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How Much is too Much?– How Often to Train Calisthenics
Calisthenics are one of the most versatile ways to train various aspects of the human body.
The countless number of callisthenic-style exercises in existence can be well-employed for progressive strength, fitness, and mobility-based training in a variety of ways. The adaptability of these exercises can really help to keep any routine fresh and appealing.
Calisthenics has long been acknowledged as one of the most-accessible routes towards a stronger, fitter, and more mobile body. Let’s face it—you can do them anywhere and anytime, and your body will adapt to this kind of movement and training rather quickly. In a nutshell, this means you can potentially make obvious improvements in a reasonably short time period.
But you still need a plan.
Choosing the proper and the most realistic exercises according to your goals and current conditioning first is a key factor. Spending time learning and practicing the correct form is another.
And once your body starts to adapt you then have to be looking for different ways to keep your routines challenging—although it’s not hard to be creative with calisthenics according to a particular discipline or goal and adapting them.
You also need to be working within the right volumes and pace to continue making headway—without overdoing it—while doing your best to develop a feel for how much is too much. And as with everything there are ever-unfolding levels that may each take years to master.
But hey, you know it’s about the journey rather than the destination, right?
Finding the Right Balance
There can sometimes be a fine line between progression and mere repetition, or even stagnation for that matter. Developing a feel for knowing when you are not putting in the required work is necessary, as is being intuitive about how much is too much.
This can be helped by:
- Utilizing the right exercises in line with your goals and current level
- Establishing and completing the right volumes of training in line with your goals
- Constantly developing and adapting your training approach
- Maintaining consistency
- Keeping constant attention to good form
- Implementing and honing body feel (and the mind-body connection)
- Observing and listening to your body
- Avoiding training when sore or injured if anything is overly-painful or if mobility and form are compromised.
Calisthenics are less brutal on the body than weights, as well as an intrinsically more logical place to start any kind of fitness journey for many guys.
This is especially true if you are lacking in the mobility and foundational core strength department. The good news is you will gradually find yourself becoming more proficient with basic foundational training principles in conjunction with building a stronger core.
You may also soon find yourself becoming unglued and more mobile with continuous, progressive training. Combining aspects of both strength and mobility—without hammering the body too badly— thus reduces the need for extensive recovery periods between training sessions or days.
Experience has taught me that injuries don’t come from training. They come from some existing imbalance or weakness that needs improvement. This can be triggered by the catalyst of incorrect training—as in the wrong form, the wrong volume, or even the wrong type.
Why Calisthenics Anyway?
Bodyweight training can be particularly useful when looking to work on functional core strength and mobility in tandem—a quality often lacking from other methods of training and a common root cause of a high proportion of injury.
Done properly though, callisthenic training activates and strengthens the core in conjunction with all the other major muscle groups, meaning a much lower chance of injury.
In fact, calisthenics are more likely to prove therapeutic than aggravating for anyone with previous issues. Form and self-discipline are major components contributing to successful training with calisthenics, much more so than rather than numbers. If this is kept in mind there should be little chance of injury or even overdoing it.
And this includes avoiding potentially serious first-time injuries like the tears and rips that can commonly occur from heavy lifting and often take years to heal or recondition. Many of these—particularly issues with the back, shoulder, and knees—can all often be linked to weaknesses in the core or its surrounding areas.
The beauty of calisthenics is they are largely whole-body exercises as the core must be engaged in conjunction with the other main muscle groups meaning less chance of wear and tear on individual components.
Rewiring Your Training Approach with Calisthenics
Physical training and in particular its strength aspects don’t always need to result in stiffness, pain, and loss of mobility.
Form is a major component of getting the full benefit from callisthenic training, and it has a direct effect on the volume of training involved. The body soon adapts to the challenges offered by many callisthenic exercises so it is important to initially instill the right form as habitual.
This is especially true of the variety that tends to bring the various parts together into a great whole—like the burpee—which can help to build and train strength, mobility, and incredible levels of conditioning with high-rep, advanced routines.
So How Much is Too Much?
Let’s backtrack to the weights versus calisthenics comparisons here for a second to help us establish the right approach to training with bodyweight.
Many lifters looking to get bigger and stronger commonly use how sore they are the day following a session to gauge the effectiveness of the workout. OLD SKOOL! Maximum respect due and all that, but we’re not interested in going there.
- Soreness to the point of pain or difficult execution of normal movement
- Loss of mobility—to the point where it is likely to affect, limit, or impinge on movement or form including breathing
- Tiredness and lack of energy instead of feeling light and energized
- Loss or waning motivation
While these might be normal to some degree for men constantly looking for new and different challenges—if you feel like this the whole time there’s a good chance you are overdoing it.
Whether it turns out to have been ‘too much’ depends to a large extent on your own mindset and willingness to commit to the training when necessary and to take a day off when needed. This may depend on what results you are expecting and whether you intend on sticking with it for the long haul.
To some ‘hard trainers’ that may involve pushing past the point where the soreness affects the form and stubbornly persisting with their routine, grinding through the session regardless and thus challenging the body further.
Others may take a day off while their body adapts to new or different levels of training—which is fine as long as this is considered an active recovery day—i.e. not sitting around or barely moving and staying as active as possible without actually completing any training as such.
The Bottom Line
The fact is, if you can’t move well after a training session there’s a good chance you’ve done too much and are in need of some active recovery. This is even more the case if this has become the common state of affairs after indulging in a callisthenic session.
A touch of soreness here and there is all part and parcel of progressive physical activity, but it shouldn’t be the norm along with the tired, ‘burnt-out’ state that can occur with heavy lifting. Establishing the right training volumes in order to progress rather than retard any development varies from person to person and involves degrees of trial and error.
If you start to bring body feel into play habitually along with some self-honesty when it comes to how much is really too much—you will be able to achieve and maintain superior levels of strength, mobility, and fitness almost indefinitely by implementing calisthenics into your lifestyle.