5 moves for the ultimate gymnastics workout, according to a personal trainer

By Stephanie Mellinger, HealthDay correspondent


(health day)


Whether you realize it or not, you are probably familiar with calisthenics.

Simply put, calisthenics are just bodyweight exercises. Gymnastic exercises are great for beginners because they can help build strength all over the body, and you don’t need to learn how to use any equipment. It can also be easily modified for different levels of difficulty.

Read on to learn more about what calisthenics is, plus a 5-move calisthenics workout for beginners that you can do anywhere.

What are gymnastic exercises?

Gymnastic exercises are a type of exercise that uses your own body weight as resistance to build strength and flexibility. As a certified personal trainer, I love calisthenics because they can be modified and maximized for all levels of fitness to meet you at the right place in your fitness journey.

Gymnastics is also a convenient and accessible form of exercise because it does not require any special equipment or gym membership. This makes it easy to do gymnastics exercises anywhere, whether you’re at home, on vacation, or traveling for business.

In general, gymnastics is a very versatile form of exercise, according to Journal of Isokinetics and Exercise Scienceis “an effective training solution for improving posture, strength, and body composition without the use of any major training equipment.”

If you want to try calisthenics, here are my top 5 favorite calisthenics. Even with no equipment, you’ll still get a great training session with these moves.

Calisthenics workout plan for beginners

I love this movement because it trains the movement pattern we use every day: sitting and standing. It works your core and most of your lower body muscles.

How to do a squat:

  1. Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart.
  2. Lower your hips as if you are about to sit in a chair. Go as low as you can, or until your thighs are parallel to the floor.
  3. Push your feet down, squeezing your glutes and abs as you stand back up.
  4. Do 3 sets of 10 reps.

Pushups are great because they combine the benefits of planks while also improving upper body strength. Adding an incline to a traditional pushup can help take some of the pressure off your upper body so you can build up the strength to do a pushup with your hands on the floor. You will mainly feel this movement in your chest, arms, and abdomen.

How to do an incline push-up:

  1. Place your hands a little wider than your shoulders on an elevated surface, such as a bench.
  2. Pull your belly button toward your spine to engage your core — don’t let your lower back arch.
  3. Bend your arms and lower your chest towards the bench as low as possible. Your body should look like an arrow, with your elbows about 45 degrees away from your sides.
  4. Do 3 sets of 10 reps.

The glutes are our largest muscle group. Keeping them strong can also help stabilize the hips and pelvis, potentially reducing or preventing lower back pain. This move also strengthens your core.

How the gluteal bridge works:

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Your arms should be straight at your sides, and your heels should almost touch your fingertips.
  2. Pull your belly button toward your spine to help align your pelvis and activate your core muscles.
  3. Push your heels into the floor as you slowly lift your hips off the floor.
  4. Hold for one second, then slowly lower back until your back is flat on the floor.
  5. Do 3 sets of 10 reps.

Most of us live in a rounded forward position: hunched over our computers and hunched over our phones. The Superman exercise works the upper back, shoulders, glutes and abdomen to help improve posture and reduce or prevent neck and lower back pain.

How do you do Superman:

  1. Lie on your stomach with your arms over your head to form a “Y” shape with your upper body (for an easier modification, create a “W” shape with your upper body instead by bending your elbows slightly).
  2. Lift your arms and hips off the floor and move them a few inches above the floor. This doesn’t have to be a huge move, so don’t worry if you can’t crank it up a notch.
  3. Hold for 3 seconds.
  4. Lower your back slowly to the ground and repeat the exercise.
  5. Do 3 sets of 10.

I like exercises that move us laterally (to the side) because most of us live life in a frontal plane of motion, like walking. This calisthenics exercise strengthens muscles that we might not normally use. You’ll feel this movement in your glutes, quads, and inner thighs.

How to do a side lunge:

  1. Take a big step to the right and just bend your right knee as you lower yourself toward the floor. Your left leg should remain straight.
  2. Similar to a squat, lower your hips as if you are about to sit in a chair. Go as low as you can, or until your right thigh is parallel to the floor.
  3. Push off with your right foot in full (not just the ball of your foot), and bring your feet back together.
  4. Do 10 on your right side, then repeat on your left side.
  5. Do 3 sets of 10 reps on each side.

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