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Calisthenics routine



Im doing an experiment. Going to try a bodyweight only routine for 6 weeks. Problem is I cant find any recommendations on a routine, rep schemes and no idea of what numbers I should be aiming for.

I will be working out 3-4 times a week and my main exercises I can do would be push-ups, pull-ups, squats, planks, bridges and inverted rows. I dont have the skill yet but I would also like to incorporate some hand stands, pistol squats and maybe some parallel bar work.

Im used to prograns duch as WS4SB and 531, so I am used to knowing what weight and rep schemes I am doing before I set foot in the gym, and I am after a program that will give me the same level of certainty of what I will be doing in the gym?

Anyone can help?

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This is 100% theoretical.

  1. Box jump and clapping pushups.

-these are for “max force.” Move as fast as possible. Do a jump or 2, then a push up or two. Get maximum power and speed. Do like 8 or 10 of each. Shorts rests between attempts, but recover enough to move with authority.

  1. Chins/Dips/Lunges/Hanging Leg Raises

-These are the “hard” calisthenics. So make then hard. That could mean like 4 reps “dead-hang” style for chins, or 8 shins-to bar leg raises. Or 8 pull ups and 12 Leg Raises off a bench. It all depends on your level, at each exercise. But do a set of pull/push/ legs/ abs, circuit style. Then recover and go again. You could start with 3 or 4 circuits, depending on how hard you make things.

  1. Pushups/Inverted Rows/Step Ups/less intense and
  • These are the “easy” calisthenics. Do them in the same circuit fashion, but make them a little faster and more high rep. Maybe a little “easier.” Think of these as the assistance exercises for the “hard” stuff you just did.

On the next training day, get going with the jumps and clap pushups.

Then do the " easy" exercises first. But make them “hard.” So instead of easy pushups, you do barbell pushups, or feet elevated pushups, or off set pushups(1 hand elevated). Whatever you like. Do the same for inverted rows. Pause for a 2 count at the top, or pull yourself up and over towards one hand or the other. Step up to a higher box, or whatever. Do what you like, go circuit style, and make it difficult.

Then you finish with dips and chins, or your what ever your other “hard” exercises are. You just make them a little easier, to get some “volume” or “assistance” in.

Over the course of the 6 weeks, just make this scheme a little harder. Do one or 2 more jumps and clapping pushups. Or just to a higher box. Or sit on a box, before leaping onto another box. Go from clapping pushups, to plyo pushups, dropping off bumper plates or something.

Pretend you are a gymnast. You’re not going to be doing Iron Crosses and Pommel Horse routines, but do you chin ups and leg raises like you want the gold medal of leg raises. Keep everything straight and tight! Don’t bounce, or kip, control your body! Dominate the positions! Make your pushups “feel” like a bench press. Make your movements better and better over the 6 weeks.


Check out Martin Rooney’s articles here on T Nation. He also has a website and is a published author on MMA training. A few of his early books covered a lot of body weight training routines. You still training in JJ?


Good call Idaho!

I forgot about Martin Rooney.

In “Ultimate Warrior Workouts” Rooney travels to 8 elite “camps” to train with all kinds of fighters. He shows all kinds of specific techniques and exercises used by wrestlers, or ju jitsu guys or Thai boxers, etc.

The pictures alone are worth the $20 on Amazon.

There are also a bunch of workouts in there. They include all kinds of jump rope, sprints, calisthenics and some skills like wrestling style sprawls, moves with elastic bands, bridging on your head, medicine balls.

This book is really awesome, and thumbing through it just now, it’s better than I remembered.


here’s a decent routine meant for beginners, but each movement can be modified to your strength level (either made harder or easier)



In the past I used a Navy Seals workout plan (3x week) and I am using it now after one of my lifting sessions. It works well on its own but could easily be used to form the basis of a 6 week program:

Test your maximum press-ups in 2min (you may rest), max sit ups in 2min (you may rest) and max chin ups (without dropping from bar).

Week 1: 3 sets of 50% max press ups, sit ups and chins (circuit style) i.e. if you did 50/50/10 on the test, you do 3 circuits of 25/25/5 (thereby achieving 150% of your max).

Week 2: Do 3 full sets, plus a 1/4 set

Week 3: Do 3 full sets, plus a 1/2 set

Week 4: Do 3 full sets, plus a 3/4 set

Week 5: Do 4 full sets

Week 6: Do 4 full sets plus a 1/4 set.

You may want to include some harder exercises for 3-5 sets of 3-5 reps (performed before your circuit):

Day 1 - Handstand Push Ups (work up to this by putting feet on a bench like a downward dog), Dips
Day 2 - Inverted Rows, Muscle Ups (work on this using explosive pull ups)
Day 3 - Pistols (using a box to begin with, like slowly stepping off the box), Box Jumps

Ultimately, what is your goal?


[quote]theBird wrote:
I will be working out 3-4 times a week and my main exercises I can do would be push-ups, pull-ups, squats, planks, bridges and inverted rows. I dont have the skill yet but I would also like to incorporate some hand stands, pistol squats and maybe some parallel bar work.


Six weeks isn’t a long time so I’m afraid that jumping into skill work won’t do very much for you… The two programs I can recommend (though they’ll both cost money) are Convict Conditioning by Paul Wade and Badyweight Bodybuilding by Jason Ferruggia. I’d actually go with the former since it gives you a ten-step progression theme for each of his ‘big six’ (pushups, pullups, squats, handstand pushups, leg raises, back bridges) that will be useful for a loong time, even if you just use it as a resource for hotel room workouts or so.


Hi friends,

Thanks for the information and sorry for my late reply. I have been sitting by the pool drinking beer and eating chicken satay as I have been on my annual vacation.

FlatsFarmer: incorporating explosive work is a good idea an I will work that int my program after the the initial 2-3 weeks.

idaho: Rooney is a beast. And yes, I am training BJJ 3 times a week. Im still really crap at it, but Im going to persist.

alivirk: Thanks for that. I have decided to try out the program you have suggested with some minor adjustments. Im going to do 4 supersets instead of the suggested 3, Im going to aim for reps of 10-12, and I will use the convict conditioning progression method (that is will move on to the more advanced exercises once the exercise becomes easy). Sounds good?

AirBourne88: Thanks for that. I have no particular goals at the moment but I am working on defining a list of goals to shoot for. I suppose I just like the idea of been proficient at bodyweight movement and that ties in well with my new interest in BJJ. Been “massive” is no longer a priority for myself. I would rather keep my agility and light-footedness, yet be strong at the same time.

nightHawk: Thanks for the recommendations. I have a copy on convict conditioning lying around and will be using its suggested progression in exercises. I suppose 6 weeks is not a long time, and I may extend my experiment. Im expecting a bit of a learning period as I train in a way I have never trained before.



The beauty of calisthenics is the fact that you do not have to adhere to a set regimen, and can quite often, repeat the same workout, or at least the same movements everyday. For years, my entire strength routine was strictly calisthenics, and as of the past few years calisthenics make up roughly 50% of the exercises I do. Even on days when I lift heavy, I’ll always do a few sets of push ups, as I simply just feel a bit looser and more flexible the next day. A sort of muscle memory compulsion if you will.

I’ll often do stomach work; sit ups, crunches, oblique crunches, crunches done a la Patrick Bateman (one of the best variations of the sit up in my eyes), bicycle crunches (another terrific one). I think that’s all I do speaking of.

As for strength I’ll often do whole days (as in a workout, not thee whole day) where upon my only exercise are push ups. Lots of sets of 20-50 reps. I never count how many sets I do and often the whole “workout” per se, takes several hours to complete, as I’m often studying, watching TV, or doing other household type shit performing them. Sometimes I’ll do several sets in succession with timed rest in between. As for variation, I never get fancier than doing diamond or clapping.

Pull ups & Chin ups I typically devote the whole evening to and will mix up grip variation from set to set.