Have you noticed just how easy it is to get started with calisthenics? If you come to think about it, you don’t need any kind of out-of-this-world calisthenics equipment.
You simply need a pull-up bar and a couple of parallel bars.
However, if you want to get past the beginner to intermediate stage. If you dream about a jaw-dropping, ripped physique. If you shiver with excitement whenever you imagine yourself doing gravity defying exercises…
Then you need something more. Just a few more pieces of equipment that will skyrocket your progress.
Making your own calisthenics home gym is easier than you may think. In the chart below, you will find the very basic equipment needed to easily progress up to the intermediate stage.
These are the must-have items. Items that, in our opinion, you cannot do without. We will explain why in their individual section.
As you keep on reading, we will also be discussing items that will present new challenges - such as gymnastics rings, as well as assistance items that will speed up your progress - such as resistance bands.
In this section we’ll present the most fundamental calisthenics items:
The pull-up bar is the only piece of calisthenics equipment without which you cannot begin training. It is used for one of the staples of bodyweight fitness - the pull-up.
When I’ve started training four years ago, I had a park with monkey bars nearby. It felt like my own personal calisthenics gym. Especially since no one else was using them.
Kinda like the one above.
But I lacked control over them.
At some point they were freshly painted, so I had to wait for that to dry out before I could train. Other times it would be heavily raining outside. Even though I was showing up, the bars were way too slippery. So I had to wait for the rain to stop before I could train.
Therefore, I chose to purchased my own home pull-up bar. Which came with two huge advantages that I could not even think of.
So, if you ask me, for these two reasons alone, the home pull-up bar is worthy of being part of your calisthenics home gym. (not to mention that you cannot start training without a pull-up bar)
How do you choose a pull-up bar that suits you?
If you don’t have too much room to spare, a doorway pull-up bar is surely the way to go. You can either get a portable one, or one that you can screw in the doorway. These don’t offer much room for muscle-ups, but they do a tremendous job otherwise.
Here are two doorway bars that we recommend:
If you have more room, say a garage, you can get one of these bad boys. They will tremendously help with skills such as muscles-ups. Furthermore, they can sustain a lot more weight, and you can place gymnastics rings on them.
Here you have a wall-fixed bar and a ceiling fixed one (which can also be secured on the wall):
The dip is another fundamental bodyweight exercise. Having parallel bars in your calisthenics equipment is a must. Whether we’re talking about a home gym, or simply going to a workout park.
Doing dips is not only necessary for muscle-ups and other skills. It is vital for the health of your shoulders. Dipping is essential for longevity in training.
Why? Because they are a vertical pushing motion. The push-up is a horizontal pushing motion. You have to do both for structural balance in the shoulders.
You can do dips on a single bar. We totally agree.
However, if you are a beginner you will find the straight bar dip difficult. Furthermore, the straight bar dip cannot be safely loaded to an extra 100 lbs (45 kg) or more.
If you only settled for the straight bar dip, you would be missing all those strength gains. Which, as a matter of fact, translate to skills such as the planche.
Depending on how much room you have at your disposal, here are two good options:
Parallettes are a great addition to your arsenal thanks to their convenience. While they are similar to parallel bars, they are not the same.
If I were to choose one or the other, I would choose the parallel bars. Simply because you cannot do dips on parallettes.
In terms of convenience, I find it easier to grab this item and do a few handstand push-ups, rather than grabbing the parallel bars which are heavier, bulkier, etc.
Should YOU get parallettes?
If you are an experienced calisthenics athlete, you don’t need them. They are a convenient addition, but certainly not a must-have.
However, if you are a beginner, it is highly recommended that you get a pair. And here’s why:
Generally, parallel bars help with a few things, as follows:
Now, as a beginner, think about practicing your handstand on parallel bars that are 30 in (76 cm) high versus 9 in (22cm) high.
I’m not saying that you would necessarily fall and injure yourself. This may or may not happen. However, you would surely be extra-cautious when training on the taller item. That is mental energy and focus that could be better used in the training itself.
Therefore, if you decide to get a pair, you should know that premium parallettes have a wooden handle. It allows for a better grip than their metal counterpart does. When you use them make sure they don’t wobble.
Here are our two picks:
The extra challenge section will present calisthenics equipment necessary if you want to take your training to the next level.
These are items that, if mastered, will propel you to the status of advanced athlete:
If you’ve ever tried using rings, you must have wondered how can gymnasts control them so well?! No wonder they are so ripped…
Adding rings to your calisthenics equipment will add a new stimulus that you body has never experienced before. Everything you do on the rings will require a greater amount of stabilization from your body.
You will start being sore in places you didn’t even know had muscles!
There is a lot more freedom of movement in the rings. Your body has to force them to stay still. And for that, you get the extra muscle growth.
Apart from the added stimulus, the rings are an appropriate addition if you want to move towards harder progressions of certain exercises. For example, doing an archer pull-up on the rings is easier on your joints than doing it on the bar.
At least in the beginning when you don’t quite have the strength and technique down. The ring straps will accommodate your shoulder joint even if your technique is incorrect. The bar is still so you will experience pain during the exercise.
force teach you to use the false grip. Without it, you would not be able to do a rings muscle-up. Which, as a matter of fact, requires a totally different technique than a bar muscle up.
Not to mention the possibilities of exercises such as the iron cross (one can only dream).
Lastly, they are super convenient. Very easy to carry around and surprisingly cheap for what they have to offer. The only drawback is that they cannot be used in the rain, because they are made of wood.
Changing your training every once in a while is a sure way to keep your progress going.
Once you’ve mastered the core exercises on the bar, parallels and on the floor, it’s time to bring something new to the table.
Using an ab wheel will create a new stimulus for your core, especially if you’re not used to the exercise. You will feel as if your abs are going to rip apart. In a good way.
What I like most about this exercise is how much someone can progress with it. If the kneeling version becomes too easy, you can do the exercise from standing position. It is not only impressive but will also challenge your core in ways never experienced before.
Here are two ab wheels we like most:
There’s only so much you can progress with bodyweight pull-ups and dips alone. Therefore, adding extra weight to your training becomes a necessity. Eventually.
Having a weight belt or weighted vest in your calisthenics equipment will tremendously increase your work capacity. Not only that, but you will gain strength and hypertrophy (muscle mass) easier and faster.
The first time I grabbed a weighted belt I could do 12-15 bodyweight pull-ups. With the weight on - 22 lbs (10 kg) - I could only do six. That was a nice reality check and my horizons broadened.
Should you get a weight belt or a weighted vest?
If you were to ask me, I’d say there are three advantages to the weighted vest:
These are the drawbacks of a weighted vest:
The weight belt is ideal for pull-ups and dips. However, it does not have much to offer when it comes to push-ups, running, etc. Being able to easily change the weight is a big advantage, but having to buy the extra weights as you need them may be a drawback for some.
Ideally, for a well rounded development, you would want to consider having both. At least eventually.
As a personal preference, I’d rather go with the belt and plates combo. The belt feels way more comfortable than the vest. Besides, the weight plates open the door for more exercises.
Here are our recommendations:
In this part of the article we’ll be presenting items you can certainly do without. These items can help you throughout your journey; however, they are totally not a necessity.
There are people who like using gloves, and there are those who prefer calluses. I am the latter.
I like the idea of not having to rely on equipment. Besides, from my own experience, I get a better grip barehanded than I do with any type of glove.
That being said, there is a single time when I use gloves. And that is when I go through a difficult calisthenics workout and my palms can no longer take it. That’s when I put my gloves on and squeeze a few extra reps.
If you are like me and don’t mind calluses, you may want a pair for when you do harder workouts.
However, if you want your palms to stay as smooth as possible, then having a pair of fitness gloves is highly recommended. Your hands will still get beaten up; however, it will be to way lesser extend.
Here is what we recommend:
Rubber bands can help in multiple ways.
They are mainly used for breaking through plateaus. Having a few rubber bands in your calisthenics gym will tremendously help with acquiring skills. The rubber band can take away some of your weight, allowing you to train and get used to the progression you are stuck at.
Conversely, rubber bands can be used to add extra tension.
If you don’t have a weighted vest or a weight plate available, you can make push-ups harder using a band. Loop the band behind your back and hook your thumbs through it. Some extra resistance will be added, depending on the band.
Another way we like to use resistance bands is for flexibility. Our most common stretch is lying on our backs, keeping one leg stretched and the other raised.
We grab the band, place it around the foot of the raised leg, then pull towards our face.
Bands are indeed a great addition to your calisthenics equipment. They can help you progress through exercises or make some of them harder.
If you only want the bare minimum, you can skip grabbing them.
However, if you plan on making your own calisthenics home gym or want to progress as fast as possible, then you should grab a pair.
Believe it or not, jumping rope is one of the best cardio exercises. Not only does it burn fat, but it also improves coordination, speed, and strength.
If you are into CrossFit, then the jump rope is not an assistance item for you. It is a necessity. A lot of CrossFitters jump rope on a daily basis as part of their workouts and competitions.
However, even if you don’t do CrossFit, you can still benefit from owning one of these. They are great for warm-up and cardio. Besides, they are fun.
A good rope should have non-slip handles for a good grip, a fast rotating ball joint for speed, and adjustable cable length.
In this section we’ll be presenting two items that can be part of your calisthenics equipment. And these are…
If you don’t have much room available, you can make your own calisthenics home gym with just one piece of apparatus.
The power tower (a.k.a. The pull-up dip stand) incorporates stands for the most fundamental calisthenics exercises.
You don’t need to fill your room with equipment.
You don’t need to drill holes into the doorway for a pull-up bar.
All you need is a bit of room to accommodate the tower. And it doesn’t even have to be that big. Depending on your preference, it can come with the following:
These are our recommendations for power towers. One for each point presented above:
These trainers are very specific and fairly expensive.
They are totally not needed. If you plan on getting one I can tell you are a very motivated person. Not just because the price point is fairly high but because it takes A LOT of time and effort to attain the iron cross.
This is the kind of item I would expect to find in a gymnastics gym. It can be part of your own calisthenics gym and you can have a lot of fun with it.
However, it is only a necessity if you are serious about training for the iron cross.
There you have it.
The most essential calisthenics equipment, and more!
If you plan on making your own home gym, you can get away with only grabbing a power tower or all the items in the fundamentals section. Any assistance items are at your discretion.
Before ending, we wanted to remind you of something. The equipment is less important than your drive and consistency. You don’t need fancy equipment to achieve your goals. All you need is consistency and dedication.
Good equipment is just a nice bonus.
Over to you.