How to Keep a Calisthenics Workout Interesting

The trick to fighting boredom in the gym is an easily changeable calisthenics workout that offers variety and intensity, without the monotony of the cardio machines.

Calisthenics are usually characterized as bodyweight exercises, or exercises done without weights, using your own body weight and high repetitions to maximize muscle toning. The key is to keep your heartrate up so that you are coupling your cardio with strength training, shortening the amount of time you are in the gym. Efficiency is key!

What to Do

Work with a variety of calisthenic moves to get your heart pumping. Modify each exercise on alternating days to keep your muscles guessing, and the benefit is two fold.  First, you’re going to keep boredom at bay when you have to think through your routine. Second, that plateau that everyone talks about?  No such thing for you!

The moves that you choose will be surprisingly simple on day one. On the second day that you complete the routine, add the tweaks that make the move harder, faster or that bring in other small muscle groups. On the third day, add you can add weights and lower the repetitions for a workout that seems completely different, but that you are comfortable performing.

Try the 4 moves in the cycle, and change them with their upgrades in the next workout.  To keep your heart pumping, grab a jump rope, and jump for a minute between sets, perform 20 jumping jacks, or run for 1-2 minutes. Be sure to give those muscles a rest and complete each workout on non-consecutive days.

1. Bodyweight Squats

Stand tall with shoulders back. Bend arms at the elbow as you squat so you can touch elbows to your thighs. Complete 20 squats at a quick pace, squeezing your butt together as your rise.

  • Day 2:  Complete the squat, but as you rise up, jump straight up, reaching arms overhead. Complete 15-20 jumps
  • Day 3:  Add weight!  Hold 10 pound dumbbells at your shoulders and perform the squat. As you rise up, push weights up above your head to include a shoulder press. Keep your back straight, careful not to arch when you lift weights up. Complete 12-15 reps.

2. Push-Ups

On day one, complete 20 standard pushups. Be sure to keep your butt down, inline with shoulders and toes. Complete as many as you can on your toes, and drop to your knees, maintaining that straight line to finish the set.

  • Day 2: Perform the push-ups with one hand elevated on a short step, stack of mats, books or a medicine ball.  Do 10 with right arm elevated, and 10 with left arm elevated.
  • Day 3:  Perform one push-up, then bring right knee up toward the right shoulder, finally twisting hips to push right knee over to the left side of your body. Return your right leg to start, perform another push up, and alternate on the left leg.

3. Lunges

Lunges are extremely effective for working the entire thigh and butt, but can be hard to perform well.  On day 1, begin with a criss- cross lunge.  Begin by lunging back, not forward, with your left foot, but instead of dipping the foot straight back, place the foot far to the right, as in a curtsy. Push up with the heel of your right foot, working that leg, and step to the left with the left foot. Place the right foot to the back, way left to curtsy on the other side. That’s one rep. Complete 10 reps.

  • Day 2:  Perform a straight lunge, without the crisscross, but instead of stepping back, jump, and switch legs in the air. Switch back and forth for 20 jumps.
  • Day 3:  Add weight!  Hold 10-15 lb dumbbells in each hand and perform a straight or crisscross lunge –straight focuses more on quads and glutes, while crisscross focuses more on the side of the thigh. When you step together, bring the back foot up, knee parallel to your hip. Crunch lower abs to involve your core!

4. Planks

Planks seem easy, right? Until you are at second 44 of a 1 minute hold! Grrr! Now they’re hard!  On day 1, hold a standard plank for 1 minute. Perform the move on your hands and toes with hips aligned between shoulders and toes in one straight line. SQUEEZE every muscle to keep it challenging! If you are an advanced exerciser, you can alternate dropping your knees every two seconds to work your core even harder.

  • Day 2:  Do the plank keeping knees up. Alternate dropping arms to your elbows, leading right then left elbow, then immediately up on your right then left hand. Then reverse it left right elbow, left right hand.  If you are more advanced, spread legs wider, and alternate placing one arm behind your back for 5 seconds before switching arms.
  • Day 3:  Weight!  Hold 5-8 lb dumbbells in each hand, and balance on them in the plank.  Alternating arms, lift up the weight, keeping elbow bent.  Squeeze shoulder blade to work your back. You can alternate this further on other days by pulling the weight up and pressing it back, straightening arm to work your tricep, or raising it in front of you to work the shoulder.

When adding your own calisthenic exercises to your repitoire, think about adding a jump or weight to change it up and keep it interesting! Now THAT’S going to keep you consistent!


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