3 Rules You MUST Follow To Build Superhuman Strength And Mad Skills With Calisthenics

by | Nov 26, 2019 | 37 comments

10 min read


CLICK HERE to join the tribe of Movement & Calisthenics Athlete – people just like you that are working with their own body weight to get strong, lose fat build muscle, recover from injuries and live their best lives!

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

I know, unsexy, but it’s true.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keep that in mind and you will succeed. 

Rule # 1. Be Patient and Consistent

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

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

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

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

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

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

This one is a killer.

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

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

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

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

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

Rule #3 Push yourself with progressive resistance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay Strong,


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




  1. Alpha

    Hey Jeff, this is a great article. I think it really helps step back from the ‘go big or go home’ mentality.

    I’ve been going to the gym for years but I never felt stronger, until I stumbled to calisthenics. It’s awe-inspiring and gravity defying that I want to learn it too. Can’t wait for your ultimate guide when you’re done writing!

    • Jeff Cowan

      Thanks Alpha! I was the same when I discovered calisthenics! Keep on going!
      It takes some time and patience but its so totally worth it!

  2. Saeed

    Let’s follow the rules <3

    • Jeff Cowan

      Way to go Saeed!

    • Jackson Milner

      Exactly! There are so many things that you can do in life that right way as long as you follow the rules, right? 🙂

  3. Hrvoje Došen

    What a great article! I’m very happy to find it! Yes, I believe there are no special secrets and shortcuts. These three priniciples are basicly what we need to follow to achieve great results with calisthenics. It’s hard for me too to be patieant and consistent withoz seeing actual results for a long period time, but patience is crucial to achieve something. Cheating won’t help, and we cheat ourselves, there is no purpose in that. We constantly need to go further, we need to push ourselves, weneed to go beyond whatever we have right now.

    When will be possible to get “Ultimate Guide to Getting Started with Calisthenics”?

    • Jeff Cowan

      Hey Hrvoje! So true! No secrets, just hard work!

      What helped me is focusing more on improvements in my skill than actually strength. When you think about working out more as a fun thing to do, a play, a skill improvement. And if you focus on a skill the strength gains will come along with that.
      Also its way easier to see improvements in skill than actual strength which is awesome too.

  4. danny

    love the article, great introductory post ,I am considering starting calisthenics, need to mentally prepare myself though so it doesn’t come as too much of a shock to my body. I will need to work on Rule 2: I have always had a problem with proper form when no-ones around, hopefully by being in front of a mirror I will be able to monitor it more though 🙂 Just signed up for your guide, can’t wait to see it!

    • Jeff Cowan

      Thanks a lot for support Danny!
      You will absolutely love calisthenics!

      Mirror is a great idea to control your form, but also just developing just a mindset to push yourself to do full range of motion is a good one too.

      It’s extremely important for your results.

  5. Amar Ghose

    Wish I’d seen this a few months ago, especially the progressive resistance part. I’m realizing that standard for bodyweight training but for some reason I thought if I could do enough pull ups I’d just be able to muscle up. Gotta work my way up to that apparently. Keep preaching, brother!

    • Jeff Cowan

      Thanks Amar! It is awesome that you are realising it! What is really cool about progressive calisthenics is that it gradually develops so many other aspects of our fitness than just strength like mobility, flexibility, skill if done right. Endless pullups will not magically get you anywhere.

      You might be already strong to do muscle up depending on where you are, but you really should work your skill. Pull over is a great way to transition. Look it up


      Also I would suggest following dips progression and working on that pushing motion. Here is the link https://bodyweighttrainingarena.com/dips-progression/

      You can do it! Just keep on going!

  6. Agnieszka Nazaruk

    These principles are so true. I always struggle with being patient and consistent. Have a little chart on my wall now which helps me to track my progress and how often I do workout.
    I have been following Convict Conditioning program but the gaps between some of the progressions are huge! It feels like there are missing steps and I am getting stuck at one level or the other. Any advice Jeff?

    • Jeff Cowan

      Hey Agnieszka! Thanks a lot for your post!

      This is a very common complaint about Convict Conditioning and a lot of people get stuck doing the progression as CC is missing a lot of mobility and skill work for example.

      The key is to keep on breaking these progressions down to smaller and smaller pieces, we call it movement deconstruction. I am talking about it extensively in the book, so make sure you check it out!

    • Justin Bradshaw

      I feel your pain, Agnieszka. One of the hardest parts of maintaining a training program is to maintain consistency. I’ve given Convict Conditioning as well, and I struggled with the gaps as well.
      In fact, one of the most antagonizing aspects of training is actually resting. For me, whenever I take a ‘rest’ day… I always fear slipping into my old habits & simply not getting back on track. I’m determined to maintain my recent progress this time though.

  7. Ann Abbitz

    I’m glad that I found this post. My New Year’s resolution for this year was to get into better shape (shocker, I know), and I’ve done pretty well with my diet. I’ve cut out a lot – A LOT – of the bad stuff that I used to eat. No more fried food & no more fast food for starters.
    But, I’ve been trying to find the right route to take to find an exercise routine that is ideal for me. I think this could be it, but it will definitely take some work. I haven’t exactly been the model of fitness over the last 5 years so I know success won’t come overnight.
    Are there any tips you have to keep your mind strong when things get difficult? Any favorite quotes or techniques?

  8. joaquim

    Nice, thanks. I’m gonna follow the rules and i’m looking foward for the rest of the program.

    • Jeff Cowan

      Thanks for support Joaquim!

  9. Aidan Poles

    Patience must be the hardest one… resistance training and full range of motion, I find, come with practice and commitment, but patience? Most people want results fast, but Jeff is absolutely right: it takes time to develop this kind of gymnastic strength. Gotta keep your eyes on the prize!

    • Jeff Cowan

      Hey Aidan, Totally agree! It might take a bit longer to see results with just bodyweight than weights training but its so worth it. For the sake of your joints, flexibility, mobility and all round body fitness, taking it slow is better. I always say Slow is Smooth, Smooth is Fast!

  10. zaki gym

    yes ,this is great article ,i just beginner in calisthenics and i hop doing more pull up because its the harder movement for me.

  11. Jackson Milner

    I know that when I focus on the exercise itself, I do the best in terms of getting results. These “rules” are good to follow and are a great way to produce the best results.

  12. Fouad Ghalayini

    I have been trying calisthenics for alot of time now and i can do lots of push ups and stuff but i am not getting that visible-blocky six pack how can i achieve one i already have it but not that visible

  13. Miroslav Grynyuk

    I find this article amazing, and really great for people that learn Calisthenics. I did street workout for 2 years and Calisthenics for 1 year, I have really good results for 16 years old, but all the time I have troubles changing my routine, I just stick to two different routines for 6 months, just don’t know how to do different, its just I want to do hard exercises, regularly and don’t like to abandon exercises that I did before and that makes workout long. If someone could please give me an advice. I can do different muscle ups, different push ups, Hand Stand.

  14. Grasnow

    Unbreakable rules make unbreakable humans.

  15. Abu Ukkaashah

    The part that hit me was “If you’re not growing, you’re dying.” Thanks Jeff… I’m definitely gonna take this seriously now. No excuses. :’)

  16. Abu Ukkaashah

    Came here just to revise the rules again. :’)

  17. Dane Williams

    I am so excited to start these workouts. I have never had much fun, or excited to go workout in the gym. It can be so boring making it hard for me to progress, but with calisthenics I feel more alive and excited to do them. These are the types of exercises that will keep me going!

  18. Octavio Esquivel

    Be patient is the hardest rule to follow, but is the only way to do the workouts in the right way. The other thing is how to progress, how to know if can go further? Do I have to workout every part of the body every day? Thanks Jeff!

    • Jeff Cowan

      No you don’t have to workout every body part every day Octavio. Patience is certainly key. One thing I try to focus on is trying to get just a little bit better every single day (get 1% better every day) over time that 1% builds up to a lot of improvement.

  19. Ben

    Very good article. In my opinion is also very important often to move. For example: If someone sits for the whole day on a chair, then one evening workout will not save him (but still better than nothing). I think it is important to often perform some short micro-training (microworkout) during the all day.

  20. oasmari17

    Great article 🙂

  21. Karen Mitchell

    Good stuff! Need to stick with it, do it right, and push yourself a bit farther. I just started this journey, yet within a week I’ve noticed a change in my flexibility and more confidence in my strength & balance (as it relates to holding myself).

  22. Jorg

    Makes good sense to me.
    I’ll print these rules out and they go on the wall in my little gym as a reminder to myself and my boys ?

  23. Sam Greig

    Thanks for these awesome three rules, think this will really help me to step back and take a better look at my training. Definitely going to put these three rules up in my home gym.

  24. Todd Wells

    Does nutrition play a big factor in the weight loss?

  25. Paul M

    Strength is the one thing that is eluding me. I am in my 50s but really struggling to get stronger, still find Pullups really hard after 3 years and shoulder strength is really poor still, very frustrating. Can’t all be age as see guy’s my age doing muscle ups ext

  26. Ayush

    Hey,My name is Ayush,19 years old,still um wondering how to do Calisthenics properly,Um a Sri Lankan and um still a student.Here,I think it’s a bit difficult to find a good place to train Calisthenics , most of the people are only doing body building sort of things at GYMs,but I like to do this Calisthenics, coz I think it will help to develop strength as well as the flexibility,So I have started some Calisthenics practices at home.But still difficult to find where to start and how to develop it properly,I have no Calisthenics instruments,but I have a TRX.Most of the times um watching THENX videos and other stuffs which are related to Calisthenics.Howsoever, I’m really glad to read ure article.It’s so helpful.I need to get ure advice in doing Calisthenics meanwhile doing my other studies,I feel it’s difficult to continue both,but how can I train my mind to feel that I can do both and how can I allocate time for them?Jeff,can u give me an advice for it?And are there any good places where I can get some academic knowledge+practical knowledge of Calisthenics, and what I can do if I want to develop Calisthenics as my carrier?Here,I don’t know a good place or an institute to train.


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