The Question:

There are no weights, and no real machines around. Your only option for a workout is calisthenics.

What is the best calisthenics routine to improve strength and physique?

What kind of methods can be followed to get the best out of a calisthenics workout?

Bonus Question: What are the best calisthenic programs you can do in a hotel room? Give your best routine!

Show off your knowledge to the world!

The Winners:

  1. Squats View Profile
  2. DSM18 View Profile

1st Place - Squats

When there is no weight and no machines around, you have to be creative with what you do to help build muscle and get a nice physique. It's pretty tough to get a good physique and build mass without weights, but you can use resistance. A lot of various exercises with body weight can be enough or you could get someone to apply pressure and resistance to help increase better stimulation of the muscles.

You can also just use their whole body on certain exercises you are strong on. And if you can, invest in bands if you're traveling or just got nothing else to workout with.



  • Push ups

    This is a good exercise to build your upper body with. It works your pectorals, triceps, and anterior deltoid. For this exercise work up to high rep range and then add weight.

    Say someone could only do 12 body weight push-ups, well then they shouldn't add weight and work on getting the rep ranges up. Then start to add weight gradually with some standing next to you pushing down on your back (lightly or hard depending on strength).

  • Chest Dip

    This is another good exercise to develop and strengthen the pectorals, triceps and anterior deltoids. Most people will not have any equipment as seen in the demonstration above.

    You can easily use two couches put together or two chairs together. Be creative with whatever you have, and make sure you are safe doing it. A bad setup can lead to instant injury, so be careful with how you set this up.

  • Incline Push ups

    I don't have a movie to show you how to perform this, but I will explain it the best I can so you can understand. Perform a regular push up and then elevate your feet with a bench, bed, chair, etc. This will target more of the upper pectorals and developing those.


  • Chin-ups

    This is one of the best mass builders for the back. It develops the lats well, more so than most exercises, and can really build a nice back. Find a place were you can do these safely that is sturdy. If you can do these for a high amount of rep ranges then get someone to push down on your shoulders standing on a chair.

  • Underhand Chin-ups

    This is the same exercise just with a different grip. Most feel more comfortable doing the underhand grip. You will be able to lift more when you do these, so use resistance if needed.

  • Hyperextensions

    This exercise is good to strengthen the lower back. Another way to perform this exercise is on the edge of a bed or chair with someone holding your feet so you're solid in place and won't fall. Make sure you do this exercise safely; injury can happen if you fall.


  • Squats

    Now for this exercise you don't need to do weight. Go all the way deep and back up and when you need resistance, get a friend or someone to hold your shoulders and apply pressure downward. This is great for developing the quadriceps.

  • Sissy Squats

    This is another great exercise to develop the quadriceps. Be careful with this exercise and grab a hold of a sturdy structure to help support you through the movement. Most of the time you won't need this weighted, but if you do have a friend apply pressure to your shoulders.

  • Lunges

    This is a good exercise for developing the quadriceps. Just focus on getting low on this exercise and high repetition sets. It is hard to add weight, unless you want someone to sit on your shoulders.

  • Split Single Leg Squats

    This exercise is good without weight, great developer of the quadriceps. It is one of my favorites. You can put your leg up on a chair, step and anything you can find that is sturdy and safe.

  • Glute-Ham Raise

    This exercise is really good for developing the hamstrings. You will need someone strong to support you on this exercise, basically like a hyperextension, but you curl your leg when you go up.

  • Straight-Leg Deadlift

    This exercise is a little more difficult. You will probably need to add some resistance with it when performing it. Always keep your lower back straight through this whole movement. Apply pressure to the shoulders and do it safely.


  • Neck Exercises


  • Upside-down Shoulder Press

    Stand up against a wall and do a handstand, have someone spot you when you do this. Then bend your arms to a 90º angle or until your head touches the ground.


  • Chin-ups

    This hits the biceps as well, good mass builder that some don't realize.


  • Bench Dips

    Basic exercise that builds the triceps. Good for mass and strength. Set-up two chairs and do dips, add resistance to shoulders if needed.


  • Crunches

    Just a basic crunch is all you need to work your abdominals.


  • Calf Raises

    Do calf raises on a step or block that is sturdy.

The Routine

3 sets, to failure
+ 8 more exercises


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Hotel Training

For a lot of people traveling, they usually stop at most modern hotels. Most new hotels now include a little gym area with some free weights or a machine or just some cardiovascular equipment. Well depending on what you got determines what you'll do.

If you have no gym at the hotel you're at or there is not a local gym you could go and pay a small fee to workout at for a day you would do the basic exercises listed above. You will have all the equipment there except for the chin-ups.

If you do have access to a hotel gym with some dumbbells and barbells or a machine to work with, just do the basics. Most of the time there will be a free weight bench where you would do most exercises. You could even perform a full-body workout with all the equipment easily.

2nd Place - DSM18

What Is The Best Calisthenics Workout?

Not everyone has access to weight training equipment, but not all hope should be lost. Bodyweight exercises are an excellent substitute, giving you a quick muscle burn. Because there aren't a lot of bodyweight exercises in existence, it's important to get as much variety in your calisthenics workout as you can.

If you want run of the mill results, then just do push-ups, squats and crunches, but if you want to get the absolute most out of your workout, it's necessary to delve deeper into each exercise, and each variation of that exercise to ensure you are training as much like you were at the gym as you can.

Here are a selection bodyweight exercises and why they are useful, followed by an effective sample weekly calisthenics training program.




This body part has the most bodyweight movement. Be sure to maximize this.


Feet positioning: Feet facing forward will emphasize on your outer quads, giving you that highly sought after "outer sweep", whereas pointing your feet outwards will hit the inner areas of the rectus fermosis.

Similarly, a close foot stance will hit the outer portion, whereas a wider one will better hit the inner quads. Only apply these to squats (and leg extensions), not lunges and step ups.

Pushing off your forefoot will better work the quads, whereas pushing off the heels will tend to hit the glutes, particularly the gluteus minimus.



  • Traditional Squats
  • Hack Squats: This is a good exercise for hitting the front sweep of your quads and developing the tear drop, or lower quad area above the knee. If you do it right, the upper part of your quads can get a good workout as well.
  • Wall Squats: These are squats done against a wall. These are good as they allow you to squat deep, and your knees always remain behind your feet which protects the knees from potential damage. This exercise responds well to static holds - it's an idea to pause each 1/4 of the movement and hold for up to 30 seconds, and increase gradually when you've built up the strength.


These are great for a line of separation between the quads and hams on the outer leg. These can be done with either a short or long stride; the shorter you step, the more the quads you will recruit, but too close will stress the knees (when your lunging knee overrides the same legs feet). The longer the step the more the glutes are recruited.

Variations Of Lunges

  • Alternating Lunges, Non Alternating Lunges: Lunges with your front foot elevated onto a block. (You can use a stool instead). Alternatively, you can elevate your back leg onto the platform, and lunge this way for a nice stretch.
  • Side Lunges: These will hit the quads and adductor muscles on the inner thigh.
  • Crossover Lunges: These are done by starting in a normal lunging stance, then instead of lunging directly forward, lunge to the side and over your opposite leg. These more isolate the glutes. Make sure your front leg is forward enough so you can comfortably bend the back leg down.
  • Step Ups. You can do these with a stool, or anything that is stable, non damageable and around 16-inches high. Make sure it is safe. The higher the platform, the more difficult the exercise is. These are similar to lunges, so the total volume of each doesn't need to be that high.

Like Lunges, a longer stride will hit the glutes, anything in between both and close will hit the quads. And remember, pushing off the heels will hit the glutes; the forefoot will better work the quads.


  • Height of the platform.
  • The angle to which you are stepping. Try side step-ups, and also back step-ups, where you step backwards onto a platform, instead of ahead.




Glute/Ham Raise

This can be done with any exercise as a means of adding resistance. A lot of bodyweight exercises are difficult to do a small amount of reps to failure, so only get someone to add pressure when you're confident you need to.

Stiff-Leg Deadlifts

I recommend they kneel down, rather than sit, because they need to get onto their feet if their arms aren't long enough.

Variations Of Stiff-Leg Deadlifts

  • Semi-Stiff Leg Deadlifts: Varying both feet positioning and stance.



  • Make the most of your feet direction and stance.
  • Feet close and pointing forward will target the outer head.
  • Feet far apart and pointing out will target the inner head.
  • Also, when doing any calf raise, you can press off either the smaller toes, or the bigger toes. The bigger toe will hit the inner head, the smaller toes will hit the outer head better. Try and do each, close/medium/far ETC. one for each set for better isolation of each head. Many have said this technique has helped them overcome plateau.


One-Legged Calf Raises

These are an ideal exercise because the balancing required to do them makes it more difficult. The more the bodyweight exercise, the better.

Donkey Calf Raises

These are great to hit the upper calf, and due to the stretch, they are the best calf exercises in existence.

Reverse Calf Raises

Often neglected, this exercise targets the tibialis anterior muscle and adds thickness to the calf from both a front and side view.

Seated Calf Raises

These can be done on any chair. Like standing calf movements, still use the plank. These are great because you use your own arm strength as resistance by pushing against your quads.

Calf raises can also be done in either incline or decline fashion. To do this lean forward and hold onto something. This exercise will focus on the upper half of the movement.

Or you can lean against a wall with your legs straight, and out in front of you. This will have the opposite affect, and focus on the bottom half of the movement. It's really important to use a block under the feet here to maximize the strength on the way down.



Push Ups

Great for the chest, but also the triceps and delts.

Push Up Tips: Placing your hands lower will recruit more of the lower fibers of the pec. major, and the higher you place your hands, the higher on the chest it will work. If you go all the way up to your face, this will hit the traps. The wider your arms are placed, the more outer chest is recruited, the closer, the more inner chest.

Push Up Variations

  • On knuckles.
  • Clapping in between each repetition.
  • Using one arm, with the other placed behind the back.

Incline Push Ups

These can be done on a chair.

Decline Push Ups

Consider the steepness of the incline or decline. Depending on the steepness will work higher or lower on the chest.

Chest Dips

These can be done in between chairs or two pieces of furniture such as a bedside table. Make sure they are stable and safe. Don't lock your shoulders in to maximize chest recruitment, and lean forward.



Lying Torso Raise

These are excellent for lower back and upper glutes. To intensify this exercise, you can hold for 2-5 seconds.


You can use the end of your bed here. Try and go past parallel, but not by too much.

Bent-Knee Deadlifts

Like stiff-leg deadlifts, get someone to apply pressure. This is a max out exercise, so make sure they apply a lot of force so you can get the most out of it.


If you don't have a chin-up bar, find something stable, and comfortable to grab hold of. Ideas include the railing of a pogola in the backyard, the top part of a side-gate, play equipment at the park, any pole or even a strong branch above you. I have done chin-ups and pull ups on all of these before. Chin-ups are a great upper lat builder.

Chin-Up Tips: A wide grip will hit the upper lats, and the closer the grip, the more the lower lats are recruited.

If you tuck your elbows in this will not only make the exercise more difficult, but will hit the upper lats, where as keeping your elbows out will take away from the lats and focus on the traps.

Chin-Up Variations:
  • One arm.
  • Behind the neck.


Push ups and dips will indirectly hit the delts. There is an exercise to isolate the delts, but it takes time to have the strength to do it.


Hand Stand Military Push-Ups

These are done in a hand stand position, easiest with your back against a wall for balance. Push your body down until your head just touches the ground. These will really blow up your anterior and mid delts and with a wide grip will also target the posterior delts.



Pull Ups

A shoulder width grip will better work the bi's. Many people I know swear by this exercise as an awesome bicep mass builder, so give it a go.




These can be done in-between two chairs. Be sure to lock your shoulders in to avoid recruiting chest muscles. Go all the way down until your bum touches the ground.

Dip Tips: Facing your palms away from you will hit the hard to reach small head located near the elbow.

Decline Close Grip Push Ups

Lock your shoulders in, and position your arms at your lower chest for an ultimate tricep exercise. You'll be surprised how difficult it is. Feel the burn!


Some Examples Of Exercises

  • Crunches
  • V-ups
  • Twisting crunch
  • Scissor kicks
  • Lying leg raises

Another way to intensify your ab training is to keep your arms extended above your head. To make it less intense, cross your hands over your shoulders, with elbows facing up, or for easiest way to do them, cross your arms over your chest.

Sample Training Program

Due to the nature of bodyweight exercises, setting a rep range isn't necessary.

There are 3 workouts, do them on alternating days and do cardio on days off for 30 minutes a session.


  • Squats: 3 sets, maximum reps
  • Hack Squat: 1 set, maximum reps
  • Wall Squats: 2 sets, maximum reps
  • Lunges: (1 set with front leg elevated, 1 set with back leg elevated) 4 sets total
  • Side Lunges: 2 sets, maximum reps
  • Step ups: (utilizing stride length) 3 sets, maximum reps
  • Stiff-Leg Deadlifts: (don't do these if you are alone) 3 sets, maximum reps
  • One-legged calf raises: 2 sets, maximum reps
  • Donkey Calf Raises: 2 sets, maximum reps
  • Reverse Calf Raises: 2 sets, maximum reps
  • Seated Calf Raises: 3 sets, maximum reps


  • Chin-ups: (wide grip for 2 sets, medium for one set, narrow for one set) 4 sets, maximum reps
  • Handstand Military Push-ups: (Only do these if you are confident you can) 3-5 sets, maximum reps
  • Glute/Ham raises: 3 sets, maximum reps
  • Tricep Dips: 3 sets, maximum reps
  • Decline Close Grip Push-ups: 2 sets, maximum reps
  • Hyperextensions: 2 sets, maximum reps
  • Lying Torso Raises: 2 sets, maximum reps.


  • Flat Push-ups: 2 sets, maximum reps
  • Incline Push-ups: 2 sets, maximum reps
  • Decline Push-ups: 2 sets, maximum reps
  • Chest Dips: 3 sets, maximum reps
  • Pull-ups: 4 sets, maximum reps


  • Crunches: 3 sets, maximum reps
  • Scissor Kicks: 3 sets, maximum reps
  • Twisting crunches: 3 sets, maximum reps
  • Lying Leg Raises: 3 sets, maximum reps

Bonus Question

What are the best callisthenic programs you can do in a hotel room? Give your best routine!

The above program is perfect to use when on holidays, and in a hotel room. The best thing about it is that it can be done almost anywhere. You can utilize the bed to aid with hyperextensions, hopefully there are two chairs available to do dips on, if not lock the doors and move both bed side tables together and use them.

Be creative, there's usually a way around things, such as an alternative. If you're a regular trainer at the gym, be positive and open about your experience with training in this new way, don't be negative. The gym is only way you can keep in shape.

If there is a gym at the hotel, by all means use it. Continue with your program you were on at home if time allows for it and the equipment is similar to what your gym has. If not, look for alternatives. When I was on holiday earlier this year there was a gym around, but I didn't throw the towel in, I continued to train using bodyweight exercises and actually enjoyed the change. So, if you're positive, you will find a way to make whatever your doing work for you.

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