Julius Boeger is a personal trainer and wellness coach who is experienced in fitness and nutrition.
Many people wonder how to start out calisthenics and make great progress with it. In this article, I will cover the basics and define the top 5 tips for beginners. The only thing that I will not cover is nutrition because the main principles are the same, no matter if you want to muscle gain, lose fat, or just get healthy.
#1) Master the basics
Many people think starting calisthenics is very hard, but they don't realize that they already have the basics. Calisthenics is a word for a workout for the entire that mostly includes bodyweight exercises.
To start in calisthenics, you need to master the basic exercises such as pull-ups, push-ups, lunges, planks, dragon flags, dips, etc. Advanced skills like levers, muscle-ups, and human flags are built upon them.
Master those exercises, focus on the proper form and build up your base of strength. If you don't know how to do pull-ups or push-ups correctly, you will miss out on significant progress and risk getting injuries.
#2) Join a calisthenics community
Look up some Facebook groups and join them for more tips, workouts, and ideas on how to adapt your nutrition to the new routine.
I started making outstanding progress once I began working out with other guys who were more advanced than me. They always encouraged me to push myself more and to try the progressions that helped them achieve skills such as handstands and muscle-ups.
#3) Define your goals
Define if you want to build muscle, gain strength, or get better at a specific skill. This is important for any sport, but it is even more critical for calisthenics.
The way you do the exercises can get you closer to your goal or push you away.
If you want to build muscle doing slow and controlled reps for four sets of 8-12 is a good range. Once you can do more reps than 12, start doing weighted body weight exercises or try out a more challenging exercise.
Maybe if you can do more than 12 regular pull-ups to try to make your grip a bit wider, it gets harder and hits your back way more. You want to do that because the muscle tension makes them grow.
For strength, it is all about training your nervous system. Doing four sets of 1-5 weighted reps will help you build up explosive strength. You can do this with pull-ups, dips, push-ups, or any exercise. Grab a weight that you can only rep out of 5 reps max and try to explode up on every rep. Explode means that you - for example if you do pull-ups – pull yourself up with the explosive speed and then lower yourself a bit slower.
Plyometrics are also fantastic for building strength. Work on doing clapping push-ups, pull-ups, and even dips. The first progression would be to learn to let go of the bar or ground and then catch again. You only need low reps for this too – 3-5 reps since you want to be exploding with as much force as possible.
#4) Focus on mastering one skill at a time
Do you want to learn how to muscle up, make a handstand, and back-lever at the same time? It is possible, but it will take a lot of hours of training. If your time is limited, I would suggest picking one skill and working on progressing it every time you workout.
If you want to get good at handstands, at the beginning of your training sessions practice frog stands, headstands, wall-assisted handstands, and freestanding handstands.
Focus on one skill, and you will make faster progress instead of trying to learn everything at once. You must do an easy skill before the hard one.
If you want to learn the L-Sit, your routine will look like that:
1) Tucked on ground L-Sit hold (30 secs) 2) L-Sit support press (tucked) 3) L-Sit support press (not tucked) 4) Tucked L-Sit 10 second to 20-30 5) L-Sit Leg lifts 6) One leg assisted l-sit
The next progress would be the normal L-Sit. Then, you could move on to a more advanced exercise that would be the V-Sit. As you can see, you should always train for one skill, and it will directly progress for a more advanced one.
#5) Learn Retraction, Protraction, Depression & Elevation
This is the big one! For exercises such as the planche, you need to learn how to protract & depress your scapula. This is very frustrating if you are not used to it. To do handstands, you need to learn how to both protract and retract while upside down and elevate your scapula for proper alignment. This goes for a lot of the skills that means you have to learn when to use your muscles.
I hope you all have a great week, stay healthy, and keep pushing!