Top 11 Calisthenics Equipment for your Home Gym

16

April, 2020

Calisthenics equipment can serve as a great tool for home workouts, but also to take with you to the local gym or calisthenics park. Not only can calisthenics equipment assist beginners in bodyweight exercises, but it can be an invaluable tool for advanced calisthenics practitioners.

Table of Contents
1. Gymnastics Rings
2. Parallettes
3. Resistance Bands
4. Chalk
5. Calisthenics Gloves
6. Ab Roller
7. Pull Up Bar
8. Weight Vest
9. Foam Roller
10. Massage Ball
11. Massage Gun

1. Gymnastics Rings

Gymnastics rings, also known as Olympic rings or calisthenics rings, are perhaps the most versatile piece of calisthenics equipment there is. They can be used for a host a different bodyweight exercises and provide one of the best platforms for core training.

They come in 2 main types – wood and plastic. The wooden rings are generally considered higher quality and have a better feel to them. Wooden rings also have better grip, especially if you are using chalk – which can make plastic rings slippery.

Gymnastics rings come with straps which can be tightened around bars, trees and ceiling beams. These straps can be adjusted to change the height of the rings. This is helpful as some exercises can only be done with the rings sufficiently suspended off the ground, whereas others need the rings closer to the ground.

There are 3 main positions that you can be in when using gymnastics rings – under the rings, on top of the rings and in the push up position. Each of these positions offer different opportunities to exercise.

gymnastics rings sqr
gymnastics rings sqr

2. Parallettes

Parallettes come in all shapes and sizes, and are made for different purposes. They provide a different grip than is possible on the floor, and because of this, some people find them easier on the wrists. Parallettes are designed to mimic parallel bars. They are not as tall, nor as stable as parallel bars – which for some exercises can be detrimental, but they also have several advantages over parallel bars.

When compared to parallel bars, parallettes are portable. They can easily be packed and carried around to your favourite workout station or gym. They also provide a safe, low height platform from which to practice handstands, L-sits and planches with minimum risk. 

Parallettes come in several different types. Material varies from plastic to wood to metal. Wood, again, are considered the best quality and are the ones used by gymnasts because of the quality and texture of the material.

The height can vary as well. Parallettes can be several inches off the ground to some towering over a metre tall and can be considered mini parallel bars. Low parallettes are more suitable for handstands and higher ones are usually bought for dips and potentially even pull ups and levers.

The last thing to consider when buying parallettes is the base of support. This is hugely important and is often overlooked. The base of support is essentially the thickness and shape of the parallette legs.

This is a massive factor when considering stability. The larger the base of support the better the stability. Generally bigger, taller parallettes have a better base of support. This is not always the case however. Often the taller the paralletes the less stable they can become due to the centre of gravity being so high. The best way to decide is to find a base of support that’s disproportionally large to the height of the parallettes – it should be flat with a large surface area ideally.

parallettes product
parallettes product

3. Resistance Bands

Resistance bands are another hugely versatile piece of calisthenics equipment that can be used for just about anything. Resistance bands can be divided into several types, each with a new purpose. Each type of band comes in different thicknesses- with the larger bands being harder to pull apart. Thicker bands make exercises more difficult, however will also make band assisted exercises easier as they provide more support.

Long resistance bands can be tethered to a number of inanimate objects such as bars, poles and trees. They can be used for exercises such as rows, band deadlifts and various band pulls and pushes much like you can use a cable machine in the gym.

They can also be used to assist bodyweight exercises by tethering the band to bars and keeping the feet or knees in the band while performing the exercises such as pull ups and dips.

Glute bands are a smaller type of band that is typically placed around the knees. These bands are a fantastic way to activate and strengthen the glutes through exercises such as banded crab walks, clam shells and glute bridges.

Some resistance bands also have handles. Handles give a superior grip when performing rows, pulls and pushes with bands. In this sense they are ideal for resistance exercises when pulling against the band, however for bodyweight exercises handle-less looped resistance bands area better as the handles become unnecessary in these types of exercises.

resistance band set sqr
resistance band set sqr

4. Liquid Chalk

Chalk is one of the quintessential tools in any calisthenics practitioner’s arsenal. Calisthenics parks often have slippery bars which are only worsened by inconsiderate people who get greasy sunscreen on the bars. The solution for better grip is chalk. Chalk, also known as Mag or Magnesium Carbonate, comes in 2 varieties.

Powder chalk is the OG of chalk and has been used for as far as anyone can remember in gymnastics, weightlifting and rock climbing. It works well and easily comes off the hands with water.

Liquid chalk is new on the scene. It comes in little bottles sealed from oxygen. Liquid chalk is great because unlike powder chalk which goes everywhere, it stays in the bottle. Liquid chalk works great for grip, potentially slightly better depending on who you ask. Just squeeze a tiny bit into your hands and air it out for 30 seconds. It will dry just like powder chalk. Don’t use too much as it won’t dry properly and can potentially make the bar more slippery until it does.

The problem with liquid chalk is 2-fold. First, it’s slightly more difficult to get off. It will likely require some soap – but no big deal! The second thing to watch out for is forgetting to put the lid back on! As the chalk dries when in contact with the air, allowing oxygen into the bottle will prematurely dry the chalk and it will be super difficult to get it out and spread it on your hands.

liquid chalk product
gymnastics rings sqr

5. Calisthenics Gloves

Gloves have a mixed appeal within the calisthenics community. Their main purpose is to prevent calluses and the roughening of the hands. Mostly, calluses are the result of swinging on the bar or other highly dynamic movements such as muscle ups. If you’re not doing dynamic skills you may still roughen your hands but will be unlikely to rip.

Gloves reduce friction on the bar and hence you are less likely to rip. The caveat is that they also usually reduce your grip and hence high level dynamic skills may be a problem. They are also generally not compatible with chalk – depending on the fabric they will absorb it and potentially the chalk will make the gloves even more slippery.

Gloves come in 2 main flavours – full gloves and fingerless gloves. Fingerless gloves allow for more grip and sensation of the bar, but they also leave your fingers exposed to calluses.

calisthenics gloves product
calisthenics gloves product

6. Ab Roller

The ab roller is a great piece of home gym equipment to help strengthen your core. There are only a few exercises it can be used for, but they are quite effective for both beginners and advanced calisthenics practitioners.

Ironically the ab roller works mostly the lower back rather than the abs – which get a lot less attention. The ab roller can be used on the knees for a gentler lower back workout, or on the feet to really test your limits.

ab roller
ab roller

7. Pull Up Bar

If you want to train from home and you don’t have a pull up bar you should probably look for some portable options. There are several different kinds of pull up bars, most of which can mount in your doorframe and are relatively easy to install.

The most common type mounts using nothing more than the protruding doorframe above your doorway. If your doorframe does not sufficiently protrude (at least 1 cm) then you will likely need a different variant.

Your next best option is a portable pull up bar that relies on friction. These bars have screws on the sides that can be tightened. Although this usually works quite well, it is slightly less reliable, and you should be very careful about using momentum in your pull ups.

Your third option is more invasive and more difficult to install and uninstall. This next type of pull up bar requires screws to be drilled into your wall. This can be a pain if you are renting or want to easily be able to take the bar off (as it will block the door). They can alternatively be mounted to a wall. Despite these inconveniences, these types of bars are the most secure.

pull up bar for door
pull up bar for door

8. Weight Vest

Sometimes exercises just aren’t hard enough. That’s when you bust out the weight vest and show gravity who’s boss. Weight vests are a great way to train pull ups, dips and push ups. They can even be used for squats and jumping squats – although usually for standard squats and lunges you will need extra weights.

Weight vest come in several different types. The better ones have little removeable metal bricks that can be taken out to adjust the weight of the vest. Others are filled with sandbags. Sand is generally preferable as it provides slightly better weight distribution and the metal doesn’t clank together – but both work great! Weight vests usually weigh anywhere between 10-30Kg.

resistance band set sqr

9. Foam Roller

The foam roller is a foam cylinder which can be used to ‘roll out’ or massage your muscles. It can be used both before and after workouts to help relax muscles and kneed out muscle knots. The foam roller is mostly used on the larger muscle groups such as the back and the legs.

Foam rollers come in several types. They can be long or short, be plastic or foam, or even have spikes. Spikes can be painful but are great when trying to dig into muscle knots.

10. Massage Ball

A massage ball, like the foam roller, is used to massage the muscles and remove any tight spots. They are smaller, and for this reason are better able to dig into specific spots. Massage balls can be used for trigger points and are better suited for rolling smaller muscle groups, although still very effective on the back!

They come in a variety of different sizes, shapes and densities. Generally, if you’re better able to tolerate pain you want a small hard ball. The larger the ball, the less concentrated the effect – but obviously this will a better coverage of a larger area. Spikes don’t generally make too much difference on massage balls as they are usually too small to penetrate into the muscles (unlike in the foam rollers).

11. Massage GUN

A massage ball, like the foam roller, is used to massage the muscles and remove any tight spots. They are smaller, and for this reason are better able to dig into specific spots. Massage balls can be used for trigger points and are better suited for rolling smaller muscle groups, although still very effective on the back!

They come in a variety of different sizes, shapes and densities. Generally, if you’re better able to tolerate pain you want a small hard ball. The larger the ball, the less concentrated the effect – but obviously this will a better coverage of a larger area. Spikes don’t generally make too much difference on massage balls as they are usually too small to penetrate into the muscles (unlike in the foam rollers).

Written by Vic

Melbourne-based Personal Trainer, Calisthenics Athlete and the Founder of Street Workout St Kilda. Super passionate about bodyweight training and the art of movement.
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