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

Image result for calisthenic movement

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.

Numbers going into the level 4 program


Numbers at the halfway point (6 weeks)


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…….

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.

Image result for calisthenic movement straight bar dip

                                          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.

FYI: Since the posting of this article I have managed to interview Alex Lorenz of Calisthenic Movement. We chatted training, flexibility and mobility, injuries, connective tissue health, the future of Calisthenic Movement, advanced skills and so much more. (An Interview With Alex Lorenz From Calisthenic Movement)

FYI 2.0: As of April 2019 CaliMove have released a BRAND NEW Body Transformation Program – 30-40 weeks of progressive training aimed at building the best possible physique! Covering nutrition, exercise progression, programming, muscle gain and fat loss. They’ve divided them into the following categories………




Check them out!


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.

65 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?


      • 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?


      • 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 🙂


  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?


    • 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.


      • 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.


  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!


    • 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.


  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!


    • 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.


  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.


    • 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?


      • 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.


      • 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.


  5. Hi man. thanks for the review.
    One question. How long does each daily routine lasts? I’m asking this because I bought a calisthenics books at the beginning of the year where you had to build the routine with the help of a guide they had (what a pain). The routines where like 2 hours long and I didn’t had the time to complete them.


  6. Hello JR,

    I’m quite new to calisthenics after many years of gym/crossfit and I don’t know at which program I should start.
    I think my numbers are quite a like as yours when you started (12 pushups etc), should I go for 4-5? Thanks!



      • Thanks for your replies 🙂

        Not so long, but I had to make a break and now I’m 100% dedicating myself to body-weight fitness (I was still in transition).
        I think I’ll give foundation one a little bit of time and then eventually I’ll try out cali move .And yes, I’m making some progress. What are you currently doing?


      • Haha, thanks for the kind words! I’ve just been very consistent for the last 3+ years with workouts and diet too – and even lifestyle habits.

        I’m currently self programming now (it’s about time) with the goal of improving my levers. I achieved the goal of a full back lever pullout, as you may have seen on insta (most recent post). The next goal is a solid front lever hold without piking the hips. I’ll be doing light/heavy push and pull days focused around the levers and their associated musculature. We shall see if it works. Normally I like to run programs from others but it’s time I took the leap I think 🙂

        What are you most looking to achieve from foundation one?


      • Front lever and flag would be very nice, but a long way to go still.
        But I’m happy how my body is evolving in terms of strength and general looks.

        I think I will continue with foundation one and I also bought “Overcoming Gravity” (which I bought based on your recommendation) which will hopefully arrive soon.

        And I’m looking to improve my handstand (and also how long I can hold it) I think I’ll start with Handstand One.


      • Yes, front lever and flag are no easy feats. One will come easier than the other, it depends what you’re naturally good at. I always find front lever easier than the flag as shoulder strength has always let me down 😦 whereas pulling power has come easier to me.

        Overcoming Gravity is a book that nobody could really go far wrong with, trust me on that. I’ve always wanted to try some of the GB stuff but the price puts me off and I have spoke to lots of people who’ve done their stuff, and they’ve told me the progression is overly conservative? I guess I’ll only know if I try it myself.

        For handstand I find the tricky thing is all the finer details – open shoulders, total body tension, head positioning, good breathing habits and more. Just balancing is relatively OK, but getting a ‘perfect’ handstand is altogether a tougher task!


  7. What was the level of improvement of its amplitude / elasticity? Can you put your head in the shin to make the I-SIT?


  8. Thanks so much for the review, it was so helpful! Do you know by any chance a very good and complete flexibility program that I could buy online? Thanks again.


    • My pleasure, honestly. I had a blast using this program and it was a segway to where I am now.

      For flexibility programs, it depends what your goals are? I know Tom Merrick has some great mobility routines on YouTube and has an E-Book for loaded mobility (I forget the exact name now but it would be an easy search) – it’s free by the way too.

      Also, keep an eye out for Calisthenic Movement’s new mobility program which is to be released soon!


      • Yes, I look forward to it!
        But do you consider mobility and flexibility the same? I read online they were different. What I’m looking for is not as scientifically founded as it is based on some personal biases: I am looking to be flexible (forward blend, split, back flexibility, everything lol) because it seems to me like being flexible implies physical well being, less triggers points, less injuries, smoother aging, etc…


      • My general definition of each would be as follows:

        Flexibility – an expression or display of one’s passive ranges of motion.

        Mobility – an expression of one’s active ranges of motion; i.e. what ranges you can access using antagonist muscles.

        The 2 terms are often interchanged and used but I do believe there are key differences. Perhaps this warrants a future blog post?

        I’d definitely agree flexibility is tied into anti-ageing for many reasons! Sounds to me like you’re looking for general gymnastics based movement patterns? Again, I’d say Tom Merrick’s book is good. I’m not sure when Calisthenic Movement are releasing their mobility program but from what I’ve seen of it, it has the potential to take someone from very average mobility to splits, full pike, full bridge and other cool stuff like V-Sits and press to handstands! Keep your eyes peeled.


  9. Thank you very much for taking the time of reviewing cali-move program 4, this is super useful.
    Reading your post and some of the comments below I did not see any information about mass building, so I thought to ask you here. I started training with calisthenics 6 months ago, randomly picking free workout plans that looked good to me according to my background experience in other sports including some gym. I now want to bring it to the next level by starting a well structured program and measuring my progress regularly, with the objective of learning some nice skills like handstand, front lever and muscle-ups. On the other hand, I am also willing to gain mass, so I was wondering if cali-move programs help you some how with it, either by giving you specific tips, or mass-specific alternative exercises, or even specific workout plans (excluding the OPT, which I am not willing to buy at the moment). On youtube I could find a video of them which discuss about reps ranges for different objectives, including mass, but I couldn’t find much more.
    Thanks again,


    • Hey Lorenzo,

      My pleasure! I thoroughly enjoyed writing the review and running the program. Everytime I get a comment it brings back fond memories. In answer to your question, they don’t go into great detail about mass building but they do say the program has mass building properties – and with the volume of the exercises I have to agree that muscle gain is something you should see on their plan.

      The biggest selling point of the CaliMove plans is 1) they build a strong foundation for further down the road in future and 2) they’re scaled to your level……i.e. the pre requisites for each level.

      They are 3 days per week workouts on non consecutive days .

      Hope this helps!


  10. Hi there, thanks for the review, I m currently looking for a program that I can follow easily, meaning that for me I like when everything is properly organized so I can progress. I lost about 20kg by doing high intensity bodyweight training at home over the last 2 years (fitbit coach basically). Last year I started going to the park to keep and increase muscle mass. Since then I was doing the beginner circuit training from THENX but now it is hard to stay motivated. I would prefer something more guided. What would you recommend?


    • Hey Fred,

      Congrats on the 20kg weight loss, I know from personal experience! You won’t go far wrong with the CaliMove programs simply because they’re periodised and all laid out for you. The only thing I’d ask is how good you are at sticking with it for the long haul? That’s what always trips everyone up, alas.

      Could you give me an idea as to your current strength level? Do you have pull ups and dips in your locker?


      • Thanks for getting back to me that fast!
        So I m doing this workout:

        8s L-sit hold on dips bars / 8 legs raises / 10 knees raises / 10s tucked knees
        8 band-assisted pull ups / Body row close/shoulder width/wide grip 5 each
        9 dips / 15 behind the back dips
        15 push ups

        I do that circuit 4 times, 3 min rest between sets, about 20 breath between exercises. My upper body is really dead at the end usually, I feel paralyzed!
        I never really checked my max pull ups without band but rested I do for sure at least 3 with proper form.
        I do that twice a week. The day after that workout a do only 15 min abs training. Every other days I do fitbit coach lean program (about 45min hiit training mixed with strength exercises). Importantly, I m 35 year old.

        I believe I can stick to a program on the long run since I m quite committed to training since 2 years already, and I have seen results.

        Thanks for your time!


      • Sounds like quite a good conditioning circuit providing you apply the principles of progressive overload! The CaliMove programs have prerequisites set for each level and based off what you’ve told me (and off the top of my head) I’d say level 1/2 could be a good fit for you. If I remember rightly there are conditioning/endurance days within the CaliMove workout programs as well!

        Have you got your eye on any other programs at all?


      • I did not really check other plans. I usually follows you tube video of THENX (Chris Heria), AthleanX, FitnessFAQ. THENX seems attractive but I m not convinced that we get proper guidance. As example, the workout I m doing (above) is directly from their beginner video and I had to reduce it to keep it reasonable. The workout takes me about 40-50min to finish, and I removed the squat progression and the easier push ups progressions. I am not sure if this is right or not and that exactly what i wanna avoid. I want something where I don’t have to trouble myself. FitnessFAQ seems maybe less “professional”. And AthleanX is purely for the good advices since I m not into lifting iron.
        Cali Move seems to be more organized that is why I was seeking for reviews before enrolling.

        Fred, from Munich


  11. Hi JR
    Thanks so much for posting this… a couple questions….

    I’ve been on calimoves website but cant find the prerequisites for the programs anywhere. Can you provide the link?

    Also, I noticed above that you mentioned the program is for 3 days a week. How do they program each of those days? Do they alternate push and pull? Or upper and lower body? Or are they all just more of a total body workout?

    I usually work out every day and three days a week would be hard for me to limit myself. On the days you are not doing their program did you do alternate exercises such as stretching or cardio? Could I decrease the rest days between the workouts so I could have less rest days?

    I know you said you would not give away the program, which I think is good because Calimove should get paid for their hard work… I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind sending me the first week of a workout so I could see there workout pattern and exercises.

    Thank you again for this article!


    • Hey!

      The prerequisites were on their old website for sure and as far as I’m aware, they transferred them over? I’ll take a look myself and follow onto my comment if I can find them.

      They are total body workouts, including legs. I agree with you on the frequency of the workouts, if you’re used to greater frequency 3 days would be tough. These days I run my own programs which has me doing 4-5 sessions per week. In them days I didn’t really do any cardio as there’s a conditioning type day within all levels of the program, I believe. I guess theoretically you could split the workouts into push and pull and run them 4 times per week? So PUSH, PULL, REST, PUSH, PULL etc. I’d shoot CaliMove an email and as them though as they designed it. They’ll let you know their thoughts pretty promptly.

      What level of calisthenics are you at? Because each level changes quite a bit. If you let me know your rough level I’ll give you some examples of moves they use.


  12. Hi JR,
    I have to say this post is fantastic. Thanks God I found it 🙂
    Uhm I’m considering following CaliMove level 3 or 4. Currently I’m able to perform solid 15 pullups, 35 pushups, 35 sec L-sit, but only 15 Dips. Which program do you think I should take?
    And do I have to use Ring for practising?
    Thank you.


    • Hi,

      Wicked, glad you enjoyed it! Sounds to me like level 4 would be a good choice, just based off the slightly low dip numbers. It’s never a bad idea to start foundationally.

      You don’t have to use rings but they make it easier if you do, just for things like rows and whatnot; it’s not always easy to find bars at the right height etc….

      Let me know what one you go for!

      Liked by 1 person

  13. As a busy guy, I need to ask this question. How long is the average workout duration (minutes per day) and how many times a week would you do the workouts?


    • All depends what section you’re looking at? For the latter stages of phase 3 you’re looking at more of a lengthy workout – 45 mins to an hour if you rest sufficiently.

      For the skills specific/advanced section it’s much shorter; less than 30 mins which I really like!


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