7 Methods of Progressing in Calisthenics

7 Methods of Progressing in Calisthenics

Calisthenic Progressions are Your Secret Weapon

So as we said last time, [tweet_box design=”box_08″]progressive resistance is your secret weapon in your arsenal[/tweet_box], that ace in your sleeve, the ultimate thing that turns any ordinary human into extraordinary. Its simple, and incredibly effective. Remember if you are not progressing you are dying.

Just to remind you, what are progressive resistance or calisthenic progressions? Simply it is the principle of gradual increase of resistance.It states that you should do more with time, as well as you should move from the easiest task to the hardest. The most basic application of this principle is to add repetitions.

However, adding reps is not the only way to progress. You can add sets, decrease the time between sets, increase the working weight or move to harder exercises. In a nutshell, you need to be improving otherwise there’s no point in doing the same thing at the same pace over and again. It doesn’t really matter what you are using as a resistance; barbell, dumbbell, bodyweight, sandbag all are the same. Make it progressive and work up to hardest exercises.

So below is a number of ways to increase progressive resistance:

Methods of progressing in calisthenics

1. Add repetitions, sets, increase time between sets.

So these are really your basic ways to progress as in any training. Depending on your goal you will want to keep a particular sets/ rest times and repetition. So if you are just starting out I wouldn’t mess around with those and just stick with what is recommended. You will see also that depending on where you are with your progressions you will be using the variety of progression methods. Eg. when you start off with wall pushups, you really want to be able to do 3 sets of 30 before you progress (according to Convict Conditioning). So first you will be starving to improve the number of reps, then adding some sets, and then eventually moving to the more difficult exercise. Just a quick note that as you will learn later the number of reps is not definite, and different schools of thought might ask you to do different number. Point being, if you feel comfortable enough with one level, you should start slowly moving to the next one. As you will become more knowledgeable you will be able to know exactly when to move. But for those who are just starting out we will give a very clear guidance.

2. Increase range of motion:

It is one very effective method in progression. In this method, if you’re unable to do a particular exercise to its full range of motion then it is suggested to decrease its range of motion and then slowly and gradually build up to its full range of motion. Here, let me make it a little more clear to you. Let’s take the example of Handstand push-ups; if you can’t do a full handstand push-up then you can decrease its range of motion by stacking some books under your head. And then when you start to get stronger, you can increase the range of motion by removing the books one after the other. Also by using this method you can increase the difficulty and range of motion of exercise as well. Just give it a thought. Wouldn’t it make the exercise tougher if you had books under your hands? Yes, you guessed it right. This method works well with pushing exercises but is pretty hard to be normally applied to pulling exercises.

3. Add weight:

This is another very legitimate and effective way to progress from one progression step to the other. In this method you add some additional weight along with your bodyweight and then perform the exercise. Take for example; if you are doing planks and the exercise has gotten very easy for you, then you can always increase the difficulty of the exercise by putting some weight on your back and then performing it.

4. Change position of body in space:

In this method you change the position of your body to make the exercise easier for you and then perform it. Slowly when you gain strength you move towards making the exercise more difficult and eventually to its regular form. For example- If you can’t do a regular push-up, then try doing it against a wall and build up your strength, then move to an elevated surface. Once you start finding the exercise easy for you, move to a more difficult position and down the line you’ll find yourself performing regular push-ups with ease.

5. Combine difficult and easy exercises:

In this method you combine an easy exercise with a difficult exercise and then perform them together. Like, performing planche push-ups. First you [tweet_box design=”box_08″]take a planche position then you do a push-up without landing your feet on the ground[/tweet_box] and repeat this for a desired number of times. This method is amazing. Let me tell you this that I have tried this myself and have seen results for me. I am a live witness that this method is effective and if you do this then results are guaranteed.

6. Combining exercises into more complex moves:

Adding weight or increasing range of motion is not the only methods in your arsenal. Try combining exercises. For example, if you became proficient in Muscle-Ups and Front Levers, you can combine them into Muscle-Up to Front Lever sequence and perform them like one exercise. Here’s the freedom. No boundaries.

7. Bend the rules and have fun

After all this there comes one thing in the mind that do you have to follow these rules very strictly? And please let me tell you NO. Bending the rules have always been fun and what good is it to do something if you’re not having fun with it. For now I would suggest to stay with those rules, of calisthenic progressions, but as you learn more and go along you will be able to apply your own learnings to create new ways to increase resistance.

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3 rules you MUST follow to build superhuman strength and mad skills with calisthenics

3 rules you MUST follow to build superhuman strength and mad skills with calisthenics

If someone tells you there is a secret to calisthenics, run as far as you can. There are none. There are none in fitness too and 80% of results will always come down to actually doing the work.

I know, unsexy, but it’s true.

It took me years to stop searching for a secret source and focus on what was most important – training.

The game is on – It’s just you, your body and your mind.

What is different about calisthenics though is the approach you need to take. Coming from weight background, 30 minutes workouts and sweating it out I really had to adjust my training philosophy to understand what it takes to achieve body mastery with calisthenics, the strenght, teh skills, the control, the balance.

The switch was in philosophy. I stopped looking at workouts as something that I need to get out of the way, that is something I am just doing for 30 minutes a day or something I am doing to only look good.

Calisthenics thought me a lot about movement, life, persistence and patience.We wrote more on this approach in our Movement Athlete Manifesto which you can read here.

For now though, as you are getting started I want you to focus on 3 things and 3 things only.  Apply them at the start of your journey and you will not only get stronger faster, become a better human but you will be more content with life.

The 3 principles below are applicable to any other fitness routine but are even more important in calisthenics.

Keep that in mind and you will succeed. 

Rule # 1. Be Patient and Consistent

It sounds like a no brainer, but you will hear me talking about it a lot. Why?

Because,  its a number one killer for those taking up calisthenics.

I don’t know about you, but if I don’t see results within a few weeks I am freaking out, I troubleshoot things, I change my diet and I go nuts. My attention span is very short and I have no patience whatsoever. It is so strange that we as humans want everything good to happen very quickly despite knowing the fact that to achieve something worthwhile you need to give it your all for a significant amount of time. Nothing good happens overnight. Patience and consistency are critical factors for success. No great strength and physiques were built in 4 weeks.

What I want you to understand though, is that this is even more true in calisthenics. The reason why strengths gains are so significant and stay with you for life,is because building them take time and you do that by slowly conditioning your body into it. Your nervous system needs time to adjust. So right here and right now I want you to set yourself on a journey of a lifetime.

Keep an eye on the prize and set short-term goals to keep you going. But focus on the process, on being present, on keeping the training every single day, on developing your body awareness, on training your skill. Yes, you can gain some decent amount of muscle in a short period of time with the right tools and regime, but do not expect to see results overnight. Remember, it’s not a routine, it’s a lifestyle. Go slow but be consistent. Your nervous system will be slowly getting used to different movements and getting stronger.

Rule # 2. No cheating. Focus on the full range of motion

This one is a killer.

I see so many people doing half push ups and saying that push-ups are not sufficient to build your chest muscles.

Whaaaat? Most of the people doing calisthenics simply are doing it wrong.

Now, I know it sounds basic but it can literally make a difference between you succeeding and failing. Performing all your repetitions in a controlled way with a full range of motion, taking it all the way down and all the way up is critical to your success. First you train for quality, when you get your form perfect, you can move on.

Another benefit of it is really exploring the movement and becoming hyper aware of your body, your muscles, little tensions here and there. When you focus on that, breathe in and out it brings a different quality not only to the exercise itself but to your whole workout. Try going super slow, try squeezing everything is there and feel your body, try to be as present as you can.

Its hard especially when you are just getting started with calisthenics so keep that in mind.

Rule #3 Push yourself with progressive resistance

This is the most important rule of all especially when you are just getting started. And although its so obvious in weight training when you just add weight, it must be rigorously applied to calisthenics.
There is a simple rule in getting better.

You constantly need to go further, you need to push yourself, you need to go beyond whatever you have right now. And this is a mindset thing.

Like in personal development to grow you need to keep on getting out of your comfort zone, same with fitness. I don’t want any of you not progressing. I don’t care what level you are, how good or how bad you are.

Every single day I want you to do a little bit more.

If you are not growing you’re dying, and in calisthenics like in any other fitness regime you must challenge yourself every single time. If you are not doing more reps, more sets, harder exercises or having shorter rest periods you won’t get stronger and your body composition will not change to the better! Period.

Progressive calisthenics gives you tools and structure to progress so use it wisely. Keep these in mind, eat right, and you will see results

Later on I will teach you how to troubleshoot progressions, how to deconstruct the movements and how to overcome plateau. But for now, all you need to do is get in the right mindset and set yourself up for success.!

Are you ready to take your fitness to the next level?

Stay Strong,

Jeff

PS. What are other rules you think are critical in succeeding with bodyweight strength training?

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  • Over 170 detailed exercises progressions with over 20 steps each to guide you through
  • Downloadable workout schedule, including detailed guidance on warm up, skills work, strength work and conditioning
  • 7 different workout routines for whatever is your goal and lifestyle (strength, fat loss, endurance, skills etc)
  • and everything you need in one place to get you started regardless your fitness level.
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Professional trainer, ex cross-fitter and a long time calisthenic practitioner. I started with Convict Conditioning and achieved levels of strength which enabled me to take part in street workouts championships. Check Out our Resources and Start Building Real Strength just using your Bodyweight!
Elbow Lever

Elbow Lever

Elbow Lever Progression

Elbow Lever Progression

Elbow Lever

Elbow Lever Progression

This progression from Overcoming Gravity is not aimed at a novice trainer. [tweet_box design=”box_08″]It is another one of the gymnastics-based progressions from bodyweight training and takes much strength[/tweet_box], stability and balance. Before attempting this, it would be a good idea to work through our planche progression which is not too dissimilar to this type of exercise.

A way of building to the elbow lever position is given by Al Kavadlo

Step 1 – 2 Arm Elbow Lever

Despite being step 1, you will need a good bit of strength and balance to achieve this exercise. Balance in the planche position (hands on the ground, body suspended straight and parallel to the ground) but turn your hands downwards with your fingers pointing towards your feet. This will put more strain on t=your upper arms and elbows to hold the position.

Step 2 – 2 Arm Ring Elbow Lever

For this you will require gymnastics rings. Perform the same position as step 1 but use the gymnastics rings which will add difficulty and the position will half to be balanced and supported from an unstable base.

Step 3 – 1 Arm Straddle Lever

This part of the lever progression requires you to balance on 1 arm. Do this from the position of step 1 but allow your legs to separate to assist with the balancing process, making it easier on your one arm as you work towards the final step.

Step 4 – 1 Arm Straight Lever

This part of the elbow lever progression is a replication of step 1 but with 1 arm. Y[tweet_box design=”box_08″]ou will have to display inhuman strength[/tweet_box] and balance to hold this position, and we salute you if you are able to reach this final step.

Elbow Lever Progression

Elbow Lever Progression

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calistenics training

Professional trainer, ex cross-fitter and a long time calisthenic practitioner. I started with Convict Conditioning and achieved levels of strength which enabled me to take part in street workouts championships. Check Out our Resources and Start Building Real Strength just using your Bodyweight!
Dips Progression

Dips Progression

dips exercise progression

dips exercise progression

Dips Progression

Dips Progression

[tweet_box design=”box_10″]The dips progression we have made has probably the most equipment needed for any of our calisthenics workouts.[/tweet_box] Standard dips are performed on parallel bars, so you will need these. Our progression has been put on to rings for more difficulty and there will also be the need of some kind of heavy weight. See our calisthenics equipment page for more information on this. [tweet_box design=”box_10″]This progression is very short but will give you great benefits in terms of upper body strength.[/tweet_box]

Here you can see a small guide to dips as well as the benefits and demonstration:

Step 1 – Bar Dips

The first two exercises in our dips progression involve parallel bars. Simply follow the video above for a guide on this part of the progression

Step 2 – L Sit Bar Dips

As well as working your upper body, this next exercise engages your core by holding this L Sit position. You may want to see our Planche progression to work your way to holding this position. Extend your legs out in front of you while holding the parallel bars and perform the dips again.

Step 3 – Ring Dips

For this part of the progression you will need gymnastics rings rather than bars. Do this while holding the L Sit position, but if you cannot perform dips in the L Sit position you may want to try doing it from the normal dips position to start. The rings require your upper body to work on stabilizing the position held as well as the strain given from the normal dips position.

Step 4 – Weighted Dips

Moving back to parallel bars now, you should now perform dips with some kind of heavy weight (perhaps a circular weight, but there may be other options). This should be 10-20kg depending on the resistance you want to add. You may want to work from 10kg and progress to 20kg or higher but that’s up to you. This is also a great opportunity to promote safety in this part of the dips progression. Please do not hang the weight from your neck or attempt to support in with some other part of your body. The suggested method is to chain it to some kind of weight lifting belt, otherwise you can find straps to hold it around your waist. There are plenty of safe options, but please exercise caution. Anyway, perform dips on bars with the weight and you will now have gained some awesome upper body strength with our dips progression.

You may wish to progress to doing weighted dips on rings, but we feel that doing it on bars will give you more than enough strength for now.

With this new awesome strength, feel free to try some of our other progressions.

dips progression calisthenics

dips progression calisthenics

DOWNLOAD 4 STEPS DIPS PROGRESSION!

And Start Your Journey to Insane Natural Strenght.

  • Condition Your Nervous System and Your Muscles Step By Step
  • Avoid Injuries and Strenghten Your Joints with Proven Steps for Progress

calistenics training

Professional trainer, ex cross-fitter and a long time calisthenic practitioner. I started with Convict Conditioning and achieved levels of strength which enabled me to take part in street workouts championships. Check Out our Resources and Start Building Real Strength just using your Bodyweight!
Manna progression

Manna progression

 

Manna

Manna Progression

The manna progression is another one of the gymnastic-based exercises within calisthenics. There is no other exercise progression which demands so much balance and core strength to be developed. Body flexibility is also an important part of the progression as the completion of the final exercise requires you to display a body position which may seem completely impossible.

Step 1 – Foot Supported L Sit

This can be done either on the floor or with the use of some raised bars. Raise your backside off the ground with your hands. Extend your feet straight out in front of you and use them to help support you in this position. Try to focus on extending your scapulae towards the floor.

Step 2 – Advanced Tuck L Sit

The second phase of the manna progression involved the same hand position. The difference is your leg position. This time bend your legs until they are tucked with your feet around a foot and a half from your hands. For your first few attempts you may want to attempt the exercise with your feet supporting your weight on the floor, but before moving to the next step try and be able to balance on your hands with your feet elevated.

Step 3 – Straddle L Sit

Balance on your hands using the floor or raised bars again and spread your legs either side of your arms and extend them out in front of you. By the end of this you will be used to the sensation of balancing on your hands only.

Step 4 – V Sit

There are 2 positions to adopt in this exercise. The objective here is to strengthen your core so that you will be able to hold the final position. Start by sitting on the floor and extending your legs together in the air about a 45 degree angle to the floor. Lean back to maintain balance and put your arms out parallel to your legs. Holding this position will strain your core muscles and give you great core balance. From this you should attempt to hold the position while balancing on your hands. This is the best preparation for the manna exercise.

You may be interested to see some V sit eccentrics if you find this exercise difficult

Step 5 – Manna

The ultimate step of this progression. Balance on your hand s and bring your legs together in front of you in an L sit position. Begin to bring your legs up until your are in the V sit and begin to go further until your back is nearly parallel with the floor and your shins are close to touching your face. This is an awesome progression in strength, flexibility, mobility and balance. It is our pleasure if you found this progression useful.

Be sure to see some more of our progressions.

 

manna progression

manna progression

DOWNLOAD 5 STEPS MANNA PROGRESSION!

And Start Your Journey to Insane Natural Strenght.

  • Condition Your Nervous System and Your Muscles Step By Step
  • Avoid Injuries and Strenghten Your Joints with Proven Steps for Progress

 

calistenics training

Professional trainer, ex cross-fitter and a long time calisthenic practitioner. I started with Convict Conditioning and achieved levels of strength which enabled me to take part in street workouts championships. Check Out our Resources and Start Building Real Strength just using your Bodyweight!
Front Lever Progression

Front Lever Progression

Front lever progression

Front lever progression

The front lever is an upper body progression which starts off with some relatively easy exercises before moving on to the ultimate step. The Front Lever is a fairly dynamic exercise made up of many different static motions as you build up through the progression. By the end your control of your own body weight will be an impressive feat and the muscular shape of your upper body will definitely improve.

front lever

front lever

Step 1 – Vertical Rows

For this exercise you should use a low bar where your feet can touch the ground. Alternatively you can use a high pull-up bar with a raised flat surface to rest your feet on. Put your feet flat on the floor or surface and grip the bar with your knees bent. Pull yourself up until your chest is near the bar and control back down.

Step 2 – Horizontal Rows

The added difficulty in this step involves moving more of your body weight with your arms. Instead of putting your feet on the floor, straighten your legs and rest your heels on the floor. This time you will be pulling some of your leg weight as well as the weight of your upper body.

Step 3 – Wide Bar Rows

This step is very similar to the previous step except for the hand position. In order to increase the difficulty to work up to a front lever position, you must make the exercise more difficult on your arms by spreading your hand position much wider than shoulder width apart. If you can manage it, try to double the distance your hands have been apart in the previous two steps and pull up.

Step 4 – Archer Rows

The purpose of this exercise is to bring strength to your core in preparation for the front lever step. It is not a full-proof way of being able to prepare you for the final step as it is not a similar exercise, so you may wish to consult some exercises in the leg raise progression for full preparation. Use two small dumbbells (3-8kg) and hand them in your hands while adopting a push-up position. You should concentrate on pulling up with your arms alternatively so your opposite side is facing the ground. This exercise will give further strength to your arms while engaging your core and obliques which are also key for the final exercise.

Step 5 – Front Lever Rows

Back to the bar position, place your heels on the floor. This time when you pull up focus on bringing your knees in towards your chest while pulling your chest towards the bar, hold this position shortly before controlling back to the starting position. To progress from this, you can balace with your body parallel to the ground with your feet unsupported then pull up and bring your knees to your chest.

There are other Front Lever variations you can try:

By the end of this progression your upper body will be strong and stable. See what else you can use this new found strength for with some of our other progressions.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Check those additional resources for the levers:

L-Sit, V-Sit and Hamstring Mobility

Fundamentals of Straight Arm Strength Training

3 Reasons Why You Must Practice Levers

calistenics training

Professional trainer, ex cross-fitter and a long time calisthenic practitioner. I started with Convict Conditioning and achieved levels of strength which enabled me to take part in street workouts championships. Check Out our Resources and Start Building Real Strength just using your Bodyweight!