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Calisthenics: Building Strength Without A Barbell

gymnastic wooden rings

Weightlifting has gotten a lot of attention lately. With the rise in popularity of gym workouts and weightlifting, you’d be forgiven for thinking that it’s the only way to build muscle.

Many people don’t realize there’s a much more efficient way to boost strength and improve physique.

Calisthenics, or bodyweight exercises, are simple movements that use your bodyweight as resistance. Most of these exercises you’ve probably already heard of. But, they are among the most neglected movements in the gym today.

Despite this, they can be extremely effective and versatile. They can be progressed to help improve muscle mass, strength, and power. They can also be made easier and done for more repetitions to develop fitness and endurance. Best of all, they can be done anywhere.

But, to get the most out of a bodyweight workout, and to increase efficiency, exercise selection is key. Picking the right movements will not only ensure that you exercise the right muscles in an optimal way, but it also minimizes the number of exercises you have to do.

Below, we put together a list of the best bodyweight exercises for developing strength.

7 Ultimate Bodyweight Strength Exercises


There is no such thing as putting together a list of the best bodyweight exercises and not including push-ups. This simple exercise helps improve strength and power in the shoulders, chest, and arms. It also helps boost core stability.

These can be made more difficult by switching to one arm push ups for the advanced athletes. Meanwhile, they can be done on the knees for beginners.

2. Pull-ups

Just like push-ups are the ultimate exercise for developing the chest, pull-ups are vital for developing the back. Pull-ups can also help prevent injury by exercising the back shoulders and rotator cuff muscles. This is key for athletes like throwers or boxers.

But, it shines for boosting throwing or grappling power especially by developing the latissimus dorsi muscles in the back. So, it’s also a great movement for judo athletes or wrestlers.

3. Muscle-ups

This is a more technically demanding exercise that’s best suited for advanced athletes. The muscle-up combines the actions of the pull-up, push-ups, and dips for a complete upper body exercise.

This movement will help develop power and strength in almost every muscle above the hips and improve athleticism. So, for those who are just starting out using bodyweight exercises, this is a movement to build up to.

This move, along with the pull-up, are best done with gymnastic wooden rings to help improve mobility and make the exercise easier.

4. Burpees

For developing power or endurance in the lower body, the burpee stands as one of the best exercises out there. It can be completed by both novice and advanced athletes.

But, it can easily be done with more intensity, or more times, to ensure it’s still a challenge for more experienced practitioners. This exercise can help boost your jump height, speed, and leg strength too. So, it deserves a place in any athlete or fitness enthusiasts’ program.

5. Single-leg squats

This is another exercise that will be tougher for beginners due to a high need for balance. But, it can be worked up to by doing regular squats and lunges.

Single-leg squats can improve balance and strength in the legs. They can also easily be progressed by adding a small amount of weight by a kettlebell or dumbbell. So, adding some single-leg squats to your routine can help boost lower body strength.

6. Handstand (push-ups)

Depending on your experience level, handstands or handstand push ups are a great core and shoulder exercise. They can help develop the traps, shoulders, and triceps. This makes them a good exercise for any athletes, as well as specific athletes like gymnasts.

They are also perfect for giving you broader shoulders and helping you to burn more fat.

7. Front levers/Planches

These two exercises can be used interchangeably and are among the best movements for developing the core. The only difference is the secondary muscles it targets. The planche will also help develop the front shoulders, arms, and glutes.

Meanwhile, the front lever uses a pull-up bar and helps develop the back and quads as well as the abs.

But, for those just starting out with bodyweight exercises, the front lever is far easier to work up to. The planche should be reserved for the most advanced athletes.

Wrap Up And Take Home Points

Bodyweight exercises are an underrated way to develop strength, power, and fitness. By combining the above movements, you can create a quick full-body workout that can improve your athleticism.

This can then help you boost your performance in your chosen sport as well as improve your physique. This can all be done from anywhere, without any expensive fitness equipment or gym membership too.

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