Is Calisthenics Good For Weight Loss? (Exercises + Workout Plan)

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Workout routines for losing weight can vary a lot. Find out whether calisthenics is good for weight loss, what exercises to do, and an example workout.

To lose weight and more specifically fat, you need to get to a point where your body uses up more energy than is coming in from the things you eat.

Calisthenics can help with this by increasing your energy usage during the workout with more intense movements and after the workout by building muscle mass.

In simpler words, calisthenics is good for weight loss in the sense that it helps.

For resistance training beginners it can even be a great option since these people can still build a nice amount of muscle mass with calisthenics exercises.

Additionally, one of the benefits of calisthenics is that you don’t really need any equipment. You can do many moves at home.

That being said, over time, calisthenics exercises alone may not be enough for optimal muscle growth results. At that point, other exercise alternatives likely become more effective than calisthenics for losing weight and fat.

Can calisthenics help you lose weight?

The first thing to note is that calisthenics can help you lose weight but there are conditions.

Additionally, if you build muscle and lose fat at the same time, the number on the scale may not move that much even though you are getting healthier.

These quick notes aside, if you want to lose weight, you have to make it so your body requires more energy than is coming in from food.

At this point, you start using up energy stores like body fat to get the energy your body still needs.

Calisthenics help in this process in two main ways.

First of all, calisthenics exercises are more intense than most standard daily activities. In turn, they also burn more energy (aka calories).

Secondly, doing the right calisthenics workouts can help you build muscle mass. This extra weight makes it so your body uses up more energy throughout the day.

At the same time, your habits in lifestyle areas like your diet still need to be good enough to see weight loss results from doing calisthenics.

man seeing results with calisthenics exercises

Calories burned in calisthenics vs other workouts

By now it should be clear that calisthenics exercises can help you lose weight and fat. However, since you only have a certain amount of time to work out, this is not the only detail that matters.

How calisthenics compares to other workouts in terms of burning calories will also influence your choice.

Before going to the rough estimations below, you need to know that these are far from perfect.

First of all, different calisthenics exercises can vary a lot in terms of how many calories they burn.

Secondly, the estimations are for during the calisthenics workouts. Any extra calorie burning and weight loss results you get from building muscle mass are not included.

With these things in mind, here are some rough estimations of how many calories a 155-pound (70 kg) person will burn while doing certain activities for 30 minutes (1, 2):

  • Calisthenics (light effort): 103 calories
  • Calisthenics (moderate): 139 calories
  • Calisthenics (vigorous): 293 calories
  • Water Aerobics: 144 calories
  • Stretching (Hatha Yoga): 144 calories
  • Walking 4 mph: 175 calories
  • Stair Step Machine (general): 216 calories
  • Swimming (general): 216 calories
  • Rowing, Stationary (moderate): 252 calories
  • Bicycling, Stationary (moderate): 252 calories
  • Elliptical Trainer (general): 324 calories
  • Running 5 mph: 288 calories
  • Jumping rope (fast): 421 calories

The first thing that stands out is that your choice of calisthenics exercises will influence how many calories you burn during the workout a lot.

Besides that, you can see that calisthenics are typically not that great for burning many calories and losing weight during the workout.

This is somewhat logical for resistance training exercises but something to keep in mind.

Is calisthenics good for building muscle?

Calisthenics exercises are often resistance training movements which means their main goal is growing and strengthening muscles.

This is an important point because how much you weigh influences how many calories you burn throughout the day a lot.

Because calisthenics can be good for building muscle, especially for beginners, a lot of the weight loss effects of calisthenics come from this area.

Calisthenics is typically not as good as lifting weights for building muscle but enough to compensate at least somewhat for the low number of calories you burn.

The result of this is that calisthenics can still be decent/good for fat loss in the long term.

woman doing lunges as calisthenics exercise

Can you lose belly fat with calisthenics?

There is a common myth that you have to do certain workouts to lose belly fat specifically.

Unfortunately, it is generally not possible to choose from what areas you lose fat. Even if you choose calisthenics core exercises like crunches.

That being said, it is still possible to lose belly fat.

To do this, you have to lose enough weight overall. As time goes on, your body will start using more and more of the fat around your stomach.

That means you can lose belly fat with calisthenics but you don’t necessarily only target this area. Additionally, the same weight loss principles from above still apply.

How long should you do calisthenics to lose weight?

By now you know that calisthenics can help you lose weight. After that, it is only normal that you want to know how long you should do these types of workouts to get results.

There are two ways to approach this.

First of all, you can use the calorie-burning estimations from above to get a rough idea of how many minutes of calisthenics you should do to lose a pound.

A 155-pound (70kg) person would have to do 755 minutes of moderate-effort calisthenics like pushups to burn 3500 calories, the number of calories in one pound (0.45 kg) of body fat.

Whether these calories actually come from body fat or other sources depends a lot on your lifestyle habits in other areas.

Secondly, you can look at how long you should do calisthenics to lose weight in terms of what an optimal workout and good exercise frequencies are.

While you can find an example beginner calisthenics workout for weight loss below, it is worth mentioning that you typically want to focus on the muscle growth rep and set ranges.

That means around 3 to 6 sets of 6 to 50 repetitions with a calisthenics exercise that is challenging enough.

What calisthenics exercises burn the most fat?

Calisthenics is basically an entire category of multiple bodyweight exercises. Some of these will be better for burning fat than others.

First of all, there are the calisthenics exercises that can help you build a nice amount of muscle mass to burn fat in the long term. Some examples include:

Additionally, you can also consider more cardiovascular-focused calisthenics exercises for burning a lot of calories during the workout. Some examples include:

Your choice of calisthenics exercises will depend on your specific fat-burning goals and personal preferences.

Bulgarian Split Squats How To Do, Risks,...

Example beginner calisthenics workout for weight loss

You may be unsure how to fit all the movements above into your weight loss routine. If that is the case, you can start with this beginner-friendly calisthenics workout below.

  • 2 minutes of jumping jacks at a moderate pace to warm up
  • 6 to 50 pike pushups to failure (potentially against a wall if needed)
  • 6 to 50 inverted rows to failure
  • 6 to 50 jump squats to failure
  • 6 to 50 pushups to failure
  • 3 minutes of rest by walking around
  • Repeat starting at the pike pushups for 3 to 6 sets

If needed, you can also take a one-minute break in between each of the exercises in the superset.

The calisthenics workout above focuses on building muscle mass. For cardiovascular calisthenics workouts for weight loss, the guidelines are not as precise.

Is calisthenics a good workout choice for fat loss?

Calisthenics is not the most effective option out there but it can still be a good choice for fat loss.

Especially if you are a resistance training beginner that can still build a lot of muscle mass with bodyweight exercises.

One of the advantages of calisthenics is that the equipment requirements are very low. You can do most of the exercises without any equipment or with only a few calisthenics equipment options.

This makes it a budget-friendly and busy-schedule-friendly addition to your weight loss workout.

On the flip side, you need to keep in mind that your muscle growth results from calisthenics will go down over time if you don’t add extra resistance.

When this is the case, there are many exercise options that are more effective than calisthenics for fat loss.

Additionally, keep in mind that your habits in other lifestyle areas like nutrition need to be good enough to see fat loss results from doing calisthenics or other workouts.

Does calisthenics burn more fat than weights?

Lifting weights is one of the most straightforward alternatives to calisthenics so you likely want to know which one is more effective for losing weight.

The answer is that lifting weights will typically burn more fat than resistance training calisthenics exercises. Both in the short and long term.

Moving more weight requires more energy from your body and allows you to build more muscle mass.

One downside of weights to keep in mind is that you need more equipment. That means either investing more or spending time and money on going to the gym.

Does calisthenics burn more fat than cardio?

It is hard to say anything general about whether resistance training calisthenics exercises or cardio will burn more fat. Partly because the results can vary a lot from individual to individual.

A resistance training beginner can likely build a nice amount of muscle mass with only short calisthenics workouts. This can result in a nice amount of long-term fat burning for small amounts of time and effort.

In a situation like that, it could be possible that calisthenics burns more fat than spending the same time on cardio.

On the other hand, as time goes on, this person will start to see smaller muscle growth results from calisthenics.

At some point, cardio likely becomes a better choice than calisthenics for burning a lot of fat.

That being said, you likely want to implement both calisthenics (or weights) and cardiovascular workouts in your weight loss routine.

The extra muscle mass you build also makes your cardiovascular workouts burn more fat.

Calisthenics weight loss transformation example

On top of the helpful information above, you may want to see what can happen if you actually implement more calisthenics in your routine.

In the video below, you can find the calisthenics weight loss transformation of a Youtube named Rich Vai as an example to get motivated and see what is possible.

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Matt Claes founded Weight Loss Made Practical to help people get in shape and stay there after losing 37 pounds and learning the best of the best about weight loss, health, and longevity for over 4 years. Over these years he has become an expert in nutrition, exercise, and other physical health aspects.