If you’ve stumbled across this article, most likely you’re all read-up about the basics of Calisthenics training and you’re ready to take it up a notch and find out the nuts and bolts behind body weight training. If you’d like to check out that article first, please click here as this is Part 2 of the Calisthenics article series. Let’s get started!
EXERCISE VARIETY & PROGRESSIONS
As mentioned in the first article, it is much harder for calisthenics athletes to keep track of their progress. They can just pop an extra 5 pounds onto the bar and improve on their personal best that way. And adding an extra pull-up to your maximum rep is harder than you might think.
Luckily, there’s a solution. Exercise progressions are a way to add variation to exercises and segment them, making it easier to track your progress and actually feel like you’re getting fitter and stronger. Let’s take a very simple exercise and walk through some of the progressions that you can challenge yourself with – the classic push-up.
If you’re a complete novice when it comes to physical training or if you’ve got a slight weight problem, simply going down and doing 20 push-ups is a daunting task. But instead of just throwing in the towel, you can use exercise progressions to ease your way into more challenging exercises:
- Start with push-ups on knees. Instead of fully extending your legs, simply bend them at the knees and lift your calves in the air. This takes a lot of the pressure off your chest and allows you to ease into the exercise. Start slow and take time before you can comfortably do several sets of 12 knee push-ups. Once you reach this stage, you’re ready to move on to other progressions.
- After getting comfortable with knee push-ups it’s time to move on to serious exercises. If you can manage more than 10 regular push-ups in a single go, then you should forget about knee push-ups and focus on regular ones instead. Make sure to keep your back straight and go low enough so the tip of your nose touches the ground. Again, you should be able to do multiple sets of 12 push-ups before you move to a more challenging variation.
- After you’ve gained enough strength to breeze past the 12 standard push-ups, it’s time try a more challenging variation – the wide push-up. Simply extend your arms wider to around 1.5 shoulder length and try going up and down. You’ll feel the difference right away. This engages a different set of muscles and should provide a tough challenge even if you’ve got a little training experience under your belt.
- Even if you can reliably perform multiple 12 repetition sets of both regular and wide push-ups, there are plenty more push-up challenges that await. A great way to change your status from Beginner in Calisthenics to Above Average is by mastering a technique known as the Tuck Planche. It requires a bit of training and the exercise is quite different from the basic push-up, but it is essential in transitioning to much more complex calisthenics exercises.
Check out this awesome video that explains the entire process of mastering the tuck planche!
- And the best part? It doesn’t stop there! This group of progression exercises go all the way up to the gravity-defying miracle that is the planche push-up
As you can see, it doesn’t even end with the planche push-up. In fact, once you’ve built a considerable amount of core and upper body strength, the only thing limiting your workout capabilities will be your own imagination. And you can always turn to popular Calisthenics pros like Frank Medrano for some motivation as well as inspiration.
For an incredibly comprehensive and detailed list of bodyweight exercise progressions, check out this awesome article by the guys at AShotOfAdrenaline.com. Chest, shoulders, biceps, triceps, back, etc. – they got you covered.
If you’re a big fan of YouTube and video content, here are a few awesome channels for everything from motivational content to exercise suggestions and step-by-step instructions:
Frank Medrano. I mentioned it before and I’ll mention it again - this guy is a true Calisthenics legend. From inventing completely new exercises and routines to setting gravity-defying personal bests, this guy is at the very peak of professional bodyweight training.
Fitness Clown. While the channel name might sound like the opposite of a bodyweight training pro, the content is no joke. 1 finger push-ups, ab workouts and human flag tutorials – Kris has got all of that and more in his channel.
Austin Dunham. A personal favorite of mine, Austin is a stand-up guy who went from a skinny weakling to a mountain of raw, bodyweight-acquired muscle in just a few years. He has developed his own unique way of training and refers to himself as a “bodyweight bodybuilder”. The channel contains incredibly thorough workout videos as well as a bunch of entertaining content – definitely something to check out if you’re into calisthenics!
USEFUL EQUIPMENT FOR CALISTHENICS
While bodyweight athletes don’t really need any gear to start training, as you get stronger and progress to more complicated exercise progressions, some items can help you master a certain exercise, add a level of difficulty or just allow you to be more creative. And even if you’re at the very start of your bodyweight training journey, there are some products that will simply help you get over that hump or make it easier to work out at home.
And so I’ve compiled a list of useful equipment for bodyweight athletes. The list is based on workout difficulty, meaning the items at the beginning are more suitable for people who are just starting out with calisthenics, while the latter half of the list is more beneficial for stronger and more experienced athletes.
PULL-UP BAR | Workout difficulty: 1-3
Do you live in a home? Does your home have doors? If you answered yes to both of these questions, then you should probably get a pull-up bar ASAP. They’re easy to mount and dismount and allow you to instantly increase your exercise range and add more challenging variations to pull-ups as well as other exercises. They also allow you to work out at home without having to go to a calisthenics park.
I highly recommend this one from Sportneer. It features an excellent all-in-1 design and it’s quite cheap when compared to similar products.
HIGH-QUALITY JUMP ROPE | Workout difficulty: 1-3
A surprisingly underrated piece of simple workout equipment that most people never use after graduating from school. If used correctly, jump ropes can provide a challenging workout for your leg & core muscles as well as being an excellent substitute for traditional cardio like running or cycling.
Don’t cheap out on a $2 jump rope at Walmart though. For only $10 you can pick up the best rated jump rope on amazon.com from Survival and Cross.
HEAVY-DUTY WRIST WRAPS | Workout difficulty: 1-3
Whether you’re doing push-ups, pull-ups or trying to master the handstand, it’s inevitable that you’re going to put stress on your wrists. Many people struggle with wrist pain, especially middle-aged athletes.
Luckily, we have a solution for all these problems right here at Nordic Lifting. Check out our awesome pair of heavy-duty 24” wrist wraps with integrated thumb loops. They provide excellent wrist support, reduce the risk of injury and come in several awesome colors!
RESISTANCE BANDS | Workout difficulty: 4-6
Using resistance bands adds an additional layer to any workout. It doesn’t matter if you’re just starting out in the field of calisthenics and use them for assisted pull-ups and biceps curls or if you’re a seasoned veteran, trying to master the art of the muscle-up. These bands can make a wide array of exercises both easier and more challenging, depending on how you use them.
The hard part is actually finding proper ways of using them, that’s why they’re harder to work out with. I recommend getting a set of Fit Simplify bands. They come in a set of 5 and include a bunch of instructional content.
ANKLE/WRIST WEIGHTS | Workout difficulty: 4-6
Just because you don’t lift barbells at the gym doesn’t mean you can’t add a little bit of weight in different ways. Using weights on your ankles or wrists adds gravitational resistance to each exercise and makes them more challenging, even if you’re only adding a few extra pounds. They won’t work with every single weightless exercise, but will benefit most workout routines.
Our pair of weights is both durable and comfortable. They come in 4 different weight variations (1lbs, 2lbs, 3lbs and 5lbs) and feature a reflective trim, perfect for late night runs.
WEIGHTED VEST | Workout difficulty: 7-9
There comes a time in every bodyweight athlete’s life when he stops being a simple-minded calisthenics trainee and punches his way to the most challenging parts of the field. This happens immediately after he puts on a weighted vest for the first time.
Don’t go ahead of yourselves though – a weighted vest is a serious piece of calisthenics equipment and is not for the faint hearted. You must be incredibly comfortable in your strength and versatility before you try out even the lightest 20lbs vests.
If you feel like you’re up for the challenge I recommend looking at RUNFast vests. They are high quality products with a fair price tag and great functionality.
GYMNASTIC RINGS | Workout difficulty: 7-9
Getting a pair of gymnastic rings is an excellent way to learn completely new skills while working out as well as adding some variety to your routines. The unstable nature of the rings makes every exercise a real struggle and even seasoned athletes will struggle before they get the hang of working out on the rings.
We sell an amazing pair of gymnastic rings which feature extremely durable rings and extra-long adjustable straps. We also provide a free instruction manual as well as an eBook with exercise suggestions for athletes of all levels as well as additional informational content.