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Thread: Question about different calisthenics programs

  1. #1
    Wombat is offline Junior Member
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    Default Question about different calisthenics programs

    First of all, hi everyone.

    I have a question about what calisthenics "program" to follow and I hope to hear your feedback.

    I followed CC progresions for a while and I got to Push ups and Squats lv. 5, Leg raise lv. 4, Pull up lv. 2 (also known as bane of my existence) and I started doing Bridges and HS Push ups, but I'm on the first steps. Then I had some stuff pile up and I was mentally and physically overstretched so I neglected my workouts and stopped working out for three months. I returned to CC a week ago and I found out that I had to fall back a couple of steps, but I expected as much so it's not a problem.

    My friend has "Raising the bar" and "Pushing the limits" by Al Kavadlo so I flipped through them and I noticed that, while similar, these two authors have completely different aproaches to workouts. Al Kavadlo suggests whole body workouts and experimentation and CC focuses more on single exercises and overall lower workload per day.

    Which approach is, in your experience, more effective and what are your thoughts on both programs? My goals are primarily strength and mass, with strength being more important.

    Freely write long posts, I appreciate any and all feedback, and thank you in advance!

    P.S. does anyone have experience with "You are your own gym"? The book seems interesting, but I'm not sure about strength gains from the program... Sorry for bringing this up on Dragon Door forum...
    Last edited by Wombat; 04-26-2014 at 04:48 PM.

  2. #2
    ComradeCat is offline Senior Member
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    YAYOG, I read through that, and I felt that somehow that book feels like its scratching the tip of the iceberg for callisthenics, I wouldn't call it simplistic, just that it doesn't feel like its particularly advanced. Then again, it could be a simple matter of preference.

    Here's the thing about CC. To me, CC provides you with the foundations and basis for building strength through bodyweight exercises. Whereas Al's books take that foundations and further builds on it, to bring what Paul Wade does to freestyle callisthenics.

    What is missing in both books is the minutiae about callisthenics. I have CC, CC2, RtB and PtL. There's some talk about full-body tension, pre-tensing, awareness of muscle use, active muscular contraction etc etc... all essential towards developing control over your own body. However, if both Paul and Al were to go into fine details about these minutiae, each book will be a literal tome. CC1 will probably be in the range of over 1,000 pages.

    For example, from what I read, when you do a horizontal pull, are you ACTIVELY tensing and engaging your upper back when you pull upwards? Or are you muscling it up with your biceps? Which feels more shattered at the end of 3 X 50 vertical pulls? Your biceps or your back? Are your traps screaming after 3 X 50 vertical pulls? It comes intuitively for some people, and not others. Yet, a strong understanding of minute details is critical to progressing.

    On topic: the way CC is organised is more about having the least number of exercises, a sensible progression for constant and regular progress, and easy to apply progression with minimum amount of time investment. From what I see, Al's books seem to be showing more exercises to hit as many parts of the body as possible and develop as many muscles necessary for free style calisthenics. I use CC as my foundation, but I throw in things from Al's books too.

    What you might want to look into is Pavel's Naked Warrior. It covers aspects like breathing, body tension, muscle control and a few other things which are strongly applicable to calisthenics. Pavel's Beyond Bodybuilding also has a few good articles. I think either Paul's or Al's approaches will give you both strength and mass. What's missing probably doesn't lie in the programming or progression, but body awareness. However, that's just my view and could possibly not be applicable to you. YMMV.

  3. #3
    Chris Hansen is offline Senior Member
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    Just like there are different kettlebell programs and different powerlifting programs, there are different calisthenics programs as well. They follow different strategies or philosophies but, as long as you work hard at them, you should make progress.

  4. #4
    Robert V Aldrich is offline Junior Member
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    I love CC, but I found my progress stalled pretty definitively at the later levels. For example, I couldn't manage more than a few reps of Uneven Pull-Ups (Level 7), even though I could rep out the Close Pull-Ups (level 6) practically all day. I spent almost a year oscillating between 2 and 3 reps with no progress until I reorganized my program to more of a bodyweight version of the Rite of Passage. Since then, I started making progress again and I'm knocking on the door of a One-Arm Pull-Up.

    Paul Wade's approach is laudable, definitely. The progressions are masterful and the stuff of legend. His programs, on the other hand, are a little sparse. The once-a-week approach most of his programs suggest can easily cause stalls and plateaus. In CC1, however, he suggests various fixes that read somewhat like other programs (like Naked Warrior, Rite of Passage, etc).

    I definitely think greasing-the-groove is the way to go. You can pick one of the four exercises (push-up, squats, leg raises, and pull-ups) and focus on it. Leave the other three exercises to one day a week for the proscribed rep-and-set schemes. With your selected exercise, use a multi-day protocol (multiple times a day like Naked Warrior, twice every day like PttP, lots of sets for low reps like the Fighter's Pull-Up Program, etc). Once you go up one level, rotate that exercise for one of the other three. Progress will likely be consistent. Once you're at level six on all four exercises as CC suggests, then work in the other two exercises.

    Most of Dragon Door's programs use a multi-day protocol, and for a reason. Dan John (I think?) said in Easy Strength, 'if something is important, do it every day'.

    As for Al Kavadlo's books, I really don't consider Raising the Bar, Pushing the Limits, and Stretching Your Boundaries to be training books. They're more like physio-philosophical treatise on the freedom of human movement. Al seems to be less about strict training and more about going out onto the playground and having fun (which is AWESOME and much needed in this - and any -industry). I think Al's books should be read as inspiring and uplifting (he smiles!) and to also see all the different ways the human body can move, but not as 'to do X, perform Y for this number of reps for that number of sets'.


    TL;DR - Experiment with using CC exercises with another program's protocols.
    ComradeCat likes this.

  5. #5
    Taking Cattle is offline Senior Member
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    I just start Coach Sommer's Foundations 1 course and Handstand 1 course. They were expensive, but I think they're going to turn out to be some of the best money I've ever spent.

    Pros:

    Unlike Paul Wade, there are no questions about Coach Sommer's pedigree. He has been building athletes for a very long time.

    Beautiful progressions mapped out for you exactly like bodyweight versions of powerlifting cycles. Cycling poundage to hit new maxes? Very proven idea.

    Integrated mobility work. This is key. I've been struggling with some issues for awhile and this turned out to be the reason I made the purchase. The fact that the strength training exceeded my already high expectations was a bonus.

    Hypertrophy. With the well-planned progressions in all muscle-building rep ranges, it's about as perfect for strength and hypertrophy as a program could be.

    The forums have been amazing. Each course has it's own members-only forum and the information offered there is so helpful, above and beyond the courses themselves, that whatever success I experience will owe considerably to the forums.

    Cons

    Expensive. Both courses came to around $170. Each course has six levels to master, but the foundations course has... seven?... total courses and handstands has either two or four. I'm not sure how far my large body is going to go, but I anticipate that over the next few years I'll drop a few more hundred dollars.

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    Robert V Aldrich is offline Junior Member
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    That's really cool to hear. I'd be interested to hear updates on your experiences. I had worked originally with Building Gymnastic Bodies, but the jumps in difficulty were what led me to Convict Conditioning (that and the emphasis on the multi-plane movements, which I found of little interest).

    I remember the oblique work especially had you do hanging leg rotations, and then side lever negatives. Not only were they not comparable movements, but one was astronomically harder than the other.

  7. #7
    Taking Cattle is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by Robert V Aldrich View Post
    That's really cool to hear. I'd be interested to hear updates on your experiences. I had worked originally with Building Gymnastic Bodies, but the jumps in difficulty were what led me to Convict Conditioning (that and the emphasis on the multi-plane movements, which I found of little interest).

    I remember the oblique work especially had you do hanging leg rotations, and then side lever negatives. Not only were they not comparable movements, but one was astronomically harder than the other.
    That was my exact experience as well. Building the Gymnastic Body was written without a clue of where the average person may need to start, so I went to CC. I love CC and its back work has been so valuable to me I plan on including the back progressions with my Gymnastic Bodies stuff. Coach Sommer's progressions don't start you as close to zero as CC did, but it's definitely aimed at building up strength, size and skill attributes in non-gymnasts.

  8. #8
    GeoffreyLevens is offline Senior Member
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    Taking Cattle, I too am interested. Been eying Sommers program for awhile but hesitating due to cost though I do believe it provides plenty of "bang for the bucks".

    Does Foundations 1 alone provide fairly balanced, all planes of movement, development or are the overhead pressing movements separated out into the Handstand series? Hope that makes sense...

  9. #9
    postandspread is offline Senior Member
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    I also do bits and bobs from Foundation One & Handstand One. I think the progressions are very do-able and start out easy. They feel "different" and are also quite enjoyable. I don't know how effective the mobility exercises are but if Sommer says they are, I guess they must be. Some seem easy, some quite hard to do "right", some like the Superman, ill-advised (if one listens to McGill). Btw, Taking Cattle, have you managed the Swivel Hips mobility exercise (accompanies the Scapular Shrug) as shown, without the left/right butt cheek coming off the ground?

    One important omission in Foundation seems to be that he doesn't say what to do if one cannot meet the progression standards in the standard 12 week cycle, though in Handstand he says to continue at the level one is at provided the deload protocol is observed. Also, it's not clear from the material what one is to do if the mobility doesn't keep pace with progress in the strength component. I choose to continue doing the earlier mobility exercises. Of course, there's the forum, nevertheless...

    Some of the exercises in Foundation require a vault-horse or partner-assistance which is a bit of a turn-off. The material doesn't say what the alternatives are.

    Handstand has the one thing I was looking all over the place for: a very interesting progression for learning full wrist pushups. Lovely.
    Last edited by postandspread; 05-01-2014 at 11:28 PM.

  10. #10
    Taking Cattle is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by GeoffreyLevens View Post
    Taking Cattle, I too am interested. Been eying Sommers program for awhile but hesitating due to cost though I do believe it provides plenty of "bang for the bucks".

    Does Foundations 1 alone provide fairly balanced, all planes of movement, development or are the overhead pressing movements separated out into the Handstand series? Hope that makes sense...
    Off the top of my head, the overhead pressing is all in handstand. Foundations has planche progressions and progressions from push-ups to dips, both of which hit the shoulders.

    The really interesting thing (to me) about handstand is how little the initial steps involve shoulder work. Most of it is about building up your wrist, forearms and fingers to give you control over the handstand. And also developing mobility so you can stack your mass in a vertical line over your hands.

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