Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Advanced Bodyweight Programming. AKA; following your own path

For my final entry in my programming series I'm going to talk about programming for advanced bodyweight athletes.

So when should you consider yourself to be advanced. Well, by the time you have put in enough dedication and hard work to get to an advanced level of bodyweight proficiency, you should have things pretty well figured out for yourself. So you don't need this article after all. Good Job! I'm going to go do handstands in the grass now.

Just kidding. But not really. The truth is if there are a million elite athletes in the world then there are a million different training plans all following their own individual path to greatness. No at that level no two programs are going to be exactly the same because everybody responds differently to stimulus. By the time you get to an advanced level you should know pretty well what works for you and where your strengths and weaknesses are.

"Seek not to follow in the footsteps of the wise; seek what they sought" -Matsuo Basho

My good friend and Wbff Pro Bodybuilder Adrian Veinot didn't get to his level by following programs he got from muscle magazines or internet "fitness gurus". He dedicated his life to carving his own path and finding what works for him. Now he is truly a master of his craft.

By the time you reached an advanced level chances are you have applied almost every type of training philosophy from every idol you've had. Applied it, discarded some of it and kept what works for you.

Please bare with me here and don't think this article to be a cop out. The point i'm getting at is eventually you will have gained enough experience and wisdom that you will have developed your own training. Just don't be in a rush to get there, enjoy the process.

“Absorb what is useful, discard what is not, add what is uniquely your own.” -Bruce Lee

Im my own unique journey in search of bodyweight mastery (I'm not there yet) I have spend countless hours studying the methods of my idols. The people I consider masters of my craft. Ido Portal, Steve atlas, Ryan Hurst, Hannibal for King, Frank Medrano This list is extensive. I have watched hundreds of hours of hand balancers, Encho Keryazov, Andre Moraru, Dima Shine, Yuval Ayalon, Yuri Marmerstein.  At some point or another I have tried to emulate each and every one of them. The more I learn form observing these masters, the more bits and pieces I have to apply to what is ultimately the evolution of my own creation.

Ido Portal is one of the greatest movement masters of our time
Now I can't leave you to go away empty handed. Hopefully I have inspired you to begin carving your own path to athletic greatness. But I promised some insight into advanced level programming so I am going to outline what my training currently looks like and explain some of the philosophy behind it.

I am no where near the levels of most of the people I described above, but I train hard. I have learned a lot in the past three years and every bit if it has been self taught. Every day I see the gap between us narrowing and I am elated to say that today, some of them have become my peers.

I have spent some time deliberating as to weather I would use my programming as an advanced template. I never really considered myself to be advanced at all. To be honest I really only consider there to be two levels, master and student but no matter how good we get, we are all still students. The more I learn and the better I become, the more I realize that I am only scratching the surface.


Without further Ado 

I train 6-7 days a week but usually take Sundays off. Three of those days are Strength days and three are skill days. I try not to be in the gym for more than an hour a session.

A typical week looks like this:

Monday: Handbalancing and flexibility. One handed handstand work followed by different entries and exits into and out of a handstand. One arm elbow lever

Tuesday: Push Day - Handstand push ups Planche push ups. Some advanced dip version such as Russian dips or Bulgarian ring dips. Straddle-L work

Wednesday: Movement and handbalancing work. One hand handstand work. Work on skills/Goals I have set (tiger bend push up)

Thursday: Legs/Core - Pistol squats, Bodyweight hamstring curl, V-sit, Side lever/Human flag

Friday: More Handbalancing preferably on handbalancing canes

Saturday: Pull work- one arm pull up, front lever, muscle ups, dragon flag

Sunday: Rest/Recovery (but probably handbalancing)

As you can see I train movements, not muscles. everything I do is geared towards improving my mastery of my own body.

I generally do five sets of each exercise on strength days usually 1-5 reps depending on the difficulty and amount of skill involved but sometimes go up as high as fifteen reps, Never going to failure. I strongly believe in keeping "one in the tank"

Handbalancing days, I pay no attention to sets or reps. I pay attention to my body and when my form begins to break down I move on to a different skill. These days are about enforcing proper movement patterns good habits.

Nothing about this is carved in stone. It varies slightly from week to week but the basic philosophy is this...

     Train movements not muscles, Three strength days a week, one push day, one leg day, one pull day. Train three movements on each day plus a core dominant movement.
     Three to four skill days. On these days don't pay attention to sets or reps, keep it fun.

 Yes I probably train too much. I try to take a deload week every couple of months ad do everything at 50% intensity.

This is my passion

Monday, April 28, 2014

Bodyweight Programming for Intermediate Athletes

What constitutes an intermediate level bodyweight athlete?

That is a difficult question to answer really. Is it time spent training? Not really. I have seen people that I would consider intermediate level within six months, yet, I have seen others that I would still consider to be a beginner after two years of training. Generally after six months of solid dedication to Progressive Calisthenic training, most people are getting ready to challenge themselves with something bigger.

Eventually the basic movements become easy. Even 5x5 pull ups offer little challenge and you have began to explore harder variations or have added repetitions to all your sets. To be honest, you could theoretically stick to this template indefinitely. Swapping movements out for harder progression as you improve and become stronger. Eventually pull ups become archer pull ups, then one arm pull ups. Push ups become dips, then handstand push ups. Leg raises become strict toes to bar or even Manna. Squats become pistols so forth and so forth.

This is where I would begin to work in some straight arm training. I'm talking about Planche, lever and Manna. These fundamental straight arm support positions will be very humbling at first. They tax the shoulder girdle, biceps tendons and triceps like you have never experienced before.

So let's begin

At this point I would recommend a split routine. No not like a bodybuilding split. We train movements not muscles. 

Day one: Front lever, Planche, Push movement, Pull Movement

Day Two: Pistol Squat, Bodyweight Glute ham raise, V-sit, Side Lever (human flag)

I'll admit it, this template is heavily influenced by the Foundations program from Gymnasticbodies.com. I used this template for quite some time with very good results.

Now that we are implementing static holds things become a little bit different. At the first progressions of the front lever and Planche I would recommend aiming for 5x30 second holds but as you progress to more difficult versions you will cut the hold time down. Advanced tuck would be 5x20 seconds Straddle would be 10 seconds and full lay Planche and Front Lever would be 5-10 seconds. If you ever progress to victorian or maltese on the rings then you are a god among men and you should really be writing this article.

The early versions of V-sit and side lever are really movements beginning with tuck V-Sit leg extensions and Tucked side lever lifts, Progressing until you can hold the tucked versions for 3 to five seconds then beginning to work on the hold slowly extending your body from there Until you can hold a full side lever and V-sit

In conclusion

This is not the only template, but it's a damn good one and anybody who puts in the work will see great improvements in strength and body control. Same as with the beginner template I greatly stress quality of movement. First by learning a movement and then striving to clean it up until you can do it consistently with proper form. Stay connected and never sacrifice form for another rep. This only establishes bad habits and poor movement.

I have written about these bodyweight progressions in more detail Here. In an article that I will also revise in the near future.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Programming for beginners

Hello again.

     It's been almost four months. Not going to let this happen again. The truth is, I have so much that I want to put into writing that it's actually giving me writers block. Every time I sit in front of my computer I can't think of where I want to begin. I have been dealing with this for years and every time I sit and actually get the first word down, things begin to flow. It always begins with a single step. Just ask Frodo Baggins. But the first step is the hardest (unless you fall and break your leg 10 steps in).

Anyway, lets talk about programming.  How do you put together an effective training program? Specifically a calisthenics program. First thing thing you have to do is ask yourself

Am I beginner, intermediate or advanced?

Well, if you have to ask yourself this question, chances you're a beginner. Easy enough. That leaves intermediate or advanced. Well, if you're advanced then you most likely already know more about calisthenics than I do so you probably aren't reading this article anyway. GOOD FOR YOU!

Well sir that only leaves intermediate.

I wish it were that easy

Ok so this is how I would group my own students.  Beginner is usually from day one to six months - one year of steady training. I personally would group you according to proficiency of movement no how many reps you can bang off.

Beginner: An beginner is someone who does scaled down versions of the most basic movements.
Pull ups, Push ups, Hanging leg raises and Squats. So until you can consistently perform these movements with full range of movement and proper form you are a beginner.

Programming for a beginner is a simple manner. Your goal is to master the basics and that is all. Don't over think it. Pull ups, Push ups, Hanging leg raise and Squat. Concentrate on range of motion with proper form. Quality and consistency. When learning a movement I aim for 5 sets of 5 reps. When I can do 5 repetitions of a movement for 5 sets I move on the the next harder progression. Again thats 5 sets of 5 reps all with proper form. There is no magic in 5x5, it's just a benchmark when I achieve it, I move on

But should I do sets of one movement at a time or do them all in a circuit?

That is a bit of a toughie. I have read literature that states that you should not train circuits if strength is your primary goal. Yet I have seen many truly strong athletes who do circuit style training. Personally, I develop strength better when I do all my sets on one movement before moving on and I find circuits are a bit better for aesthetics and conditioning. Decide which is more important to you and choose accordingly.

Chances are good that you will advance in some of the basics faster than others. 5x5 squats will probably come pretty quickly. Good job! Now you could should move on to the next progression. Think Bulgarian split squat. Sounds pretty badass doesn't it? Anything with another country in it's name instantly gets street cred. Bulgarian split squat, Korean dips, Russian mafia interrogation tactics (JK on that last one, it's not really an exercise).

Bulgarian split squat TAADAA!!
Why is it so hard to youtube an exercise video without getting some douche with his shirt off in a gym after hours demonstrating everything in a set of Nike Shocks? Thats it, from now on all my exercise videos are going to be me with my shirt off demonstrating in a pair of moon boots.

I wanna see you BodyRock in these Zuzanna Light!

But I digress. What I'm saying is that when a movement becomes easy enough that the basic 5x5 standard is reached then don't be afraid to move on. You could continue to do more reps but then we are starting to work more towards hypertrophy and I would consider that more of an intermediate training level.


Three days a week. That's all you need. Heck I consider myself to be fairly advanced and I still only train strength three days a week. Train these fundamentals each strength day. Pull up, Push up, Hanging leg raise and squat. Preferably in that order.

Well that's The basics. Now you can take this article and file along with all the other beginner calisthenics blog articles on the Ntarwebzz and do with it what you will. Once you master these your basic movements, Contratulations! You're most likely still a beginner. Only now you have laid the foundation necessary to build up to intermediate movements. You have began to develop the muscular and tendon strength to be able to progress injury free and you are beginning to develop an appreciation for quality of movement.

Coach Summers says that in gymnastics, form follows function.

To me that means you first learn a move and then you must strive to perfect it.

And here we are, I initially set out to do an article on programming for beginner, intermediate and advanced athletes. But as usual I found I have too much to say and this would have became an obnoxiously longwinded article. Maybe tomorrow I'll put out an article on programming for intermediates. It's gonna be the shiz.