The 10 best exercises for building muscle with calisthenics

  • By: gymtrix
  • Date: January 7, 2023
  • Time to read: 11 min.

When it comes to bodyweight calisthenics exercises, some will get you further than others. The best ones are those that target the major muscle groups and utilize resistance or short bursts of effort in order to maximize muscle growth.

Just a few of these all-rounder moves include pull-ups, chin-ups, push-ups, dips and squats. Choosing the right calisthenics exercises is key to building maximum muscle mass rapidly and efficiently.

On the other hand, picking incorrect exercises won’t do much for you except providing a conditioning effect which is only beneficial for achieving basic endurance levels.

Here are the top 10 calisthenics exercises you can do with just your bodyweight to gain the most muscle and get the most for your money.

The 10 best exercises for building muscle with calisthenics

The best calisthenics exercises for building muscle

Now that we’ve discussed why calisthenics are an excellent way to build muscle, let’s look at some of the best exercises for doing so.

Push ups

The push up has been a core part of exercise regimens for decades and remains an essential calisthenic movement.

While increasing the number of reps is sometimes seen as the optimal way to gain muscle, it is rarely enough to create levels of overload needed for significant progression.

To really get the most out of your push up routine you should be seeking out variations that are more difficult and require more from your chest muscles.

These will provide bigger benefits in terms of gains over the traditional push up, granting greater muscular endurance and strength while providing much better visual results too!

Pull ups

The pull up is an essential exercise that should be included in any calisthenic routine.

It is one of the most powerful bodyweight exercises, as it uses the weight of the entire body and works to strengthen the entire back including lower back stabilization.

This exercise has a reputation for being challenging, but with practice comes great reward and results. Thus, regular practice of this movement can help build strength and muscle in the upper body.

Air Squats

Air squats are an easy and versatile form of exercise that can benefit your quads, hamstrings and glutes.

These exercises require no equipment, making them perfect for working out at home or while travelling. To do this simple move, start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart.

Then bend your knees and lower your body until your thighs are parallel to the ground, ensuring you keep your back straight and prevent your knees from traveling past your toes.

Finally push yourself back up to the starting position.

Air squats have numerous benefits for toning muscles as well as releasing tension in the upper legs try introducing a few into your regular workout routine today.


Lunges are a great way to tone your quads, glutes, and hamstrings, and they can be done in many different ways.

They can be done with no equipment in any space you have available.

To do a lunge, start from a standing position with your feet hip-width apart then take one large step forward and lower your body down until your front thigh is parallel to the floor.

Push up to the starting position and repeat on the other side.

If you’re feeling more adventurous, try some jumping lunges for added explosiveness or add a weighted vest for some resistance training. With lunges, the possibilities are endless!

Handstand Push up

The handstand push-up is a dynamic exercise that develops strength around the shoulder joint. It is an effective calisthenics move that works your entire deltoid muscle, including the front, middle and rear delts.

For those just starting out, the wall can be used to offload some of the weight of your body and can help gradually build up strength to a full handstand push-up.

This exercise should be included in any serious shoulder workout for maximal engagement of your shoulder muscles. Not only does it work stability and dynamic strength, but it strengthens coordination as well.


Dips are an incredibly effective exercise for building strength in the chest, triceps, and shoulders.

Whether you’re hitting the gym or staying at home, dips can be done easily with two benches or chairs, making it simple to follow good form and get the full benefit of the workout.

To perform a dip, start by placing your hands on the edge of two benches or chairs with your feet together; then, bend your elbows and lower your body down towards the floor before pushing yourself back up to the starting position and repeating.

Once you truly master these workouts without assistance, you can challenge yourself even further by adding a weighted vest while performing dips. With regular practice and consistency, you’ll be able to reach new heights in your workout results.


Chin-ups are a fantastic exercise for working your back and biceps if you’re looking for an extra challenge.

They can be more difficult than the classic pull-up, but don’t let that scare you! In fact, chin-ups can be easier for some people just keep in mind that some might experience pain in their wrists while doing them.

That being said, if you find yourself not able to perform one without assistance, start with assisted chin-ups. Regardless of your progress, there’s no doubt chin-ups will help build strength and fatigue those hard to reach muscles.


The muscle-up is an advanced bodyweight exercise that can have large payoffs for those willing to put in the time and effort.

While this powerful exercise may seem intimidating at first, it can be accomplished with practice and dedication.

The muscle-up can be performed on either a bar or rings using a suspension trainer which provide stability and safety during the exercise.

To complete a muscle-up, one must grab onto the bar or rings with hands shoulder width apart before pulling oneself up so that the chest touches the apparatus.

After reaching peak height, simply lower yourself back down and repeat. With consistency, anyone can master this fantastic full body workout.

Pistol Squats

Pistol squats are an excellent body weight exercise which can help to sculpt and strengthen the major muscles of your lower body the quads, glutes and hamstrings.

This exercise is easy to learn and requires no equipment whatsoever. To do a full pistol squat, start by standing with one foot in front of the other.

Then slowly bend your front knee down towards the floor while keeping it behind your toes as you squat downwards until your thigh is parallel with the ground.

Pause for a moment and then use your lower body strength to push yourself back into the starting position.

Pistol squats can easily be adapted to match any skill level by adjusting the amount of time spent at different phases of movement or changing from single leg to two-leg support.

Hanging Leg Raise

Hanging Leg Raise is an effective exercise for targeting the abdominal muscles. To get the most out of this exercise, it is important to correctly utilize body mechanics, in order to activate and challenge the abdominal muscles.

Specifically, curling the pelvis up when performing a hanging leg raise instead of simply lifting the legs will help engage the stage for abdominal homording, chest opening and lengthening flexibly.

Additionally, varying the distance between your feet can impact which muscles are recruited during execution widening creates a greater challenge on the outer oblique while narrow hip width focuses more on core control and stability.

All in all, this dynamic movement helps target each level of density of abdominal muscles, with strong emphasis on engaging abs versus hip flexors.

Tips for getting the most out of your calisthenics workouts

Let’s look at some advice for getting the most out of your workouts now that we’ve covered some of the finest calisthenics movements for growing muscle.

Perform simple and complex calisthenics exercises

Building muscle mass can be a difficult task, but with the right exercises it can be achieved using calisthenics.

The essential bodyweight training exercises are pushups, pull-ups, dips, squats, leg raises, sprints, running and plyometrics. All of these exercises should be a part of your routine in order to build muscle in an effective manner.

To keep it interesting why not add variations of each big family exercise? Examples of plyometrics would be frog jumps, high jumps, box jumps, burpees and explosive pull-ups or pushups. You may even want to consider doing one arm push-ups or handstand push ups for more of a challenge


Let’s not forget about squats either, Crouch walks, walking lunges, sumo squats and regular squats are great bodyweight movements as well as Bulgarian splits and the types of plyometric mentioned before.

Additionally, even though running and sprints fall into the category of athletics they still count as bodyweight exercises so don’t forget to add them too!

Leg raises are a great way to target the core and leg muscles and can be easily varied to keep your body challenged.

There are vertical leg raises, horizontal leg raises and even leg lifts that can be used in combination with a medicine ball or plank holds for an extra challenge!

Make sure to cycle through these exercises every so often as it keeps the body guessing and preserves interest in the workout.

This will help you to make better progress than sticking with the same exercises week after week.

Be aware that there is no need to complicate your workout routine you’ll find hundreds of more complex calisthenics but they aren’t always necessary and may not offer significant benefit unless performed correctly. Start simple, master the basics and build from there.

Train more often to maximize your gains

Training with the intention to make muscles hurt is often necessary in order to create fatigue and break them down, allowing them to be built back up even stronger.

Tackling routines consistently and always striving for progress helps stress the muscles continually, therefore building essential muscle strength to progress further.

It is perfectly normal on the second day of a training routine for volume levels to drop off and this should not be cause for worry, but instead embraced as a way to adjust and modify the workout schedule if needed.

Volume and tension are required to promote hypertrophy

Building muscle can be challenging, yet it’s one of the most beneficial ways of improving overall health. In order to achieve great results, a combination of moderate and more demanding exercises should be included in the workout routine.

By employing both types of exercises the body is able to work in different ways towards successfully attaining muscle growth. Old-school calisthenics such as handstand pushups, pull-ups, pistol squats, and 100-meter hill sprints generate high levels of force and tension that have been proven to produce lasting results over time.

Leveraging these specific exercises within an exercise regimen will help build powerful muscles so that you reach peak physical form.

You Need Fast Reps and Control Over Execution

When it comes to the speed and tempo for each repetition, having control is essential. It is important for individuals to find a rhythm that works best for them, however, if someone is able to do regular speed more reps could be completed providing better progress.

If a slower tempo is preferred then remain focused on the powerful contraction during the positive portion while going as slow as possible during the eccentric part.

Respect should always be given when it comes to completing exercises correctly in order to keep good form and full range of motion beginners especially need to pay attention here in order to avoid injury.

You must maintain mental and muscular focus

Working out can be incredibly rewarding, but it’s also important to remember that it requires commitment and concentration.

If you let outside factors affect your training sessions, such as allowing yourself to get distracted in conversation or worrying about life troubles, then your performance won’t be up to standard.

In order to make the most of a workout session, it’s best to approach each session with a plan and remain focused until the task is completed.

It requires patience and dedication, but in the end those good habits will pay off tenfold with end results that surpass the minimal effort put forth at the beginning!

Shorten the pause to avoid exhausting the muscles

Resting in between sets is essential to maximizing muscle growth, yet many don’t know just how important it really is.

Studies have proven that resting for more than 90 seconds significantly reduces the effectiveness of a workout.

To maximize your training session and make the most of every minute spent in the gym, keeping rest time to 30-45 seconds is definitely recommended.

This way you can ensure that you remain focused, motivated and driven during your workout, all while achieving the best results possible!

Cardio, Fat Loss, and Muscle Growth

Running is, undoubtedly, one of the most popular and cost-effective forms of exercise – though it typically isn’t enough to build a lot of muscle mass.

That’s why cardio should be focused on fat loss, rather than bulking up with body fat. This can be done through incorporating both calisthenics training and sprint intervals.

Doing this will help burn fat and keep you lean, while also allowing for muscle growth when coupled with resistance training.

However, it is important to remember that too much calisthenics training could easily lead to overdevelopment in certain areas. With this in mind, make sure to include 1-2 steady cardio running sessions every week to get the best results.

Calisthenics Split Workouts Are Required For Muscles

Among the many great strategies for building muscle, a popular approach is to split your routine into different days depending on which body part you are targeting.

For example, one day could be dedicated to pushups and dips, while day two could be focused on pull-ups and abs. Additionally, a fourth day could be devoted to cardio and the fifth could involve both pull exercises as well as push exercises.

On the following week, consider doing some upper-body circuits or pyramids, as well as more classic sets and reps later on.

When you switch up routines in this fashion, it is important to pay attention to the reps you do of each movement so that they are completed correctly and all body parts receive sufficient attention.

By alternating between building reps correctly and switching out upper-body workouts for leg workouts such as sprints or squats, you can effectively put together an effective routine that brings beneficial results.

Do More High-Intensity Interval Training

Sprint interval workouts are becoming increasingly more popular in the fitness realm and have proven to be one of the most effective methods of interval training with maximum results.

These highly intensive, time-effective sessions of 20-40 minutes require minimal rest between sets and target power training or high-intensity interval training that stimulates growth hormone release and improves general thresholds, converting body fat into energy, staying fit, and building lean muscle mass.

For an individual looking to boost performance and overall fitness, sprint intervals should top the list of achievable goals.

Eat More of the Right Foods

Eating correctly is fundamental to building and developing muscles. It’s important to not just focus on the quantity of food but also its quality high-quality protein, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats are staples for muscle growth.

Additionally, introducing a ‘cheat day’ into your dietary routine can be beneficial in giving your body the necessary periods of rest it needs between grueling power training sessions.

To ensure optimal progress, power training may need to be utilized to make the body more sensitive to insulin which helps trigger muscles growth.

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