Basic and Advanced Workout Ideas for Calisthenics and Gymnastics
Abdominal exercise basics
I’ve found that the hardest thing to teach total beginners to calisthenics and those coming from a sedentary lifestyle is generating and holding tension throughout the entire midsection.
The importance of this cannot be overstated in calisthenics, gymnastics, and martial arts. The implications for martial arts should be obvious if you can’t maintain tension in your midsection, how can you safely take a body blow or throw a powerful blow of your own? In progressive calisthenics, full body tension is an essential aspect of most skills, and as such, in progression. I help beginners pattern abdominal and full body tension through two very short and easy to learn drills. One drill is rolling from a pushup position to a “hollow” leaning plank, and the other is moving from “six inches” to “supine hollow body hold”.
If the student finds the plank too hard to hold for long, I have them regress the beginning posture to an incline that they can hold with, at most, mild to moderate discomfort in the muscles for 10 to 15 seconds at a time. Basically, it has to be just hard enough to hold to be a challenge, without exhausting him or her too quicklyÍ¾ the goal is to work on the posture, coordination, and technique. Strength gains in total beginners are largely from neuromuscular gains. This means becoming more efficient at movement and using your muscles in a more coordinated way as you learn new skills, not just making your muscles themselves stronger.
Some other invaluable “hollow hold” variations once you are comfortable with the previous two hollow hold dead hang (using an overhead bar, pullup bar, or even a sturdy tree branch), front jump support (as done in gymnastics), inverted front hang, inverted back hang, Australian hollow hold (so named because you “go down under” the bar, and it more or less looks like an inverted hollow leaning plank).
I’ve developed the above approach over time, and is a mixture of my experience in martial arts, gymnastics, and CC, as well as the progressive calisthenics certification workshop I attended.
Advanced Bodyweight Training Templates
Below are my personal templates. Before each workout, I warm up for a few minutes, then work on mobility for a few minutes. The specific skills and skill progressions I practice in skill sessions, and whether I take an extra skill sessions on a particular day, will depend on current goals, proficiencies, and energy level. The rep/set schemes I use for strength training oriented exercises will depend on current goals and training cycle. Power exercises are always trained with low to moderate sets of low reps.
Protocols that may be used for exercises, routines, and cycles include strength, bodybuilding, endurance, power, skill, grease the groove, and deload (active rest). Don’t treat skill work the same way as you would strength or power exercises. Practice skills fresh! Also, it’s possible to use multiple protocols at once – for example, grease the groove for pullups in a bodybuilding cycle. Lastly, don’t take my templates as scripture! Use these as guides and inspiration. Learn an approach to training so you can develop your own goals and routines.
Monday – Pulling session.
Bar skills (low to moderate sets of low reps), two arm pullups, transitional and/or 1 arm work, fingers, grip, wrists
Tuesday – Pushing session.
Power pushups (low to moderate sets of low reps), low-speed two arm pushups, transitional and/or 1 arm work, triceps, dips
Wednesday – Legs, back, and skill work.
Jumps (low to moderate sets of low reps), two leg squats, pistols, back flip progression (low to moderate sets of low reps), dynamic bridging.
Low sets of high reps of specialization exercises (quads, calves, hamstrings & glutes).
Thursday – General upper body.
Hand balancing, front flip progression, and bar skills for low-moderate sets of low reps.
Power pushups, short rest, low-speed two arm pushups, repeat. Supersets of Australian pullups and handstand pushups. Pair kip-up progression and core work.
(If I need a light day, I will instead only work on the “Century Test”.)
Friday -Tumbling (skill work) and legs.
Dynamic bridging for moderate sets of low-moderate reps, and tumbling progressions (backbends, kickovers, tucks / flips etc.) for moderate sets of low reps each.
Jumps and drills for moderate sets of low reps each. Slow two leg squats.
Saturday – Same as Thursday.