Build upper-body muscle without any equipment using this beginner-friendly calisthenics routine

Develop your core and strengthen your arms with this eight-move calisthenics session

A woman performing a reverse plank as part of a calisthenics workout
(Image credit: Getty / ABTOP)

Running and lifting weights aren't your only options if you're looking to get fit in 2024. Calisthenics training is a bodyweight-based style of exercise that doesn't require any equipment. This beginner-friendly routine from coach Chloe McDonnell (Chloe Mac Coaching) is the perfect introduction to the practice. 

It only takes 23 minutes and features moves that will strengthen your core, chest, shoulders and arms—muscles which play a crucial role in advanced calisthenics moves like the handstand and planche. 

How to do Chloe McDonnell's beginner calisthenics workout

  • 1A: Incline push-up
  • 1B: Shoulder tap
  • 2A: Triceps dip
  • 2B: Reverse plank holds
  • 3A: Pike elevations
  • 3B: Walk out
  • 4A: Negative push-ups
  • 4B: Bear hold

This workout contains eight moves split into four supersets, listed above. 

A superset is a pair of exercises performed back to back with no rest between them.

For this workout, you will perform exercises labeled with the same number (such as the incline push-up and shoulder tap) together. 

Perform 30 seconds of each exercise in the superset then rest for 60 seconds.  Repeat each superset three times in total before moving on. 

Benefits of this workout

The term calisthenics comes from the Greek words "kallos", meaning beauty, and "sthenos", meaning strength. The practice can help you build muscle, particularly in your core, as a lot of the bodyweight moves require good core strength. 

Unlike traditional resistance training, working your muscles isn't the sole goal here. It's also about moving gracefully and with control.

"It’s not about how many reps [repetitions] you can complete in the time given, it’s about how many quality reps you can complete," McDonnell explains. "Think about maintaining core engagement and control during each movement."

By taking this approach to exercise, calisthenics practice can be a good way to improve your coordination, body awareness and balance. It can also boost your mobility, agility and flexibility. 

You don't need much equipment for calisthenics, but some general-purpose sneakers are essential for outdoor exercise. Have a look at our guide to the best cross training shoes, to find a design that suits your training style

Harry Bullmore
Fitness Writer

Harry Bullmore is a Fitness Writer for Fit&Well and its sister site Coach, covering accessible home workouts, strength training session, and yoga routines. He joined the team from Hearst, where he reviewed products for Men's Health, Women's Health, and Runner's World. He is passionate about the physical and mental benefits of exercise, and splits his time between weightlifting, CrossFit, and gymnastics, which he does to build strength, boost his wellbeing, and have fun.

Harry is a NCTJ-qualified journalist, and has written for Vice, Learning Disability Today, and The Argus, where he was a crime, politics, and sports reporter for several UK regional and national newspapers.