There’s a war going on ladies and gentleman…
…And it’s a war between the brains of calisthenic trainers all around the world.
And the roots of this war are simple: ‘Am I jeopardizing muscle and performance by not lifting heavy weights and instead following a calisthenic fitness regime?’
And the answer is HELL YES!
But it really doesn’t have to be this way. In fact calisthenics is one of the purest strength building routines around (hence why the military use it to train soldiers of all ranks).
And it’s not just for strength. When done right it will insanely increase your balance, energy, power and cardio in every session, unlike many other fitness systems that barely increase heart rate up after a warm up.
So why did I jeopardize my gains?
It was down to many things:
- My limiting belief and fear of losing muscle after I stopped heavy weight lifting.
- My brain was hard wired to train like a heavy weight lifter (big no no).
- I didn’t know how to build strength with this type of workout.
Instead of me boring you with why I messed up my gains and wasted time, let me show you the absolute KEYS to getting the most out of your calisthenic training every day.
From diet, to routine and even mind.
#1. – Drink So Much Water
Everyone thinks they drink enough water, Trust me I do too… But unless you know exactly how much you’re drinking every day you fail at this first simple hurdle.
Because anyone who has done any type of body weight workout know that the whole thing is like an intense warm up session.
Okay the last one only sometimes.
But seriously compared to normal weight lifting you’re going to be pushing yourself for much less time, but at a much harder level which really will take most the water out of your body.
And because you’ll be doing so many crazy things (especially once you’re advanced) there’s a good chance you will not be constantly drinking fluid throughout your workout.
What do I recommend?
Drink 3 liters of water per day.
Don’t gulp the water down at any one point because it just sits in your tummy (and could make you puke!) So instead take sips constantly throughout the day and throughout your training session.
And remember if you take creatine you need to drink more water depending on the dose you take.
#2. – You Have To Warm Up
I’m going to level with you. I used to hit the gym with a bare minimal warm up. I’m talking 10 minutes of running on the treadmill and that was on a good day.
Most days I’d not even warm up at all as I was trying to make the most out of my gym time.
And honestly the above is the clear definition of a newbie and I’m truly lucky I didn’t do more damage to my body during this period of time.
I wish i could say that my story above is unique to me but it isn’t… Over the years I’ve been to the gym with tons of different people and most, if not all of them spent a maximum of 5 minutes in warm up, if any time at all.
Now it wasn’t till I did MMA that I truly realized the definition of a full body warm up and saw just how powerful it could be.
And after doing a few calisthenic workouts I realized one thing: Weight lifters can get away with not warming up a lot longer than someone doing calisthenics, the pure movements and positions we put our body in puts us in vulnerable situations and even though all of the positions are perfectly safe when done right, without a warm up nearly all of the movements can lead to instant injury. Especially in the shoulder area.
So all you have to do is make sure you warm up before you start any workout. So here’s a few of the best calisthenic warm ups:
#3. – Start Taking Creatine
First, you don’t need to be on creatine to get started, so there’s no point in waiting to you get some of them monohydrated gains before hitting the bar.
I usually wouldn’t promote a supplement on a guide like this, but anyone who has done body weight workouts knows creatine was MADE for this type of exercise.
Creatine helps me and many others go that extra distance during exercise that really pushes the bodies muscle and cardio buttons, while also giving me a massive boost in cardio.
The creatine I’d recommend you take is the one and here’s a link that gets you a cool $5 off.
#4. – Building Strength With Calisthenic Exercises
Here’s where I and so many others went WRONG.
Most people start with pushups and pull ups and within a month they’re doing hundreds and not feeling any difference in body mass…
…So the trick to building muscle with your body weight is…
…Tention training (example: Doing a pull were at the top you stop and hold and allow the tension to build).
But, it has to be balanced perfectly with other movement exercises.
Okay here’s an example of tension (resistance) training:
Now this type of movement causes all kinds of tension in your muscles and really will make you love the BURN.
But now imagine, doing that for 10 seconds, followed by 5 – 10 pull ups.
This is where the magic happens.
You see the tension causes your muscles to feel the burn and then when you follow it with pull ups and push yourself past your comfort zone you get to the point where your muscle fibers are breaking down which is where the strength is made.
Two ways Of Doing This:
- I balance one tension exercise every two movement exercises: 50 push ups – 10 second rest – 30 pull ups – 10 second rest – 20 second pull up hold.
This is the perfect way to start and in my opinion is the perfect way to add intensity to your workout.
2. Tension exercise followed by movements: Hold pull up for 10 seconds, then do 10 pull ups.
You’ll definitely feel the burn. I find this takes more practice and when done by beginners it can sometimes lead to overdoing training and slight injuries.
So just make sure you balance your workout with exercises like:
- Slow push ups (decline for 10 seconds, incline for 10 seconds 3x then do 10 push ups).
- Slow pull ups (Incline for 5 seconds, hold for 5, decline for 5 and repeat 3 times)
- Slow dips.
- Slow chin ups.
#5. – Get Yourself A Calisthenics Program
My transformation all started with this calisthenics workout plan and it’s taking me from beginner to semi-advanced pretty quickly.
Why Did The Course Help Me So Much?
- Where things are measured they’re managed. It caused me to really take a look at myself and keep track of my progress.
- As the workouts were printed out 6 days a week it allowed me to not focus on what training I was doing and instead just go as hard as I could on what I was given.
- It made me excited to train, it’s similar to having a personal trainer who just tells you exactly what you need to to do succeed.
- It built me up every week and before I had known it I’d achieved ten times the rep count than I started with.
- It helped me learn how to train my whole body with calisthenics and since then I’ve become a lot more proportioned.
PS: For me a fitness program based around body weight training was the exact path I needed to take to get the confidence and power to do it myself.
You may be different, so do what feels right to you.
#6. – Over 50% Of Your Gains Will Be Down To One Thing
I’m going to give you two tips that really did change my life.
- Get your diet right and the rest will follow.
- Make sure you’re consuming enough protein.
These are the two things every beginner messes up and it’s the true reason why some people get leaner, stronger and more pumped and others remain skinny or fat even when putting in the same energy.
Dieting Made Easy
It’s really simple:
- Get 40% of your calories through carbs, 40% through protein, 20% through fats (More advice on Macros Here).
- Avoid eating refined sugar (white sugars and any type of glucose syrup, it’s death for your brain and gains).
- Your fats on a whole should come from these things: Extra virgin olive oil – Coconut oil (or mct oil for you real bio-hackers) – Avocado – Almonds – Walnuts – Peanut Butter – Olives
- You should try to get half of your protein naturally and supplement the other half with a high quality protein (I’ll give you my protein recommendations below).
- If you want to gain muscle and weight add an extra 250 – 400 calories per day to your daily recommended (A great weight gainer is organic peanut butter).
- If you want to lose weight take off 250 – 400 calories of your daily intake and increase cardio (PS: Losing weight can usually done just by managing the types of foods you eat and your cardio, usually calories doesn’t even matter).
Make Sure You’re Getting Enough Protein
First head over here and take a daily protein calculation.
How are you going to get all that protein?
Let’s make it simple:
- Start taking a high quality source of protein.
The best protein you can take as it’s easy to absorb and your body can take away most of the nutrition from it is: Protein with discount link (Save: $25.66 (31%).
But, if you try to stay away from animal products like me then you’ll love this incredible vegan protein (it’s amazing quality): Vegan protein.
- Get protein from a variety of food, don’t stick to one source or you’ll end up with bad farts and a bad belly.
Get your protein from: Lentils – Chickpeas – Beans – Tofu – Walnuts, Almonds or Cashew – Peanut Butter – Greek Yogurt – and you can go here for more protein sources.
If you want take a look at my exact diet you can by clicking that link, it that improves brain function (getting rid of brain fog), builds lean strong muscle and gives high amounts of energy.
#7. – What Is Measured Is Managed
The third BIGGEST mistake calisthenic trainers make is they forget to measure.
This is practically gain suicide.
You will get stronger and have a lot more motivation to continue if you do these three things:
Write down and keep track of:
- Your weight
- Your rep and set count
- The food you eat
Do these three things daily, and use this printable table to keep track.
Then once a month take a look and see how much stronger you’ve got, see how much muscle you’ve gained and as a plus you’ll also be able to make direct changes to your diet with ease.
This is why personal trainers and programs like weight watchers do so well. It’s because they keep track of all your results which is why they get 8x the results.
PS: Take pictures of your body before and after training every month.
#8. – Stay Motivated With Some Calisthenic Motivation
One thing that keeps me going and gets me excited is looking at the fellow members of different calisthenics groups and ther progression videos.
So here’s a few of my favorites (a lot used the same training program I mentioned above):
#9. – Mix Up Your Training Routine Regularly
It’s simple… First do your whole routine backwards, start with the last exercise and end with the first.
And then mix things up by randomly picking one of these body weight workouts below:
#10. – Get A Friend To Train With
It isn’t necessary to have a training buddy but certainly helps.
Calisthenics is one of the only types of fitness routines where you don’t need a spotter to stop you crushing yourself with bone shattering weights and that’s really badass.
But if you want to stick with it you should try giving this article to a friend.
Then both start measuring your progression together and I guarantee the motivation to be better than the other one will be like a drug and as the saying goes:
“Two minds are better than one” and it’s true you’ll both be looking at advice, learning new techniques and pushing each other on.
As someone who spends a lot of time training alone I can tell you that the biggest thing you gain from a training partner is banter.
I hope you all have a wonderful day and if you need any advice, help or just a mate to talk to, leave a comment below. See you later, Oli.