You NEED to do these 7 things to get Better at Calisthenics

These easy tips to get better at calisthenics will help you reach your calisthenics goals FAST while avoiding plateauing.

Let’s build some serious calisthenics strength together.

Push-ups and pull-ups are common calisthenics bodyweight exercises. But, if you’re anything like me, you may be wondering:

“How do I build the strength to go from knees push-up to handstand push-ups (HSPU)?”

After today’s quick calisthenics lesson, you will confidently know how to adjust calisthenics exercises to make them easier – or more challenging to gain strength and skills FAST (with less frustration, hopefully). 

Hi, Calisthenics girl @summerfunfitness here! I am a self-taught calisthenic athlete with no gymnastics training. I learned calisthenics through massive trial and error fuelled by my passion for being as strong and healthy as possible for my lifestyle. My goal is to help you understand what calisthenics is so that you can master your bodyweight to live a fulfilling, active, mobile life!

Today I will share actionable steps on how you can get better at calisthenics by tweaking exercises that you are already doing.

summerfunfitness middle splits between two chairs and bicep flex

Don’t get stuck! How to avoid plateauing 

If you want to increase muscle size and strength, you must increase the difficulty of an exercise over time. Otherwise known as “progressive overload.” If no new challenges are placed on your body, it will remain the same.

For example, if you always run the same distance, at the same pace, you will only improve for the first couple of weeks. If you do not increase the difficulty (by adjusting the time or distance you are running) you will see no new improvements in your physical condition.


If you DO NOT increase the difficulty of a movement over time, you will soon get stuck and frustrated…(and no one wants that).

Weightlifting makes progressive overload easy – simply increase the weight of an exercise over time.
But, increasing weight isn’t the ONLY way to increase strength and muscle size.

Read on to learn how to get better at calisthenics (and stronger too).

#1 Change up your grip!

This simple modification is often overlooked-even in my own calisthenics training! It is also one of the easiest things to implement!

Have you been performing your squats, push-ups, pull-ups, and handstands with the exact hand/foot placement? If so, you are missing out on some serious strength gains! Today, I challenge you to switch things up in your current workout routine. This one minor modification will make a massive difference!

wide handstand vs narrow handstand
wide pull up vs narrow pull up

#2 Adjust the Range of Motion

Hold on, don’t get scared off by this unfamiliar term – I will explain

You can improve your mobility and overall athleticism by increasing the range of motion (ROM) of a calisthenics exercise, thus increasing the intensity.


You can decrease the difficulty of an exercise by limiting the range of motion making the calisthenics skill more accessible to calisthenics beginners.

To make a push-up harder, elevate your hands on some p-bars/dip bars or yoga blocks to allow your chest to dip farther down. 

Decrease the difficulty of a push-up by putting a yoga block under your chest to limit the range of motion.

limited rom push up to make push ups easier

Obtain New Skills by Decreasing ROM

I often use decreased ROM to obtain new skills. Right now, I am working on Scorpion Handstand Push-Ups (SHSPU). I first perform a few full range of motion HSPUs followed by limited ROM push-ups. This method allows me to increase the total number of HSPUs I am performing each session, eventually resulting in the ability to perform more full ROM push-ups with time.

get better at scorpion handstand push ups by limiting range of motion

#3 Hold that Position!

This tip might surprise you….and it’s pretty easy to incorporate!
Increase your strength by holding the most challenging part of any calisthenics exercise.

A hold can also be referred to as an isometric which is when a position is held without changing the length of the muscle or the joint angle. A basic example is holding a plank.

Use Holds to improve your pull-ups

To get better at calisthenics, perform “holds” in the most challenging portion of an exercise. 

For example, take a pull-up – if the hardest portion of the exercise is the top portion, then start incorporating holds in that position.  Use a box to bring yourself up to the highest part of a pull-up, then hold for a few seconds. (*You may have to use bands or a foot assist to improve the time you can perform the hold). Aim for a minimum of five (5) seconds – working up to fifteen (15) seconds. 

use holds to get better at calisthenics

Struggling with push-ups?

For push-ups, lower to the bottom portion of the push-up, hold, collapse, then start again – focusing on holding the most challenging part. 

I use holds to build strength in the lower part of my handstand push-ups. Holds are very effective for unlocking strength!! 

handstand push up hold

#4 Negatives are a Good Thing

Don’t fret – negatives are actually a positive aspect of training calisthenics 😉

Performing a negative means that you will only be completing the lowering part of your chosen calisthenics exercise.

Is there a calisthenics skill that you are struggling with?

First of all, yes I hope you have some skills you are working towards – if not then you need to set some new goals for yourself.

Negatives are a fantastic way of developing strength for a difficult movement! I use negatives to increase my strength in many skills such as pull-ups, HSPU (handstand push- ups), muscle ups, handstand presses..etc. 

Use Negatives in Your Pull-Ups
Jump up to the bar to remove the concentric portion (the tricky part), then lower yourself slowly. This, in my opinion, is the best way to increase pull-up strength. The negative portion will build the supporting muscle groups necessary to complete a pull-up.

Is a Handstand Press your goal?
Kick into your handstand and then lower yourself to perform the negative portion. Again, this movement will strengthen your awareness and strength to aid in completing a full handstand press one day. 

negative handstand press to get better at calisthenics

Increase your Pushing Strength
Lower yourself slowly through an extended ROM. Then reset.

What exercise are you struggling to complete? Think of one, then incorporate negatives of that movement into your regular routine (example, 10-12 reps of the negative for 2-4 sets)

#5  Adjust your Angles

Get better at calisthenics by changing the angle of your body in relation to the movement.

To make an exercise harder, adjust the angle so that there is more weight on the muscle being worked. 

To make an exercise easier, adjust your body angle to put less weight on the muscle being worked.

Are push-ups too hard? Elevate your hands.
Are push-ups too easy? Elevate your feet.

adjust lever angle to make push ups easier or harder

#6 Even Things Out

Do you have a dominant side? A stronger side? Can you only balance on one leg?

Well then, this tip is for you: Perform single-sided exercises to improve your  balance, strength and mobility on your “bad side.”


single arm scap pulls to get better at calisthenics

#7 Speed it Up

Take any movement you are already doing and perform it at a different speed! Try explosive push-ups, pull-ups or squats! Adding in explosive exercises will improve your overall athleticism, so you are ready to take on any new physical pursuit. 

set up for an explosive calisthenics push up
behind the back clapping push up

These are just a few ways you can get better at calisthenics by simply modifying exercises that you are already doing. 

Need more help? Learn How to Get Started in Calisthenics.