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Ways to Gain Lots of Strength Using Calisthenics

Ways to Gain Lots of Strength Using Calisthenics
by J. R. Workman

Altering the resistance and difficulty level of calisthenics exercises can be a struggle. Down below you will find a list of many tips that will help you do that. 

"The results of physical fitness are the direct opposites of those that follow from unfitness. The fit are healthy and strong, and many as a consequence save themselves decorously on the battle-field and escape all dangers of war; many help friends and do good to their country and for this they earn gratitude, glory and honor that leads to a better life and provide their children a better means of achieving a livelihood..." ― Socrates, Xenophon, Memorabilia

What Is Calisthenics? 

Calisthenics is the use of bodyweight exercises for fitness development. It requires no weights and in some cases (such as doing push-ups or sit-ups) does not even require any equipment. Many times you can do it anywhere and at no cost to you. Calisthenics equipment is also generally cheaper than the equipment used for most weight training (a portable pull-up bar and dip bars vs. a complete weight lifting set). Because of the independence of calisthenics (its lack of need to rely on weights or expensive equipment to get the job done), it is one of the most self-sufficient and ideal forms of exercise. The human body itself provides the resistance. Calisthenics training works excellent in conjunction with weight training, weighted calisthenics, and other forms of fitness training. The following is the definition of calisthenics: 

"Calisthenic training involves any exercises performed using no added weight, and is commonly referred to as body-weight training. Calisthenic training can be done as a stand-alone routine, or programmed into any weight loss, bodybuilding or fitness workout. It has many benefits and is convenient, and it can be tailored to suit beginner, intermediate or advanced trainees." (What Is Calisthenic Training? by Mike Samuels) 

The Effectiveness of Calisthenics Training 

Most calisthenics exercises are closed chain kinetic movements. Closed chain kinetic movements are usually compound movements and tend to be more functional/utilitarian (or more closely approximate to movements that you would use in daily life or sports) than open chain kinetic movements are which are usually isolation exercises and tend to be better at isolating a particular muscle group than closed chain kinetic movements are. 

During closed chain kinetic movements the extremity/extremities (hand(s) for arm movements or foot/feet for leg movements) that are driving the weight stay fixed and the body moves through space, but during open chain kinetic movements the body stays fixed and the extremity/extremities that drive the weight move through space. 

For example, during a push-up, the body moves through space but the hands stay fixed, but during a bench press the body stays fixed and the hands that drive the weight move through space. Therefore, a push-up is a closed chain kinetic movement and the bench press is an open chain kinetic movement. Squats are actually a closed chain kinetic movement because the feet/extremities that drive the weight are fixed while the body moves through space—weighted squats are essentially a loaded bodyweight movement. 

Both closed chain kinetic movements and open chain kinetic movements work excellently for unilateral and bilateral exercises. There are unilateral closed chain kinetic movements (such as one-armed push-ups and pistol squats) and there are also unilateral open chain kinetic movements (such as one-armed dumbbell curls and one-armed dumbbell bench presses)—the closed chain unilateral movements work better for muscle fiber activation and the open chain unilateral movements work better for isolating the muscle group.

There are also bilateral closed chain kinetic movements (such as push-ups and squats) and there are bilateral open chain kinetic movements (such as barbell curls and barbell bench presses) as well—the closed chain bilateral movements work better for muscle fiber activation and the open chain bilateral movements work better for isolating the muscle group although since some of them are also compound movements (especially if they are using barbells) they can also be effective for muscle fiber activation as well—just not as effective as the closed chain bilateral movements are.

An article published in the Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise journal suggests that closed chain kinetic movements actually cause greater muscle fiber activation than open chain kinetic movements do. This is why weighted push-ups and weighted dips are so effective for increasing size and strength.

The Top 17 Tips for Increasing the Resistance or Difficulty Level of Calisthenics Exercises

1. Use Explosive Exercises/Plyometrics

Plyometrics is a form of exercise consisting of explosive movements where your muscles exert maximal force in a tremendously short amount of time. Plyometric training is designed to improve power (or speed-strength) as well as speed and agility. Two examples of plyometric exercises are clapping push-ups and jumping squats. The following is the definition of plyometrics:

"Plyometric Exercises are an advanced form of calisthenics exercise which involves high-intensity, explosive muscular contractions. It uses high intensity techniques to develop athletic power, especially strength and agility, to improve performance in various sports such as basketball, football, soccer, rugby, track and field, gymnastics, martial arts, etc.

Training plyometric exercises makes the muscles reach maximum strength in the shortest amount of time. So, muscle strength and power equates to more speed and explosiveness!" (Plyometric Exercises)

Turning a conventional strength exercise such as a pushup or a pistol squat into an explosive or plyometric exercise such as a clap pushup or a jumping/explosive pistol squat, will make the exercise more difficult and increase both your strength and power at the same time. 

You can increase the difficulty of plyometric exercises by using objects to jump onto or hop over or if you are doing explosive push-up variations to string onto or spring over. 

Also, there is no law in calisthenics that states you cannot do unilateral or one-sided/one-armed or one-legged explosive/plyometric exercises and doing this will also make the exercise harder. 

Another thing you can do to make plyometric exercises a greater challenge is to use objects to make the movements tougher. For example, do plyometric staggered push-ups with your feet elevated onto a box in order to add more resistance or you can set up a higher box to put your feet on and have two lower boxes set up below it that you can put your hands on and do explosive push-ups while going deep down in-between the two boxes. Doing this will deepen the range of motion and the wider apart the two lower boxes are and your hand placement is the broader the range of motion you will have as well.

These same principles apply to leg exercises. For instance, you can do explosive pistol squats on top of a box so that when you go down you can go down lower than you normally would if you were standing on ground level, therefore, deepening your range of motion. You can also place one foot on one box and one foot on another so that you can squat lower when doing jumping squats and if you want to broaden the range of motion you simply spread the two boxers farther apart. 

2. Adjust the Angles to Alter the Resistance and Change the Level of Difficulty of an Exercise 

You can alter and increase the resistance of a calisthenics exercise by adjusting the angles, for instance, doing push-ups with your feet raised above you on a box or higher surface will increase the amount of weight that you have to push up. Altering the angles you do the exercises at is a way of adjusting the amount of leverage used to do the exercises which can either increase or decrease the difficulty of the exercises: 

"Again, let’s take the Push Up, a standard exercise that works your chest, shoulders, triceps, abs, obliques, and lower back (unlike benching which only works half of these). If you do Push Ups standing up with your hands against a wall a couple of feet in front of you, the exercise is pretty easy. Then try them with your hands on an elevated surface, like the edge of a bureau or windowsill. The lower the surface you use—a desk, a couch, a coffee table, telephone books—the harder it gets. Putting your hands on the floor, like a standard Push Up, is harder. If we put our feet on the coffee table and our hands on the ground, the exercise becomes significantly more difficult. This is using leverage to increase the exercise’s difficulty." (You Are Your Own Gym by Mark Lauren & Joshua Clark)

When it comes to calisthenics for beginners you can always apply these same principles to decrease the resistance and make the exercise easier to perform by adjusting the leverage and angles to make the movement less difficult. For example, in a beginner calisthenics workout for chest, it would be a wise idea to do push-ups on your knees instead of on your feet because this will lessen the resistance that you have to push up. 

3. Use One-Armed and One-Legged Variations

If two armed push-ups are too easy then try one armed push ups, if two-legged squats are too easy then try one-legged pistol squats instead. If you want to get really advanced you can even do one-armed dips and one-armed pull-ups. Most bilateral exercises can be transformed into unilateral ones. Altering the angle of the exercise or doing the exercise unilaterally can make the exercise more difficult: 

"By changing your body leverage and angle of approach or by using bilateral and unilateral variations, you can make these exercises very light or extremely hard, or anything in between to match your current levels of fitness and progress from there." (Benefits Of Calisthenic Training) 

4. Use Objects to Get a Broader and Deeper Range of Motion

For example, push-ups with your feet raised onto a box and with one hand on one box and the other hand on another box (using three boxes; one for your feet which is placed higher than the other two and one for each of your hands which are placed lower than the box for your feet). The box for your feet should be placed high enough to add a sufficient amount of pressure on your muscles (enough resistance) and your hands should be placed high and wide enough for you to be able to get a broader and deeper range of motion than you could with a regular push up. 

This will make the exercise more difficult. If you do not have boxes you could use chairs or stools instead. You can even do handstand push-ups with your hands each on a box to get a deeper range of motion, this is a remarkably difficult exercise as well. Do a handstand against a wall with one hand each on a box and when you go down lower your head in-between each box to get a deeper range of motion. 

5. Increase the Volume or the Number of Sets and Reps in Order to Push You past Failure

Increase the volume of the workout by adding more reps and sets to it. This will make you sorer and will also make your muscles stronger and cause them to grow more. It also works well for improving endurance. The famous Indian wrestler Gama who Bruce Lee was a huge fan of used high rep, high volume calisthenics training to develop his chest to 56 inches, his arms to 17 inches, and his thighs to 30 inches:

"The free-hand or bodyweight squat is the second exercise that Lee picked up from the training methods of the Indian wrestler Gama. In India it is called the baithak and is simply the deep-knee bend— hands on hips, bend legs, squat, raise body, squat, stand, squat, and so on. ...The dand and the baithak built up Gama's chest to 56 inches in circumference, his arms to 17 inches, and his thighs to 30 inches. The secret lies in the way Gama performed these two movements. According to an article that Lee saved about Gama's training methods, boys 12, 13, and 14 in India will do 1,000 baithaks and 500 dands every day, while professional wrestlers such as Gama would get up at 3:00 AM to do baithaks— deep-knee bends. Gama would perform 4,000 repetitions of the baithak in the morning, have breakfast, perform his hands— 2,000 of them in the afternoon— take a walk or run 4 miles, and finish up his day by wrestling 3 or 4 hours without rest." (The Art of Expressing the Human Body by Bruce Lee & John Little)

Mike Tyson also used a high rep, high volume calisthenics routine which consisted of over 500 push-ups a day:


200 sit-ups, 50 dips, 50 push-ups & 50 shrugs with weight – 10 times throughout a day, six days a week." (Mike Tyson's Training Routine Part One by Dr. Scott Weiss)

Herschel Walker (a former running back in the NFL) developed his muscular physique and his body-strength entirely from calisthenics training by completing a high volume exercise regimen composed of over 1,500 push-ups a day as well as other bodyweight exercises: 

"After growing up as an overweight and often teased early adolescent, Walker is said to have begun a daily routine of 1500 push-ups, 2500-3500 sit-ups and tire resisted sprinting, in addition to unweighted sprints. In addition, to this simple bodyweight training routine, Walker certainly possesses some of the greatest genetics ever, which helped build his tremendous physique but the foundation of things are simple, hard work and dedicated bodyweight training." (Herschel Walker and Bodyweight Beast Building by Chad Wesley Smith)

Hershel Walker was able to bench press over 375 lbs without even having worked out with weights before—the very first time he ever tried

"Even though Walker didn’t lift weights in college, when the team did a bench press test, he hoisted an astonishing 375 lbs (the most, his coach said, anyone had lifted on the BP at Georgia up until that time), and did 222 lbs (his body weight) for 24 reps." (The Herschel Walker Workout by Brett McKay)

Ken Norton, Mike Weaver, and George Foremanall former heavyweight boxing champions—never lifted weights but only did calisthenics during their primes! And they all had incredibly muscular physiques and powerful, strong bodies which they sculpted via push-ups, pull ups, and other bodyweight exercises:

"Norton wasn't a prizefighter at heart, but he looked the part. "And I never lifted a weight," says Norton. "Never in my life. Not until after I left boxing."" (Like Father, Like Son by Ralph Wiley)

"DH: Two points I was always curious about. The first was your massive upper-body. How much weight-training did you employ?
MW: None." (Touching Gloves with Mike Weaver by Dan Hanley)

"In the ‘60s and ‘70s, I didn’t touch weights. I became heavyweight champ of the world, and it was strictly taboo. No weightlifting—nothing but traditional boxing workouts. But when I came back after 10 years off, I was always hurting myself. So weightlifting served as a kind of rehab for me. It started being part of my workout the second time around." (
George Foreman Talks Training and Comebacks by Shawn Donnelly) 

Bo Jackson probably the greatest athlete of the 20th century and the only man in history to be named an All-Star in both baseball and football seldom ever lifted weights and built the majority of his musculature and acquired most of his physical strength from calisthenics: 

"... lifting weights was out of the question and people always said how is it that you maintain your size even in college we'd have mandatory weight day the only thing that I would do is go down and strengthen my neck I'd get a 45 pound weight and lay off the edge of the bench and just sit the weight let the hole in the weight center my forehead and just do neck but that's all I did I never lifted weights never done because it made me too bulky I couldn't run and the coaches knew that go work on your neck and you're fine..." (ESPN Sports Science: Bo Jackson Worlds Greatest Athlete Interview with English subtitles)

6. Do Burnout Sets 

Do burnout sets or extra sets which are done until failure after your calisthenics workout or after each set of your calisthenics workout.  For example, after you finish the main portion of your bodyweight chest workout, finish off by burning out your muscles with some stagger push-ups. Or say you are doing a workout and you are doing some clap push-ups but you cannot do any more of them. Well, another way to do burnout sets is to do an easier exercise following some of your working sets until you cannot do them anymore in order to get an extra burn in your muscles and to add more benefit to your workout. So in this case following your set of clap push-ups, you can do a set of an easier exercise such as wide push-ups until failure. 

7. Use Isometric/Static Holds at the Maximally Stretched and Maximally Contracted Positions of an Exercise

For example, try holding yourself in the lower position of a push up with your arms bent at 90 degrees and your chest about 3 inches from the floor for 1 minute or until failure (until you collapse). That is the maximally stretched position of that exercise or the lengthened/elongated portion of the exercise (the eccentric part of it) where your muscles have the greatest stretch. 

Try doing this for multiple sets or until you reach failure/you cannot hold yourself up anymore. This will create an intense burn in your muscles. Since your muscles will be under constant tension and never relaxed you will burn out your muscles even more than with some forms of dynamic (moving/non-static) exercises. The time your muscles are under tension has a huge impact on how big and strong your muscles will grow since the longer you keep your muscles under tension the more you tear the muscle fibers down which in turn causes them to grow back bigger and stronger. 

You can also try holding yourself in the upper position of a push-up with your arms bent only slightly or about 3 inches lower than the lockout position for about 1 minute or until failure (until you collapse). That is the maximally contracted position of that exercise or the shortened portion of the exercise (the concentric part of it) where your muscles have the greatest contraction. 

Try doing this for multiple sets or until you reach failure/you cannot hold yourself up anymore. 

According to an article published in the Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise journal, the maximally stretched position of an exercise (the eccentric portion) has been linked to enhanced muscle fiber quantity and both the maximally stretched position of an exercise and the maximally contracted position of an exercise (the concentric portion) has been linked to increased size or muscle mass (according to an article published in the
Frontiers in Physiology journal) and strength (according to a leading article published in the Journal of the American Physical Therapy Association).

Studies done on maximally stretched overload in both animals and humans have shown that hyperplasia (also known as increased muscle fiber quantity) is achievable through maximally stretched overload (according to a review published in the Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy). The maximally stretched position creates a significant increase in MGF (Mechano-Growth Factor) and lowers Myostatin (an important chemical that regulates muscle growth):

"Nevertheless, in a previous study on rats (Heinemeier et al., 2007), myostatin mRNA was found decreased the most after ECC compared to CON exercise, together with a larger increase of MGF (Mechano-Growth Factor), TGF-β-1 (transforming Growth Factor β-1, a marker of collagen expression) and CTGF (Connective Tissue Growth Factor) mRNA values in response to ECC training." (Skeletal Muscle Remodeling in Response to Eccentric vs. Concentric Loading: Morphological, Molecular, and Metabolic Adaptations by Martino V. Franchi et al) 

According to a chart from an article posted in the American Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology and Metabolism entitled Mechanical load increases muscle IGF-I and androgen receptor mRNA concentrations in humans eccentric loading enhances IGF-1 (a growth hormone which regulates muscle mass) density and concentric loading increases androgen receptor density (making your body more responsive to testosterone)

8. Incorporate Pauses at the Beginning, Middle, and End of an Exercise

For example do a push up where you pause for 5 seconds at the beginning, middle, and end of the push-up. This will increase the time your muscles are under tension which will make it easier for your muscles to grow back bigger and stronger. 

You can also use pause-go eccentric reps and go-pause eccentric reps. 

For pause-go eccentric reps, you start out in a difficult paused position somewhere in the lift and then slowly lower yourself and then come back up at normal speed and then pause again and repeat or if the difficult position you start out in during the pause is low then you can come back up at normal speed before coming back down slowly and doing the pause again and then repeating. For go-pause eccentric reps, you do the same thing you would do during pause-go eccentric reps except rather than starting out in the difficult paused position of the lift you do the slow lowering part of the lift or the coming back up at normal speed part first. 

Pause-go eccentric reps and go-pause eccentric reps can help optimize muscular size and strength: 

"...pause-go eccentric and go-pause eccentric reps... incorporate a slow eccentric (lowering) component. Combining concentric and eccentric training can optimize the development of both muscle strength and size." (4 New Ways To Boost Time Under Tension by Nick Tumminello)

Incorporating pauses into your movements is a wonderful way of increasing the time that your muscles are under tension and therefore getting more out of your exercises. 

9. Use an Unstable Surface to Do the Exercises On

If you do the exercise on an unstable surface it will increase the difficulty and muscle activation involved in the movement. For example, putting each of your hands on one basketball or medicine ball while doing push-ups. According to studies, training on unstable surfaces (STU) has some of the same benefits as training on stable surfaces (STS) but also has some additional benefits as well and compared to control condition (CON; i.e. no training or regular training only) training on unstable surfaces is effective for improving strength, power, and balance:

"Conclusions Compared with CON, STU is effective in improving muscle strength, power and balance in adolescents, young adults and old adults. ...We conclude that the performance of STU compared with STS has limited extra effects on muscle strength, power and balance performance in healthy adolescents and young adults." (Effects of Strength Training Using Unstable Surfaces on Strength, Power and Balance Performance Across the Lifespan: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis by David G. Behm et al)

10. Use Pyramids and Ladders

For the first set do one rep of the exercise, for the second set do two reps of the exercise, for the third set do three reps of the exercise and keep doing this until you go all the way up to the point where you reach failure. After that do one less rep than the reps you achieved at failure and then keep going down by one rep for each set until you get down to one rep. If you cannot do all of the reps when going back down just do all of the reps without getting out of the push-up position or putting your knees down. As long as your knees do not touch the ground you have not failed. If your knees absolutely must touch the ground to continue going then rest them only long enough to gather the strength needed to finish the reps. The following is a quote from Mark Lauren and Joshua Clark's book titled You Are Your Own Gym describing how to perform pyramids

"... Perform one rep of any exercise, rest, perform two reps, rest, perform three reps... Keep increasing your reps until going any higher would cause you to hit muscle failure on subsequent sets. Once you’ve reached that point, come back down without repeating the highest number." (You Are Your Own Gym by Mark Lauren & Joshua Clark)

The following is an excerpt from Optimal Strength Training and Conditioning for Military, Law Enforcement by Scott Shetler and Steven Mosley explaining what a pyramid rep scheme looks like and what ladders are:  

"The pyramid rep scheme will look something like this: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1. Ladders are similar to pyramids. You will work your way up in reps then terminate the set at the highest number if training on your own, or when you or your training partner can no longer get the desired number of reps. After hitting the peak number, rest for a few minutes then start a new ladder. The ladder repetition scheme will look something like this: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7 - partner couldn't make 7, stop here and rest for 2-3 minutes then begin a new ladder." (Optimal Strength Training and Conditioning for Military, Law Enforcement by Scott Shetler & Steven Mosley)

11. Use High-Intensity Training Intervals for Exercises

This will work on cardio and build muscle and strength at the same time. Do 20 second or even up to 1 or 2-minute work sets where you do the max amount of reps you can do the exercise for each set. Rest the same or even half of the amount of time that you did the set in-between sets. Your muscles will be burning! One excellent way to do this is a Tabata push-up workout: 

"A workout involving Tabata Push-Ups is a great way to challenge yourself. Named after the Japanese physician and researcher Dr. Izumi Tabata, a Tabata workout has a simple concept. You perform an exercise all-out for 20 seconds, rest for 10 and repeat for eight rounds, or four minutes total." (Tabata Push-Ups Will Kick Your Butt)

12. Increase the Amount of Time Under Tension

Slow down the exercise by at least several seconds (usually by at least 3 seconds but sometimes even by 1 minute or even longer) in order to increase the amount of time that your muscles are under tension. 

This will create a greater contraction in your muscles and will also make the exercises more challenging. 

For instance, instead of doing push-ups fast or at a normal pace slow them down and do a 3 second push-up or if those are too easy then do a 5 or 10 second push-up, you can even make it so slow that the exercise lasts for over 30 seconds or 1 minute at a time and that will have your muscles burning! 

In 2012 a study was performed examining the effects of increased time under tension on protein synthesis (an important factor in muscle growth). The results suggest that increased time under tension leads to improved muscle protein synthesis and is therefore highly conducive to muscle growth:

"We report that leg extension exercise at 30% of the best effort (which is a load that is comparatively light), with a slow lifting movement (6 s up and 6 s down) performed to fatigue produces greater increases in rates of muscle protein synthesis than the same movement performed rapidly (1 s up and 1 s down). These results suggest that the time the muscle is under tension during exercise may be important in optimizing muscle growth..." (Muscle Time Under Tension During Resistance Exercise Stimulates Differential Muscle Protein Sub-Fractional Synthetic Responses in Men by Nicholas A Burd et al)

13. Increase the Intensity of the Exercises and Shorten the Rest Periods 

Increase the intensity of the exercises by increasing the speed of the movements without compromising on form and by shortening the rest periods. This is a remarkable way of making the duration of the workout shorter while still being incredibly effective. It is also excellent for improving endurance due to the shortened rest periods. 

14. Use Negatives or Slow Eccentrics

Using negatives or slow eccentrics will make the exercise more difficult and is also an incredible tool to use to help you progress on to a more difficult calisthenics movement. 

Negatives are the eccentric or lowering portion of an exercise movement and doing them slowly will help make the exercise more challenging and will also help you advance to much harder exercises. 

For instance, if you cannot do a muscle-up, starting up at the top of the muscle up movement in dip position and then going into a reverse or negative muscle-up by slowly lowering yourself back down to the bottom position as slowly as you can―will be much easier than doing a full muscle-up and once you master that movement moving on to a full muscle-up will be much simpler.  

15. Add Forward, Lateral, or Up and Down Motion (With Constant Pressure/Tension on Your Muscles) to the Exercises to Make Them More Taxing 

For example, you can do lateral push-up walks where you do a push-up and then take a step with one of your hands and the foot that is on the same side as that hand and then take another step with your opposite hand and opposite foot to get you back into push-up position again and then do another push-up and then repeat for multiple reps. Make sure that at least one of your hands and one of your feet is always making contact with the ground and stay close to ground-level at all times. 

This will make the exercise more strenuous/taxing on your muscles which have to transport you and maintain balance while staying close to the ground. If you run out of space you can start doing steps in the other direction. 

Another exercise you can do that utilizes motion and stress/pressure to make the exercises more taxing is to do the 360 degrees push-up where you do a push-up and then take a step with one of your hands and the foot that is on the same side as that hand to a slight angle (around 45 degrees or less) in a certain direction and then take another step with your opposite hand and opposite foot to the same angle/direction to get you back into push-up position again and then do another push-up and then you repeat this until your whole body completes a full circular path of 360 degrees. 

You can also do walking gecko push-ups where you take a step forward with one arm and one leg and let the elbow of that arm make contact with (touch) the knee of that leg while doing a push-up and then you bring the opposite arm and the opposite leg forward while doing another push-up and you keep doing the same thing and keep taking steps forward and doing push-ups until you cover as much distance as you want to and then you start taking steps back and doing the same thing you did before while taking steps backward instead of forward. 

These same principles can be applied to squats, pull-ups, and many other exercises. When doing bodyweight squat exercises you can do a squat followed by a step to the side with both legs (one leg at a time) and then another squat all while maintaining a low center of gravity and not standing all the way up in order to keep extra tension on your leg muscles, You can do the same thing while doing forward walking lungesjust keep your knees bent to maintain a lower center of gravity and more tension on your leg muscles.  

When doing pull-ups you can alternate from pull-ups and steps to the side of the bar using your hands to pull you to the side of the bar (your feet should be off the groundyou are stepping with your arms and hands, not your legs) before starting another pull-up and then repeating again. Some public parks  actually have street workout/calisthenics equipment that contain multiple bars each spaced out a certain distance in front of one another so that you can do a pull-up on one of them and then pull your self onto the bar in front of it and do another pull-up and can keep going forward doing pull-ups on multiple bars in a consecutive fashion. 

Incorporating lateral, forward, or up and down movements into your exercises that apply constant tension/pressure to your muscles will make the exercises more strenuous/taxing on your body and in turn will recruit a greater number of muscle fibers leading to more muscle strength and growth. 

16. Do Sets Until Failure Without Fully Leaving the Main Position of the Exercise 

For instance, doing push-ups until failure without fully leaving the push-up position and standing up—you are allowed to have your butt up in the air and to shake your arms out but are not allowed to touch the ground with your knees or stand up—increases the amount of tension that your muscles are under because rather than getting a complete break your muscles are under constant tension until the set is over. 

Since the tension is partial during these sets that means that there is also a partial rest during these sets too which means that you can accumulate more reps until you reach failure. 

If you are applying this principle to pistol squats then you do them until failure, but you are not allowed to touch your other foot to the ground or straighten the leg you are standing on completely—it has to remain at least partially bent until the set is over. You can rest as long as you want without fully exiting the position of the exercise. If you can still get more reps after the rest then you keep on going until you hit failure and either collapse during the resting period or while doing the reps. 

17. Combine All of These Methods Together to Make the Techniques More Advanced

For example, try mixing one-armed push-ups and explosive push-ups together by doing an explosive one-armed pushup, or try doing clap push-ups with your legs elevated onto a higher surface such as a box to make them more difficult.

You can even do clap pull-ups, clapping handstand push-ups, and explosive one-armed pull-ups or one-armed push-ups with your feet elevated. You can also insert pauses into each of these exercises or add negatives/slow eccentrics to them. 

In rare circumstances, some calisthenics athletes can even work up to doing a one-armed muscle up or a one-armed handstand push-up. So use your creativity. The options for mixing these methods and techniques up and increasing the difficulty of these exercises is virtually endless:
"To make the exercise still harder we could place our hands on one or two balls, like a basketball. Now we’re using an unstable surface. Still harder would be to do basketball Push Ups with pauses at the bottom. Still not hard enough? Try doing them one-handed on the floor. Then one-handed with your feet on the couch. Then on an unstable surface. Then with pauses... You get the idea." (You Are Your Own Gym by Mark Lauren & Joshua Clark)

Combining all of these techniques together will help you to come up with the perfect calisthenics workout plan. 

Read my articles on health:


Samuels, Mike. “What Is Calisthenic Training?” LIVESTRONG.COM, Leaf Group, 11 Sept. 2017,

“Plyometric Exercises.” What Is Calisthenic Exercise?,


Green, Steve. “Tabata Push-Ups Will Kick Your Butt.” STACK, 15 Mar. 2016,

Lee, Bruce. The Art Of Expressing The Human Body. 1998.

Weiss, Dr. Scott. “Mike Tysons Training Routine Part One | Interesting Routine.” Bodhizone, 22 June 2018,

Smith, Chad Wesley. “Herschel Walker and Bodyweight Beast Building.” Juggernaut Training ,

McKay, Brett. “Herschel Walker's Fitness & Workout Routine.” The Art of Manliness, 19 July 2016, 

Wiley, Ralph. “Like Father, Like Son.” Vault, 12 Oct. 1987, 

Hanley, Dan. “Touching Gloves with Mike Weaver.” The CBZ Newswire RSS, 

Donnelly, Shawn. “George Foreman Talks Training and Comebacks.” Muscle & Fitness, 

“ESPN Sports Science: Bo Jackson Worlds Greatest Athlete Interview with English Subtitles.”,

Franchi, Martino V., et al. Advances in Pediatrics., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2017,

Nicktumminello. “4 New Ways To Boost Time Under Tension.”,, 21 Apr. 2015,

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