The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Parallets

From helping your handstand to getting started with your l-sit, parallets should be a staple in any beginner’s hand-balancing workout. Let me tell you why:

Typically, Calisthenics tells you to stick with the bare essentials of equipment. Some rings, a pull-up bar and that’s it. But sometimes, having one or two more things at home can make your training easier.

Take hand-balancing, for example. It’s crucial to calisthenics, but it’s one hell of a challenge when you’re just starting out:

You need to get your legs up straight, keep your balance and hold your posture. Even if you’re using a wall or support blocks, your wrists and hands will usually get tired long before the rest of your body is ready to give up.

And that’s where a little piece of equipment like parallets comes in handy. They’re an awesome and affordable hand-balancing tool that allows you to do train longer safely. You can even go to our Calisthenics Academy shop and get them today.

But how can I use parallets?

Parallets can help you in so many different ways, but there isn’t much info about how to actually add them to your training, or how to work out with them. This is why we’ve created a guide. Let’s dive into it!

WHY SHOULD I ADD PARALLETS TO MY TRAINING?

Here are some of the awesome benefits parallets have:

  • Prolong your training. You can practice hand-balancing on the ground until you start experiencing wrist fatigue, then switch to using the parallets for the rest of your training session.
  • Prevent overuse injury. Hands and wrists aren’t naturally equipped to carry our entire body weight. If you don’t train them properly, they’ll quickly develop overuse injuries that take a lot of time to heal. As a beginner, parallets will help you train properly without putting too much stress onto your hands and wrists.
  • Add an extra step to your progressions. Is working on the floor too hard right off the bat? Try training with parallets as an extra step towards working on the ground.
  • Practice moves you can’t do on the ground. Can’t do an L-sit on the ground because, well, you just can’t yet? Start on parallets! They take you off the ground enough for you to get started.

6 ways to include parallets in your training

Here are 6 basic moves you can train on your parallets for a wider range of movement, easier progressions while safeguarding your wrists and hands.

Be careful with your wrists’ position! When starting, always keep them in a neutral position to prevent overexertion.

L-Sit
How-to: 
Keep your hips extended at the same level as your hands. Raise your legs as high as you can, preferably to a 90-degree angle, parallel to the floor. If you can’t, focus on keeping your feet off the ground while holding your back and arms straight.
Photo credit: Crossfit Magnus

Tuck-Sit
How-to:
Keep your hips extended, slightly in front of your hands, and your back as straight as you can maintain it. Your knees should be tightly held to get her and your head is held in a neutral position.
Photo credit: GMB Fitness

Push-up
How-to: 
Keep the parallets wide enough that your hands and shoulders are at the same width. Bend your knees if you need to, and lower down with your elbows tucked in. As per calisthenics, lower slowly while exhaling (4s) and push up quickly with a 1s pause each way. Watch out for your hip position and keep them aligned with your body!
Photo credit: Men’s Fitness

Tuck-Planche
How-to: Push down on your shoulders, round your back and pull your knees together, tight against your chest. Remember, keep your wrists in a neutral position.
Photo credit: Men’s Fitness

Dips
How-to: You have the option to do L-Sit dips, or follow the image with your feet on the ground. Keep your elbows tucked in and exhale while going down slowly (4s) and inhale coming up.
Photo credit: Desert Cart

Handstand (against the wall)
How-to: 
Place your hands on the parallets as close to the wall as you can while staying balanced. Align your head, shoulders and back, bring your stomach in to avoid the “banana” shape. Push your shoulders down and keep your head neutral (don’t overextend your neck). Try letting only your feet touch the wall.
Photo credit: Men’s Fitness

Wanna workout? Include your parallets!

  • Use the best warm-up for you.
    If you don’t have one, here’s a good warm-up routine from GMB Fitness:
  1. Shoulder circles – 5 times each direction
  2. Up/Down/Right/left neck tilts – 5 times each side
  3. Arm crossovers – 5 times each side
  4. Wrist stretches, fingers facing into and away from the knees – 5 times each
  5. Elbow circles with hands on the ground – 5 times each way
  6. Scapular shrugs, hands, and knees on the ground – 5-10 times
  7. Cat/Cow alternation – 5 each pose, hold for 3-5s
  8. Shake out those shoulders for a few seconds!
  • Dips – 5-12 reps
  • L-sit 5-10s
  • Tuck-sit 5-10s
  • Tuck planche 5-10s
  • Push-up – 5-12 reps
  • Rest 90s-2 minutes
  • Repeat steps 2-7 for no more than 3-4 rounds.
You can end your workout with a handstand (against the wall), holding for 10-45s.

 

Interested in getting your own set of parallets? Check out our shop at Calisthenics Academy!

Have your own experience with parallets? Share it in the comments or in our Facebook group.

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!
Bare Minimum Workout from a professional acrobat

Bare Minimum Workout from a professional acrobat

If you’re in a fitness rut, The Bare Minimum Workout is for you.

Have you left the office after work too exhausted to work out? Ever been stuck in a cycle of exhaustion and lack of exercise because of

minimal calisthenics workout with Rocco Lapaire professional acrobat

play time!

poor food choices? Or are you just bored with your current routine?

This happens to the best of us; I’ve experienced all types of workout plateaus, ruts, jeesh even valleys!…and that’s why I developed my “Bare Minimum” workout. It’s not a substitute for a full training plan. It’s more like insurance to make sure that you never, ever get out of shape. Consider it a way of bulletproofing your long-term fitness goals.

This workout combines basic everyday fitness needs with focused skill training. It can be tailored to meet your goals. This can mean, for example, doing it in the shortest amount of time with as little equipment and space as possible. With it, you’ll never, ever get out of shape. 

It’s a do anywhere, anytime workout.

Before you get started, though, you need to lay your fitness goals out. What does your body need to achieve your goals? Do you have any special exercises, like physical therapy exercises?

Get creative, and make sure the program you lay out for yourself is reasonable. Try building it with little to no equipment, and short enough to squeeze into even your most hectic days.

You are the creator of your plan, these are your goals -make this program your go-to when you can’t get a longer routine in. Smart, focused, and diligent training will yield results!

1. My “Bare Minimum” workout

I’m an acrobat, so I set myself very specific goals.

I’m an acrobat, so I set myself very specific goals. My body needs specialized exercises to make those goals a reality while protecting my joints from the wear and tear caused by advanced acrobatics.

My current goals: increase the flexibility of my active and passive splits; have a reliable one arm handstand.

My fitness needs: PT to prevent shoulder and wrist problems to continue my acrobatic work. For the splits, I need enhanced joint mobility and strength.

My Bare Minimum (BM) Workout: I start off with a PT warmup. It stretches my wrists and shoulders, preparing me for handstands.

I then go into a routine with a variety of handstands, wrist strengthening exercises, and split stretching that addresses my body’s needs and moves me closer to my goals. The entire routine is 45 minutes.

Wait, what? 45 minutes?!

I know that for many people, 45 minutes is excessive for a “Bare Minimum” workout.  But my routine caters to my career as a full-time acrobat.  Remember, this program is customizable! Unless you’ve got the same needs as me, working on a one-arm handstand and splits, you’ll want to create a shorter workout that still keeps you on track with your long-term goals.

So let’s talk about YOU.

I think that it’s safe to say that there are three broad goals for general fitness:

  1. Lose weight
  2. Maintain current weight
  3. Gain muscle mass.

You can obviously add more goals to this list, though. Do you want to increase your cardiovascular endurance, so that you can run your first 5k/10k Marathon? Or maybe you want to focus on your chest and back, or your glutes! These are all goals that can be included in your Bare Minimum workout.

2 A BM booty workout routine

Shake that booty!

Fitness goals:  Lose 10 lbs and have a perfect booty.

Fitness needs: Expending more calories, increasing glute size and strength.

So what should your BM workout look like?

I’d suggest high-intensity interval training. Consider workouts like Tabata, burpees, mountain climbers, jumping rope, and other high-intensity full body moves guaranteed to burn some fat. Set a timer and do it for 15 minutes with a little rest as possible. It’s better to do an easier version of an exercise than have down time.

Now for the targeting –go for the hardest squat/lunge-type exercise you can do. Air squats, lunges, and squat jumps are all fair game. The key is to have a full range of motion. Pick an exercise or resistance level to do at least 8 and no more than 12 repetitions.

Bang out 3 sets and you’re done. Stretch and go home…unless you’re already home.

Never forget – these exercises all rock, but only if you absolutely nail the form. Every one of the above exercises is a risk for knee injuries if done wrong.

3 Bodyweight beast

Fitness goals:  Muscles, muscles, everywhere.

Fitness needs: Gain muscle without creating imbalances that lead to injury.

This is a staple bodyweight workout.

These are the three most important and complex exercises you can do: squats, pullups, pushups. Now make a workout around them.

Warm up with some wrist, knee, or shoulder PT.  You have to warm up anyway, so might as well keep your joints healthy. Almost every athlete develops problems in one of these three areas at some point. Some have problems their whole careers. If you really don’t feel warm enough yet (are you sweating yet?), go ahead and run around the block once or something.

The routine

Do 8-12 pullups, 8-12 pushups, and 8-12 squats. No more than 90 seconds of rest between each exercise.  If you can’t do a full pull-up yet, try pull-up negatives or pull-downs. If a normal pull up is easy, throw “pull-up progressions” at google and you’ll get a host of great sites like this one:

When I say 8-12, I mean pick a challenging-enough version of each exercise that you can do no more than 12 but can get at least 8 repetitions in. 8-12 is the NASM standard for hypertrophy (gaining muscle size).

This whole workout will probably take you as little as 20 minutes altogether, especially if you’re already warm. The only piece of equipment you need is a pull-up bar. Don’t have one? Use a door frame or jungle gym, fire escape, or the underside of some steps. Still, nothing? We’ve got you covered.  Now you have a basic bodyweight staple you could do even in your bedroom if you had to.

There is always a way.

If your workout can be done quickly, anywhere, at any time, you won’t have any excuses. So what are you still doing, reading this?

Share your Bare Minimum Workout with us in the comments, or on Facebook!

Extra resources to help you create your Bare Minimum Workout routine:

The Best and Worst Exercises for Bad Knees

Knee Physical Therapy You can Do at Home

Five Exercises for Rotator Cuff (Shoulder) Pain

calisthenics academy the ultimate calisthenics training program

 

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PRO ACROBAT with an extensive experience in movement science former Cirque Polynesia & Cirque Dreams acrobat and owner at http://gravityentertains.com/ Receiver of National Academy of Sports Medicine certification, 8 years experience in Martial arts. After a career in performance he passionately wants to bring movement disciplines to the masses
Build your own gymnastic rings – step by step guide

Build your own gymnastic rings – step by step guide

If you want to get the most from bodyweight training, you’ll definitely want some gymnastic rings.

What are the benefits of training with gymnastic rings?

They’ll give you a greater range of motion and strengthen your balance. The same exercises you do on the ground will be more challenging and more intense. Ever try a push-up on rings? It’s awesome, and it’s time to get started! This article teaches you the step-by-step process of making your own pair of affordable gymnastics rings so that you can start your training.

Buying fitness equipment from shops can prove to be pretty freakin’ expensive. You don’t need to pay big bucks to get it, though! I’ve made my own pull-up rings, and boy, was it a useful and exciting experiment. The end-product was great and well, it made me proud. It might take more time than buying it ready-made, but the effort was definitely worth it.

It might take more time than buying it ready-made, but the effort was definitely worth it.

The current guide is on how to build wooden gymnastic rings. In the past I did have a go at building one from PCV materials. You can see how it went here. 

Here’s how it goes.

Choosing your rings’ measurements

You need to plan ahead on the size of your rings. Be accurate so that the end product is as close to perfect as you can make it. Knowing your rings’ dimensions ahead means anticipating the thickness of the wood you’ll need, as well as its size before being cut.

Material that you will need

This step-by-step will get your rings at minimum cost. No expensive tools are used the process, but you do need some basic material, such as:

  • Any kind of wood (included salvaged from old furniture) that is:
    • Triplex or multiplex wood
    • Has a thickness around either 15mm or 30mm
    • Board size is at least 30×30
  • Wood glue
  • Sanding paper
  • Jigsaw
  • Clamps (or heavy weights for the gluing process)
  • Acryl-based lacquer

Step 1: Got wood?

If you’re using any random board that fits the requirements for this project, you’re going to need to cut it down to the usable parts. Saw them off and, if the board’s thickness is 15mm, saw it in half so that you can double back and get 28-30mm of thickness for your finished rings. If you need to do this, sand down a side of the board for the gluing process.

 

Cut the board for your Gymnastic rings thickness

Step 1: sanded down board cut in half to get 28mm-30mm thickness

Step 2: Glue ‘em!

This step can be skipped if your board is already approx. 30mm-thick. If it isn’t, glue the sanded side of your boards together with some simple wood glue. If you have wood clamps, use them now to make sure the boards stay together until the glue has dried. You can also use some heavy weights for a similar effect. Let the glue set for approx. 24 hours.

Glue the boards for your gymnastics rings thickness

Step 2: use clamps or weights to keep the boards together until the glue sets

Step 3: Draw like an artist

Draw the inner and outer rings. You can also draw a ring in the center to help you guide the ring’s shaping in the next step. Use the jigsaw (power or manual) to first drill some holes outside of the ring’s drawing so that you can get the blade through.

Cut your gymnastics rings

Step 3: drill holes outside of your ring’s drawings to get the jigsaw blade through

Step 4: Be patient, even artists do tedious stuff

Using wood files, start shaping your rings. Start with the rough and general shaping first, then move on to rounding it all out. You’re almost done, so don’t give up now!

File your rings to make them perfectly rounded

Step 4: be patient and you’ll see a beautiful finished product soon

 

Step 5: Make ‘em pretty and make ‘em long-lasting

If you want your rings to last for the next few years, apply a few layers of Acryl-based lacquer on them. Make sure they’re completely dry and the lacquer’s hard before starting to use them. You can choose to skip this step if you want, but I’d advise you to add some extra protection against the elements and sweaty hands.
Add some straps that hold your weight easily, and voilà! You’ve just made your own set of beautiful wooden gymnastic rings. Congrats for getting this far!

Time to play with your gymnastics rings

Step 5: time to start training!

Now that you have your homemade rings, check out our Guide to Using Gymnastics Rings and start with The Support to start training.

Have you made other calisthenics equipment on your own? Let us know in the comments. 

Also join our Facebook Group to meet fellow athletes who just like you are on the journey to build insane strength, muscle mass, and skills with calisthenics

Source for pictures and content: Instructables

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!
Are you doing it right? The Perfect Squat Assessment

Are you doing it right? The Perfect Squat Assessment

When done properly the squat is a safe and effective exercise that can be used for strengthening your entire body. Performing a correct squat requires the upper and lower body to work in unison, activating an estimated 200 muscles or more.

Squat

To make sure that your squats will reward your efforts with amazing gains, and not injury (“no pain, no gain” does not apply here), it’s important to make sure your technique is on point. A good way of starting out is to perform a Squat Assessment, to gain information about the areas you are lacking, from head to toe.

Of course, it’s difficult to observe yourself performing squats, even in front of a mirror, so consider enlisting the help of a friend, or you could film yourself so that you can get an objective view of areas where you may need to improve.

How to perform a squat assessment

  • Wear shorts and a t-shirt, to make it easier to observe your movements and identify faulty movement patterns.
  • Film yourself (or have your friend watch you) from the front and side view, to get a complete overview of your squat technique
  • Stand with the inside of your feet aligned with the outside of your shoulders
  • Feet should be facing straight ahead. Arms should be extended above the head.
  • Lower yourself down as far as comfortable, taking around 2-3 seconds to do so
  • Return to the starting position
  • Keep your heels on the ground, throughout the whole movement

So, what are you looking for? Here’s a checklist of things you need to pay attention to:

Starting Position Key Points:

  • Arms extended above head
  • Feet shoulder width apart
  • Feet pointing straight ahead
  • Eyes fixed straight ahead

Finish Position Key Points:

  • Arms stay straight
  • Don’t lean forward too much
  • Feet stay pointing straight
  • Heels stay on ground
  • Knees stay in line with feet

Problems to watch for:

  • Knees buckling inwards
  • Arms bending at the elbow or swaying excessively forward
  • Heels lifting off the floor
  • Upper body and shoulders leaning forward excessively
  • Lower back loses neutral spine position (twists or bends)

By working through the above checklist, you will be able to identify basic movement faults before they potentially become a problem.

Next Steps

If your Squat Assessment has highlighted areas that you need to improve on, you must check out our blog post, The 6 Golden Rules for achieving the perfect squat. This will give you, in detail, a step-by-step guide to achieving flawless squats.

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!
The 6 Golden Rules for achieving the perfect squat

The 6 Golden Rules for achieving the perfect squat

Squats are one of the fundamental building blocks of a good fitness routine. On the surface they seem simple, but it’s amazing how many people just aren’t doing them right. Without proper technique you could be wasting your time—or worse, risking injury.

However, with a little bit of instruction and step-by-step directions, anyone can learn a flawless squatting technique.

So, what’s the point of squatting? If you think about it, a squat or partial squat is an essential movement in life we must all be able to perform whether you are 18 or 80 years old. Notice how many times we perform this basic move in our daily lives—from picking up a box to lifting up a child. Our ability to do this in a safe and correct manner can make the difference between getting injured and living a healthy, pain free life.

And speaking of pain, don’t be misled by the old saying, “no pain, no gain”. Working hard at squats with proper technique will cause discomfort, but you should never feel pain. If you do, this is an indicator that you are not doing it right. Go back to basics and check your form. The only pain you should feel following squats is moderate soreness.

In order to push yourself to the next level and to learn good, sound squatting techniques, you will need to understand how to first complete a proper squat, and how not to over extend your body.

To help you with this, I’ve put together the 6 key things—the Golden Rules—that you need to know about squatting.

Rule 1: Give safe, maximal effort

The body is only able to exert a certain amount of effort with each exercise, but if you push your body beyond its limit, then you risk injuries. Your maximal effort should be your effort alone and should involve what you are able to do within reason.

Make it a point never to jerk, twist, or contort during your squats. You need to understand that these movements are not helping you. The muscles need to be work together to complete the lift. If your form is off or if the muscles are not working together, then there is more of a risk of injury.

Remember, do not get too ambitious when you first get started. Trying to progress your lifts quicker than your body can handle is a path towards injury and poor form. Being careful to progress at the right rate is not a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of strength.

Rule 2: Perfect your footing

An often overlooked, but vital, step of learning how to squat is to understand where your feet need to be to set yourself up for success. After all, the main goal in perfecting the squat is to be able to carefully lower your body and lift with swift, controlled movements. Your footing needs to be around shoulder width apart, but not too far or too close. Point your toes out to the side to get some advantage in your inner thighs and notice the difference. If you find that you are off balance at any time, drop down a level or two (e.g. If you were using a weight with your squats, consider racking your weight and starting over). You need a solid stance and good footing before you can take your squats to the next level.

Progression To pistol squat calisthenics trainingProgression To pistol squat calisthenics trainingProgression To pistol squat calisthenics training

Rule 3: Start easy, avoid injury

Over the years, I have learned that keeping squats easy to start with is by far the best rule of thumb. To begin with, lower down lightly, maybe about half the way down. This will help to develop leg strength and can help you to accomplish the form you desire. If you need to further assistance as you start out, consider placing a high bench behind you, or a squat machine if you have access to one. Lastly, some find it easier to use their own body weight to learn proper form; using body weight reduces the risk of injury and can help you to hit your goals much quicker.

Box Squat is a great way to get started. You can get a full progression to pistol squat here

Progression To pistol squat calisthenics training Progression To pistol squat calisthenics training Progression To pistol squat calisthenics training

Rule 4: A little support goes a long way

Here is how to start off (see the picture shown below). Make use of a vertical pole and stand in front of it. The hands should be placed on the pole at waist height. Squat down, and once you reach the bottom point,  sit down with the upper torso upright in a good posture. Your knees should be bent at a right angle at this point. If this is a tad challenging to start, then consider using more of the pole for assistance. The pole is your guide to keeping your glutes back and maintaining proper form.

Assisted Squat Calisthenics Pistol ProgressionAssisted Squat Calisthenics Pistol ProgressionAssisted Squat Calisthenics Pistol Progression

Rule 5:Don’t plateau, progress

What is the ideal prescription for a squat program? Initially it is better to start with three sets of about ten body weight squats. However, after about 7-10 days with a regular routine, it is natural for your muscles to adjust and you will need to progress in order to make gains. The following table will give you a basic idea on how to progress your squats.

Week #LoadReps
1.Ten pound dumbbellThree sets of  three reps
2.Ten pound dumbbellThree sets of  about five reps and so on

Rule 6: Good form is the key to success

If you wish to get the optimal results, then follow the squatting technique directions, as closely as possible. Attention to detail here will make all the difference.

  • If using a weight or kettleball, it needs to be tucked tight in to the torso and tight under the chin. Need more help with this form?  Look up goblet squat.
  • While lowering the body, inhale. The knees should slowly bend to lower the body down.
  • The glutes and hamstrings need to contract to their maximal effort, which happens during the lowering and rising phases. This will happen when you try lower your glutes down as if you are trying to sit down on a chair.
  • Once we have lowered down we need to exhale, relax, pause and then we can easily sink further down.
  • Even in the relaxed mode the torso needs to be upright in a good posture.
  • Take a brief pause.
  • Rise from the lowered position. Take a very brief pause, then rise from the lowered postion quickly, but in a controlled manner.
  • When we are rising, the thighs should be opened up slightly to an angle, or have your toes pointing out to the side.
  • Do not lock your knees when you complete your squat; keep them straight, but do not lock them.

Weighted Calisthenics Squats Weighted Squats 10bWeighted Squats 10c

If you follow the basic forms, as described above, then squatting will become more efficient. Before you add more weight or more reps, make sure your squat form is perfect. All of us have our physical limitations and initially it can be hard for us to move beyond them. But understanding what our own bodies can do is crucial in any exercise. Be consistent, be persistent and use your best form and best effort.

Follow the 6 Golden Rules to Squatting, and soon your squats will be paying back your patience and perseverance with great results.

Feeling inspired? Check out our Squat Assessment to see how your squats measure up.

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!

Improve Flexibility, Decrease Joint Stiffness…The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide

Because calisthenics is not your normal “up the weight” training program, you will quickly realize just how important mobility and flexibility is for building your strength and calisthenics skills.

Here is why it is important:

Just imagine strength as horsepower in an engine…

….No matter how powerful, you can’t control it if your tires are worn out…

If you only focus on adding horsepower, you’ll end up with worn down breaks, broken interiors, and bald tires.

Do you see where I’m going with this?

This is a bad idea.

You are building your own death trap.

There are two ways it can go: 1. or you will end up not being able to use that horsepower 2. Or you will crash. Simple as that.

If you just kept on adding all the weight, more horsepower but I had no ability to control it in any way. When I weight lifted in the past, I had a lot of strength. However, I had a bad shoulder and a bad knee, and my back was hurting. It was only a matter of time until I seriously injured myself.

And this is where mobility and flexibility comes in.

If you want to get stronger, you need to build a base of fundamental strength, but you need more than just muscular strength. You also need:

  • Strong tendons and ligaments
  • Strong joints
  • Flexibility and mobility
  • Balance and stability
  • Control

You need to develop all the other fitness qualities and physical abilities to be able to handle your muscular strength safely.

Once you improve your brakes, tires, and interiors, we can add more horsepower. That enables you to improve your skills and perform more advanced movements. These skills will continue building on top of others for your constant improvement.. Because of that  all around aspect of calisthenics, you can actually build more strength than with just weightlifting!

Lack of calisthenics can not only hinder your progress, but can make it impossible to move forward. I quickly realized that my stiff joints were becoming a barrier in my success and it was time to take care of it. I dove into research on the topic; below is everything I have learned in the process of avoiding joint stiffness and increasing my overall range of motion.

What You Need to Know About Flexibility and Range of Motion

    • Strength and flexibility go hand-in-hand. You cannot attain success in your calisthenics program unless you have both strength and flexibility. In studying the essential body mechanics, we see that our muscles need to have the strength to be flexible. Notice that when you work out, your body does not let you go beyond a particular level of flexibility.  This is what is referred to as your range of motion. If you have no flexibility, you will have a limited range of motion, and thus reduced strength.
    • Weak joints can lead to injuries.  If the muscles stabilising a joint are weak, then this joint and the muscles associated with it are at risk for injury. This is an important aspect in your calisthenics training program. If you tend to have weak joints, then it is wise to start on the lighter end for your safety.

    To counter stiff joints and bring a drastic improvement in flexibility, try different types of stretches that target all the muscle groups. It is best to hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds, and consider two sets of each stretch for optimal results.  Follow along with the video below for an introduction to stretches.

When to Stretch in your Workout

Most of us are focused on warm-up exercises, and we tend to do different stretches as part of a warm-up session. Studies show that stretching is not considered to be part of a warm-up. Rather, your stretching should occur at the end of your workout when your muscles and joints are sufficiently warmed.  

Another ideal time to try out stretches is before bedtime, which helps to relieve some of the tension in your muscles at the end of the day. Stretching 30 minutes before bed can help your body ease all of the tension, and can help calm your nerves for effective sleep. Follow these easy tips to help improve your flexibility and to ease tension.

Another important aspect when looking to improve flexibility is to select the right stretches for you and your goals. For example, dynamic stretches are perfect for a warm-up session or before competitive activities. Static stretches are ideal for any post-workout routine, so this is something that any athlete can do in the gym to stretch the worked muscles.  Lastly, more advanced stretches (which brings the best results of all forms) is PNF.  This is an advanced way to stretch the muscles and joints, and should be done with a partner who knows what they are doing.

Clueless about static and PNF stretching? Let me explain more. Static stretching is a stretch without any movement. This means that you will be getting into your stretching position and then hold that position for a certain amount of time (roughly 30 seconds). Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF) helps the body overcome resistance by using a contract/relax/stretch method. This cycle of tension and relaxation allows for deeper stretches and improved range of motion. Thisis considered the most advanced stretching method around. With PNF stretching and long-hold static stretching, we can get results on a permanent basis.

Important Tips to Improve Joint Stiffness

Now that we have gone through some tips, let’s look at some practical activities that can help to relieve joint stiffness and help us to prepare for calisthenics.

Upper body activities:

    • Head: Stand or sit and face forward. Your arms should be at your side, and your shoulders need to be square. Your head should be  turned to one side. We need to hold in this position for 30 seconds and then slowly face forward. Now we need to start turning to the other side. We need to look up and then look down. Your head needs to be rotated clockwise first, and then counter-clockwise.  Do all of these for 30 seconds each.
    • Triceps: Bring one arm up in the air and bend your elbow so that your hand is behind your body.  Bring your other hand up to your bent elbow above and slowly lower your arms behind your body.  Hold this position for 30 seconds and switch arms.
    • Shoulders: Reach one arm across your body towards your other shoulder.  Bring your other arm underneath that extended arm and hold that stretch for 30 seconds.  Switch arms and repeat.
    • Trunk: Your hands need to be placed on your hips, then start to bend at your waist to the left. Then straighten up and bend to the right.

Lower body activities:

    • Legs: Sit in a chair. Extend one leg out in front and place your foot on the ground. Slowly reach your hands down your legs towards your toes while keeping your legs as straight as possible.
    • Hips: Your hips need to be rocked from side to side; the weight needs to be on one hip and then shifted to your other hip.
    • Torso: While sitting, twist to one side and attempt to look over one shoulder.  Repeat on the other side.  Hold each stretch for 30 seconds each.
    • Calves/Thighs: Stand up and face the wall. Straighten one leg out back behind your body. Your palms should be pressed against the wall, and you need to feel the stretch by leaning forward into the wall. The stretch should be felt on your calves and thighs. You need to hold this position for about 30 seconds, and then switch sides and repeat.

If you try out these tips and exercises, you will really be able to prepare yourself for calisthenics like I did.  These tips are ideal for improving flexibility to gain a better range of motion, and subsequently to gain better strength.

Do you have a favorite mobility routine? Share in the comments!

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!