If you know me, you know that I like to train with nothing but my own body weight. There are so many ways to do the Calisthenics exercises that I have the challenges of a lifetime without worrying about external weights.
I understand that not everyone feels that way. Many people love the feeling of throwing iron – and I understand that! But as someone who trains people day after day, each lifter can borrow an important idea from bodyweight training: Namely, that you can and should modify exercises in a variety of ways, rather than simply adding weight or pulling off the pole.
Regardless of your preferred modality, you can use the following principles to tailor each exercise to your needs, goals, and level of experience. As the old saying goes, "Give a person a fish and they eat a meal, but teach that person to fish and they will eat for a lifetime."
Although I teach these concepts in my seminars on body weight training, the following truths are so universal that they can all be applied to strength training exercises as well.
Let's go fishing!
By simply reducing your movement speed, you can make virtually any exercise exponentially harder. Bodybuilders have long been saying that time under tension is as important as the resistance that moved, and as you slow down, your muscles work harder and force them to grow.
This technique is great for Calisthenics basics like squats and pushups, but it's especially helpful in exercises like pull-ups and toe-to-bar leg raises, where people often do repetitions to finish their repetitions. In fact, most people do not even know how much they put on momentum until they try to perform these exercises slowly.
Reducing movement speed is also extremely effective in strength training. That does not mean that you have to go extremely slow – that's a different story. What I'm talking about is just the control of every inch of every repetition, without the slightest impulse. Depending on the exercise, this can take 3-5 seconds per repetition.
Try a shot, but be prepared to use less weight than you're used to lifting!
. 2 Range of Motion
I am always excited when I meet a new client who wants me to help him with the first clash. If you already have enough gripping power to hang on the pole, one of the first things we work on is negative pull-ups.
By descending only from the upper position, they can begin to build strength and strength, to get a feel for the movement pattern, without having to worry about the concentric phase. This is an example of using a limited range of motion to regress an exercise, but there are many ways to apply that principle.
Another example is working with a client who is unable to squat. In this case, the client could start with a half squat. Over time, we will work to increase their mobility until they can fully exercise their freedom of movement when their hamstrings touch their calves in the lowest position. Exercise by increasing the range of motion instead. Try a pull-up, for example, where you guide the bar to your collar bones instead of stopping at the chin.
The same principle can be applied to strength training. Why is a Clean and Press so much more work than a deadlift? It could have something to do with moving the weight three times!
Increase your range of motion and you will almost always increase the difficulty of your exercise along the way.
3. Leverage and Body Length
Everyone knows that push-up on your knees is less difficult than pushing on your toes – but why is that? The answer is simple: leverage. The longer you make your body, the farther your arms will pull from your pivot point, giving your muscles more torque to withstand.
Although push-up is the most obvious way to conceive this idea, it can be used Many advanced calisthenics move from the rear lever to the human flag – both are best learned first with the legs in a trapped position. From there, you can advance to a one-leg step and then to a straddle-leg position, before moving with both legs, both legs fully extended. The more you stretch your legs, the longer your body gets and the harder these movements become.
This may be more difficult to conceptualize in the weight room, but here's a way to think about it: Compare a bow tie or pullover with your arms bent, your elbows fully stretched. It's a lot less difficult to bend your arms, right? This is due to the fact that straightening the arms further removes the weight from the body and increases the torque of the muscles. The dumbbell side lift is another example of this principle used in classic strength training. The straighter and farther you remove your arms from your body, the harder the exercise becomes.
. 4 Technological Advance
What's the next step after you can do a squat with a gun? How about just do a better squat? None of the first reps of anything – or with PR weight – is best, and just because you've done a few repetitions of a new exercise does not mean that you're eager to try something harder or harder.  If you simply work on improving your technique, this can be a form of progress. This applies to advanced calisthenics moves, but also applies to lifting weights. When you focus on performing every repetition you perform with a sound technique, you do not have to lift nearly as much weight to put your muscles under strain. You also strengthen the movement mechanics on a broad front.
Hard is not necessarily better! But if you focus on the better, you can definitely make it easier and cleaner – and that's a solid progression.
Regardless of your preferred modality, you can use these universal principles to customize and modify every exercise in your routine. In this regard, calisthenics and weight training actually have a lot in common.
As for me, I have a lot to lift … my own!
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