Should you do Calisthenics BEFORE or AFTER Weights?

Confidently mix calisthenics and weight training the RIGHT way. Learn how to incorporate calisthenics before, after or during a weight training session based on your individual goals.

When to Train Calisthenics Before Weights

Like you, I was focused on weight training when I discovered calisthenics training on Instagram.

I knew it was something I wanted to get into as  I had been dreaming of doing cool gymnastics skills for as long as I could remember. Finally, I  discovered that I could learn calisthenics as an adult- an exciting realization that completely changed my life!

It was challenging to know WHEN to incorporate calisthenics into my training when I first started. Here are some things to keep in mind as you add calisthenics to your life.

middle-split-between-two-chairs

Sore Wrists?
The biggest hurdle to overcome when starting calisthenics is building up your wrist strength. Don’t worry – it most certainly can be done.

If you are a beginner in Calisthenics, start with training 5 – 10 minutes of any calisthenics movement at the start of your weight training session to slowly build up your wrist strength.

IMPORTANT
Warm-up your wrists. If you genuinely want to excel in calisthenics, perform bodyweight wrist exercises before weight training to:
1. Prep your wrists to handle your body weight
2. Improve your wrist mobility
3. Decrease risk of injury

You will find greater success in your training if you begin with a wrist warm-up. No one likes injuries – so don’t make the mistake of not warming up. If you do, you may get hurt and further delay your ability to achieve your goals.

wrist mobility for handstand push up

If you love weight training BUT….

There’s a skill you want to acquire, such as Handstands or Pistol Squats then simply incorporate 10 mins of working on that one skill, after your warm-up, but before your workout. Remember that the more you work on your skill the quicker you will achieve it.

**Handstands can be done at the start of any session*

balance a handstand for a handstand push up

Avoid This

If you wait until after your workout to train your skills (like handstands), you will be too fatigued to see any progress. To learn more about Beginner Handstand Training, click here. 

Just want to be more Athletic?

If you don’t have a skill in mind but you want to improve your overall athleticism and mobility, add in a mini calisthenics workouts for 5-20 minutes at the start of your session.

Need mini calisthenics workout ideas? 

Do the following calisthenics workouts before weight training:

Mini calisthenics workouts such as the ones listed above will improve your shoulder strength and stability, core connection, and overall body coordination to live an athletic, adventurous life.

Use Calisthenics Before Weights to Improve Your Lifts 

Calisthenic exercises can be used to prime your body for your weight training which results in:

  •  Improved range of motion
  • Improved muscle recruitment (utilization)
  • Increased core engagement
  • Better balance

Examples:
On Leg Day, perform 2-3 sets of extended ROM (Range of motion) deep squats facing a wall, pistol squats, or long lunges to prep your body for your main lift. 

On Chest Day, use Extended ROM Push-Ups or Scap Push-Ups to prepare your body for optimal muscular recruitment.

limited rom push up to make push ups easier

Adding in calisthenics as a warm-up is a great way to improve your flexibility and weight training.

When to Incorporate Calisthenics During Weight Training

If your goal is to increase muscle size while also improving your calisthenics strength then…

Superset your weighted exercises with bodyweight exercises using the same muscle group.  Aim to do this method for 2-3 of your main weighted exercises.

Example Superset: Tricep Pull Downs + Tricep Push-Ups. Choose a Calisthenic exercise that can do 12 – 15 reps successfully and focus on nailing that movement pattern.

*Remember, beginners need to improve their wrist strength, so take it easy by choosing an easier progression instead of loading your wrists to the absolute max with a challenging exercise selection*.

This method will significantly improve your muscle size while also strengthening your body for Calisthenics (if you work on the full range of motion and core control).

tricep pull downs
tricep push ups

*Remember, beginners need to improve their wrist strength, so take it easy by choosing an easier progression instead of loading your wrists to the absolute max with a challenging exercise selection*.

This method will significantly improve your muscle size while also strengthening your body for Calisthenics (if you work on the full range of motion and core control).

Incorporating Calisthenics for Busy People

Supersetting your main lifts with calisthenic exercises using a different muscle group is a great way to incorporate skills into your busy life.

This is one of my favourite methods that I’ve used for years. This works perfectly for people wanting to improve their athleticism and core strength who have limited time.
If you do lengthier weighted exercises such as 4-5 sets of heavy squats, you can incorporate calisthenics movements during your rest periods – provided they use a different muscle group. 

Note: Things can get a bit tricky in this category. If you truly only want to work on your leg size, then just take the full rest. 

This method is specifically for people who want to move towards calisthenics and performance-based goals. 

On leg day, I utilize the pull-up bar on the squat rack to perform hanging exercises such as pull-ups, toes to bars, scap pulls, or simply hanging in between squat sets. If you are feeling particularly adventurous, you can even try straight bar dips on top of your squat rack. 

For weighted push days, you can incorporate lots of core exercises as your supersets or even calisthenics legs such as pistol squats, middle split exercises or sissy squats. 

A prime example of building muscle, strength and mobility is my:
Pull and Middle Split Calisthenics Workout. I will show you how to work on pulling strength while utilizing our rest periods to improve our middle splits.

weighted leg day with calisthenics pull

Not sure what Calisthenics Exercise to choose between weighted sets?

When in doubt, perform core (not ab) exercises between sets. Take a look around you and choose a core exercise that work well in the area you are performing your weight session.

– Squats + Leg Hangs in a squat rack
– Bench + Dragonflies
– Dips + L-Sits

What About Weighted Calisthenics?

Add weights to the main calisthenics lifts to perform weighted calisthenics. This is an easy way to gain extreme strength with very few exercises.

Example: Weighted Dips, Weighted Pull-Ups

I wouldn’t say I like weighted Calisthenics…

For me, weighted calisthenics is just too much work. I would rather just increase the difficulty of the calisthenics exercises, which in turn increases my strength and skill level over time.

Example: Instead of doing regular pull-ups move to high pulls, L- Pulls or work towards muscle ups or front levers.

When to Train Calisthenics After a Workout

Finish your weighted sets with a bodyweight max out of the same muscle group to really fatigue the muscle. 

Example: Complete bench presses as usual then finish with high volume, full range of motion push-ups. My favourite is performing 10 push-ups every minute for 10 minutes. I start with my hardest push-up variation, then move towards the easiest variation to finish.

Another option is to end with a calisthenics exercise that aligns with your goals. 

My main calisthenics goals are all pushing-based. This means that I will do a burnout of push-ups on any given day to improve my overall pushing endurance/strength.

If your main goal is pulling-based, finish with an EMOM (every minute on the minute)  of Australian Pulls. Example: Ten (10) pulls every minute for 8 minutes.

What if you want to attain a high-level skill like Handstand Push-Ups?

If you want to achieve high-level calisthenics skills, I would advise you to redesign your workout routine to be primarily callisthenics-based. 

handstand push up girl

Calisthenics & Weights on Different Days

What if you just want to train weighted booty day and then perform calisthenics the rest of the time?

In that case, you can stick to your 2-3 days a week of legs, then train calisthenics upper body on your days off. 

Click here for a  FREE 3-days a week Calisthenics plan.

calisthenics girl bicep flex

So, after all that, should you train Calisthenics before or after Weights?

The answer is:
Decide on your goals, then incorporate calisthenics appropriately. Want to get better at calisthenics? Click here.