How to Make a Calisthenics Workout Plan

Hi! I am the author and founder of Old School Calisthenic

July 15, 2016

Creating your workout routines sounds simple but most people find it to be extremely difficult because they always have to keep track of them in a journal.

Most people don’t have a clear-cut action plan to achieve their results. It’s like being blindfolded and trying to reach your destination!!

That’s why everyone needs a workout plan, thus the importance of an agenda is:

  1. It actually helps you stick to it. You may find it to be a hurdle in the beginning but a good workout plan soon becomes a habit
  2. It helps you measure progress. This makes you feel like all the effort you are putting in is worth something
  3. It creates time efficiency and gives you goals to shoot for
  4. It allows you to focus on the bodyparts you want to develop and is customizable according to your body composition

I am a former swimmer. I was lucky enough to have an amazing coach from whom I learned that success comes when you train with discipline and by a schedule. Too many people think hard work is necessary for success. They don’t understand that hard work leads to success only when it is done according to a smartly designed schedule.

A good training program or a workout routine when faithfully followed over a long period of time can actually give you incredible results. It’s the only difference between those who make it and those who don’t. Nevertheless, all your results will be compromised entirely if these principles are not religiously respected:

  • sleep at least 8 hours every night
  • follow a nutritionally-balanced diet that will make you more performance ready
  • reduce the amount of alcohol to a consumption of maximum a glass of wine, or a beer per day
  • don’t skip breakfast, lunch and dinner. Make these meals a priority and focus more on eating clean
  • train even when you don’t feel energized and even when the weather gets worse just because your schedule says it
  • entirely remove junk food, fast-food products, sodas, sweets and food sources containing high amount of animal fats as well as added sugars (table sugar)
  • and maybe the most important one: decide what exactly your goal is.

Respecting the principles above, then everything depends on a good workout plan that has to be developed around a person’s capabilities, age, goals, time availability, etc.

Let’s now talk about how to create one for yourself that is specifically tailored to your capabilities and needs:

1. Determine your situation

Find out how much time you can devote to exercise. Be it 2 hours everyday or just 30 minutes everyday. Whatever your time commitment is, developing the most efficient workout is essential. Why spend 2 hours if you can get a vigorous workout in just 1 hour?

Set your goal based on how you look. Some of you will have to lose weight while others will have to build muscle. Eventually we all want to look pretty muscular, but one step after the other. Until you have a skinny physique with a relatively low body fat percentage it is not useful to start training for building pure mass. Because you can’t have visible abs without having a low bodyfat percentage. All the pure muscle will be hidden under the stored fat.

how to make a workout plan

For instance, I gradually added mass starting from around 72 kilos (left picture below) to almost 90 (the last black & white picture). I kept my body fat percentage pretty low so I can see my muscle definition. Unfortunately I’ve seen a lot of guys that are pretty fat (left guy above), or at least skinny-fat that killed themselves in the gym to build mass. They looked quite the same even after years of doing the same training schedule. They are obviously doing something wrong regarding nutrition, lifestyle aspects and training protocol.

This is why I recommend you shoot for goals such as mine, to become skinny first, and secodly, to build mass. The goal you will set for yourself will determine the actions you will take. Those actions will determine the outcome of your aesthetic results.

how to make a workout plan

If you don’t have any basic strength, then don’t just rush into lifting weights or to the closest machine to work your biceps only because you don’t yet have the strength to complete a single pullup. Instead, you should approach this with upmost awareness and start working gradually with a beginner calisthenics program, like I have to offer for free on my website. If that is not the case, then focus more on aerobic training like skipping the rope, jogging/running, sprinting to ensure you will lose the extra weight.

Clean up your nutrition and learn how to eat properly to be efficient during training sessions. Then make a training schedule based on what you can do, not based on what you cannot. If you can’t master your own bodyweight because you are overweight, then focus on running and jumping the rope to lose the excess. However, if you can do basic bodyweight exercises then focus on doing circuits training as well as classic sets & reps.

2. Design Your Weekly Workout Plan

My number one recommendation for you will be to focus on calisthenics mostly and leave the machine work aside. Although I consider that some exercises such as deadlifts or bench press can be useful for building strength and muscle, I still think that the majority of your gains should come from bodyweight training. It is the most natural and least harmful way of training; besides that, it can also be a powerful tool to develop a truly strong body.

That leaves you with choosing the exercises to work with:

  • You should choose a few variations of fundamental exercises like pushups, pull-ups, dips, squats, leg raises, jumps, sprints etc. Perform a few variations of each and you will work every single muscle in your body, like diamond pushups, wide pushups, and dips. Other variations would be wide pullups, chinups, and horizontal pull-ups.
  • Create a training schedule with these exercises. The methods you can use to arrange them are various, from full body circuits, to pyramid style and back to classic sets & reps. It doesn’t matter how as long as you know what are you training for.
  • If you can’t train based on my calisthenics programs, then focus on aerobic workouts. This will leave you with several choices: swim, play sports etc. Or you can go for absolutely free fitness activities such as: running, jogging, sprinting and skipping the rope. Design a training schedule based on them for at least 3-4 times a week.
    One day you can jog for 25-40 minutes while another you can run at higher intensity for 30 minutes and finish with a couple of 50 meters sprints. And when you get sore from running, then it will be a perfect time to practice the jump rope. A training session of skipping the rope for 10 sets of 1-2 minutes will greatly boost your vascularity.

You can try pyramid sets, drop-sets, supersets and circuit training to bring variety in your training routine according to your abilities. For more suggested routines visit our YouTube channel.

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We cannot stress the importance of a training journal in a single article. Let it be said that if you want to progress with your training for a long time then keeping a proper training journal is of paramount importance to you. In a few words a training journal helps you with learning, provides information for analysis, and helps with tracking progress.

Follow this example about how you should create your workout routines:

Monday: pullups -> dips -> pushups -> leg raises
Tuesday: jump rope -> squats -> sprints
: dips -> pushups
Thursday: squats -> leg raises
Friday: pullups -> pushups

Monday: dips -> pushups -> leg raises
Tuesday: pullups 
: sprints -> jump rope -> squats
Thursday: dips -> pushups
Friday: pullups -> leg raises

Monday: pullups -> dips -> pushups -> leg raises
Tuesday: sprints -> squats
Wednesday: rest day
Thursday: pullups -> dips -> pushups -> leg raises

Monday: run 30 minutes
Tuesday: skip the rope for 10-15 sets
Wednesday: jog 25-40 minutes
Thursday: do a great warm-up with 10 mins of jogging. Then do 4-5 sprints of both 100 and 50 meters

What to write in a journal or agenda?

  • The weekly workouts
  • Total reps and sets performed.
  • How you felt during and after workout.
  • Notes on any pain, difficulty or discomfort felt during any particular movement.
  • Hours of sleep, nutritional intake, anything else that you found related to training.
  • What is the best part of your workout and what you disliked!
  • Set goals for the next week.

No matter what you are doing for health and fitness, writing a journal is a valuable tool that will help you remember details and accelerate your progress.

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