We like to imagine that, some years ago, a young Frank Medrano happened upon a magic lamp while wandering a lonely desert. Upon rubbing it, a genie appeared and told Medrano he had been allotted three wishes.
Without hesitation, Medrano wished for the ability to perform some of the most unbelievable, eye-catching bodyweight stunts the world has ever seen, then used the remaining two wishes to double down on the first.
In reality, he just worked really, really hard. But the imagery of the first scenario is more fun.
Medrano has become one of the most popular faces in the world of bodyweight fitness. His highest viewed YouTube video has over 33 million views and is a great video to send to a friend who’s getting just a little too cocky with his calisthenics training.
Medrano has been a fixture in calisthenics for years, so in this article, we’ll examine what led him to become a master in this industry.
Ok, so it wasn’t a genie.
Medrano began his Calisthenics training in 2010. Wanting to better himself and his body, he did some research and found bodyweight exercises to be the healthiest option.
“I started coming up with programs for myself,” he says. “I saw videos on YouTube of people doing some advanced stuff. I decided to try them out, maybe perfect them and do a little stuff of my own, and that’s how I got started.”
He credits the feeling of inner-strength that accompanied bodyweight exercises.
“I fell in love with the feeling of true strength and agility through core and functional body weight exercises because it carried over into my everyday life,” he says on his website. “It gave me control of my mind and body and ultimately gave me strength to master and dominate anything I wished to accomplish.”
Apparently having the most jaw-dropping control of his body on a pull-up bar was on his list of things he wanted to accomplish, because we’re pretty sure Captain America couldn’t do half of what’s in this video.
You’ve probably been told at some point that, if you are physically active, you need meat so your brittle little bones don’t collapse on you while you’re in the middle of a push-up, leaving you a pile of malnourished dust on the gym floor.
Gotta get that protein, right bro?!
Well, yeah, that is right, but not in all the ways Bulky McCrossfit thinks. As it so happens, meat does not have the monopoly on protein that many people assume it does: fruits, vegetables, plants and pretty much everything that gets called “food” got their fair share of it too.
Medrano shares this opinion, which is why he went vegan four years ago.
Before he tried it, he had no idea what veganism was. He was leery because, like most people, he was concerned about losing muscle and strength with a meatless diet. But he had two friends, also calisthenics enthusiasts, who encouraged him to give it a try.
“I was kind of curious,” he remembers. “How can they not eat meat or animal products and still look the way they do, and work out the way they work out?”
But with a properly structured diet and the help of one of the world’s foremost authorities on vegan bodybuilding, Medrano noticed after a few months that his recovery time was faster than when he was eating meat. Not only that, he had more energy to begin with on the plant-based diet. He describes the benefits as “super wellness.”
That’s not to say we’re telling you you must go vegan right now. As the world’s best tennis player would say, “Find a diet that works for you.” But the next time you see someone digging into a slab of porterhouse “for their health”, remember that you can also get protein and other nutrients without devouring a steak the size of a car door.
If you are looking for some direction, Medrano recommends utilizing lentils, beans, kale and more for protein.
Having a shredded body and being able to perform those exercises may lead you to believe getting to that level takes a type of training to which only Navy SEALS and Goku are privy. In truth, Medrano says he keeps things pretty basic.
“A lot of people think there’s a type of training, a type of difficult training or exercise you need to do in order to do it [extreme calisthenics]. But pretty much you just gotta keep it simple.”
When he began, Medrano focused on some of the core exercises of calisthenics: push-ups, pull-ups, and dips. Rather than try the advanced stuff right away, he committed to perfecting his form of these exercises.
Only after that did he move on to adding more resistance and practicing slower reps, until he finally started creating his signature maneuvers that suggest he has the ability to casually disregard the laws of physics.
He says he still does some basic weightlifting, but that he doesn’t believe you can overtrain with bodyweight exercises, as long as you’re getting the right nutrition and listening to your body.
For anyone new to calisthenics, even if you’re already relatively fit, Medrano suggests easing into it just like he did.
“Always start at the bottom,” he advises. “If you’re barely getting into it … don’t just into the hard exercises, be humble. … you’ve still got to start with the basics. You’ve got to master the pull-ups, you’ve got to master the dips, the push-ups … you’ve got to do those constantly, day in and day out. You’ve got to put your numbers in. It’s like checking into work.”
Inspired by bodyweight icons like Zef, Hit Richards and Hannibal, Medrano makes motivating others a key component to his calisthenics mastery.
Take the blog section of his website, for example. We said he likes to keep things simple, and you’ll see he has a grand total of five entries, all dealing with motivation. In his most recent article, which was written in April of 2015, he shares his perspective on using calisthenics to become the person you want.
“Asking yourself who you want to be means focusing on everyday behaviors that support that identity,” he says. Instead of focusing on losing 30 pounds, commit to being a calisthenics athlete. This entails developing the habits of a calisthenics athlete—for example, doing your push-ups, pull-ups, body squats, etc. every day. The key is to start with baby steps and building on them over time.”
He has ten principles that helped him when he began his fitness journey that he still uses to this day. They’re too good to paraphrase, so here’s Medrano’s list of guiding principles, word for word:
- Accept and forgive yourself. We are all unique and special individuals and do not have to adhere to the mainstream ideal of beauty. The aesthetics are a byproduct of your peace of mind.
- Be true to yourself. Never compare yourself to another.
- Don’t let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do. This is from the legendary UCLA basketball coach, John Wooden.
- Failure is an important part of the process. Embrace it.
- Think positive but make room for criticism.
- Understand that we all progress at various rates.
- Surround yourself with like-minded individuals. We all need a support group.
- Celebrate others’ successes and never hate on another person.
- Don’t let your ego get in the way. Friendly competition can be a motivating and positive tool but don’t fall into the trap of wanting to the get the best of someone. You’re either lifting them up or putting them down.
- Remember where you came from. Be willing to help others who were in your shoes. We all started somewhere.
If you want to inspire others and achieve greatness in the realm of calisthenics and beyond, this list is one heck of a place to start. It’s direct, honest and, most of all, simple. Just the way Medrano likes it.