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