see any progress.
Take all these things in consideration when you want to set up a training routine. Always remember that there is no right or wrong and that slow progress is better than no progress at all. Slowly, you will learn more and more things and you will be able to perform a lot more exercises.
Now I will let you the training that I have created for you as an example. I used it as well when I started training and it helped me progress a lot.
Calisthenics Workout for Beginners
- 10 Push-ups
- 5 Pull-ups
- 6 Dips
- 5 Chin-ups
- 15 Sit-ups
- 12 Squats
- 10 Crunches
- 30sec High Knee Taps
REPEAT 3 TIMES TO COMPLETE THE WORKOUT.
Rest between exercises: 1 minute
Rest between sets: 2 minutes
Note: Remember that this workout is an example that I have created for you. If you can not perform it you can modify it, even if it’s about the reps or the rest time. I would recommend though to keep the same exercises in the exact order. And do not make it so easy that you can perform it without breaking a sweat!
After one month of training your body using Full-Body workouts, you should start training Split workout routines. Now that your body is used to the basic movements of Calisthenics, I recommend you to focus on 1-2 big muscle groups per day.
I will write you here how you should combine them in the most efficient way (that works for me; try it and if you feel it’s not okay for you, just personalize it by yourself).
- Chest + Triceps – Push-ups. The different variations of push-ups (incline, decline, regular, etc.) are mostly working your triceps and your chest, so it’s the most efficient way to work them both at once doing a push-ups day.
- Back + Biceps – Pull-up. The different variations of pull-ups (regular, chin-ups, wide, etc) are mostly working your back and your biceps, so it’s the most efficient way to work them both at once doing a pull-ups day.
- ABS – Since the abdominal muscles are the hardest to work out, I always have a day per week only for training abs. Soon I will post an article with an ABS workout which I find it super efficient.
- Legs – Same as ABS, I train legs separately.
Now I won’t write here an example for every training day, but you can make tens of different workout routines here. I promise you though that I will post an article for every single workout that I consider super effective soon.
Now Go There and Workout RIGHT NOW
It is very important to take action. It is meaningless if you get informed about something if you don’t put the information you get into practice. DON’T YOU SAY “I WILL START FROM TOMORROW“. START NOW! I guarantee you that the hardest step to take is the first one.
Be consistent, don’t miss any workout day, don’t make any excuse and I promise you, you WILL get there.
And remember. It only counts when it hurts!
I hope that this post helped you understand how you should create your very own workout routine based on your current level. If you have any question, please let a comment below and I will be more than happy to help you out!
I’m Alex and it was a pleasure writing this article for you guys. 🙂