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Calisthenic exercises build muscular strength, enhance cardiovascular endurance and improve agility through movements performed utilizing your own body weight. Most calisthenic exercises do not require the use of equipment. They are easily accessible because you can perform them anywhere regardless of your level of fitness. Calisthenic exercises that incorporate multiple muscle groups working together simultaneously are the best exercises to include in a comprehensive strength and conditioning program.
Pushups target the muscles of your pectorals, deltoids, triceps and core. While your upper body is performing most of the work, your core, including your rectus abdominus, internal and external obliques, transverse abdominus and erector spinae are engaged, thus stabilizing your posture. Begin your pushups in a plank position with both hands on the floor directly beneath your shoulders and your legs extended behind you with your toes tucked on the floor and heels lifted. Bend both arms as you lower your chest to approximately 3 inches above the floor. Straighten your arms and return to the starting position. Begin by performing two sets of six to eight repetitions and progress to three or four sets of 10 to 25 repetitions as you become stronger. To modify your pushups for less intensity, place both knees on the floor during the exercise.
Squats strengthen your lower body muscles and enhance your endurance. Because they work your quadriceps, hamstrings and gluteals, all of which are large muscle groups, squats burn a large number of calories. Begin with both feet hip-width apart. Bend at your knees and lower your buttocks toward the floor while keeping your chest lifted. Once the back sof your thighs are parallel to the floor, straighten your legs and return to the starting position. Target the inside of your thighs by turning your feet slightly outward while squatting. Make sure that your knees to not pass in front of your toes to ensure less stress on your joints. Begin with two sets of 10 to 20 squats and build up to three to four sets of 20 to 30 squats.
Burpees challenge your aerobic fitness while strengthening both your upper and lower body. Begin from a standing position and squat down so your hands touch the floor. Jump both feet back into a plank position and bend your elbows as you lower into a pushup. Straighten your arms and return to a plank position. Jump both feet in as close to your hands as possible and as you return to a standing position, jump vertically off both feet reaching your arms overhead. Land with both knees slightly bent and repeat. If you are new to burpees, begin by performing up to five, recover for one minute and repeat. As you progress, increase your number of repetitions and minimize your recovery time.
Leg lifts strengthen your core and help you create a lean waistline. Begin lying on your back with your hands on the floor by your sides. Lift both legs toward the ceiling for your starting position. Lower both legs until they reach a 45-degree angle from the floor. Return both legs to the start. Bend your knees when lowering if you have tight hamstrings. Beginners should work up to completing 10 repetitions. Advanced participants should aim to complete three sets of 10 to 15 repetitions.
Challenge your lower body while enhancing your cardiovascular fitness with mountain climbers. Begin in a plank position with your hips lifted toward the ceiling. Bring one foot forward with your knee bent under your chest. Shift your weight slightly forward into your hands and switch your legs, bringing the opposite knee under your chest. Continue to alternate your legs for up to 30 seconds. If you are well conditioned, work up to one or more minutes at a time. For an additional fitness challenge, perform mountain climbers in between sets of your other calisthenics exercises to keep your heart rate elevated.