How To Become A Street Calisthenics Master

Written By: Todd Kuslikis
December 21, 2015

I still remember the first calisthenics video I saw on Youtube. It was Hannibal for King performing some advanced calisthenics feats.

I was astonished! It was the first time I was seeing something like that.

I pressed “Replay”.

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I don’t remember how many times I watched that video in that single day. What I remember clearly is that two questions were dominant in my mind:

How does he do that?

How can I do it myself?

After having a calisthenics based website for several years, I know that these questions are very common.

I am going to show you here how you can achieve advanced calisthenics feats of strength and endurance and how to become a street calisthenics master yourself.

What Is A Street Calisthenics Master?

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Most of us, when we think about street calisthenics masters, our minds go to people like Hannibal, Denis Minin, Al Kavadlo, Bar-barians, etc.

But what makes these people masters and others not?

As far as I am concerned there is no actual definition of what makes someone a street calisthenics master.

The main reason behind this is that street calisthenics have only recently started to become mainstream and in the past there was no need for such definition.

In this section, I am going to define what a street calisthenics master is. Of course, this is just my opinion, and other people from the calisthenics community may have different definitions.

If you have been watching advanced street calisthenics videos, you would have probably noticed that there are some “basic” advanced skills that every master can perform while some other skills are performed only by few of the masters.

Based on this observation, I am going to define as a street calisthenics master anyone who has mastered all the “basic” advanced skills and who can also perform four non-basic advanced skills.

Here are the “basic” advanced skills:

The non-basic skills can belong to the following categories:

  • Endurance with feats like:
    • 100 consecutive push ups
    • 50 consecutive pull ups
    • Etc
  • Lower body focus with feats like:
    • Pistol squats
    • Shrimp squats
    • Dragon pistol squats
    • Etc
  • Gymnastics with moves like:
    • The V-sit
    • The Planche
    • Etc
  • Acrobatics with skills like:
    • Front flip
    • Back flip
    • etc

There are, of course, more areas from which a calisthenics master can choose his non-basic skills from and they aren’t limited to the ones presented here.

Street Calisthenics Skills And Feats

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In this section, you are going to all the different moves that you have to master in order to become a street calisthenics master. For most of the moves, there are going to be tutorials.

The exercises are going to be divided into 5 different categories:

  • The basic exercises
  • Endurance feats
  • Feats of strength
  • Skill based moves
  • Miscellaneous work

In each of these categories (except the basic one), there are going to be the compulsory moves that you must be able to do (to be a master) and some voluntary work that you may want to focus your attention on after you master the compulsory ones.

The Basic Exercises

In this sub-section, you are going to find the most fundamental exercises that you‘ll have to master in order to advance towards harder calisthenics moves.

Basic Move #1: The hollow body

The hollow body is one of the most basic calisthenics positions. This is mostly practiced in gymnastics and not in street calisthenics. However, mastering it will help you progress faster in movements like front and back lever and on learning the handstand.

Your training goal should be to hold this position for at least 60 seconds.

Basic Move #2: The Push up

The push up is the most fundamental pushing movement there is. Mastering the push up is the stepping stone for the achievement of any advanced pushing movement, be it dips, handstand push ups, one arm push ups, etc.

Here are some resources that will help you master the push up:

Before moving to more advanced pushing exercise, you should be able to perform at least 30 push ups.

Basic Move #3: The Bodyweight Squat

Squatting is one of the basic human movement patterns.

The bodyweight squat is very easy in terms of strength, but it may be hard for many people due to mobility issues.

The bodyweight squats are going to help you build the strength and mobility to progress towards the pistol squat later on.

Your goal is to be able to perform 50 consecutive reps.

Basic Move #4: The Horizontal Pull Up

The horizontal pull ups is going to help you build pulling strength in the horizontal plane of motion and help you balance the work you are doing with the push ups.

Horizontal pull ups can be used as a progression to the vertical pull up, in case you aren’t able to perform them yet.

As a goal, you should have 15 consecutive reps.

Basic Move #5: The Pull Up (Regular)

The pull up is one of the greatest calisthenics moves.

It is probably the hardest exercise for beginners to master.

If you can’t do a full pull up yet, check out this article:

You should be able to perform 5 consecutive reps before moving to more advanced pulling variations.

Basic Move #6: The Bodyweight Lunge

Similarly to the bodyweight squat, the lunge is in and of itself a human movement pattern.

The bodyweight lunge is an easy move that doesn’t require much strength or mobility to perform.

Being good at lunges is going to help you progress later on in skills like the shrimp squat.

You should aim for 40 consecutive reps per leg.

Basic Move #7: Scapula Positions

Similarly to the hollow body position, the scapula positions aren’t trained as much as they should have been in the street calisthenics community and they are mostly used in gymnastics.

Mastering these positions is going to help achieve faster any calisthenics skill that is based on straight arm strength, like front and back levers, the planche, etc.

Endurance & Conditioning Feats

Here you are going to find the street calisthenics feats that are based on endurance.

Compulsory Endurance & Conditioning Feats

Endurance Feat #1: 10 Consecutive Muscle Ups

The bar muscle-up is one of the most basic street calisthenics movements.

Being able to do 10 of them is very important for your overall development as a street athlete.

Mastering the muscle up will help you progress to some other advanced tricks like clapping muscle ups and combination of movements like front lever to muscle up to front lever, etc.

Muscle ups are going to help you increase your pulling and pushing explosiveness.

Here are some helpful resources about the muscle up:

Endurance Feat #2: 15 Consecutive Parallel Bar Dips

Dips are one of the best bodyweight exercises to develop your pushing strength and build massive triceps.

Endurance Feat #3: 20 Consecutive Pull Ups

You can increase your pull ups with the Ultimate Pull Up Challenge.

Optional Endurance & Conditioning Feats

Endurance Feat #: 100 Consecutive Push Ups

A great plan to help you achieve this goal is this:

Endurance Feat #: 500 Consecutive Bodyweight Squats
Endurance Feat #: 100 Burpees Under 5 minutes

From the feats presented in this sub-section, this is the only one that can be considered a conditioning feat.

This feat other than helping you increase your endurance and conditioning it will also help you become faster as well.

Endurance Feat #: 50 Consecutive Pull Ups

This is one of the hardest endurance feats. As such, achieving a skill of this magnitude requires years of hard work and dedication.

When you train for such a feat, that contains lots of pulling, you should include lots of pushing in your training as well.

Feats Of Strength

Here belong the strength based feats.

Compulsory Strength Feats

Strength Feat #1: Front Lever
Strength Feat #2: Back Lever
Strength Feat #3: human flag
Strength Feat #4: Dragon Flag

Optional Strength Feats

Strength Feat #5: meat-hook

For more information you can read the article:

Strength Feat #6: one arm pull up
Strength Feat #7: one arm push ups

A great article for one arm push ups is this:

Strength Feat #8: Pistol squats
Strength Feat #9: shrimp squats
Strength Feat #10: dragon pistol squats

https://www.instagram.com/p/5fTWUEoJx7/

You can read the full tutorial here:

Strength Feat #11: clutch flag

You can read the full tutorial here:

Strength Feat #12: Planche

All of these exercises can be turned into endurance feats by increasing the time of the hold in the static moves or by increasing the number of reps in the dynamic ones.

Skill Based Feats

The movements presented here are mostly skill based. Some of them require, of course, strength and explosiveness but they aren’t that taxing to the body.

I consider all of the skill work optional.

Street Calisthenics Skill #1: Freestanding Handstand

Street Calisthenics Skill #2: Kip Up

Street Calisthenics Skill #3: Back Flip

Street Calisthenics Skill #4: Front Flip

Street Calisthenics Skill #5: Freestanding Handstand Push Ups

You can read the full article here:

Miscellaneous Work

Here belong all the feats that couldn’t be categorized based on the previous categories.

Feats Based on finger strength

In this category belong feats like:

Feats based on wrist strength

In this category belong feats like:

Feats based on grip strength

In this category belong feats like:

  • One Arm Rope Climbing (this skill is beyond this world, other than requiring extreme grip strength, you must also be able to perform explosive one arm pull ups)
  • Etc

The way of training for all these fits is very similar.

All you have to do is add 2 sets of 5-10 reps of the skill you’d like to achieve at the end of the workout.

For example, if you wanted to achieve fingertip one arm push ups, you would start by adding 2 sets of 5-10 reps of fingertip push ups at the end of your workout. You could progress like in regular push ups by starting with knee push ups and gradually moving to more advanced progressions.

The Fastest Way To Mastery

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I feel a little overwhelmed Todd, were should I start?

That’s a very good questions and I can totally relate.

It makes total sense for some confusion to kick in when you see a street calisthenics master be able to perform a variety of advanced skills, because you naturally want to achieve all of the skills you are seeing.

The problem arises when most people try to achieve everything at once, which, of course, isn’t the fastest way to achieve them.

If you want to advance fast with calisthenics you will have to focus all of your attention in achieving one or (at the most) two things at a time.

What should I focus on Todd?

Depending on your current level I would suggest the following.

If you are a total beginner, I would suggest you to focus on mastering the basic movements like they were presented in the Basic Movements sub-section.

If you meet the beginner standards, your goal should be to meet the intermediate standards.

The intermediate standards are these:

  • 3 bar muscle ups
  • 10 pull ups
  • 40 push ups
  • 10 parallel bar dips

After that, you should follow a hybrid program that focus on achieving one or two of the compulsory feats.

You can focus for example on achieving the front and back levers.

If you feel that a certain skill is just withing your reach, then focus on achieving that skill first. Achieving milestones fast will help you stay motivated and focused.

Training Like A Street Calisthenics Athlete

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As a street calisthenics athlete, you will have to use different training parameters to achieve the necessary skills and become a street calisthenics master.

In this section you’re going to find how to train for each feat category. The categories are:

  • Strength
  • Endurance & Conditioning
  • Skill Work

At the end of the section, you will find some sample training plans.

Calisthenics Strength Training

If we divide maximal strength based on the different areas of the body, we have 3 basic categories:

  • Upper body strength
  • Lower body strength
  • Core strength

Upper body strength can be further categorized into:

  • Bent arm strength. For exercises like pull ups.
  • Straight arm strength. For exercises like the front lever.

Lower, Core & Bent arm strength

To train for maximal strength you will have to follow a system (training plan) with high intensity and low reps.

Such systems include 5 sets of 5 reps, 3×5, 3×3, 6×1, etc.

The appropriate exercises and progressions for strength training are the ones with which you can perform 3-8 reps.

Straight arm strength

Training for this type of strength requires a completely different approach than regular strength in terms of programming.

First of all straight arm strength is most of the times practiced and performed in static holds.

Secondly, straight arm strength requires lots of tendon strength.

For these two reasons, you can’t progress traditionally by adding reps or by increasing the difficulty intuitively.

There are two ways that I am aware of for training effectively with straight arm strength.

Endurance & Conditioning Training

Even though conditioning and endurance are two different things, you can easily combine them into one workout.

You can do that with AMRAP type workouts, HIIT and circuit training.

If you want to focus completely on endurance, you can do that with sub-max sets, GTG or skill specific training plans.

Sub-max Sets

A sub-max set workout, is when in each set you are performing as many reps as possible without going to failure.

Naturally, every set is going to consist of a different number of reps with the last sets having the least reps.

For this approach you should train with 3-4 sets per exercise.

GTG (Greasing The Groove)

GTG is a training method in which instead of having a fixed workout time, you train multiple times through the day.

For example, instead of doing 3 set of 8 pull ups, you could perform 25 reps through the day using multiple sets.

There two main keys in making the GTG work for you:

Adequate rest. Your training sets should have a gap of at least 1 hour between them.

Light sets. Your training sets shouldn’t go to failure or close to it. If your max pull ups are 8, for example, your should be training with 3-5 reps per set.

Skill Specific Training Plans

A skill specific plan is a training plan that incorporates different training techniques and parameters to achieve a specific goal.

Such training plans are:

Skill Work

Training for skills is an essential part of calisthenics training.

The good think about skill training is that it isn’t very taxing to the body. As such, you can train for skills every day and multiple times per day, if you want to achieve a certain skill faster.

When training for skills, focus is very important.

For this reason, you should train for one skill at a time.

Sample Training Plans

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The training plans are going to be divided into 3 categories:

  • Calisthenics Novice: For those who don’t meet the beginner standards.
  • Calisthenics Competency: For those who meet the beginner standards but not the intermediate ones.
  • The path to mastery: For those who meat the intermediate standards and want to become street calisthenics masters.

Keep in mind, that you may meet some of the standards in the level you are while not being able to meet others. If that’s the situation, you should keep progressing in the area in which the standard is met.

For example, if from the beginner standards you meet only the push up requirement (30 reps), you should modify your training to meet the next standard (40 reps).

Lastly, before moving on, you should understand that these training plans are just samples and that you can modify them to meet your need if that’s necessary.

Calisthenics Novice Training Plan

The calisthenics novice training plan is going to consist of 2 different workouts.

Workout #1 is the main workout and should be practiced 3 times per week. Workout #2 is the scapula training workout and should be practiced 2 times per week.

Workout #1

A1: 3x(sub-max) pull ups progression

A2: 3x(sub-max) squats

B1: 3x(sub-max) push ups progression

B2: 3x(sub-max) lunges

C1: 3x(sub-max) hold hollow body progression

C2: 3x(sub-max) hip bridges

Notes

  • Rest 60 to 90 seconds between exercises.
  • Perform exercise 1 and 2 like a circuit. For example, go from A1 to A2 and then from A2 to A1.
Workout #2

A1: 3x(5-10) scapula push up

A2: 3x(5-10) scapula body row

B1: 3x(5-10) scapular elevation

B2: 3x(5-10) scapular depression

Notes

  • Similar to workout #1
Sample Training Plan

Week #1

Monday: Workout #1
Tuesday: Workout #2
Thursday: Workout #1
Wednesday: Workout #2
Friday: Workout #1
Saturday:  Rest
Sunday: Rest

All the other weeks are going to follow the same format. Every 4th or 5th week can be a deload week in which you drop the intensity by decreasing the number of performed reps.

Calisthenics Competency Training Plan

The main goal of the competency training plan, is to achieve the muscle up and to increase the reps of the basic exercises.

There are going to be 2 different workouts in this training plan. You should alternate between Workout #1 and #2. You are going to train 6 times per week, 3 days with the workouts #1 and #2 and 3 days with 10-20 minutes of muscle up work.

For the muscle up work, use any progression or exercise from a tutorial of your choice. Such work can, for example, muscle up negatives.

Workout #1

A: 10 minutes muscle up work

B1: 3x(sub-max) pull ups

B2: 3x(sub-max) squats

C1: 3x(sub-max) parallel bar dips

C2: 3x(sub-max) lunges

D1: 3x(sub-max) V-ups

D2: 3x(sub-max) bridge push ups

Notes

  • Rest 60 to 90 seconds between exercises.
  • Perform exercise 1 and 2 like a circuit. For example, go from A1 to A2 and then from A2 to A1.
Workout #2

A: 10 minutes muscle up work

B1: 3x(sub-max) horizontal pull ups variation

B2: 3x(sub-max) squats

C1: 3x(sub-max) push ups

C2: 3x(sub-max) lunges

D1: 3x(sub-max) V-ups

D2: 3x(sub-max) bridge push ups

Sample Training Plan

Week #1

Monday: Workout #1
Tuesday: Muscle up work
Thursday: Workout #2
Wednesday: Muscle up work
Friday: Workout #1
Saturday:  Muscle up work
Sunday: Rest

Week #2

Monday: Workout #2
Tuesday: Muscle up work
Thursday: Workout #1
Wednesday: Muscle up work
Friday: Workout #2
Saturday:  Muscle up work
Sunday: Rest

All the other weeks are going to follow the same format. Every 4th or 5th week can be a deload week in which you drop the intensity by decreasing the number of performed reps.

Path to Mastery Training Plan

When you are in this phase in your training, you should choose the next skills that you would like to achieve.

For our example, I am going to use the front and back lever as the next training goals.

The training plan is going to consist of 3 workouts. This plan is going to be a split training plan, meaning that the days will be divided into upper body and lower body training days.

Workout #1

A: 60s Front lever

B: 60s Back lever

C1: 3x(sub-max) pull ups

C2: 3x(sub-max) parallel bar dips

Notes

  • 60s of front/back lever means that your total static hold (of your current progression) time is at least 60 seconds.
  • Perform exercise C1 and C2 like a circuit with 60-90 seconds rest between the exercises.
Workout #2

A: 5×5 pistol squat progression

B: 3x(sub-max) calf raises

C1: 3×8 dragon flag progression

C2: 3x(sub-max) one leg hip bridges

Notes

  • Rest 2-5 minutes for exercises A and B.
  • Perform exercise C1 and C2 like a circuit with 60-90 seconds rest between the exercises.
Workout #3

A: 60s Front lever

B: 60s Back lever

C: 3x(sub-max) muscle ups

Notes

  • 60s of front/back lever means that your total static hold (of your current progression) time is at least 60 seconds.
  • Rest 2-4 minutes between the muscle up sets.
Sample Training Plan

Week #1

Monday: Workout #1
Tuesday: Workout #2
Thursday: Workout #3
Wednesday: Rest
Friday: Workout #1
Saturday:  Workout #2
Sunday: Rest

All the other weeks are going to follow the same format. Every 4th or 5th week can be a deload week in which you drop the intensity by decreasing the number of performed reps.

Conclusion

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Becoming a street calisthenics master is a totally achievable goal.

However, since street calisthenics are relatively new, the actual definition of the street master athlete is going to evolve along with the evolution of the street calisthenics community.

By training hard and achieving the most advanced of the skills, you can be one of the few who drive the evolution of the community.

Keep training hard and maybe you’ll be the next legendary street calisthenics master!

How close are you in becoming a street calisthenics master?

Post your answer in the comments section below!

– bodyweight Todd

Show/Hide Comments (6 comments)
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6 Comments
  1. Allan Victor

    Amazing man, thank you for sharing your knowledge with us!
    I got an doubt to ask you, what means sub-max?
    Thanks again!

    Reply
  2. Adam

    IMO the people who can do stuff like this are the truly strong ones. Having a 500lb bench is impressive in its own way but I just don’t think it even compares to being able to control your body like a master of calisthenics does.

    Reply
  3. brynda gutierrez

    Your articles are wonderful, and so inspiring! I really appreciate the thought and hard work you put into the posts.

    Thank you

    Reply
    • Todd Kuslikis

      Thank you, Brynda. I appreciate the kind words.

      – Todd

      Reply
  4. Andy

    Amazing article (another one), thank you!

    Andy

    Reply
    • Todd Kuslikis

      Hi Andy.

      Appreciate it. More to come!

      – Todd

      Reply
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