5 Simple Exercises – A Routine for Daily Calisthenics Training – Fitness Volt
There are several variables you need to consider when writing a workout plan. Once you’ve determined your training goal, you must choose a split, pick your exercises, put those exercises in the correct order, select a set and rep scheme, and allocate appropriate loads and interset rest times.
Invariably, your first draft won’t be perfect, so you’ll need to make changes on the fly, finetuning your workout until you’re 100% happy with it.
It’s no wonder some fitness professionals charge so much to design programs!
However, even the most well-designed workout routine is not worth the paper it’s written on if you don’t actually do it.
And that’s the rub, isn’t it?
You’ve got your gym membership, new workout, training shoes, lifting belt, knee sleeves, chalk, and all that other stuff you drag around in your gym bag. But, if you can’t get your butt in the gym and work out, you’ll never build muscle, get fit, or lose weight.
So, while variables like your training split, set and rep scheme, and exercise sequence ARE undeniably important, the most critical consideration for effective training is consistency, and consistency is KING!
In this article, we share an excuse-free calisthenic workout you can do at home. It’s designed to create an unbreakable exercise habit and make skipped workouts a thing of the past.
Use this workout when you are too busy to hit the gym or as an alternative to complicated, time-consuming gym-based programs.
Calisthenics for Excuse-Free Workouts
While there is nothing wrong with dumbbells, barbells, and machine-based strength training, you’ll need access to all this stuff if you want to use it. Of course, that usually means joining a gym.
Unfortunately, gym memberships can be expensive, and just getting to and from a gym can be time-consuming. When time is short, your workout will probably be the first casualty. After all, exercise is a leisure activity, and things like your job and family commitments will always take precedence.
While you could buy some equipment and build a home gym, this is not always practical; you’ll need enough space for your training equipment and the money to buy it.
The good news is that you can get a GREAT workout using just your body weight. In fact, the only equipment you really need is a pull-up/chin-up bar, which can be purchased very cheaply.
Calisthenics, or bodyweight training, has a long and storied history. The word calisthenics has its roots in ancient Greek and comes from the words for beauty and strength. Bodyweight workouts are the ultimate in fitness convenience, as you can do them almost anywhere and anytime.
And because you won’t have to travel to train, you should have no problem squeezing your workouts into even the busiest of schedules. With fewer barriers, sticking to your exercise routine should be a breeze.
But you’ll need to do more than a few push-ups a day to get fit, lose weight, or build muscle. Instead, you’ll need an effective but straightforward routine. And that’s where we come in.
In the next section, we share a simple yet powerful bodyweight workout program that always delivers excellent results!
The 5 Simple Exercises Routine – Overview
As its name implies, the 5 Simple Exercises Routine revolves around five basic calisthenic movements performed five days per week. You get weekends off for rest and recuperation.
The exercises are:
- Air squats
- Reverse lunges
- Hanging knee raises
However, rather than do the same number of sets and reps each day, you’ll do one set of four of the exercises and five sets of the other. This adds up to nine high-quality sets per week, which is more than enough to produce good results (1).
This is a form of daily undulating periodization, where the volume/intensity of your workouts varies from day to day. However, the exercises are sequenced in such a way that you do each one back-to-back, which makes for a very time-efficient workout. In fact, even if you take it easy, you should be finished in 15-20 minutes.
Here are your workout plans:
Focus exercise: Push-ups
|8||Hanging knee raises|
Focus exercise: Air squats
|6||Hanging leg raises|
Focus exercise: Pull-ups
|4||Hanging leg raises|
Focus exercise: Reverse lunges
|2||Hanging leg raises|
Focus exercise: Hanging leg raises
|1||Hanging leg raises|
|3||Hanging leg raises|
|5||Hanging leg raises|
|7||Hanging leg raises|
|9||Hanging leg raises|
How many reps?
The number of reps you perform depends on your current abilities and how you feel on any given day. So, for single sets, you do as many reps as possible (AMRAP), and for the five sets of your focus exercise, you do about 50-60% of your last AMRAP score.
For example, if you can do 25 push-ups in a single set, do five sets of 12 to 15 reps on your push-up focus day.
It’ll probably take you a week to get used to this program and zero in on the correct number of reps. That’s okay and no different from finetuning your weights for a gym-based workout. So long as you a) take your sets to within 1-3 reps of failure and b) strive to do more reps week by week, you WILL make progress!
As for rest periods, these, too, are based on how you feel. Move as quickly as you can between exercises but don’t feel you need to rush. Rest long enough that you can perform at your best, but don’t dawdle, either. You may need to rest longer between some exercises than others, e.g., after a leg exercise that leaves you feeling out of breath.
As you get fitter and more accustomed to the routine, you should find you can move more quickly between exercises and complete each program a little faster.
Related: Sets vs. Reps: Everything You Need to Know
The 5 Simple Exercises Routine – Exercise Instructions
One of the best ways to maximize the effectiveness of any workout is to perform each exercise with perfect form. This keeps the tension on the muscles you want to work and stress off your joints. So, not only will your workout be more productive, but it’ll also be safer.
While you may be familiar with the simple exercises in this program, review the instructions below to ensure you are performing them correctly.
Push-ups are the most widely performed exercise in the world, yet many people fail to do them properly. That’s a shame because a well-performed push-up is a thing of beauty! So make sure your push-ups are perfect – make your inner drill instructor proud!
- Place your hands on the floor roughly shoulder-width apart and your fingers pointing forward.
- Walk your feet out and back until your legs and body are straight. Brace your core, rotate your elbows in toward your sides to engage your lats, and pull your shoulders down and back.
- Bend your arms and lower your chest to within an inch of the floor.
- Push yourself back up and repeat.
- Do not allow your hips to lift or drop out of alignment at any time.
- Primary: Pectoralis major, deltoids, triceps.
- Secondary: Core.
- One of the best upper body exercises – period!
- Teaches you how to use your whole body in a coordinated, synergistic way.
- Can be modified and adapted for all levels of exerciser.
- Use push-up handles to increase your range of motion and take stress off your wrists.
- Bend your legs and rest on your knees to make this exercise easier.
- Raise your feet to put more weight on your arms and make push-ups more challenging.
2. Air squats
The bodyweight or air squat is a CrossFit staple. Working all your major lower body muscles, air squats are also great for hip and knee mobility and health. A high-rep set of air squats is very cardiovascularly demanding, so it’ll help improve your fitness and burn lots of calories, too.
- Stand with your feet roughly shoulder width apart, toes turned slightly outward.
- Brace your core and pull your shoulders back and down. Look straight ahead.
- Bend your legs and squat down until your thighs are roughly parallel to the floor. Do not round your lower back. Extend your arms in front of you for balance if required.
- Stand back up and repeat.
- Primary: Quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteus maximus.
- Secondary: Core, abductors, adductors.
- The undisputed king of lower body exercises.
- Highly functional.
- Great for improving knee and hip health and mobility.
- Raise your heels on a one-inch block for a more quads-centric workout.
- Use a wider stance to increase inner and outer thigh and hip engagement.
- Pause for 2-3 seconds at the bottom of each rep to make this exercise more challenging.
Pull-ups are probably the most challenging exercise in this workout routine. However, by doing one to five sets of pull-ups five days per week, it’s an exercise you’ll soon master. If you can’t do pull-ups, you can do inverted rows instead, which work the same muscles but involve lifting less of your body weight.
- Hang from your pull-up bar with an overhand, slightly wider than shoulder-width grip.
- Pull your shoulders back and down and brace your core. Bend your legs if necessary, so your feet are clear of the floor.
- Leading with your elbows, bend your arms and pull your chest up toward the bar.
- Extend your arms and lower yourself back down under control.
- That’s one rep – keep going!
- Primary: Latissimus dorsi, biceps, forearms.
- Secondary: Core.
- An excellent back and biceps builder.
- A good indicator of body weight.
- An effective way to stretch and decompress your spine.
- Start each rep from a dead hand – no swinging or kicking your legs.
- You can also do underhand grip chin-ups if you prefer.
- Use a resistance band for assistance if required, like this:
4. Reverse lunges
Working your posterior chain with simple bodyweight exercises is not always easy. Most effective movements for this region involve weights, e.g., deadlifts, kettlebell swings, reverse hypers, etc. Reverse lunges are more glute and hamstring-centric than forward lunges and are a great complementary exercise to air squats, which are more quads-dominant.
- Stand with your feet together and arms by your sides. Brace your core and look straight ahead.
- Take a step back, bend your legs, and lower your rearmost knee down to within an inch of the floor.
- Push off your back foot and bring your legs back together.
- Switch legs and repeat on the opposite side.
- Alternate legs for the duration of your set.
- Primary: Gluteus maximus, hamstrings, quadriceps.
- Secondary: Abductors, adductors.
- Good for identifying and fixing left-to-right strength imbalances.
- An excellent mobility and balance exercise.
- Provides an effective indirect cardiovascular workout.
- Lean forward slightly as you step back to increase glute and hamstring engagement.
- Start each rep standing on a two to four-inch platform to increase your range of motion and the difficulty of this exercise.
- Do this exercise next to a wall or handrail for balance if required.
5. Hanging knee raises
With so many bodyweight core exercises to choose from, it can be hard to decide which one to do. However, most are too easy to deliver much of a core strengthening effect. Hanging leg raises are much more challenging and effective, which is how they made it into this workout program.
- Hang from your pull-up bar with your arms, legs, and body straight.
- Brace your core, bend your legs, and pull your knees up to at least level with your hips. Tilt the bottom of your pelvis forward to maximize abs engagement.
- Lower your legs and repeat.
- Primary: Rectus abdominus, transverse abdominus, hip flexors.
- Secondary: Obliques, forearms.
- A challenging and effective core exercise.
- An excellent way to strengthen your grip.
- Provides a useful way to stretch and decompress your spine.
- Use chalk or lifting straps to reinforce your grip.
- Progress to straight legs if your abs are strong enough.
- You can also do this exercise sat on the end of a bench for a similar but easier workout:
Simple Exercises Routine – FAQs
Do you have a question about this workout routine or any of the exercises in it? No worries because we’ve got the answers!
1. Is it safe to do the same exercises every day? What about recovery?
While it’s generally accepted that muscles take 48-72 hours to recover from a workout, that’s only true when you do intense bodybuilding-style workouts consisting of several exercises and multiple sets per muscle group
Simple bodyweight exercises are much less taxing, and providing you keep the volume relatively low, you should have no problem recovering from one workout to the next. In fact, you are only doing one hard training session per exercise per week, and the workouts themselves are very short.
So, rather than being dangerous or difficult to recover from, you should find that daily workouts lead to quicker improvements in your fitness and strength, plus you’ll master the exercises and become more proficient at doing them.
2. Can I change the exercises?
You can, and we actually encourage you to do so! Doing the same exercises daily could become boring, so use variations to keep your workouts fresh and interesting. For example, you could rotate between push-ups, decline push-ups, deficit push-ups, paused push-ups, and diamond push-ups.
While so much variation will make it a little harder to manage your rep count, provided you take each set to within 1-3 reps of failure, it will have the desired results.
3. How can I work some cardio into this routine?
The best cardio options for home exercisers are those you can either do at home or start and finish at home. This avoids having to travel for your workout, e.g., driving to the gym to ride an exercise bike, which is a colossal waste of time.
So, good cardio options that complement this workout routine include:
Try to accumulate a minimum of 10,000 steps (or the equivalent) per day for your fitness and health.
4. Are push-ups and pull-ups enough to build bigger arms?
While push-ups are predominately a chest exercise and pull-ups mainly work your upper back, both also involve your arms. Push-ups hit your triceps, while pull-ups also work your biceps.
In fact, your arms will probably fail before your bigger chest and back muscles when you do these exercises.
As such, push-ups and pull-ups have the potential to help, you build bigger arms.
That said, if more muscular arms are one of your training goals, you may want to finish your workouts with a couple of sets for your biceps and triceps. For example, you could do a biceps and triceps workout 2-3 times per week or train your biceps one day and your triceps the next.
However, avoid the temptation to do lots of direct arm training. Too much could lead to overtraining and interfere with your pull-up and push-up performance. That would be unfortunate given how productive these exercises are.
5. What is the best way to warm up for this workout
One of the great things about bodyweight exercises is how joint-friendly they tend to be. As such, you won’t need a long, in-depth warm-up before your workouts. However, you should still spend 5-10 minutes preparing your muscles and joints for what you’re about to do. This will not only reduce your risk of injury but also improve your performance, leading to a better workout.
Start with five minutes of easy cardio followed by dynamic mobility and flexibility exercises for your main muscles and joints. Finish your warm-up with one sub-maximal set (e.g., 50% of your normal reps) of each exercise. After that, you should be good to go!
6. Is 20-30 minutes of exercise per day enough for weight loss and fat burning?
Weight loss and fat burning have more to do with your diet than your workout plan. It’s much easier to eat less than it is to exercise more. Providing you have a sufficient caloric deficit, your body will have no choice but to burn fat for fuel. Adding exercise into the mix merely increases your energy expenditure and raises that deficit.
If you aren’t losing weight with 20-30 minutes of exercise per day, the chances are that you are still consuming too many calories. Adjust your diet to create a large calorie deficit. More exercise is not always the best way to lose weight, as it’s seldom sustainable.
The 5 Simple Exercises Routine probably sounds too easy to be effective. After all, most workouts are much longer and harder, right? However, those workouts are also much more difficult to do consistently, and sticking to them requires cast-iron willpower, motivation, and lots and lots of time.
And that’s the problem, isn’t it?
For any workout to be effective, you actually have to do it. Not just for a week or a month, but for as long as it takes to get and stay in shape.
In other words, forever!
And that’s where following a simple, convenient workout comes up trumps. With fewer barriers to participation, you’ll start completing more workouts than you miss, and that’s what will give you the results you want.
Simple, frequent workouts will always produce better progress than complicated workouts you hardly ever do.
So, if you are fed up with starting workout programs you can’t stick to, try doing something so straightforward that it’s excuse-proof. Don’t let the power of simplicity fool you. It WILL deliver results.
- Baz-Valle E, Fontes-Villalba M, Santos-Concejero J. Total Number of Sets as a Training Volume Quantification Method for Muscle Hypertrophy: A Systematic Review. J Strength Cond Res. 2021 Mar 1;35(3):870-878. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000002776. PMID: 30063555. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30063555/