The Lean and Mean Calisthenics Diet
One thing that attracts people to bodyweight training is its simplistic nature.
There’s no need for a gym membership, and you don’t need any special equipment. All you need is your body and your mind. Put those two things together and you can hammer out some of the most intense muscle and strength-building workouts based on calisthenics.
But developing a well-sculpted physique takes more than just working out. To really build the kind of body that shows off your muscles and all your hard work, you’ve got to eat right. The calisthenics diet isn’t complicated, but it still requires the same kind of hard work and mental toughness as doing bodyweight workouts.
Commit to the Calisthenics Workout Diet To Achieve the Calisthenics Body You Want
If you’re ready to follow the calisthenics diet and want to maximize your workout efforts, commit yourself to eating right and declare war on junk food. That’s a good place to start.
Once you’ve got your mind right about eating healthily, the rest is easy. It’s like bodyweight training in some ways; there are hundreds of ways to eat healthily, with lots of foods to choose from, just like the many bodyweight exercises you can make use of for your personal workout.
The calisthenics diet isn’t anything complicated.
There’s no complex system to follow, no pills or supplements to take, and no expensive pre-packaged food you need to buy. Here’s the strategy for success with this diet:
Principle #1 – The War on Junk Food – Eat As Natural as possible
You don’t get to be lean and mean by rolling through the drive-thru, ordering a hamburger, soft drink, and bucket of fries. And that ripped look isn’t made from chocolate bars, energy drinks, and pastries. If you’re serious about following the calisthenics diet, you’ve got to declare war on junk food.
An estimated 70 percent of all adults in the United States are overweight or obese, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. About 26 million people have diabetes, and another 79 million are prediabetic, according to the American Diabetes Association.
Controversies may well always abound over whether artificial ingredients, food additives, and pesticides are healthy or unhealthy.
Some argue that it depends on the TYPE of chemical you’re considering, as well as the AMOUNT of said chemical you’re ingesting.
Me? I’ll let scientists continue their seemingly never-ending debates about which ingredients are OK to consume and which are not, but I’ll follow the safe route and avoid them all as much as possible in favor of eating REAL FOOD. The stuff that grows on the ground, on a tree, or comes from an animal. The stuff that only lists one ingredient on the package. The stuff we humans have been eating for tens of thousands of years.
How many times have food manufacturers promoted alternatives – mostly aimed at the weight loss market – that promise to be healthy substitutes for things like fat and sugar? As recently as 1996, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration – the agency in charge of telling Americans which drugs and foods are safe to consume – allowed for the fat substitute Olestra to be used in place of oils in things like chips. Soon, people discovered it “negated the body’s ability to absorb essential vitamins” and gave side effects including “cramps, gas and loose bowels.” Despite this, the ingredient is still legal in the USA. In 2010, Time Magazine called it one of the world’s 50 worst inventions of all time, yet it’s still included in a variety of processed foods.
While this is perhaps one of the more extreme examples of an undesirable food additive, I’ll play it safe and stick with nature-made foods. Yes, you’ll hear about the occasional e.coli-infected spinach or beef recall, but even these are the result of contamination with man-made industrial pollutants and dirty water sources (e.g. sewage), not a problem with the food itself.
And that’s because too many people gobble up burgers, fries, soft drinks, and sugary snacks every day like it’s going to be their last meal. Obesity and diabetes are both diseases that can lead to serious health problems, including death. And no matter how hard you workout, you’ll never achieve your ideal body if you’re eating junk.
The takeaway point:
Read the labels on everything you plan to buy. Go for foods that contain as few ingredients as possible (I personally shoot for five or less). Keep the words of fitness legend and bodyweight calisthenics master, Jack LaLanne, in mind: “If Man makes it, don’t eat it.”
Principle #2 – Eat Produce, Organic when Possible
When was the last time you ever heard about someone overdosing on celery or dying of eating too many raspberries? These stories aren’t exactly making headline news! We evolved to eat fruits and veggies in abundance. These foods are absolutely loaded with all sorts of essential vitamins and minerals your body needs, not only to build quality muscle but also to regulate its every function. Small wonder every medical agency routinely talks about the anti-disease and general health-promoting benefits of nature’s wonder drugs.
So we know fruits and veggies are good, but let’s go one step further. Whenever possible, eat organic produce.
Quite simply, these are foods that have been grown (or raised) on farmlands and pastures free of synthetic chemical pesticides, food additives, or antibiotic agents for at least three years. You can read more about what being organic means here. Again, there is debate as to how healthy/unhealthy pesticides and other man-made chemicals are, but why not play it safe and avoid them altogether if you can?
Challenges to buying organic produce
1. I know that there are a few challenges to consuming only organic food, the first of which is cost. Typically, organic produce will run you about twice as much as its conventionally-grown cousins. The best way to cut down on cost is to buy it in bulk.
In the last two years or so, bulk retailers like Costco have increased their selection of organic produce tremendously. I can now buy a 1.5-pound bag of organic baby kale for just over what it would cost me to buy two bunches (1/4 pound each) of conventionally grown kale. I buy 90% of my organic produce at Costco, as they carry reasonably-priced organic beets, apples, bananas, carrots, celery, spinach, kale, and several other items.
2. The second challenge is availability. Maybe you don’t live near a store that has access to many varieties of organic produce. If this is you, buy what you can organically, and stick to conventional produce otherwise.
As the University of Illinois reports here, it’s still far better to eat (well-washed) produce containing pesticides than to forego them altogether. Try buying organic varieties of things that you have to eat the skin on (such as apples, peaches, lettuce leaves, etc.), and buy conventional varieties of things that you’ll throw away the skin/peel (melons, bananas). You can also check out the Environmental Working Group’s list of the top best/worst produce items in terms of pesticide residues.
In fact, I’d encourage you to check them out, either way, their website being an amazing resource for all information pertaining to the consumption of organic produce.
The takeaway point:
Eat organic produce when possible, especially when you have to eat the skin/peel of the item. If you can’t buy organic, eat conventional produce. Just be sure to wash and scrub it well.
Principle #3 – Get Your Protein IN!: Eat Meat, Organic, Wild, and Grass Fed
It makes sense that if humans should eat and do what they evolved to eat and do, the same should be said about the animals we eat!
Sadly (from a nutritional and ethical perspective), this is not often the case. For example, cattle in commercial feedlots are often bulked up on a diet of grain (which they don’t naturally eat – cows eat grass). They’re given growth hormones to further fatten them up. Finally, given their unhealthy diet and the crowded facilities they live in, they’re pumped full of antibiotics.
Sound appetizing? It will sound even less so when you look at this sometimes funny, often very scary video of inhumane, filthy feedlot conditions.
Unsurprisingly, animals not exposed to this sort of treatment seem to be nutritionally more beneficial for the humans who eat them. As explained in this CNN article, grass-fed beef may contain more beneficial fats and vitamins than grain-fed beef.
Fish, too, aren’t immune to the effects of man-made pollutants and practices. You may have heard how our oceans contain toxins and waste, perhaps most famously mercury, which find their way into the fish we eat. Nevertheless, it seems as if eating wild-caught fish (fish caught directly from the ocean) instead of farmed fish (fish raised in sometimes crowded and unhealthy “fish farms” similar to feedlots) may be healthier. Wild-caught fish tend to be higher in Omega 3 fatty acids and proteins, both of which are key ingredients to building muscle mass.
Your muscles need protein to repair the damage done during a tough bodyweight workout. Pull-ups, squats, lunges, push-ups and other exercises can challenge your muscles. And that’s what you want from a workout. But you need to feed your muscles after a workout with the essential amino acids found in protein.
The International Society for Sports Nutrition suggests that athletes consume about 0.64 to 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight. That means a 150-pound person should get between 96 and 150 grams of protein per day. And it’s doable on the calisthenics diet. Foods high in protein include eggs, dairy and soy products, nuts, fish, lean meats, and poultry like chicken and turkey.
So instead of de-beaked chicken, artificially fat cows, and commercially-raised fish, stick to eating animals that have been living the way nature intended: feeding on grass (cows), roaming (chickens), or swimming free (fish). As with organic produce, eating these kinds of meat will be more expensive.
So, once again, stick to buying in bulk when possible (Costco has a great selection of organic/natural meats). Or substitute some animal-based proteins for plant-based ones, such as beans, almond butter, hemp, and chia seeds.
You don’t need to ingest huge amounts of protein to build muscle and be healthy….even if lots of fitness magazines and supplement companies try to scare you into believing so for the sake of making a profit.
The takeaway point:
Eat animals that have lived the way nature intended. To cut down on costs, buy high-quality animal meat in bulk and eat more plant-based protein.
Principle #4 – Grains and Dairy?
Recently, things like gluten sensitivity and lactose intolerance have received a lot of media attention. Some people promote whole grains (including the gluten protein they contain) and milk (with its lactose sugar) as nutritional powerhouses, while others claim they are bad for your health and promote inflammation. The naysayers’ arguments make some sense based on evolutionary logic. After all, we weren’t consuming cows’ milk or grains until the Agricultural Revolution some 10,000 – 12,000 years ago, so maybe our bodies never evolved to handle these types of food well.
To the question of whether gluten and dairy are friends or foes, I have no definitive answer. I personally eat both bread and milk regularly and have zero problems with them, but I know several others who must steer clear of such foods or else suffer bloating, pain, and lack of energy.
According to this Harvard research, you need to eat more whole-food to be able to get the ripped and toned body you want.
Here’s the beauty of the calisthenics diet. You can eat a ton of food, as long as it’s healthy. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, and whole grains are healthy. They contain essential vitamins, nutrients, and antioxidants your body needs to repair cell damage and build muscle after a tough workout. Whole foods are also low in calories, fat, and cholesterol, compared to the kind of food you’ll find at a typical fast food joint.
Creating a diet based on whole foods will help you lose body fat. That’s what you need to show off your toned muscles and all your hard work.
Follow Coach Paul Wade’s advice from the legendary “Convict Conditioning”, repeatedly echoed throughout both of his books: Be your Own Coach. Although he advises this as it relates to designing your own workout programs, I extend his advice into the world of diet.
Try cutting gluten-rich grains (products containing wheat, barley, and rye) and dairy out of your diet for 30 days, to see if you feel better than before. The bottom line is you can still get all your carbs, proteins, fats, and vitamins from non-gluten, non-dairy sources – such as meat, veggies, potatoes, and rice – so cutting out grains and dairy from your diet will not have a detrimental effect on your training or your health.
BONUS TIP: Keep a Food Diary
Science Daily clearly shows that having a food diary can really help you achieve those goals.
Get a notebook and record everything you eat. You can do this even without committing to the calisthenics diet. It’s a great way to see what you’re eating, count your calories, and see what you’re doing right and what you need to change.
Calisthenics Diet Food Diary
If you’re record-keeping-challenged, try logging your food intake online, or use a smartphone app to keep track of everything you’re munching on. And be honest.
Record everything you eat, EVERYTHING. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, morning snacks, afternoon snacks, and even late-night munchies.
Documenting at least a complete week of your eating habits will help you get a clear picture of what you’re tossing down your pie-hole. For many people, it’s an act of self-discovery that can reveal why you’re not getting the gains you want or expect from your workouts. If you’re eating too much junk and too many empty calories, you’ll never get the body you want. And this may be all you need to do to match your eating habits with the guidelines for the calisthenics diet.
In a recent study of 1,700 overweight people, researchers found that dieters who kept a food diary lost twice as much weight as dieters who didn’t. Keeping a food diary can help you keep your calories in check and eat less fat. It’s the kind of visual aid some people need to get their diet straight.
Stick to the Plan
You can get lean and mean on the calisthenics diet. And it’s really not that hard. You’ve got to make up your mind to follow a clean eating plan, and the results will follow.
There will likely always be some controversy surrounding what ingredients, types of meats, and synthetic chemicals pose a danger to human health. It can drive someone absolutely crazy to worry about every point health article X raises, let alone how health article Y (released only one week later) contradicts the claims made by X! That’s why I try to keep things simple and eat mainly foods produced as nature designed them.
Eat fresh, eat natural, eat whole, and you’re bound to see impressive results in your fitness and all-around health.
READY TO TAKE IT TO THE NEXT LEVEL?
If you’re looking for a complete resource that will guide you through each step on the journey. I have something very special for you.
Renegade Diet is one of the best diets and used by a lot of calisthenics athletes to bring incredible results in a short period of time.
Check it out – it works magic:
Diet is absolutely critical in your fitness success. Do you have questions about the diet or how to fit it into your workout schedule? Post a comment, send us an email or reach out through our Facebook Group and we’ll get back to you shortly.
It's TIME to get your DIET RIGHT!
DISCOVER 10 BIGGEST NUTRITION LIES!
Leg day has become a staple part of bodybuilders’ community over the past few years.
There’s a reason for that: squats and deadlifts are two great compound lifts.
However, they’re two exercises that don’t exist in calisthenics.
So what now?
We look for alternative bodyweight exercises that can be just as effective as traditional weight-lifting.
And guess what? They exist.
Just take a look at Lazar Novovic, a famous calisthenics athlete. He only uses body weight to train his legs and has a powerful and imposing lower body.
Still not satisfied? Then look at gymnasts. Gymnasts have well-proportioned bodies and need strong legs to complete flips. Their leg training involves lots of calisthenics.
The benefits of training your legs with calisthenics
Calisthenics athletes do not have chicken legs. If you didn’t look before, verify this fact with Lazar Novovic, whose impressive body is almost exclusively developed with bodyweight.
This is one of the most common preconceived notions about calisthenics, and it’s completely wrong.
In fact, calisthenics offers much healthier benefits when training your legs than traditional weight-lifting.
1. It develops your flexibility
Let’s take a look at the deep squat.
I challenge you to try doing 20 squats, following this step-by-step tutorial.
Harder than it seems, right?
That’s because calisthenics develops your range-of-motion.
Most traditional weight-lifting will have you doing half-reps that will pump up the muscle but reduce the overall ROM of your hamstrings.
To successfully do 20-40 reps for 3 sets, your hamstrings need to be flexible enough to go down as low as proper form requires.
2. Calisthenics leg training helps you improve your balance
I’m sure you’ve heard of the staple calisthenics leg exercise, the pistol squat.
When I first met a friend, he was an extremely strong and active soccer player. And yet, he couldn’t do a single pistol squat.
Strength-wise, he was much stronger than me at that time (not anymore!). But balance and ROM-wise, I was much more advanced than him.
And that’s because I’d trained my legs with calisthenics exercises.
3. Your legs can do more than just look pretty
Calisthenics offers a variety of exercises that trains the body in as wide a range-of-motion as possible.
As I mentioned, this is amazing for flexibility. But developing your ROM will also mean that your muscles have applicable uses outside of just looking big and pretty.
You’ll develop explosive strength, which means that you’ll be able to exert a maximum amount of power in a short period of time.
You’ll have POWER thanks to explosive calisthenics training.
Calisthenics exercises to train your legs
After this, I’m sure you’ll believe that calisthenics can help you develop superhuman legs. Check out a few of the leg exercises calisthenics has to offer!
1. Pistol Squats
A pistol squat is a one-legged deep squat.
Once it gets too easy, you can up the difficulty level by slowing down each rep, adding a jump at the top, or completing the movement while standing on a balancing ball or a low pull-up bar (or high pull up bar if you dare).
How to do it:
- Stand on one leg, with arms wide open for balance
- The other leg is extended in front
- Go down fully by bending at the hip and knee of the weight bearing leg, till the buttock touches the heel
- Do not allow the other leg to touch the floor
- Come up by pushing through the heel and straightening the knee
- Repeat with the other leg
2. Box Jumps
This is an explosive exercise, that will have very quick results on your strength, endurance and muscle growth.
If you don’t have a box, you could use anything solid enough to hold you (ie. Rocks, benches, picnic tables).
How to do it:
- Get into a starting position with your knees hip-width apart, your arms parallel to the floor in front of you.
- Jump up and forward onto the box, your body relaxed.
- Use your arms for balance, and always keep your knees bent.
- Jump back down onto the ground, your body relaxed and your legs kept hip-width apart.
Doing this movement using one leg will test your balance similarly to the pistol squat. Progression for this exercise is simple; if it gets too easy, jump onto a higher surface, if it’s too hard, jump onto a lower surface.
The bridge is known as a calisthenics replacement for deadlifts. It works your glutes and hamstrings, as well as your shoulders and lower back, with the added benefit of working your mobility and flexibility.
How to do it:
- Lie on your back, your knees bent and hip-width apart.
- Place your hands, palms flat above your shoulders, right by your ears.
- Push your hands and feet into the ground, raising your hips towards the ceiling.
If the full bridge is too difficult, try glute bridges. It is the same movement except with your upper back on the ground. Work on your lower back mobility with similar bending stretches as well.
To make it more difficult, you can do it with one leg, one arm, or one leg and one arm.
4. Depth Jumps
Depth jumps originated from the Russian trainer, Dr. Verkhoshansky.
How to perform it:
- The movement begins on top of a small box, rock, bench, etc,
- Take a small leap down to the ground
- When you land, keep your body relaxed. Don’t tense your knees, or they will absorb too much of the impact.
- As soon as you land, immediately jump forward or up as far as possible.
This movement was originally known as shock training, because of how quickly your muscles need to react and jump. The depth jumps, similar to box jumps, will train your lower body explosiveness, and build mass in the entire legs, including the calves.
Sprints have a fat burning and muscle building effect.
Typically, you do sprints in intervals, for example, sprint for ten seconds, then walk/rest for twenty seconds, and repeat.
The intensity of the sprinting will keep your heart rate high throughout the entire rest period.
One of the main things Sprinting has over long distance cardio is EPOC, meaning you continue to burn calories after your workout.
But the benefits of sprinting don’t end there. Sprints work the entire leg, helping build up lower body muscle, lose fat, and improve nutrient partitioning.
So, there you have it. You now know five ways to build lower body muscle and strength using calisthenics.
So even a calisthenics athlete shouldn’t skip leg day!
I recommend training your legs at least twice per week if you do split workouts.
If you train with full body routines, make sure to pick an exercise to do every workout for at least five sets.
How do you train your legs? Share your routines in the comments or in our Facebook group!
But what if I can’t do some of these exercises?
Create an optimal training routine just for you
This is a problem a lot of us run into. We’re given routines – usually based on a standardized level – beginner, intermediate, advanced. Calisthenics Academy used to do that too – because it’s very hard to create a personalized training for each and every person unless we spend a significant amount of time with them.
There was just one problem with this approach (actually there are a lot of problems with it) – it hindered our athletes’ progress. We’ve written extensively on the matter in the blog post, The end of beginner/intermediate/advanced – that is hurting your training.
It simply explains why a lack of personalization is hurting your training.
Imagine if some of these exercises above were too hard for you. Your body will try to compensate with a poor form, movement dysfunction and possibly risk injury if it’s too challenging.
If some of these exercises were too easy they wouldn’t challenge your muscles to grow – you’d simply be wasting your time.
This is why we created Calisthenics Academy: to offer a fully personalized training program reflecting exactly where your level is for optimal performance.
Take the assessment to see how do you stack up on the 8 fundamental calisthenics moves
calisthenics training assessment
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This is a post outlining the two main strategies we use inside Calisthenics Academy to make sure that the training for our athletes is optimal.
We use deep personalisation and autoregulation to create training that is adjusts based on our athletes needs. Today I want to talk about autoregulation.
SECRET WEAPON #1. AUTOREGULATION
Adapt to your changing needs to train productively for the rest of your life
It’s not that difficult to push yourself for a few weeks and make a lot of improvement.
But it isn’t any good if you stop after that, which is what most of the people do.
The only sustainable way to include training in your life for good is to think long term and adjust training based on how you’re feeling.
The truth is that there are many variables affecting your training
Sleep, emotional stress, illness, work, energy levels and diet all significantly influence training.
There are days when you feel great and on the top of the world and you just power through your workout. Other days you might be feeling really bad. Some weeks are amazing, some are miserable.
And unfortunately, there are too many variables to predict and plot how you’ll be performing on a specific day to then schedule the right kind of workout.
The old school of thought would say that you just need to push through it and train, but the truth is that these are real variables. Instead of fighting against them, you should work with them to make your training more effective.
How can you do that, you ask?
By using a fancy strategy called autoregulatory training.
It just means changing how you set up your workout session. Auto-Regulatory Training (AT) uses your current performance in comparison to past sessions to help you make intelligent changes to your program. It takes how you’re feeling as well as actual progress into account to help you plan your next session.
AT wants to help athletes find the balance between the stress of training to actual readiness. It’s designed to help individuals workout according to their changing needs so that the training remains regular and consistent.
For example, the difficulty of a workout can vary greatly based on the athlete’s recovery, rather than the actual physical challenge of the routine. It allows the athlete to build their own workout based on their recovery in addition to their progress. It’s an amazing tool that has been proven to accelerate strength rehabilitation more efficiently than traditional methods.
AT believes that the athlete knows their needs best. Their awareness can then be used to program their overall program, which will greatly improve performance and progress.
So how do we rate this readiness?
Auto-Regulatory Training IN REAL LIFE
In an ideal world, you’d optimize your training sessions by adjusting your sets, reps, and intensity based on how hard is to perform the exercise in your current session.
In practice, that’d mean that the coach would give you a number of sets and reps to perform. S/he’d ask after each round or even each exercise how that felt and adjust based on your answer.
Here’s how we translate that for you to use to autoregulate your current or next session: ever heard of Rating of Perceived Exertion?
Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE)
It’s a scale we use to help AT by being aware of the level of effort and exertion you put into your exercise.
Here’s how it goes:
RPE, also called “The Borg Rating Scale of Perceived Exertion” was developed by Gunnar Borg (surprise, surprise) in the early 1980s. It was first used to gauge aerobic training, but soon became a tool to clinically analyse breathlessness and dyspnea, chest pain, angina and musculo-skeletal pain.
Overall, it’s a reliable tool for you to track your day-to-day training and how it compares to past sessions. This will help you in the long-term, teaching you how be aware of the impact your training had on your body and the kind of effort you put into your sessions. This will impact how you react to hitting a plateau during a workout. Rather than pressure yourself about your lack of progress, it will push you to just relax and accept the current situation while encouraging you to do better in the future.
Our current Calisthenics Academy Scale
Over time we were experimenting between a 3-point scale and 5 point scale to adjust the sets and reps. After a year of training athletes, we know that the 5-point scale gives us more data points and overally works better. The smaller scale simply wasn’t giving us enough data, but we still needed a simple version of the RPE.
This is a really important part of the training routine and it will work magic to help you with your progress. It’ll also help you build awareness of you body and take your training to the next level.
So after every single exercise you do, we’ll ask, “How hard was it to complete that set of reps?” and adjust your next set based on your feedback.
This is how the adjustements look now inside the Calisthenics Academy
Calisthenics Academy assessment
We also have a sheet for offline workouts. This is an example of a 5 point scale:
WHY IS AUTOREGULATION A GAME-CHANGER?
With AT, all you need to do is get your workout started rather than try to predict how it’ll go beforehand.
This also means that no matter how you feel, the workout is always enjoyable.
What kind of difference would that make for your mindset knowing that every workout, no matter how you feel, is good and it’s moving you one step closer to your goals?
I let go of my expectations and just took my training one day at a time. I took it all in stride, the good and the bad alike. I stopped overthinking and worrying, and it’s helped me stick to my training whether it felt satisfying or not. Whether I felt like it was a good workout or not. Whether I was in the right mindset that day or not.
This is the key to lifelong training.
What would it feel like to never have to give up on another fitness program again?
The truth is that you showing up, aware of how your body’s feeling and adjusting based on that, will give you more gains long term than you’d expect.
Also, how amazing would it be to have the most effective training ever, just because you’re listening to your body’s needs?
No more feelings of disappointment or like you’re not moving forward. You always are.
Want a more optimal training?
Check out Calisthenics Academy or take a FREE Assesment to see how do you stack up on 8 main calisthenics fundamentals
A few years back I moved to Scotland – I was well into calisthenics and I started training at the local Circus School The next months that followed were some of the most fun, yet frustrating months in my training career.
I absolutely fell in love with acrobatics, handstands, moving and seeing how my body was changing. I didn’t know much about programming for body weight, circus movement, or acrobatics. So I attended all the group classes and was just learning as much as I could and enjoying myself – the training added up to 15-20 hours a week – which I absolutely loved.
I even got ripped, not even knowing about it.
There was just one problem…
6 months in – and I felt like I had hardly made any progress.
Don’t get me wrong, the six pack was there, my handstand was getting better, my tucks were getting tighter, and I definitely was more flexible and mobile – BUT when friends and family asked how I was doing….
I had nothing really to show for all the training I had completed….
What was going on?
Knowing that patience is bliss, especially in calisthenics, I kept on going.
But then I got really frustrated and spent months researching, reading books and learning how to train and how to program this type of training in order for it to be effective.
Turns out that advanced gymnastics and calisthenics moves are way more complex than we imagine.
I realized my handstands were lacking serious shoulder mobility and were hindering me from being able to hold it during a free standing.
I also learned that practicing a few skills at the same time (like in my group training we would train for back tucks and back handsprings at the same time and then not train it for months) was hindering my progress as my body was getting confused.
The most surprising part is that I learned I am not the only one who has trouble with it. Once I started working with Calisthenics Academy – we saw people from all over the world struggling with the same issues.
During this time I came across an article which perfectly explained what was going on.
Dr. Tilly – the author of the article I am referring to, explains how a lack of personalisation, even at the level of competitive gymnastics is hurting athletes progress.
He described a program where all the students are given an assignment that was the same level of difficulty: 3 sets of 10 pull ups, dips, handstands, push-ups, and then 2 sets of 20 leg lifts. Something we all know, either from school or from gym classes.
No matter the level, it was the same training.
Now you might not be taking group training, but this is WHAT you will get in any calisthenics and gymnastic program online. They might assign you to the beginners/ intermediate/ advanced level- but you will be doing the same as all other folks in your group.
What’s the problem with that, you ask?
Well. Here it is.
Problems with the one-size fits all training routines
Below is a breakdown of some of the few problems that one-size fits all training creates:
1. Promoting Compensation, Movement Dysfunction, and Possible Injury Risk If Too Challenging
“Say for example part of your conditioning assignment is 3 sets of 5 handstands and push-ups. You send your team of 20 gymnasts to do it. Maybe for 12 of them, they are appropriately challenged by the workload, they fall in the middle of the bell curve, and it will serve its job to make them adapt and get stronger.
However, for 4 of them it may be too challenging and with the “get it done” mindset, they may have to cheat their range of motion, use a poor form like excessive back arching, or may simply just not do it.
Not only is this dangerous and engrains movement dysfunction (as quality slips away), it also really doesn’t help them on the performance side because they won’t truly develop strength. When you consider the fatigue, things start to tank even faster. It will likely get them to be overwhelmed and frustrated.
Taking them a step back in a regression that demands perfect technique is better for their safety and long-term development of strength.”
2. Not Promoting Adaptation/Development If Not Challenging Enough
“The other side of the coin to the example, there may be 4 athletes who breeze through them and as a result don’t really get a challenge that stimulates development. Although this is not really as concerning with the compensation and danger side, they aren’t going to continue to get stronger/faster/more powerful, etc.
These athletes need a progression to make sure it’s challenging enough for them.
Dr. Tilly summarized not personalizing a training program as:
“Slamming a square block into a triangular hole may not be the best choice. The whole “1 step back for 2 steps forward later” and building a house on a concrete foundation versus sand analogy is a good fit here”
A recipe for disaster in terms of safety & hindering athletic progress & performance development by months
We are individuals, with different characteristics – one-fit-all training will not cut it!
No only you will not progress effectively, but you’re also risking injury.
Do you need any other reasons why a cookie cutter workout should not be used again?
So why on earth are we are still not personalizing these workouts?
In his article, Dr. Tilly talks about a coach’s ego. That’s it’s the culture and the way we always doing things, but the biggest problem is that:
IT’S EXTREMELY HARD.
When you get a bunch of people coming for a workout, you would have to analyze every single one of them and give them personal options.
For the coach it’s IMPOSSIBLE.
How on earth can you personalize a training program for every single person based on their PERSONAL STRENGTHS, MOBILITY, FLEXIBILITY, and HISTORY?
That calls for a serious, hours-heavy and expensive personal training program.
Well… unless you can leverage technology to do just that…
And this is why personalisation is at the HEART of what we are building inside Calisthenics Academy.
As you join the program, you will be run through a comprehensive athlete assessment to figure out EXACTLY where you are on the progressions and create a fully personalized training program just for you.
But that’s not all.
As you do your workouts, the system will adjust sets and reps based on your personal feedback, making sure wherever you’re at the workout is optimal for your progress.
Click here to learn more about the Calisthenics Academy.
We know you will love it.
Since Calisthenics Academy was created, I’ve seen many athletes rely on excuses to avoid getting started.
“I can’t train every day, I don’t have the time.”
“You’re asking for too much! What about overtraining?”
“Daily movement? I’m no pro, that’s too much!”
These are valid fears new athletes may have. But I’m here to tell you that you can do calisthenics every day.
I want to alleviate these fears once and for all while showing you a better way of thinking about your daily training and movement practice. I’ll also share strategies to move every day without overtraining and still get amazing results.
Ready for it? Let’s get started
Let me get something straight:
Calisthenics & Movement is a lifestyle
…and yes, you should be moving every single day.
The typical get-fit-quick, 8-week program pushes for hours upon hours of working out from the get-go, with a strict schedule and training for optimal and quick results.
For a lot of us, especially when just getting started, it’s just too much to take on.
Some of the strategies from these programs are effective and get results, but they don’t tackle the thought-process behind exercising. They create a tall, seemingly insurmountable mountain that takes hours upon hours of daily workouts to climb.
But what of someone who’s never done this before? How can they get started when the first step of the journey is already so challenging?
The answer is simple…
MOVE EVERY SINGLE DAY
But then, you start wondering…
Should I move every single day?
Would I feel better if I did?
Regardless of what your program says, even when talking about these so-called “rest days,” you should be moving.
Now, moving might not mean a full-on 2h training session. It’s important to understand that moving doesn’t always mean training, though training usually means moving.
Before I talk more about this, let’s get something straight:
“I’m worried about overtraining”
Or is that just an excuse?
Read this LOUD and CLEAR: overtraining is ONLY a problem for elite athletes in competition training.
If you aren’t a professional, elite athlete, overtraining has just about NOTHING TO DO WITH YOU.
And yet… trainers hear clients express this worry repeatedly.
Soreness doesn’t equal overtraining. Working out for 2, or even 4 hours in the day isn’t overtraining.
There’s a big difference between overtraining and over-doing:
When you get started, your body isn’t conditioned for long training sessions. It’s completely unused to the work you’re putting it through, and so you can easily overdo it, because your body isn’t conditioned yet.
Working out an hour every day is not overtraining.
This might sound like a lot to you, but if you progressively condition your body into being used to a one-hour daily workout, it’ll just become normal.
You can alternate between having very dynamic workouts and taking it a bit easier on some days, but moving daily is extremely important for your overall health.
So rather than worry about overtraining, you need to ask yourself:
Should I be training every single day?
I’m not talking about moving. I really mean “training.” Remember, moving doesn’t have to mean training, but training always means moving.
And the answer is, you don’t have to TRAIN every day, but you should definitely MOVE every day.
So if you train for an hour 3 days a week, you should still be moving the 4 other days. It as simple as practicing your handstand, stretching or a short yoga session. Or even running after your kids, playing tag.
Studies show that even just 15 minutes of movement will help you extend your lifespan by 14%. The best would obviously be a bit longer, with approximately 45 minutes of mindful exercise per day, but even just 15 minutes will have amazing results on your overall health and mindset.
The WHO estimates that a quarter of European adults, and four-fifths of European adolescents, are insufficiently active. This means that they don’t regularly engage in the recommended levels of physical activity. Across Europe, the lack of activity has contributed to over 500,000 deaths per year – deaths that could have been averted by enabling and encouraging all European inhabitants to engage in more dynamic lifestyles.
And you know what the recommended level of physical activity by WHO is?
15 minutes a day.
But the upside is massive:
“Engaging in these levels of physical activity substantially reduces an individual’s risk of developing one or more of the health problems or disorders set out, quite the opposite. This underlines the extensive benefits which physical activity can bring: in addition to promoting cardiovascular health, it is effective in treating or averting a broad range of serious non-communicable diseases, physical and mental health issues.”
In other words – it’s a life-saver.
“All efforts to increase levels of physical activity can be seen as life-saving medical interventions, as well as investments in human health and potential. Physical activity delivers longer, happier and more productive lives, contributing positively to economic and social outcomes in numerous ways.”
So should you be moving every single day?
But what about the results?
We all want results. And that’s good. We need goals to keep on moving, keep on progressing, keep on getting better. It’s really important.
There’s a sweet spot, though, where training more won’t get you more results. Unless you’re a professional athlete and you’re training for some sort of competition, consistency is more important than the volume.
So even though I know you want results – whether you get these results in 2 or 3 months won’t make much difference. What will make a difference is you building the habit of working out or moving, day in and day out.
Keep that in mind.
Yes, you’ll get there faster if you train 6 days instead of 3, but can you actually afford to train 6 days a week? or after 4 weeks, will you burn out and never want to train again?
It’s better that you train more slowly, and be able to stick to it for the next 6,12, 24 months. In fact, you should be able to commit to it for the rest of your life.
So let’s talk about how you can move, and even train, every single day without burning out while making sure that you’re moving forward a little bit every day.
3 Strategies To Optimise Daily Training
1. Cycle Your Training Focus
Working for hours upon hours of time working doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll improve.
You need to focus specifically on what you want to train and achieve. This will help you make progress much faster and more efficiently than if you didn’t focus your attention on your goals.
But you need to have first mastered the Fundamentals. If you’re just starting out and you want to master your handstand – that’s cool but you probably won’t have conditioned your abs, legs, or pulling strength.
If you want to have good form and master your handstand, you need to first develop the right muscles. This is how you’ll be able to go after more advanced moves.
This is why the training program in Calisthenics Academy starts with the fundamentals.
Training your core will help your handstands, doing leg lifts will perfect your l-sit, pulling strength and vertical dips will help you eventually achieve a muscle-up.
Once you’ve got that – periodization and cycling come into play.
2. Split Workout Routines
I hear some of you saying: “But wait, how will my muscles grow if I train them every day? Don’t they grow during the resting time?”
This is where split routines can be used:
Split routines typically consist of either a 2- or 3-day split. With calisthenics, I’d stick with a 2-day split.
Examples of a two-day split routine could be:
Day 1: (PUSH + Legs): Handstands, Push-Ups, and Legs
Day 3: (PULL + Core): Pull-ups, Horizontal pulls, Bridges, Leg raises
Day 5: Back (Progressions towards Bridges & Back Lever)
Another way you could split your training is based on the muscle group:
Monday Chest and Triceps
Tuesday Biceps and Back
Wednesday Legs and Shoulders
Friday Chest and Triceps
Saturday Biceps and Back
Sunday Legs and Shoulders
If that sounds confusing, here’s an easy solution for you.
This is how we create the routines inside Calisthenics Academy.
Our system gives you the ability to adjust the time of your workouts. You can pick the days and choose how much time you want like to workout for, from 30 to 90 minutes.
In the past, we had full and split body routines. Recently, we’ve deployed machine-learning algorithms to create the most optimal workouts for you.
Here’s how the routines are created:
When creating your workout based on time, we use 3 main elements to determine what goes into it. These are:
1. How long it takes to do each exercise
We gather data on how long it takes to physically perform each exercise and average it out.
2. Type of exercise
We categorize all exercises from each progression – core, arm, legs (and in the future, a back progression). When building your workout, our algorithm makes sure that none of the exercises in the same category are next to each other – that enables us to create the most optimal routine for you and give you time to recover.
We also track every last exercise accomplished. It helps for recovery.
Our system then rotates the exercises, so if you did a pistol squat, you’ll be run through other exercises in the queue before hitting the pistol squat once again.
This optimizes for effectiveness and recovery, so don’t need to build up your routine. You can just follow the program we set you, which will make your entire workout easier.
If you’re interested in Calisthenics Academy – you can find more details here – or Take an Assessment and see where you stand with the Fundamentals moves.
Autoregulation is an important topic in calisthenics. It’s all the more important because it addresses the challenges we face as soon as we make a long-term commitment: some days a good, some day not so much.
Autoregulation is a tool that will help you adjust your training based on your performance.
Imagine you are coming into your workout but you are tired.
There are many variables that can affect the quality of your workout:
Sleep, emotional stress, illness, work, energy levels and diet all significantly influence your state of mind and body.
There are days when you’ll feel great and on the top of the world, where you just power through your workout. Other days you might be feeling really bad. Some weeks are amazing, some are miserable.
And unfortunately, there are too many variables to predict and plot how you’ll be performing on a specific day to be able to schedule the right kind of workout.
The old school of thought would say that you just need to push through it and train. But the truth is that these are real variables. Instead of fighting against them, you should work with them to make your training more effective. This is autoregulation.
The best thing about it is that you can easily train every day and simply adjust your training based on how you feel.
There are different schools of thought around this type of training. Calisthenics Academy uses a 5-point scale of RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion), where, based on the image below, point 7, 8 and 9 are combined into one level of Exertion.
How does it look in real life? After every single exercise you do, we’ll ask, “How hard was it to complete that set of reps?” – based on your feedback, the system will automatically adjust your next set by adding or subtracting reps. This, yet again, will ensure that your training program is the best for you.
If you aren’t a part of Calisthenics Academy, you can simply use this spreadsheet to record your training and adjust your own workout.
So, can you afford to train every day?
The short answer is yes.
But you don’t need to train every day.
Remember the distinction between training and moving – you need to move every single day. Moving can be as simple as a 20 min handstand practice, or 20 burpees, or 10 min of yoga – basically, movement snacks.
Few are the athletes who can devote their entire day to training without having to worry about other responsibilities.
We normally recommend 3-4 days per week 30-60 min each session. In addition to regular movement outside of these scheduled workouts.
Most people will be able to accommodate their workouts to this much training, and it’s a reasonable amount of time to give you optimal results.
If you’re a part of Calisthenics Academy, you can pick your 6-day schedule and the program will make sure that your workouts will be perfectly optimized for you.
Cover your bases
I might have focused on calisthenics workouts, but you need to remember to rest and eat appropriately. Working out is just a part of the process towards better health.
Can you afford NOT moving every day?
I will repeat this again. Movement is life – scheduled training sessions are good, but ideally your days are filled with easy movement, stretches – whatever feels good.
Remember, just 15 minutes of moving will protect you from these issues:
- Heart disease
- Stroke Reduced risk
- Overweight and obesity Reduced risk
- Type II diabetes Reduced risk
- Colon cancer Reduced risk
- Breast cancer Reduced risk
- Musculoskeletal health
- Improvement Falls in older people Reduced risk
- Psychological wellbeing Improvement
- Depression Reduced
And this is backed by science.
Don’t Get Caught Up Living Other peoples lives
Remember, move every day, even when you’re not training.
You’re playing a long game with your health – this isn’t a short-term solution that will just help you now. You’re making a lifelong commitment towards a healthier life, habits, and mind.
Use autoregulation to adapt your training to days where you might not feel like you’re doing enough. If you’re moving, it’s enough.
Don’t let anyone else’s expectations or judgment of what’s right influence what might be right for you.
Choose a routine and a program that feel right for you: it won’t matter or work in the long-term, otherwise.
Don’t give up when you hit a wall. If you’re trying, that’s good enough.
That’s where you’ll find your own kind of happiness.
Move every day.
DO YOU WANT AN OPTIMAL TRAINING PROGRAM SO YOU CAN MAKE THE MOST OUT OF YOUR TIME?
Lack of personalization is hurting your training performance. It’s a FACT
Imagine if some of these exercises above were too hard for you. Your body will try to compensate with a poor form, movement dysfunction and possibly risk injury if it’s too challenging. And now imagine if some of these exercises were too easy they wouldn’t challenge your muscles to grow – you’d simply be wasting your time. This is why we created Calisthenics Academy: to offer a fully personalized training program reflecting exactly where your level is for optimal performance.
Take the assessment to see how do you stack up on the 8 fundamental calisthenics moves
calisthenics training assessment
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