HOW TO MASTER 9 OF THE HARDEST BODY WEIGHT EXERCISES IMAGINABLE (Part 2)

April 20, 2015

 

Bodyweight training is awesome isn’t it?

The more I train with bodyweight exercises, the more I am motivated to train harder and achieve more advanced skills.

This feeling is very common in the calisthenic community.

In the past, I have written a post on how to master 9 of the hardest bodyweight exercises imaginable.

More than 2 years have past since then and most of the older members of the SOA community will be able to perform several of the skills presented in that post.

For this reason, I decided to continue that article and bring together and break down another 9 awesome bodyweight exercises.

The previous post was focused on:

  1. The planche
  2. Handstand
  3. One arm push ups
  4. Back flip
  5. Muscle up
  6. Front lever
  7. Human flag
  8. Pistol Squat
  9. Tiger bend push ups

Lastly, before moving on, you should understand that training for any of the moves below is very strenuous for your body and as such you should be very careful with your training approach (I’ll explain more later).

Here we go…

1. One Arm Pull Up Tutorial

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sxxe154aEis

Description:
The one arm pull up, as the name suggests, is a pull up with one arm. Even though the description is straightforward and simple, this movement requires a very large amount of pulling strength. Also, you should be aware that to perform a legitimate one arm pull up, no kipping is allowed. Lastly, this movement is very strenuous on your shoulder joints.

This is a great exercise for your biceps and back.

Progression:

  1. Be able to achieve at least 5-8 regular pull ups (without kipping)
  2. Close Pull ups
  3. Archer pull ups
  4. Assisted one arm pull ups
  5. One arm static hold. You should to hold it in 3 different ranges of motion. Practice at the top of the movement, at 90 degrees angle, and at 135 degree angle.
  6. One arm pull up

Training Tips:

– Before starting to train with advanced pulling exercises you should have mastered the basic scapula positions. This is going to help you develop the necessary shoulder strength and protect you from injuries.

– Tensing your abs and bringing your legs higher, like performing a knee raise, can help you with the movement. Be aware not to kip though.

– Train you grip with one arm hangs after your pull up session, or in a different day, to strengthen your grip.

Helpful Resources:

One Arm Pull Up Tutorial.

Beyond one arm pull ups:

Is there a skill harder than one arm pull ups? Of course there is.

The one arm rope climb is one of em:

2. V-Sit Tutorial

Description:
This exercise seemed impossible the first time I saw it. My mind was blown. I couldn’t imagine that such a move could exist until I saw it.

To perform this move you have to push yourself with your hands so that your whole body is off the ground… then bring your legs close to your head. Your arms and legs are straight. Hold this position for time.

The V-sit requires a lot of core strength and flexibility. Furthermore, most people who haven’t trained for this move fail to see that a great deal of triceps strength is required to hold the position.

Progression:

  1. L-sit tuck
  2. L-sit flat tuck
  3. L-sit
  4. Progress to V-Sit in a similar way.

Training Tips:
– Stretching your hamstring prior to v-sit training and between sets is really helpful. Since this exercise requires a lot of triceps strength, adding some dips or triceps extension to your training will accelerate your progress.

– Since this exercise requires a lot of triceps strength, adding some dips or triceps extensions to your training will accelerate your progress.

– Practicing on an elevated surface can help you a lot in the beginning. As you progress you can move to the floor.

Helpful Resources:

– L-Sit Tutorial.

– L-Seat Progression Pt.3. This is an excellent drill to develop the necessary hip strength for a V-Sit.

– L-Sit to V-Sit transition.

Beyond V-sit

If achieving a V-Sit in not enough for your, you can train for the Manna:

3. One Arm Elbow Lever Tutorial

Description:

The one arm elbow lever is the most difficult progression of the elbow lever. In this move you balance on one hand that is being supported in your stomach. Your legs are straight. Other than your supporting hand, nothing else touches the ground.

This movement is really good for your shoulders, chest and back muscles.

Progression:

  1. Elbow Lever
  2. One arm elbow lever assisted
  3. Elbow lever straddle
  4. Elbow lever

Training Tips:
– Practicing on an elevated surface makes the exercise easier.

– In the beginning, you should always have a pillow over your head, in case you are not able to balance accordingly.

– This move is very strenuous to your wrists. If you feel any pain you should back off from the training and wait until your wrist feels fine. To make your wrists stronger you can train like shown in this video.

– If you lack the necessary back strength,  headstand leg raises are a great exercise to practice.

Helpful Resources:

1. Elbow Lever Tutorial

Beyond The One Arm Elbow Lever

After mastering the one arm elbow lever, you can start practicing different ways to get in and out of this position. Like Al does in the video below:

4. Triple Clap Push ups Tutorial

Description:
Everyone who doubts that building explosive strength with bodyweight exercises is possible… has to see this exercise.

The triple clap push up requires monstrous explosive pushing strength. A lot of agility and coordination is required as well.

This move mostly targets your chest and your triceps. However, a great deal of core strength is needed as well.

Progression:

  1. Behind the back clap push ups.
  2. Following similar progression with the behind the back clap push ups, you should aim to achieve:
    1. Double clap push ups. The first clap is going to be behind the back.
    2. Double clap push ups. The first clap is going to be in the front.
  3. Elevated triple clap or assisted.
  4. Triple clap push ups.

Training Tips:
– Having your legs spread makes the exercises easier. However, I recommend that you have your legs shoulder width apart or closer, since it is more likely to cheat with a wider stance.

– Engaging the core is really helpful for achieving a higher “jump”.

– You should practice clapping back and forth to develop hand speed before your workout and between sets.

Helpful Resources:

1. Behind-the-back Clap Push up Tutorial

2. Triple Clap Push ups Tutorial

Beyond The Triple Clap Push Up

You can make this exercise harder by wearing a weighted vest or, if you are “crazy”, by adding more claps.

5. Back Lever Tutorial

Description:
The back lever is a very common exercises in bar calisthenics. In my previous post, I included a tutorial about the front lever so, I thought that including here the back lever would be a good idea.

This movement targets your chest, your biceps, your shoulders and your back muscles.

Progression:

  1. Skin the cat
  2. German hang. The difference between the german hang and skin the cat is that in the german hang you hold the last hanging position.
  3. Back lever tuck
  4. Back Lever flat tuck
  5. Back lever straddle
  6. Back lever

Training Tips:
– Before starting training for this move, you should have mastered the basic scapula positions.

– When tired you can always decrease the difficult by bringing your legs closer to your body.

– Use a timer to count the time of the hold.

– Focus on keeping your arms completely straight during the exercise.

– You can use a spotter in the beginning to point to you when you are parallel to the floor.

Helpful Resources:

1. How To Implement a Steady State Training Cycle

Beyond The Back Lever

There is one skill, that I can think of, that can be considered as the hardest variation of a back lever. That is the one arm back lever:

6. The Wheel Roll Out Tutorial

Description:
The wheel roll-out is one of these bodyweight exercises that can be performed only with equipment and yet they are still really awesome.

The wheel roll-out is one of the best exercises for developing your core strength.

Other than your core this exercise requires very strong shoulders, back, glutes and hip flexors.

To perform this move you just grab an ab wheel and then roll out completely with straight arms. Then go back to the starting position, while maintaining straight arms.

Progression:

  1. Knee wheel roll outs
  2. Partial wheel roll outs
  3. Wheel Roll out

Training Tips:
– You should achieve the necessary tension before rolling out completely.

– Keeping your butt tight is really helpful for maintaining a straight back.

– If your back extends during the movement, you should train with an easier progressions.

Helpful Resources:

1. Standing Ab Wheel Rollout Tutorial

2. Standing Ab Wheel Rollouts – Form Clarification (HD)

Beyond the Wheel Roll out

If you though the wheel roll out was difficult be prepared to see the one wheel roll out:

7.  90 Degree Push ups Tutorial

Description:
The 90 degree push ups is a really cool move.

To perform this movement, you get into a position that is similar to the elbow lever but without having your elbows support your body. Then while maintaining a straight body, you press into a shoulder stand and then do a handstand push up. Then go down by reversing the steps.

Progression:

  1. You should be able to hold a freestanding handstand in a straight line easily.
  2. Handstand push ups.
  3. Elbow Lever.
  4. Shoulder Stand.
  5. Partial 90 degree push ups, meaning that you are not going to go down for the full 90 degree. For this step you can use a wall to manipulate the range of motion.

Technique Tips:
– Your fingers should point outwardly. This way you are not going too much stress on your wrists.

– You can practice going from a handstand to an elbow lever and the reverse as a progression too.

Helpful Resources:

1. Handstand Tutorial

2. Handstand Push ups Tutorial

Beyond:

After you master the regular 90 degree push up, you can increase the range of motion by practicing on an elevated surface, thus going beyond 90 degree push ups.

8. Handstand Press Tutorial

Description:

This is a great move to master after you have gotten proficient in freestanding handstands.

The handstand press is one of the many ways you can get into a handstand.

To perform a handstand press, you put your hands down similarly with when you are going to kick up into a handstand, but instead of kicking you are going to lean a little forward and, while maintaining straight arms, push yourself into a handstand.

Progressions:

  1. Handstand
  2. Headstand leg raises
  3. Partial handstand press

Training Tips:

– Turning your wrists slightly outwardly will put less stress on your wrists.

– Planche training is a great way to develop the necessary strength for this movement.

Helpful Resources:

1. Straddle Press to Handstand Tutorial

Beyond:

After you have mastered the regular handstand press, you can start practicing with greater range of motion and perform sequences. For example you can go from a V-sit to a handstand.

The hardest variation of this skills is the one arm handstand press. This movement is very common among handstand acrobats:

9.Harop Curl Tutorial

Description:

This is the greatest bodyweight exercise for hamstring strength development.

To perform a harop curl you need to have a steady support for your legs. This exercise is like performing a hamstring curl, but with your bodyweight.

Progressions:

  1. Hip bridges
  2. Single leg hip bridge
  3. Assisted harop curl
  4. Harop curl

Training Tips:

– Full body tension makes this exercises easier to perform.

Helpful Resources:

1. Tutorial: Natural Hamstring Curls

Beyond:

To make this exercise harder you can train on an incline surface or use a weighted vest.

Bonus Move: Hollow Back Tutorial!

Description:
The hollow back isn’t as well known around the calisthenics community. However, this is an awesome move that requires a lot of strength, balance, control and mobility.

This movement is a cross between a handstand and a bridge.

Progression:

  1. You should be able to hold a regular handstand easily before attempting this move.
  2.  A basic bridge is also necessary.
  3.  Bridge push ups
  4.  Wall walk downs. Get into a handstand with your back facing the wall and start to walk with your legs toward the floor. Go as far as you can and hold the position for at least 5 seconds.
  5. Hollow back

Training Tips:
– When practicing bridge push ups aim to bring your hands below your shoulders.

– Putting your feet on an elevated surface, when practicing bridges and bridge push ups, requires more shoulder strength but puts less pressure on your lower back.

– This exercise is REALLY stressful for your shoulders. Don’t hesitate to back off from your training if you experience any pain.

Helpful Resources:

1. Bridge Tutorial

2. Handstand Tutorial

Beyond:

After you have mastered the hollow back you can begin practicing more dynamically like the B-Boys in the video bellow:

How To Train For These Moves

Focus

The fastest way to achieve any of these skills is to focus on one of them at a time.

This way you can always train for the skill you want first thing in every training session while you are still fresh.

Low-rep sets

Most of the moves presented on this post could be described as strength moves, because strength (maximal or explosive) is the main factor for appropriate execution.

For this reason I would recommend you to train in the range of 3-5 reps per set. The number of sets depends mostly on your training program.

Frequency

Repetition is the mother of all learning.

The more your practice the faster you are going to achieve the skill that you want.

However, you should be careful not to over-train or to practice with bad form.

The best way to achieve high-volume without over-training with many reps per set, is to practice with the GTG method. With this training method, you are going to spread your training sets thought the whole day, with at least one-hour rest in between sets. By doint this, you will be able to increase the volume without overtraining.

Bodyweight Todd

photo

Show/Hide Comments (6 comments)
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6 Comments
  1. Tom

    Todd. This not a comment but appears as though it is the only way I can get in touch with you.

    Thought I had looked at your web sightBut did not subscribe to any program. I found an email that you sent to me and will look at id.
    But please no more charges to my CC.
    I am 81 yrs old and cannot much if any of these things. Thank you
    NTJ
    aggravation@comcast.net

    Reply
    • Todd Kuslikis

      Hi Tom, I sent you an email a few times now. Are you getting them?

      Reply
  2. Charles

    Just like the first one, this was an awesome pot! These are the moves everyone wishes they could do but few have attained. Just the fact that you’re putting them out there is motivation enough. Thank you for this. You are a great motivator and teacher!

    Reply
    • Todd Kuslikis

      So glad you enjoyed the article Charles! 🙂

      Reply
  3. Bit

    Nice writing, as usual.
    Too bad sitting next to the PC eating something nasty is more comforting and easy than getting my butt up and working out… Yes, I know that once I do it is very rewarding, and I have tons of motivations (see BW superheroes as role-models, lost fat, get fit etc) but meh, lacking the will power to just do it.

    You should really do a motivation post. We all know the WHAT and HOW, but we often need to remind ourselves the WHY and the NOW!!

    Bit

    Reply
    • Todd Kuslikis

      Hi Bit, don’t worry about will power. Will power is not important. Creating habits is more powerful and sustainable. Start with VERY small goals… then over time build up.

      Reply
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