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The Simplest Body Weight Workout for Inactive Beginners (for 4 Weeks)

The Simplest Body Weight Workout for Inactive Beginners

Tick, tock, tick, tock… The clock is ticking while you’re talking about getting started in calisthenics.

Just get started!

Even though there isn’t a perfect way to begin, here’s a simple calisthenics routine for you. This is suitable for anyone who hasn’t been physically-active for some time, and wants to build basic strength and technique.

Basic Exercises & Progressions

There are five basic calisthenics exercises that work all your major muscle groups. These exercises build the foundation for advanced calisthenic and parkour feats.

And, they are…

  • Push ups
  • Pull ups
  • Leg raises
  • Squats
  • Bridges

Each of these exercises has various progressions that have different levels of difficulty. For example, regular push ups are more challenging than wall push ups; full bridges are less easy to perform than straight bridges.

Adjusting the progression to your ability is the key to this routine. There’s no point in doing half-assed push ups with terrible form.

So, let’s take a look at the relevant progressions for this routine.

Exercise Progression Levels

The progression of each exercise is put in order of difficulty, from the most difficult to the easiest.

Because the guide is meant for newbies, the highest form of the exercise will be adjusted downwards. For instance, instead of designating handstand push ups as the highest progression, we’re using regular push ups.


Progression exercises for push ups

Push Up Progressions

No matter the progression, keep your hands at shoulder-width apart. And, control your movement. Don’t let your arms flare out sideways.

Regular Push Ups

Incline Push Up

Wall Push Up

Unlike this GIF, control your movement and keep your hands at shoulder-width apart. Your palms should not leave the wall.


Progression exercises for pull ups

Pull ups Progressions

Pull ups should not be done with kipping or bounce momentum. Keep your arms at shoulder-width apart.

Regular Pull Up

Horizontal Pulls (straight bent)

Horizontal Pulls (knees bent)


Progression exercises for squats

Squat Progressions

Full squat

Half squat

Half Wall Squat

 Assisted Squat


Progression exercises for leg raises

Leg Raise Progressions

The actual standard progression for the leg raise is actually hanging leg raises. However, to make this routine realistic for beginners, I’ve dropped the progression to flat straight leg raises. This is still challenging for the average person.

Flat straight leg raises [Standard Progression]

Flat bent leg raises

Flat knee raises

Knee Tucks


Progression exercises for bridges

Bridge Progressions

Al Kavadlo has covered the entire progression steps for Bridges in this video. However, for this routine, your highest progression is going to be straight bridges.

So, the relevant progressions are:

  • Straight bridge (highest progression)
  • Partial bridge (lowest progression)

Take The Test – Is the routine for you?

Before you get started, take this test to check if the routine is suitable for you. If you cannot complete the test in proper form, without use of momentum, this routine is for you.

Also, keep a record of how you did for the test. We’ll be using that score as a basis to improve your standard.

Test Standard

  • Standard Push Ups – 3 sets of 9 repetitions
  • Flat Leg Raises (aka. Lying Leg Raises) – 3 sets of 9 repetitions
  • Regular Pull Ups – 3 sets of 3 repetitions
  • Deep Squats – 3 sets of 9 repetitions
  • Straight Bridges – 3 sets of 9 repetitions

For full instructions on how to perform the exercises (and see easier versions of each exercise), check out the section above. 

If you’re unable to do an exercise, you fail. However, do try an easier version of it and record the number of repetitions you’ve performed.

In order to pass, you need to…

1. Maintain proper form throughout each exercise

You must perform all exercises with proper form. This means not arching your body when doing push ups, not kipping when performing pull ups, and so on.

All exercise movements must be controlled. You’re not allowed to use momentum, or bounces.

If you have to cheat to pass, you fail.

2. Limit your rest time between sets and breaks

Take no more than 2 minutes of rest between each set. And, no more than 4 minutes between each exercise. Anything more means failure.

Assuming you’ve failed, read on…

Calisthenics Routine for Physically-Inactive Beginners

Purpose

In thirty days, you are to improve your test standard. Bonus points, if you manage to pass, especially if you can’t already do pull ups. It usually takes more than 30 days to go from zero to 3 sets of three pull ups.

As long as you have a significant improvement from your previous score, good! You’ll be ready to undertake a higher standard calisthenics program for beginners.

Guidelines

Obviously, not everyone is beginning with the same ability and strength. So, here’s a simple rule…

Do your best to perform the standard form of the exercise. The moment you lose the correct form, drop to an easier progression of the exercise and continue.

For example, if you can no longer do standard push ups, do knee-supported push ups or inclined push ups. I’ve included a list of easy progressions in the previous section. Please refer to it.

Also, take 1 to 2 minutes break between each set of the same exercise. Take no more than three minutes to rest between different exercises.

Reduce your break times in the later weeks to make it more challenging.

Warm Up

Your warm up involves doing easier versions of the five exercises. So, whichever level of progression you’re at, drop one level when doing your warm ups.

For example, if you are able to do regular pull ups, do horizontal pulls as your warm up. Here’s the warm up plan. Again, the progression steps can be found in the previous section.

  • Jog/Run – 3 to 5 minutes
  • Push ups (drop one progression level) – 5 repetitions (2 sets)
  • Pull ups (drop one progression level) – Horizontal pulls 5 repetitions (2 sets) / Active hanging 15 secs (2 sets)
  • Leg raises (drop one progression level) – 5 repetitions (2 sets)
  • Squats (drop one progression level) – 5 repetitions (2 sets)
  • Bridges (drop one progression level) – 5 repetitions (2 sets)

The Routine

Pick the highest progression of each exercise that you can perform with proper form. At any moment you lose form, drop to an easier progression of the exercise, and continue.

For pull ups, it is acceptable to do halfway pull ups as an easier progression for full pull ups. So, for instance, if you find yourself struggling on your last pull up, just pull up as high as you can.

To reiterate, the highest progression for each exercise in this routine is as follows:

  • Standard Push Ups
  • Flat Leg Raises (aka. Lying Leg Raises)
  • Regular Pull Ups
  • Deep Squats
  • Straight Bridges

Week 1

Do this routine on Day 1, 3, 5 and 6.

  • Push ups – 3 sets of 6 repetitions
  • Leg raises – 3 sets of 6 repetitions
  • Pull ups – 3 sets of 3 repetitions (if it’s horizontal pulls aim for 3 sets of 6 repetitions)
  • Squats – 3 sets of 6 repetitions
  • Bridges – 3 sets of 6 repetitions

Rest on Day 2, 4 and 7.


Week 2

Same thing. But, we’re alternating the repetitions.

Do this routine on Day 1 and 4.

  • Push ups – 3 sets of 6 repetitions
  • Leg raises – 3 sets of 6 repetitions
  • Pull ups – 3 sets of 3 repetitions (if it’s horizontal pulls aim for 3 sets of 6 repetitions)
  • Squats – 3 sets of 6 repetitions
  • Bridges – 3 sets of 6 repetitions

Do this routine on Day 2 and 5.

  • Push ups – 3 sets of 9 repetitions
  • Leg raises – 3 sets of 9 repetitions
  • Pull ups – 3 sets of 3 repetitions (if it’s horizontal pulls aim for 3 sets of 6 repetitions)
  • Squats – 3 sets of 9 repetitions
  • Bridges – 3 sets of 9 repetitions

Rest on Day 3, 6 and 7.


Week 3

Same thing, except for pull ups. Increase repetitions. Halfway pulls are acceptable if you can no longer do full pull ups. Kipping is not acceptable.

Do this routine on Day 1, 2, 4 and 5.

  • Push ups – 3 sets of 9 repetitions
  • Leg raises – 3 sets of 9 repetitions
  • Pull ups – 3 sets of 6 repetitions (if it’s horizontal pulls aim for 3 sets of 9 repetitions)
  • Squats – 3 sets of 9 repetitions
  • Bridges – 3 sets of 9 repetitions

Rest on Day 3, 6 and 7.


Week 4

This week is a five-day week. The routine on Day 4 and 5 goes beyond the test standard to challenge your strength.

Do this routine on Day 1, 2 and 7.

  • Push ups – 3 sets of 9 repetitions
  • Leg raises – 3 sets of 9 repetitions
  • Pull ups – 3 sets of 3 repetitions (if it’s horizontal pulls aim for 3 sets of 9 repetitions)
  • Squats – 3 sets of 9 repetitions
  • Bridges – 3 sets of 9 repetitions

Do this routine on Day 4 and 5.

  • Push ups – 3 sets of 12 repetitions
  • Leg raises – 3 sets of 12 repetitions
  • Pull ups – 3 sets of 6 repetitions (if it’s horizontal pulls aim for 3 sets of 9 repetitions)
  • Squats – 3 sets of 12 repetitions
  • Bridges – 3 sets of 12 repetitions

Take Day 7 of Week 4 as your test. This time round, you need to complete your warm up before attempting the test.


Over to You!

Your goal is to improve your test standard within 30 days.  It doesn’t matter if you start the routine with easier versions of each exercise. What matters is that you’re building the proper calisthenics form and strength.

Moreover, since you’re beginning each session with the standard version of each exercise until you lose form, you’ll make big strides within the four weeks of training.

Ready? Set. Go!

Note: This calisthenics routine is inspired by the fundamentals in both ‘The Ultimate Guide to Calisthenics‘ and ‘Convict Conditioning’. To continue your training, I recommend the following ebook…

The Ultimate Guide to Calisthenics

The Ultimate Guide to Calisthenics

  • No guesswork involved. Step-by-step progression to the end!
  • Focuses on both fundamental exercises and skill-work
  • Stay injury-free

Start Training

About Logen Lanka 178 Articles
Logen is a the founder and editor of WayOfNinja.com. Before his shoulder injury, he was actively involved in street calisthenics, Aikido and obstacle course racing. He has also served his 2-years conscription with the Singapore Armed Forces as an Armoured Infantry Trooper.