The average gym membership costs around $50/month (there’s a wide discrepancy between the high-end and the cheaper gyms). Add initiation, equipment and maintenance fees, class and travel costs, and you’re looking at no less than $700 – $800 a year. Every. Single. Year.
Wouldn’t it be great if you could spend that money and have a fully functional gym that meets all your muscle-building, fat-shredding needs, AND YOU DON’T HAVE TO SHARE EQUIPMENT WITH THE SMELLY DUDE? (No offense if you happen to be Captain Smell-o)
I know you’re saying “there’s no way I can outfit my home gym with enough plates and dumbbells to do anything of value for $700 – $800.”
Allow me to introduce you to my friend (and soon to be yours): Calisthenics.
Whether as your primary training method, or a fantastic morning routine, bodyweight training can build an amazing physique with minimal equipment, space, and, best of all, money.
Calisthenics training requires you and systems that assist you in using your body as your training weight.
This guide will show you how to outfit your home gym with the best calisthenics equipment.
Must-Have Home Calisthenics Equipment
You’ve made the decision to include calisthenics in your workouts and now you’re wanting the best equipment to set yourself and your home gym up for success.
I know that scouring the internet can leave you cross-eyed from all the options and opinions you’ll find. Fear not, I’ve done the work, complete with blood, sweat, and a few tears, to bring to you the most comprehensive guide to building a killer calisthenics home gym.
Before getting started on the details, just know that there are a few ‘must-haves’ for your home gym when it comes to calisthenics equipment:
Now, without further ado, pull up, hang in, and let’s get to the in’s and out’s of all things calisthenic!
I’m almost 100% certain that we’ve all had a run-in with a pull-up bar during our childhoods. Grown-up pull-up bars are relatively straightforward pieces of home gym equipment, it’s a bar and you…pull up on it.
Pull-up bars have grown up, as many of us have, and come in a variety of options:
- Doorway: These simple, inexpensive bars extend the length of a standard door frame.
- Mounted: This pull-up bar will bolt into either a wall or ceiling. This version is one of the most stable types of pull-up bars. They can vary in price from less than $50 to upwards of $250.
- Freestanding tower: Tall, freestanding systems that can also offer options for workouts beyond pull-ups. However, these guys do take up a bit of space, so if you’re short on room, pick another option.
- In-ground: Permanent pull-up bar that is set in the ground outdoors. (This option is most reminiscent of the playground days).
Pull-up bars are great for developing a strong, muscular back, arms, and shoulders. Simple variations in grip and form can help to strengthen your core, as well as improve your overall aerobic capacity, flexibility, and mobility.
With a pull-up bar you can perform:
- Pull-ups, chin-ups, and neutral grip pull-ups
- Climber pull-ups
- Negative pull-ups
- Dead hangs
- Windshield wipers
- Hanging leg/knee raises
- Hanging reverse shoulder shrugs
As with all pieces of gym equipment, you’ll have some pros and a few cons. Here’s our run-down on pull-up bars:
- You can isolate specific muscle groups with a simple grip change
- Space-saving (doorway and mounted) and budget-friendly (doorway, mounted, DIY in-ground)
- Stable platform for pulling exercises
- Restricted range of motion. The arms and joints have to follow a predetermined path of movement set by the bar, which can lead to injury and joint pain.
- Freestanding towers can take up a large amount of floor space and be expensive.
If you’re in the market for a good pull-up bar, our top picks are:
- Doorway: ProSource Fit Multi-Grip Pull-Up Bar
- Mounted: Rep Fitness Wall or Ceiling Mount Pull-up Bar This bar tops our list of mounted pull-up bars with its 500-pound weight capacity, 11-gauge, powder-coated steel, and comfortable, multiple grips.
- Freestanding: Popsport Freestanding Pull-Up Station
- In-ground: You can purchase a kit to be installed by a professional, like Kompan or simply follow this DIY and install your own outdoor pull-up bar
Let’s talk about dip bars, and I don’t mean multiple rounds of queso at the local cantina (although it is amazing). Dip bars are a staple piece in your home gym for calisthenics.
Dip bars, much like the pull-up bar, can come in a wide variety of options:
- Mounted: This dip bar permanently bolts into the wall, which adds to overall stability.
- Rack-mounted: Dip bars that attach to a standing rack system, like a power rack or squat rack
- Freestanding: can be a single unit with two dip arms or two separate bars that can be adjusted to your needed width.
Dip bars are great for working the shoulders, arms, back, chest, and core. By simply adjusting the angle of the body, type of grip, and direction of push or pull, you can also greatly increase your core strength, flexibility, mobility, and aerobic capacity. Overall, they’re a pretty well-rounded piece of calisthenic gym equipment.
A few of the many exercises you can execute on the dip bars are:
- Static holds
- Dips of all varieties
- Negative dips
- Incline push-ups
- Inverted rows
- Knee and leg raises
As with pull-up bars (and really all exercise equipment), there are pros and cons to using dip bars:
- Easy to set up
- Allow for a wide variety of exercises to be performed (and a wide variety of muscles to be used!)
- Great for beginners when building strength and stability
- Can be a bit cumbersome and space-hogging
- Are a little higher in price point than other equipment pieces
- Freestanding versions can be a bit wobbly if you aren’t smooth in your movements (which you should be, by the way)
Our top picks for dip bars are:
- Mounted: OneFitWonder Wall-Mount Dip Station These dip bars top our list for a number of reasons. They’re relatively small and can be folded either up or down after use to save space. The bars are made of 14-gauge steel that can support up to 600 pounds. The tapered design allows you to adjust your grip to better target specific muscle groups.
- Rack-mounted: Rogue Monster Lite Matador
- Freestanding: ProSource Dip Station
Not to sound like Buddy the Elf, but I just love rings. Rings are my favorite!
Gymnastic rings are one of the most underrated pieces of equipment when training calisthenics. Rings offer endless possibilities when it comes to exercise options, muscle groups worked, and a host of golden perks that make them a staple in your home calisthenics equipment.
In fact, you can easily make the argument that gymnastic rings are the only piece of equipment you need for calisthenics training.
Gym rings can work just about every muscle in your body, depending on how you use them (though, they are primarily for upper body work). Of course, you could go with a suspension trainer, but you’ll get a far better and more well-rounded workout with a sturdy set of rings.
A few of the exercises you can perform on the gymnastic rings are:
- Stationary holds
- Inverted rows
- Ring push-ups
- Hanging leg/knee raises
- Ring planks
- Ring roll-outs
- SO. MUCH. MORE.
Even though rings have an amazing range of benefits, there are a few drawbacks to this calisthenics staple. Here are the pros and cons of gymnastic rings:
- Versatility: the training exercises are endless!
- Portability: on the go? TAKE YOUR RINGS WITH YOU!
- Easy to set up and maintain: There’s nothing easier than tossing your rings over a rafter, basketball hoop, or even a tree limb. Maintenance is a breeze, all you have to do is wipe them down post-workout.
- Efficient: There’s no faster way to build impressive strength than with a set of gymnastic rings
- FUN: Gym rings are fun! You can be as creative as you’d like with a set of these guys.
- Gym ring training takes time, there’s no instant gratification (if we’re being honest though, no workout program delivers that!)
- Rings are HARD: You have to possess a bit of strength and body control to begin a ring training program. However, you can scale the workouts to just about any fitness level.
- Lack of leg workouts: There are some bodyweight exercises that can be done with a set of rings, but nothing that compares to barbell squats and deadlifts.
- Joint injuries: Ring routines can be tough on the shoulders, wrists, and hands. Especially if done without proper form.
My gold medal winners for rings are:
- Rogue Gymnastic rings The 1.25 in steel rings were one of the very first products manufactured by Rogue in 2006 and still sit high upon their sales list today. The powder coated rings are great for outdoor use without worrying about corrosion or rot and will last as long as you do!
- Rep Fitness Wood Rings
Nice-to-Have Home Calisthenics Equipment
Now that you’ve seen the must-haves, let’s talk shop about ancillary equipment. No, you don’t have to include any of the following equipment in your calisthenics repertoire, but they can definitely be nice to have.
Think of it like this: the must-haves are the ice cream in the sundae and these guys are the sprinkles and whipped cream.
Parallettes are small, portable, parallel bars that are a great piece of equipment for anyone who may have wrist issues or experience discomfort while performing handstands or push-ups. They’re also great for those just starting with bodyweight training and can provide a sound segue into the more complicated movements performed on the dip bars or gymnastic rings.
Exercises you can perform are:
- Planche holds
We’ve actually got a detailed list breaking down the best parallettes, but here’s the best of the bunch:
Ab wheel / Ab roller
The ab roller is a great piece of equipment that can be used to strengthen your core. Although there are only a handful of exercises you can do with an ab wheel, they’re effective for those just starting out with bodyweight workouts and calisthenics pros.
Exercises that can be performed with an ab roller are:
- Ab wheel plank
- Knee roll-outs
- V roll-outs
- Knee tucks
- Plank to pike
- Oblique tucks
- Front roll-outs with various stances
I recommend the following ab wheel:
There are times when you find that your bodyweight exercises just aren’t hard enough (it’s a common problem when you’re dropping those extra pounds!). Enter the weighted vest or ankle weights.
Weight vests can vary in weight, usually from 20-50 pounds. Ankle weights can be found as low as one pound and upwards of twenty pounds.
When adding weight to your calisthenics training, make sure you’re only adding to stable exercises (say “NO” to weighted ring dips!). A few exercises that can benefit from added weight are:
- Dips (NOT ON RINGS)
- Squats/Jump squats
My go-to weight vest is:
Forget about Gucci belts, dip belts are where it’s at!
You can hang as much weight as your heart desires without it feeling cumbersome and awkward. A dip belt can allow you to add extra weight to a number of your bodyweight exercises without a weight vest.
A few exercises you can do with the dip belt are:
- Weighted dips
- Weighted pull-ups
- Weighted elevated push-ups
- Weighted elevated squats
My favorite dip belt is:
If you want to step up your stability game, add a stability/Swiss/balance ball!
A stability ball will take your workouts up a notch by increasing the challenge and decreasing stability. Have you ever tried to do a push-up on an unstable surface? Grab a Swiss ball and give it a try!
Just a few of the exercises you can up the challenge level by adding a stability ball are:
- Hamstring curls
- Plank to pike
For a good stability ball, I suggest:
Jump rope or speed rope
You know the value of cardiac endurance and there’s no better way to increase that aspect of your fitness game than with a simple jump rope or speed rope.
There’s really no need to explain how these work, you’ve likely seen it for yourself if you’ve had a jump-off with a kid!
I prefer to jump into fitness with:
Useful Accessories to Go With Your Home Calisthenics Equipment
We all need accessories, right? You wouldn’t buy a new belt and leave the matching shoes, would you? Just me? Alright, I’ll take it. (It’s not my fault your belt doesn’t match your shoes.)
All kidding aside, there are a few items that can make calisthenics that much better.
I sweat and do so profusely. You’ve probably seen cross-fitters and powerlifters using chalk like it’s going out of style.
Don’t judge too harshly, chalk is your friend. It can increase your grip strength and keep your hands from becoming too slippery, especially when gripping the pull-up bar, dip bars, or rings during a heavy workout.
Chalk can be found in powder or liquid form. Personally, I prefer liquid chalk. It’s less messy and more portable.
My go-to grip fixer is:
Resistance bands are great, versatile pieces of calisthenics gym equipment that can be used for practically anything from warm-ups and stretching to assistance to adding resistance to an exercise.
Resistance bands come in a variety of sizes and thicknesses.
Long resistance bands can be tethered to a bar and used for exercises like rows. Thicker, shorter resistance bands can be used to assist in bodyweight exercises by looping the band over the bar and keeping the knees or feet within the band while executing exercises like pull-ups and dips.
My top pick for resistance bands are:
If you haven’t ever used grip training equipment, there’s a high chance that your grip strength is beneath where it should be. Increasing your hand strength will increase your ability to properly perform pull-ups, dips, and a host of other bodyweight exercises.
I recommend the following to bring your grip game up to par:
Gloves, pads, or grips
Gloves, grips, and pads can protect your hands from calluses (to an extent) and ripping from repetitive, heavy friction. I don’t recommend exclusively working out with gloves, grips, or pads, as you won’t fully develop proper grip or a level of conditioning on your hands.
Gloves can actually impede progress in calisthenics, but should still be a part of your arsenal and used if a hand injury, like a ripped callus, would prevent you from being able to train.
If I need a set of grips, I use:
A foam roller is a simple foam cylinder that can be used to massage your muscles before and after your calisthenics workout. Foam rollers can help to relax muscles and release knots.
Foam rollers come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and materials.
My go-to foam roller is:
Does Calisthenics Require Equipment for a Great Workout?
Calisthenics doesn’t require equipment to have a great workout. Handstands, push-ups, and other pushing exercises, however, do not constitute a full training program. (And what is a training regiment if it isn’t complete?) Eventually, you’ll need to add in some equipment to be able to perform pulling exercises in addition to the pushing calisthenics, or you’ll stagnate on your progress to your dream physique.
Can You Build Muscle with Only Calisthenics?
Bodyweight training can create an amazing physique and build lean muscle mass. No, you aren’t going to look like Big Ramy (he’s the 2020 Mr. Olympia, in case you didn’t know), but you can build a great, natural-looking body with calisthenics.
Muscle is built with resistance. Your mind does not differentiate in how resistance is applied, only that your body is under pressure and it has to produce enough force from your muscles to overcome that pressure.
So, it honestly doesn’t matter if that resistance comes from plates and dumbbells or your own bodyweight. Resistance is resistance.
Yes, it is easy to increase resistance with plates and barbells, but in calisthenics, all you have to do is change the angle! Are push-ups too easy? Change the angle of your body to increase resistance. Dips no longer challenging? Add a simple belt, or, better yet, attempt dips on the rings!
Although it may take a bit longer to progress and be harder to quantify, bodyweight training can, and will, yield great results in the realm of building lean, strong muscle.
Can I Do Calisthenics At Home?
You can do calisthenics just about anywhere! See that tree in your backyard? Throw your rings over the limb and, VOILA!, get to training! Taking the kids to the park? Pull-ups on the monkey bars, it is. Stuck in a hotel? Hit the floor and give me twenty push-ups.
One of the best things about calisthenics is the ability to perform a vast majority of the pushing exercises without anything but your body and your willpower. Pulling exercises can be performed with a set of handy, dandy gymnastic rings in just about any setting with an anchor.
The environment doesn’t inhibit the ability to do calisthenics!
Final Thoughts: Home Calisthenics Equipment
Calisthenics has proven itself an asset to a well-rounded fitness program. It’s safe, effective, versatile, and honestly inexpensive.
Hopefully, I’ve given you an idea as to what a killer home calisthenics gym consists of and ended your search for that holy grail.