Life Above The Bar: Why I Pursue Bodyweight Mastery + An Update On My Progress

Written By: Todd Kuslikis
May 11, 2013

I still remember the day like it was yesterday. I was about 14 years old and was walking down the street with my dad. After a little while he turned to me and said, “Todd, look up while you walk. There is a big world out there. You’ll never be able to see it if you’re always looking down.

You see, even at a young age I had a reflective and contemplative personality. I often looked down while I walked not out of a lack of self-confidence or because I liked to stare at my feet.

I looked down because my awareness was inside.

One of my Nursing school friends once shared with me that when she was a little girl she would often climb to the top of a tree because she liked to look out at the horizon and imagine herself exploring whatever was beyond it. She had an outward focus. I told her that I also did the same thing when I was younger but instead of looking at the horizon I would often close my eyes and feel how the tree was gently swaying as the wind pushed against it. She focused outwardly. I focused internally.

What Does Internal Focus and Outward Focus Have To Do With Fitness?

To me, the difference between internal focus and external focus is like the difference between bodyweight exercises and lifting weights. Lifting weights is a relationship between an object and the lifter. There is an external focus.

During bodyweight exercises there is no object to have a relationship with. Its just you. So the focus has to be internal. I think that is why I like them so much.

Ido Portal is a perfect example. He moves with an sense of where his body is in space. There is a relationship with oneself that is incredible. He has mastery over his body and uses movement as a type of meditation. His focus is internal.

This is why I pursue body weight exercises. The benefits of functional strength are great, but there is a deeper element of learning to control oneself.

Why I Made The Transition From Below The Bar To Above The Bar

After I built my PVC Bodyweight Gym, I realized that bar calisthenics helped shift my focus even deeper. Balance became more of an issue and in order to hold a move I had to become intensely aware of where I was keeping my balance. For almost a decade I have been training in calisthenics and have loved them. Doing many different styles of push ups and squats is exciting, especially because there are so many variations. However, the focus has been on strength gains.

I wanted to challenge myself in a new way. I wanted to learn handstands, planches and arm levers… on the bar. So I decided to set in motion the steps in order to achieve these goals.

Knee health score 3

Mid March I decided to move forward with Parallettes Two (A Gold Medal Bodies’ Program) and have been blown away with the results so far.

They have a Parallettes One program but after consulting with Amber (Gold Medal Bodies’ Team Member) she recommended Two because I already had a basic level of fitness and strength.

Below you will find some of the moves that I have been able to achieve from the program. I already could do V-Ups but all the others are new moves for me.

Bent Arm Handstand

This is the Bent Arm Handstand. I can hold it now for about 10-15 seconds.

Straight Arm Handstand

This is the straight arm handstand. For me, its actually harder than the bent arm. My PR is about 10 seconds.

Double Arm Lever

The Double Arm Lever is actually more about balance than strength.

Single Arm Lever

This is the Single Arm Lever. 95% of my weight is supported on my right arm. My left hand is just doing some very minor support.

High Frog

This is called the High Frog. Your knees are on your triceps to help support some of the weight of your lower torso.

Tuck Hold (A few steps away from the planche)

The Tuck Hold is the next transition after the High Frog on the way up to the Planche. You can see here that my knees are not resting on my arms.

V Up (Not a new move for me but still part of the program)

GMB has definitely helped me improve my V Up.

I sought out a program that I felt would help me achieve the goal of balance and strength. I wasn’t looking for muscle growth or fat loss. I wanted to master my own body and achieve a type of “meditative strength practice” that I haven’t really seen before in the industry.

The End Goal of the Program…

Bar calisthenics is extremely attractive to me because I used to teach Tai Chi and what I see below has elements of Tai Chi in it. In the video, Ryan uses breath control, fluidity, and a balance of yin/yang energies. After I can do the below routine, I plan to incorporate even more of the principles of Tai Chi into this routine and make it my meditative strength practice.

I like how each of the 4 stages builds off of each other. I am still on stage 1 of the program and am already super excited by my new arsenal of moves. I couldn’t do handstands or tuck holds before the program yet Ryan has a systematic method for helping anyone, even if they are new to bar training develop these moves.

Hannibal for King and Denis Minen, eat your heart out! Todd Kuslikis is gunnin’ for the title! 😉

Have a great day my friends!


Show/Hide Comments (10 comments)
  1. Kelly

    Hi Todd!

    I found you from your fizzle call and just love your site! I really resonate with the reason you started pursuing bodyweight mastery…you nicely put into words exactly what I was feeling myself!!

    • Todd Kuslikis

      That’s awesome Kelly! How are you enjoying Fizzle? Corbett and Chase are rockstars!

      • Kelly

        They really are! I’m enjoying it – and learning a ton. It’s helping me keep my focus on the right track.

  2. smart player

    I always wanted to see you on a bar, you look great!
    Happy to see ryan hurst here.

  3. Mario

    Great job Todd, keep it up. I have just one question for you. Could you tell the size of the materials you used to build those parallel bars? Thank you 🙂

  4. Ryan "Wolf"

    Hey Todd,

    Great article, sir! GMB is something I’ve been eyeing for a while now and paralettes being the program I wanted to start! This has encouraged me even more to look into it, so thank you Todd and thank you Ryan. Hopefully I can be apart of GMB soon!

    • Todd Kuslikis

      For sure Ryan. It is an awesome program!

  5. Ryan Hurst

    Todd, that’s some GREAT progress! You are really kicking ass!
    I’m really happy that you are having fun with P2.

    Keep up the great work!

    • Todd Kuslikis

      Hey Ryan,

      Thank you so much! Yes, I am having a blast and can’t wait to do the full routine. Thanks so much for putting together a clear, doable, and effective program.


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