Several months ago I wrote a popular post where I featured 49 incredible calisthenic masters. It includes some of the most skilled experts alive.
I recently had the great honor of chatting with one of those featured masters, Sven Kohl. He is the founder of Calisthenic Movement and is adept at some of the coolest moves in calisthenics.
Here is an interview that I did with him. Hope you enjoy!
1. Let’s start off with a little background. Who are you and what peaked your interest in calisthenics?
My Name is Sven Kohl. I am 29 years old and live in Germany. I am a physical therapist, a licensed trainer and the founder of Calisthenic Movement.
I started doing calisthenics in 2012. Like the most people, I saw guys like Hannibal For King doing calisthenics on youtube and was super inspired. I liked the mix between strength, balance and control.
2. What workout plan do you follow now?
I don’t really have a workout plan. I train instinctively, but my training is still structured.
At the beginning I work on moves/exercises that I wanna learn or improve. This is the skill part of my training.
At the end, I do some challenges with basic and support exercise. This is the part where I do strength endurance. But my training can vary from session to session. I know my goals and I work on them.
Every workout is unique. When I focus on skills the workout can last about 2 hours, but most of the time my workout last about 90 min.
I train 5 days a week. My current goals are:
- Tiger bend push ups
- increase full planche time
- doing more one arm pull ups
- increase strength endurance
- Increase Handstand balance
- doing more straight muscle ups
3. What nutritional approach do you take?
I try to eat natural foods. I don’t follow any diet or a specific concept like paleo.
If I want to lower my bodyfat I decrease the amount of calories that I consume. Besides that I eat a mix of fruits/veggis, healthy fat + carbs. I also take 1.5 g of protein per Kg/Bodyweight in a day.
(Todd: What is your strategy for building mass?)
Simple, eat more calories and protein (timing meals better) and train more in the hypertrophy rep range. Bulking up is different from calisthenics training for strength. You can do both but if you focus on one thing you get a lot better results.
4. If a beginner came to you and said, “I want to develop a body like yours.” What would be the exact steps you would tell them to follow?
1. Eat clean, which means natural food, get enough calories, vitamins and protein.
2. Train hard but smart. Busting your ass off every day, doesn’t bring the best results for everybody. As a beginner, start with 3 days a week. As you progress you can add more days.
3. You need patience and perseverance to build a strong body. Take your time for progress. Most people are hyped when they start but lose passion if they don’t progress quickly.
5. Who has been your biggest inspiration to excel in calisthenics?
When first started I saw videos from Hannibal for King and it inspired me. Later I discovered bar barians, the russian/urkaine guys and Adam Raw & LBM.
In fact everybody who shows great performance can inspire me, I don’t really have one big inspiration.
I think its also important to focus on yourself. It’s ok to have some inspiration and motivation from other guys but don’t forget that your are your own motivation and inspiration when you achive things you can’t do before.
6. Do you just do bodyweight exercises or do you incorporate weights as well?
Before I started with calisthenics I trained for several years in a gym. At the moment I don’t use weights.
Sometimes I do weighted pull ups or dips and from time to time weighted front squats and deadlifts. But this is very rare.
7. What has been your most difficult calisthenics move to master?
Hard to tell because every move is difficult if you can’t do it. The cool thing in this sport/lifestyle is that you can learn movements you couldn’t do before.
You train your ass off and one day you can do it.
For me the front lever and one arm pull up was hard to get, but when you achive it you look forward and train for the next hard movements.
(Todd: How long did it take you to learn the front lever and one arm pull up? What progressions did you use to learn these moves?)
Front lever was a real beast for me. I needed ¾ year to get this move.
For the one arm I can’t say the exact time I needed because the training for other stuff/exercises such as heavy pull ups gave me the foundation for this move. At the point I focused on this I already increased my strength through other exercises. But I needed time to get the strength level to train for it.
When I train for this kind of move I put them in the beginning of my workout and use an easier variation to train for.
Example: I practice a tucked front lever hold when working on the front lever and archer pull ups when working on the one arm pull up.
8. Do you ever see the sport of calisthenics as mainstream or do you think it will stay more niche?
I don’t think it will become extreme mainstream. But it can get the same popularity as bodybuilding, Parkour, freerun and fitness in general.
9. What specific advice would you give someone that wanted to master challenging calisthenic moves like the planche, human flag and muscle up?
You need patience and a solid plan. First of all you need a good foundation. You have to master pull ups, dips, skin the cat, push ups, leg raises, etc.. But doing only strength endurance routines doesn’t bring the best results for moves like planche or human flag.
You have to practise the moves. Start with the easier variations and work on it. When you are ready to progress on to the next variation move on. You should feel comfortable in a position and you should be able to do a lot of reps.
For example: When you feel comfortable in a Handstand which means you can hold the it while balanced straight then you can start to learn HSPU, Handstand presses, 90 degree push ups etc.
Where can I find more of your stuff Sven?
Here are some helpful links to Sven’s sites and social media networks: