How To Train With Calisthenics & Bodyweight Exercise – More Than Lifting

How To Train With Calisthenics & Bodyweight Exercise

One of the most common questions I get from you guys is:

How do I train?

It comes in various forms:

about workouts, about programs, about exercises​

But it is basically the same question, and quite a big one.

This is because it all comes down to your own individual goals, where you are and how much you can or want to apply yourself to your fitness.

Having said all of that, I have written this article to take you through the basics. This will give you an insight into how I train with clients and how you can apply it to your own training too.

Different Training Methods

There are loads of different training methods, and the more you dive into it, the more technical and weird they get.

There are ways of splitting sessions, splitting muscle groups, splitting types of conditioning, splitting cycles, splitting weeks – basically if there is a way to split it, it is a training method.

All of the different methods have one thing in common, they work.

They all work in their own ways, because they have been tested and refined to suit certain types of goals.

The trick is picking the right one for you.

Testing

Testing methods is a surefire way to find one that you like. But ultimately you need to find the right one to suit your goals.

One thing that must happened though is for you to actually be training and testing these things so you can refine your own process and find method that fits you AND your goals.

Macro & Micro Cycles

Yes you all know about macro goals and micro goals but think about breaking down those goals and structuring your progression towards it.

This will help you create a much more detailed view of how you need to train for each step of the way.

So your overarching goal might be to learn Handstand Push Ups - Your Macro Cycle is the overarching training period to achieve this skill.

If you can already handstand then GREAT, if not dont worry . . . 

If you can do handstands, you probably have 2 steps to take.

1 - Get stronger (So you have the strength)

2 - Develop your skill (So you can bridge the gap between wall HSPU and Freestanding HSPU)​

You would split these into 2 smaller training cycles - your Micro Cycles

1 - Strength Cycle

2 - Skill Cycle

If you can't do handstands yet, you may need to train them for a bit first . . .

1 - Learn To Handstand

2 - Get Stronger

3 - Develop Skill

​You would need to add another small cycle on the front to develop your handstand first:

1 - Mini skill Cycle

2 - Strength Cycle

3 - Skill Cycle​

This helps you to bridge the gap between where you are now and where you want to be, and helps you structure your training to focus on each element in the correct order.

This is why Training Cycles are Awesome . . .

What Are Training Cycles

One way of splitting up your training is into periods or cycles.

Helps you laser focus on a certain thing for a bit, without having to commit to something for life.

It stands as an overarching format for structuring your programs to create natural deadlines and transitions between different styles.

Why Do You Need To Rest?

Your body needs to rest. There gets a point where you will begin to see diminishing returns from your efforts, whether its overtraining, injury.

When you push hard you will eventually start to suffer for it.

That is why we have rest periods between cycles. These rest periods are called de-load cycles.

Deloading is a critical part of training that is often overlooked.

You want to know how to break that plateau?

Step 1 - Stop Training For A Week

Step 2 – Start A New Cycle

How To Structure Your Training Cycles

The first thing you will probably need to do is a strength cycle.

When you focus on boosting your strength for a few weeks you will better build those movement patterns and you will jumpstart your development by preparing your body to tackle things you are not yet able to do.

The fist cycle you do with me will be the foundation. Focusing on those basic movement patterns the fundamental skill level required of your body and the coordination and control needed to begin dedicated skill training.

Then we will probably do a skill cycle and ficus on some basic progressions to really solidify that foundation and begin working towards the big skills like the planche and front lever.

Once the skill cycle has finished you will start getting thirsty for some more heavy training, right on time for the next strength cycle, so that after that you can then learn harder skills!

How To Structure Your Workouts

Now this is where it gets complicated because it is really all about hitting your goals.

What you do in any individual session varies day to day, and even more so between cycles.

For example you might do HIIT training one day, that looks a lot different to isometric training and skills days.

Check out the Getting Started page and the One Workout Breakdown

What Is Skill Training?

Skills training is really just developing skills. This may not matter to you right now, but if nothing else you will find learning new tricks and skills really fun.

And once you get a taste for it, its like crack – and I mean good crack.


Developing skills is an inevitable part of calisthenics training. It is the main appeal for a lot of the young guys, and it is a very engaging and encouraging way to train.

Learning a new skill is a very real for of feedback. If you are just adding another 5 kg to a bar, you may see the numbers, but often you get so caught up on the numbers that you don’t really see the results.

With skill training you aren’t adding weight and doing the same exercise, you are learning to do one exercise or skill, then that unlocks another 2-3 variations and enables you to do another 1-2 harder skills.

After a few sessions you will already realize that you are progressing, and some sessions may provide less feedback than others, but when it pays off it pays off.

You learn a handstand for life, and once you can handstand you start doing different handstand variations. A month down the line, you're doing handstand push ups, then you are doing handstand push ups as regular sets in your next strength cycle . . .

You see how it works now, right?

Strength Cycles VS Skill Cycles

I have talked a lot about strength and skill cycles. But which on is best? I would say skills.

The whole reason I train is because I enjoy learning skills so I am a bit bias.

The truth is it depends on you, where you are at and what your goals are.

Strength cycles are really just focused on grinding out the reps whereas skill cycles are focusing on progressions. That is the main difference.

That doesn’t mean you only do pull ups in your strength cycle and you only do handstands in your skill cycles.

In a strength cycle you will focus on building the strength towards your goal, then in a skill cycle you will develop the control of that new found strength.

During a strength cycle I will still do skill training, during a skill cycle I will still do some strength training. It is just a shift in focus so I can really knuckle down on something specific.

And you aren’t limited to strength and skill cycles, you could do a cardio cycle. I cant imagine 28 Days of HIIT training sounds very appealing though, certainly not to me.

Some people may need to lose the weight though, and a HIIT session is definitely recommended for that particular goal.

What you have to remember is that all of these training methods are just tools.

They are used as a conduit to hit your goals and if your focus is in the wrong place, you will always struggle to get where you want to be.

About the Author

Hey, I'm Rhys and I'm the Coach at MoreThanLifting I am a gymnast, calisthenics enthusiast and personal trainer. I help people get into great shape with bodyweight strength and skill training.

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