OK, on to how I did it.
MY BODY TRANSFORMATION: HOW I DID IT
People dismiss calisthenics. The typical comment is, “Oh, they’re good for endurance, but not good for building muscle.”
The secret: make the calisthenics exercises harder so that you are working in the 6 -15 rep range. Then, as you get stronger, make the exercises progressively harder.
There are many ways to do this without using any other equipment whatsoever. But explaining those methods will require a series of posts.
In this post I’ll just give you my routine. But don’t worry — you’ll be able to start using the routine straight away. I’ll explain a very simple way that you can make the exercises harder.
I did a considerable amount of research to enable me to construct this program.
THE KEY POINTS
1. Work in the 6 -15 rep range.
2. Train the whole body every workout.
3. Work each muscle every 48 hours (in other words, every other day).
4. As you get stronger make the exercises progressively tougher.
Here are the basic exercises:
Chest: flat and incline push ups, and bodyweight fly roll outs.
Back: pull ups.
Legs: pistol squats, free squats, or lunges for quads; stability ball curls or the glute/ham raise for hamstrings.
Calves: bodyweight calf raises on a step.
Biceps: chin ups — but if you are too tired after your pull ups, feel free to use dumbbells.
Triceps: diamond push ups or bodyweight triceps extensions.
Shoulders: handstand push ups against a wall or pike push ups.
Neck: wrestlers bridges or, if your neck is not strong enough, self resistance exercises.
Core: ab-wheel roll outs or the L-sit hold.
I grouped body parts as follows:
Back and chest
Legs and calves and biceps
Shoulders and triceps
Misc (core and neck)
Although I did full-body routines, I rotated which group of body parts I worked out first. Why? So that every group got worked out when I was fresh. The misc work was always done last; therefore I won‘t list it — just do it!
Example exercise order and rep guide:
Back and chest (around 6 reps)
Legs and biceps (around 8-10 reps)
Shoulders and triceps (around 15 reps)
Legs and biceps (around 6 reps)
Shoulders and triceps (around 8-10 reps)
Back and Chest (around 15 reps)
Shoulders and triceps (around 6 reps)
Back and chest (around 8-10 reps)
Legs and biceps (around 15 reps)
(Then just repeat. If you need the weekend off to rest, that’s fine.)
THE CORNERSTONE OF THIS PROGRAM — REP RANGES
You’ll note I did the fewest reps on the first sets. In other words, the strength work.
One of the key points to this program is that you are working multiple rep ranges over the same week. That way you are training for strength, muscle growth, and a little endurance all at the same time.
And here is the best thing: as you get stronger in the 6 rep range, you’ll be able to use more resistance in the 8-10 rep range — in other words, better muscle stimulus! And as you get better in the 15 rep range, you’ll find it helps your strength in the 6 rep range.
Therefore it’s a true fully-functional program. You’re training for all types of strength at once.
3-4 sets on each body part.
Chest: if you do bodyweight chest flys for 2 sets, you only do 2 sets of incline push ups. You DON’T do 3-4 sets of bodyweight chest fly PLUS 3-4 sets of incline push ups.
On legs, you do the 3-4 sets for the quads PLUS 3-4 sets for the hamstrings.
On the misc work, do 3 sets.
THE SIMPLE WAY TO MAKE THE EXERCISES HARDER
As I said at the start, you don’t need anything extra to make the exercises harder. But it will take a series of posts to enable me to explain how. Therefore, for the time being, the simplest way to make them harder — should you need to — is to wear a rucksack with some books or old weight plates inside. You’re still doing calisthenics. The word calisthenics describes specific types of body movement — there is nothing wrong with wearing a rucksack or a weighted vest.
If you use a rucksack on push ups, make sure you put in a few pillows, then put your heavy books or whatever on top, then cover them with another pillow. This stops them moving and banging your skull!
On pull ups, you’ll probably find it too hard to do 4 sets of 15. In which case, don’t worry. Do what you can.
DON’T train to failure. Leave a bit in the tank.
There are none! If you prefer to use your barbell for any of these exercises, that’s fine. The key to this program is how it is structured.
Although I now prefer the resistance I get from calisthenic movements, you shouldn’t feel this is an either or program. Therefore, if you would rather do your leg work with your barbell, there is nothing wrong with that.
The key is progression.
But remember: calisthenics works! Don’t think for a second that they are a make-do replacement until you can afford to go to the gym.
JUMP TO IT!
That’s it. My basic program. There is plenty I can, and will, expand on in future posts. But you’ve got everything you need to get started.
In my next post I’ll cover what I ate.