The Bare Bones of Calisthenics (Basics)

At its best Calisthenics (or bodyweight athletes in general) are capable of jaw dropping displays of strength, explosiveness, athleticism and aerial mastery that it can seem to be completely unattainable for the majority of people.
What a lot of people forget or sometimes don’t even realise is that the people that you see doing these amazing feats on YouTube, FaceBook & Instagram didn’t just turn up to a bar one day and start smashing out Muscle-Ups, Human Flags and Front Levers all willy nilly.
No they all developed strength,muscular endurance, explosiveness, conditioned their joints & connective tissue through repetition of the basics.
In other words they did Push-Ups, Pull-ups, Squats, Dips & Core-strengthening work.

Nothing fancy about that, but as anybody who’s ever achieved a reasonably high level of Calisthenics will tell you – you have to put in the work if you want to be able to do any of the fancy stuff.

So here is a quick run down of the basics with a few key points and some pictures to help illustrate the do’s and don’ts. I’m not going to tell you which pictures illustrate the do’s or don’ts but I’m pretty sure you should be able to spot them for yourselves once you read the key points 🙂

*one thing that I won’t go into here is core-strengthening exercises, mainly because we should be utilising our core throughout all of our basic movementssecondly we have already covered the hollow body position in a previous blog by Mat (Take your time, master the basics) and thirdly I will go into more core-strengthening exercises at a later time.

Hands roughly shoulder-width apart (there are many variations of the hand placement which are useful for various reasons but here we are focusing on the basic push-up) Shoulders over the wrists with a straight back and no sag at the hips. Our elbows should preferably face back towards our feet. The elbows should never be angled so far out that they are extending past the shoulders.

Overhand Grip (a Chin-up is a underhand grip which utilises more of the bicep than the regular Pull-up) shoulders down before starting the movement, elbows pulling down and behind. Trying to maintain a tight core and aiming to bring your chest to the bar.
*I know not everybody can do a Pull-up to start with but we have ways and means to get you strong enough so that everybody can over time pull their own bodyweight up to a bar.


Feet roughly shoulder-width, keeping the chest up looking straight ahead. Squatting as low as you can comfortably without the heels coming off the floor before pushing up to standing. Our knees should be tracking the same way that our feet are pointing throughout the movement. If our knees start folding in towards each other focus on pushing the knees outwards as you squat.


For this example I am referring to Dips using Parallel bars rather than the Straight Bar variety. We keep our shoulders down before starting the movement, with the elbows facing back. We bend at the elbows bringing ourselves to at least a 90 degree bend at the elbow before pushing back up, the shoulders should stay down throughout the movement.


**please note**
The basics of calisthenics don’t replace the 3 basic requirements that we have here at Movement Co. being the ability to hang, hold a hollow body and to be able to hold a deep squat. These are the foundations of all of our movements.
The basic movements that I am talking about here are on top of those 3 foundations and are essential to building up the strength & conditioning required to be able to do intermediate and advanced level Calisthenics, they are the building blocks if you like.

A word to the wise:
Even when you have progressed on from just doing the basics, don’t forget about them entirely. Theres nothing worse than progressing on to what seems like greater things at the time and then coming back and struggling with a simple Chin-up!!!

One response to “The Bare Bones of Calisthenics (Basics)”

  1. Simon Thomson says:

    Wise words. Cheers mate, a good read.

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