Today I have the wonderful opportunity to share yet another interview with you. This time it’s with one of my favourite YouTube channels; Calisthenic Movement. I love picking brains and going deep on subjects with those far more successful than I, and applying the gems of information these great people share.
If you search for interviews with Calisthenic Movement, you’ll see only a few interviews with Sven Kohl (one half of CaliMove) but none with Alex Lorenz (the other half of CaliMove). With this in mind, I wanted to get chatting with the guy affectionately nicknamed ‘El Eggs’ and ask him all about the rise of Calisthenic Movement, his background, crazy flexibility, life philosophy, approach to training and fitness and why connective tissue health is most important.
Sit back and enjoy.
1) Tell us about yourself – you’re the face of a big company Calisthenic Movement. If someone didn’t know what you guys are all about, how would you sum up what you guys do?
We are two guys, by the names of Sven and Alex (a.k.a El Eggs) and we own the company Cali Move. We work as physiotherapists and Trainers and provide people with training, which we offer via Internet and on the spot in Leipzig, Germany. We lead a Youtube Channel, called Calisthenic Movement, where we want to teach people about how to train and what to pay attention to, in order to not get injured and build up a strong healthy body. We focus most on calisthenics for our training, but we don’t exclude other forms of training.
2) What was life like before you became involved with Sven and Calimove? Were you always active and into fitness as a child/teenager or was it something you discovered a little later in life?
Before I met Sven, I was studying sports science (which I finished later) and did Martial arts, tricking and Parkour. I started at the age 6 with football, which I didn’t like and then switched to Karate at 7 and then to Taekwondo at 8, which continued for 14 years. When I was 17 I was introduced to tricking and at 20 I learned parkour. I started an association of parkour and was member of the official German Parkour Association. I started training people when I was 15, which aroused my interest in Training methodology, which was the reason I started studying sports science.
Sven found me on youtube, where he saw my parkour videos and texted me, asking if he can join the association and lead groups of calisthenics. We met and Sven joined the association and with that he introduced me to calisthenics. Sven was only training for about half a year at this time so we both developed very quickly, because we both had some knowledge about how to train. We both had another passion, which was (and still is) video-shooting. So we started doing videos together. This was the beginning of the calisthenicmovement youtube channel.
3) I assume you work full time now with Calimove, making a living from your passion which must be amazing. Have you had any other jobs in the past before that were unrelated to fitness?
Yes, when I was studying I had to make some money and so I did different stuff – parcel courier, worked at a moving company and did some parkour training for the association. My best job was a shuttle driver for Porsche, here in Leipzig. I really like cars and this was so amazing for me! Before my studies I worked in the USA in a Family resort for a couple of months, which was a great experience.
4) One thing that’s always struck me (and no doubt many others that have seen you guys’ videos) is just how flexible and mobile you are. Was this always the case since childhood or was there a period where you weren’t so flexible? It looks so effortless and graceful……many might assume it came easy to you?
When I started Karate, I wasn’t very flexible, but I think I have a good base for flexibility. At Karate and later at Taekwondo, we were sometimes stretched pretty hard, which I now believe isn’t the best way. But I think the most important thing is: we stretched on a regular basis for a LONG LONG time (over 10 years) and that developed the flexibility and some mobility.
5) When it comes to advancing in calisthenics and even gymnastics, flexibility will become a limiting factor – especially if someone wants to learn moves like press handstands, V-sits and Stalder presses, or even perfectly straight handstands. Do you guys have any favourite methods of gaining flexibility? I know old school, passive and static stretching is now being left behind in favour of PNF, loaded stretching, release techniques and active mobility work. Do you have any experience with these methods and which one do you like most?
I like the active mobility work the most, but I also know the other methods. I guess the best is combining all of them. I actually use active mobility the most, although I do use passive stretches here and there, but not into the extreme ROMs.
6) Do you have any basic mobility standards one should have to be a reasonable calisthenics athlete and even for overall health?
I guess that’s hard to say, because it always depends on your goal. Some people want to learn skills, others want to be just fit and others want to build muscles or do weighted calisthenics. IMO people who want to learn hard skills, should have a well built mobility and should recognize their weak points and work on them to have a good balanced body. A lot of people are limited with Shoulder extension and flexion. Also with hip and leg flexibility. Ankle mobility is another classic weakness for many. But like I said, there are huge individual differences, so everyone has to analyse their own body.
7) Shifting over to strength from flexibility, many fans will watch your videos and assume things are just easy for you, but I know no advanced level is achieved without struggle, many failures and trying times. Were there any really difficult moves for you personally to master over your training career? Or even anything you’re still currently working on? I noticed you’re very strong at handstands, flags and planche stuff but is there anything you’re not so strong on?
I’m not that strong on pulling moves. I always struggle with front levers and one arm pullups. Until now I didn’t reach the OAPU, because I never really focused on it. But I guess I would need a lot of time to build upto them, even if I did set my focus on them. But I also needed some time to learn the handstand, which I believe is normal. Some people think they will achieve the perfect handstand after a few months of training, but the perfect handstand needs WAY MORE time. And with ‘perfect’ I mean being able to hold it everytime, completely straight and for longer than 5 to 10 seconds or so. I also struggle with weighted pullups; I’m not too bad, my PR was 42,5kg for 1RM in additional weight, but I know people that do way more. I think it’s also linked to the connective tissue. My connective tissue is not the strongest, which makes me a bit more mobile and flexible, but also makes it harder to do the heavy stuff.
8) For those starting out with calisthenics, whether they’re new or switching over from using free weights/machines, where would you suggest they start? Would full body programs like your level one beginners program be good or are there other ideas too?
I’d recommend to start with some mobility and connective tissue preparation work. Most people start right away with the hard stuff and get injured sooner or later. A lot of people don’t understand how important a good prepared connective tissue is for your success in training. I understand, that it’s not very gratifying or exciting, but it’s essential. Afterwards they should train some basics, until they reach a certain level and then they can move on with skills, if that is their goal.
9) Everybody promotes the importance of the basics when it comes to calisthenics training, but what about those wanting to move from basics to more intermediate moves like back levers, muscle ups, L-sits and free standing handstands. Do you have a set of pre requisites in basic moves like pull ups, push ups and dips in order to know someone is ready?
It’s always hard to give general advice……but if I had to I’d say one should be able to do at least 10 clean pullups, 10 clean dips and maybe a 15-20 second L-Sit. But it’s not only about that, like I said before, connective tissue development is more crucial. When someone wants to learn harder skills, the stress on the CT is much higher and if you didn’t prepare it sufficiently you might get hurt. That’s why I always advocate starting low and increasing slow. You shouldn’t hurry and rush your progress. If someone hasn’t trained for a long time, they will need a good year to get back in shape before thinking about doing harder stuff. I mean the body might be able to handle the higher load and stress for some time, but without proper prep you will pay the price in the long run.
10) When it comes to achieving advanced level moves like the planche, one arm handstand, front lever and flag, for example, do you think it’s much more efficient to train these moves very specifically or can you still achieve them as part of a more rounded program featuring a bit of ‘everything’?
Well many roads lead to Rome and it’s also different from person to person. It also depends on how the person is able to learn, because those things are not only about big muscles, but also strength – and strength is a lot of coordination. So if someone can’t focus and concentrate on what they do when they train it might take longer. Other people might learn it faster. It’s pretty hard to tell exactly, because there are so many parameters that influence it. I think especially in the beginning, when you start learning a new move it’s good to focus on that move and maybe a second one.
If you start training a skill you need a lot of reps in total, with a very low exhaustion in training. So how frequent you can train determines how long you will need (plus the individual learning rate etc.) So the more things you try to learn at the same time the longer every single one will need. When you reach a certain level you might introduce more new exercises into your training, but the beginning should be very focused.
11) Moving on to a bit of philosophy, can you share with us one life lesson you’ve learnt in life, whether from training or business or even both? Maybe even a rule you have for life or quote to live by?
I guess conversation is very important. I’ve seen many conflicts that started because of misunderstandings or misinterpretations. So if you just say what you feel/think in a way that doesn’t hurt someone, and that the person can understand, you can avoid a lot of problems.
Connected to this I think there’s always a way to get to your goal. Sometimes you have to try more than one method to find success. I often think people give up too quick. In tricking and parkour there were a lot of situations where I didn’t get to my goal on the first or second try; I had to do it over and over again, sometimes several months of repeated training. But it always felt so good when I achieved my goals. You have to figure out if the goal is important enough for you to make the sacrifices needed to reach it.
Sometimes people want to achieve something and don’t even know how much work they have to put in. So figure out how long it will need and how you can speed up the process and then decide if it’s worth it for you. I had clients in personal training, that wanted to get into shape, but couldn’t imagine how much work that means. So they gave up after they didn’t see the expected results after 4 weeks, which would need about 6 months.
In nutrition it was the same for me. I was never fat or so, but to reach the real low BF% took a while and I had to first test different methods and find out which worked best for me. Once I found it, it was pretty easy to come down to a certain %. But sometimes it’s just not worth it for me to put in the necessary effort and that’s ok. Then I can’t expect anything else.
12) What’s in store for Calimove over the next year or so – any new workshops, programs, collaborations or projects?
We’re working on a major update of our programs. We will make them more understandable, more intuitive with better videos and better explanations, and more in depth explanations of different topics. We will also include specific advanced knowledge parts in every level and we will release a Level 0 program, which will teach everything about mobility, coming back into training from an injury and connective tissue preparation. It will include different routines to use.
At the same time we’re working on building up our own little gym, which we will use for filming, workshops and training – especially small group training and personal training. We’re also setting up a kitchen, where we will be shooting some videos on the topic of nutrition. So once the kitchen is done, we will start producing and shooting the nutrition videos.
13) And finally, where can we get a pair of those awesome blue shorts??!!
Haha those shorts 😀 Well I guess it’s not possible anymore. In the past we always wore long jogging pants and I always thought you can’t see the legs very well in those. So I wanted to wear shorts and started to search for some. When I was in a big sportshop here in Leipzig, I found the magic blue ones. They were pretty short, which meant you could see a lot of the legs and what they actually do in different moves. So I bought them. Unfortunately one size too small, because I thought otherwise they will hang down and cover too much. But I liked them so much, I just used them for the video shoots and nothing else.
In the meantime they don’t sell those shorts anymore, only some darker ones (which you can see in some of our videos on me and on Sven). I already thought about giving them away for a special event, maybe the 1 million subs or so. We will see 😀
There we have it! A detailed, inspiring and thought provoking interview that left me wanting to ask just as many follow up questions to the Answers Alex gave. If you would like to know more about Calisthenic Movement’s services or training programs, feel free to read my review of their level 4 program that I ran for 14 weeks last winter: How Good Are Calisthenic Movement’s Programs? (A REVIEW)
And to stay up to date with new programs visit Calisthenic Movement’s site.
Note: There is a 20% sale off all workout bundles until the end of August 2017, so if you’ve ever been tempted to try, now’s your chance!
A huge Thank you to Alex for taking the time to answer my questions in such a diligent and obliging manner. Hopefully we can get him back to answer any follow up questions you guys might have.
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.