The problem is – when you think push-up you probably think normal, generic push up on the floor but there are hundreds of push-up variations that you can use in your training.
Wether you are looking to add variety to your training, challenge yourself, have a bit of fun, follow some variations tried by calisthenics masters – we’ve got you covered.
In this article we will cover the benefits of push-ups as a fundamental horizontal pushing movement, how to use it to progress in your training and we will show you 8 fun variations to try to get your training to the next level.
Why you should start doing push-ups now?
A push-up requires literally nothing but your body weight, yet it has the power to activate almost every muscle in your body. It may appear to be very simple, but once you press your hands against the floor, you’ll know why a PUSH-UP is something that EVERYONE SHOULD KNOW AND START DOING.
There are many movements that you can incorporate into your workout regimen. PUSH-UPS should definitely be one of those movements for all the exciting benefits it can provide your body. Your training will be so much better with push-ups.
Strengthens Your Muscles
Push-up is a simple workout that brings a myriad of miracles to the body. Doing push-ups stretches your whole body and strengthens your muscles, particularly those located on your chest, shoulders, triceps, abdomen, and the wing muscles under your armpit called serratus anterior. It also helps with the growth of your muscles as this exercise increases the production of the Human Growth Hormone (HGH), which is responsible for muscle growth.
Improves Your Health
Push-ups also help improve your health. This exerciseimproves your cardiovascular system as it makes your heart work harder to pump blood to your muscles. Moreover, studies have shown that push-ups help prevent osteoporosis development for both men and women.
In addition, push-ups are also a great way to prevent unwanted injuries. By stabilizing your muscles through push-ups, not only can you strengthen the vulnerable parts of your body such as shoulders and your spine, but also improve your posture, too!
What is a push-up?
The push-up movement is one of the most simple and inexpensive movements that activates all your muscle groups, as discussed by Michelle Hobgood, MS, of Daily Burn.
In addition, Calisthenics Academy discussed that “push-ups are one of the best ways to strengthen the upper body, shoulders, triceps and chest. They also stress the core muscles throughout the movement.”
How to do a PUSH-UP?
Basically, a standard push-up is performed by:
Place your hands shoulder width apart on the floor. Make sure the arms are straight.
The upper back is slightly rounded. Keep the abs tight.
Keep the legs straight and close together with the toes resting on the floor
From this position lower your body down by bending the elbows to more than 90 degrees till the body is two inches above and parallel to the floor. The elbows stay close to the body.
Come to initial position by tensing the triceps and chest muscles.
Keep low back and abs tight throughout the movement.
This is how you should look like in the starting position.
REMEMBER: Maintain a neutral straight position while pressing yourself on the ground.
Now, that you have an idea on how to do a push-up, or your memory has been refreshed on doing one, let me share how this one simple movement can influence dramatically your training for Calisthenics and Gymnastics.
Pushing Movement Modalities to Improve Calisthenics and Gymnastics
Pushing movements such as push-up, handstand, pull-up and other bodyweight exercises are very important in building up overall strength and control over your body.
“The gymnastics modality comprises of body weight elements or calisthenics, and its primary purpose is to improve body control by improving neurological components like coordination, balance, agility, and accuracy, and to improve functional upper body capacity and trunk strength.” – The CrossFit Training Guide, 2006
Before you can do crazy gymnastic movements such as handstand push-ups, pull-ups, or even back flips, performing standard push-ups to get better is a good start. If you already got the hang of performing push-ups, there are always modifications and variations that you can do to spice up your training.
Advanced Push-Up Variations That You MUST Try
1. Typewriter Push-Up
Upper back muscles like rhomboids and middle trapezius
Chest (pectorals major and minor)
Why you should try it:
This specific variation challenges the athlete to engage the core during the whole duration of the movement. The athlete is not only focused on the up and down motion of the movement, rather the sides are also accounted for.
How to perform it:
Place both hands two feet apart and with elbows straight.
Keep the upper body rounded and abs tight.
Legs are straight and should be placed hip width apart with toes resting on the floor.
Lower your body towards the floor, by bending both elbows fully, till body is approximately two inches above and parallel to the floor.
Now shift your body towards either side a few time by straightening the opposite elbow. The body should move from side to side by alternate bending and straightening of the elbows – imitating a typewriter
Come up to initial position by tensing the triceps, shoulders and chest muscles.
You should look like this while performing this movement!
2. Muay Thai Push-Up
Why you should try it:
This may be one of the most difficult push-up variations that you would want to try. This movement would require tremendous strength and balance in your core and upper body. If you already graduated from doing clapping push-ups, this can be your next challenge.
How to perform it:
Get down into the push-up position with arms straight.
Drop down to the ground to perform a standard push-up and explode up out of the push-up.
While in the air, clap your hands behind your back and place your hands back down on the ground as you drop down into the next push-up.
Be careful not to lose your balance and momentum from transitioning in the clap back to the ground.
Can you do one clap push up? That’s good! How about two claps push-up? That’s impressive. But if you can do a triple clap push-up, you are a beast. This is definitely a challenging push-up variation that once you have done it, you’ll feel extremely strong.
How to perform it:
Get down into the push-up position with arms straight.
Drop down to the ground to perform a standard push-up and explode up into the air.
Clap your hands in front of your chest, then clap your hands behind your back and finally clap your hands again in front of your chest. Use the momentum from that explosive push off the ground to perform the three claps.
Place your hands on the ground and drop down into the next rep.
This is how fast you should be able to perform the three claps successfully:
4. Two Fingers Push-Up
Why you should do it:
Are you a Bruce Lee fan? You definitely would want to work your way to perform 2 fingers push-up. This can be really challenging since you have to develop strength on your fingers to be able to do this movement.
Building strength on your fingers is not an easy job for sure. Hence, this is not advisable for beginners. Doing push-up variations with your arms can be easy enough for you. But, this one can bring back spice to your push-up movements.
How to perform it:
Start from the standard push-up position.
Adjust your position so you can balance on one hand. Make sure that your arm is well-balanced and your legs evenly apart from one another.
Put all your weight on your index finger and thumb. Try to hold your weight firmly on those two fingers. Engage your core and maintain a straight spine to complete a push-up.
If your fingers are not that stable, do not attempt to continue with the movement to avoid injury.
Are you curious if this variation is even possible? Check out this video to be amazed:
5. Planche Push-Up
Why you should do it:
If you want to be extremely challenged, developing strength to perform this push-up might be the perfect regimen for you. To be able to do this movement, you must have already mastered the basic push-up movements. It may take weeks for you to master this, but ain’t that an exciting challenge?
How to perform it:
Lie on your belly on the floor and extend your arms by your hips.
Put your palms on the floor directly below your abdomen. Rotate your fingers out to the side of the room.
Press against the ground to perform a push-up by leaning your weight forward into your chest and shoulders.
Squeeze your legs together and engage your core to lift both your feet and legs off the floor.
Move into a planche position in which only your palms make contact with the ground.
Bend your elbows to lower your chest to the floor while keeping your lower body elevated the entire time.
Extend your elbows back up to complete one repetition.
Watch this video to visualize the full range of motion for this movement:
One arm push-up is one of the most common variations of push-ups. However, it is still complicated to perform and requires extensive training. It is one of the fundamental movements in Calisthenics.
Some people who attempt in doing this push-up resort to use the shortcuts which is not really performing the proper one arm push-up. Nevertheless, being able to do one arm push-ups is a big accomplishment!
How to perform it:
Shoulders are parallel to the ground.
Feet are not wider than shoulder width.
Body is straight when viewed from the side.
Twisting in the body is minimal.
At the lowest position, there are no more than 10 cm between the chest and the floor.
Be mindful that your posture must be very similar to this in performing one arm push-up.
If you are still working on your one arm push-up, it would be better to take the assessment test on Calisthenics Academy. You will be able to determine at which level you are in. At the same time, you can also focus on the areas in which you need to improve on the most with the proper professional training and coaching.
7. Handstand Push-Up
Serratus Anterior (muscles at the side of your ribs)
Why you should start doing it:
Handstand push-up is a very effective movement to IMPROVE your upper body strength and balance. Also, being in an inverted position entails added health benefits such as better blood circulation and lesser back pain.
Moreover, you would definitely look cooler and stronger being able to do a push-up in an inverted position. If you are not convinced enough, read more of the reasons hereas to why you need to start doing handstand push-ups now.
How to perform it:
Make sure that before you do your first handstand push-up, your handstand form is well-executed.
Your hips must be fully extended with your shoulders fully opened up.
Maintain a full elbow and wrist extension before going into the dip.
Neutral spine must be observed all throughout the full range of motion.
This is how you should look like in the start of the handstand push-up. If you are not quite there yet, make sure to look into this progression to develop your balance and strength for a handstand push-up.
The 45 degree angle during the handstand position before you do the press is VERY IMPORTANT for a SUCCESSFUL HANDSTAND PUSH-UP. This angle will help you to stabilize while pushing yourself towards the ground.
To tackle this move we strongly suggest building up to a wall handstand pushup FIRST then moving to a freestanding handstand and then trying a freestanding handstand push-up.
What’s important is that you build proper strength and mobility before attempting one.
Challenge Accepted! It’s time to show off your beast mode.
You’re looking for a challenge? Tired of the everyday normal push-ups? Then, here you go…
Get ready and puff your chest to try and test your strengths with these advanced push-up variations. Some might be really intimidating for you. But, you can never conquer a land unless you try it. Make sure to memorialize your every attempt so you can look back to your struggles and celebrate your achievements.
We look forward to seeing your results of dominating these variations! Make sure to comment on this post and share your photos and videos of you attempting these movements.
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Have you ever experienced going to a park, to a beach, or to a gym, or just simply watching online these ultimately strong or scrawny dudes who can do a handstand push up as if it’s nothing? Most probably, you asked yourself,
“Why in the heck they are doing that to themselves?” or
“How can they do that? I can’t even do a regular push-up.”
But you are still impressed as to how strong they look like, then keep on reading.
You want to know why they are doing that complex movement when you can’t even find motivation in you to do your first push-up. You want to know why they look so cool and strong doing that and how you can also look so cool and strong. You want to know how long they trained before they were able to do their first handstand push-up and if it will take you an entire lifetime to learn that so better just give up now.
It’s normal to be intrigued. But mind you, handstand push-ups will change the way how you think about the world of fitness.
But mind you, handstand push-ups will change the way how you think about the world of fitness.
Let me show you the real deal about handstand push-ups and why this movement is a must-learn among all the other calisthenics movement.
Handstand Push-Up? But which one?
I’ve been mentioning handstand push-up for several times already.
But let me discuss briefly what is a handstand push-up as there is a bit confusion on how to actually perform it.
I get asked all the time:
Do you have to do a handstand first then let go and do a push up?
Do you have to do a push-up first then move to a handstand position? Or do you have to do both at the same time?
Do you need a wall to support you or do you have to do it freestanding?
The truth is that there are few types of handstand push-ups such as wall handstand push-ups, freestanding handstand push-ups and kipping handstand push-ups. However, we will stick with the basics for this article. I want you to understand the fundamentals of a handstand push-up before dwelling into different variations.
The fundamentals of a handstand push up
Basically, a handstand push-up is just like a normal push-up but instead of doing the push-up parallel to the ground, you have to do the push-up inverted. Yep. You read it right. INVERTED.
Come on, it doesn’t sound so bad right? I know that a handstand already sounds so cool but you can be COOLER by performing handstand push-ups.
Muscle Groups Involved in a Handstand Push-Up.
Before we get into the whole fiasco of why we should start doing a handstand push-up, let us first look into the muscle groups involved in this compound movement.
Push-ups mainly activate the arms and the chest while handstand warms up the shoulders, backs, arms and chest. Having these two upper body movements into one complex movement, you will not only activate your upper body muscles.
You will have to activate your entire body to perform a handstand push up.
These are the major muscle groups being used when performing a handstand push up:
Your shoulders carry most of your weight in a handstand position. What more if you do a push-up while in a handstand position. Your shoulders will surely feel the burn for the movement but I assure you that your shoulders will be as strong as a bull.
Simply, your pecs or your chest muscles are also activated in doing a handstand push-up just like when you are performing a normal standard push-up.
When you dip for a push-up while in a handstand position, your triceps give your elbows the power to lift yourself back up in a handstand position again.
This muscle group can be found above your biceps. To be able to maintain your balance and do that press for the push-up, your deltoids are ready to serve you.
Look at your back in the mirror. If you can visualize a V-shaped muscle from the base of your back deltoid down to your middle back, that would be your Trapezius. This back muscle stabilizes your shoulders to carry your weight.
Responsible for your stabilization in performing the handstand push-up itself, this muscle group can be found at the side of your ribs extending to your back.
For the record, the mentioned muscle groups are not the only ones involved in performing a handstand push-up. YOUR WHOLE BODY is required to perform the deed.
Ready? Set… Go!
Obviously, you won’t be starting with the handstand push-up right away.
Since this is a compound movement, you have to familiarize yourself first with the let alone movements of push-ups and handstands.
Make sure to watch this very short video on how you can perform a standard push-up.
After that, let’s familiarize yourself with a handstand position. Handstand itself is already a challenging movement. If you are not used to doing this, it is better that we prioritize SAFETY before progressing to a handstand push-up.
If you can’t do a handstand, that is totally fine. You can check out our fundamental course on Calisthenics Academy.
Take the assessment so we can provide you a fully personalised training program professionally and efficiently to help you get where you need to be and to see how you stack up on the road to the handstand and other fundamental calisthenics moves.
Once you are comfortable with the two movements, you can start training for your first handstand push-up. Don’t be overconfident though. Always be safe in executing these movements.
The PROPER FORM of a Handstand Push Up
Despite knowing how to do a handstand, we strongly encourage you to master the proper form first before advancing to the handstand push-ups. This is the perfect freestanding handstand:
Your GOAL is to be able to do this position in a COMFORTABLE manner. You have to make sure that you build up on our strength to be able to support yourself in the handstand position and to sustain that position long enough for a handstand push-up.
Be mindful in keeping your body alignment straight. Your hips must be fully extended as well as your elbows and wrists. Your spine must be in a neutral position and NOT LIKE THIS:
The ultimate step for you to reach before performing a handstand push-up is to be able to sustain the handstand position in PROPER FORM.
The 45 degree angle during the handstand position before you do the press is VERY IMPORTANT for a SUCCESSFUL HANDSTAND PUSH-UP. This angle will help you to stabilize while pushing yourself towards the ground.
It’s perfectly fine to start with a push-up, then to a handstand, before attempting to do a handstand push-up. In this way, you will be stronger and more capable after learning and mastering the fundamentals.
Check this out to see how COOL a handstand push-up looks like.
Why bother doing handstand push-ups?
After the lengthy discussion on what and how do you perform handstand push-ups, here are 9 MAJOR REASONS why doing a HANDSTAND PUSH-UP daily can help you to be STRONGER AND BETTER:
1.Very effective to build strength in your shoulders and upper body.
Since a handstand push-up is a compound movement of a handstand and a push-up which both target the upper body, performing this can obviously strengthen your shoulders and upper body. According to B.K.S. Iyengar, the venerable founder of Iyengar yoga, sustaining a handstand itself requires you to have stronger upper body muscles. Whatmore if you are performing handstand push-ups.
2. Improve your balance, focus, and brain function.
Being in an inverted position means that blood will rush to your brain. Abundant oxygen supply will be delivered to the brain which will be used to function and to focus effectively. Aside from that, the inverted position also elevates your mood and reduce the risk for depression as discussed by the “Yoga Journal.”
Hanging upside down will totally give you a different perspective on how you see the world. LITERALLY. Hence, performing handstand push-ups motivate you to focus more to maintain your balance.
3. Increase your glute and core power.
Handstand push-ups are more challenging than normal push-ups and crunches mainly because you are performing the movement against the gravity.
Simply put, you are putting more work for your glutes and core when you have to pull yourself up after pressing for a handstand push-up. You have to engage your core and glutes completely to maintain your balance and power.
This additional work makes this movement beneficial than the other movements.
4. Being comfortable with the uncomfortable.
We all know that challenges excite us. Doing the same things over and over again will make us resistant to the effect that these things can give us. If you are so used to doing push-ups or handstands and they don’t challenge you anymore, the benefit of building stronger muscles doesn’t really show.
Trying to do something uncomfortable like handstand push-ups will continuously keep your interest and challenge you to do better at it. Let’s just say that it’s similar to dating. You don’t want to always do the same thing every single time and still feel the excitement and engagement from your partner.
As long as you are motivated to do better at something you are not, the results of that hard work will surely pay off.
5. Doing a handstand push-ups makes stronger!
Let’s stop pretending that doing a handstand alone doesn’t impress you at all. We all know it is pretty challenging to balance yourself in an inverted position.
What more if you can do a handstand push-up? Trust me, after you manage to do your first rep, a wave of pride will immediately rush through you and you’ll feel stronger more than ever.
6. Significant back pain reduction
Being inverted releases the gravitational pressure off your nerve roots and discs in your space. As discussed by Dr. Lakowski of Mayo Clinic, you will have more space between your vertebrae hence decompressing your spine relieving back pain. Although, this is not advisable for someone who has high blood pressure and glaucoma since blood will be rushing to your brain.
7. Definitely a stress-reliever.
According to published medical studies of Teeter, stress is typically related to increasing tension in your muscles that can cause pain and inflammation. Being inverted in a handstand push-up helps the body to circulate the blood to reach the sore muscles. Aside from that, this blood circulation helps the lymphatic system to flush out the toxin build-up from the muscles that cause tension and stress.
Performing a handstand push-up enables your body to rehydrate the discs, reduce nerve pressure, realign the spine and relax the tense muscles which definitely reduce stress.
8. You can grow taller!
In one of the podcast episodes of Jeff Sanders<, he interviewed Dr. Lockhart who claimed to grow 1.5 inches for being inverted.
If you perform handstand push-ups daily, your back is frequently decompressed, relieving pressure from your back and increasing the space in your vertebral discs. Hence, this particular movement can help you to lengthen your spine and grow taller. How amazing is that?! You still have hope to achieve that dream height!
9. Stronger body, better posture.
Helping your spine to take a break for standing as always, doing handstand push-ups can reset your spine by decompressing and realign it to aid you in having a better posture. No only you are training for a stronger body, but you are also giving your spine a favour by having a better posture.
To sum things up…
You should not have a second thought of starting your training for handstand push-ups. Aside from looking cooler and becoming stronger, handstand push-ups can also help you physically and physiologically. This compound movement does magic to your spine, balance, brain function, flexibility and strength. Handstand push-ups are one of the most effective and reliable calisthenic movements that will strengthen and improve your body in no time.
Before I end, I want you to DECIDE NOW that you will start your training to your first handstand push-up. Take note of your starting prowess and then comment on this article weekly regarding your improvements. In that way, you won’t forget to look back into the fundamentals and the benefits as you progress your skills in performing handstand push-ups
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 firstmastered 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:
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.