My Training History Before Calisthenics

My training history was very varied before starting calisthenics, there isn’t much I haven’t tried in regards to sports/training.

I have taken part in various types of martial arts training including, MMA, Thai Boxing, Boxing. I have also played rugby and American football.

Most of my teenage years I spent lifting weights at home or the gym, most of my focus was around getting a big as possible so I worked on the bench press and bicep curls.

I’ve always been an active and sporty person, weight training is the only thing I’ve really ever stuck at apart from calisthenics training.

What Was My Starting Strength Before Starting Calisthenics?

This may be a little biased but I thought my starting strength was pretty good for my weight before starting calisthenics.

I was able to do sets of push ups, pull ups and chin ups with relative ease as these have always been a staple exercises in my workouts.

Leg strength isn’t so important in calisthenics but my starting leg strength for squat was around 1 rep max of 177kg weighting at 12stone.

Once I started calisthenics I soon realised that I wasn’t quite as strong as I first thought and a different kind of strength was required.

Why I Started Calisthenics?

For me, there were a few reasons for why I decided to ditch the weights.

1) Bored of the same workouts

I found myself becoming bored of the same workouts week in week out and conforming to the “Monday chest day” mentality.

Aiming for just a few extra KG on a bench press quickly become boring and seemed pointless as this was only getting me strong for the bench press.

2)Calisthenics skills looked really impressive

I was hooked on calisthenics as soon as I saw my first freestyle YouTube video which was from barstarzz if I remember correctly.

Seeing what was possible from calisthenics training was an exciting prospect and I wanted to start straight away.

Having a sister that had done gymnastics most of her life I knew these skills wouldn’t be easy to learn but would offer me a challenge and variety that I was lacking from lifting weights.

How I Started Calisthenics As A Beginner?

My start was a bit all over the place if I’m honest, I didn’t know where to start, all I knew was I wanted to be able to do what I saw in the YouTube video.

The first step I took was to look for a local calisthenics gym which luckily for me one just opened around the corner from my work.

I’ve never been one to pay for a personal training but I stumped up £25 for an hour for one of the pt’s to show me around and get me started.

After the tour it was clear this was going to be a lot of fun but also hard work, the pt advised me to work on some bodyweight basics before starting to learn the skills.

The basics I started working on were:

  • Pull Ups
  • Chin ups
  • Push Ups
  • Dips
  • Squats

Like, everyone, I couldn’t wait to start skills training so I added a few bits in now and then.

As a follower of the barstarzz YouTube channel, I saw there calisthenics program (Barstarzz BTX) advertised and that’s when my training went to the next level.

One thing I was lacking when I started calisthenics was structure and knowing what to actually do if I wanted to master a specific skill.

The program started off with the basics but had a clear path to what I was looking to get out of calisthenics which was strength and mastering some impressive skills.

What Were My Goals When Starting Calisthenics?

At the beginning of my calisthenics journey, my goals were slightly different to what they are now but my goals are still skills based.

My main goals were to be able to handstand and muscle up, I feel these are the signature calisthenics moves, any other skills were a bonus.

Losing weight and general physique never really crossed my mind as all I wanted was to be strong enough to pull off these skills.

Now further through my calisthenics journey, my goals are still based on learning and mastering skills but flexibility, physique and general health are just as important to me, all of these play a huge part in calisthenics training.

What I’ve Found Hard Along The Way?

Keeping motivated has been by far the hardest challenge in my calisthenics journey especially with skills training for the planche and front lever.

I started off by setting unrealistic goals for myself which had a detrimental effect on my training when these goals weren’t reached.

Setting realistic goals doesn’t mean to set your self a goal like from 1 year today I want to be able to do 2 pull-ups.

It means looking at your current level of strength etc and being honest with your self and then set a goal, remember if you need to add time on that’s fine.

Don’t set goals based on what other people do, I made this mistake when I first started and it makes you feel like crap and you think you aren’t progressing as fast as you should be.

Rest days have been extremely hard for me to stick to as I enjoy the training and I end up doing little bits even when on a rest day.

I have managed to rain this in a bit and have seen massive benefits from proper rest and recovery but as I’m sure if you see a pull-up bar you do a pull up right?

What Skills Have I Managed To Learn So Far?

It only seems like yesterday that the thought of being able to handstand seemed impossible, with hard work, I have reached all my goals for 2017.

Some skills have taken 6-8 months like the front lever and the straddle planche and they still aren’t perfect but they are good enough to say I can do them.

Skills I’ve learnt so far:

  • Straddle Planche
  • Muscle up (bar and rings)
  • Front Lever
  • Back lever
  • Handstand
  • Handstand Push-Ups
  • Straddle Press

Whats Next For Me?

Going forward my goals are still skills focused but the goals are aimed at the more advanced skills.

I’m aiming for the following skills in 2017-2018:

  • Full planche
  • Handstand to 90-degree handstand press
  • Human flag
  • Pike press

In the space of two years, I’ve managed to learn a lot of skills even while being injured for a few months (my fault trying to show off) which goes to show consistency and hard work will pay off.

The goals I have set myself I feel are realistic and hopefully, I’ll be updating this blog next year with good results.

Flexibility needs to become a bigger part of my calisthenics training as the benefits outweigh the effort and time involved.

Let me know in the comments below how you got into calisthenics training and what your goals are.

This article is the first part of a 4 part series following my calisthenics journey.

Part 2 of my calisthenics journey will be looking at what was involved when starting calisthenics and selecting the skills I wanted to focus on.