Calisthenics Progression Explained

calisthenics progression

With any type of workout, when done consistently, there will come a time where you would no longer be challenged the same way. Calisthenics is no different, and with calisthenics progression you would simply “graduate” to a variation or the next level of the workout.

The purpose of calisthenics progression is to increase the overload of a certain workout, when the previous has become less challenging. The movement of the exercise is slightly varied through each step. With the base motion of the workout kept the same. Progressing in calisthenics builds necessary skills and strength through different bodyweight exercises in each step that allows you to continue to build muscle.

Going through calisthenic progressions is necessary in order to continue building muscle and getting stronger. The concept is the same for weightlifters when adding weights to their equipment. They require more weighted resistance. The current routine is simply not challenging and the weights are not heavy enough to continue working out your muscles and therefore not building the strength.

Going through the progressions properly is a necessary step in order to build the right skill set and strength that would be required later on. There are dozens of progressions to choose from for each workout. And among different calisthenic athletes they may differ in certain ways.

A chart from Calisthenics-101 shows how intricate a full bodyweight workout and the progressions can be. And although there is no “set in stone” way of going through calisthenics progressions. Meaning steps that you must take in order. Ensuring that you are building the right skill and strength before moving on to the next workout, is a good way to see success and lower risk of injury as you move on.

Where Do You Start Calisthenics

Having a workout that requires no equipment, or needing specific locations is always handy when your goal is to get a proper workout in. Starting calisthenics is a great way to enjoy those benefits. And although it will take some time before getting to the advanced movements. No matter where you start, you can be sure that you will be getting good exercises in building muscle and overall fitness.

So where should you start in calisthenics? It may be surprising to know that you may have or already done many calisthenics exercises in the past. Any type of bodyweight exercise where the only form of weighted resistance is your body, is considered calisthenics.

This includes the basics such as push ups, pull ups and sits up. All of these exercise require no equipment and you are leveraging your body in order to build muscle.

For beginners looking to start with calisthenics, starting and mastering the basics is where you should be starting. Many of the calisthenics progressions require the basic skillset and motion in order to be done successfully. They are heavily based off of push and pull movements. Starting with push ups, pull ups and sit ups is a good base point. Practicing on form and seeing yourself increase on reps should be the only thing to focus on at the beginning.

Getting comfortable with the basics would depend on how often you train, and how physically fit you are already. This could take a few weeks or months, but be sure that consistency and working on the proper form will get you there.

When To Progress In Calisthenics

Calisthenics progression could be done in a few simple ways. Increasing the repetitions and sets could be one way of doing it. However, progressing in this fashion only makes sense for so long. Eventually it would be inefficient to your workout when you’re only adding reps and sets. This is typically a good sign of going to the next level.

When a workout has plateaued and you no longer get the same challenge from it. You are likely not working your body as much either. Given that you have also built a great form when performing the exercise and have reached a certain level of repetitions and sets. Exploring the next stage of your workout is the next step.

Start with small steps. A simple progression such as elevating your feet for a push up, is often enough to continue challenging those muscle groups and get the workout you need. In doing this, you are also building the core muscles and starting to build skills that would be needed later on.

There is a list of beginner calisthenics progressions later in the article, as well as some resources to go further in depth to the topics.

Why Do You Have To Do Progressions in Calisthenics

Personal growth both physically and mentally will happen as you continue on the calisthenics journey. Being consistent, showing up and putting in the effort to every workout would naturally cause you to become stronger and mobile, among other things.

In order to keep the growth going and not remain stagnant, calisthenics progressions are typically utilized to ensure you are advancing in your workout and to keep moving forward.

Something to note, is that just because you were ready to move on to the next step. It wouldn’t mean you should cut out the previous workout completely. They are still very viable options for fitness and can be done regularly.

Mixing up your workouts with different variations and calisthenic progressions is a good way to keep your workout routine interesting and enjoyable.

There are many types of variations and progressions. However, I found going through these 10 steps of the progressions listed below to be most useful. Each progression set up the next workout perfectly and allowed an easier transition.

Let’s take a look at some calisthenic progressions from basic workouts to something a little bit more advanced.

Push Up Progressions

Push up progressions utilizes the movements of pushing. With bodyweight exercises this movement is used for a lot of the upper body strength building workouts. The pushing strength that comes from these progressions helps in doing very advanced techniques like hand stands and one armed push ups.

  1. Incline Push Ups
  2. Standard Push Ups
  3. Elevated Push Ups
  4. Archer Push Ups
  5. Explosive Push Ups
  6. Clapping Push Ups
  7. Pseudo Planche Push Ups
  8. 90 Degree Push Ups
  9. Planche Push Up Pumps
  10. Full Planche Push Ups

You can find a more detailed breakdown of push up progressions here.

Pull Up Progressions

Push up progressions utilized the pushing movements. And in contrast, pull up progressions utilizes the pulling motion and is the foundation of all pulling type exercises. With push ups primarily focusing on the arms. With pull up and different variation, you can effectively focus on chest and core fitness.

  1. Australian Pull Ups
  2. Negative Pull Ups
  3. Standard Pull Ups
  4. L-Sit Pull Ups
  5. Inverted Row Pull Ups
  6. Archer Pull Ups
  7. High Pull Ups
  8. High L-Sit Pull Ups
  9. Negative One Arm Pull Ups
  10. One Arm Pull Ups

You can find a more detailed breakdown of pull up progressions here.

Sit Up Progressions

Core strength is extremely important with bodyweight workouts and calisthenics progressions. Because keeping proper form is vital with the workouts and stabilizing your body is required. Having a strong is what keeps it all together.

  1. Crunches
  2. Side Crunches
  3. Plank Knees
  4. Standard Sit Ups
  5. Bicycle Crunches
  6. Chair Sit Ups
  7. Seated In and Outs
  8. Leg Raises
  9. Flutter Kicks
  10. Hip Raises

You can find a more detailed breakdown of core workouts here.

Calisthenics Progression – How Long Does It Take

Choosing to do bodyweight workouts and going through the various calisthenics progression should be a long term plan. Trying to begin at the more advanced techniques or if you’re rushing through too quickly is only going to heighten your risk for injury.

With that said, how far and how fast you grow in calisthenics would be entirely up to you. Building a well balance schedule and sticking to it is the best path to ensure you get to your goals. Along your path there will be workouts that you simply haven’t done before. Which means, training your body, practicing form will likely lengthen the time.

Many calisthenic athletes have been training for years and are still finding themselves constantly working on perfecting a certain workout. But as you keep your eyes on the prize and where you’re going. When you do look back, you will see how far you came.


Calisthenics progression can be a lengthy process. There are an abundance of workouts that you can begin and progress to in the world of bodyweight exercises. Keeping it fun and constantly challenging your body and mind should be one of the priorities when reaching your fitness goals. Having in mind, that you’re getting fit, and are looking for new and exciting ways to get there is part of the fun.

Stay focused on what you are able to do now, and try to make it the best version you can possibly make. Build off of that from there, and repeat the same process. As you progress through the different bodyweight exercises, you would be amazed at how much you have accomplished.

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