Are you looking to lose weight without using any equipment? If so, calisthenics exercises are a great option for you. Calisthenics is bodyweight exercises that use your own weight as resistance. This makes them a great choice if you don’t have any weights or machines available to you. In this article, we will discuss some of the best calisthenics exercises without equipment for weight loss. We will also provide a list of variations for each exercise so that you can keep things interesting.
🎯We’ll be covering the following topics:
- ✔️Weight loss vs fat loss
- ✔️How to lose fats
- ✔️Why Calisthenics is effective for fat loss
- ✔️Best calisthenics exercises without equipment for weight loss
- ✔️& Many frequently asked questions
Let’s get started!
🥺Weight loss vs Fat loss
Let’s set the record straight. Weight loss and fat loss aren’t necessarily the same.
You can lose weight by losing muscle, water, or fat. Losing muscle and water isn’t going to do your body any good in the long run. You want to focus on losing fat. When you lose your muscles as well, you lose your body’s strength and ability to burn calories. This can lead to a decrease in your metabolism, which is the last thing you want when trying to lose weight. You don’t just want to lose weight, but also maintain your lean muscle mass and you can do this through proper resistance training.
Now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s move forward to understanding the process of losing fats so you can make better decisions towards your goal.
How to lose fats✊
There is a technical side to losing fat. It’s called thermogenesis. Thermogenesis is the process of heat production in the body. It occurs when your body burns calories to produce heat. This process requires energy, which comes from the burning of stored fat cells. In order to lose fat, you need to create a calorie deficit. This means that you need to burn more calories than you consume. The best way to do this is through a combination of diet and exercise.
Fat loss is actually a simple process but more difficult to apply in the real world with many other factors (such as metabolism, hormones, environmental, social conditions, mood, etc) affecting our decisions that supposedly facilitate fat loss.
☝️Diet is the key
When it comes to losing weight, diet is key. You need to make sure that you are eating healthy foods that will help your body burn fat. Avoid processed foods, sugary drinks, and refined carbohydrates. Instead, focus on eating lean protein, healthy fats, and plenty of vegetables. This will help to boost your metabolism and keep your calorie intake in check.
This topic alone deserves a separate lengthy article. For now, let’s keep it simple and stick to these key points:
- Focus on whole foods
- Intake high protein
- Don’ skip carbs
- Be in caloric deficit – fewer calories to sustain your weight (You can use a calorie counter for this)
- Everything else in moderation – You don’t need to totally deprive yourself of the good things in life. Feed your soul with some fries, pizza, or a cinnamon bun from time to time.
Read more about nutrition here: 📍Bodybuilding Nutritional Guide
In addition to diet, exercise is also important for weight loss. Exercise helps to burn calories and promote thermogenesis. Calisthenics exercises are a great choice if you’re looking to lose weight. They are bodyweight exercises that use your own weight as resistance. This makes them a great choice if you don’t have any weights or machines available to you. Later on in this article, we will discuss some of the best calisthenics exercises for weight loss. We will also provide a list of variations for each exercise so that you can keep things interesting.
Secret Sauce: Any movement💯
Exercise and diet are effective strategies for fat loss. But if you want to maximize your results, then achieve an active lifestyle through movements that are not EXERCISE.
We call this Non-exercise Activity Thermogenesis or NEAT for short. NEAT is movements like walking, jumping, washing the dishes (manually of course), or gardening. It can also be as trivial as playing with your pen, fidgeting, or scratching your back.
These small movements add up that help you increase your body’s total caloric expenditure which can create a deficit for you. In reality, a single session of a workout burns fewer calories than what you can burn from moving throughout the day.
The National Academy of Sports Medicine recommends increasing NEAT by incorporating movements into daily life. For example, pacing around the room while in a call. Get a standing desk when working from time to time. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Choose the longer route when walking to your gym.
Incorporating this strategy plus controlling your diet and exercise is a guaranteed way for results.
🔎Safe weight loss
As much as we want to drop our weight as much as possible and lose 100kg in a week, that’s not only impossible but also NOT SAFE.
Losing weight too quickly is not only unhealthy, but it can also be dangerous. When you lose weight quickly, you are more likely to regain the weight. This is because your body will start to hold on to fat stores in order to protect itself. Losing weight too quickly can also lead to malnutrition and dehydration. These are both serious medical conditions that can be life-threatening.
The best way to lose weight is slowly and steadily. This allows your body to adjust to the changes and prevents you from regaining weight. While many studies conducted show that a fast drop in weight often results in a poor adherence to proper diet. The participants who lost weight in a short period of time eventually regained back their weight and MORE.
However, a recent study on long-term diet adherence shows that both approaches are equally effective in a “perfect setting” where dieticians and physicians assist you in your goal. It’s going to be more difficult to replicate the same study at home especially if following a “crash diet” can lead to potential muscle loss, increased hunger, slowed metabolism and more.
A safe rate of weight loss is between 0.25kg and 0.50kg per week, but you can also opt for around 0.9kg. This may not seem like much, but it adds up over time.
🤔What is Calisthenics
Calisthenics is a fitness approach that takes advantage of the human body as resistance to develop its own. It’s a form of resistance training similar to weightlifting but instead of using external weights such as dumbbells & barbells, calisthenics makes use of your own body weight and gravity.
Calisthenics, like the other forms of resistance training, aims to build muscle and strength. However, this training approach is not limited to these goals. You can also build mobility, body control, flexibility, address body dysfunctions, treat injuries, and learn amazing skills.
It seems like bodyweight training is just making headway nowadays, but calisthenics has actually been existing for thousands of years. There has been recordings of calisthenics being included used by the Ancient Greeks in their physical education system. The word calisthenics is actually derived from the Greek words “kallos” which means beauty and “sthenos” which translates to strength.
The calisthenics movement started declining when weightlifting became more popular in the late 19th century. However, calisthenics made a comeback in the 1970s and has been growing in popularity ever since.
Nowadays, calisthenics has become a worldwide movement with athletes & enthusiasts from all over the globe coming together to train, compete, and have fun.
🧐Why is Calisthenics effective for fat loss
✅Adaptation to bodyweight training
Calisthenics forces your body to adapt. Since you’re pushing your own body weight, you will become stronger and build muscle. At the same time, you will force your body to lose weight so you can better manipulate it while moving through the movements. It’s actually not a physiological adaptation. Nutrition still plays a big part here as mentioned above. But having a positive mentality of improving in bodyweight exercises will help you adhere more to your workout and diet.
One of the main reasons why calisthenics is so effective for fat loss and in general fitness is its focus on compound movements. These are multi-jointed activities that target multiple muscle groups.
Our bodies are meant to move in unison in order to move. Isolation motions are unnatural. With compound movements, we mimic how our bodies SHOULD move and this burns more calories compared to isolation.
✅Minimal to no equipment is needed & can be done anywhere
One main concern for fat loss is exercise adherence. This means the duration you can follow a program throughout its cycle. For effective fat loss, exercise is crucial. One reason why many people fall off the wagon is that they “don’t have time because they can’t go to the gym.
With calisthenics, you don’t need to get an expensive gym membership and travel back and forth. You can work out in the comforts of your own home allowing you to stick your workout better. The more you can adhere to your workout, the better your chances of losing fat.
✅Combination of resistance training & cardio
Calisthenics’ main purpose is resistance training to build strength and muscle. In addition, calisthenics can also be a form of cardiovascular activity due to the variety of bodyweight exercises available.
Combining both resistance training and cardio in your workout maximizes your fat loss so you can get the most from your workout.
Our bodies are quick to adapt to stimuli. If we keep working out the same workout without adding any challenges every session, we will not be able to force our bodies to change and lose weight.
Calisthenics is progressive in nature. 📍Progressive calisthenics keeps every session more challenging than the last one so you can help facilitate your body to lose fat.
You can read an extensive explanation here regarding calisthenics and fat loss: 📍Why Is Calisthenics So Effective For Fat loss
What equipment do I need?👀
Hold on. If you’re getting confused about why there are a few pieces of equipment on our list, it’s because it allows you to perform CRUCIAL basic exercises for developing strength and muscle which can eventually help you lose fat.
Don’t worry. Calisthenics equipment is very affordable and accessible. You don’t even have to buy these pieces of equipment since you can also use the items around you!
Here are a few items you ideally need for this workout and their possible alternatives at home.
- 👍 Dip station – Two sturdy chairs or box
- 👍 Pull-up bar – House beam, playground monkey bars, a sturdy tree branch
- 👍 Resistance bands – a rubber bicycle tube liner, but you’re better of buying a set since it’s very affordable. You can also ask for assistance from a friend or use your legs for assistance well.
Again, you don’t need to have these items, but it would be best to have access to their alternatives for EFFICIENT calisthenics workout.
Read more here: 📍The Ultimate Guide to Calisthenics Equipment
✨8 Calisthenics exercises without equipment for weight loss
The basic push-up is arguable one of the most popular exercises known to mankind. It is a calisthenics compound movement that works your chest, shoulders, triceps, and core. It prepares your upper body for basic pushing mechanics which translates in real life as well. Even though it’s very popular, many still fail to perform the exercise correctly so be aware of the mistakes you might do that will do more harm than good.
Read here: 📍10 Common Push-up Mistakes and How to Avoid Them
✊How to do it:
Get into a plank position with your hands shoulder-width apart and feet together. Bend your elbows and lower yourself down until your chest nearly touches the floor. Push back up to the starting position.
- Straight bodyline
- Shoulders pushed away from your ears
- Pinch shoulder blades together as you go down
- Elbows close to the body
- Arms around shoulder-width apart
- Easier: wall push-up, incline push-up, knee push-ups
- Harder: diamond push-ups, decline push-ups, archer push-ups, one-arm push-up
Dips are calisthenics exercises that work your chest, shoulders, and triceps. It’s a great exercise for developing pushing strength and can be performed practically anywhere as long as you have something to dip on. You can perform the dips on a heavy countertop as if you’re performing a straight-bar dip. It’s equally effective in building muscle, strength, and mobility.
✊How to do it:
Hold on to the edge of a chair, countertop, or bench with your palms facing away from you. Place your feet on another elevated surface in front of you. Keeping your core engaged, bend your elbows and lower yourself down until your elbows are at a 90-degree angle. Push back up to the starting position.
- Keep torso upright throughout the movement
- Elbows close to the body
- Maintain a proud chest position
- Pinch your shoulder blades together
- Push your shoulders away from your ears
- Lower until your elbows form 90 degrees or lower
- Easier: leg assisted, band assisted, negatives
- Harder: Ring dips, weighted, lean forward
If you’re thinking about losing weight, building muscle, and gaining strength at the same time, then training for pull-ups is your best bet. Pull-ups are calisthenics exercises that work your back, biceps, and grip. They’re great for developing pulling strength and can be performed practically anywhere as long as you have something to grab on to.
If you can’t find anything that can resemble a pull-up bar, you can opt for the inverted row exercise. It’s basically a pull-up but with your body in a horizontal position which will allow you to gain assistance with your legs.
Another option is to do leg-assisted pull-ups where you have a lower pull-up bar and have your legs assist you while performing the motion. Slowly lessen the help from your legs as you grow stronger and weightless (yes, you’re losing weight in the process!).
You can also have someone hold your legs to assist you doing a pull-up if you have a training partner who’s capable of doing so. Then again, you can always opt for the resistance bands which is more consistent than a training partner in terms of providing assistance.
✊How to do it:
Grab a pull-up bar with your palms facing away from you. Hang from the bar with your arms extended and feet off the ground. Bend your elbows and pull yourself up until your chin clears the bar. Lower yourself back to the starting position.
- Pull your shoulder blades together as you go up and pull your shoulder down away from your ears
- Elbows close to the body
- Engage your core
- Choose the grip that offers comfort then cycle them in your training: underhand, overhand, neutral
- Easier: leg assisted pull-ups, resistance-band assisted pull-ups
- Harder: One-arm pull-up, archer pull-up, L-sit pull-up
Bodyweight squats are calisthenics exercises that work your quads, hamstrings, and glutes. They’re great for developing lower-body strength and mobility. It can be performed practically anywhere as long as you have enough space to move.
Many experienced athletes squats are too easy, but there are plenty of squat variations you can do to make the exercise harder. Moving towards to the pistol squat progression is one option.
If you’re planning to build muscle and lose fat, you can also opt for just higher rep ranges for the exercise.
✊How to do it:
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and place your hands behind your head. Keeping your core engaged, lower your hips back and down as if you’re sitting in an invisible chair. Once your thighs are parallel to the ground, press through your heels and return to the starting position.
- Upper torso straight and upright
- Maintain a proud chest position
- Shin always parallel to each other
- Choose a stance comfortable for your body proportion. Around shoulder-width apart is a good gauge
- Easier: chair squats, assisted squats
- Harder: deep squats, assisted pistol squats, pistol squat, skater squat, step-up
If you think handstands are an impossible dream and only for looking cool, think again. There are many benefits to learning a handstand or at least working on the handstand fundamental progression.
- Shoulder strength – you build stronger shoulders which also means healthy shoulders
- Shoulder mobility – another reason why your shoulders are going to be healthier is because of their new capable range of motion
- Forced fat loss – your body will focus on burning fat and building muscle to help you sustain the handstand position
- Body control and awareness – what good is your weight loss if you can’t control your body well. Handstand trains you to become more conscious of movements which can improve daily activities and lower the risk of injuries
Don’t worry. We won’t force you to jump immediately into a handstand. This skill takes time to learn which is why we’re also going to work with its progressions.
Learn the wall handstand and freestanding handstand here: 📍Ultimate Guide to Handstands
The lower back is a commonly neglected body part. However, many movements rely on having a strong and capable lower back. Much lower back pain stems from having a weak and tight lower back. Not only you will get rid of aches and pains, but developing a strong lower back improves the overall core strength which translates to the better overall movement.
Arches have different forms. You can also work on its progressions to slowly build the mobility and strength of this neglected area.
✊How to perform:
Start by lying on the floor with your stomach on the ground. Place your arms overhead. Life your chest and arms and legs off the floor. Hold the position for some time.
- Move through your current mobility
- Elongate your spine
- Move through your torso
- Easier: bent legs, push through your arms, move through reps instead of holds
- Harder: larger range of motion, add rocking motion
The hollow position is a popular gymnastics/calisthenics position used in various exercises such as the handstand, planche, push-ups, levers, pull-ups, and more. If you’ve noticed, it’s an isometric hold. It trains the core to resist movement and extension of the core which is crucial for having a stable trunk that can transfer power and avoid lower back injuries.
✊How to perform:
Begin by lying on the floor with your back on the ground. Place your arms overhead. Flatten your lower back against the floor by tilting your hips backward. Lift your arms slightly up and your upper back to perform a “mini crunch”. At the same time, slightly lift your lower body off the floor. Hold the position for a specified time.
- Posterior pelvic tilt
- Breathe through the hold
- Full body tension
- Easier: raise your arms and legs a bit more, tucked knees, arms by your side
- Harder: weighted, limbs low to the ground, add rocking motion
The plank is an isometric exercise that targets the muscles of the core: rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, and obliques. The plank can be performed with different variations to target specific muscle groups or to increase difficulty.
Similar to the hollow hold, the plank improves the anti-extension function of the core.
✊How to do it:
Get into a push-up position with your elbows bent and forearms flat on the ground. Make sure your body forms a straight line from your head to your ankles. Hold this position for 30-60 seconds.
- Keep your core engaged
- Don’t let your hips sag or raise too high
- Breathe steadily throughout the exercise
- Easier: on knees, inclined
- Harder: extended arms overhead, one-arm plank
⭐️Extra bit: Calisthenics cardio exercises!
A 2012 study found that cardiovascular activity provides the most calories burned compared to resistance training and a combination of both. However, cardio alone isn’t ideal since you risk losing lean muscle mass which is crucial for movement and every day living.
So we’re going to opt for the next best thing which is combining resistance training with cardiovascular work. Don’t worry. Calisthenics can also provide cardiovascular exercises.
Here are some exercises you can opt for: 📍15 Calisthenics Cardio Exercises For Legs
You can also opt for upper body cardio exercises such as swimming and rowing, but those aren’t necessary calisthenics.
💥Calisthenics Workout Plan for Weight Loss
- ☑️Use a suitable progression for your skill level
- ☑️Train 3x per week
- ☑️Follow the program for a minimum of 4 weeks while being PROGRESSIVE
- ☑️Train each exercise near failure or 2-3 RIR (reps in reserve) – this means doing an exercise until you only have 2 – 3 reps left in your tank. No need to push until you can’t do more reps or also known as failure. This strategy is reserved for more trained athletes.
👊How to progress – Prioritize the first on the list
- Add at least 1 rep or 2 secs of an exercise
- Add more sets
- Add intensity by moving into the next progression
👉Full-body Workout Weekly Routine
Dips – 3 sets of 6 – 12 reps: 2 min rest
Pull-ups – 3 sets of 6 – 12 reps: 2 min rest
Squats – 3 sets of 10 – 25 reps: 90-sec rest
Hollow body hold – 3 sets of 30 – 60 sec hold:90-sec rest
Arch hold – 3 sets of 20 – 45 sec hold: 90-sec rest
High-knees – 3 sets of 30 – 60 secs non-stop: 60-sec rest
Push-up – 3 sets of 12 – 20 reps: 2 min rest
Pull-ups – 3 sets of 6 – 12 reps: 2 min rest
Squats – 3 sets of 10 – 25 reps: 90-sec rest
Handstand – 3 sets of 20 – 60 sec hold: 2 min rest
Plank– 3 sets of 30 – 60 sec hold:90-sec rest
Jog in place – 5 minutes non-stop
👉Frequently Asked Questions
🔎Can I lose fat with only 20-minutes of workout?
Yes. Fat loss is based primarily on your caloric intake. Even if you don’t work out, you can still drop your weight. However, this isn’t optimal for improving your health. Without working out, you have the risk of losing lean muscle mass and degrading your other qualities such as cardiovascular health.
In addition, fat loss through diet alone is more difficult to sustain since you need to eat way less due to an inactive lifestyle.
A 20-minute workout by manipulating the routine recommended above can be a great option to facilitate optimal fat loss while enjoying the benefits of a workout.
You can also implement a 20-minute High-intensity training workout 1-3 times per week in conjunction with your resistance strengthening workout.
Read more: 📍20-minute HIIT Workout for Fat Loss
🔎Why does the workout plan look to use fundamental exercises?
The 8 fundamental exercises are the core of any calisthenics routine. Whatever strengthening, fat-burning, muscle-building, or skill work you would like to work on, you will definitely go back to the basics even if you’re already advanced.
🔎Where are the burpees and other popular movements?
Other exercises apart from the fundamentals and cardio exercises can also facilitate fat loss. These exercises are not technically better or worse in terms of losing weight. However, they may not be as efficient as the fundamentals in building a solid foundation for your calisthenics progress while losing fats.
You can still include other exercises as long as it does not hinder you from getting to your goal. Don’t just add burpees into your strengthening training without understanding your current workout structure.
🔎Does calisthenics help you lose weight?
The short answer is yes. But as said above in this article, calisthenics does more than that. It helps you lose stubborn fat and help you retain/build the essential muscle you need for performance and everyday movement. Any movement, even activities that are not intended as exercise can help. So consider staying more active if you really want to lose weight and just not rely on your workout.
🔎Does calisthenics burn more calories?
Interestingly, calisthenics burn calories basically similar to weightlifting. It is also a form of resistance training after all. When you combine the cardio calisthenics, you’re basically doing the same rate when you perform weightlifting plus cardio.
So why would you choose calisthenics over the other available training methods?
Because calisthenics has a lot to offer more than just fat loss!
- Convenient workout through accessible, affordable, or minimal equipment
- Can be done anywhere, anytime
- Improve movement patterns, mobility, and mind-body connection
- Prevents and alleviates aches and pains
- Improves posture
- Increase strength and muscle size
- Holistic development
For more advantages and an in-depth explanation of calisthenics, check this article out: 📍Is Calisthenics Really a Better Way to Train?
🔎How long before I see weight loss?
If you follow the safety protocols for losing weight, then expect very visible results over the weeks. But the safe weight loss doesn’t offer drastic results so you can sustain the lifestyle.
Follow the additional tips above. Measure your body proportions and look at the weighing scale weekly trend instead of watching your weight just daily. Record everything so you can actually see the results.
PROGRESS IS NOT LINEAR.
However, it’s worth emphasizing that weight loss is a gradual process that’s better viewed in the long run. Following a program for just a few weeks can get your results but eventually make you fall off the trail of weight loss if not done sustainably. Always look for long-term results so you can achieve the body you’ve worked for and maintain it for life!
🔎Can I eat whatever I want and still lose weight with calisthenics?
The answer to that is no. You need to have a calorie deficit to lose weight regardless of the training method you’re using. This means that you need to be in a caloric deficit situation where you’re eating less than what your body needs.
🔎Can I only tone my abs and arms?
This concern is might be the most popular one among the many. This process is called “spot reduction.” However, it’s simply not how the body works when losing weight and fats. We cannot target where we lose fats in the body no matter how hard we train specifically.
The reason why we target a particular body part is to develop muscles, and strength, and improve movement for that particular area.
As mentioned earlier, our bodies “burn” fat in a holistic manner with some genetic biases. So if you want to tone your arms or your abs, you will definitely lose fat in your whole body as well. Again, this will take time but hang on there!
🔎What if I can’t perform some exercises?
While calisthenics fundamentals are basics, it doesn’t mean basics are easy. For some, some movements can be too challenging which would be helpful in maximizing results in your training. Doing too much can lead to injuries. On the other hand, doing too little will lead to stagnation.
This is when PERSONALIZATION comes in. Cookie-cutter or one-size-fits-all workouts are obsolete. In fact, 📍they can do more harm than good.
Not all calisthenics are made the same. At the same time, not all beginners have an equal playing field. There will be differences, and the best program has the capability to adjust the routine based on an individual’s skill level.
If you’re interested to try the BEST PERSONALIZED & ADAPTIVE calisthenics training program, The Movement Athlete is offering a free trial for one whole week of training.
Calisthenics is a great way to lose weight, but it’s important to remember that it’s not a quick fix. You need to be patient and consistent with your calisthenics routine in order to see results.
Remember to focus on your long-term goals, and don’t get discouraged if you can’t do all of the exercises at first. With time and practice, you’ll be able to do them all if you follow personalized & adaptive programming.
Let us know your thoughts on this workout by commenting below or email us at 📧 firstname.lastname@example.org
We’re excited to hear from you, Movement Athletes! 📌