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Burning Calories with Calisthenics

Man sweating at the gym from a hard calisthenics workout

Burning Calories with Calisthenics

If you are considering what the best ways to drop a few pounds might be, hold up for a second before rushing out to buy that $100 pair of running shoes.

Done in the right way, burning calories with calisthenics may turn out to be a much more effective and rewarding approach to weight control than hours on a treadmill or the pavement—especially in the long run.

Anyone who is serious about finding the best ways to drop a few pounds and build more lean muscle in their attempts at achieving beast-mode may want to consider this—high-volume and/or interval and continuous calisthenics training.

This is a kind of intensive training that can be tweaked to burn calories like you probably never imagined. Aside from that it gets you in top shape conditioning-wise and builds lean, functional muscle with great mobility that all has great carry-over into everyday life.

Adapting Calisthenics for Calorie-Burning and Metabolic Conditioning

Let’s consider for a second just how calorie burning works without getting too scientific. However many ways there are to approach the task of burning calories for the purpose of weight control with exercise, in simple terms we need to understand one thing— there needs to be a significant gulf between the energy consumed from food and that used and generated in training.

The more this is understood, the easier it is to metabolize consumed and stored calories. Simply put, you need to train long enough and with enough intensity to use up the calorie intake firstly from your last meal and then from stored energy reserves. This is true regardless of the type of exercise undertaken.

Intermittent fasting works well with this approach as you are going straight for the stored energy reserves when trained in a fasted state—i.e. when you wake up—which means more efficient metabolization.


  • Frequency will be a major factor in a routine largely aimed at impacting the weight in any way. Try setting the level to be both in line with current goals yet realistic and achievable to begin with—build the right habits and mental approach for training longevity and exercise patience when necessary
  • Consider high rep routines and/or continuous work/circuits/HIIT-style approaches
  • Challenge the body in different ways—use multiple exercise variations in the routine instead of maintaining the same position as with jogging or skipping
  • Go for exercises that bring the whole body into play as much as possible like burpees
  • Keep rest as minimal as current levels of conditioning allow to ramp up and keep ramped up that metabolizing for the duration of the session and afterward
  • Pay attention to how much you are sweating (you should be wringing those spent calories from your gym shirt if you’ve really done the work)

Calisthenics versus Weights for Calorie-Burning

We’ve already touched on the fact that the key components of any successful exercise and weight control program, namely frequency, consistency, and intensity, are likely to be more important than the actual type of exercise itself.

That said—it’s obvious that with ongoing and advancing calisthenics training the rep range will likely end up through the roof at some point (beginners should be aiming for a base point of 100 reps from which to do some real work, whether in sets & reps, or otherwise). This is through the roof at least for the average gym dude looking to add more plates than reps to his workout.

When comparing different exercises for weight loss it is apparent that the various levels of resistance employed will affect other factors aside from just numbers. Duration, difficulty (form-wise), and recovery will also be impacted.

With advancing training volumes and the frequent diversification possible through calisthenics, fitness levels will elevate considerably. This will also impact the calorie-burning effectiveness of the body positively from a metabolic perspective as endurance levels rise.

Both weights and calisthenics are useful tools for exercise and weight management, and much of it comes down to individual goals and preferences. Studies have shown though that the more aerobic the training is, the more optimal it becomes as the chosen exercise type for body mass reduction.

Resistance training alone, however, is shown to be more in line with increasing lean mass in overweight individuals. So there is strong evidence to support the idea that bodyweight training may be more beneficial for calorie-burning than anything likely to be achieved with weights (unless working with light loads).

The logic here is that you can keep going for longer using only the body weight and less recovery is generally required. This can be taken up with the combined aerobic ethos of continuous work (or at least minimal rest periods) leading to increased cardiovascular output (cardio).

The counter might be that by adding more weight and thus requiring more strength you are using more energy—thus burning more calories anyway. The obvious downside is that you are likely to need increasingly more rest between sets as the weight increases and the risk of compromised form and injury also rises.

Sample Calorie-Burning Calisthenic Routines:


  • Jumping Jacks (4-count) x 10
  • Mountain climbers (4-count) x 10
  • Burpees x 10
  • Crab walks x 10
  • Ab bicycles (4-count) x 10


Level 1: Move from one exercise to the next without resting if possible using a pace that allows you to keep form. Try to complete 2-3 rounds with a 1-2 minute rest between rounds.

Level 2: With a stopwatch, work the exercises for 30 seconds each followed by 15 seconds of rest. Try to work at a pace that will allow you to continue for the duration even if only just. Rest for 1-2 mins and repeat 2-3 times

Level 3: With a stopwatch, work the exercises for 45 seconds each, followed by 15 seconds of rest. Rest for 1-2 mins between rounds and shoot for 5 rounds in all.



Consider training on an empty stomach and/or implementing intermittent fasting in conjunction with your program for accelerated results. This will work best when adopted as a continuous, normal procedure, and you should find that your body adapts and maybe works better this way once the initial adaptations are done.

Reduce or ditch any pre-workouts likely to contain high levels of sugar in various forms—stick to zero-calorie drinks like black coffee, green tea (which both support thermogenic processes), and water before training in order to get the metabolizing of stored energy reserves going from the offset.

Some other Great Calisthenics Exercises for Burning Calories Include:

Jumping Jacks, Mountain Climbers, Burpees, Jump Squats, Hindu Squats, Split Jump Lunges/Walking Lunges, Break-Dancers, Crab Walks, and Bear Crawls.



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