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Beginner Bodyweight Training Plan

Beginner Bodyweight Training Plan – Building The Foundation

Wanna grow stronger with calisthenics?

You better build a strong foundation first!

What’s a strong foundation you ask?

For me a strong foundation is this:

  • 30 push ups
  • 5 pull ups
  • 50 squats
  • 1 min hollow body hold
  • 1 min superman hold
  • 2 min dead-hang hold

With the  beginners bodyweight training plan, you’ll be able to achieve all of the above in 3-4 months or less (depending on your current strength).

How To Prepare For The Workout Plan

Before you get started with the plan it’s good to measure your current stats.

What should you measure?

Since you’re just starting out, I’d suggest that you take 3 full body photos of yourself.

  • 1 from the front
  • 1 from the back
  • 1 from the side – you can take from both sides if you want to

After that, just measure your current weight.

Lastly, you should have a notebook – or a computer file – to journal your workouts.

If you measure your stats now (and every month after that), then you’ll be able to track your progress more effectively (you’ll actually know if you’re moving closer to your goals or not), and by seeing your progress you’ll be more motivated to train.

If you don’t measure your stats now (nor in the future), you’ll have a hard time keeping track of your progress and you’ll most likely lose motivation as you keep going.

How To Progress To Harder Calisthenics Variations

The training plan consists of 2 type of exercises:

  • The main exercises
  • the assisting exercises

The main exercises are the ones that are directly related to the foundational movements (push ups, pull ups, squats, hollow body, hanging).

The assisting exercises are  exercises that will help you become stronger but aren’t directly related to the foundational movements (eg. Dips, cossack squats, etc).

Both of these types of exercises are important.

The Main Exercises

The Push Up

Push Up Progressions Table

Push Up Progression #1: High-Incline Push Ups [Table-height]

Instead of performing push ups on the ground, you’ll perform them on a table.

The goal is to do 20 consecutive table push ups.

Push Up Progression #2: Low-Incline Push Ups [Knee-height]

Once you meat the goal of table push ups, then you can lower the incline to make the exercise harder.

The goal is to do 20 consecutive incline push ups with good form.

Push Up Progression #3: Knee Push Ups

In this progression, you’re gonna train with your knees touching the ground.

To train with this progression, you’ll most likely need something soft to put under your knees.

The goal is to do 20 consecutive knee push ups

Push Up Progression #4: (Regular) Push Ups

The last progression is non other than the regular push up.

When you can do 20 consecutive knee push ups, you’ll probably be able to do around 5-10 regular push ups.

The main goal of this program is to help you achieve 30 consecutive push ups.

However, if you’d like, you can keep training until you achieve 50. For more reps a different approach will be more effective.

The Pull Up

Pull Up Progressions

If you can’t do a pull up yet, don’t worry. There are multiple ways to achieve the movement.

In this training plan, I’ll share with you two of them.

You should follow the one that is more relevant to your current training equipment.

None of these progression ways is more effective than the other ones, so if you have the necessary equipment for both ways presented here, just follow the one that makes more sense to you.

To perform body rows you can use rings, towels, ropes, bed-sheet, etc.

Pull Up Progression #1: High Body Rows

The higher your hand position is the easier the exercise becomes.

You should choose a position of moderate height that it’s neither too easy nor too challenging – ie. You can do 5-10 reps in that height.

The goal is to do 20 high body rows.

Pull Up Progression #2: Regular Body Rows

To perform regular body rows, your rings – or whatever you’re using – should be around hip height.

If you can’t perform 3 or more reps, you can increase the height a bit to make the exercise easier.

The goal is to do 10 body rows.

Pull Up Progression A: Pull Up Negatives

To perform a pull up negative, all you have to do is jump in the top position of the pull up and then lower yourself as slowly as possible.

The goal is to be able to decent at 20s or more.

Pull Up Progression B: Assisted Pull Ups

Once you’re able to hold the negative for 20s, then you can try out the assisted pull ups.

To perform this progression you’ll need something to assist you with the movement.

You can use bands, if you have, or a chair in which you can step on.

You should still perform the negative portion of the movement slowly – 5 seconds.

The goal is to do 10 consecutive assisted pull ups.

Pull Up Progression 3/C: (Regular) Pull Ups

After you can successfully do 10 assisted pull ups or 10 body rows, you’re ready to perform the regular ones.

The goal of this training program is to perform 5 consecutive pull ups, but you can easily reach 10 or more pull ups with it.

The Bodyweight Squat

Squat Progressions

Based on my experience, everyone can do some bodyweight squat no matter how out of shape he is.

The only limitation that may exist is that you may not have full range of motion. With the following progressions you will successfully increase your squating range of motion quite fast.

Bodyweight Squat Progression #1: Box Squats

To perform box squat you’ll need a surface that’s around knee height to sit upon.

The goal is to do 20 consecutive box squats.

Bodyweight Squat Progression #2: Assisted Squats

To perform assisted squats you’ll need something to hold on to support yourself.

You can use a door frame, a pole, etc.

The goal is to do 20 consecutive assisted squats.

Bodyweight Squat Progression #3: Squat

You should perform bodyweight squats with full range of motion.

If you can’t do them yet, assisted squats can help you increase your range of motion.

The goal is to do 50 consecutive bodyweight squats.

The Hollow Body

Hollow Body Progressions

The hollow body position is one of the most fundamental calisthenics positions.

Hollow Body Progression #1: Hollow Body Tuck

In the first progression, you’ll just have your legs tucked.

The goal is to hold the position for 60s.

Hollow Body Progression #2: One Leg Hollow Body

In the second progression, you’ll just extend your one leg gradually.

Be sure to work with both legs evenly.

The goal is to hold the position for 60s.

Hollow Body Progression #3: Full Hollow Body

In the final progression, you’ll extend both of your legs.

The goal is to hold the position for 60s.

Hanging

Hanging Progressions

Hanging will help you strengthen your grip, shoulders, and lats, which will translate to faster gains in pull ups.

Hanging Progression #1: Passive Hang Hold

In the passive hang, you’ll just hold yourself from a bar.

If you’re not strong enough yet, you can use a chair (or something else) in which you can step on for assistance.

The goal is to hold this position for 60s.

Hanging Progression #2: Active Hang Hold

The active hang is very similar to the passive hang. The only difference is that you’ll hold the position with your scapula depressed – shoulders away from your ears.

The goal is to hold this position for 30s.

Hanging Progression #3: Active Hang Reps

Once you’re able to hold the active hang for 30 seconds, you can start working with repetitions going from the passive to the active hanging position.

Your transition between the 2 positions should be done slowly with control.

The goal is to do 10 consecutive reps.

Assisting Exercises

Dips

Dip progressions

Dips Progression #1: Reverse Plank

The first progression is the reverse plank.

At first glance this movement might not seem related to dips, but it will help you increase your shoulder mobility, which is required to perform full dips safely.

This movement also targets your triceps, glutes and lower back.

The goal is to perform 20 consecutive reps.

Dips Progression #2: Bench Dips

As Jeff explains in the video, you should be very mindful of you shoulder position while training with this movement.

You can make this exercise harder if you elevate your legs.

The goal is to perform 15 consecutive reps.

Dips Progression #3: (Regular) Dips

Once you meet the previous goal, you can start training with regular dips.

To train with regular dips, you’ll need a set of parallel bars.

You can also perform the movement on two chairs – if they’re stable enough.

The goal is to perform 10 consecutive dips.

The Cossack Squat

Cossack squat progressions

The cossack squat is mostly a mobility movement, which will help you perform squats with better form.

If you don’t have yet the flexibility to perform a full cossack, follow the progressions below.

For extra mobility benefits, pause for 5-10 seconds at the bottom of each rep.

For an even greater mobility challenge, try to maintain a straight back thoughout the whole movement.

Cossack Squat Progression #1: Box Cossack Squats – High

Find a surface that’s approximately at knee heigh and perform partial cossack squats.

The goal is to be able to perform 20 consecutive reps – 10 each side.

Cossack Squat Progression #2: Box Cossack Squats – Low

When you can easily complete 20 reps of the 1st progression, start using a lower surface.

You can use books if you can’t find something better.

The goal is to be able to perform 20 consecutive box cossack squats- 10 each side.

Cossack Squat Progression #3: Assisted Cossack Squats

In the 3rd progression, you’ll train with full cossack squats using something to help you balance.

You can use a desk, a door-frame, etc.

The goal is to be able to perform 10 assisted cossack squats- 5 each side.

Cossack Squat Progression #4: Cossack Squats

After you meet the necesssary reps in the 3rd progression, you’re ready to train with full cossack squats.

The goal is to be able to perform 20 consecutive reps.

The Plank

Plank Progressions

If you find planks boring, you can replace the with another beginner core exercise (like crunches).

Plank Progression #1: Knee Plank

Similarly to the push ups, you can make the plank easier by training on your knees.

The goal is to hold the knee plank for 60 seconds.

Plank Progression #2: Plank

Once you’re able to hold the knee plank for the desired amount of time, you can start training with the regular plank.

The goal is to be able to hold the plank for 3 minutes.

Plank Progression #3: Extended Plank

Once the regular plank becomes easy, you can start extending you arms gradually in front of you.

The goal is to hold the extended plank for 60 seconds.

Then you can extend your arms ever further or start training with a more difficult core exercise (like wheel roll outs).

With Which Progression Should You Start?

If you’ve never trained before, I suggest you start with the first progression of each exercise.

Otherwise, start with one in which you can do at least 5 reps with very good form. In the static holds, start with the first progression.

Don’t be afraid of starting the program with an easier progression. If you’re stronger than the progression, you’ll be able to meet the progression’s goal very fast.

The Basic Structure of the Plan

The beginner’s bodyweight training plan consists of 2 main workouts.

These 2 workouts are almost identical with the difference being that one focuses on hanging/pulling while the other one in pushing.

For the whole duration of this training plan, you’re gonna alternate between Workout-A and Workout-B.

Your workouts should take around 45-60 minutes.

How To Warm Up

Before starting the workout you should perform a short warm up – around 10 minutes long.

In you warm up, you should target your whole body, since the workouts are full body workouts.

Sample Warm Up

A1: 2×10 arm circles (both directions)
A2: 2×10 wrist circles (both directions)

B1: 2×10 bird dog (5/side)
B2: 2×10 shoulder circles (both directions)

C1: 2×5 pelvic circles (both directions)
C2: 2×5 knee circles (both directions)

Notes

You should perform the warm up as follows:

  • Do one set of A1 rest 60s and do a set of A2. That’s one round.
  • Rest 60s and do 1 more rounds (2 rounds total).
  • Then do the same for B and C.

If you have a jump rope, you can add 3-5 minutes of jumping rope after the sample warm up.

The Workouts [1]

Workout A

A1: 4x(Sub-max) pull up progression
A2: 4x(Sub-max) squats

B1: 4x(Sub-max) push up progression
B2: 4x(Sub-max) calf raises

C1: 4x(Sub-max) hanging shoulder depression
C2: 4x(Sub-max) cossack squats

D1: 3x(Sub-max) hollow body hold
D2: 3x(Sub-max) superman hold

Workout 2

A1: 4x(Sub-max) pull up progression
A2: 4x(Sub-max) squats

B1: 4x(Sub-max) push up progression
B2: 4x(Sub-max) calf raises

C1: 4x(Sub-max) reverse plank
C2: 4x(Sub-max) cossack squats

D1: 4x(Sub-max) plank hold
D2: 4x(Sub-max) side plank crunches (alternate sides in each set)

Notes

You should perform the workouts as follows:

  • Do one set of A1 rest 60s and do a set of A2. That’s one round.
  • Rest 60s and do 3 more rounds (4 rounds total).
  • Then do the same for B, C, and D.
  • Sub-max means that you’ll train 2-3 reps close to failure.

Sample Training Plan

Beginner Calisthenics training plan
A sample of the 1st month of the Beginner Bodyweight Training Plan

How To Recover Faster – The Basics

If you want to achieve your training goals the fastest way possible, the most important think you should take care of (apart from your training) is your recovery.

That’s cause…

You don’t grow stronger during your training but while you are recovering from it.

So what can you do to recover faster?

There are many things that you can do, but you must first master the basics. Namely:

  • Sleep
  • Diet

Sleep

The night’s sleep is the most important part of your recovery.

For best results you should sleep at least 8 hours per night (this of course isn’t a fixed number, cause some people need more or less time).

For even better results, you can add a 30-minute nap in your daily routine.

Here are some resources that can help you sleep better:

Diet

As a beginner, the most important thing you can do is eliminate unhealthy foods from your diet.

You can start with:

  • Foods containing artificial sweeteners
  • Junk food
  • Alcohol

Keep in mind that you can still consume some of the above once in a while, if the situation “demands it”.

Of course, removing unhealthy food can be hard.

For that reason, you should aim at replacing the unhealthy food with healthy ones.

Some very nutritious foods you can add to your diet are:

If you think you might have some problems staying committed to your diet, check out my article:

What Should I Do After I Complete The Goals Of The Program?

Well…

This is were things get interesting!

When you’ve build the necessary strength foundation, you can move on to whatever you like.

Here are some of the choices you have:

Choice #1: Train For Endurance and Conditioning

If you choose that path, you’re going to train with very high volume.

This path is for you if you’d like to accomplish feats like 100 push ups, 200 squats, 20+ pull ups, etc.

Choice #2: Train For Maximal Strength

This approach is similar to the plan you’ve been following until now.

You can still follow the same plan and just change the exercises with harder ones.

For example, you can change regular push ups with diamond push ups and then with one arm push ups progressions.

Choice #3: The Hybrid Approach

As the name suggests, with this approach you’ll be training with multiple goals in mind.

You’ll train for strength, endurance and conditioning at the same time.

This approach is excellent for those who want to develop a fighter like physique.

For more info you can check out Never Gymless, and basically everything that comes out from Ross.

Choice #4: Any Combination You Like

With calisthenics training there are literally endless possibilities in your training.

You can start training to achieve skills like handstands, flips, and you can even train with bboy moves.

It’s all up to you and what you’re looking for!

Frequently Asked Questions

Question #1: What If I Miss A Workout?

Well…

Life is unpredictable, and chances are that you’ll eventually miss a workout.

That’s not a bid deal as long as you get right back to your training.

If you miss one workout, you can still hit 2 workouts in that week.

Just make sure that you continue to alternate between W-A and W-B – if you miss W-A, your next workout should be W-A and not W-B.

Question #2:  What If I Hit A Plateau?

Since this program doesn’t contain any hard calisthenics variation, you’re most likely under-recovering from your workouts.

So, you should take a look at your sleeping schedule and your diet (as discussed in the Recovery Section).

If both your diet and sleep are taken care of, you can decrease the difficulty in the exercise you’ve plateaued (around 10-20%). For example, if in your last set you did 30-25-23-18 squats, in your next workout train with 25-20-18-15 and gradually work your way up from there.

Question #3: What If I meet only one goal ? Let’s say I can do 50 squats while I can’t yet do 30 push ups or 5 pull ups?

You have 3 options:

  • Keep adding more reps to that exercise – in this case the squats
  • Start training with a harder exercise – regular squats could be replaced by  Hindu squats, lunges, jump squats, etc.
  • Start progressing towards harder moves – like the pistol squat

All of the above can be done while still following the same program.

Question #4:  Can I add an extra day for cardio/conditioning?

Yes, you can.

The only condition would be to add it after the last workout of the week.

If you follow the sample training program, then your conditioning would be on Saturday and the program would look like this:

Beginner bodyweight training plan 2

Question #5:  Should I Take Any Deload Weeks?

You can if you want to, but it’s not necessary at this level yet – the exercises are still very light.

If you hit a plateau, do as described above.

Question #6:  Should I Train To Failure?

No.

Your First Step

No matter your current training level, the Beginner Bodyweight Training Plan will help you build a strong calisthenics foundation.

As a first step, take 3 photos of yourself as mentioned in the “How To Prepare For The Workout Plan” section.

Then, click below to download the summarized pdf version of this training plan:

Beginner Bodyweight Training Plan pdf

[1] I learned about this type of workouts in Never Gymless.

Images: pull up bar