If you are looking for the best calisthenics exercises list, you are in the right place.
Below, you will find a list of the most effective exercises for calisthenics, which can be used to create your own workout routine. The exercises are grouped based on muscles worked. For your ease, press on any of the lists below:
Furthermore, this list contains the calisthenics progressions for each of the major exercises like push-ups, dips, pull-ups, and so on.
And without further ado, let's get started.
Best calisthenics exercises for chest
When it comes to a calisthenics chest workout , you should be looking for pushing exercises like dips and push-ups. Since different progressions train the muscles in different ways, you should vary your training and not stick to one single variation of an exercise.
Here are our top picks:
The incline push-up is one of the best ways to build the strength to do your first regular push-up.
Begin your training on a high enough surface to allow you to do the exercise for multiple sets with perfect form. As you get stronger, get closer to the ground to increase the difficulty and force your muscles to become stronger.
By continually progressing, you will build the strength for your first few regular push-ups.
To do incline push-ups properly:
The push-up is one of the staple calisthenics exercises.
Even though getting your first push-up may be a difficult task, you may shortly find that mastering this exercise is quite easy. Once you reach a level of mastery, where push-ups are no longer difficult, you can work through the progressions, or add weight to keep building strength and muscle.
The avenue you choose is highly based on your goals.
To do push-ups properly:
If you want to get a bigger upper chest, then the decline push-up should be in your workout program.
To do a decline push-up, simply elevate your feet on a surface like a chair, box, or bench. A good height to aim for is to have your ankles in line with your shoulders. Aside from the increased focus on the upper chest, this variation will also work your shoulders.
Having your feet above your shoulders will take the focus away from your chest and place it on your anterior deltoid (front of the shoulder), which we don't recommend.
To do decline push-ups properly:
The wide push-up is, in our opinion, one of the best calisthenics progressions for the chest.
If you can't feel your chest working with the regular variation, then this should be a good alternative. By widening the grip, you sort of mimic the movement of a chest fly, leading to a bigger stretch in the chest and, conversely, more engagement.
When you do this exercise, don't flare your elbows. Otherwise, you may get shoulder impingement and even injury.
To do wide push-ups properly:
Diamond push-ups are one of our favorite calisthenics exercises for the chest.
This variation of the push-up will target the triceps more than the others, taking away from the engagement of the chest. However, we like to include this one in our training so that we can target the pectoral muscles from different angles.
Alternatively, you can do a close grip push-up and it will have the same exact effect.
To do diamond push-ups properly:
Once you can work with calisthenics ring exercises, you are in for a treat!
In our opinion, the ring push-up is among the most effective calisthenics progressions for building a big chest, alongside Bulgarian ring dips and ring chest flys. The effectiveness of this exercise is provided by the rings, which are not fixed and allow you to get a big squeeze in your pectorals.
Furthermore, when doing ring push-ups you are also conditioning your biceps tendon. If you plan on pursuing skills like the planche, this will come in very handy.
To do ring push-ups properly:
Archer ring push-up
Nothing shows you are advanced more than a few sets of archer ring push-ups.
This exercise will work unilaterally, meaning that most of the work will be done by only one of your arms at a time. To make the exercise easier, alternate the repetitions between arms. If you want to increase the difficulty, do all the reps with one arm and only after that do them with the other arm.
Some may say that there is another level after this - the one arm push-up.
However, it requires such a high degree of body tension that we believe it is too fatiguing before you can get enough repetitions to actually benefit from it.
For this reason, we like to stick to the ring archer, or weighted regular push-ups.
To do archer ring push-ups properly:
Parallel bar dip
The dip is another fundamental calisthenics exercise.
In our opinion, the parallel bar dip is the best suited progression for building muscle mass and strength because it can be heavily loaded with very little chance of injury. Aside from that, it offers good strength transferability to exercises like the handstand push-up and planche.
Moreover, dips are the perfect choice not only for bigger pectorals, but also for bigger triceps and shoulders.
To do parallel bar dips correctly:
Straight bar dip
The straight bar dip has multiple uses and can build you a nice chest.
Even though it is not as effective as the parallel bar dip at increasing the muscle mass in the chest, we still add it to our training, so that we target the chest muscles from different angles. Furthermore, this exercise is a prerequisite for achieving your muscle-up.
Therefore, if a muscle-up is one of your goals, we recommend you to add the straight bar dip to your list of calisthenics exercises.
To do straight bar dips properly:
Ring dips are a great way to build a bigger chest, shoulders, and triceps by bodyweight only.
Given that gymnastics rings are unstable, you will be engaging more chest muscle fibers to stabilize your body through space. Whenever we implement ring dips in our training, it is not uncommon to get a sore chest. For this reason, we believe that this calisthenics progression of a dip has to be part of your workout routine every once in a while.
And as a bonus, it also conditions your biceps tendon for more difficult exercises like the planche
To do ring dips properly:
Bulgarian ring dip
If you only care about getting a bigger chest with dips, then the Bulgarian ring dip is the variation for you.
As opposed to any other dip, with this variation you will be using a wide grip, your shoulders will be internally rotated, and your elbows will be flaring out to the sides. With these changes, you will be placing more emphasis on the chest but the risk of injury also increases.
Therefore, we recommend you to progress slowly with this exercise and use minimal extra weight, if any at all.
To do Bulgarian ring dips properly:
Ring chest fly
One of the main issues with calisthenics exercises is that they hardly ever isolate particular muscles.
However, the ring chest fly is an exception. Thanks to the nature of rings - being able to move around - you can use them to isolate the chest by mimicking a chest fly. Getting a big chest by bodyweight is possible if you are working smart enough.
With that being said, managing the intensity can be a bit tricky.
The closer you are to the ground, the more difficult the exercise will be.
If you are not strong enough to do this exercise, you can build up the necessary strength by doing ring dips and Bulgarian ring dips.
To do ring chest flys properly:
Best calisthenics exercises for back
There are only two types of back exercises in calisthenics - pull-ups and rows. For an effective calisthenics back workout, you should include variations of both of these exercises in your training program.
Here is a list of our best calisthenics exercises for back:
The negative pull-up is the most efficient variation to build up to your first pull-up.
Our muscles are at their strongest when they are lengthening under load. Therefore, by training with negative (eccentric) exercises, you are building strength in reverse, by doing an exercise you "shouldn't" be able to do in the first place.
Even though this exercise can be annoying because it feels so difficult, it is ideal to pave the way for more difficult calisthenics progressions.
To do negative pull-ups properly:
The pull-up is the father of all pulling exercises.
There is a reason why bodybuilders, powerlifters, and calisthenics athletes alike do pull-ups. They are very effective at training your lats, back, and biceps. Furthermore, in calisthenics, they pave the way for exercises like the muscle-up and one arm pull-up.
And the best part? It can be heavily loaded, if you plan on doing weighted calisthenics.
To do pull-ups properly:
The mantle chin-up, is one of the best calisthenics exercises for your back.
Similar to the archer ring push-up, the mantle pull-up is a unilateral exercise, where you are working using one arm at a time. If you are looking to build muscle and strength with bodyweight only, or you are looking to develop a one arm chin-up, this exercise is the ideal choice.
We believe this to be the most effective pull-up calisthenics progression.
Even though there is one more progression after mantle chin-ups, the one arm chin-up, it is so difficult that you won't be able to get enough volume to increase your muscle mass.
To do mantle chin-ups properly:
The inverted row is another one of the staple calisthenics exercises.
If you want to develop a thick upper back, build the foundation strength for the front lever, and help fix rounded shoulders, then the inverted row should be part of your workout. And the best part? You can do it on rings, suspension trainers, and even a pull-up bar, making it a versatile choice for all people.
As most exercises where your body is at an angle with the ground, the closer you are to the ground, the more difficult this exercise will be.
To do inverted rows properly:
Once inverted rows get too easy, a good next calisthenics exercise to choose is the L-row.
As opposed to an inverted row, your legs will be up in the air, with a 90-degree angle at the hips. This exercise mimics the front lever row to some extent and is the first progression before starting to work on the tuck front lever row.
L-rows will help you build a big back, biceps, and posterior deltoid.
To do L-rows correctly:
Front lever row
The front lever pull-up is a great feat of strength, as well as a good exercise to build more strength rather than muscle mass. Being so difficult, you can add it as part of a calisthenics strength workout rather than for bodybuilding purposes.
Regardless of your choice, you will have plenty of progressions to work with and get stronger.
To do front lever rows properly:
One arm inverted row
The one arm inverted row is the unilateral version of the inverted row.
This exercise will place its emphasis only on the part of the body you are working on. Therefore, it is great for fixing any imbalances, as well as increasing the difficulty of your workouts.
For the best results, you should do this exercise on rings or a suspension trainer rather than a bar.
To do one arm inverted rows properly:
Best calisthenics exercises for shoulders
Most shoulder calisthenics exercises will work the anterior deltoid, with a couple of options for the posterior deltoid. If you want very good development of this muscle group, we recommend you to add some dumbbell exercises to your calisthenics shoulder workouts.
Here is our calisthenics exercises list for shoulders:
In our opinion, the pike push-up is the best calisthenics exercise to target the shoulders.
The biomechanics of the exercise forces your shoulders to do most of the work, minimizing the engagement of your triceps and chest. Whether you do this exercise on parallettes or on the floor, your shoulders will get bigger.
Furthermore, this is the foundational exercise for the handstand push-up. So if that is one of your goals, you should include the pike push-up in your training program.
To do pike push-ups properly:
Back to wall handstand push-up
A lot of people are against the back to wall handstand push-up and make an argument that the face to wall variation is better. There is a time and a place for each one.
The back to wall handstand push-up is ideal if you want to build work capacity with your handstand push-up training, or if you are looking to build muscle mass. Given the biomechanics of the exercise, you will be able to do more repetitions and get more training volume with this variation rather than the face to wall variation.
Frankly, it's not ideal if you are working to get your first freestanding handstand push-up.
However, if your goal is building muscle and work capacity, then this variation is superior.
To do back to wall handstand push-ups properly:
Face to wall handstand push-up
The face to wall, or chest to wall, handstand push-up is a prerequisite exercise if you want to do a freestanding handstand push-up.
This exercise mimics the freestanding variation perfectly, which helps you train the skill without having to worry about balance. One of the best ways to get better at a skill is to train it specifically, and the chest to wall handstand push-up helps you do just that.
To do face to wall handstand push-ups properly:
Bodyweight rear delt fly
One of the most difficult tasks with calisthenics exercises is to target smaller muscles like the rear and side deltoid.
With the bodyweight rear delt fly, you can isolate the rear deltoid by only using your body weight as resistance. In terms of equipment, you only need enough room to lay on your back on the floor, and you are good to go.
As a bonus, you are also working on scapula retraction, which has a small transferability to the front lever.
To do bodyweight rear delt fly properly:
Rings rear delt fly
Another muscle that is difficult to isolate with calisthenics is the rear deltoid.
If bodyweight rear delt flys are too easy for you, or they don't bring the desired muscle building effect, then you should do the ring rear delt fly. Thanks to gymnastics rings' ability to move in space, you can easily adjust the difficulty of the exercise.
Moreover, this exercise will also help with your scapula retraction (pinching together) strength, which has a transferability to the front lever.
To do ring rear delt flys properly:
Best calisthenics exercises for arms
Our best calisthenics exercises for arms are:
The triceps dip, or bench dip, is ideal as a finisher for your triceps workout.
Regardless of whether you are doing the exercise on a bench, box, or gymnastics rings, this exercise will still provide a good stimulus for the triceps. If you are looking for the most effective variation, we recommend you to do triceps dips on gymnastics rings.
To make the exercise more difficult, extend your legs or even elevate them on a surface.
To do triceps dips properly:
The triceps extension is arguably the most efficient triceps calisthenics progression.
This exercise can be done on a bar or rings and is guaranteed to lead to a bigger triceps. Thanks to its biomechanics, this exercise can be progressed almost indefinitely. Without a doubt, the triceps extension is the best way to build your triceps by bodyweight exercises only.
As a bonus, it also works the anti-extension function of the core.
To do triceps extensions properly:
Bodyweight biceps curl
If you want to increase the size of your biceps, then the bodyweight biceps curl should be a part of your calisthenics exercises list.
In our opinion, this exercise is the best way to build big biceps with bodyweight training. Just like all the isolation exercises presented above, the bodyweight biceps curl can be done on a bar and gymnastics rings alike.
Regardless of your choice, you are sure to get a nice pump in your biceps.
To do bodyweight biceps curls properly:
Pelican biceps curl
If you want to build a strong and big biceps, you should include the pelican curl in your training.
Aside from its muscle and strength building effects, the pelican curl is an excellent exercise at strengthening your biceps tendon. Conditioning this tendon will come in handy if you want to do more difficult elements like planche, front lever, hefesto, etc.
Whether you call it a pelican curl or pelican push-up, you should rest assured that your biceps is the one getting a workout.
To do pelican curls properly:
Best calisthenics exercises for legs
We personally are not fans of training your legs with calisthenics.
Truth is, a calisthenics leg workout is better than nothing. However, it will not bring you the results you are looking for, if you want to grow bigger legs.
For that, you should train using weights.
Either way, here is our list of the best calisthenics exercises for legs:
The bodyweight squat is another staple exercise of calisthenics.
If you aren't going to use weight, you should do the squat for a high number of repetitions. This exercise will work your quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and calves to different degrees. The most engagement will come from your quadriceps.
This exercise is a prerequisite if you plan on doing the calisthenics progressions for the pistol squat.
To do squats properly:
Bulgarian split squat
The Bulgarian split squat is one of the best bodyweight exercises for legs.
In the beginning, you may find balance as one of the limiting factors of this exercise. However, once you get used to it, the Bulgarian split squat will be a handy tool to build big quads with calisthenics.
We like this variation of the squat better than the pistol progression.
The reason is simple: pistol squats are harder on your knee joint than Bulgarian split squats. Therefore, it will be difficult to gain enough volume with pistol squats to progress indefinitely.
To do Bulgarian split squats properly:
We like the pistol squat as a feat of strength, balance and coordination.
However, it isn't part of the calisthenics exercises for our workouts. With that being said, if you don't use weights to train your legs, the pistol squat can be a valuable bodyweight exercise to train your legs.
For longevity in training, we don't recommend you to do pistol squats more than twice a week with fairly low volume.
To do pistol squats properly:
Natural leg extension
We like this exercise so much that we even add it to our weighted leg workouts.
However, with bodyweight training they may feel hard to come by. With the technique seen in the video above, you can train natural leg extensions even in the comfort of your home. And the best part? This is one of the most effective calisthenics exercises for legs.
We like this exercise so much that we even add it to our weighted leg workouts.
To do natural leg extensions properly:
Single leg Romanian deadlift
The single leg Romanian deadlift is a great calisthenics progression for your hamstrings.
Whether you do this exercise bodyweight only, or with dumbbells or kettlebells, the single leg Romanian deadlift is sure to bring your some hamstring gains. Furthermore, you will also improve your balance as a byproduct of training this exercise.
If you find it difficult to balance on one foot, hold onto a surface when doing the exercise.
To do single leg Romanian deadlifts properly:
The Nordic curl is one of the most difficult calisthenics exercises.
However, it is so effective that athletes all around the world use it in their training. Aside from the benefit of strengthening and increasing the muscle mass in your hamstrings, you are also strengthening the connective tissue around your knee.
With this exercise you have to be patient. Ideally, you will work with negatives more than with the entire dynamic motion of the exercise.
To do Nordic curls properly:
If you want big glutes by calisthenics, the glute bridge may be the right choice for you.
For this exercise, all you need is enough room on the floor to lay on your back. The beauty of the glute bridge is that you can easily increase its difficulty by doing it unilaterally, elevating your feet, or both.
We recommend you to do this exercise for a high amount of repetitions.
To do the glute bridge properly:
Unfortunately, big calves are a matter of good genetics.
Regardless of this, we believe that you should still train your calves. And the most popular and effective way of doing this is by doing calf raises. This exercise can be done on the floor or an elevated surface to increase the range of motion.
If you want to make it more difficult, do one leg at a time.
To do calf raises properly:
Donkey calf raise
Not so well known but as effective as a calf raise.
If you want a better engagement of the gastrocnemius muscle, which is the largest of the two calf muscles, then the donkey calf raise is a better option than the standing variation. When done in high volume, this exercise provides the necessary stimulus to get big and strong calves.
However, if you want to load this exercise, you can only do it with the use of a dipping belt.
To do donkey calf raises properly:
Best calisthenics exercises for core
When it comes to calisthenics core exercises, there is a huge variety to choose from. Whether you want to build stability for calisthenics skills, or increase the size of your abdominal muscles, you have plenty of options.
Here is our list of the best calisthenics exercises for core:
One of the most popular and effective exercises for core strength is the plank.
This exercise works a function of the core called anti-extension, where your goal is to resist the extension of your lumbar spine (arching of the lower back). This is useful for exercises like the planche, front lever, as well as general core strength.
And if you want to target specific muscles with the plank, you can do that too by using the side plank or reverse plank.
To do the plank properly:
Hollow body position
The hollow body position is a fundamental gymnastics exercise.
As you may already know, calisthenics exercises are the strength exercises from gymnastics. For this reason, it would only make sense to incorporate one of their staple exercises into your training too. The hollow body hold will help tremendously with your handstand and other static elements.
Start with a tuck variation, as seen in the video, and increase the difficulty of the exercise by gradually extending your legs over time.
To do the hollow body position properly:
Ab wheel rollout
Our last anti-extension exercise is the ab wheel rollout.
Popular in bodybuilding and calisthenics circles alike, the ab wheel rollout is a simple exercise that will strengthen your core and keep you progressing for a long time to come. Alternatively, if you don't have an ab wheel, you can do the exercise on gymnastics rings.
To do ab wheel rollouts properly:
Hanging leg raises
If you want to get big abdominal muscles, the hanging leg raise may be the right choice for you.
When done properly, hanging leg raises work your rectus abdominis and hip flexor muscles like no other. If you find this variation too difficult, you can start by doing hanging knee raises and build up from there.
Alternatively, you can do this calisthenics exercise on parallel bars too.
To do hanging leg raises properly:
Toes to bar
Toes to bar are not only impressive but also very effective.
Aside from working your abs, this exercise also works the hip flexors like no other. And the best part? You can easily build the strength to do toes to bar by going through the previous variation on our calisthenics exercises list, the hanging leg raise.
With that said, a very important point to remember is that your success with this exercise is also determined by your compression strength.
To do toes to bar correctly:
Aside from working the anterior part of our core, we also want to work the posterior part.
The superman hold is a true and tested, simple exercise to work your lower back muscles. To do this exercise, you only need enough room to lay on your belly with your legs extended, and arms extended overhead.
To decrease its difficulty, keep your arms and/or knees flexed.
To do the superman hold properly:
Best calisthenics skills
The following exercises aren't necessarily the "best" calisthenics skills but the most popular.
When they get into calisthenics progressions, most athletes want to learn the skills presented below. More often than not, they want to learn these skills in the exact order presented:
Doing a muscle up is a way of telling everybody that you are better than them.
Jokes aside, this exercise is pretty simple yet so impressive. The muscle-up is basically a combination of a high pull-up and a straight bar dip, with an added transition element. If you can learn to do a very high pull-up, that is more than half the work done.
The best way to go about learning the muscle-up is to separate these elements and work on them individually.
To do muscle-ups properly:
The back lever is one of the easiest straight arm elements in calisthenics.
In fact, it is easy enough that you may be able to do it without specifically training to achieve it. The best part with the back lever is the body position, which is similar to the planche. Therefore, if your back lever is done with perfect form, you will have some form transferability to the planche.
However, the back lever can be quite tough on your elbows, so train patiently.
To do the back lever properly:
The front lever is a pulling exercise that engages the same muscles as a row.
Being a calisthenics element, it has to be done with straight arms. The strength for this exercise comes from your scapula retraction and depression strength - contrary to the belief that the front lever is a core exercise.
Some people find it difficult to achieve, while others can get it just by training pull-ups.
Therefore, when you embark on your journey to get the front lever, we suggest you prepare with a lot of patience.
To do the front lever properly:
If you want to learn what frustration is, then you should consider training the planche.
Even though frustrating, being able to reach your full planche is a true feat of commitment and comes with a strong feeling of accomplishment. This exercise is influenced by lots of factors such as height, weight, limb length, muscle insertions, capacity to recover, and more.
Once you can do even a straddle planche, you can consider yourself an advanced calisthenics athlete.
To do the planche properly:
The human flag
The human flag is one of the most impressive calisthenics progressions.
Fortunately, even though it looks very difficult, it's actually pretty easy - as compared to other calisthenics skills. For instance, I was able to do the human flag without ever directly training for it. I was able to reach it by only training the basic exercises.
Same as the other calisthenics exercises in this section, the dragon flag is a lever.
That means that your height, limb length, and weight will influence your progress with it.
To do the human flag properly:
The V-sit is a calisthenics skill that works your core, posterior deltoid, and triceps.
Some V-sits are better than others, but none beats the one done by Gabo Saturno (as seen in the video above). To reach that level you need good scapula depression strength, compression strength, and good hamstring and quad mobility.
This skill is a precursor to the manna skill, which is rare and not a goal for many calisthenics athletes.
To do the V-sit correctly:
This is our calisthenics exercises list, with exercises that will guarantee you progress with calisthenics.
Whether you choose to do bodyweight training only, or you want to add some extra weight, most of these exercises can be used for your goals.
Ideally, you will be adding weight to your training to make it more efficient.
But if that is not an option, going through the calisthenics progressions outlined above will be more than enough to build muscle mass and strength.