Out of all of the different forms of lifting, the calisthenics community stands out the most because these people train with no weights, but yet they still possess some pretty muscular physiques. I have been inspired by calisthenics for a long time because I remember how much wider my back started getting when I bought my first pull-up bar. I also remember how much I was able to bring up my lagging chest when I bought my first dip bars, it was a beautiful thing.
Ever since then, I have watched a lot of calisthenics videos online of people with amazing feats of strength and it was very inspiring to watch. The whole point of calisthenics to be able to be in full control of your bodyweight, but the only problem is that I only see most of the calisthenics community doing 3 things:
•Advanced vertical puling
•Advanced horizontal and vertical pushing
•Advanced core work
•Easy lower body workouts like pistol squats for high reps
Not to bash anything these guys are doing because I definitely can’t do 360 muscle-ups, one-arm dips or strict one arm pull-ups, but I was able to compile a list of what I would like to see more of in the calisthenics community because I feel like the typical pull-ups and dips in the park are getting played out and people want to see new feats of strength without the use of weights. I feel like its not as entertaining as it used to be because people are just doing the same things over and over again. I’ve noticed that the high rep work is cool and important because it shows that these people have conditioned bodies and a lot of endurance, but below I have brought some new ideas to the table that might be interesting to some.
Here are 5 new things that I feel like the calisthenics community is missing.
1) MORE LOWER BODY FEATS OF STRENGTH
We all know that the calisthenic gurus are notorious for their upper body feats of strength, but what about their lower bodies? I usually see a lot of pistol squats, but those could get easy after a while. People might argue that there aren’t any body weight exercises that are harder than pistol squats, but there are and you just have to be creative.
There are many lower body exercises that are extremely hard that can be done without weights, but the most impressive one to me is:
Single Leg Manual Hamstring Curls
(Try doing the exercise above with a straight body, nose 1 inch away from the pad and with one leg at a time.)
These are so hard that I’ve never even seen anybody do this exercise and if you did then leave the link in the comment section below because I would like to see it. I’ve noticed that most calisthenic gurus don’t have the best posterior chain strength and development because most of the time all that they do is pistol squats which are more knee-dominant than anything else.
2) MORE THICK BAR WORK FOR GRIP STRENGTH
I notice that a lot of people in the calisthenics community don’t do much grip work. They do one-arm chin-ups and exercises of that nature, but why not take it a step further and do exercises with 2.5-3 inch handles. Muscle ups with a thick bar would be a very rare feat of strength that not many people are able to do. If your gym, park or wherever else you go doesn’t have a fat handle then you could simply wrap a mini towel around the bar to create a fatter handle or just get fatgripz.
Another cool option would be to do your pulling work with less fingers. For example, you could try 2 or 3 finger pull-ups to really build up your finger strength too.
For people who do strictly just calisthenics without any added external resistance then their best bet to making the exercise harder would be to experiment with various handles such as the ones above too. Not only will this help tremendously with their forearm development, but its also more entertaining and it looks badass.
Not only that, but its also a matter of just getting out of your comfort zone because if you have been doing calisthenics for 10+ years and you are still using the same skinny bars then your progress could stall as far as grip strength is concerned.
3) MORE FEATS OF NECK STRENGTH
One of the big problems with calisthenics is that there aren’t many trap exercises, but atleast there are many neck exercises that you can do. Also last time I checked I thought that the neck was a part of the upper body? A lot of these calisthenic gurus say that they’ve mastered their upper body, but if you don’t have a strong neck then how could you really claim that you have the complete package? not to mention that a big strong neck also looks pretty alpha.
The 3 most popular kinds of calisthenic neck exercises are:
•Neck bridging variations
•Headstand variations (like Al Kavadlo in the cover photo)
•Neck Curls/holds with chin on chin-up bar
Obviously direct neck training could potentially be dangerous if you have sloppy form, but it can definitely be done pain-free if you are healthy and gradually work up the progression ladder.
4) HIGHER JUMPS/FASTER+MORE INCLINED HILL SPRINTS
Since there aren’t that many options for advanced lower body exercises then it would be a good idea to get good at jumping higher and running faster up a hill. I rarely ever see calisthenics experts doing hill sprints in their videos and its a shame because it will build a lot of explosive power in the lower body.
Other awesome hill sprint variations would be to do lateral or backward sprints as well to train the lower body in a different way too.
5) MORE ADVANCED INVERTED ROW VARIATIONS
One of the reasons why a lot of people in the calisthenics community have bad posture is because they don’t include enough horizontal rowing into their programs and that’s a fact. They do way more vertical pulling than horizontal and that is going to hurt their posture in the long run because their upper back strength won’t be up to par. On top of that, the lats are internal rotators so they aren’t doing themselves a favor by doing thousands of pull-ups every week.
As far as bodyweight rows are concerned. The basic inverted row is way too easy, but there are some advanced progressions are are extremely hard as well.
The front lever row is a tough exercise, too easy? Try doing it with one arm at a time.
You always see calisthenic people doing one arm chin-ups, but you rarely ever see them doing one arm inverted rows and its a shame because those will be good for their upper back development, they will help prevent shoulder injuries and they just look cool because its the idea that they are bringing something new to the table.
What happens when one arm inverted rows get easy? They could simply add a thicker handle into the mix and that will make the lift 10x more challenging, but the benefit is that they will still be training in somewhat of their zone because they are still working with internal resistance.
In conclusion, I am not attacking any calisthenics athletes and I love what they do, but I just find that you can’t say that you are in total control of your body if you are only doing certain upper body movements and neglecting other aspects of your body. Calisthenics is all about having the complete package and having the ability to do whatever feat of strength you want with whatever muscle in your body with your own resistance, it shouldn’t be limited to pull-up and dip variations.