3 Reasons Your Calisthenics Progression Has Stopped...
If you have been training for a while you’ll know that there are few things more frustrating then when your calisthenics progression hits a plateau.
You’re plugging away in the gym but the sweet sense of progression you had when you first started your calisthenics journey is a distant memory. Whilst you’re motivated, you feel stagnant. You remember the exhilaration of taking things out of your impossible box but nowadays the stuff in there feels like a dead weight.
Here are 3 reasons why you might hit these plataeus and how to avoid them:
1. YOU DON’T KEEP A TRAINING DIARY
This is a lesson from elite sport. Our athletes have monitoring sheets to complete so each time they come in the gym they know what they did last time. The reason for this is that we want to track their strength gains over time but equally important, we want them to remember what they did last time. When it comes to physical adaptation, we don’t get much return if we lift the same weight every week for 4 weeks because we don’t know what we did last session. In an ideal world we are striving to do a bit more each session, as in theory, the body should have adapted from the last session and therefore have some more capacity. An extra rep, a harder progression or a little bit more weight. We want to try and progress week on week.
Sometimes this is difficult with calisthenics and bodyweight exercises because how do you quantify a bodyweight ring row? Also doing one more pull up may mean shifting your entire bodyweight again, that’s a considerable task regardless of how much you weigh when you compare it to adding 5kg to a back squat.
But recording the details of your session goes someway to remedying this and using a mixture of quantitative and qualitative information works best. Make notes, use a notebook or the notes app on your phone, record numbers, scribble something down. Whatever works for you. Just keep a diary of what you did so next time you train you don’t waste 2 sets working out what level to start at. It also works as a great personal challenge. Maybe you did 5 reps last week, this week aim for 6. It doesn’t sound like a big thing but believe me this will have a huge impact on your progression.
2. YOU’RE NOT CONSISTENT
Walking into the gym as a calisthenics athlete is like Augustus Gloop wondering into Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. So much fun to be had. So many things to try. We know that moderation is a good thing however it’s common for people to overindulge in the amount of unplanned and adhoc variety they allow themselves in their training programme.
To ensure you’re making consistent progress week to week, you need to train the same things, exposing your body to a repeated stimulus. There is of course some scope to ‘play’ with new things or mix it up session to session but you should commit to a set of core exercises that you want to improve. Consistency is the real golden ticket when it comes to progresssion.
You also need to be mindful that new motor abilities (strength and skill development) don’t stick around long if they’re not reinforced over the medium term. Early to ripe, early to rotten. I’m sure you’ll have done something for the first time and then moved on quickly to focus on your next impossible, only to return a couple of weeks later to find you’ve lost whatever it was that you were once so happy to achieve. Take time to let new things take root!
When we boil it down we’re talking about patience. We want it all, but trying to do everything often leads to nothing. Select and commit to consistency.
3. YOU DON’T REST
You don’t get stronger unless you rest. It’s that simple. You’re not stronger when you leave the gym. That only happens when your body is allowed to recover. Calisthenics is addictive and your hunger for progression is great but it can easily lead to excess time in the red zone. Your body can only take so much stress before it not only hits the wall, but gets stuck on the other side of it and begins to break down. At the far end of the scale is something called ‘over training’ and whilst most non professional athletes are unlikely to get that far down the rabbit hole, ‘over reaching’ is a very real consequence of not allowing sufficient rest. In this state injury risk goes up as we pile fatigue on fatigue.
Having a rest day is not being lazy. It’s being smart. Plan in rest weeks on a regular basis and give your body the chance to adapt. Don’t let your mind play tricks on you and lead you to believe you’re losing all your hard earned gainz. If you’re training hard during your loading weeks this won’t happen. In fact you’ll experience the opposite. In the weeks following a scheduled recovery week you’ll feel fresher and progress will once again come easy. I know loads of you enjoy training but you need to learn to enjoy rest as well. Be content in the knowledge that it is making you better.
If you’ve hit a plateau in your training be honest and see if any of these ring true. My guess is that at least one will strike a cord. Maybe all 3. Track your progress in a diary. Train consistently. Rest. This is a simple recipe for long term progression and a sure fire way to support your quest to ‘Redefine your impossible’.
For those starting their calisthenics journey, or those needing to regress to progress our beginners guide has been downloaded over 50K times and is available for free, here.