Mon Sep 09

How to plan your Calisthenics workouts

Yerai Alonso

Yerai Alonso

How to plan your Calisthenics workouts

In this article we are going to see how to optimize your training, tweaking around some specific parameters. I' going to explain it in a very simple way, so you can apply it easily in your training, without having to be an expert in all the theory around it.

What you need to know

The first parameter that we are going to analyze is frequency, meaning the number of times that we train in a week in this case. Then we are going to focus on the intensity of every training session and the volume of exercises and reps that we are going to do.

Lastly we are going to differentiate between objective workload, meaning the sum of the parameters we already named; and the subjective workload, meaning how hard it really was for you, how did you feel it, how difficult it was for you etc, how exhausted did you finish it etc.

And as a rule of thumb what we are going to do is trying to give your muscle an effective stimulus, and then give them enough time to recover and super compensate.

The method

To understand it easily, we are going to start with the example of someone who wants to train every day. and we are going to fix the rest time between sets and exercises, because what we are going to tweak for increasing or decreasing the intensity is going to be the difficulty of the exercises, the number of them and the number of reps.

So we assume a typical calisthenics training with long rest times of 1':30". What we are going to do to start the first day is try to plan a routine that is effective and gives the right stimulus to our muscles. To help visualize it, we are going for a 7 or 8 out of 10. To do this we use difficult exercises, in a considerable quantity (I tend to use 6 exercises) and a decent amounts of resp, depending on the difficulty of each exercise.

I usually do 1 to 5 reps for difficult exercises at the beginning of the routine, 6 to 15 for intermediate exercises, and 15 to 30 reps for easy exercises at the end of the routine.

When we finish our session, we analyze how we feel, how difficult it was, how tired we are etc. and we give it a mark from 1 to 10, and we compare if it matchs with what we calculated before doing it.

On the next day we analyze how we feel, and plan for that day's routine. If the last session was an 8, now we have to compensate doing a 4, if that day was a 7, now we do a 5. The idea is that after a difficult stimulating session, we do an easier one that allows us to recover and compensate. If last session you spectations failed and it was a 4, now plan a much stronger one so you give the right stimulus.

When you want to do a recovery easy session and compensate, what you have to do is reduce the difficulty of the exercises, the number of them, and the number of reps, or combine those 3 aspects. If you feel mentally exhausted, with yawns, apathy, not feeling like training, it is better to reduce the difficulty. If you feel muscularly exhausted, with aches, soreness and so on, it is better to reduce the number of exercises and reps.

To continue with the method, repeat the same process: check if your sessions match with what you expected and plan the next one, in this case the 3rd day, where we are doing another easy recovery day. On the 4th day its time to do a hard one again, around a 7 or 8, and restart the process.

To summarize, the schedule would be: 1 hard day, 2 easy ones, 1 hard day, 2 easy ones and so on. Try to match your hard days with the most important routine for you. For example if you are trying to achieve front lever, make the hard day the front lever day. If your goal is to gain muscle mass, match the hard day with the muscle group you want to work the most, etc.

Frequency 7 (training 7 days a week)

As we have seen, this is a plan for training every day, so next we will see how to do it for people who don't train that much. Also if you do frequency 7, it is probable that when you have been doing it for a couple weeks you start to feel accumulated fatigue, maybe you plan for a "4 out of 10" routine and doing it feels like a 6, or you plan for a 7 and it feels a 9, because your body is overworked and doesn't respond as usual. If that happens is time to discharge and leave 3 or 4 complete rest days, before starting the process again.

Now lets see how to do it for people who train with other frequencies, different for training every day.

It is really easy, for people who train every day we have seen that it is 1 hard day and 2 easy ones... so for other frequencies, the hard one is even harder, and the recovery ones are also more demanding. For example for someone who trains 2 days and then 1 rest day, the first one would be a solid 8, and then the second one a 5 or 6, then the rest day and start again. The same goes for other frequencies

Remember that the key is to adapt to your subjective exhaustion, for example for someone who trains 3 days a week, maybe you want your first day to be a 9, and then if on the next session you feel completely recovered try to do an 8, but if you feel tired go for a 6.

The idea is the the hard session produces adaptation and muscle improvement, being hypertrophy or strength, and the recovery sessions serve as complement and ease into the next hard one.

How to adapt the method to different goals

Before we already talked about how to adapt this plan to some goals, lets see a summary of the most common ones:

  • If your goal is hypertrophy: the hard day goes for each muscle group each time, or for the one that you want to improve the most.
  • If your goal is to do more reps: the hard day goes for doing lots and lots of reps on the exercise or exercises that you want to improve.
  • If your goal is to achieve an specific trick or movement: the hard day goes for progressions and exercises for that trick, and the easy days for complementary or compensation exercises.
  • If your goal is to do weighted reps: you can play around with how much weight you lift, the hard day you go near your limit and the easy days you go way lower.
  • If your goal is to lose weight: my recommendation is to do this method using full body routines and also center a lot around your diet, you can read or diet articles if you want.

Plan for different muscle groups (pecs, shoulders, legs, back, other, pecs, legs...)

Plan for training planche, front lever and hefesto (front, planche, hefesto, planche, legs, complementary)

Al ser un método de entrenamiento basado en la dificultad objetiva y subjetiva, al principio fallarás más en cuanto a calcular la dificultad de cada rutina, pero poco a poco te irás conociendo y te será mucho más fácil acertar.

Being a method based on the objective and subjective difficulty of your sessions, at the beginning you won't be very good calibrating and maybe your sessions won't match what you planned, but little by little you will know yourself and you will be much more precise.


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