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How good are Calisthenic Movement’s programs? (A REVIEW)

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A review of my experience with Calisthenic Movement’s level 4 intermediate program – covering everything from value for money, to effectiveness, to user friendliness, to level of detailed explanation and whether or not I’d recommend it to others.

Back in late September I was looking for a calisthenics based program to guide me towards some goals of mine (improving my muscle up, working towards a front lever and just improving my calisthenics game all round). I have enough know-how to write my own program if I wish, but as I’ve said many times, I am not a fan of self-programming. Purely because you’re more likely to doubt your choices and second guess things – plus the tendency towards doing what you like versus what you’re not good at, and need to do.

I knew I needed a solid program (from a credible source) and began searching…….

99% of the free and readily available programs didn’t grab me. And besides, free programs don’t feature the accountability factor; the burden of actually having to pay for something and its effect on your sense of duty to complete it.

Anyone who has watched calisthenic or even fitness videos on YouTube, will have seen some of Calisthenic Movement’s work. They have over 500,000 subscribers and many of their videos have surpassed the million view count. Their content is both entertaining and highly informative. It’s about function, health and progression. Looking good is just a by-product.

 

So I looked into their programs and found they had many different options……from bundle packs to specific programs, such as the human flag program. And this is perhaps the single biggest reason I bought the program after all: They have pre-requisites for all of their main programs. Which means there’s a set of requirements spanning numerous movement patterns to determine which level of program (1-5) is applicable to you.

This is what so many other rival programs lack: definitive answers as to whether a program will benefit you or not; just doing push ups and dips is not enough for me to get a proper training effect. The same way doing archer pull ups and handstand push ups is far beyond those just looking to get started.

I had a look over the sea of information that is the internet, and really didn’t find much out there on Calisthenic Movement’s programs. There’s plenty on people like Frank Medrano and Paul Wade’s Convict Conditioning, but not too much on ‘Cali-Move’; so I decided to help anyone out who finds themselves in the position I was once in, and provide a review that covers everything you could wish to know.

Let’s get into it!

Value for money

I purchased the level 4 & 5 bundle which works out slightly cheaper than buying them separately at 50 euros versus 30 each. 30 euros equates to around £25 or $32 dollars. Some people may consider that a bit costly, but the way I see it is: if you were to ask a local personal trainer for a detailed and progressive program, it would cost you at least that much, if not a fair bit more.

What you get –

You don’t just get a program and that’s it. You get 14 weeks worth of programming with regular test weeks built in to gauge progress. The test weeks are at predetermined intervals (usually 4 or 6 weeks). You get a detailed PDF booklet containing links to private exercise instruction videos. You get access to a complete warm up and mobility routine, along with the encouragement to email or contact them with any queries throughout the process – which I did, and I can say I was very impressed at their efficiency of response and their willingness to help you personally.

Effectiveness of the program

To answer this question, I’ll use actual pictures from my training diary to illustrate the progress I saw from the first test week, to the midway test week, and to the final test week.

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Numbers going into the level 4 program

 

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Numbers at the halfway point (6 weeks)

 

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Numbers at week 14. Solid progress!

The L-sit and the skin the cat seemed to have made the most improvement, with the pull ups being probably the most disappointing move. However, my pull ups are more explosive and I can comfortably get my chest to the bar for reps now, so it’s not always a pure numbers game, but sometimes a question of refined technique also.

Towards the last week of the second phase, I took the liberty – and it was a big one – of attempting a full back lever…….

back-lever
My first full back lever! Managed 4 seconds hold time. The form is decent too!

 

I guess I was feeling strong that day or something, but I managed to pull it off; I lowered down and it stuck. I was ecstatic!

Now the level 1-5 programs don’t do specific lever work, but you do get exposure to lower levels of the front and back lever, where you accumulate volume and build a foundation.

Does the program get results? The pictures speak for themselves.

Using the program: Is it easy to use? And what I liked/didn’t like

As I alluded to earlier, the plans come with links to private Youtube videos that show the guys demonstrating ideal technique on every movement featured in whatever levels you happen to buy. If I had any criticisms in this department, it would be the lack of progression/regression to some of the moves featured. For example, they show how to make typewriter pull ups more manageable, but other moves could do with further options of regression; sometimes I had to use my own knowledge base to make that call rather than be told. Another example is the handstand push ups. You’ll notice in the first set of test results, I couldn’t even do one due to a shoulder injury and had to scale down to pike push ups.

Another criticism, and perhaps my last one, is the call for max reps on certain exercises without encouraging you to ensure you find a range to fail in…..this could leave some people doing over 20 reps per set on moves they may be stronger at. For me, this was the straight bar dip. I had to add external weight or I just did too many reps.

UPDATE: I’ve since been contacted by Sven & Alex of Calisthenic Movement and shown an updated version, containing guidelines on rep ranges using percentages and volume manipulation. This definitely goes a long way to silencing some of my criticism.

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                                          The Straight Bar Dip

Generally though, they include exercises relevant to the prerequisites outlined and you will always find degrees of individual variance throughout.

I thought they structured the plans really well and got a nice balance of pushing the endurance training effect, along with mixing in plenty of longer rest periods that allow for a greater quality of work.

Closing thoughts & my overall rating

I’m now moving on to their level 5 program and it’s nice to have it categorized as a solid intermediate program. You’ll find each level builds off the previous one and they incorporate intelligent progressions to the former levels – this keeps the window of progress open for seriously long periods of time.

If you can spare the money and like the idea of seeing recorded, real life results, then Calisthenic Movement’s programs are definitely for you. They do everything from full body plans like mine to specific plans for increasing repetitions, the aforementioned human flag, fat burning and even online personal training!

When you do go onto doing their full body plans, regardless of your level, I’d strongly recommend using a notepad for reference as to whether you’ve progressed from week to week and workout to workout. In fact, that rule goes for all exercise. How do you know where you’re going if you’re flying blind?!

“What gets measured gets managed”

Calisthenic Movement’s level 4 program gets an 8.5/10 overall and I’d happily recommend their programs to any aspiring calisthenic enthusiast – just select the appropriate level and work your way up. You’re in safe hands.

Check the programs out here (levels 1-5 and all other packages)

If there’s anything I didn’t cover, you can ask anything you wish in the comments section below.

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JR @ Straight-Talking-Fitness View All

The 'brains' behind StraightTalkingFitness, a site all about discovery that leads to strength in all formats; fitness, mental, emotional and spiritual. Everything starts from within and projects outwards. Master the body, master anything and everything.

21 thoughts on “How good are Calisthenic Movement’s programs? (A REVIEW) Leave a comment

      • Yes. For the Rings, I’ve recently purchased both the R1 & R2 package from Gold Medal Bodies fitness to learn more about the rings. Always eager to learn more. I’m also following the Gymnastics Bodies foundation 1 and Handstand 1 programs. Online programs are the next best thing to physical coaches I guess?

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      • Wow, what a combo that is! So you’ve got the strength and skill work from rings one and 2, and the flexibility and foundational volume from Gymnastics Bodies.

        Rings 2 is on my agenda in the near future. I’d love to see you do a review on those programs! What are your main goals, just better at calisthenics or something specific?

        Liked by 1 person

      • Nah just started Rings 1 two weeks ago. I actually purchased the GB rings program but they kept emphasising we had to finish at least up to foundation 2 before starting the rings. So I switched it to the Handstand 1 program. Actually, I can already do Rings muscle ups and front levers even tho I’m still completing foundation 1 so I don’t understand why they don’t let people start on the rings.
        Sure thing! Will do a review when I finish them someday! My main goals are fitness for the Long run (longevity, ie stop getting injured) and skill development like learning proper Handstand and rings skills. What are yours and what are you currently training with?

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      • I know GB are HUGE on building a solid foundation. It does make sense though – the more advanced you get in calisthenics, the more you realise how much progress you’ve made with regards to mobility and flexibility and joint conditioning.

        You already have the full front lever? Nice man! That’s one of my main targets for the year. I also will start working specifically on my human flag once I’ve finished Calisthenic Movement’s Level 5 program, which is to build the best base I can before the more advanced stuff.

        Are there any ring skills in particular you’re looking to nail??

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah I guess I’m stronger in my anterior core than posterior. Still need much work on the back lever. For this year, I’m aiming to increase my reps for MU and OAPullups, to get the slow muscle up and get the full back lever 🙂

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  1. I was looking for reviews of them and came here – very useful article, thanks for posting.

    I was torn between free weights training in the gym and calisthenic training and I feel I’m more attracted to the latter, as my objective is to build strong and functioning muscles so my cycling and climbing can benefit, instead of getting massive. Do you reckon it is a sensible choice to choose calisthenics?

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    • Glad you liked the article, James. Of course calisthenics gives you functionality! If anything, that’s one of its biggest pros; the ability to move your body through space with grace and ease 🙂

      Start with the basics and build from there. What are your current strength levels at either weights or bodyweight movements? Some of the lower level Calisthenic Movement programs would work well, depending on your level at the moment.

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      • Hey, thanks for getting back to me. I’m at the very beginning of the game as I’m naturally very lean and have never consciously sought to build on strength. Recently I started playing badminton, indoor climbing and road cycling and started to feel short of strengthen and endurance, which is why I’m getting interested in gaining strength.

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  2. Have you ever thought about adding a little bit more than just your articles? I mean, what you say is valuable and all. Nevertheless imagine if you added some great pictures or video clips to give your posts more, “pop”! Your content is excellent but with images and video clips, this website could definitely be one of the greatest in its field. Wonderful blog!

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    • Hey,

      Thanks for leaving a comment. I am certainly in the process of bringing more ‘media’ into my posts. I’ve created a YouTube channel to share my progress and will definitely start working to develop that in the near future. If you check my most recent posts, many of them are filled with clips and images of me.

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  3. Thanks for the great info! Your review was very valuable to me as I’ve been practicing bodyweight exercises for a while and looking for a good program to progress more seriously. I’ve been thinking about Cali Movement’s level 3 program and got here when looking for reviews. However I was wondering if you happen to know any other similar calisthenics workouts available online? I’ve been doing some research but most of what ran into didn’t grab me like Cali Movement. Hope to see more of your reviews in the future!

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    • Thanks for getting in touch and leaving a comment 🙂

      I don’t have a huge amount of experience with ‘proper’ calisthenics programs; ‘proper’ meaning paid for in this context. I have ran Jason Ferruggia’s ‘Bodyweight Bodybuilding’. That is a good program for getting/maintaining leanness and for learning cool ways to do traditional gym exercises with rings and whatnot, things like ring face pulls etc.

      It all depends what goals you have? CaliMove’s programs are perfect for developing all round strength and conditioning on a level that suits you, thanks to the specific pre-requisites. When I’m finished with level 5 (about a week or so now) I will do a detailed review of that too, and I think I’ll try self programming for my next training phase.

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  4. Appreciate you taking the time to record your experience.
    I have been following Calimove for a while now and trying to replicate the progressions from the range of youtube clips they have loaded. In my experience, what sets them apart is the explanation of the functional body movement being targeted and where you should be feeling the movement as you do it. I have been involved in a range of contact sports in the past with accompanying injuries and am approaching 50, so my aims are fairly specific – maintaining maximum range of movement and strength around my joints for longevity and not dying while I am doing the exercise!
    Do you consider that the paid programs are flexible enough to take into account somebody who will need more time dedicated to mobility work in order to achieve some of the intermediate moves? I can knock out 11 pull ups and 22 dips, which is ok for age. I am working on building shoulder mobility and strength to do any of the planche moves. Interested in your opinion.

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    • Thanks for your comment, Mick.

      I totally agree, CaliMove go the extra mile when it comes to emphasising the most efficient technique. They’re also very good to liaise with; very helpful and prompt with their responses. Sounds to me like you’re looking for a mobility based program – maybe even loaded mobility?

      Their programs are designed to build up a very solid foundation, which goes a long way to developing joint integrity and health. They don’t have specific mobility work in their plans, although they do have a general mobility routine in their programs and info on stretching, with links to videos on the topic. Your numbers are good for sure. With numbers like that you’re eligible for level 3/4, right?

      What intermediate moves are you looking to learn?

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      • Good to hear back from you JR.
        On the mobility question, I am getting good progress in range from doing the mobility exercises CaliMove has posted on line. It was more the extra amount of time I need to dedicate to mobility in order to get the blood flow into the areas that I am going to work.
        I would look at the level 3 to start with, just to ensure I have the basis solid – I am in no hurry.
        I am doing wall hand stands but need to develop them and would like to be doing a solid free hand stand by the end of the year.
        Otherwise the back lever and a number of good form muscle ups are in the cross hairs over the next year.
        The key for me is to not stagnate, which is what I struggle with currently – just reverting to the same exercises after a period because I am more comfortable with them. Thats what is drawing me to the program, in that the levels will keep me developing. I will complete the level 3 and see how it goes. Good luck with your own goals.

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      • There is an emphasis on properly preparing the body for exercise, don’t worry. The warm up is thorough and works – which I can attest to from personal experience. As long as you can handle repetition then you should be fine. CaliMove’s programs are very much centred around slow and incremental progress; they don’t force anything.

        Those goals are pretty standard intermediate level goals and very much achievable. I find stagnation is more likely to happen when you’re not diligent about what you’re doing or not following a plan of sorts. CaliMove’s programs will keep you going. Once you’ve finished level 3 you can move onto level 4, should you wish.

        Make sure to keep me posted with your results or any other questions you may have! Thanks.

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