You can use dozens or even hundreds of different exercises in your workout. But a large number of exercises don’t guarantee you achievements. I know guys who have been training for years. They try exotic techniques, pull block machines, and choose tricky angles. But they have no progress and still look like fellows who’ve never been to the gym.
Simplicity is the soul of genius. It doesn’t matter if you’re into bodybuilding or calisthenics. The point stands.
All you need in your workout are the classic basic exercises
This statement is 100% correct because I put it into practice and I constantly progress. There are only about 11 key exercises in my arsenal.
On this page, I wanna tell you more about the exercises that I use in almost every workout. And why do I consider them effective and necessary for practice? Yes, sometimes I add something to training, sometimes I remove something.
But the core is always the same: simple basic exercises.
Important! This is not a gym training or calisthenics workout program. But this little guide will help beginners to build their routines.
Choose and read!
- Weighted pull-ups
- Muscle ups
- Toes to bar
- Rope climbing
- Rowing machine
I warrant that pull-ups are the king of basic exercises. You have to master pull-ups if you want to build a strong and handsome body. Maybe you won’t believe me, but three years ago I couldn’t make even one pull-up. Now I easily do 15-20 reps on a pull-up bar and turn pull-ups with an additional weight of up to 31 kg (68 lbs).
Key benefits of pull-ups:
- Pull-ups are the core of every calisthenics workout. You won’t be able to progress till you master them
- What muscles do pull-ups work? Almost the whole your body is functioning during pull-ups, from arms and back to the abs and legs
- Pull-ups are the best way to increase your strength level
- If you want to be an advanced calisthenics athlete, you should pull up a lot and in different ways
- Put pull-ups at the beginning of your training cuz your muscle is full of energy
- If you train only with your body weight, you can do pull-ups every workout
- Do weighted pull-ups only once or a maximum twice a week
- Change grips, change pull-up technique, experiment. This will help your progress.
Your pull-ups workout goal:
You should be able to pull up at least 12-15 times in strict technique at any age.
I hate push-ups. There is no obvious reason. But that’s exactly how I feel when I’m going to do this exercise. However, push-ups should be in your workout. If only because it is also a universal exercise as pull-ups in calisthenics workout. And if you want to be an all-rounded athlete, you should do push-ups regularly.
Key benefits of push-ups:
- This is a great way to train your chest, shoulders, triceps, and even lats (latissimus dorsi)
- Push-ups don’t require any equipment. Only floor, insistence, and your body
- It’s much easier to master push-ups than pull-ups or dips
- Push-ups will improve your posture, flexibility and will strengthen your lower back
- You can do… No! You have to do push-ups every workout. It’s not debatable
- There are lots of push-up techniques. Explore them to target different muscle groups
- Combine push-ups and dips. This will powerfully pump your torso.
Your push-ups workout goal:
You should be able to push up at least 20-25 times at any age.
As far as I hate push-ups so much I love dips exercise. I do them every workout, and start my training from lite warm-up dips. Also I do them as the main exercise for chest training, including additional weight. And I use dips as a workout finisher. What muscles do dips work? In my humble opinion, they’re the best to pump over your chest, delts, and triceps. Besides, you need to learn dips exercise if you plan to turn more difficult combos like muscle-ups or planche.
Key benefits of dips:
- Dips are in a “gold trio” of classic callisthenic exercises together with pull-ups and push-ups
- Dips could airily take the place of the bench press. And believe me, they work just as well as barbell
- Are you tired of an innumerable quantity of push-ups? Dips will diversify your workout and will help to elude decaying
- Dips will help you to acquire rings workout, for example, ring push-ups or ring butterfly
- Firstly, learn the dips exercise correct technique. Otherwise, you will be doing dummy work, and risk being injured
- If you can do 20-25 dips and more, use additional weight. It will speed up your progress
- Habituate yourself to do dips in a slow and controllable tempo. This will greatly enhance the loading on your muscles
Your dips workout goal:
You should be able to do at least 15-20 dips at any age.
If you want big strong muscled hands – do chin-ups. Arguably, that might have been the end of it. But in any case, I will tell you about chin-up benefits. This exercise affects your biceps, including the brachialis. And in addition to it – forearms, back muscles, and even abs. You can say that barbell curls are a chin-up alternative, and no need to reinvent the wheel. But from my experience, I can say that my arms became much stronger and bigger just after I started to do chin-ups, including with weight. Of course, no one forbids you to add barbell and dumbbell exercises to your workout. Not but that, chin-ups are urgent, especially if you are into calisthenics.
Key benefits of chin-ups:
- Chin-ups are a great example of a basic movement that will allow you to focus on your hands’ training
- Do you want to improve your feats in pull-ups? Chin-ups will help you to speed up this process
- You thought that chin-ups are an addition to the barbell. Now let the barbell curls be a chin-up alternative. And you’ll see how much faster you progress
- Try chin-ups if you only start your path in calisthenics, and you have trouble mastering regular pull-ups
- Vary technique, speed, and grip width. So you can deeply work out your biceps, focus on its long or short head
- Don’t chase the number of reps. Turn chin-ups slowly to feel the biceps exertion
- If you can easily chin-up 10-12 times, add extra weight to stress your muscles all the more
Your workout goal:
You should be able to do at least 12-15 chin-ups at any age.
I knowingly decided to talk about weighted pullups separately. Because this exercise deserves special attention. There are many nuances in the technique of weighted pull-ups. And if you ignore them, you can easily get injured and will not see the result of your efforts. At the same time, using additional weight will allow you to improve your workout results, and become much stronger.
Key benefits of weighted pull-ups:
- This is a great variation of strength training for your back and your arms
- Weighted pullups will help you to increase the number of regular pull-ups
- If you can’t master muscle ups, weighted pull-ups will solve this problem
- Start with as little additional weight as possible, literally 7-10 lbs. Increase the weight when you can do about 6-8 pull-ups
- Remember about recovery. Therefore, it is undesirable to train weighted pullups more than 1-2 times a week
- Control your technique. Additional weight should not affect the quality of pull-ups, this is the main thing!
Your workout goal:
You should be able to do weighted pull-ups until the old age (if you have healthy joints) with a poundage that is at least 10-15% of your body weight.
I can talk about bar muscle ups (or muscle-ups, both variants are correct) for hours on end. When I was trying to get control over it, I was thick about this exercise. It took about 6 months till I did my first muscle-up. And I’ll tell you that it was worth a trip. Due to muscle ups I raised my strength to a new level. Also, I proved to myself that what seemed fantastic yesterday, today looks easy and simple. So, if you decided to train seriously and focused on calisthenics workout, include bar muscle ups in your gym “menu”.
Key benefits of muscle ups:
- This is a very powerful move that perfectly loads almost all your muscles – from loins and chest to triceps and abs
- Bar muscle ups let you progress in other basic exercises like pull-ups or dips
- Due to muscle ups you’ll make a big step to more difficult calisthenics elements like a front lever, for example
- Muscle ups are simply an eye-filling and fascinating exercise. The others will be jealous of you
- You should do at least 12-15 clean pull-ups before you start to master muscle ups
- Warm-up thoroughly. Bar muscle ups put a lot of stress on the joints and ligaments
- Make muscle-up attempts every workout. Until you can do it at least once
Your muscle ups workout goal:
It will be really cool if you’ll be able to do even 4-6 muscle ups at any age.
If you open YouTube, you’ll find thousands of videos about how to get six-pack abs. Bloggers suggest the craziest and most fantastic exercises. But in fact, your abs are the same muscle group as your back or chest. And there are enough a few basic exercises to train it. Of course, I also do different exercises to variegate my training. But none of my abs workout is complete without toes to bar. Yes, it isn’t easy, but it is worth it.
Key benefits of toes to bar:
- This exercise loads all segments of your abs, including obliques
- Toes to bar workout let you feel the muscle load very well if you perform this exercise with the correct technique
- If you regularly train toes to bar, it will be much easier for you to master other abs exercises like l-sit or windshield wipers
- Don’t forget: strong abs mean a healthy lower back. This is another argument to double-o toes to bar.
- Concentrate on the correct technique: keep your legs straight, point your toes, and lock your knees. And no kipping!
- In the beginning, you can raise your legs to parallel to the floor. And if it’s difficult, raise your legs bent at the knees
- If you want to increase the load, do the exercise as slowly as you can. You’ll see the difference right away
Your toes to bar workout goal:
You should be able to do at least 12-15 reps of toes to bar at any age.
Many athletes underrate isometric exercises. But this type of load got high importance for your progress. So, if you’re in calisthenics workout, aiming for sculpted and strong abs, don’t forget about static. My favorite core isometric exercise is bar l-sit. I’m not a champion, but I can hold the l-sit for 40-45 seconds. This exercise perfectly complements my training and, together with dynamic loads, allows me to work out the abs as deeply as possible. Although, it’s not necessary to get stuck on this type of l-sit. You can do it on the floor or the bars. The effect on your abs will be the same.
Key benefits of l-sit:
- Isometric exercises will help you to progress and improve your overall sustaining power
- L-sit is a great way to bring something new into your workout and make your training more varied
- You should master l-sit if you plan to turn to more difficult calisthenics elements, such as dragon flag or front lever for example
- If you are aiming for six-pack abs, you unfailingly have to train l-sit and its other variations regularly
- If it’s difficult to hold extended legs at the start, you can train l-sit with the bent knee position, but try to straighten them out in any case
- Use a resistance band for bar l-sit to make learning easier and more efficient
- Don’t forget to mix isometric exercises with other abs exercises like toes to the bar
Your workout goal:
You should be able to hold l-sit at least for 15-20 seconds at any age.
Every athlete has to pay attention to all muscle groups in his body. Therefore, you shouldn’t forget about leg training. There are many exercises for the lower body. But squats are one and only classics for your legs. What muscles do squats work? Quads, hamstrings, glutes, and even abs. And no matter, whether you choose bodybuilding or calisthenics workout, you do it with your bodyweight or with a barbell. You should by hell or high water include squats in your training program.
Key benefits of squats:
- This exercise is the basis of the lower body workout. It allows you to train your legs all-up
- Squats improve blood circulation throughout the body. This is not my fantasy, this is a proven fact
- Squats will improve your results in cardio, especially in running
- If you want to have athletic strong legs and fit buttocks to old age – squat!
- First of all, master squats without weight. This will save you from injury in the future
- During the squat, your foot should rest firmly on the heel. Watch your knees, they should be in line with your toes
- No rush! Do squats at a slow tempo to maximize the tension in the legs’ muscles and feel them
Your workout goal:
You should be able to do at least 25-35 squats in a row at any age.
I loathed rope climbing in my schooldays. Because I was too weak for that. After all, then I couldn’t even pull up normally. And only after 25 years I realized how cool and useful rope climb is. Yes, it’s not for beginners. But if you are already a sufficiently experienced athlete and feel strong, I highly recommend adding rope climbing to your workouts. Why is this exercise so good and why do I love it so much now?
Key benefits of rope climbing:
- Rope climbing loads almost all your body muscles: arms, back, abs, and even legs
- You train not only your strength but also persistence and physical coordination. Three-in-one!
- If you’ve reached a plateau, rope climbing will be a great way to get off the ground your progress and bring something new to your workouts
- When you are just making the first tries to climb a rope, assist yourself with your legs. This will simplify a problem
- Don’t forget that rope climbing is a basic exercise. Therefore, warm up thoroughly and don’t overdo with the number of sets
- If you already can easily climb the rope 3-5 times, raise the bar. For example, keep your legs in l-sit or use additional weight
Your workout goal:
You should be able to climb a rope until the age of 60-65 years and preferably without leg assisted.
I started to use the rowing machine in my workouts not long ago. But I can assure you that it provides an excellent combination of cardio and strength training. Therefore, you can use rowing as a warm-up or as a separate exercise during your workout. In addition, I highly recommend regular rowing sessions for athletes aged 35-40 and over. It will boost your heart health and help your overall workout progress.
Key benefits of rowing machine workout:
- If you don’t like to run, but you need cardio, rowing is your choice.
- The rowing machine is quite easy to master. And it’s suitable for athletes of all fitness levels.
- During rowing, the whole body works. So, you train not only cast-iron physique but also give your muscles a boost to grow.
- For a start, work in the rowing machine slowly, follow the tempo to accustom your body and brain to the movements.
- Arms and legs should move in sync while rowing. Imagine that you are a spring that expands and squeezes.
- Fall into rowing with short sessions of 30-60 seconds. Afterwards, you can increase sessions to 3-5 minutes or more, depending on your endurance.
Your workout goal:
You should “swim” on a rowing machine up to 1.5-2 kilometers without pursiness even at the age of 55-60 years