8 Challenging Push-up Variations To Spice Up Your Calisthenics Training

8 Challenging Push-up Variations To Spice Up Your Calisthenics Training

When it comes to working out, push-up is probably one of the most common movements that every athlete has performed inside or outside the gym.

Push-ups are done in your yoga classes, pilates classes, boot camp classes, crossfit and many others. Soldiers even perform push-ups in their training.

The are the also the fundamental calisthenics pushing movement that is absolutely required if you want to build towards some of the more advanced movements.

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 exercise improves 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.

Prevents Injuries

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.
push ups variations calisthenics

This is how you should look like in the starting position.

pasted image 0 8

push ups variations calisthenics

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

Muscles worked:

  • Upper back muscles like rhomboids and middle trapezius
  • Triceps
  • Chest (pectorals major and minor)
  • Shoulders
  • Core

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.
  • Repeat.

push ups variations calisthenics

push ups variations calisthenics

push ups variations calisthenics

You should look like this while performing this movement!

2. Muay Thai Push-Up

Muscles worked:

  • Chest
  • Triceps
  • Abs
  • Shoulders

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.

Here’s a sample video of someone performing muay thai push-ups:

3. Triple Clap Push-Up

Muscles worked:

  • Chest
  • Shoulders
  • Abs
  • Triceps

Why you should do it:

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

Muscles worked:

  • Index finger
  • Thumb
  • Triceps
  • Chest
  • Core
  • Shoulders

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

Muscles worked:

  • Triceps
  • Chest
  • Shoulders
  • Core

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:

Also, check out this planche progression to help you build on your strength.

6. One Arm Push-Up

Muscles worked:

  • Chest
  • Triceps
  • Shoulders
  • Core

Why you should do it:

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.
push up variations calisthenics training

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

Muscles worked:

  • Shoulders
  • Chest
  • Deltoids
  • Triceps
  • Traps
  • 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 here as 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.

push up variations calisthenics training

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.

push up variations calisthenics training

push up variations calisthenics training

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.

calisthenics assessment

SPECIAL LAST CHANCE OFFER! CLOSING November 30th 2017!

GET A LIFETIME ACCESS TO THE CURRENT & NEW CALISTHENICS ACADEMY 2.0

COMING OUT LATER THIS YEAR

TODAY $97 ($399 AFTER)

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!
44 HARDEST Calisthenics Exercises of ALL TIMES

44 HARDEST Calisthenics Exercises of ALL TIMES

Calisthenics is all about strength training. You make use of your own body weight to develop strength. Mastering Calisthenics  is a process, often a long one, but if you stick with it it can be very rewarding.

I personally have been doing calisthenics for years now and it’s amazing to look back and see how far you have come. But what’s even more exciting about this discipline is that there is always more to come and more to learn. Hence, I decided to create a list of all the most challenging calisthenics exercises and skills on earth to have something to aspire to and remind me that I can always be better and there are no limits. 

It will take hard work, sweat and consistency, but if you put your mind to it and follow the steps, every single person can achieve the levels of strength these athletes and gymnasts below did.

I hope you will find it inspiring! I definitely did when I was compiling the list.

 Stay on track. You can do this! 

Challenge yourself with these 44 Calisthenics exercises

Try out these fun yet difficult exercises and take your Calisthenics skills to another level.

1.      Handstand using two fingers

calisthenics exercises

Handstand using two fingers

Also called Two Finger Zenist KungFu Doing a handstand on two fingers is one exercise that will surely blow you away.  Only a few people can even think of attempting this exercise. Thus, this exercise definitely deserves no 1 slot in the list of the hardest Calisthenics exercises.

2.      Wall assisted handstand


Source: Reddit

You might be questioning yourself that is a one finger handstand even possible and the answer is yes. Most people would just say that this feat is impossible to achieve. However, there are Calisthenics experts out there who have been able to implement the one finger handstand after a lot of hard work and focus.

3.      Single arm pull up to handstand

calisthenics exercises

Single arm pull up to handstand

Source: livehealthy.chron.com

The one arm pull-up to handstand is again a unique demonstration of strength and focus. Only a Calisthenics expert can even think of attempting this move as it needs a lot of experience.

4.      Single arm handstand pushup

calisthenics exercises

Single arm handstand pushup

Source: globalbodyweightraining

The one arm handstand pushup is yet another challenge for all those who wish to excel in the field of Calisthenics. This is also one of the hardest exercises. There are only a few names on the list who have tried out this workout. The name of Paul Wade tops the list. This move takes a lot of time and training.

5.      Single handed planche

calisthenics exercises

Single handed planche

Source: board.crossfit.com           

The single handed planche is all about hand balancing so it is surely not an easy move. The difficulty level is increased when you simply remove one arm and just rely on your one hand balance.

6.      Single arm handstand using cane

calisthenics exercises

Single arm handstand using cane

Source: basictrainingacademy

This Calisthenics move will definitely leave you astonished and amazed because it is all about doing a one arm handstand on a cane. Maintaining the balance and the focus are the true challenges of this move.

7.      Inverted iron cross

calisthenics exercises

Inverted iron cross

Source: Youtube

The shoulders need a lot of strength for performing the inverted iron cross and this move needs flawless ring strength skills

8.      Handstand clap push-ups

calisthenics exercises

Handstand clap push-ups

Source: Beastskills

If you are looking forward to attempting the hardest push-ups then the Handstand clap push-ups are worth a try. This move requires a combination of coordination, strength and balance.

9.      Straddle planche clap push-ups

calisthenics exercises

Straddle planche clap push-ups

Source: Youtube

You have to start this exercise like a normal planche. You would need to invest all your muscle strength to pop up high in the air and clap your hands.

10. Ninety degree push-ups

calisthenics exercises

Ninety degree push-ups

Source: Youtube

When you attempt a 90 degree push-up, your feet are elevated so that a 90 degree angle can easily be created between your upper and lower body. This workout is also ideal for those who love extreme Calisthenics.

11. Walking Planches

calisthenics exercises

Walking Planches

Source:ashotofadrenaline

What makes the Walking Planches so challenging is that the stabilizer muscles are involved while the performer is in a transition state. You need strength and coordination to implement this move successfully

12. Windmill Planche Push-ups

calisthenics exercises

Windmill Planche Push-ups

Source: Youtube

This is definitely a jaw dropping move. This Planche can be termed as the hardest. You have to spin your body in the break dance move. This spin is known as the windmill and it spins to a full planche.

13. Single finger pull-ups

calisthenics exercises

Single finger pull-ups

Source:Youtube

You can only attempt this workout when you have extreme expertise in this move. A novice can actually end up breaking a finger. You would need strength and skill to attempt this workout.

14. Wall assisted  two finger handstand

calisthenics exercises

Wall assisted two finger handstand

Source: ashotofadrenaline.net

This wall assisted two finger handstand is yet another Calisthenics delight. You can balance your entire body on two fingers while resting your weight against the wall.

15. Single arm evil wheel

calisthenics exercises

Single arm evil wheel

Source: Pinterest

This is one of the hardest abs exercises and only the experts can dare to try this out.

16. Tiger bend push-ups

calisthenics exercises

Tiger bend push-ups

Source: Youtube

When you want to attempt the tiger bend push-ups then it is essential to have tremendous amount of strength in your triceps and shoulders. Start with half tiger bend and when you are successful in that then you can try this out.

17. Advanced Tricep presses

calisthenics exercises

Advanced Tricep presses

Source: bodybuilding

The advanced tripcep presses are yet another test of your ability and skills. You need to understand the basic concept of this exercise before attempting to try it out.

18. Planche push-ups

calisthenics exercises

Planche push-ups

Source: Youtube

The Planche push-ups are yet another transition of the full planche. You need tons of strength in your shoulders to perform this move. Adding the push-up adds the complexity aspect to this move.

19. Planche on four fingers


Source: Youtube

Doing a planche on just 4 fingers is no easy job. However, I believe that if the person performing this workout is light framed then this would definitely make it easier to maintain the balance.

20.  Full Planche

calisthenics exercises

Full Planche

                                                                                                

Source: Youtube

You will have to invest time and effort to develop the strength and balance to attempt the full planche. It is no easy job for sure.

21. HSPU on the rings

calisthenics exercises

HSPU on the rings

Source: crossfitgnitesydney

The interesting part about Calisthenics is that you can be so creative. You can actually perform a handstand pushup using the rings. However, this again needs practice and skill. Watch the video to know more about this move.

22. Single arm lever

calisthenics exercises

Single arm lever

Source: gmb.io

One arm lever is all about gripping a bar with one hand and lifting your body up in a coordinated movement. Your legs have to be parallel while implementing this move.

23. Manna

calisthenics exercises

Manna

Source: ashotofadrenaline.net

Now when you are attempting the Manna the strength is not the only requirement and you would need flexibility to attempt this move. It definitely puts pressure on the shoulder area.

24. Nakayama Planche

calisthenics exercises

Nakayama Planche

Source: Youtube

The Nakayama Planche involves the abs. You would have to build up on your upper and lower abdominals to achieve the Nakayama Planche position.

25. L-sit iron cross to push-up

calisthenics exercises

L-sit iron cross to push-up

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

Source: datab.us

This move requires you to start with an L-sit and then you need to pull yourself past Iron Cross and finally acquire the full muscle up position

26. Iron cross

calisthenics exercises

Iron cross

Source: bodybuilding

This exercise deserves a spot amongst the hardest Calisthenics exercises because it requires tremendous amount of strength so that makes it a tough job.

27. Straddle Press to Handstand

calisthenics exercises

Straddle Press to Handstand

Source: gymnasticsrevolution

This move can stated to be quite difficult because it involves a transition from the L- Seat to handstand and usually transitions are not easy to perform.

28. Human Flag Push-up

calisthenics exercises

Human Flag Push-up

Source: Youtube

Human flag push-ups is also one of the hardest Calisthenics exercises because of the transitions involved.

29. Flying human flag oblique crunches

calisthenics exercises

Flying human flag oblique crunches

Source: ashotofadrenaline

When you want to perform flying human oblique crunches then you would have to grip the top and the bottom portion of the post. The next step would be lifting your lower body so that you acquire a flag position. Then finally you need to raise and lower the legs in a crunch motion.

30. Human Flag bicycles

calisthenics exercises

Source: peko-healthfitness

You will first need to get into a human flag position for this move and then you would need to move your legs as if you are riding a bicycle.

31. Human Flag

calisthenics exercises

Human Flag

Source: instructables

Human Flag exercise is yet another move that would be a test of your balancing skills. You would have to try really hard to get the concept of this move.

32. Hand Hops

calisthenics exercises

Hand Hops

Source: Youtube

The hand hops is all about incorporating the strength with the dancing moves.

33. Single arm handstand

calisthenics exercises

Single arm handstand

Source: chrissalvato

Before moving on to a single arm handstand you would need to master the simple handstands. Remember one arm handstand is not an easy job and would require strength and balance on your part.

34. Reverse Planche

calisthenics exercises

Reverse Planche

Source:pinterest

You can only perform the reverse planche when you have reached an astounding level of flexibility and strength. You have to start off with a handstand and then slowly bring your legs behind you until you achieve the reverse planche position.

35. Aztec push-ups

calisthenics exercises

Aztec push-ups

Source: builtlean

The Aztec push-ups are quite interesting. You have to start  off with a normal push-up. Finally you will need to explode in the air and touch your toes using your fingers.

36. Single handed rope climb

calisthenics exercises

Single handed rope climb

Source:ashotofadrenaline

You would need strength in your arms and hands to perform this move. The one handed rope climb requires switching hands half way so you will have to work on your strength.

37. Single arm chin-ups

calisthenics exercises

Single arm chin-ups

Source: Youtube

When you are training for the one arm chin-up then make sure then you should use your opposite arm for stabilizing your body till your other arm is strong enough for holding and balancing your body weight.

38. Two fingers push-up

calisthenics exercises

Two fingers push-up

Source: Fanpop

Bruce Lee was the first one to come up with the concept of two finger push-up. You need to start with a normal push-up position for this move. Position one hand behind the back. Finally you have to position your hands in a way that you maintain your balance on just two fingers.

39. Single arm diver bombers

calisthenics exercises

Single arm diver bombers

Source:schoolofkai

When you have to perform the one arm diver bomber successfully then what you need the most is coordination, followed by strength and balance. Once you get a command over these three factors then you would be able to do this exercise.

40. 360 push-up

calisthenics exercises

360 push-up

Source: recordsetter

The 360 degree push-up also needs  technical expertise. You would have to focus on strength building to attempt this move successfully.

41. Double handclap dips

calisthenics exercises

Double handclap dips

For Double Handclap dips you have to do two handclaps while you are in the air after you are done with a dip on the parallel bar. Your legs need to be infront of you during the move. This move is quite tedious and is one of the hardest Calisthenics exercises.

42. Burpee Back Tuck

calisthenics exercises

Burpee Back Tuck

Source: Youtube

The burpee is one of the popular bodyweight moves. However, adding a back flip to it adds the element of complexity. This move is quite intense and definitely hard to master.

43. Back Clap Muscle Up

calisthenics exercises

Back Clap Muscle Up

Source:Youtube

This exercise has got a lot of exciting twists. The first thing that you need to do is a muscle up and then simply explode in the air. When you are in the air then you have to clap your hands behind the back. The final step is to simply grab the bar. This exercises requires strength and there has to be a coordination in your moves.

44. Clap Pull-ups

calisthenics exercises

Clap Pull-ups

Source: antranik

Last, but not the least are the Clap pull-ups. The list of hardest exercises will be incomplete without this workout. Now this move is all about strength demonstration. You would need the strength for lifting your body in the air and then you have to clap your hands in mid air and then move down.

Just watching all these 44 hardest Calisthenics exercises will inspire you to try them out. However, it would not be easy in the beginning and you will have to adopt the step wise approach. You have to start with the basic calisthenics exercises. You would see that when you are regular with your Calisthenics workouts then you would be able to develop strength and try out the harder workouts. These Calisthenics exercises do seem impossible, but nothing is impossible in this world as long as you have the will to try and strive to achieve your goal.

Are you ready to get started on your calisthenics journey?

Let’s DO THIS!

calisthenics training program

calisthenics training program

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!

Calisthenics Chest Workout

This calisthenics chest Workout will help you develop insane chest just with your body weight!

calisthenic chest workout

calisthenic chest workout

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!
Workout: How To Build Insane Calisthenics MUSCLE MASS With Bodyweight

Workout: How To Build Insane Calisthenics MUSCLE MASS With Bodyweight

If you want to build calisthenics muscle mass and bulk up, you need to pick up some heavy stuff repeatedly… or so you’re told.

I’m here to tell you that you don’t. Your body alone is heavy enough to achieve that same exact goal, minus the expensive gym membership, free weights and complicated machines.

Not only does bodyweight training allow you to bulk up as well as a bodybuilder, but it provides your body with more than just some new, pretty-looking muscle. With bodyweight training, you build muscle, increase strength, develop endurance… and get into a split while you’re at it!

image0016

Yes, You Can Build Mass With Calisthenics

Why would lifting weights be more effective than bodyweight training? Your body doesn’t differentiate the kind of weight you’re working on, but rather how you work. Bodybuilders have the muscle-building technique down pat, while calisthenics tends to be better-known for muscle endurance.

…but that’s not all calisthenics is good for!

We live in a society convinced that without the gym, you can’t get fit.

I’m here to tell you…that’s a preconceived notion and a load of bullsh– bullcrap.

Ever Google male gymnasts? They’re packed with muscle, yet rely ONLY on bodyweight training.

Here’s the thing: to build calisthenics muscle mass, you gotta train a bit differently.

The “Science” Behind Building Muscle Mass

How does calisthenics muscle mass grow? If you don’t know, well… you should, and I’m here to help you into find out how.

Muscle doesn’t grow while you’re training it. It grows when you’re resting.

For your muscles to experience that growth, they need to be challenged by tension or weight for an extended period of time. It is this specific kind of stress that breaks down muscles with micro-tears.

Rest allows them to rebuild. If you’re eating enough calories, your body will naturally use that rest-time to both restore the muscle and add some mass to it.

Calisthenics can easily recreate a situation where enough tension or weight is placed long enough on the muscle that it’ll resist, then tear, and rebuild with more mass. The more you train, the more tension or weight you’ll need to place on the muscle. It’s levels of resistance grow the more you train and develop strength.

See? You don’t need to be a bodybuilder to build calisthenics muscle mass.

How do I build muscle mass with calisthenics?
Create a tension/resistance in the muscle.

This stress will help your muscle grow in the same way weight-lifting would.

But if you want to build muscle mass as quickly as possible, calisthenics won’t be right for you.

If you want to make it a long-term thing though, calisthenics is totally for you.

Calisthenics is focused on progressions. Start with what your body allows you to do, then up the ante as you keep training.

More than that, don’t think that just because you can easily execute 20+ push-ups, you’re advanced.

Calisthenics wants you to slow it down, and focus on your form.

Here’s some useful terminology if you take your training seriously:pasted image 0

1. Concentric, or positive movement is the movement where you go up in your push-up. Technically, it’s the motion of an active muscle while it’s retracting under load.

2. Eccentric, or negative movement is the movement where you go down in your push-up. Technically, it’s the motion of an active muscle while it’s lengthening under load.

Bodyweight Muscle-Building Techniques

You don’t need to be a bodybuilder to build muscle mass, but you do need technique. Here are some of the main tricks you can use to maximize your bodyweight training aiming to build muscle mass.

1. Slow it DOWN

Bodyweight training relies heavily on the application of concentric and eccentric movement. Depending how you train both concentric and eccentric movements, your body will develop differently.

So even if you can do 20+ push-ups, I want you to slow down the entire movement and deconstruct it into separate steps.

Instead of powering through as many push-ups as you can, do less and focus on your form. In fact, try taking 30 seconds for each aspect of the movement.  

Go down slowly, controlling your descent the entire time (4s minimum). Once you get down to a couple of inches from the ground, stop for a couple of seconds before pushing yourself back up in one explosive move.

By doing this, you’re taking the time for your eccentric movement to happen. You’re helping the muscle develop differently than most people train it. In fact, eccentric movements are where the micro-tears I mentioned will happen most.

So stop ignoring the eccentric movements if you want to gain that big muscle!

2. It’s All About The Angles

Angular training is this awesome technique where you use the angle of your body to create more tension in the muscle.

If you move your body around, adjust its angle, move your elbows in or out, bend or extend your knees – you’re doing angular training.

In fact, calisthenics uses angular training to make exercises progressively difficult. It is at the core of many calisthenics progressions; a new athlete training wall push-ups will make the exercise progressively difficult by adjusting the angle of the exercise. By placing your feet further and further away from the wall, you’re adding more weight onto your arms and making the push-up increasingly difficult.

An awesome example of angular training is the Typewriter Push-Up.

In this exercise, your starting position is a wide-armed push-up. Using your toes, arms and balance, you move your weight around your body, creating the need to RESIST in a variety of way.

Guess what? You’re pushing your muscles, creating tension and resistance that will then cause the micro-tears which will then cause – guess what? – muscle growth.

TypewriterTypewriter pushupTypewriter 3

3. JOIN THE RESISTANCE!

No, I’m not talking about a revolution. I’m talking about bodyweight distribution.

Even in calisthenics, you need to work with a low rep range if you want to build muscle mass. If you worked longer, you’d be focusing on muscular endurance. That’s not what you’re looking for, right? So don’t.

The thing with bodyweight training is… you can’t increase the challenge-level of your workout you carry by just adding weight.

But there’s a trick!

This is where bodyweight distribution comes into play.

It might come as a surprise to you, but when you’re in a neutral push-up position, your weight is evenly distributed between your two arms. Guess what happens if, oh, maybe you placed all your weight on your right hand?

SURPRISE! More weight is added. Suddenly your right side needs to RESIST and stay strong against this weight that you didn’t need a machine to add on.

Let’s take the Typewriter push-up again.

It’s the perfect example of angular training, but it can easily be used for bodyweight distribution.

Instead of doing the movement by pushing on your arms and moving around, repositioning your body, you can simply move from one side to the other.

You’re switching your bodyweight around without changing anything else, and bam! You need to RESIST.

You Gotta EAT If You Want To Grow BIG And STRONG

If you want to build your muscles, you gotta eat.

Why?

Well… it’s time to get science-y again.  

For muscles to either be maintained or grow, you need protein. Depending what your goal is, you need lots of protein.

Remember when I talked about the micro-tears your muscles experience when you work out? When you rest, your body uses protein chains to repair those tears, and if you want more muscle, you need more protein. Basically.

Many different publications talk about this, including Men’s Health. Different studies talk about different portion-size, but most people agree that 0.75 grams of protein should be eaten for every pound of bodyweight you have…if you’re already within a healthy body fat range.

If you’re overweight, you should eat the portion of protein you’d need if you were at your ideal bodyweight.

But that’s not all.

It’s not just about eating the right amount of protein. Scheduling is super important too, and you need to portion your protein throughout your different meals. Trying to O.D. on protein in a single meal just doesn’t sound quite right, does it?

Well, don’t do it.

Try dividing your protein-intake into at least three different meals in the day. In fact, the more balanced your protein-intake throughout the day, the better. If you stock up on protein in one specific meal, you’ll basically create a backlog in your system, and your body won’t benefit from that.

And one more thing…

The most effective way to consume protein is to have a meal a couple of hours before and right after your workout. Studies have shown that slightly upping your protein-intake before and/or after your workout is one of the best ways for it to help your muscles grow.

If you work out early in the morning, make sure to eat a meal right after.

This is a promise: your body and energy will thank you.

…and your muscles will get bigger.

Gimme a muscle-building workout NOW!

Before I share the awesome program I’ve come up with, there are a few things you need to know to train calisthenics well.

For example, you might not know that your body gets accustomed to a single, repetitive routine. So let’s talk about periodization for a second.

Periodization

High volume and multiple sets might pack on muscle quickly, but you shouldn’t only train this way.

Training exclusively this way will get you stuck in “general adaptation syndrome,” which means your body will adapt to the program quickly. You’ll run into a massive plateau.

This is why you should use a periodized routine. Choose one that emphasizes high volume and multiple sets—a plan that intersperses hypertrophy workouts with regular strength-focused workouts.

If you switch up your habits, your body can’t really adapt to a single workout, so your muscles will constantly be stimulated into growing. Periodization means varying exercises, workouts or weekly routines.

For Example:

You could organize your week to be 2-to-1 hypertrophy/strength rotation; you do 2 hypertrophy workouts (8 to 12 reps, 6 sets) for every 1 strength workout (4 to 6 reps, 3 sets). Slotting in a strength day helps me lift more on my hypertrophy days.

Share the routine already!

Okay, OKAY.

Don’t expect this routine to magically make your muscles grow. It’ll help, but it won’t happen in a day, a week or even a month for some people. Just keep that in mind.

Here’s a one-week program that I’ve followed with amazing results.

MONDAY – BACK AND TRICEPS

  • Assisted 1 arm pull-up work 3 – 5 x 1-5 (L/R)
  • Wide Pull-up 3 – 5 x 8-10 / Wide Row 3 – 5 x 8-10
  • Close Pull-up 3 – 5 x 8–10 / Close Row 3 – 5 x 8-10
  • Normal Pull-up 3 x MAX
  • 1 Arm push-up 5 x 5 (R/L)
  • Diamond Push-ups 3 – 5 x 15–20
  • Triceps extension 4 x 8–10
  • Straight Bar Dips 3 – 5 x 6–8 (Slow eccentric movements)
  • Dips 2 – 3 x MAX

TUESDAY – LEGS

  • Pistol Squats 5 x 5 – 10 (R/L) (If you can’t perform a pistol, find a variation that fits you)
  • Normal Squats 3 – 5 x 15-20
  • Close Squats 4 x 15-20
  • Lunges Matrix (Front, Side) 3 x 6 – 8 (Go immediately from Front to Side Lunge)
  • Calf Raises 5 x 15 – 20 (Slow Reps)
  • 1 Legged Calf Raises 3 – 5 x 10 (Slow Reps)
  • Jump Rope 3 x 70 – 140 jumps with straight knees using your calves as a jumping power / Sprints 5 x 30 m 2 x 50 m (MIX IT UP)

WEDNESDAY – REST

This means don’t work out. But if you want to move, do yoga, spend an hour stretching and training your flexibility…that’s a good thing.

THURSDAY – SHOULDERS

  • Handstand Wall 3 – 5 – 45+ Sec  (If you can perform a free stand handstand then do it!)
  • Handstand Pushup Wide 3 x 6 – 8 (FREESTAND OR USING A WALL)
  • Handstand Pushup Close 3 x 6 – 8 (FREESTAND OR USING A WALL)
  • Hindu Pushup 4 x 10 – 15 – SUPERSET – Pseudo Pushup 4 x 10
  • Straight Bar Dips (Slow negatives) 4 x 10
  • Dips 4 x 8 – 12 (Slow tempo)

NOTE: If you can’t perform a handstand pushup, then you can follow our  book on Getting Started With Calisthenics.

FRIDAY – REST

Again – stretch, do yoga, meditate, move, have fun, play with your body.

SATURDAY – CHEST AND BICEPS

  • Wide Push-ups 3 – 5 sets of 15 – 25 reps
  • Close Push-ups 3 – 5 sets of 15 – 25 reps
  • Declined Push-ups 3 – 5 sets of 15 – 25 reps
  • Dips 4 sets of 12 – 25 reps
  • Chin-ups 4 x 8 – 12
  • Chin-ups negatives 3 – 4 x 6 – 8 negatives
  • Rings Biceps Curl 4 x 8 – 12
  • Close grip chin-ups 3 x MAX (GIVE ALL YOU GOT)

SUNDAY – REST

Streeeeeeetch.

Calisthenics can DEFINITELY help you build the muscle mass you want, but the process won’t be as instantly visible as weight-lifting.

…The results will definitely be more long-lasting though!

 

image0034

A calisthenics body…yup. This can happen. Just be patient.

 

But what if I can’t do some of these exercises? 

WHY the program above although good, WILL NOT GET RESULTS FOR MOST OF YOU…

Create an optimal training routine just for you

This is a problem a lot of us run into. We’re given routines – usually based on a standardized level – beginner, intermediate, advanced. Calisthenics Academy used to do that too – because it’s very hard to create a personalized training for each and every person unless we spend a significant amount of time with them.

There was just one problem with this approach (actually there are a lot of problems with it) – it hindered our athletes’ progress. We’ve written extensively on the matter in the blog post, the end of beginner/intermediate/advanced – that is hurting your training.

It simply explains why a lack of personalization is hurting your training.

Imagine if some of these exercises above were too hard for you. Your body will try to compensate with a poor form, movement dysfunction and possibly risk injury if it’s too challenging.

And now imagine if some of these exercises were too easy they wouldn’t challenge your muscles to grow – you’d simply be wasting your time.

This is why we created Calisthenics Academy: to offer a fully personalized training program reflecting exactly where your level is for optimal performance.

Take the assessment to see how do you stack up on the 8 fundamental calisthenics moves.

calisthenics training assessment

Share the results and comments in our Facebook Group.

 

calisthenics academy the ultimate calisthenics training program

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!
Get Shredded Using Gymnastic Rings: The Science and The Practice

Get Shredded Using Gymnastic Rings: The Science and The Practice

First off, if you’re new to gymnastic rings, start with my previous article that covers gymnastic grips. It’s necessary to learn how to walk before you run. There are several reason why using gymnastic rings are better than more common forms of exercise, like weight lifting and cardio. For starters, rings require an adjustment in how your muscles communicate with your brain.

Unlike weights, rings are less stable, and require a lot of mental focus to properly manage. On my first time up on the rings it looked like someone was shocking me with an invisible taser. My muscles were twitching, my whole body was shaking uncontrollably, and I had a particularly goofy expression on my face. The slightest shift in balance can cause the rings to move, therefore, significant core strength is necessary for all exercises. [tweet_box design=”box_11″]After a few session on the rings, you’ll increase your mental focus, core strength and coordination.[/tweet_box]

Here are a few simple exercises to get you started:

1. Reverse Row

Use a neutral grip and hold yourself below the rings as you walk your feet forward, almost like a reverse plank position. Keep your legs straight, pull torso as far as you can forward , then slowly come down.

5-7 reps per set

Pull-ups

Start with a neutral grip below the rings. Keep your shoulders down and your chest up. Pull yourself straight up and come down slowly. No kipping! This isn’t Crossfit. There are many grip variations so I would recommend starting with neutral grip (easiest), then trying outward facing grip (intermediate), eventually moving towards inward facing grip (difficult).

3-6 reps per set

Top Position

[tweet_box design=”box_11″]Use a false grip and push yourself above the rings. Keep your arms straight and by your sides.[/tweet_box] Roll your shoulders back, don’t shrug, and hold.

10 seconds per set

Dips


Get yourself into the Top position but this time you should be in the above-the-rings grip. Keep your shoulders down and don’t let your shoulders drop past rings as you go down. As you push up to full arm extension, turn your wrists out.

3-5 reps per set

Tuck L-Sits (Intermediate)

Once you feel confident with the Top Position, you can move onto the Tuck and L-sit. From the Top Position, bring your knees to your stomach and be sure not to round your back. If you’re feeling wild, straighten your leg forward so that they’re parallel to the ground.

10 seconds per set

Muscle-up (Advanced)

If you’ve mastered all the above movements and are convinced you’re God of the Rings, (Sounds like a sequel to The Hobbit), the Muscle-up will be a much needed reality check. Start with a false grip while hanging from the rings, and pull yourself up with enough momentum to get your chest above the rings and hands in your armpits. Lean forward and push straight up, keeping your elbows by your side the whole time. Keep your posture upright and turn the rings out, just like in Top Position, then let yourself back down slowly into the false grip.

3-6 Reps per set

At first, repeat with as many sets as you feel comfortable with. Universal Rule of the Rings (again, sounds like a great sequel to The Hobbit): Your core and leg muscles need to be stable, meaning zero movement and momentum during each exercise. Not just for form but as an exercise itself. Keeping your lower body stable requires just as much muscle activation as the pushing and pulling of your upper body.

The underlying theme of gymnastic-ring training is patience. If you can only do one pull-up initially, thats okay. Next time go for two. Everyone has to start somewhere, those who succeed are patient with themselves.

 

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m always looking to provide readers with the best advice possible. Your feedback in the comments below is a great way to continue the conversation.

Which exercises did you like the most?

Which exercises were the hardest to progress on?

 

calisthenics training program

calisthenics training program

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!
Go for longer and be stronger. How to build cardiovascular endurance with calisthenics?

Go for longer and be stronger. How to build cardiovascular endurance with calisthenics?

[tweet_box design=”default”]How can I improve my cardiovascular endurance when calisthenics is based on building muscle strength?[/tweet_box]

You want to be lean and mean, right. Think about that for a minute from Paul Wade’s – perspective on the inside – the prisoner and the author of the legendary Convict Conditioning – the training program – our program is based on- Getting Started with Calisthenics. It’s not going to do you a lot of good to be able to slog through hours of jogging, running, or cycling, when you’re in the middle of a prison fight, or get called out to a hand-to-hand battle of strength and honor in the rec yard.

What you need is pure brute strength.

The kind of strength that gives you the confidence to take down any challenge. [tweet_box design=”default”]Stick with calisthenics and it will deliver.[/tweet_box]. And when it’s all said and done, you’ll not only be the strongest badass around, you’ll also have the cardiovascular endurance to fight your way through a no-holds-barred brawl and survive, or run for your life like you’ve just escaped from San Quentin.

Calisthenics Endurance

On the surface, calisthenics training may seem like it’s exclusively a strength training program based on the progression exercises for each of the FUNDAMENTAL 8 Exercises (one-armed push-ups, one-armed pull-ups, one-armed handstand push-ups, one-legged squats, straight leg raises, and stand-to-stand bridges). But when you put in the time to follow the program, there’s a lot more going on that just building muscle strength.

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 30 to 60 minutes a day of moderate intensity cardiovascular activity, and at least two days of strength training exercises for best health. Most people see the strength training component of the cardio recommendation as a call to action for walking, jogging, aerobics, or spending time on a treadmill or stationary bike. And go to any gym, and you’re likely to find the bikes and treadmills full of people putting in their time on one of those hamster wheels.

But it’s not really necessary, especially with Calisthenics. One of the hallmarks of calisthenics program started by Paul Wade’s program perfected during his 19-year stint in prison is high-rep training for each of the progression exercises for the FUNDAMENTALS. This approach is perfect for building muscle strength and endurance. It’s also a safer way to go about doing it compared to lifting heavy weights, that helps you master technique and build the kind of muscle memory that makes doing the exercises a little easier with every workout.

But the benefits don’t stop there. Give the workouts your best effort, and you’ll be huffing and puffing to muscle your way through them. You’re actually getting cardiovascular benefits from calisthenics workouts, and moving through the exercises in a workout will keep your heart rate elevated long enough to strengthen your heart, lungs, and muscles. Use this heart rate calculator from the Mayo Clinic and you’ll find that a sustained CC workout will keep you in the ideal range for building cardiovascular strength and muscle endurance.

Prison-Style Cardiovascular Exercises

The calisthenics workouts provide adequate cardiovascular benefits to help you build endurance. But if you really want to step up your workouts and accelerate the amount of fat you’ll burn from week to week as you master the progressive exercises for the FUNDAMENTALS consider adding some prison-style cardiovascular exercises. If you were locked up in a cell, long runs or cycling just wouldn’t be possible. But these prison-style exercises are more challenging than traditional cardio and will leave you in a sweat-soaked puddle of your own hard work.

Burpees

This exercise combines push-ups and squats that is guaranteed to leave you huffing and puffing. Get in a squatting position. Then place your hands on the ground and kick your legs back so you’re in push-up position. Then kick your legs back to squatting position, raise your hands above your head and jump as high as you can. Start with 5 or 10 and work your way up to being able to complete a set of 30.

Jacked-Up Jumping Jacks

This old-school exercise has been a staple for athletes and prison inmates for centuries. It provides some strength-building benefits to your arms and legs. But it also good for your cardiovascular health, especially if you modify the exercise to make it more difficult that the traditional move. Stand straight with your hands at your side. Quickly extend your arms out and raise them over your head vertically. At the same time, jump slightly and spread your legs. To make the exercise even more difficult, start in squat position. Then jump as high as you can while extending your arms and spreading your legs. Try to see how many you can perform in a minute and then try to break your record as you get stronger.

 

 

Mountain Climbers

[tweet_box design=”default”]You don’t need a lot of space to do this bodyweight training exercise[/tweet_box] either. But it will really challenge your cardiovascular system. Get in position with your hands on the floor with one knee on the ground and the other knee bent at 90 degrees with your foot on the ground. Bring your back leg forward while moving your upright leg to kneeling position. Alternate between legs quickly and see how many you can do in 30 seconds to a minute.

Cardio Power of Calisthenics

[tweet_box design=”default”]Calisthenics is designed to build muscle strength and calisthenics endurance[/tweet_box]. You’ll burn plenty of fat as you develop more muscle tissue. And the high-rep workouts provide an effective cardiovascular workout for your heart and lungs.

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!