The Essential Calisthenics Equipment For Your Home Gym
We all know that you don’t need any equipment to start with calisthenics. But if you want to get into some advanced movements or learn some new skills, you’re going to need some specialized calisthenics equipment.
I’ve been doing calisthenics for 6 years now, and bellow I’ve compiled a list of all the calisthenics equipment I’ve found to be the most essential to my training and muscle development. If you’re tired of having to go to the gym every day and want to build your own personal home gym make sure you get the items on this list.
Let’s start with most important one by far:
Pull-up bars are the key calisthenics equipment. It’s the only equipment required for the pillar exercise of calisthenics: The Pull-Up.
And the best part? You don’t even have to buy a specialized pull-up bar to do it, all you need is a place to hang.
When I first started calisthenics 6 years ago, I had no pull-up bar to start with. So, instead of buying one, I grabbed a piece of old rusty metal tube from my garage and placed it between two trees in my backyard. It worked perfectly and it even allowed me to practice my muscle ups because I had no roof above me. Something that’s impossible with a regular home pull-up bar.
And six years later, it’s still standing there.
But of course, not everyone can have this type of bar at home because it takes a lot of space and you need to have some sort of backyard to do this.
So what most people get is a standard home pull-up bar.
This piece of equipment is great because it’s more than enough to do most types of pull-ups and takes almost no space inside your house.
I own two of theses: A pull-up bar screwed in a doorway, and a portable one. They’re even superior in one way comparing to the outdoor pull-up bar – You can place it your room’s door, and everytime you enter your room, you get a reminder to work out. It may seem like nothing, but it has helped me remain consistent with my workout routines for years.
Here are the exact ones I use (excluding the rusty pipe):
Gym Rings/ Gymnastic Rings
People don’t usually consider gymnastic rings an essential equipment for calisthenics. Mostly because it’s a lot harder to do a simple pull-up in a ring, than it is in a bar.
The freedom of movement of the rings means that your muscles have to compensate for instability in all directions during training. Thus, it’s a lot harder to use, but you get an additional training effect compared to training with dumbbells or with a bar.
But I am of the opinion that you should integrate ring training in your routine as soon as you can do at least 5-6 pull-ups. That way you’re getting a much more complete workout and most importantly, you’re getting your muscles used to that instability and type of practice. I only picked up ring training later in my calisthenic journey and I regret it immensely.
It brings a lot more variety into your workouts and helps you target muscles that you never targeted before, giving you that extra burn and muscle growth.
If you usually work out with just a bar, and you think you’ve mastered the muscle up, go and try to do it on the rings. When I first tried the rings I could do 10 strict muscle ups on a bar, and guess how many in the rings? Zero.
It requires a very different movement, a totally different type of grip (the false grip) and puts much more emphasis on your muscle stabilization.
And they’re pretty small and easy to carry! The overall consensus is that the wooden rings are the best ones to grip, the only downside being that you can’t let them stay outside in the rain.
Parallettes and Parallel Bars
Parallels deserve to be on top of the essential calisthenic equipment list. Like the rings, they add a whole new world of different variations that you can try.
But their main advantage is that they allow to have full range of motion (ROM) on your handstand pushups. If you practice your handstand pushups on the floor you’ll never be able to have a full ROM because your head will hit the floor before you achieve full ROM. But by elevating yourself with parallettes you have enough space to complete a full pushup. Thus, making your handstand pushups much more effective (and harder) on your shoulders.
But that’s not all. By using paralletes, your handstands will stress your wrists a lot less comparing to a normal handstand on the ground. So if you’re having trouble with the pain on your wrists while practicing your handstands, give paralletes a try and you’ll see that it’ll a lot easier on your wrists.
While both serve the same purpose, the high version is more suitable for exercises like Dips, and the low version is better for handstands and handstand pushups. The reason is obvious: Try falling down paralletes vs high parallete bars and you’ll notice the difference.
And there are also different versions of the material: premium parallettes have a wooden handle, which allows an optimal grip even with sweaty hands and is ergonomically adapted to the hand.
It is very important that the paralletes don’t wobble and that they maintain firm footing, both indoors and outdoors. Always be safe and don’t put yourself in danger when there’s absolutely no need to.
I’m currently using my good old metal paralletes, but I’m planning on making the change for wooden paralletes very soon.
So those are my top 3 essentials. Next, we have the calisthenics equipment that’s not properly essential but that can help you overcome certain difficulties, help you progress on your skillwork, or just have overral more fun with your exercises.
While I’m usually against using gloves during your workouts, simply because it helps making your hands stronger and much more resilient. But there are sometimes that you really have to use gloves. After some hard workouts you hands may fail before the rest of your body, and wearing some gloves can help you get some extra work before you’re completely exhausted. Another reason is when the surface that you’re gripping is way too though to handle, for example, if you’re doing pull-ups hanging from a wall or when your bar is rusty.
I have several pairs (most of them destroyed), and recently wrote an article about them.
Pull-Up Bands/ Resistance Bands
If you’re having trouble progressing a specific exercise, a resistence band may help you overcome a plateau. The bands take away some of your body weight depending on the strength you use, so you’re able to do more reps while maintain good form.
But they can also be used as the exact opposite: As an additional resistance (for exercises such as push-ups, dips, squats, etc) if some exercises are already too easy for you.
Resistance Bands are also a perfect calisthenics equipment for warming up as well as for stretching and for mobility exercises.
Resistance bands are available in different strengths – depending on the desired resistance or desired support.
Check them out here:
For me, Jumping Ropes is one of the most effective and accessible cardio exercise there is. They are ideal for warm-up to do before any type of marcial art or workout. You can do it anywhere and you just need a piece of rope to do it. Rocky Approves!
It also helps your coordination, speed and strength and burns calories like crazy.
Very few exercises burn calories like jump rope. Research shows that even jumping at a very moderate rate can burn up to 10 to 16 calories a minute.
A good jump rope should have non-slip handles so you always have a good grip even with sweaty hands. In addition, if you’re starting to get serious with it, it should have a fast rotating ball joint and an adjustable rope length.
You can find some proper ones here, or if you just want to start right now grab a piece of rope!
Dip Belts/ Weight Vest
If pull-ups and dips are a piece of cake to you and you want an extra challenge, consider getting into the so-called “weighted calisthenics”, meaning: Calisthenics with additional weight, there are dip belt and weight vests.
Check out Ben Affleck using a dip belt here:
Dip belts are placed around the waist and loaded with additional weights and they usually have an adjustable chain that can be adapted to the required length, like you see in the video.
Obviously, this is not a calisthenics equipment for beginners. When you reach and intermediate/advanced level consider getting one of these if you want to have the best back workout of your life.
This type of training, was used centuries ago by the roman empire. They used swords and shields 3 times heavier than the normal during their trainings, so that when the real battles came, the normal swords and shields were like feathers to them. The same mentality is applied here.
When you can do pull-ups with an extra 90lbs/40kg on top of you, regular pull-ups will be nothing to you.
Check out these chains like Ben Affleck uses on his movie “Batman versus Superman” and the some weight vests:
The Ab Wheel
I usually do most my ab exercises hanging from the bar because I’ve found to be much more effective for me than any other type of exercise done on the ground. Except for one.
Ab Rollouts with an ab wheel.
This exercise will completely destroy your abs if you’re not used to it. And the only calisthenics equipment you need is a simple ab wheel. It’s a great exercise if you can’t do any hanging exercise yet or simply want to change things up a little. And if you think the regular version is hard, wait until you try the standing ab rollout.
You can even use a pair of dumbbell to do it, but this one is my favorite.
A Power Tower as Calisthenics Equipment
If you’re one of those person that prefers to buy a all-in-one package, check out Power Towers. If you ever find me in a gym, you’ll see me using this 80% of the time.
Most of them have everything you need for a full calisthenic workout. A pull-up bar, parallels, and some even have back support to do the “Captain’s Chair” exercise.
So you’re thinking about making a home gym, make sure you have a power tower on top of your shopping list.
You can also get a simple squat rack like this one instead of a power tower, most of them have a pull-up bar on top, and they honestly look better than power towers.
So there you have it.
These are all the essential calisthenics equipment you’ll need to get an awesome body and muscle development with just calisthenics. Make sure you check out the best fitness supplements section and our workouts so you can start putting that equipment to some good use!