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Fitness Questions From Instagram (August 2020)

Overwhelmed with starting options within calisthenics, elbows flaring on muscle ups and straight bar dips & the correct form on archer chin/pull ups…..

Hello, I found you on Reddit. I want to start to do calisthenics but I’m super unmotivated because I’m overwhelmed by where to start. Do you have any suggestions?

That’s totally understandable. There’s a million and one options out there and almost an infinite amount of resources nowadays!

What’s your general level of gym experience/strength? As in can you do push ups etc? This will help me point you in the right direction.

Generally, if you’re familiar with Reddit you will have seen their ‘Recommended Routine’ – their spin on how to start as a beginner within calisthenics and eventually progress to well within the intermediate stage. I think it’s a pretty solid routine! I coach many people remotely and in person within the calisthenics world and their program isn’t that dissimilar at all to what I would program.

Another benefit of it is it’s free. If you’re looking for paid programs you will get a bit more specificity and with direct coaching, obviously it will be even more personal and individualised. But it’s also worth noting the Recommended Routine has seen people get to pretty impressive levels while using it. There’s even been cases of people running it who were already considerably past the beginner stage and getting good results……….

Bottom line, as a total beginner you’ll be hard pushed to go wrong with any balanced program that builds strength across the fundamentals. As you’re pretty untrained you’ll adapt to any stimulus, really. It’s past this stage where you have to get smarter, more meticulous and program specificity becomes a bigger issue and slightly more intimidating decision.

I’ve noticed recently in your muscle ups and dips above the bar, your elbows seem to be flaring/wider than before? Are you dealing with a wrist issue or elbow pain, or something?

Great spot! Only a trained eye will pick up on this! First it’s not intentional as I always coach tucked elbows wherever possible and am a big fan of the elbows tucked muscle up, unless I know you’re conditioned appropriately to go wider.

On that particular day I was pretty beat up from yesterday as I’d set some Pr’s and really gone for it. To be honest, it was one of those days I should’ve just taken a total rest day but it was another mind vs body battle where the mind thought it could overrule the body. As is often the case, the body won.

My pecs were sore and stiff along with the triceps so I think my body was defaulting to a position that reduces the forces/pressure on them.

Generally though, my muscle ups this year aren’t what they were last year. *Cries*. One of the main reasons – and this is for all the connoisseurs out there – is towards the end of last year I tried to make my muscle ups too clean and as straight and technical as possible.

It took me ages to get used to the completely non-false grip muscle up where you spin the hand completely from under the bar, to over the bar. But I realised when you do this, it forces you to transition more as opposed to skipping it with raw pulling power. Not only that but it forces you to pull a touch higher to make it as your wrist is now sitting lower and making you an inch or so further from the bar.

This is nerdy shit……….

While this is great for making the muscle up look straight with a nice, gliding transition, it’s pants for power. As you get used to this technique you’ll find your body learns to transition earlier, thus decreasing the need for an explosive/high pull. The longer you only do this variation, the more your body will detrain the high pulling aspect and you’ll see the explosive muscle up getting more and more difficult, to almost impossible.

At least this kind of happened to me.

Looking back, the antidote is to obviously train both. But when you’re trying to change a hard formed habit you need to stay away from the habit (think cold turkey) while almost over-doing the new one. However, if I could coach/advise my former self, I would have him do both at different times and would have relaxed the obsession with the transitional, totally non false grip muscle up. And let it take as long as it took while maintaining the power I was known for!

Lastly, I have been working my ass off on balancing out my strength ratios and that’s involved a lot of overhead work, as this is an area I’ve SUCKED in for too long now. Point being, there’s only so much you can dedicate full focus on and the pulling aspect was always going to suffer a touch. But I will be back!

I’m fairly new to rings and your page is very inspirational/educational to me! When doing your archer pull ups are you using a false grip on the non working/straight arm, or is it a regular grip?

For me personally I don’t use a false grip. But it can be a good way to start out as it shortens the lever arm and makes it a little easier than not having the wrist fully over the ring. It’s slightly different on a bar though, as you almost have to move into a false grip on the non working side, otherwise your wrist will have nowhere to go and you’ll be in snap city.

When you get even stronger still, you’ll want to start moving the hand off the ring slightly to where only the fingers/fingertips are on the ring. This will limit the assistance from the arm even further!

Past that you can pull up with the finger/fingertip assistance and then release the arm from the ring altogether and do a full negative one arm chin up. Although this is only worth considering if you can control the movement throughout the range, and not just fall straight down.

If you’d like your question answered, hit me up on Instagram (@straight_talking_fitness) or email

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.

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