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When we start a new sport, in this case, calisthenics, we are willing to be impatient. We want to to do more reps, sets and perform advanced exercises as soon as possible. But, sooner or later, a point comes when we cannot develop anymore as we want. And, we do not understand why we stop gaining.
On the other hand, it is evident that we want to reach out goals as fast as possible. Who would not want to perform a human flag in a year or one arm pull-ups?
But, it does not work like that! (Unless you are the kid of Mr. and Mrs. Hercules.)
Building advanced level calisthenics requires the same philosophy as building a solid house. It needs a very well-built and unshakable base. A base that allows you to put more and more layers of bricks, stories making it the best and highest house in the world. And for that, you need to start the right way.
That is what I did not do when I started calisthenics. I was impatient and jump from one exercise to a more advanced version to show myself and the world how perfect guy I’m. I did not care about that I can do only a few reps or about the form.
When I stopped growing, I was let down thinking that is the maximum I can get out from myself. I was sorry for myself. But, fortunately, I’m not such a guy who gives up anything quickly.
I went deep in the whys. Why I could not do more pull-ups, one arm push-ups and why I could not do such desired exercises like a human flag?
And, I had to admit myself that my base was not firm. How would have I done 5 one arm pull ups if I could have hardly done 15 strict pull-ups? Noway!
So, I went back to the very basics to build a solid foundation. I dropped my impatience focusing on the form and the number of reps. I only switch to a new advanced exercise when I feel the prior move is a piece of cake.
I hope you do not mind I told my story. I just wanted to show you how important it is to start calisthenics the right way to avoid future failures.
Anyway, I recently bumped into an excellent motivational/training advice video from Chris Heria who says the same. He has an extreme physique that he has built with patience step by step. Check it out below.
Let’s recap his advice.
1. Put the work in the basics
For me doing 40 push-ups at once used to be the maximum, I could imagine. After my decision going back to the very basics, I started doing incline push-ups at very high reps 60-100. After a few weeks, I could do 50 regular push-ups without difficulty. Good example, how a preparatory exercise with high reps affects the goal exercise.
High reps not only increase the strength and endurance of the used muscles but teaches the muscles to work together correctly.
It is hard to change the mind to such high reps and to return novice exercises. But, move over yourself.
2. Perfect form
It is another typical mistake that a lot of people commit. If you perform an exercise poorly, how do you want to achieve the advanced version? Again, you do not have a solid base. Quality over quantity is vital.
To link back to the previous advice, it is far better if you do 20 incline push-ups correctly than 10 bad regular ones. Increase the reps of the exercise you are already good at, and the next version will be OK as well.
3. Grip strength
What part of your body that you always use when doing calisthenics?
Your hand! With that, it is important to have firm grips. You can have the strongest back in the world if your grip is so week that the bar slips out from your hands.
A lot of people, doing bodyweight training or lifting weights, think there is no need to have focused exercises for improving grip strength since it is always used. But, it is like any other part of your body, so it needs to be targeted as well.
Strong grips help to lift more, do more reps, sets and perform more complex exercises.
I do only hanging on the bar, and it is unbelievable how it can help to do more pull-ups, for example.
You can learn bodyweight forearm exercises here and grip strengthening exercises with free weights here.
4. Do negatives
The negatives are excellent preparations for the goal exercises. They use the same muscles and help to learn the small movements (parts) of the practices. This way, at the end you have a routine and strength in the small motions, so it will be easier to put together the desired exercise.
5. Have goals
Without a goal, we traipse. But, have achievable short and long-term goals. Short term goals can give you the feeling of success faster helping to move forward, while long-term goals are the far points of lights in the darkness.
Right now, my short-term aim is doubling the reps of the preparation exercises. The long-term? Well, to be the cool middle age guy (father) at the local calisthenics park 🙂 who puts the young boys to shame. That means my physique is excellent.
Wasn’t enough? Check out the following video from Barstarzz for even more “I wish I knew when I started calisthenics” advice.