Calisthenics-Progression-Guide

Calisthenics Progression Guide: Mastering Skills and Gradual Advancement

Calisthenics is swiftly establishing its prominence in the fitness domain, not only as a regimen for physical conditioning but also as an art form rich in expression.

The foundational techniques set the stage for anyone eager to embark on this journey.

Yet, when we transition to advanced calisthenics, the dynamics shift dramatically.

It becomes a quest to continually challenge one’s physical boundaries, harmonizing strength, agility, and coordination in exceptional ways.

In this guide, we focus on the gradual learning of calisthenics progressions, introducing you to increasingly complex skills that are central to this enthralling discipline.

From Beginner to Pro: Introduction to Calisthenics

As one progresses in Calisthenics, the complexity of exercises increases exponentially.

For instance, attempting the first one-arm pull-up represents a true test of strength and technique.

Pull-Up-Exercise

This movement, along with others like the muscle-up, requires not only brute strength but also precise muscle coordination and control.

Every athlete, regardless of their level, may face plateaus or feel overwhelmed by the complexity of certain techniques.

However, overcoming these obstacles can lead to immense satisfaction and further growth in the practice.

In addition to the aforementioned one-arm pull-up, other movements truly challenge strength, endurance, and technique.

The Planche, for example, where the body is suspended only by the hands, demands incredible core strength and complete control.

Planche-Exercise

The Front Lever, with the athlete horizontally suspended and supported only by the hands, is another exercise that tests arm and core strength equally.

Front-Lever-Exercise

Then there is the one-arm vertical, or the “one-arm handstand,” which requires exceptional strength as well as extreme balance and coordination.

These are just a few examples, but in reality, every step forward in Calisthenics brings new challenges and new peaks to conquer.

Handstand-Exercise

 

The Benefits of an Advanced Calisthenics Workout Routine

Benefits-Advanced-Calisthenics-Exercises

Advanced calisthenics exercises represent a higher tier in bodyweight training While the general benefits of Calisthenics are widely acknowledged, diving deeper into advanced routines provides even more targeted and specific advantages.

  1. Selective Muscle Strengthening: Through exercises like the planche, front lever, or Human Flag, the aim is to strengthen specific muscle groups that might not be as engaged in basic exercises.
  2. Extended Muscle Endurance: These types of exercises often require the muscles to work for longer periods, enhancing muscle endurance.
  3. Balance and Proprioception: Exercises like the handstand push-up or one-arm pull-up develop refined balance and improve the body’s ability to perceive its position in space.
  4. Dynamic Flexibility: Complex movements challenge joints and tendons to achieve new levels of flexibility, well beyond static flexibility.
  5. Inter-Muscular Coordination: Advanced exercises demand perfect synchronization between various muscle groups, enhancing overall body coordination.
  6. Posture Improvement: Advanced Calisthenics training leads to increased postural awareness, helping correct muscle imbalances and enhance overall posture.
  7. Mental Strengthening: The complexity and challenge of advanced exercises require strong determination, concentration, and mental resilience, leading to both physical and mental strengthening.

 

Utilizing Calisthenics for Muscle Mass Development

Calisthenics emphasizes building muscle mass through progression techniques, moving away from the traditional focus on mere repetitions.

But how can a progression system aid in muscle growth?

Progressions in calisthenics focus on increasing the intensity and complexity of an exercise rather than just raising the repetition count. 

For instance, once an athlete masters a certain number of standard push-ups, they won’t simply increase the repetitions. Instead, they will transition to a more advanced variation, like the archer push-up or the one-arm push-up. 

Push-Up-Exercise-Calisthenics

This approach consistently challenges the body in new ways, creating a constant stimulus for muscle growth.

Each progression introduces a new level of challenge, requiring greater muscle activation and fiber recruitment. As a result, the body responds by adapting and growing. 

This increasing muscle resistance, combined with proper technical execution, ensures every muscle fiber is engaged, thus maximizing gains in terms of mass and strength.

Furthermore, working through progressions ensures the athlete builds a solid foundation, reducing the risk of injuries and ensuring balanced and harmonious muscle growth.

 

SUMMARY

In the context of calisthenics, progressions are not merely a means to increase exercise difficulty, but they serve as a roadmap to ensure the athlete grows in a balanced and safe manner. 

Without well-structured progressions, there’s a risk of prematurely attempting advanced movements, thereby increasing the likelihood of injuries. 

On the contrary, by following progressions, the athlete gradually strengthens not only the major muscle groups but also the smaller and often overlooked ones, ensuring even and harmonious growth. 

Combining Calisthenics with Other Training Methods

While advanced Calisthenics is already a powerful training method, its potential can be further amplified by integrating it with the use of weights and cardiovascular activities.

  1. Weight Lifting: While Calisthenics focuses on developing relative strength and motor skills, introducing weight lifting can provide added strength and muscle mass gains that might not be easily achieved with body weight alone. Using weights, both barbells, and dumbbells, can help bridge any gaps in muscle strength, providing a balance between functional strength and raw strength.
  2. Cardio: Calisthenics, in many of its forms, is already an intense cardiovascular workout. However, integrating specific cardio sessions such as running, cycling, swimming, and jump rope can significantly improve endurance and aerobic capacity. This not only supports more intense Calisthenics sessions but also aids in recovery and maintaining a low body fat percentage.

 

Useful Tools and Accessories

Parallettes: These small elevated supports are perfect for exercises like L-sits, handstands, and varied push-ups. They provide greater elevation, allowing for a wider range of motion and emphasizing specific muscle groups.

Gymnastics Rings: Flexible and dynamic, rings enable a wide range of exercises, from basic ones like pull-ups to more advanced moves like ring muscle-ups or planches. The instability of the rings adds an extra layer of difficulty, enhancing core strength and overall stability.

Resistance Bands: These elastic bands are highly versatile and can be used to add resistance or assistance in various exercises. For example, they can be employed to aid in pull-ups or make push-ups more challenging.

Pull-Up Bars: Essential for Calisthenics practitioners, pull-up bars are perfect for exercises like pull-ups, chin-ups, and muscle-ups. There are wall-mounted, ceiling-mounted, or free-standing options available based on your needs and available space.

Stability Bars: These are excellent for balance exercises and strengthening stabilizer muscles. Used in conjunction with movements like squats or lunges, they can significantly intensify your training.

 

Types of Progressions

Within Calisthenics, progressions are not just a simple list of exercises to perform sequentially; they represent a strategic pathway outlined to develop specific skills and competencies. These generally fall into the following categories:

  • Strength Progressions: These focus on muscle strengthening and endurance. A classic example involves push-ups. A beginner might start with knee push-ups, which reduce the amount of body weight to lift. Once mastered, they can progress to standard push-ups and subsequently advance to more challenging variations like one-arm push-ups.
  • Balance Progressions: Balance is crucial in Calisthenics, especially in exercises that require supporting the body in unusual positions. A classic example is the handstand or vertical position. Athletes might begin by using a wall for support and gradually reduce dependency on it, working toward a fully independent handstand.
  • Flexibility Progressions: While Calisthenics is often associated with strength and balance, flexibility plays a crucial role in many advanced techniques. These progressions could start with basic stretching and evolve into specific exercises aimed at achieving goals such as a full split, contributing to a greater range of motion and injury prevention.

 

Fundamental Exercises and Their Progressions

Calisthenics, like any sports discipline, has some foundational exercises that, once mastered, open the door to more advanced and technically demanding variations

Here’s an overview of basic movements and their progressions:

  • Push-ups: This exercise, targeting the chest, shoulders, and triceps, offers multiple variations for all levels. You start with knee push-ups, ideal for beginners. Once you gain confidence, you move on to standard push-ups. Diamond push-ups then challenge triceps and core strength. Finally, for the daring, one-arm push-ups are a true test of balance and strength.
  • Pull-ups: Primarily targeting the back and biceps. You begin with assisted pull-ups, using bands or a specialized machine. Next, you transition to standard pull-ups, lifting your entire body weight. Chin-ups put greater emphasis on the biceps. Finally, muscle-ups combine a pull-up and a push-up, requiring significant strength and coordination.
  • Squats: Essential for strengthening the legs and glutes. Standard squats are the foundation, focusing on proper technique and posture. Bulgarian split squats introduce an element of instability, working one leg at a time. Pistol squats, on the other hand, combine strength, balance, and flexibility in a complex single movement.
  • Dips: Excellent for triceps, chest, and front deltoids. Bench dips are a good starting point, allowing you to adjust the difficulty by varying leg extension. Subsequently, parallel bar dips require greater core strength. Finally, ring dips are the advanced version, with a particular focus on instability and muscle control.

 

Dips-Exercise-Calisthenics

 

 

Planks are More Than Just a Basic Exercise for Beginners

This seemingly simple static position is, in reality, a powerful tool for strengthening the core and improving posture, while also providing a solid foundation for many other advanced progressions.

Plank is not just a basic exercise for beginners.  With various modifications and progressions, they can become incredibly challenging even for advanced athletes. In addition to the traditional front plank, there are variations such as side planks, planks with limb lifts, and many more.

The secret to their success lies in their ability to engage a wide range of muscles simultaneously, providing a complex and comprehensive workout.

Planks not only strengthen the core but also aid in developing muscle endurance, stability, and coordination.

By regularly incorporating planks and their variations into your calisthenics routine, you’ll ensure a strong base to build further progressions upon, while also enhancing your overall strength and athletic performance.

 

Complete Guide to Advanced Calisthenics Exercises

 

CHEST – Push-Up Variations:

Exercise Name Description Execution
One-arm push-up Push-ups are performed with one hand while the other is behind the back. Start in a plank position. With one hand behind your back, lower yourself maintaining a straight body, then push up.
Pseudo planche push-ups Push-ups that simulate a planche, with hands, turned back near the hips. Place hands near the hips, fingers slightly turned out. As you lower, shift weight forward, slightly lifting the feet.
Archer push-ups Push-ups where one arm extends laterally while the other does the motion. From a wide push-up stance, lower on one arm while the other extends out. Alternate sides.
Decline one-arm push-up One-arm push-up variation with feet in an elevated position. With feet on an elevated surface, perform a push-up on one arm. The other arm is behind the back.
Typewriter push-ups Push-ups where you move laterally from one arm to the other at the bottom. From a wide push-up stance, lower and move laterally from one arm to the other, like a typewriter.
Diamond planche push-ups Advanced push-ups with hands closed forming a diamond, performing a pseudo planche. Form a diamond with your hands. As you lower, shift weight forward like in a pseudo-planche push-up

BACK – Pull-up Variations:

Exercise Name Description Execution
One-arm pull-up A pull-up is performed with only one arm. Hang from the bar with one arm, the other arm behind the back. Pull yourself up until your chin is above the bar.
Archer pull-ups One arm pulls up while the other stays extended, resembling an archer’s pose. Start with a wide grip. As you pull up, keep one arm straight, and pull with the other. Alternate sides.
Muscle-ups Combination of a pull-up and a dip. Pull yourself up with explosive force, transitioning at the top to push your chest above the bar and extend your arms.
L-sit pull-ups A pull-up combined with an L-sit leg position. Hang from the bar, and lift your legs to form an “L” with your torso. Hold the position and perform your pull-ups.
Wide-grip pull-ups Pull-ups are performed with a grip wider than shoulder width. With hands wider than shoulders on the bar, pull yourself up keeping elbows out, until your chin is above the bar.
Commando pull-ups Pull up where you face perpendicular to the bar and grip with opposite hands. Grip the bar with hands facing opposite directions, one in front and one behind. Pull up while facing the bar

SHOULDERS – Handstand & Planche Variations:

Exercise Name Description Execution
Handstand push-ups Push-ups are performed while in a handstand position either against the wall or free-standing. Kick up into a handstand, either against a wall or free-standing. Bend your elbows to lower yourself and push up.
Piked push-ups A push-up variation where hips are picked and feet remain on the ground. Start in a downward dog position. Bend your elbows to lower your head towards the ground, then push back up.
90-degree push-ups A push-up that transitions from a handstand to a planche position. Start on a handstand. Bend elbows to lower into a push-up, then rotate to a planche position. Reverse to return to start.
Tuck planche push-ups Push-ups performed in a tucked planche position. Start in a tuck planche. Bend your elbows to lower your body, then push up.
Tuck planche A beginner planche variation where the legs are tucked close to the body. With hands on the ground, lean forward and lift your legs off the ground, keeping them tucked close to your chest.
Advanced tuck planche A progression from the tuck planche where the back is flat and the legs are still tucked. Start in a tuck planche. Extend your body to flatten your back while keeping your legs tucked.
Straddle planche An advanced planche where legs are spread wide apart and the body is held parallel to the ground. With hands on the ground, lean forward lifting your body, and spread your legs wide, keeping your body parallel to the ground.
Full planche The most advanced planche is where the body is held parallel to the ground with legs together and straight. With hands on the ground, lean forward lifting your body, extending legs straight and together, keeping your body parallel to the ground

QUADRICEPS, GLUTES & HAMSTRINGS – Squat Variations:

Exercise Name Description Execution
Pistol squats Single-leg squats where one leg is extended forward. Standing on one leg, extend the other leg straight out in front. Bend the supporting leg to squat down, then push up to return to the start.
Jumping pistol squats A dynamic variation of the pistol squat where you jump. Execute a pistol squat but push explosively to jump at the top. Land softly and go right into the next squat.
Skater squats (curtsy squats) Single-leg squats where the non-supporting leg is extended diagonally behind the supporting leg. Standing on one leg, reach the other leg diagonally behind. Bend the supporting knee to squat down, pushing the hips back and keeping the chest up.
Elevated pistol squats The pistol squat is performed with the non-supporting foot elevated behind on a raised platform. Similar to a pistol squat, place the foot of the non-working leg on an elevated surface behind you.
Deep step-ups Step-ups performed to a higher elevation than traditional step-ups. Using a high platform or bench, step up leading with one leg, then return to the ground. Alternate legs.
Sissy squats Quad-dominant squat where heels lift off the ground as you descend. Start standing with feet shoulder-width. As you bend your knees to squat, lift your heels, leaning your torso backward. Return to start by pushing through the balls of your feet.
Advanced shrimp squats Single-leg squats where the non-supporting leg is extended behind, touching the knee to the ground. Stand on one foot and extend the other foot behind you. Bend the supporting leg and try to touch the knee of the extended leg to the ground, then push up to start

CALVES:

Exercise Name Description Execution
One-leg calf raises Single-leg exercise to target the calf muscles. Stand on one leg on a raised surface (like a step) with the heel hanging off. Rise onto the ball of your foot, then lower the heel below the step.
Tuck jumps Explosive plyometric exercises activate the calves and overall leg muscles. Start in a standing position. Jump up, bringing the knees towards the chest. Land softly and immediately jump again.
Depth jumps Plyometric exercise is designed to increase power and explosiveness in the legs. Stand on a raised surface. Step off, and as soon as you touch the ground, jump as high as you can. Aim for minimal ground contact time

TRICEPS – Dip Variations:

Exercise Name Description Execution
Impossible Dips A challenging dip movement that emphasizes tricep strength and shoulder mobility. Begin in a standard dip position. As you lower, lean forward, and push your elbows backward. Go as low as possible and push back up.
Deep ring dips Dips are performed on gymnastics rings, allowing for a deeper range of motion. Mount the rings and start in a supported position. Lower yourself deeper than you would on parallel bars, then push back up to the starting position.
One-arm dips A dip using only one arm, either unassisted or with some form of support. Begin on parallel bars. Shift weight to one side and try to lower with one arm, using the other for balance or minimal support. Press back up using primarily the engaged arm.
Korean dips A variation of dips where the body is positioned in front of the bars rather than between. Start at the top of a straight bar dip but with the bar behind you. Lower your body in front of the bar, then push back up to the starting position, engaging the triceps heavily

BICEPS – Curl Variations (Using Bars or Rings)

Exercise Name Description Execution
Bodyweight bicep curls (on rings) Curls using bodyweight resistance, performed with gymnastic rings. Set rings at chest height. Lean back holding the rings, palms facing you. Curl yourself up by bending your elbows, then lower slowly to the start position.
Pelican curls (full arm extension on rings) An intense bicep and forearm workout using rings, focusing on full extension. Begin in a push-up position on the rings. Lean forward, extending arms fully out while keeping them close to the body, and then curl back to the starting position.
One-arm bodyweight bicep curl (using a bar) A single-arm curl using the bar for resistance. Grab a bar with one hand, lean back, and fully extend that arm. With your body straight, pull yourself up by curling your arm. Return to the starting position and repeat

FOREARMS AND GRIP:

Exercise Name Description Execution
One arm dead hangs Strengthen grip and forearm by hanging from a bar with one hand. Grasp a bar with one hand and hang it for as long as possible. Ensure the shoulders are engaged and not just “sinking.” Alternate hands.
Fat bar pull-ups Enhance grip strength by using a thicker bar for standard pull-ups. Use a thick bar (or add a grip thickener to a regular bar). Perform pull-ups as usual, focusing on maintaining a strong grip throughout.
Finger pull-ups Advanced pull-ups use fewer fingers to increase the difficulty and grip strength. Begin with a standard pull-up grip, then remove one or more fingers (like doing a pull-up with just three fingers). Pull yourself up as usual.
False grip training (on bar or rings) Strengthen the grip and wrist for moves like the muscle-up. Instead of gripping with the hand beneath the bar/ring, place the wrist on top. This grip is crucial for transitions in advanced moves. Practice hanging and pull-ups with this grip.

HIP FLEXORS AND LOWER CORE:

Exercise Name Description Execution
Hanging Leg Raises (with extended legs) Targeting the hip flexors and lower abs, you’ll raise your legs while hanging from a bar. Hang from a pull-up bar with a grip slightly wider than shoulder-width. Keeping legs straight, raise them to be parallel (or higher) with the ground. Slowly lower them back down.
Windshield Wipers This exercise works the obliques and the entire core in a rotating movement. From a hanging position on a bar, raise your legs until they’re perpendicular to your body. Rotate them side to side, mimicking the motion of a windshield wiper.
Skin the Cats A full-body movement emphasizing shoulder mobility, core, and hip flexors. Start hanging from rings or a bar. Rotate backward, bringing your legs through the arms until you’re inverted, then continue until you’re looking forward again, and reverse the movement

ABS/CORE (Lever Variations, Flag Variations):

Exercise Name Description Execution
Front Lever Raises This movement transitions from a hanging position to a front lever position. From a hanging position on a bar or ring, keep your body straight and raise it horizontally, parallel to the ground, then lower back to the start.
Front Lever Holds A static hold where the body is parallel to the ground, facing upwards. Hang from a bar or ring. Raise your body to a horizontal position and hold, ensuring arms are straight and the body forms a straight line.
Back Lever Holds A static hold where the body is parallel to the ground, facing downwards. Start in an inverted hang-on ring or a bar. Lower your body to a horizontal position, facing the ground, and hold.
Dragon Flags An advanced core exercise popularized by Bruce Lee. Lie on a bench or floor holding something stable behind your head. Keeping your body straight, raise it off the ground until only your shoulders and upper back are in contact. Lower slowly.
V-sits A static hold position that targets the rectus abdominis and hip flexors. From an L-sit position, lift your legs higher until they form a V shape with your body. Hold while keeping your arms straight.
L-sit to Planche A dynamic move transitioning between two challenging static positions. Start in an L-sit position, then lean forward, pushing through your hands and engaging your core, to transition into a planche position.
Human Flag A static hold where you support your body vertically on a pole or bar using only your hands. Grip a vertical pole or post with one hand above the other. Push with the lower hand and pull with the upper hand while lifting your legs horizontally, achieving a flag position. Hold.
Straddle Flag A variation of the human flag where legs are spread apart. Similar to the human flag, but instead of keeping legs together, spread them apart in a straddle position while holding your body horizontally on a pole or bar.

GLUTES AND HAMSTRINGS – Bridge Variations:

Exercise Name Description Execution
Bridge Push-ups An advanced bridge variation that incorporates a pushing motion to target the muscles of the lower back and glutes. Begin in a bridge position with your arms and legs fully extended and your chest facing upwards. Bend your arms to lower your body, then push up to the starting position.
One-leg Bridges A bridge exercise that emphasizes one side at a time, providing a deeper stretch and more targeted activation. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Extend one leg straight up. Push through the heel of the other foot to lift your hips. Lower and repeat, then switch legs.
Elevated Bridges By placing the feet on an elevated surface, this variation offers a greater range of motion and challenges the glutes further. Start in a basic bridge position but with your feet on an elevated surface like a bench or step. Lift your hips as high as possible, squeezing the glutes at the top, then lower

LOWER BACK – Back Extensions & Variations:

Exercise Name Description Execution
Superman Holds An isometric exercise that strengthens the lower back by mimicking the flying position of Superman. Lie face down on the ground. Simultaneously lift your arms, legs, and chest off the ground. Hold for a few seconds, then lower.
Reverse Hyperextensions This movement targets the lower back and glutes and uses an elevated surface for added resistance and depth. Position yourself on an elevated bench or surface so that your hips are at the edge. Secure your upper body. Raise your legs until they’re in line with your torso and lower them down.
Arch Body Holds Another isometric hold that strengthens the entire posterior chain, from the shoulders to the heels. Lie face down. Lift your arms and legs off the ground, arching your back. The goal is to create a banana-like shape with your body. Maintain the hold for as long as possible

MOBILITY AND FLEXIBILITY – Advanced Stretching

Exercise Name Description Execution
Pancake Stretch This stretch targets the adductors, hamstrings, and lower back. Sit with legs spread wide apart. Keeping your back straight, hinge at the hips to lean forward. Reach your hands forward and aim to get your chest to the ground. Hold the stretch.
Front Splits A deep stretch targeting the hamstrings of the front leg and the hip flexors of the back leg. Start in a kneeling lunge position. Slowly slide your front foot forward and your back foot backward, keeping your hips squared. Lower down until you reach the floor or your maximum stretch. Hold.
Middle Splits This stretch deeply targets the adductors or inner thigh muscles. Begin with feet wide apart. Slowly slide your feet outward, keeping them in line with each other. Lower your hips to the ground, or as close as you can, keeping your knees facing up. Hold the position.
Bridge Stretch with Rotation An advanced variation of the bridge enhances thoracic mobility and stretches the anterior chain. Begin in a bridge position. Rotate one shoulder inward while extending the opposite arm, twisting the torso. Return to the starting position and repeat on the other side

A Step-by-Step Guide to Calisthenics Progressions

Here are some progression exercises for each of the advanced movements you mentioned:

One-arm push-up Progression:

Exercise Sets x Reps/Duration Estimated Timeframe
Standard push-ups 3×12-15 8-12 months
Wide push-ups 3×10-12
Diamond push-ups 3×8-10
Archer push-ups 3×5-8/arm
Assisted one-arm push-ups 3×5/arm

Pseudo planche push-ups Progression:

Exercise Sets x Reps/Duration Estimated Timeframe
Standard push-ups 3×12-15 5-8 months
Diamond push-ups 3×10-12
Planche leans 3×20-30s
Feet-elevated pseudo-planche push-ups 3×8-10

Archer push-ups Progression:

Exercise Sets x Reps/Duration Estimated Timeframe
Standard push-ups 3×12-15 3-5 months
Wide push-ups 3×10-12
Side-to-side push-ups 3×8-10

Decline one-arm push-up Progression:

Exercise Sets x Reps/Duration Estimated Timeframe
Decline push-ups 3×12-15 10-14 months
Decline diamond push-ups 3×8-10
Decline archer push-ups 3×5-8/arm
Assisted decline one-arm push-ups 3×5/arm

Typewriter push-ups Progression:

Exercise Sets x Reps/Duration Estimated Timeframe
Standard push-ups 3×12-15 4-6 months
Wide push-ups 3×10-12
Side-to-side push-ups 3×8-10

Diamond planche push-ups Progression:

Exercise Sets x Reps/Duration Estimated Timeframe
Diamond push-ups 3×12-15 6-9 months
Planche leans 3×20-30s
Pseudo planche push-ups 3×8-10
Feet-elevated pseudo-planche push-ups 3×6-8

One-arm pull-up Progression:

Exercise Sets x Reps/Duration Estimated Timeframe
Standard pull-ups 3×8-12 12-18 months
Assisted one-arm static holds 3×10-20s/arm
Negative one-arm pull-ups 3×3-5/arm
Assisted one-arm pull-ups 3×3-5/arm

Archer pull-ups Progression:

Exercise Sets x Reps/Duration Estimated Timeframe
Standard pull-ups 3×8-12 6-9 months
Side-to-side pull-ups 3×5-8
Wide pull-ups 3×5-8

Muscle-ups Progression:

Exercise Sets x Reps/Duration Estimated Timeframe
Standard pull-ups 3×8-12 9-12 months
Deep dips 3×8-12
Explosive pull-ups 3×5-8
Assisted muscle-ups 3×3-5

L-sit pull-ups Progression:

Exercise Sets x Reps/Duration Estimated Timeframe
Knee raise pull-ups 3×8-10 5-7 months
L-sit holds (floor or bars) 3×15-30s
Half L-sit pull-ups 3×6-8

Wide-grip pull-ups Progression:

Exercise Sets x Reps/Duration Estimated Timeframe
Standard pull-ups 3×8-12 4-6 months
Wide grip hangs 3×20-30s

Commando pull-ups Progression:

Exercise Sets x Reps/Duration Estimated Timeframe
Standard pull-ups 3×8-12 5-7 months
Alternating grip pull-ups 3×6-8
Side-to-side pull-ups 3×6-8

Handstand push-ups Progression:

Exercise Sets x Reps/Duration Estimated Timeframe
Piked push-ups 3×8-12 6-9 months
Wall-assisted handstand hold 3×20-40s
Wall-assisted handstand push-ups 3×4-8
Free-standing handstand push-ups 3×3-6

Piked push-ups Progression:

Exercise Sets x Reps/Duration Estimated Timeframe
Standard push-ups 3×12-15 3-5 months
Decline push-ups 3×8-12
Elevated piked push-ups 3×6-10

90-degree push-ups Progression:

Exercise Sets x Reps/Duration Estimated Timeframe
Piked push-ups 3×8-12 9-12 months
Handstand push-ups 3×4-8
90-degree handstand hold 3×10-20s

Tuck planche push-ups Progression:

Exercise Sets x Reps/Duration Estimated Timeframe
Frog stand 3×20-40s 7-9 months
Tuck planche hold 3×10-20s
Tuck planche push-ups 3×3-6

Tuck planche Progression:

Exercise Sets x Reps/Duration Estimated Timeframe
Frog stand 3×20-40s 6-8 months
Tuck planche hold 3×10-20s

Advanced tuck planche Progression:

Exercise Sets x Reps/Duration Estimated Timeframe
Tuck planche 3×20-30s 8-12 months
Advanced tuck planche hold 3×10-20s

Straddle planche Progression:

Exercise Sets x Reps/Duration Estimated Timeframe
Advanced tuck planche 3×20-30s 12-18 months
Straddle planche hold 3×8-15s

Full planche Progression:

Exercise Sets x Reps/Duration Estimated Timeframe
Straddle planche 3×10-20s 18-24+ months
Full planche hold 3×5-10s

Pistol Squats Progression:

Exercise Sets x Reps/Duration Estimated Timeframe
Bodyweight squats 3×15-20 1-2 months
Assisted pistol squats (using a pole or wall) 3×8-12
Box pistol squats (to a bench or chair) 3×8-12
Pistol squats 3×5-10

Jumping Pistol Squats Progression:

Exercise Sets x Reps/Duration Estimated Timeframe
Pistol squats 3×5-10 3-6 months
Box jumps 3×8-12
Jumping pistol squats 3×5-8

Skater Squats (Curtsy Squats) Progression:

Exercise Sets x Reps/Duration Estimated Timeframe
Lunges 3×10-15 each leg 2-4 months
Bulgarian split squats 3×8-12 each leg
Skater squats 3×8-12 each leg

Elevated Pistol Squats Progression:

Exercise Sets x Reps/Duration Estimated Timeframe
Pistol squats 3×5-10 3-6 months
Elevated bodyweight squats 3×8-12
Elevated pistol squats 3×5-8

Deep Step-Ups Progression:

Exercise Sets x Reps/Duration Estimated Timeframe
Step-ups (knee height) 3×10-15 each leg 2-4 months
Deep step-ups (hip height) 3×8-12 each leg

Sissy Squats Progression 

Exercise Sets x Reps/Duration Estimated Timeframe
Bodyweight squats with heel raise 3×10-15 2-3 months
Assisted sissy squats (using a pole) 3×8-12
Sissy squats 3×5-10

Advanced Shrimp Squats Progression:

Exercise Sets x Reps/Duration Estimated Timeframe
Shrimp squats (knee touch) 3×8-12 each leg 3-6 months
Advanced shrimp squats (knee to floor) 3×5-8 each leg

One-leg Calf Raises Progression:

Exercise Sets x Reps/Duration Estimated Timeframe
Double leg calf raises (flat ground) 3×20-30 1-2 months
Double leg calf raises (on the elevated surface) 3×15-25
One-leg calf raises (flat ground) 3×10-20
One-leg calf raises (on an elevated surface) 3×10-15

Tuck Jumps Progression:

Exercise Sets x Reps/Duration Estimated Timeframe
Bodyweight squats 3×15-20 1-2 months
Jump squats 3×10-15
High knees (dynamic) 3×20-30 seconds
Tuck jumps 3×8-12

Depth Jumps Progression:

Exercise Sets x Reps/Duration Estimated Timeframe
Box jumps (medium height) 3×8-12 2-4 months
Box jumps (higher height) 3×6-10
Controlled depth drops (stepping off a box and landing softly) 3×6-10
Depth jumps (jumping immediately upon landing) 3×5-8

Impossible Dips Progression:

Exercise Sets x Reps Estimated Timeframe
Parallel bar dips 3×8-12 1-2 months
Straight bar dips 3×6-10
Archer dips (on parallel bars) 3×5-8
Impossible dips (using assistance) 3×3-6
Impossible dips 3×3-5

Deep Ring Dips Progression:

Exercise Sets x Reps Estimated Timeframe
Parallel bar dips 3×8-12 1-2 months
Ring dips with stable rings 3×6-10
Ring dips with slight turning out at the top 3×6-8
Deep ring dips (using assistance if needed) 3×4-6

One-arm Dips Progression:

Exercise Sets x Reps Estimated Timeframe
Parallel bar dips 3×10-15 1-2 months
Weighted dips 3×6-10
Assisted one-arm dips (using a band or light support) 3×4-6
One-arm dips 3×2-4

Korean Dips Progression:

Exercise Sets x Reps Estimated Timeframe
Parallel bar dips 3×8-12 1-2 months
Straight bar dips (with chest facing the bar) 3×6-10
Korean dips with feet touching the ground 3×5-8
Korean dips (full range without feet support) 3×4-6

Bodyweight Bicep Curls (on rings) Progression:

Exercise Sets x Reps Estimated Timeframe
Australian pull-ups 3×8-12 1-2 months
Close-grip Australian pull-ups 3×6-10
Bicep curls using TRX or low bar 3×6-8
Bodyweight bicep curls (on rings) 3×5-8

Pelican Curls (full arm extension on rings) Progression:

Exercise Sets x Reps Estimated Timeframe
Ring push-ups 3×8-12 1-2 months
Skater push-ups on rings 3×6-10
Negative pelican curls 3×3-5 (slow descent)
Pelican curls (full arm extension) 3×3-5

One-arm Bodyweight Bicep Curl (using a bar) Progression:

Exercise Sets x Reps Estimated Timeframe
Bodyweight bicep curls (two arms on a bar) 3×8-10 1-2 months
Assisted one-arm bicep curls (using the off-hand as little as possible) 3×5-8 per arm
One-arm bodyweight bicep curl negatives 3×3-5 per arm
One-arm bodyweight bicep curl 2×3-4 per arm

One-arm Dead Hangs Progression:

Exercise Sets x Time Estimated Timeframe
Two-arm dead hangs 3×30-45 seconds 1 month
Assisted one-arm dead hangs (using a band or off-hand) 3×20-30 seconds per arm 1-2 months
One-arm dead hangs 3×10-20 seconds per arm

Fat Bar Pull-ups Progression:

Exercise Sets x Reps Estimated Timeframe
Standard pull-ups 3×8-12 1-2 months
Pull-ups holding a towel (to increase grip difficulty) 3×6-8
Fat bar pull-ups 3×5-8

Finger Pull-ups Progression:

Exercise Sets x Reps Estimated Timeframe
Standard pull-ups 3×8-12 1-2 months
Pull-ups with fewer fingers (e.g., 4 fingers) 3×6-8 1 month
Pull-ups with even fewer fingers (e.g., 3 fingers) 3×5-7 1 month
Finger pull-ups (using only 2 fingers) 3×3-5

False Grip Training (on bar or rings) Progression:

Exercise Sets x Time/Reps Estimated Timeframe
Standard pull-ups 3×8-12 1 month
False grip hangs 3×20-30 seconds 1 month
False grip pull-ups 3×5-8 1-2 months
Advanced movements using false grip (e.g., muscle-ups) Progress as appropriate Varies

Hanging Leg Raises (with extended legs) Progressions:

Exercise Progression Sets x Reps Estimated Timeframe
Knee Raises (hanging) Initial 3×10-15 1-2 months
L-sit Holds (hanging) Intermediate 3×10-20 seconds 1-2 months
Hanging Leg Raises (legs bent at 90°) Advanced 3×8-12 1-2 months
Hanging Leg Raises (with extended legs) Mastery 3×8-12

Windshield Wipers Progressions:

Exercise Progression Sets x Reps Estimated Timeframe
Leg side swings (hanging) Initial 3×8-12 per side 1-2 months
Half Windshield Wipers (legs at 90°) Intermediate 3×8-12 2-3 months
Windshield Wipers Mastery 3×6-10

Skin the Cats Progressions:

Exercise Progression Sets x Reps Estimated Timeframe
Tuck Front Lever Raises Initial 3×5-8 2-3 months
Tuck Back Lever Raises Intermediate 3×5-8 2-3 months
Skin the Cats Mastery 3×3-6

Front Lever Raises Progressions:

Exercise Progression Sets x Reps Estimated Timeframe
Tuck Front Lever Raises Initial 3×5-8 2-3 months
Advanced Tuck Front Lever Raises Intermediate 3×5-8 2-3 months
Straddle Front Lever Raises Advanced 3×3-6 3-4 months
Front Lever Raises Mastery 3×3-6

Front Lever Holds Progressions:

Exercise Progression Sets x Time Estimated Timeframe
Tuck Front Lever Holds Initial 3×10-20 seconds 2-3 months
Advanced Tuck Front Lever Holds Intermediate 3×15-25 seconds 2-3 months
Straddle Front Lever Holds Advanced 3×10-20 seconds 3-4 months
Front Lever Holds Mastery 3×5-15 seconds

Back Lever Holds Progressions:

Exercise Progression Sets x Time Estimated Timeframe
Tuck Back Lever Holds Initial 3×10-20 seconds 2-3 months
Advanced Tuck Back Lever Holds Intermediate 3×15-25 seconds 2-3 months
Straddle Back Lever Holds Advanced 3×10-20 seconds 3-4 months
Back Lever Holds Mastery 3×5-15 seconds

Dragon Flags Progressions:

Exercise Progression Sets x Reps Estimated Timeframe
Leg Raises (on the floor) Initial 3×8-12 1-2 months
Bent-leg Dragon Flags Intermediate 3×5-8 2-3 months
Dragon Flags Mastery 3×3-6

V-sits Progressions:

Exercise Progression Sets x Time Estimated Timeframe
L-sits Initial 3×10-20 seconds 2-3 months
Tuck V-sits Intermediate 3×10-20 seconds 2-3 months
V-sits Mastery 3×5-15 seconds

L-sit to Planche Progressions:

Exercise Progression Sets x Reps Estimated Timeframe
L-sits Initial 3×10-20 seconds 2-3 months
Tuck Planche Intermediate 3×10-20 seconds 2-3 months
L-sit to Planche Mastery 3×5-8

Human Flag Progressions:

Exercise Progression Sets x Time Estimated Timeframe
Flagpole holds (vertical position) Initial 3×10-20 seconds 3-4 months
Straddle Human Flag Intermediate 3×5-10 seconds 4-6 months
Human Flag Mastery 3×3-8 seconds

Straddle Flag Progressions:

Exercise Progression Sets x Time Estimated Timeframe
Side Planks Initial 3×20-40 seconds 1-2 months
Elevated Side Planks Intermediate 3×20-40 seconds 1-2 months
Straddle Flag Mastery 3×3-8 seconds

Bridge Push-Ups Progressions:

Exercise Progression Sets x Reps Estimated Timeframe
Glute Bridges Initial 3×10-15 1-2 months
Half Bridge Push-Ups (with support) Intermediate 3×5-10 2-3 months
Bridge Push-Ups Mastery 3×5-10

One-leg Bridges Progressions:

Exercise Progression Sets x Reps Estimated Timeframe
Glute Bridges Initial 3×10-15 1-2 months
Bridge Hold (with two legs) Intermediate 3×10-20 seconds 2-3 months
One-leg Bridges Mastery 3×5-10 per leg

Elevated Bridges Progressions:

Exercise Progression Sets x Reps Estimated Timeframe
Glute Bridges Initial 3×10-15 1-2 months
Bridge Push-Ups Intermediate 3×5-10 2-3 months
Elevated Bridges Mastery 3×5-10

Superman Holds Progressions:

Exercise Progression Sets x Time Estimated Timeframe
Prone Cobra Pose Initial 3×20-30 seconds 1-2 months
Prone Back Extension (hands-on temples) Intermediate 3×10-15 2-3 months
Superman Holds Mastery 3×20-40 seconds

Reverse Hyperextensions Progressions:

Exercise Progression Sets x Reps Estimated Timeframe
Leg Lifts (lying face down) Initial 3×10-15 1-2 months
Elevated Leg Lifts (using a bench) Intermediate 3×8-12 2-3 months
Reverse Hyperextensions Mastery 3×10-15

Arch Body Holds Progressions:

Exercise Progression Sets x Time Estimated Timeframe
Arch Body Rocks Initial 3×10-15 1-2 months
Extended Arch Body Hold (arms & legs elevated slightly) Intermediate 3×15-30 seconds 2-3 months
Arch Body Holds Mastery 3×20-50 seconds

 

Conclusion

Calisthenics is not just a collection of exercises, but a true journey into the world of movement and body awareness. 

Every progression, every challenge overcome, represents a step forward not only in physical strength but also in mental discipline. 

The art of body movement is a continuous path of discovery, adaptation, and growth.

Regardless of the starting point or ultimate goal, the beauty of calisthenics lies in the journey itself and the lessons learned along the way.

FAQs

Does proper breathing improve performance in progressions?

Breathing is a crucial element for improving performance in calisthenics progressions. During the execution of complex and advanced movements, the body requires more oxygen to fuel the muscles and provide energy.

Can I quickly move on to more advanced exercises if I feel strong?

Even if you feel strong, increasing the difficulty too quickly can lead to overtraining or injuries. It’s essential to give your body time to adapt.

How important is mobility in calisthenics?

Mobility is crucial. Focusing solely on strength without developing good mobility can lead to a limited range of motion and potential muscle imbalances.

Can I combine calisthenics with other forms of training?

Absolutely. Incorporating calisthenics with other training methods, like weightlifting or cardio, can provide a well-rounded fitness routine and optimize results.

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