Calisthenics Workout For Massive Size And Strength (15 Powerful Exercises)

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calisthenics workout

As we already know, it is absolutely possible to build an impressive physique using exclusively your own bodyweight. After all; resistance is resistance. You can apply most of basic strength or bodybuilding principles to a bodyweight routine and get great results.

Further down in the article you will find a calisthenics workout routine with exercises I have compiled through years of research, trial and error.

All it ever comes down to is persistence, constancy, and the right knowledge.

What makes calisthenics one of the best training methods for you ?

Another great thing about bodyweight training is that as you get stronger, you learn to control your own bodyweight through space, you can perform impressive feats of strength such as one arm pull ups, handstand push ups, planches and more.

When I first started working out seriously I went to a gym six day a week, lifted weights and was very happy with what I was doing. Fast forward 2 years later, I have put on some muscle mass, but all I ever use it for, and all I was capable of using it for, was lifting more weights in the gym. None of the gains I had made transferred to any sort of interesting movement I could take out of the gym and perform anywhere.

I also lost quite a bit of agility, wore down some of the more fragile shoulder and elbow joints, and overall, did not really improve my ability of “moving” apart from the one of pushing a heavy barbell off of my chest.

The aim was to obtain a chiseled, defined physique, but also to improve my quality of life by being able to use more of that strength in my everyday life, being in great shape not just on the outside but also all the way to some of the most important muscles that you cant see, like the rotator cuff, a muscle in your shoulder responsible for it’s impressive range of motion, which I was damaging through heavy bench pressing.

I wanted to be able to train not just in a sweaty underground gym with testosterone filled dudes giving creepy looks at any girl who would get too close, but also outdoors in the sun in a park, in a forest amidst the trees, or even in my room, if I wanted to. I didn’t want to have to rely on weights to get stronger and progress. I also wanted to be able to do something more than just lifting weights, like holding a handstand effortlessly for minutes at a time, or, going from an L-sit to a handstand with pure, controlled strength, doing handstands push ups, or simply not being plagued by heaps of problems caused by years of weightlifting.

There is a book by Paul Wade, an ex convict who swears by old school calisthenics that has a lot of valuable knowledge. Here are some parts related to what I am trying to illustrate:

[pullquote align=”normal” cite=”Paul Wade”]The average gym junkie to day is all about appearance, not ability. Flash, not function. These men have big, artificially pumped up limbs, but all that size is in the muscle tissue; their tendons and joints are weak. Ask the average muscleman to do a deep one-leg squat, and his knee ligaments would probably snap in two. What strength most bodybuilders do have, they cannot use in a coordinated way; if you asked them to walk on their hands they’d fall flat on their faces. In nature, the human body doesn’t need to move barbells or dumbbells around. Before it can move anything external at all, it has to be able to move itself around. The legs need the strength to be able to manage the weight if the torso in athletic motions such as running or in combat; the back and arms require the power to be able to pull or push the body up or away.[/pullquote]

And there is so much more content as such that I could resonate with as I read through. Now don’t get me wrong; Anyone who finds the courage to get out of their house and train in any specific way, is doing it right. I am only giving my point of view as someone who has tried both methods, and would like to promote the practicality of bodyweight training as it has been very useful to me, so why not to you ?

Besides, if you are here, it’s because you already want to know more about this discipline, and what sort of workouts you can perform to obtain not just an impressive physique, but one that is actually useful to you in the sense that it doesn’t hinder your ability to move as a human being.

The calisthenics workout routine

The calisthenics workout routines I am about to share with you are optimally performed with a pair of gymnastics rings, but once again, the beauty of it is that you can without.

If you do want to know more about where you can get your hands on your own pull up/dip bar and other things check out this article.

I will go over some of my favorite and most effective muscle and strength building routines including some progressions to make them harder, rest times, reps, and more. If you are just starting bodyweight training and aren’t sure about where to begin and which exercises to do, this calisthenics for beginners article should be more suited to your needs.

The workout split

The most efficient split, especially for joint health and maximal growth has proved to be the push/pull/legs for me, and many others. Here’s what it looks like over a 7 day period:

  1. Push
  2. Pull
  3. Legs
  4. Rest
  5. Push
  6. Pull
  7. Legs

This kind of training split volume is not recommended if you are a beginner but otherwise it is very effective. You are working each set of muscles twice a week, or every 4 days, with hard hitting compound movements, and one or two isolation movements to finish with.

Exercises, reps and sets

Each exercise will be presented with it’s corresponding easier, and harder progression so that you can adapt the workout to your level. Ex: hard variation / easy variation.


  1. handstand holds ( skill work )
  2. handstand push ups / pike push ups
  3. ring archer push ups / floor archer push ups
  4. ring dips / bar dips
  5. ring tricep extensions


  1. handstand holds ( skill work )
  2. ring archer pull ups / assisted one arm pull ups ( with a towel or band )
  3. ring L-sit pull ups / bar pull ups
  4. tuck row / Australian pull up
  5. ring bicep curl


  1. handstand holds ( skill work )
  2. pistol squat or lunges / regular squat
  3. Nordic curls / Nordic curl negatives
  4. Step ups
  5. one leg calve raises

At the end of both the push and leg workout, I will usually add an ab super set composed of AMRAP ( as many reps as possible ) leg raises and ring roll outs. Both the ring tricep extensions and bicep curls are drop sets to be performed as follows:

  1. 10 reps ( last one should be fairly difficult )
  2. move your legs further from the ring anchor point and perform another 10 reps
  3. move you legs even further and perform another 10 reps
  4. rest 1 minute and repeat

As it’s a drop set, you don’t rest between every set of 10 reps, but be honest with yourself with how far you place yourself from the ring anchor point- your tenth rep should always be hard, but completed with proper form. These are isolation exercises which is why I keep them until the end of the workout, just to get that extra work on the biceps or triceps.

Apart from the handstands, calve raises and isolation drop sets, I always aim for 5 sets of 4-10 reps. This, done twice a week is plenty of volume and will provide you with results, over time.

Remember to always warm up properly and remain consistent. The amount of progress you make also depends on your diet, and other factors such as sleep and recovery. Treat your body with respect, and you will be rewarded.


So here’s why Calisthenics is the ideal training method for you; you can do them anywhere, you will build a strong and chiseled physique, all whilst mastering your own bodyweight and being able to do amazing things that you wouldn’t be able to do otherwise, like handstands, freestanding handstand push ups, L-sits, V-sits, the list goes on.

We have gone over the ideal workout split as well as specifics, with sets, reps, and rest times.

Which exercises will you integrate into your won routine?

If you have any questions, advice, or feedback, comment down below !

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