Everybody is always after the magic Calisthenics pill. The ‘quick’ way to short cut the hard work and hours which ultimately lead to the ‘skill set’ you desire. Whilst I can not offer you a short cut as such, I can share Three things. Three things that, if I had my time again I’d focus on a lot more! Three areas, which in my opinion will lead to faster Calisthenics progression.
Firstly one must escape the notion of labelling skills
This leads us (in any field) to a yearning to learn the ‘Advanced skill set‘ whilst rushing over what we view as lesser level abilities. Let’s face it, the term Advance is ‘pro rata‘ to each persons skill set, for example the Humble push up. The push up is a skill that a high level gymnast or any high level fitness practitioner would view as ‘beginner’. However if you are approaching training from the sofa I can assure you, you’re gonna find it pretty advanced.
So, this leads me on to point number one. NEVER neglect the basics (in any field). Basics are your bread and butter in any past-time you’re working on. They are literally the building blocks for the whole skill you are learning. Now I’ve taught and trained for a very long time now and I’m sure their are a number of people reading this thinking “Yeah I always focus on basics”. Well this is the time, when we are alone with our thoughts to be 100% honest. Do you? Do you honestly focus on these?
“Yeah I always focus on basics“
Let’s Be Honest
From my experience, the number of those who do to don’t, is around 20/80 and this is why so many of us fail to achieve our perception of ‘Greatest’. We just don’t have the foundation to carry forward.
If you really get down to the harsh truth the Full Planche is just a very, very advanced version of a push up. It incorporates the same muscle groups, just under a lot more pressure! But a pressing exercises nonetheless. This being said if you can’t perform clean standard push ups with correct form and scapula awareness then how are you ever going to planche?
The isometic holds we all chase are just the icing on the cake, the real gains are made via our fundamental work and Calisthenics journey working towards this.
My Approach to Calisthenics training
- Standard push ups (With correct form)
- Scapula Push ups
- Planche Leans
- Pseudo Planche push ups
To develop good pushing power and correct scapula awareness
You could also look to do
- L sits
- Gymnastic ring supportive holds
- Straight Arm Raises
To develop the straight arm strength.
All the above will help you develop your core, straight arm strength, increase power and build muscle. All this while working towards the full planche, Calisthenics Gains, Gains, Gains.
Yet all I see is people focusing on trying to ‘Tuck Planche’ all the while missing the real magic. Good Foundations.
Next up and often missed in Calisthenics is mobility. Mobility is simply the ability to freely move our joints throughout a complete range of motion.
A lack of this can
- Hinder performance
- Leave one ‘wide open’ to injury
- Hinder muscle growth
- Reduce quality of life
Hindering Calisthenics Performance
Take for instance, in Calisthenics, the humble handstand. We have all done and see those disgusting looking banana shaped handstands right? Well often this can be down to a lack of shoulder mobility. If you can’t stand with your back against a wall, stretch your arms above you hands on to the wall, and make a vertical line, then you will never handstand straight. Never being, until you address the mobility issue. However to handstand (on the floor) you also need full mobility of your wrist – notice now how important mobility is!
Fear not, all this can be addressed via mobility drills and stretching. It just means shifting your Calisthenics focus from the Handstand and back to the ‘fundamental’ skills required.
Trying to continue to handstand with this lack of range of motion will likely lead to injury. Simply stacking your whole body upside down in a totally unnatural position is going to cause a lot of stress and damage. Damage to areas you are actual trying to strengthen!
‘Hindering muscle growth’. This is simply going to stem from the fact you can not perform a given exercise through its complete range of motion. Without this ‘range of motion’ you are not getting full muscle activation. Therefore the overall effectiveness of the given exercise has decreased.
Quality of life – away from calisthenics
Well let’s face it without decent joint mobility we are going to be walking around with a lot of aches and pains. This is something I now strive to correct and work on as ignoring this in my younger days has caught right up with me.
On top of Mobility drills we can also look to our diet. A healthy intake of OMEGA 3 or Cod liver oil can help to keep our joints healthy, along with other benefits. A diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods can also help keep any inflammation at bay. Obviously diet alone will not help mobility, however coupled with mobility drills and stretching it can only help.
Taking Your Time
“Mama used to say, Take your time young man” – Great song and such an element of total truth. Take your time, it’s not a race. I can tell you from experience, everyone who sticks with something gets there in the end. Admittedly we all arrive at different times, but we get there.
Now taking your time may sound like a strange tip for faster progress. The truth is by taking your time and not overloading your body, to hard and to soon, you can lessen the chance of injuries. It is far more productive and healthy to go ‘slow and steady’ than take the ‘boom or bust’ approach which leads to months of being side lined, injured.
Take it from me it is far better to go and study through the fundamentals, building up strength and skill slowly than to push yourself so hard your out injured for a month. I know. I’ve been there often.
There is a great quote which states “Look in the mirror, that’s your competition” and it’s so true. This whole fitness journey is ours and only ours. As long as we are making steady progress and becoming healthier and fitter versions of our former selves, then we are winning.
Drop That Ego
I can also assure you that there are very, very few people who actually care if you progress or not. So who are you rushing for? Some will even see you as competition! My advice, let them injure themselves by trying to out do you. Remember your competition is the person in the mirror. So train smart and ego free. All whilst concerning your self with your own development and not trying to out do everyone else.
So there you have my three tips
- Focus more on fundamentals
They will be make or break for you when it comes to progressing on to harder skills.
- Work on mobility
If you want to achieve your max potential, this is a must. Mobility and Stretching should be as important to you as the actual ‘power’ building exercises.
- Take You Time
It’s you and only your journey. Take your time, enjoy each phase. Train as injury free as possible by not putting to much pressure on yourself to quickly.
The attitude of ‘go hard – go fast’ is very out dated now. The more we learn and understand the human body, the more we realize that there’s much more to a healthy lifestyle. It does not revolve around being able to show off Isometic holds or taking muscular selfies for Instagram. The real healthy lifestyle is about creating a body that functions well through day to day activities and into our old age. Train hard but train smart.
For more info check out