No gym membership or equipment? No problem. You can still get strong and tone your muscles with your own body weight with very little equipment. Calisthenic exercises use your body weight as your own resistance, ideal for beginners to increase body awareness and learn to control movement better. Once you are familiar with basic calisthenic exercises, mix different exercises together to create your own recipe of workouts.
Lower Body First
Calisthenics for your lower body include the squat, step-ups and lunges. These three exercises are the foundation to more advanced exercises, like power training and Olympic lifts, says physical therapist Gray Cook, author of "Athletic Body in Balance." For beginners, use the multiple-set system, which is performing each exercise individually for two to four sets for eight to 15 reps. Rest for 20 to 30 seconds between sets before doing another set.
Pushups and pullups are the two basic upper-body calisthenics, and each has its own level of progression. If you cannot do the standard pushup, start doing pushups on an elevated surface, such on a chair, a pair of low, parallel bars or a flight of stairs. Gradually work your way down to the floor. For pullups, use a pullup machine that has a stack of weights to counter your own weight. Or you can use a low parallel bar, such as a squat bar on a squat rack, about two to three feet off the floor to help you do pullups.
If you want to burn more calories and save more time, do supersets, which is doing two exercises that work different muscle groups without rest in between. You can divide upper-body and lower-body exercises or do one pushing exercise followed by a pulling exercise. For example, a superset can be a squat with a pullup or a pushup with a pullup. Rest for 30 seconds before doing another superset.
Add various methods of exercise with your calisthenic workout to avoid boredom and exercise plateaus, such as jump-roping, kettlebell lifting, sprinting and medicine ball throws. If you experience pain or have any medical conditions that worsen with exercise, consult your health care provider before starting any exercise program.
- Athletic Body in Balance; Gray Cook
- IDEA Health & Fitness Association: Body Weight Exercises
- NASM Essentials of Personal Fitness Training, Third Edition; Michael Clark, DPT
Nick Ng has been writing fitness articles since 2003, focusing on injury prevention and exercise strategies. He has covered health for "MiaBella" magazine. Ng received his Bachelor of Arts in communications from San Diego State University in 2001 and has been a certified fitness coach with the National Academy of Sports Medicine since 2002.