People are often surprised when I tell them that calisthenics or bodyweight training is one of the best ways to build muscle, get strong, and burn fat. After all, how can something so simple and low-cost be effective?
However, studies confirm that when programmed correctly, bodyweight training produces similar results to conventional strength training (1). For a comprehensive comparison, explore the nuances and benefits of calisthenics versus weightlifting.
Unfortunately, many exercisers fail to give calisthenics an honest try. Instead of following a well-designed progressive bodyweight training plan, they do a few push-ups and air squats and say that calisthenics doesn’t work.
As a veteran personal trainer with over three decades of professional experience, I know consistency is critical for progress. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that consistency is the most important thing, trumping your workout split, exercise selection, set and rep range, and all those other variables.
And that’s the power of bodyweight training – it makes it easier to be consistent. Calisthenics removes the most common barriers to consistent exercise. You can work out almost anywhere and anytime, making it easier to maintain your progress. Plus, if you train at a public calisthenics park, it won’t cost you a dime.
Not sure where to start with calisthenics? Let me introduce you to the classic around the world workout. This is a great place to begin your calisthenics journey, and all you need is a pull-up bar and a dip station to do it.
- Introducing the Around the World Workout
- Benefits and Advantages of the Around the World Calisthenics Workout
- Around the World Calisthenics Workout – FAQs
- Closing Thoughts
Introducing the Around the World Workout
The around the world workout is a rite of passage for all calisthenic exercisers and has been popular with street calisthenic athletes for decades. It is one of the best ways to build a foundation of strength and skill before moving on to more demanding bodyweight workouts.
The premise of the around the world workout is simple – just do multiple sets of pull-ups, dips, and push-ups as a circuit.
However, don’t let this simplicity fool you. Between them, these exercises work all your major upper body muscles. And, done for high volume, they can build impressive levels of strength and mass while burning a ton of calories.
So, how do you do the around the world workout? Like this!
A good workout starts with a thorough warm-up. Warming up prepares your muscles and joints for what you are about to do, improving exercise performance and lowering your risk of injury. Skipping your warm-up is never a good idea, and any time you save could be lost if you miss subsequent workouts through injury.
So, start your workout with 5-10 minutes of easy cardio, e.g., jogging or jumping rope. Next, do some dynamic stretching and mobility exercises for the muscles and joints you’re about to train. Finish your warm-up with a couple of low-intensity laps of the exercises in the around the world workout, i.e., pull-ups, dips, and push-ups.
The “official” around the world workout is a circuit comprising three exercises:
- Pull-ups x 5-10
- Dips x 5-10
- Push-ups x 10-20
However, I like to add a fourth exercise to create a more rounded program. So, my preferred way to do around the world is:
- Pull-ups x 5-10
- Dips x 5-10
- Inverted rows x 10-20
- Push-ups x 10-20
Try the original workout by all means, but I prefer my modified version as it balances pushing and pulling exercises. Despite adding an exercise, I have found that this push/pull sequence allows me to complete more laps.
How many reps should you do? That depends on your abilities and goals. However, 40-50% of your repetition maximum is a good place to start. For example, if you can do 20 push-ups in a single set, you should be able to do sets of 10 reps for this workout.
The number of laps you do is up to you and is based on your fitness and how much time you have available. Options include:
- See how many laps you can do in 15, 20, or 30 minutes
- See how long it takes you to complete ten rounds
- Do one lap every three minutes for 45 minutes
- See how many laps you can do in an hour
Regardless of how you regulate your training volume, there are a few rules to this workout that you should not change. These are:
- Use strict form for all reps – no cheating allowed.
- Take no rest between exercises, but you can rest as long as you need between laps.
- Keep your reps the same for the entire workout.
- Record the number of laps performed and try to beat it next time.
Once you have completed your workout, it’s time to start bringing your body back to its pre-exercise state with a short cool-down. Cooling down will speed up your recovery and may reduce delayed onset muscle soreness.
To cool down after the around the world workout, do another 5-10 minutes of light cardio and then stretch the muscles you’ve just been training, i.e., your lats, pecs, delts, biceps, triceps, and forearms.
Benefits and Advantages of the Around the World Calisthenics Workout
Not sure if the around the world workout is worth your time and energy? Consider these benefits and advantages and then decide!
Minimal Equipment Required
Unlike conventional strength training, you don’t need a lot of equipment to do the around the world calisthenic calisthenics workout. You’ll find everything you want at your local calisthenic park, or you can set up a home gym for less than a few months of gym membership will cost you.
Despite comprising just three or four exercises, the around the world workout trains all your major upper body muscles. With minimal rest between exercises and rounds, you can get a lot of work done in a relatively short time. Do this workout twice a week to develop a muscular and capable upper body as time-efficiently as possible.
Build Muscle, Burn Fat, Get Fit!
The around the world workout is a form of circuit training. As such, it’ll keep you moving almost non-stop for its entire duration. So, as well as building muscle size and strength, it’ll challenge your cardiovascular system and burn a lot of calories.
The result? A lean, muscular, capable physique without doing separate cardio and strength workouts.
Modifiable and Adaptable
I’ve presented two ways to do the around the world workout – with or without inverted rows. However, you can modify this workout in many other ways to match your fitness and goals. For example, you could do diamond, decline, or deficit push-ups instead of regular push-ups or chin-ups instead of pull-ups.
Ultimately, around the world is just a template, and it’s up to you to change it according to your requirements.
Suitable For All Fitness Levels
Around the world is a self-regulating workout. By that, I mean it’s up to you how hard you work. You can alter the reps according to your abilities and change the number of laps based on your fitness.
As such, this workout is suitable for all levels of exerciser, from complete novices to hardcore experts. For example:
Five laps of:
- Band or leg-assisted pull-ups x 5
- Band or leg-assisted dips x 5
- Bent leg inverted rows x 10
- Kneeling push-ups x 10
- Pull-ups x 10
- Dips x 15
- Inverted rows (feet elevated) x 15
- Push-ups (feet elevated) x 15
Around the World Calisthenics Workout – FAQs
Do you have a question about the around the world workout? No problem, because I’ve got the answer! Need more info? Please drop me a line in the comment section below, and I’ll get back to you ASAP.
1. Can I add biceps and triceps exercises to this workout?
You certainly can, but I strongly suggest doing any extra arm training after the main workout and not incorporating it into your circuit. For example, after finishing my around the world workout, I often rest a few minutes and do 3-4 sets of dumbbell curls and triceps pushdowns. This is more than enough arm work after all those pull-ups, dips, etc.
2. Do you have an equivalent workout for the legs?
I do! For the lower body, I like to do a five-exercise around the world sequence comprising:
- A unilateral exercise, e.g., walking lunges.
- A bilateral exercise, e.g., squats.
- A hip-hinge exercise, e.g., banded good-mornings.
- A plyometric leg exercise, e.g., squat jumps.
- A calf exercise, e.g., standing single-leg calf raises.
Simply slot your favorite leg exercises into that framework, and there is no end to the workouts you can create. This approach works well with bodyweight lower body exercises, or you can use whatever other training tools you have at your disposal, such as bands, kettlebells, dumbbells, etc.
My last around the leg workout looked like this:
- Suspension trainer-assisted single-leg squats – 12 reps per leg
- Heels elevated air squats – 25 reps
- Kettlebell swings – 25 reps
- Box jumps – 12 reps
- Calf raises – 30 reps
3-5 laps with no rest between exercises and 1-2 minutes between laps will leave your heart pounding, your lungs heaving, and your legs quivering!
3. How do I progress the around the world workout?
You’ll probably find the around the world workout tough at first, but little by little, your body will adapt, and it’ll start to feel more manageable. This shows you are getting fitter and stronger. However, to keep those gains coming, you must progress the workout and increase the challenge.
Ways to do this include:
- Do more reps per exercise
- Do more rounds or increase the duration of your workout
- Reduce the rest period between laps
- Use more challenging exercises
- Strap on a weighted vest
However, don’t make all these changes at once – that’ll be overwhelming. Instead, make small changes week by week to gradually increase the difficulty of your workouts.
4. How often should I do the around the world workout?
I suggest doing this workout 1-2 times per week as part of a balanced training program. Any more than this, and you’ll probably overtrain your upper body and won’t have enough time or energy for your lower body workouts.
In addition, don’t do the exact same workout every time you train. Instead, use slight variations to avoid too much repetition. For example, you could do pull-ups on one day and chin-ups the next or bar rows alternated with ring rows. Mix things up to keep your workouts fresh and interesting.
5. Is calisthenics better than conventional strength training?
Fitness experts love to argue about which type of training is best. They’ll compare and contrast every available method, trying to determine which one is most effective. Some will become so attached to their favorite methods that they’ll call all other types of training inferior or useless.
However, the reality is that all types of training work, and the real trick is to discover what works best for you.
So, don’t be afraid to experiment to find the best workout for you. Invariably, this will be the thing you can do consistently and that you enjoy.
The around the world workout has been a staple of my calisthenics training for many years. I love how simple and effective it is. I use the around the world workout anytime I don’t have the time or mental energy for a more complex program. Think of this as a “no-brainer” workout.
However, don’t let the straightforward nature of around the world fool you; it’s not an easy workout and has the potential to build impressive levels of strength and muscle mass.
So, are you looking for a new calisthenics program? Take a spin around the world – you won’t regret it!
- Kotarsky CJ, Christensen BK, Miller JS, Hackney KJ. Effect of Progressive Calisthenic Push-up Training on Muscle Strength and Thickness. J Strength Cond Res. 2018 Mar;32(3):651-659. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000002345. PMID: 29466268.