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 is probably the most essential calisthenics piece of equipment. It’s the only equipment required for one of the pillar exercises 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, 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 the muscle up because I had no roof above me, which is not possible with a regular pull up bar. That’s the beauty of calisthenics: As long as you’re creative enough, there are no excuses not to workout.
But of course, not everyone can have this type of bar at home because it takes up a lot of space and you need to have some sort of backyard to do so. 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.
Even though I don’t find them as comfortable to workout out with, they have an advantage: Convenience. You can place it in your room’s doorframe, 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 workouts and stretch after long computer sessions. 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. Meaning they’re a a lot harder to use, but you get an additional training effect compared to training with dumbbells or with a bar.
I am of the opinion that you should integrate ring training in your routine as soon as possible. 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 you to have a full range of motion (ROM) on exercises like the handstand pushups and put much less strain on your wrists. 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, 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 be 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. 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 essential but can help you overcome certain difficulties, help you progress on your skillwork, or just have more fun with your workouts.
While I’m usually against using gloves during your workouts, there are some case where you just have to use them. 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 with 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:
Jumping Ropes is one of the most effective and accessible cardio exercise there is. They are ideal to warm-up before any type of marcial art or workout. You can do them pretty mch anywhere and all you need is a piece of rope. Rocky Approved!
It also helps your coordination, speed, 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 can 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” by using Dip Belts and Weighted Vests.
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.
Obviously, these are not for beginners. But once you feel like pull ups or dips are becoming too easy for you and can do more than 10-12 reps with ease and with proper form, it’s time to step up your game.
This type of training, was used centuries ago by the roman empire. They used swords and shields 3 times heavier than normal during their trainings, so that when the real battles came, normal swords and shields felt 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.
The Ab Wheel
I usually do most my ab exercises hanging from the bar because I’ve found them 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 all 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.
A Power Tower as Calisthenics Equipment
If you’re one of those that prefers to buy an all-in-one package, check out Power Towers. If you ever find me in a gym, you’ll see me hogging the powe rack 90% of the time as they have everything you need for a full calisthenic workout. A pull-up bar, handles for dips, and some even have back support to do the “Captain’s Chair” exercise. So if you’re thinking about making a home gym, make sure you have a power tower on top of your shopping list or a squat rack like this one.
So there you have it. You can get most of the equipment listed here on amazon or ebay. 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!