How To Start Calisthenics Without Equipment? (Step By Step Guide)

Another week, another failure. 

After I measured my arms, chest, and legs I quickly understood that I wasn’t getting any progress from my bodyweight training.

This wasn’t the first time I had tried calisthenics and I was failing miserably…

At this point, I didn’t have any equipment and was trying to master all the basic bodyweight movements in order to pack some muscle but to no avail.

If I think about it the lack of growth in my body parts was absolutely nothing compared to that one time when I tried to do 10 pull-ups in a competition against this douchebag. 

And to make things worse no other than Nicky (my high school crush) was watching my every move on the bar combined with all my classmates and other people. 

Sadly I managed to barely do 6 (if we are counting fish movements) and everybody started laughing and calling me bad names…

This was one of the most humiliating moments of my life.

So this was my life: 

Do a lot of long and painful workouts, eat as much healthy food as you can see in a day and wake up with zero results.

The usual routine.

This unproductive lifestyle continued for many months until one day it reached a breaking point.

I had enough. I couldn’t do this anymore. 

I couldn’t give my best day in and day out just to stay absolutely the same – no new muscle, no new strength.

Nothing.

I really needed a solution…

Something new. Something I’ve never tried before.

Something that could potentially work and give me what I was craving for. 

These were nice and logical thought but still… they were just thoughts.

Nothing would change if I simply thought about it and keep doing the same things…

Of course, that wasn’t the first time I had an aha moment.

Every time I thought about trying something else a series of script generated thoughts were starting to bombard my mind:

  • Don’t be silly you will most likely fail…
  • You don’t know how yo do all of that…
  • Nobody is going to help you…
  • You will stay a loser no matter what you try…
  • Better be safe than sorry…

And much worse things I prefer not to share on the web.

But this time something changed.

Do you know the moment when you are so determined to do something and nothing could stop you?

That was exactly how I was feeling when I made the instant decision to change my life.

I finally did something about it.

I completely left my comfort zone and tried a lot of new things.

But I’m not going to lie to you.

I was really scared of everything but my desire to get results was stronger than my fear. 

After I set up my new plan I had only one thing left to do…

To do everything, wait and see what will happen.

In the beginning, nothing really happened but this time I was patient. I kept following my master calisthenics plan and soon I saw something amazing…

My arms were getting bigger, my strength was going up and for the first time, I felt like I was doing something that was working.

Finally, my efforts were bringing me the results I wanted.

It felt amazing.

I was feeling like I have won $1000000 bucks.

So in only a couple of short months, I managed to get from here to here:

And it all was because of my new calisthenics program. 

Here’s exactly how I did it…

Hi there, my name is Bozhidar and in this article, I will teach you all the things I have learned through my transformation and exactly how you can start calisthenics without equipment.

Really? That sounds awesome!

Yup, 100%. 

Inside this step by step guide, we will start from the very basics and slowly build upon them so you have a complete and working plan by the end.

My goal is to help you the best way I can so I highly recommend you stick with me till the endyou will learn everything about eating, training and recovering for calisthenics.

Sounds fair?

Good.

Here is a quick preview of what you will be learning in the next chapters:

  • Step 1 – What is your calisthenics goal?
  • Step 2 – Get a Solid Calisthenics Workout Program
  • Step 3 – Calculate Your Calories
  • Step 4 – Separate Your Calories
  • Step 5 – Choose Your Foods
  • Step 6 – Create Your Meals
  • Step 7 – Get Supplements
  • Step 8 – Create Your Daily Plan
  • Step 9 – Invest In Basic Calisthenics Equipment

So without any further explanation buckle your seatbelt, hold on tight and prepare for a bumpy ride…

Here we go…

How To Start Calisthenics Without Equipment? (Step By Step)

Before I jump straight to the steps I want to tell you that it’s really important not to skip any steps and follow everything till the end.

The reason why I’m asking you to do this is because I find all the steps vital for your success. 

Additionally, many of them are connected to one another so start with step number 1, follow everything and finish with number step 9.

With that being said let’s see what is the first step…

Step 1 – What is your calisthenics goal?

The first thing you have to do is to pick an appropriate goal.

I’m aware that we all have very different goals one another but when it comes to bodyweight training you have a very narrow choice

Here’s what I’m talking about…

Why having a goal is important?

Because all of the next steps will dramatically change and adapt to the goal you have chosen. 

That’s why you must pick a goal right from the start.

What are my options when it comes to calisthenics?

Luckily for you, you have only 2 main options to choose from. 

Read both of them and pick the one that describes the best you current desires:

  1. Goal 1 – I want to build more size, muscle, and strength
  2. Goal 2 – I want to lose fat and become lean

But what to do if my goal is different?

If your main goal is to burn fat and build muscle at the same time then your best bet is to go with goal number 2.

The main reason why you should do this is because you could still build some muscle if you combine cardio with regular strength training.

So have you picked your goal yet?

I hope you did because it’s time to go to the next step…

Step 2 – Get a Solid Calisthenics Workout Program

After you know what your main goal with calisthenics is it’s time to find an appropriate workout program that is going to help you achieve it.

Yes, I know that there are hundreds of different programs and many ways you can do this but here is exactly how I did it when I was just starting out.

After seeing that I wasn’t getting anywhere with free programs I found on the web I finally get the courage and invested a couple of bucks for a couple of highly recommended bodyweight programs.

Sure they weren’t free but they did what they promise and really helped me achieve my goals.

So if you have some money available I highly recommend you to use it and buy a nice calisthenics program designed for your goals. 

That way you are going to save a lot of time, energy, future failure, and even money.

Here are my top 2 favorite programs when it comes to calisthenics…

What is the best calisthenics program for building muscle and strength?

The program that I personally use and recommend you to get is called Bar Brothers The System.

This is the first program I bought when I was stuck. During that period I was getting no results but this program really helped me change that.

What is this bodyweight program all about?

In short, this is a complete 3-month bodyweight program that doesn’t require any equipment than a basic pull-up bar that you can usually find in your local area for free.

Friendly tip: If you don’t have any pull-up bars nearby try and think more creatively. For example, in my city there is a pull-up bar and a dip station in every schoolyard or other similar places. I used to train on one of these for around a year when the school wasn’t working.

Me doing some pull-ups in the school yard

But the main reason why I recommend this program so much is the fact that it’s ideal for complete beginners

All the workouts start with the very basic exercises which progressively get harder and harder as weeks pass by. That way you are going to slowly develop all your bodyweight skills while you put in a lot of muscle and strength.

Using this program is like creating a brand new character at level 1 and soon after that ending the game at level 100 owning the best weapons, armor, and spells.

If you are interested in this calisthenics program please click here to read my entire Bar Brothers The System review in which I share my story, results, and experience from using this program for a while.

I really believe this is the best calisthenics program that is going to help you build muscle, strength, and size quickly because that’s exactly how I built mine.

Seriously, take a minute and check it out.

Now let’s see what should you do if you are in the exact opposite situation…

What is the best calisthenics program for burning fat and getting lean?

The obvious answer is to simply do basic cardio…

… or 

follow this amazing bodyweight fat burning program called Anabolic Running 2.0.

Why this program is better than normal cardio?

Even if you could still burn fat from doing the old, slow and boring cardio it isn’t the best option.

In my opinion, Anabolic Running is 10 times better because this program requires far less time, can be done at home and doesn’t need any equipment at all.

The workouts take only 10-15 minutes to complete and are super easy to understand. 

And that’s exactly why I prefer it over the traditional option.

To be honest I really hate doing cardio. 

Especially if I have to run slowly for a long period of time. Yes, I know that some people love it but I don’t

I find it pretty boring and repetitive and that’s why I’ve had no problem with buying this HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) based bodyweight program.

If you don’t have any problems with traditional cardio and have the time and desire to do it then do it. 

But if you are like me and want something more effective that is going to save you a ton of time I highly recommend you to get Anabolic Running 2.0.

The main reason why I like it so much is because this program was my savior when I needed to burn a lot of fat I have accumulated in my middle section. (yes, I didn’t expect it to happen but it did).

For me, this program was like Thor’s hammer. He would not be called Thor without it…

Oops…. Almost…

Ok, maybe I overreacted a little but you get my point. This program is awesome and could really help you burn a lot of weight fast.

That’s why I suggest you read my entire Anabolic Running review in which I share my complete story and explain way more things you probably want to know.

Oh and let’s not the amazing deal I had found… 

With that being said we are over with Step 2. Now you have 2 very good programs available for you only with a couple of clicks. 

In my opinion, you should get them both but at the end of the day, this decision is entirely up to you so do as you like.

After you know how to get a solid workout plan specifically designed for your main goal it’s time to take a closer look at your nutrition…

Step 3 – How many calories do you need for calisthenics? (Calculate Your Calories)

If exercising is the first half of everything then food is the second.

Remember that even with the best workout plan in the world you will still have pretty average results if you don’t take the time to fix your eating habits.

That’s why it’s really important to read what I’m about to say in the next couple of steps and do it!

If you don’t do anything you won’t get any serious results…

So let’s begin.

The first and most basic thing you must do in order to improve your nutrition is to find out exactly how many calories do you need to eat every day.

I hope you are not like this…

In order to do so, you are first going to find out how many calories does your body needs in order to keep your current weight. 

Once you know that you will add or remove a certain amount of calories depending on your goal.

Here’s exactly how you are going to do all of that.

The first thing you have to do is to go to this free online calculator.

Once there, enter your current stats and click the “Calculate” button. 

Right after that, you will get your estimate daily calorie intake in order for you to keep your current weight.

Write it down somewhere because here comes the tricky part.

Depending on your goal you would have to add or remove 10 to 20% from that number.

  • If you want to build more muscle and gain size increase your number with 10 to 20%.
  • If you want to lose weight and burn fat lower your number with 10 to 20%. 

The difference between 10 and 20% is the speed you are going to get your results. If you choose 20% you will gain or lose weight at a faster rate but there is a higher chance of you not getting exactly what you wanted. For example, with your new gains, you could possibly gain a little more fat than expected or on the opposite side, you could lose some muscle mass during your fat loss process.

That’s why you have to be careful when choosing the right percentage for you.

Example:

Let’s say my current calories are 2300 and I want to build more muscle and strength so I’ve decided to boost up my intake by 20%.

In order to calculate my new calories I will do this basic maths equation:

2300 + 0.20 x 2300 (20% from 2300) = 2300 + 460 = 2760 calories

So in order for me to gain more size without using equipment, I would have to eat 2760 calories every day. 

That’s a lof of numbers…

If you want to lose weight simply change + to a – (Ex. 2300 – 0.20 x 2300…..) and you will get your number. 

Once you have calculated it, write it down somewhere and continue to the next step…

Step 4 – Separate Your Calories

Now it’s time to separate your number of calories into meals.

And do it in such way that you won’t have to starve yourself or even worse… force-feed yourself with foods you hate. 

Luckily for you, you don’t have to.

The biggest tip I could give you is to simply separate your calories in more than 3 portions throughout the day.

That way you are not going to be hungry while still keeping your body constantly fueled with energy and important nutrients.

Here is an example of how I wouldseparate my 2760 calories (or 2800 to make things easier).

Please try to not copy this example to the letter because it’s designed for me and my daily schedule. Instead, use it as a template and adjust it to your own personal needs and wants.

 My example meal plan of 2800 calories

  • Breakfast: 500 calories
  • Postworkout: 300 calories
  • Lunch: 700 calories
  • Snack 1: 300 calories
  • Snack 2: 400 calories
  • Dinner: 600 calories

As you can see I’ve managed to use 6 different meals in order to fill those 2800 calories.

Now do the exact same thing and split your calories into meals. Your end results should look something like the shown example above.

Once you are finished write it down and continue to the next step… 

Step 5 – Choose Your Foods

The next step you have to do is choose at least 10-15 different foods you would love to eat on a regular basis. 

Think of anything healthy you find delicious and write down on a piece of paper.

Here are a couple of great examples that you could include: 

Great foods for muscle building

  • Eggs
  • Salmon
  • Tuna
  • Greek Yogurt
  • Beans
  • Cottage Cheese
  • Soybean
  • Chicken and turkey
  • Peanuts and peanut butter
  • Tofu
  • Brown and white rice
  • Potatoes
  • Milk
  • Whole grain pasta

Great foods for fat burning

  • Oatmeal
  • Salmon
  • Sweet potatoes (boiled or baked)
  • Green and black tea (even if tea is not something you could eat you could still drink a cup every day)
  • Berries
  • Grapefruit
  • Almonds
  • Spinach
  • Greek Yogurt
  • Cinnamon
  • Black Rice
  • Olive oil
  • Chicken breast and lean beef

Take your time and come up with at least 10-15 foods you would love to eat.

Write them down in a big list and continue to next step where we are going to create everything.

Step 6 – Create Your Meals 

Now it’s time to use all those foods you have come up with and create your meals you would eat on a daily basis.

Don’t worry doing this step is far easier than it sounds.

Let me show you exactly how to it for every meal you have. 

I’ll use my 300 calorie snack for the example.

The first thing I’m going to do is to go to this website where I could quickly find how many calories are contained in all the foods of my choice in a certain amount. 

This step is only useful if the number of calories can’t be found on the back of the label.

Let’s take for example cottage cheese. I buy mine from a special dairy store in which there aren’t any labels making this product the perfect example for this site.

After my quick search, I have found that I get roughly about 72 calories per 100 grams of cottage cheese. 

After doing a couple more similar searches I made the decision that I’m going to eat 200 grams of cottage cheese (144 calories), mixed with 1 medium-sized tomato (25 calories) and 1 tablespoon of olive oil (about 120 calories). 

These 3 things combined give me roughly about 300 calories. (which is my initial goal)

After I’ve figured out what foods will my meal contains, I’ll write it down on a piece of paper and continue to the next one.

Here’s how it’s going to look like:

And that’s how you do it. That’s how you create your meals.

Now repeat the whole process for all your meals and you should be good to go.

Quick Tip:

If you would like to eat a meal made from many different ingredients try and search the web about how many calories are there in a portion.

If you can’t find such information find the calories of every ingredient and its total amount and combine them.

Then divide the total amount by the number of portions you are going to eat.

That way you should have a fairly accurate number of calories per portion.

I know that this step could take a while to complete but what do you want better:

Life-changing results or failure?

Which one do you choose?

That’s why you have to take the time to calculate everything and continue to the next step once you are ready…

Step 7 – Get Calisthenics Supplements

Congratulations if you have reached this part! 

By now you should have…

  • a calisthenics workout program 
  • a personal meal plan 
  • and desire to keep going 

but something is still missing…

Yes, the thing I’m talking about is supplements.

While supplements are not required to get results they could really help you a lot by saving you time, money and speeding your results.

That’s why I highly recommend them to anybody who can afford them.

But like foods, not all supplements are created equal

There are supplements that could help you build more muscle fast and there are supplements that could boost your fat burning process.

Let’s see which ones you are going to need… 

What are the best calisthenics supplements for muscle and strength building?

Even if there are countless different supplements you could buy my top 2 favorites I personally use are protein powder and weight gainer.

Here’s why I like them so much…

Why do you need protein powder for calisthenics?

I find protein powder the most important supplement you need to start calisthenics without equipment because eating enough protein is essential if you want to build muscle mass and strength [1], boost your overall physical performance [2] and help your body properly recover [3] so you could be fresh and ready for your next workout.

And let’s not forget the fact that it’s ten times faster and easier to create a protein shake rather than having to buy, cook and carry around a meal in a food container.

How to shake with style

Recommended protein powder for calisthenics

This is the exact protein powder I have used for the last year.

My protein powder

It’s a good product and I’m very pleased with the taste, price and the amount of protein you get per scoop

With this powder, you get 24 grams of protein, 5.5 grams of additional BCAAs (Branched-chain amino acid) and 120 calories. 

If we compare it to the rest you can easily see why this product has near 20 000 positive reviews…

Click here if you want to check it out on Amazon

If you are going to buy it please choose the Double Rich Chocolate flavor. It’s the best one they’ve got…

Why do you need a weight gainer for calisthenics?

The main reason why you need a weight gainer is because it allows you to consume insane amounts of calories in only 1 or 2 scoops

We are talking about 600+ calories in only 20-30 grams of product…

Consuming enough calories is crucial [4] for your muscle and strength building and using a weight gainer could really make this process a lot easier.

This supplement is the perfect option for people that have to eat a lot of calories but don’t like to cook and meal prep.

Another great thing I want to mention is that most weight gainers come with a nice amount of protein per dose making them a great replacement for protein-high foods.

Recommended weight gainer for calisthenics

If you are interested in using a weight gainer I highly recommend you to buy this one I’m currently using:

My weight gainer

It’s delicious, has a very good price per dose and it’s jammed packed with protein and calories. 

This bad boy has 600 calories per scoop with 25 grams of protein. With over 13000+ positive reviews you see why I like it so much.

If you are interested and want to check it out click here to see it’s latest price on Amazon.

With that being said let’s see what you should do if you want to lose some weight.

What are the best calisthenics supplements for fat burning and losing weight?

Even if there are probably a dozen different types of supplements that “promote weight loss” I currently trust and use only one – creatine.

Why do you need creatine for calisthenics?

Because creatine is one of the best supplements for calisthenics. 

Its main purpose is to provide you with extra energy [5] and because of the extra energy, you get you are going to improve your physical performance [6] during your cardio workouts. 

That, on the other hand, will give you better and faster results.

Drinking creatine before a workout is like Asterix drinking his magic potion…

Additionally, creatine can also increase your stamina [7] and even speed up your post-workout recovery [8] meaning more intense fat burning workouts without overtraining or feeling tired. 

Recommended Product

If you really want to get a nice energy boost during your cardio workouts I highly recommend you to check out this creatine I use for a while now:

My creatine

I’m really happy with the flow of energy I get and the fact that it doesn’t have any calories or excess amount of sugar

It’s simple, cheap and works well.

Click here if you want to check it out on Amazon

These were my top 3 favorite supplements for calisthenics. 

If you have the money I highly recommend you try them out. They could really help you to start doing calisthenics faster and easier.

Now let’s see what I have prepared for you in the next step…

Step 8 – Create Your Daily Plan

Hey, are you still here?

Excellent.

Don’t worry we are almost over with the guide.

By now you should have…

  • picked a good training program designed for your goals
  • created a personal meal plan using your favorite foods
  • ordered a couple of supplements 

Now it’s time to combine everything into one big program you could follow.

Here are 2 great examples you could follow if you are just starting out:

Example plan for building muscle and strength

  • Monday: Regular Workout
  • Tuesday: Regular Workout
  • Wednesday: Regular Workout
  • Thursday: Regular Workout
  • Friday: Regular Workout
  • Saturday: Some type of cardio
  • Sunday: Rest

Example plan for getting lean and burning fat

  • Monday: Cardio
  • Tuesday: Strength Bodyweight Training
  • Wednesday: Cardio
  • Thursday: Strength Bodyweight Training
  • Friday: Cardio
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: Rest

Of course, don’t forget that these plans are only examples. Feel free to change things up to your liking and weekly schedule. 

Please Note:

If you decide to check out and buy Anabolic Running 2.0 or Bar Brothers The System you are going to have to follow their specific daily training schedule and adapt everything based on it.

If that’s the case then these examples may not be appropriate for your situation.

But this is only concerning the training. Let’s see what to do with the supplements…

Here’s the best way to take them:

What is the best time to take protein powder? – Even if there isn’t a specific time it’s recommended to do it during the post-exercise anabolic window [9] meaning it’s good for you to drink a protein shake roughly 30 minutes after you have finished your workout.

That way your body is going to get everything it needs.

What is the best time to take a weight gainer? – I don’t believe there is a certain period because the main purpose of the weight gainer is to provide you with extra calories and protein.

That’s why you should take it whenever you feel hungry or don’t have the option to carry around meals.

What is the best time to take creatine? – Because creatine’s main function is to improve your physical performance [10] it’s best for you to take it 15-30 minutes before your workouts.

With that being said now you know when to train, when to rest and when to take your supplements

But there’s one more important thing I want to share with you in the last step of this guide…

Step 9 – Invest In Basic Calisthenics Equipment

Even if this guide is called “How To Start Calisthenics Without Equipment” that doesn’t mean you should avoid equipment like it’s toxic.

Yes, buying calisthenics equipment is going to cost you some initial investment but it’s still one of the cheapest and fastest ways to improve your skills, muscle mass and strength.

Even if I really like to workout without using anything doing it this way is still very limiting in certain areas.

Training without calisthenics equipment is like Gandalf trying to fight Balrog without his staff… 

That’s why I highly recommend you to take a look and invest in bodyweight equipment.

Especially if you are looking bodyweight training as something you are going to do for a long period of time. 

Here are my top 3 favorite calisthenics equipment for beginners:

Take a look and see which one is your favorite…

1. Get Gymnastic Rings

If you have the option to own only 1 piece of calisthenics equipment you are going to use make sure it’s gymnastic rings.

Once you get yourself a nice pair of those your options are limitless…

You can carry them in a bag (mine weight only 1.6 kg or 3.5 lbs) and hang them on anything you could imagine. 

You could also adjust the height and adapt them to all sorts of different exercises such as pull-ups, dips, push-ups, chest flyes, planche, levers in only a couple of seconds.

In short, this piece of equipment is literally the most versatile thing I’ve ever used and I highly recommend you to get yourself a nice pair.

If you are interested and are looking for solid gymnastic rings I would recommend you check these I personally use:

My gimnastic rings

They are made of wood, have long and strong straps and are quite portable making them ideal for outdoor calisthenics.

Click here if you want to check them on Amazon 

2. Get Resistance Bands

Buying a set of resistance bands is one of the smartest investments you can make. 

Resistance bands could be used for anything

They could help you become bigger and stronger by making all the exercises more difficult and they could support your weight if you are just starting out.

Example

In addition to that they are lightweight, don’t need a lot of space and are an excellent option for beginners who are just starting our as well as more advanced people who want to take things on the next level.

And the best thing is that they are very affordable and last a very long time.

If you want to buy a nice set of resistance bands I highly recommend you to go for the ones I personally use:

My resistance bands

These bands are awesome and have helped me tremendously during the time I own them. 

Click here if you want to take a closer look on Amazon

If you are going to buy resistance bands I would suggest you get the biggest set even if you are a complete beginner. In time you are going to get a lot stronger and the extra resistance will be a nice addition.

3. Get a Weighted Vest

Even if wearing a weighted vest isn’t as convenient as using resistance bands or rings it’s still a must-have piece of equipment in your arsenal.

With the help of a good vest, you could easily increase the total difficulty of every bodyweight movement you can think of.

But if you want even bigger freedom I highly recommend you buy an adjusted model so you could easily add or remove weight following your progression. 

I believe that a good weight vest is an essential part for anyone who is serious about calisthenics and muscle mass.

My weighted vest

If you want to check a really nice adjustable and compact vest click here to check mine.

It’s a really handy piece of equipment I use pretty often when I want to increase the difficulty of my pull-ups and dips.

And the best thing is that it isn’t expensive at all.

Conclusion

And that’s really it.

Now you know exactly how to start calisthenics without equipment and get results.

Yes, it requires some investment, hard work and preparation but that’s how real progress is done. 

If you skip all of that you won’t get far.


That’s why I’ll repeat again that you must follow all the 9 steps if you want to have the best chance of success. 

Here’s a quick recap of everything you need to do if you want to be successful with calisthenics:

  1. Pick a calisthenics goal
  2. Invest in a solid calisthenics workout plan
    1. check out Bar Brothers The System if you want size and strength (click here to read my review)
    2. check out Anabolic Running 2.0 if you want an efficient workout to burn fat fast (click here to read my review)
  3. Calculate your calories (eat more if you want to build size and less if you want to lose fat)
  4. Separate your calories into different meals
  5. Choose your favorite foods
  6. Create all your meals
  7. Invest in the appropriate supplements for your goal
    1. Get a protein powder and weight gainer if you want to build muscle, strength, and size 
    2. Get creatine if you want to improve your fat burning process
  8. Create your daily plan
  9. Invest in basic calisthenics equipment
    1. Get yourself a nice pair of gymnastic rings (click here to check mine)
    2. Invest into a set of nice resistance bands (click here to check mine)
    3. Get an adjustable weighted vest (this is the one I use)

As you can this guide is made from a lot of things so what are you waiting for? 

Grab a piece of paper and a pen and start calculating!

If you have enjoyed this guide and want to read more epic stuff about calisthenics feel free to check some of my other related articles:

And please don’t forget to leave a comment below. I’m going to answer as many questions as I can.

No matter what happens never give up,

Bozhidar

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