How To Choose The Right Bodyweight Training Plan

August 17, 2015

Since I started building SOA, I have received the same question countless times.

How do I choose the right bodyweight training routine for me Todd?

Over the years I’ve learned something very important…

There is no such thing as the best routine. Not all routines are created equal.

Some of them are better and some are worse, depending on your goals.

With this post, I would like to give you a complete guide that will help you choose (or create) a bodyweight training plan that is as close to the best as possible based on your training goals.

The best training plan is different for everybody and depends on many individual factors. Here are just a few factors that affect how you should choose your training plan:

  • Lifestyle
  • Goals
  • Overall physical activity
  • Current health state
  • Training level
  • Etc.

All of these and many more factors are going to be discussed in this post.

Grab a healthy snack and be prepared because this is going to be a very long post.

What Does The “Best” Routine Actually Means?

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Before moving on let’s dive a little more into what the “best” training program actually means.

The best training program doesn’t exist as a universal option, but it is more suited to individualistic needs and goals.

There are many variables considering what is optimal for each person.

One of the most important elements is goals.

The best training plan is the one that is going to lead to the achievement of your goals in the fastest way possible.

If your goal is to be able to hold a static full plance, it makes very little sense to follow a muscle-building program no matter how effective that program may be.

After you are clear about what your goals are, it only makes sense to look where you currently are in respect to your goal.

This is an equally important step in finding what is best for you.

Let me use an analogy.

If you wanted to reach a destination, the first step would be to identify the destination on a map. The second step would be to find out where you are on that map. Then the 3rd step is to search for the best route that leads to the chosen destination.

If you don’t do the second step you won’t make it to the end.

The 4 Basic Strength Qualities

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One of the most fundamental things, in regards to training knowledge, that you have to know are the basic strength qualities.

Knowing them can help you better understand your goals and how to achieve them.

If you ignore them, you are risking choosing training plans that don’t lead toward your goals.

In this section, I am going to describe the different qualities briefly so that you can better categorize your different goals. You will find more info on how to train for each quality later on in this post.

Keep in mind that strength training terminology varies and different definitions have been given by different coaches. For our purposes, I think the definitions given by Verkhoshansky are spot on.

So… the basic strength qualities are:

Maximal Strength

Maximal strength characterizes the greatest magnitude of effort that the athlete can display when there is unlimited time. Maximal strength is most needed when the movement is executed with great external resistance.

Strength Endurance

Strength endurance is the specific form of strength displayed in activities that require a relatively long duration of muscle tension with a minimal decrease in efficiency (source).

Explosive Strength

Explosive strength is characterized by the athlete’s ability to display powerful efforts in the shortest amount of time.

Conditioning

Conditioning is different from strength. But since this section is about basic terminology, I will include it here.

There are two types of conditioning: aerobic and anaerobic.

Aerobic conditioning is a process whereby the heart and lungs are trained to pump blood more efficiently, allowing more oxygen to be delivered to muscles and organs (source).

Anaerobic conditioning is the ability to perform at a rate faster than can be met by the incoming oxygen (source).

Notes

These are not the only strength qualities that exist. More exist but I consider them to be advanced and needed mostly by professional athletes.

The Basic Bodyweight Training Assessments

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How do I actually apply this information?

Based on the map analogy there are 3 basic steps to choosing the right training plan:

  1. Goal setting (identify the destination)
  2. Assessing yourself (find where you are)
  3. Choosing the right plan (find the best route)

Step #1: Setting Your Goals

I always used to struggle with goal setting until I found the simple 3 step question process that I outline below.

The following process might take up to 30 minutes. I would suggest that you give the technique the appropriate time frame. This technique is not only going to help you discover your goals but you’ll also learn more about yourself and your true motives.

It’s truly a powerful exercise to do.

So, let’s start…

Question #1: What do you want?

This is a very simple and straightforward question.

Try to not censor yourself from goals that might seem outrageous, for that may be what you truly want.

Try to be as specific as possible.

For example, if you are over 40 and you are still a beginner in terms of physical training, your goal might be to be fit enough to play basketball with your son.

After answering, you should take a look at your goal and see where it fits in regards to the different strength qualities.

Since basketball is a sport all of the above strength qualities are needed in some regard. For this reason, you will have to search a little deeper and see what qualities you are lacking the most and focus on them in the beginning.

Question #2: Why do you want it?

This question is really important.

Here you are going to try to uncover the true motivation behind your “Why”. If your “Why” is strong enough you’ll never run out of motivation.

Continuing the previous example, your motivation might be the love for your son and the desire to deepen your relationship with him.

Question #3: What are you willing to do?

Here is where the rubber meets the road.

What are you willing to do to achieve your goal?

Are you willing to make the sacrifices needed?

Are you willing to put in the effort required?

Etc.

If you are not willing to do what it takes, then your “Why” is not strong enough or your goal is not something you truly desire.

Step #2: Assess Yourself

Now that you know what your goals are you will have to find where you stand in regards to them.

This is a step I was always missing in the past and I used to wonder why it took me so much time to achieve my goals. Of course, I was doing some very basic mental assessments based on my experience but not as in-depth as was needed.

If you want to achieve your goals in the fastest way possible this is a step that you have to take.

I know that it requires some time, but it’s worth the effort.

Remember the map analogy. If you don’t implement this step you are very likely to increase the time required to achieve your goals by following plans not designed for your level.

The assessment is going to be influenced a lot by your current goals.

For maximal strength

You are going to assess your current strength by performing various progressions of the movements you want to achieve and see where you stand in respect to your goal.

For strength endurance

You are going to perform the exercises that interest you for failure in one set.

For example, if your goal is 100 consecutive push-ups.

You should perform one set of push-ups to failure (stop when your form starts to break).

For conditioning

Similarly to strength endurance, you are going to perform a conditioning workout and see where you stand according to your goal.

For example, if your goal is to do 100 burpees in under 5 minutes, you should test how much time it currently takes you to complete them.

For Fat Loss

For fat loss, you should measure your body-fat percentage.

Also, I would recommend you take a photo of yourself every other week or every month. This is really good for motivational purposes.

For Muscle Mass

If you are very strict you’ll want to measure the weight and circumference of your limbs.

However, I simply recommend that you just take several photos each month to measure your progress and look at your weight on the scale.

If your weight is going up and you are looking more muscular… you’re good to go. 🙂

Step #3: Choosing the right plan

After finding out where you are by assessing yourself, the next step should be to choose a training plan.

While choosing the plan you should also be aware of how easy or difficult it looks for you to implement it.

If you have been training, for example, so far with a program that requires you to train once per day, it may not be so appropriate to jump straight to training 3 times per day.

I would recommend you choose a plan that increases your workload in small quantities. For the previous example, you can start adding a second workout to some days and gradually choose more demanding plans until you reach the 3 times per day plan.

Another thing you should be aware of is your daily stresses.

Are you going to be able to recover properly with the new plan?

Of course, you can never be really sure, but if you have a very stressful life (work a lot, not enough sleep, etc), then a hard workout plan might not be very suitable for you at the moment.

Hidden Step: Reflecting on your progress

This is an extra step and you can’t implement it right away.

This is a very important action that you should take every month or when you enter a deload phase in your training program.

In this step, you are going to reflect on your progress and see how well your program is performing.

Is everything going according to your expectations?

Have you reached the expected milestones?

Were you able to follow through with the program?

If everything goes as expected or better, then your program is good and there is no need to make any modifications.

If not, then you will have to spend some time studying your program and your lifestyle to see where the problem lies. Then, after you identify the cause, you can make the necessary modifications to your program.

The Best Training Routines Based On Your Goals

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How To Train For Maximal Strength

If your goal is to increase maximal strength, you are going to follow a program where you are training mostly with low reps (1-6), big breaks between sets (3-5 minutes), and a low to a high number of sets (1-6), depending on your current training level.

Here I am going to make a brief introduction to some of the best strength training systems that I have found.

Strength Training Routine #1: 5×5

This is by far one of the most well-known strength training routines.

It is very simple and straightforward. Great for beginners and advanced athletes alike.

With this type of training, you are going to perform 5 sets of 5 reps per exercise for the exercises you have chosen.

Every time you are able to perform a complete 5×5 you are going to move to a little more advanced variation.

You can find more info about the 5×5 approach on the Stronglifts website.

You can implement this approach into bodyweight training with an example similar to this One Arm Push Up tutorial.

Strength Training Routine #2: 5×3

The 5×3 system is very similar to 5×5.

The difference is that you are going to perform fewer reps per set. This modification makes this approach more strength-focused that the 5×5 rep scheme.

I would recommend this training approach to intermediate-level athletes that have reached a point that is difficult to complete 5×5 reps.

Strength Training Routine #3:  3×3

Similar to the 5×3 method, but even more strength-focused.

If you are trying to achieve very advanced moves like the elevator, you will eventually reach a point where it is not possible to do 5×5 or even 5×3 with good form.

Then it is time to start training with 3×3.

This rep scheme is not recommended for beginners that are trying to learn basic or intermediate level skills, like one-arm push-ups because more reps will help you build a strong foundation.

Strength Training Routine #4: 6×1

With this training scheme. you are going to perform 6 sets of one rep.

This reps scheme is great if you are trying to increase the reps of a hard skill you have already achieved but you can perform only 1-2 reps.

Such a skill could be, the one arm pull up, the one-arm wheel rollout, etc.

Strength Training Routine #5: The  GTG Method

This is one of the most versatile methods for building strength.

Especially with bodyweight training, you can literally work out wherever you are without having to plan everything out.

With this method, instead of training in a big chunk of time, you are going to spread out your training throughout the whole day.

For example, if you are training with one arm push-ups, you can do 3 reps per side every hour with the goal of doing 7 sets during the whole day.

This training method is also great for increasing your strength endurance up to a certain extent.

The key is to train with low to moderate reps in each set and never go close to failure.

Straight Arm Strength

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Straight Arm strength is a special kind of strength found only in bodyweight training, especially among gymnastics.

As the name suggests, the exercises that belong to this category require that you keep your arms straight during the exercise. Such exercises are, the plance, the iron cross, front and back lever, etc.

Achieving straight arm strength skills requires a completely different training approach than bent arm strength training.

There are two main reasons for this.

First and most importantly, the straight arm movements require a lot of tendon and ligament strength than bent arm strength exercises usually don’t. Ligaments and tendons require more time for adaptation than muscles do.

Secondly, most of these skills are isometric and static exercises so a rep/set approach doesn’t make sense.

One of the best tutorials on how to train with straight arm strength skills that I have found is Antranik’s post.

You can check it here:

Isometrics

Isometrics are one of the most convenient and effective methods that you can use for maximal strength training.

Isometrics include all exercises where there is no movement.

For example, pushing the wall with full effort is an isometric exercise.

The two most obvious benefits are that you can train with isometrics anywhere and that isometric workouts are usually very short.

The only disadvantage of isometrics is that you can’t measure your progress. However, this is easily solved if you combine isometrics with other training methods.

How To Train For Strength Endurance

Sgt. David W. Rider, a 2010 Army Reserve Best Warrior competitor and practical nurse from Strongsville, Ohio, assigned to Bravo Company, 256th Combat Support Hospital, grimaces during the push-up event while taking the Army Physical Fitness Test at Fort McCoy, Wis., July 26, 2010.

The goal of endurance training is to increase the number of reps in a particular exercise.

Endurance Training Routine#1. The GTG Method

Up to a certain point, the GTG method can help you increase your reps by quite a bit.

For example, if you would like to reach 20-30 reps in a movement, the GTG method is one of the most effective ones.

However, if your goal is to go to even higher reps, GTG might not be so helpful.

Endurance Training Routine#2: Pyramid Workouts

Pyramid workouts are another great tool to help you increase the reps of a certain move. Unlike GTG, I consider pyramid workouts more effective for higher reps.

A pyramid workout looks like this

1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 = 100 reps

You can do this with exercises like push ups, pull ups, squats, burpees, etc.

During one workout session you can practice more than one pyramid.

Obviously, if you are training with more advanced movements you will not be able to achieve such high reps. A pyramid of one arm push ups might look like this:

1-2-3-4-3-2-1 = 16 reps for 2-3 times

Or even lower reps

1-2-1 = 4 reps for 3-4 times

During a pyramid you are going to rest less than 2 minutes between your sets. Between pyramids you can rest up to 5 minutes.

The main benefit of pyramid type workouts is that they allow you to get lots of reps under your belt and to build lots of volume.

Endurance Training Routine #3: Sub-max Sets

This type of workout is very similar to strength training type workouts. The only difference is that you are going to perform more reps and a lower number of sets.

For example, a part of an endurance sub-max workout might look like this.

A1: 3x(sub-max) push ups

B1: 3x(sub-max) pull ups

C1: 3x(sub-max) squats

D1: 3x(sub-max) hip bidges

Notes:

  • You are going to rest 3-5 minutes between each set and between the exercises.
  • Sub-max means that you are going to train close to failure but you are not going to reach it. Close to failure means that you are still able to do 2 more reps with good form.

For this reason, your reps are not going to be the same for all the sets during the workout.

For example, in your first set you are going to be able to perform more pull ups than in your second one.

A good way to get even more value out of these type of training it to add a very slow negative during the last rep.

Endurance Training Routine#4: Supersets

In a superset you are going to combine two movements into one small circuit.

Usually, when I train with supersets I like to combine movements that target different muscle groups.

For example:

A1: 3×15 diamond push ups

A2: 3×20 bulgarian split squats (per side)

During a regular workout you are going to train with 3-4 supersets to target all the different muscle groups.

Lastly, you can combine exercises that target the same muscle group but from a different angle.

For example:

A1: 3×15 diamond push-ups

A2: 3×15 wide push-ups

The main benefit of supersets in regards to sub-max-sets is that it is more time-efficient.

How To Train For Explosive Strength

In regular weightlifting, you would have to add more weight to an explosive exercise, like the snatch. In bodyweight training that doesn’t work so you will have to train for the achievement of explosive movements.

For the upper body some explosive moves that you can have as goals are:

  • Plyometric (clapping) push ups variations
  • Plyometric (clapping) pull up variations

For the lower body:

Depending on the movement you are trying to achieve, you can use strength training parameters (5×5, etc) or higher reps and fewer sets (e.g. 3×8-12).

Explosive training doesn’t stand by itself and you should include strength training sessions for the best results.

There are numerous ways to integrate explosive training into your training plan.

Here are two of them:

#1. Dedicated Explosiveness Days

In this type of plan you are going to have days dedicated to explosiveness, where you train mostly with upper and lower body plyometrics.

You can have 1-4 days per week dedicated to explosiveness. The more you have, the better your explosiveness is going to be.

Notice that if you have 4 days dedicated to explosiveness, there are not many days left for strength training. For this reason, I recommend that you follow a plan where you train for maximal strength and explosiveness equally.

#2. Integrated With Strength Training

With this type of training plan, you are going to train explosiveness and maximal strength on the same day.

You should train for explosiveness after your strength training workout.

If this type of training takes too much time for you, you can split the days into upper and lower body training.

How To Train For Conditioning

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As I said in the “Basic Strength Qualities” section, conditioning can be divided into two distinct categories.

Aerobic and anaerobic conditioning.

Both of these conditioning methods are important.

You can train the aerobic energy system with cardio-type workouts.

For anaerobic training, you should use mostly workouts like AMRAP, HIIT, Metabolic Circuit Training, etc.

Anaerobic workouts are good for endurance training as well.

How To Train For Muscle Gains

The routines that you can use for muscle mass are exactly the same as the routines for strength endurance.

The only difference is in the exercise selection.

For muscle building, the exercises should be more difficult and in the range of 6-12 reps.

For example, if you were to train with a sub-max workout and you were able to do 15 one-arm push-ups in the first set, the exercise is not a good choice for muscle development despite being an advanced movement.

On the opposite spectrum if you were to follow the sub-max workout and you were able to do 10 reps of regular push-ups in the first set, then the exercise is very good for muscle development.

How To Train For Fat Loss

I am not going to dive too deep into the topic of fat loss training here, as I have recently covered the topic.

What I would like to discuss, is that fat loss, more than any other physical quality, is very affected by your lifestyle choices and especially your diet.

While you can get away with not caring much about your diet, in maximal strength training, if your goal is fat loss, then you will have to take care of it.

Hybrid Training Programs

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Hybrid training programs/workouts refer to plans that are designed to target more than one physical quality.

These training plans are usually more complex in terms of design.

The main benefit of hybrid training is that it allows you to develop a well-rounded physique.

The disadvantage of this type of training is that you are not going to improve as fast in the different strength qualities because you are trying to target more than one.

Think for example of a boxer. A boxer has to excel in a lot of physical qualities like explosiveness, speed, conditioning, skill, etc. So he will have to follow a hybrid training approach.

Even if the boxer excels in so many qualities he is far from being a master at them. There are athletes with more strength (powerlifters, gymnasts), more speed (sprinters), etc.

Choosing Exercises

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Exercises are the core of your workout plan.

Usually, when someone decides to train with weightlifting the exercises are obvious (heavy squat variations, deadlifts, etc).

However, in calisthenics, we are in a completely different field.

The exercises that you can choose are endless.

So what do you choose?

One approach that I like to take is to focus on the primal movement patterns and choose one advanced move as a goal for each pattern.

The primal moving patterns are:

  1. Squat. For the squat, you can choose exercises like pistol and dragon pistol squats.
  2. Lunge. For the lunge, you can choose the shrimp squat.
  3. Push. For the pushing pattern, you can choose handstand push-ups.
  4. Pull. For the pull, you can choose one-arm pull-ups.
  5. Twist. For the twisting pattern, you can choose windshield wipers.
  6. Bend. I am not aware of an advanced bodyweight exercise that targets this pattern. However, you can train the muscles targeted with this pattern with moves like the glute-ham raise.
  7. Gait/Combination. You don’t need an advanced goal for this pattern.

Even if you don’t plan to actually achieve an advanced movement, having one in mind will help you progress to more advanced variations when things start to become easy.

You can find some great exercises here:

Considering Lifestyle Factors When Choosing Your Bodyweight Routine

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When you are about to choose/create a plan, you should spend a very good deal of time reflecting on your overall lifestyle.

There are various lifestyle choices that are going to affect the effectiveness and longevity of your program (how long you are able to sustain it).

In this section, I am going to discuss the 3 ones that I believe are the most important.

Lifestyle Factor #1: Sleep

Sleep is one of the most important factors for recovery.

If your current lifestyle doesn’t support enough sleep, then you should consider this while choosing a training program.

Just because a program might seem easy, it doesn’t mean that you will be able to recover from it.

Lifestyle Factor #2: Diet

Diet is a huge subject. In this section the only thing that is of concern is the timing of your meals.

You shouldn’t train when your stomach is full.

Take a moment and see when you eat most of the time.

This can help you understand what time will be more convenient for your daily workouts.

Lifestyle Factor #3: Physical Activity

Does your lifestyle already consist of a good amount of physical activity (e.g. through manual labor)?

If yes, your workouts don’t need to be as demanding, since you will have a hard time recovering (except if you increase the work load gradually).

Common Mistakes

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If you have read so far, congratulations!

Now you know the basics of creating a great training plan.

However, even if you can create a “perfect” training plan, there are some mistakes that can block your training success.

In this section, I will try to address the most common ones that I have encountered.

Mistake #1: Changing Routines Too Fast

This is one of the most common newbie mistakes.

I used to make this mistake a lot as a newbie. I would see a great bodyweight workout plan and I would start to train with it with all my focus and put a lot of effort into it.

However, after a month I would barely see any results and I would get disappointed and start searching for a new program.

Adding to this, I used to have the “Shiny Object Syndrome”. Since I was very eager to become stronger I used to read and search a lot about different training methods. Combine that with the disappointment from lack of results and BOOM! Change of plans…

The obvious problem with this approach is that adaptation takes time and as such you should give it a month or two to see if your program is working out or not.

But Todd, I would like to follow a plan for a long time but it’s really hard for me. What should I do? How did you manage to deal with this issue?

I know that it can be hard for a beginner to follow through when there are no results to be seen. The way I managed to overcome this problem was to design my plans in such a way that I could see the progress that I was making, even if that progress was small.

For example, If I was following an endurance-based training plan, I would try to increase the reps by one at each workout. Even if this was a very small increase, it would be motivating to me to keep following the plan.

The way I dealt with the “Shiny Object Syndrome” was to move away from searching for more effective training ways. Of course, I was still reading training material, but it wasn’t so frequent and not with the purpose of finding something better than what I was doing.

Mistake #2: Not Being Consistent With Your Plan

Even if you manage to find and choose a very effective training plan, if you are not able to follow through and actually apply the workouts, you will not get the results that you seek.

Of course, this is obvious in hindsight, but a lot of people fall into the pattern of missing one workout after the other.

The only way to combat this is with proactive action. Meaning that you will have to identify the cause beforehand and be prepared for when it happens.

Based on my experience I can think of 3 major issues for missing workouts.

Reason #1: Lack Of Motivation

This is a very big issue for beginners and sometimes for more experienced athletes as well.

The thing is that if you are motivated at the moment prior to the workout, it is very unlikely that you are going to skip it or excuse yourself out of it.

So, the best way to combat the lack of motivation is to learn how to motivate yourself.

If you have spent the appropriate time with the 2nd question of goal setting, there is going to be a strong “Why” behind your goals and thus it will be easier to stay motivated.

However, in certain moments it’s easy to lose the sense of the big picture. So, you will have to learn how to motivate yourself at the moment.

I enjoy doing it by watching inspiring videos.

Reason #2: Bad Habits

People are creatures of habit.

Habitual patterns rule your life. These patterns either support your goals or they don’t.

If you are a beginner, or you are trying to implement a completely different training plan, your habits are going to be against you for a while. This happens because of homeostasis.

The good thing about habits is that once you have established one there is no need to put more effort to sustain it. For example, if you integrate into your lifestyle a habit of working out early in the morning, you will need no extra effort to motivate yourself to work out. Instead, you are going to work out habitually.

Fortunately, establishing habits isn’t that hard. It only takes 30-90 consecutive days (depending on the habit) of implementation. Then the habit is automatic.

Reason #3: Unrealistic Plan

Even if you manage to deal with the 2 first issues effectively, there is still one more left that is equally important. That is choosing an unrealistic plan.

By unrealistic plan I mean a plan that has too many expectations from you.

If the success of your plan requires that you train 3 times per day, 6 days per week and you have previously been training only once per day 3 days per week, you understand that there is going to be a lot of friction preventing you from keeping up with the workouts.

The key is to choose a plan that progresses the required work capacity gradually.

If you still want to follow a high demand training plan, the way to succeed is to have a strong accountability system in place, like training partners or a good coach.

Mistake #3: Paralysis By Analysis

…or reading too much without taking action.

The only way to avoid this mistake is to start taking action immediately even if your plan is not yet entirely figured out.

This may sound a little counter-intuitive, but it works.

The point is not to follow an incomplete and ineffective plan just to take action. (That would defeat the purpose of the whole post.) The point is to start balancing information with action.

Once you start to get more experienced as a calisthenics athlete you will very rarely get paralyzed by too much information.

Mistake #4: Starting Without A Clear Goal In Mind

This is a mistake that can happen if you don’t follow the instructions in the goal-setting section correctly.

If your goal is vague and not very specific you risk choosing a plan that is not very effective for what you may be actually looking for.

The easy way out of this situation is to spend more time getting clear with your goals.

A clear goal is also going to help you a lot in staying motivated and to train with more focus and clarity.

Mistake #5: Following A Program That No Longer Works

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

This is a very common mistake among people that are too attached with a certain method of training.

These people are just stubborn.

Even if the plan doesn’t seem to work there are some people that are still following regardless of the lack of results.

A good example is a guy who is trying to get stronger by training with high rep calisthenics even if he sees that he can’t do one-arm push-ups after training for more than 2 years.

There are many reasons that can be behind this issue.

The most common one, I think, is ego. When someone gets too attached to an idea or he is afraid of being wrong, it’s very hard to get him to try something new.

Another reason may be that they don’t know any better and don’t have access to resources. Of course, if you are reading this post, you don’t have such a problem/excuse.

The only way out of this situation is honest reflection.

This is the main reason, I have included the “Hidden Step” in the goal-setting system. Do not skip it.

Frequently Asked Questions

Question #1: What if I Miss A Workout?

Missing ONE workout is not a problem.

In fact, I think that it’s good to expect to miss one workout now and then. I still miss some workouts from time to time.

You can’t plan every aspect of life. There are things that you can’t foresee.

However, you should be very careful and be aware of the reasons you missed the workout.

Did you miss your workout because of an emergency?

Did you miss your workout because you weren’t motivated?

Did you miss your workout because you forgot it?

Did you miss your workout because you decided to go for a coffee instead?

Be honest with yourself. If you want to achieve your physical goals, these goals must become a priority in your life.

Lastly, you should understand that missing one workout is not a big deal. But, if you start missing more than one, then you lack the necessary consistency to get the results that you want (see mistake #1).

Question #2: What If I am Injured? How Do I Choose The “Right” Program For Me?

This is a tricky question to answer.

The best thing you can do is to take the advice of a professional, be it a doctor or a very experienced trainer.

Nowadays it’s so easy to find information online that many people try to search the solution by themselves. The problem with this approach is that you don’t have the required experience to diagnose the problem by yourself. Which can eventually lead to a bigger problem later on.

Question #3: How Can I Make Changes To A Program That Already Works?

Why would you change something that already works?

The most common reason is usually to find something that is more effective, because you really like to try new stuff or because you can’t follow the same program any longer due to lifestyle changes.

The first step in making effective changes is to identify what kind of changes have to be made.

You can do that by going through the goal-setting sequence and identifying what your priorities are.

Then go to the previous plan and make the necessary modifications so that your new plan fits most of the chosen priorities.

When you have to make such drastic changes, it’s very hard to maintain all the benefits from the previous workout plan. So, you should at least try to maintain the ones that are most important for you.

Question #4: How Can I Motivate Myself To Follow The Program That I Have Chosen?

Different people get motivated by different things.

The best thing you can do is to find out what motivates you. If you do that, you will have the power to take every action you want.

In regards to training, I find it really motivating to watch high-level calisthenics in Youtube.

Question #5: What Do I Do When A Program Doesn’t Seem To Work For Me?

The only way out of this situation is to study more about the different training parameters and to also take a look if the program you are following fits well with your current lifestyle.

Usually when the program isn’t progressing towards the goals you have, it’s because you are using different training parameters than the ones required for the achievement of your goals.

Other than that, your lifestyle may not be in sync with your training program and as such not allowing you to recover fast enough to progress.

Question #6: Can I Jump From A Strength Training Program To A Muscle Building One?

Yes, you can.

The best way to do it is to slowly start replacing strength-focused workouts with muscle-building focused workouts.

If you have been training for strength for a good period of time (1-2 years) this transition is going to be really easy. You just start training with some easier progressions and use training parameters for muscle building.

I would recommend you to keep at least one strength-focused training session per week because maximal strength will help you progress faster with the progressions.

Sample Workout Plan

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Reaching the end of the article, let’s see an example of the whole process.

Let’s say that these are your main goals…

  • One-arm push-ups
  • Pistol Squats
  • 100 Burpees under 5 minutes
  • 20 consecutive pull-ups

After assessing yourself you find out that:

  • You can do 8 reps of elevated one arm push-ups at hip height
  • You can do partial pistol squats, but you have a problem with balance
  • You can do 100 burpees in 11 minutes
  • You can do 4 pull-ups

After reading the post you decide to train with a hybrid training program that will help you accomplish these goals.

So, you create 3-month plan with the milestones of:

  • Being able to do 5×5 reps of OAPU of hip height
  • Being able to do partial pistol squat at a lower height and with no balance issues
  • Being able to do 100 burpees under 9 minutes
  • Being able to do 10 consecutive pull-ups

The main core of your workout plan could look like this:

Monday: 5×5 OAPU and pistol progressions + pull-ups endurance workout

Tuesday: HIIT type workout containing burpees

Wednesday: 5×5 OAPU and pistol progressions + pull-ups endurance workout

Thursday: Active rest

Friday: 5×5 OAPU and pistol progressions

Saturday: GTG pull-ups

Sunday: Active rest

Notes

  • Every 4th week is going to be a deload week, in which you are still going to train but with easier progressions. In the pull-ups, decrease the number of reps.
  • This is the main core of the program and you can add more exercises to make it more balanced, like core training.
  • After 12 weeks you should check if the milestones were reached and then decide for the next 3-6 months.

You can find more training programs here:

Conclusion

Pheww… This was a really long post!

I hope I answered all your questions in regards to training program creation.

This post wasn’t designed to be read-only once, but rather to be used as a guide. So make sure to re-read it several times.

Did you find this post useful? Are there any questions that you would like to be answered? Feel free to share them in the comment section below!

– Bodyweight Todd

Show/Hide Comments (14 comments)
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14 Comments
  1. Tamica

    Thanks so much for sharing this. I have a background in gymnastics and track and field and I got away from calisthenics as I got older. Now that I am into yoga and pole fitness I really am working to return to what I know. This was so very helpful I can’t wait to build a program and get started. Thanks again.

    Reply
  2. vishal

    i am very skinny so my my 1st goal is building muscle mass and i want to learn moves of of calisthenics like front lever, planche etc…

    so how can i learn that moves in between building muscle mass routines??

    Reply
    • Todd Kuslikis

      Hi Vishal,

      I’d recommend you focus on your strength exclusively, and after you’d built a strength foundation then you can focus on those advanced moves while maintaining overall strength.

      – Todd

      Reply
  3. Cyril madd

    Hi Tood, Great Article.

    I need you help.
    I want to do superset with two angulars variations of push-up and Pull-up.
    On the first set (5-10 reps) and the second (10-20), with drop sets if necessary.

    I want to build strenght with the first and mass with the second. The problem is that for building mass, we need about 60-90 seconds time under tension for efficency. If do that, it looks like to me i work for endurance even if i work a different angle.

    So do i take a rest bewteen the two sets or the set is good for mass ?

    Reply
  4. Vince

    Fantastic article! Really brings a lot of good points here. I have put your isometrics program into my schedule and am really liking it. Helps a lot with other bodyweight exercises as well and getting more work from my muscles. Thanks again!

    Reply
    • Todd Kuslikis

      That’s awesome Vince! Glad you are enjoying the isometrics! 😀

      Reply
  5. Charles

    Your articles keep getting better and better! The best part is that you include links to other highly useful information right there at your fingertips. Keep up the great work!

    Reply
    • Todd Kuslikis

      Thanks Charles! I know that no website is an island. There are tons of other great sites out there too. 🙂

      Reply
  6. Ronnie

    Super info packed article Todd…Well appreciate your details…Would like to know more about isometrics which I used back in the 1960s and 70s….Any articles on this method of training ???? Thanks

    Reply
  7. Shameaka

    Wow! Thank you so much for this. I am printing this out. I am currently working on my own transformation as well as studying to become a personal trainer. I see some familiar information/terms in this article. I’m excited by the sheer amount of knowledge you’ve shared (in other posts as well), and I look forward to re-reading this and implementing it.

    Reply
    • Todd Kuslikis

      That’s great Shameaka. Good luck in your personal trainer studies and glad you like the content. 🙂

      Reply
  8. Lee

    Would love to learn something new

    Reply
    • Todd Kuslikis

      Hope you did Lee!

      Reply
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