Best Exercises by Muscle Group – Fitness Volt

Are you looking for an alternative to going to the gym? We’ve got the solution!

Calisthenics is an ancient form of exercise that’s particularly relevant in the 21st century. Modern life is busy, and many people do not have the time or opportunity to work out in a commercial gym. As such, exercise rates are low, and obesity and poor fitness levels are on the rise.

The good news is that there is a solution, and it’s called calisthenics or bodyweight training. With calisthenics, your body is your gym, and you can work out almost anywhere and anytime you wish. This removes several major barriers to exercising consistently, making it far easier to achieve your health and fitness goals.

In this comprehensive article, we reveal the best calisthenic exercises for each muscle group and explain how to combine them to create effective bodyweight workouts.

What is Calisthenics, Anyway?

Young Man Doing Calisthenics

Most people are familiar with calisthenics, even if they don’t know the name. That’s because many of the most popular and widely performed exercises come from the world of bodyweight training.

The word calisthenics comes from the Greek words kallos, meaning beauty, and sthenos, meaning strength. It’s been practiced for as long as people have been working out and is as relevant today as it was in ancient Greece.

Popular calisthenic exercises include:

Calisthenic Benefits

Not sure if calisthenics training is right for you? Consider these benefits and then decide!

Accessibility: Calisthenics exercises can be performed anywhere, requiring little to no equipment. This makes it an accessible and convenient way to stay fit, whether at home, in the park, or on the road.

Adaptable: You can use calisthenics to train for any fitness goal, from building muscle to improving your endurance to losing fat. It’s a very versatile workout.

Full-Body Workout: Many calisthenics exercises engage multiple muscle groups simultaneously, providing a comprehensive workout that can improve overall strength, flexibility, and coordination.

Cost-Effective: Since calisthenics often requires minimal equipment, it’s a budget-friendly option for those looking to get in shape without investing in a gym membership or expensive home gym equipment.

Promotes Functional Fitness: Calisthenics focuses on natural, compound movements that translate to everyday activities, enhancing functional fitness and reducing the risk of injury in daily life.

Modifiable For All Fitness Levels: Whether you’re a beginner or an advanced exerciser, calisthenics can be scaled to individual fitness levels, making it an inclusive form of exercise.

Enhances Mind-Body Connection: The focus on controlled, deliberate movements in calisthenics helps develop a strong mind-body connection, improving body awareness and mental focus. This includes better balance and coordination.

Safety: With no heavy weights to drop, calisthenics can be a lot safer than conventional weightlifting exercises. You can train alone with minimal risk of injury, and many calisthenic movements are easy on the joints and connective tissues.

Improves Mobility and Flexibility: Calisthenics enhances both mobility and flexibility. This not only improves overall athletic performance but also contributes to better posture and reduced risk of muscle imbalances.

Calisthenic Drawbacks

There are also a few drawbacks to calisthenics, but for most people, these drawbacks are far outweighed by the benefits:

Difficulty Getting Started for Beginners: Foundational exercises like push-ups and pull-ups can be challenging for beginners. Without proper modifications or guidance, this initial difficulty may discourage those new to fitness from continuing with calisthenics.

May Not Be Ideal for Bodybuilding: While calisthenics can build strength and muscle, it may not provide the targeted resistance needed for serious bodybuilding. Conventional weight training might be a more practical choice for those with specific bodybuilding goals.

Progression Often Means More Reps: In calisthenics, progressing in strength and endurance may sometimes mean simply doing more repetitions of an exercise. This approach might not be as satisfying or effective for all individuals, especially those looking to build strength.

May Not Target All Muscle Groups Equally: While calisthenics can provide a full-body workout, some muscle groups might not be targeted as effectively as others. This could lead to imbalances if not supplemented with additional exercises or training methods.

Best Exercises by Muscle Group

No calisthenic exercise library can be entirely complete, and exercise names can vary, too. However, this is a list of the most popular calisthenic movements using their most widely accepted names.

This list of exercises is a great place to start for anyone looking to get into calisthenics training. For ease, we’ve grouped the exercises into muscle groups so you can choose the best movement for the body part you want to train:

  • Back
  • Chest
  • Shoulders
  • Biceps
  • Triceps
  • Legs
  • Core
Human Muscular System
Human Muscular System

Calisthenic Back Exercises

Your back muscles are out of sight, but they should never be out of mind. Not training your back as much as your front can lead to muscle imbalances, lower back pain, poor posture, and injuries. So, regardless of your training goals, make sure you work your back as hard as those muscles you can see in the mirror!

  1. Inverted rows (using a low bar or TRX)
  2. Australian pull-ups
  3. Scapular shrugs
  4. Negative pull-ups
  5. Assisted pull-ups (using bands or a machine)
  6. Pull-ups
  7. Chin-ups
  8. Wide grip pull-ups
  9. Weighted pull-ups/chin-ups
  10. Archer pull-ups
  11. Typewriter pull-ups
  12. One-arm assisted pull-ups
  13. Front lever
  14. One-arm pull-ups

Calisthenic Chest Exercises

Most people are more than familiar with several effective calisthenics chest exercises – push-ups and dips. Still, there are plenty more movements you can use to sculpt the chest of your dreams. These include:

  1. Incline push-ups (hands on a bench or elevated surface)
  2. Kneeling push-ups
  3. Regular push-ups
  4. Diamond push-ups
  5. Decline push-ups (feet elevated)
  6. Wide grip push-ups
  7. Parallel bar dips
  8. Ring dips
  9. Dive bomber push-ups
  10. Pseudo planche push-ups
  11. Archer push-ups
  12. One-arm push-ups
  13. Clapping push-ups
  14. Back lever
  15. Planche push-ups

Calisthenic Shoulder Exercises

Every chest and back exercise works your deltoids, better known as your shoulder muscles. However, some bodyweight movements target your shoulders more directly than others. These include:

  1. Pike push-ups
  2. Incline pike push-ups (using a bench or elevated surface)
  3. Wall walks
  4. Handstand push-ups (against a wall)
  5. Dive bomber push-ups
  6. Pseudo planche push-ups
  7. Parallel and ring dips
  8. Planche push-ups

Calisthenic Biceps Exercises

Your biceps are strongly involved in every pulling exercise you perform. However, these are the exercises that provide your biceps with the best possible workout:

  1. Inverted rows (using a supinated grip)
  2. Chin-ups (using a close grip)
  3. Negative chin-ups
  4. Assisted one-arm chin-ups (using bands for assistance)
  5. One-arm chin-ups
  6. Pelican curls (on rings or a bar)
  7. Ring bicep curls

Calisthenics Triceps Exercises

In the same way that most back exercises also work your biceps, the majority of chest and shoulder movements also hit your triceps. However, these are the most triceps-centric calisthenic exercises:

  1. Bench dips (using a bench or elevated surface)
  2. Parallel bar dips
  3. Ring dips
  4. Close grip push-ups
  5. Diamond push-ups
  6. Decline diamond push-ups (feet elevated)
  7. Pike push-ups
  8. Tiger bend push-ups
  9. Handstand push-ups (against a wall)
  10. Skull crushers (using a bar or rings)

Calisthenic Leg Exercises

Doing Lunges
Doing Lunges

Friends don’t let friends skip leg day, or so the popular meme says! Any well-designed calisthenic training program should include as much leg work as it does for your upper body. Not training your legs can create a very unbalanced, unathletic physique. Build your glutes, hamstrings, and quadriceps with these calisthenic lower body exercises:

  1. Bodyweight squats
  2. Lunges
  3. Reverse lunges
  4. Lateral lunges
  5. Bulgarian split squats
  6. Step-ups
  7. Glute bridges
  8. Single-leg glute bridges
  9. Single-leg Romanian deadlifts
  10. Pistol squats
  11. Jump squats
  12. Box jumps
  13. Sissy squats
  14. Nordic hamstring curls
  15. Shrimp squats
  16. Calf raises
  17. Single-leg calf raises
  18. Hill sprints

Calisthenic Core Exercises

Core is the collective term for the muscles of your midsection. These muscles work together to stabilize your lumbar spine, preventing unwanted movements when you’re doing things like push-ups, pull-ups, and squats. However, the best way to strengthen your core is to target it directly, and these are some of the best calisthenic exercises for the job:

Flexion (Rectus Abdominus):

  1. Crunches
  2. Leg raises
  3. Bicycle crunches
  4. Russian twists
  5. Plank
  6. Hollow body hold
  7. V-ups
  8. Hanging leg raises

Rotation/Lateral Flexion (Obliques):

  1. Oblique crunches
  2. Side plank
  3. Windshield wipers
  4. Side plank with rotation
  5. Mason twists
  6. Standing oblique crunches

Extension (Erector Spinae):

  1. Superman
  2. Reverse hyperextensions
  3. Bird-dog
  4. Back bridge

Calisthenic Skill Exercises

Some calisthenic exercises are designed to challenge and improve your athletic and gymnastic skills rather than develop a specific muscle or body part. As such, these exercises are often difficult to classify, so we’ve put them together in this final list. Needless to say, some of these exercises are extremely demanding and should only be attempted once you’ve built your strength with basic calisthenics:

  1. L-sit (core, hip flexors, quads)
  2. Muscle-ups (shoulders, chest, triceps, back, core)
  3. Skin-the-cats (shoulders, back, core)
  4. Human flag (shoulders, obliques, lats, core)
  5. Front lever (back, shoulders, core)
  6. Back lever (chest, shoulders, core)
  7. Planche (shoulders, chest, triceps, core)
  8. Handstand (shoulders, triceps, core)
  9. Iron cross (on rings; shoulders, chest, core)
  10. Dragon flag (core, lats, glutes)
  11. One-arm handstand (shoulders, triceps, core)

How to Design a Calisthenic Workout

Woman Doing Lunges Exercises

We’ve armed you with 101 (yes, we counted them!) of the best calisthenic exercises around, with plenty of movements to choose from for each major muscle group. But how do you turn this laundry list of exercises into an effective training routine?

We’re here to show you how!

Firstly, you need to choose the type of workout you want. Your options are a full-body workout or a split routine, where you train different muscles on different days. Both options can be effective, so use the one you think you’ll be able to stick to, and that you’ll enjoy.

Once you’ve picked your program type, all you need to do is slot your chosen calisthenic exercises into the appropriate template.

Put the most challenging movements near the beginning of each workout and the easier ones near the end. Remember, all exercises are listed in approximate order of difficulty. This will ensure that you’ll be able to put maximum effort into every part of your program.

Warming Up

Before attempting any of these workouts, you must first prepare your muscles and joints with a warm-up. This will help reduce your risk of injury and make your training more productive.

A good calisthenics warm-up comprises the following stages:

  • Pulse raise – e.g., 5-10 minutes of light cardio.
  • Mobility exercises – e.g., shoulder shrugs, arm circles, and knee bends
  • Dynamic stretches – e.g., leg swings, butt kickers, and waist twists
  • Practice sets – e.g., 1-2 easy sets of your first couple of exercises

You should now feel warm and ready to face your coming workout!

You can read more about how to warm up for strength training here.

Template One – Full Body Workout

Do your full-body workout 2-3 times per week. You can repeat the same program each time you train or, if you prefer, create several different routines and use them in rotation.

# Exercise Sets Reps Recovery
1 Leg 1 2-4 AMRAP 60-90 seconds
2 Chest 2-4 AMRAP 60-90 seconds
3 Back 2-4 AMRAP 60-90 seconds
4 Legs 2 2-4 AMRAP 60-90 seconds
5 Shoulders 2-4 AMRAP 60-90 seconds
6 Back 2-4 AMRAP 60-90 seconds
7 Triceps* 2-4 AMRAP 60-90 seconds
8 Biceps* 2-4 AMRAP 60-90 seconds
9 Core 1 2-4 AMRAP 60-90 seconds
10 Core 2 2-4 AMRAP 60-90 seconds

Program notes: *Triceps and biceps exercises are optional as these muscles are indirectly involved in all other upper body exercises. AMRAP means as many reps as possible, so just pump out as many as you can in good form, striving to do more reps week-by-week as you get stronger.

Template Two – Split Routine

This program involves splitting your body down into individual muscle groups so you can do more exercises for each one. This is useful for hypertrophy as it means you can accumulate more sets and reps for each body part. However, you will need to work out more often – four times per week in this case:

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
Chest and back Legs and core Rest Shoulders and arms Legs and core Rest Rest

Workout 1 – Chest and Back

# Exercise Sets Reps Recovery
1 Chest 1 2-4 AMRAP 60-90 seconds
2 Back 1 2-4 AMRAP 60-90 seconds
3 Chest 2 2-4 AMRAP 60-90 seconds
4 Back 2 2-4 AMRAP 60-90 seconds
5 Chest 3 2-4 AMRAP 60-90 seconds
6 Back 3 2-4 AMRAP 60-90 seconds
7 Chest 4 (optional) 2-4 AMRAP 60-90 seconds
8 Back 4 (optional) 2-4 AMRAP 60-90 seconds

Workout 2 – Legs and Core

# Exercise Sets Reps Recovery
1 Legs 1 (quads) 2-4 AMRAP 60-90 seconds
2 Legs 2 (hamstrings) 2-4 AMRAP 60-90 seconds
3 Legs 3 (glutes) 2-4 AMRAP 60-90 seconds
4 Legs 4 (optional) 2-4 AMRAP 60-90 seconds
5 Legs 5 (calves) 2-4 AMRAP 60-90 seconds
6 Core 1 2-4 AMRAP 60-90 seconds
7 Core 2 2-4 AMRAP 60-90 seconds
8 Core 3 (optional) 2-4 AMRAP 60-90 seconds

Workout 2 – Shoulders and Arms

# Exercise Sets Reps Recovery
1 Shoulders 1 2-4 AMRAP 60-90 seconds
2 Shoulders 2 2-4 AMRAP 60-90 seconds
3 Shoulders 3 2-4 AMRAP 60-90 seconds
4 Biceps 1 2-4 AMRAP 60-90 seconds
5 Triceps 1 2-4 AMRAP 60-90 seconds
6 Biceps 2 2-4 AMRAP 60-90 seconds
7 Triceps 2 2-4 AMRAP 60-90 seconds

Workout 4 – Legs and Core

# Exercise Sets Reps Recovery
1 Legs 1 (quads) 2-4 AMRAP 60-90 seconds
2 Legs 2 (hamstrings) 2-4 AMRAP 60-90 seconds
3 Legs 3 (glutes) 2-4 AMRAP 60-90 seconds
4 Legs 4 (optional) 2-4 AMRAP 60-90 seconds
5 Legs 5 (calves) 2-4 AMRAP 60-90 seconds
6 Core 1 2-4 AMRAP 60-90 seconds
7 Core 2 2-4 AMRAP 60-90 seconds
8 Core 3 (optional) 2-4 AMRAP 60-90 seconds

For variety, please use different exercises from your first leg workout.

Calisthenics Exercises – FAQs

Do you have a question about calisthenics exercises, workouts, or general bodyweight training? No problem, because we’ve got the answers!

1. What is the best rep/set scheme for calisthenics training?

It’s often believed that 6-12 is the ideal rep range for muscle growth, while 1-5 reps is optimal for strength, and 13-20 works best for endurance.

However, while heavy weights and low reps are undeniably best for building pure strength, current research suggests that you can build muscle with almost any rep count, provided you take your sets to within 1-3 reps of failure.

This is good news for calisthenics enthusiasts who often have to rely on higher reps to fatigue their muscles. So, take your sets close to failure, and only do very low (1-5) rep sets if your primary focus is building strength.

2. Can calisthenics really build muscle and strength?

While calisthenics may not be the best choice for bodybuilders, you can still use it to increase muscle mass and strength. Providing you train hard and often enough, your muscles will adapt to the demands of your workouts, i.e., get stronger and bigger, whether you do push-ups, chest presses, or bench presses.

So yes, you really can build muscle with calisthenics (2)!

3. What diet is best for calisthenics?

You’ll get better results from your calisthenic workouts if your diet supports your training. While there is no singular best calisthenic diet, you should align what you eat with your workout goals. For example, eat more calories and more protein to build muscle and gain strength, or lower your calorie intake and create an energy deficit to lose fat.

So, the best diet for calisthenics is the one that matches your goal and that you can stick to; short-term fad diets are not the solution!

4. Can I do calisthenics exercises every day?

While most calisthenics programs usually involve 3-5 weekly workouts, others involve a higher frequency – even daily. While these approaches can work, they do so by keeping daily training volume very low, often just 1-3 exercises per workout per day.

The advantages of high-frequency calisthenic training include the following:

  • Less muscle soreness
  • Faster skill acquisition
  • Rapid initial progress
  • Offset an otherwise sedentary lifestyle
  • A strong workout habit
  • Increased daily calorie expenditure

However, high-frequency training is not for everyone; some people may find it hard to recover from and may develop aches and pains from overuse.

The only way to see if daily calisthenics training will work for you is to try it for a month and monitor your progress.


5. Is Calisthenics training safe?

Compared to lifting heavy weights, calisthenics training is very safe. After all, there are no barbells or dumbbells to drop on you if you cannot complete a rep. The exercises themselves are usually very joint-friendly and can be modified to suit your height, limb length, and weight. Read more about common bodybuilding injuries and how to avoid them here.

That said, any exercises performed incorrectly can cause injury, and that includes bodyweight training. Skill-based movements like muscle-ups and front levers are hazardous.

So, perform your chosen exercises with the best possible form and regress any movements you cannot do correctly.

Closing Thoughts

With these 101 bodyweight exercises, you have everything you need to build muscle, get stronger, improve flexibility, and increase overall fitness. Whether you’re just starting your fitness journey or looking to add variety to an established routine, these exercises offer something for everyone.

You’ve also got some easy-to-use workout templates to create your very own calisthenic workouts. Seriously, we’ve done all the hard work for you; you just need to get up and start training!

From the comfort of your home or the great outdoors, calisthenics can help your fitness dreams come true. Embrace the simplicity and effectiveness of bodyweight training, and take a step towards a healthier, more empowered you.


  1. Lasevicius T, Ugrinowitsch C, Schoenfeld BJ, Roschel H, Tavares LD, De Souza EO, Laurentino G, Tricoli V. Effects of different intensities of resistance training with equated volume load on muscle strength and hypertrophy. Eur J Sport Sci. 2018 Jul;18(6):772-780. doi: 10.1080/17461391.2018.1450898. Epub 2018 Mar 22. PMID: 29564973.
  2. Kotarsky CJ, Christensen BK, Miller JS, Hackney KJ. Effect of Progressive Calisthenic Push-up Training on Muscle Strength and Thickness. J Strength Cond Res. 2018 Mar;32(3):651-659. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000002345. PMID: 29466268.