Basic Calisthenics Equipment
Calisthenics at its most basic form only requires three things: your body, some empty floor space, and commitment. Those three things will certainly get you in great shape but you can unlock a whole different level when you start incorporating equipment. The amount of equipment that can be used for calisthenics is wide and varied. What you use will depend on your budget, available space, and goals. I am focusing on things for a home gym as not every city has adequate parks but you will notice almost everything on this list is portable. For beginners, I think the following list of my “must haves” will help build a solid foundation and will always provide a good challenge even as you progress in your skill level.
The most versatile, difficult to master and portable tool is the gymnastic rings. The gymnastic rings can greatly increase the difficulty of basic exercises such as pushups, dips, and pull ups and can take years to master some of the more advanced movements. They can be hung from a tree branch, a sturdy horizontal post, a house's ceiling and so on. Also, due to their small size, you can travel with them. The greatest aspect of the rings is also its biggest drawback. Due to inherent instability of the rings, the learning curve can be steep and risk of injury is also rather high. Finding a sturdy enough place to hang or the adequate height can also be challenging. Even with those setbacks, for me, rings are the one tool I would never give up.
The pull up bar is another essential tool that any calisthenics practitioner should have. As versatile as the rings can be, there are quite a few things you can’t do on rings and the learning curve can be significantly lower on a pull up bar. Many in calisthenics like to do tricks on the bar that are impossible to perform on rings. Try doing a 360 degree off rings! Even something like a handstand is way easier on a bar than it will be on rings. I personally recommend a permanent pull up bar that is anchored to a wall or sturdy vertical post. Now if that is something that is out of your budget or anchoring off your wall is a no-go then a door mounted one is definitely an option. Just be careful as most door mounted pull up bars use friction to stay put. Also, due to the fact they are mounted on a door frame, you won’t be able to do any movements where you go over the bar or ballistic type of exercises.
A good set of parallettes, not to be confused with parallel bars, is another great must have tool for calisthenics. I am specifically excluding parallel bars because they can take up a lot of space, are inherently more dangerous because of their height, and will certainly always be far more expensive than parallettes. With parallettes, you can work on improving and increasing the difficulty of basic exercises such as pushups, handstands, dips, l-sits, and tuck planches. They can be very light so moving them to fit the exercise is easy. For about $50 or less you can even build your own pair from PVC pipes.
My final recommendation is a set of various flat resistance bands. Resistance bands are extremely versatile in either decreasing or increasing the difficulty of many exercises. Struggling with a pull up? Strap on the right resistance band and it will give you just enough help to get you over the bar. What if a push up is getting too easy? Place the band to where it stretches across your back as you push up and it will now offer resistance making the exercise much more difficult. They can also be used to help develop the strength for static hold exercises such as the front lever or human flags. I am constantly amazed at how creative people have gotten with resistance bands.
So this is my list of absolute must haves. What do you guys think?