It’s 4 years since I first used Calisthenic Movement’s Level 4 intermediate program……..it all seems a blur but when I think back to 4 years ago, there’s many fond memories that flood back.
And I’m sure you’re thinking, 4 years and you’re now only beginning level 5?! How long are these phases?! Rest assured the programs aren’t 4 years long. Regular readers will know I’ve used many of Calisthenic Movement’s other programs over the years in between, most famously their ever popular Mobility Program.
I also did their level 5 program after finishing their level 4 routine.
So I’m doing it again but years later?
While I was exploring their newer programs I stumbled upon the UPDATED level 5 program now named ‘mastery’. Initially I thought it must be very similar to the old template I did back in the wonder years but I dived in and found it was totally revised from scratch!
The minimal equipment and lower loading sang to me as I’d just finished a 10 week strength program for weighted calisthenics, in which I nailed a 60 kg pull up and 90kg dip. And there’s only so long you can do super heavy training without mixing up the stimulus and giving the tendons and CNS a break!
Add the Covid saga into the mix which has meant gyms shutting for at least a month here in the UK, and it sounds more and more appealing. Sure you can carry plates with you to parks all the time but it’s hassle and not ideal in colder temperatures.
The Nuts & Bolts Of The Program
The new & updated level 5 program consists of 4 phases, each 4 weeks long with test weeks interspersed between each phase. The test weeks were a neat feature of the old programs and always an exciting time where you got to pit the old you vs the new you, so to speak.
They’re also designed as an indicator for progress as well as motivation to push on and keep improving your performance markers as the program progresses.
The first phase is a 4 days per week split consisting of 12-16 work sets per session. The volume slowly increases week to week.
Once again CaliMove have done a nice job of working in basic patterns along with preparation work for skills down the line. This first phase sees the prep work for the handstand, press handstand, front/back lever, planche, one arm pull/chin up and even the human flag.
What about the lower body/booty?!
Don’t panic, there are lower body exercises in CaliMove’s programs. They know in order to be functional and athletic, lower body training is a must. Having said that, their leg work is kept to a minimum as the idea of the program is to get you closer and closer to the infamous and iconic skills we all want.
Pistol squats and single leg hip thrusts are the exercises of choice. When done right these are deceptively tough. Most people haven’t got the ankle mobility for FULL depth pistols and nowhere near enough active hip extension for full range hip thrusts – especially one one leg.
Where I’ve been hyper focusing on the pistol squat this year and built up to 10 rep sets on each leg with 20 kg, I’ve had to add weight to these sets but that’s not a problem. This is the beauty of experience in the fitness world as an athlete and a coach, you can make the calls easier and without doubt. Although as always CaliMove will always answer your queries if you email them unsure on something.
I’ve trained the lower body quite intensely over the last year or so and know my body well, so I’ve been working in some extra moves alongside the program – namely the Nordic curl, some single leg RDLs, calf raises and mobility work for the front splits, pancake and side split as per.
For those without a strong base, the volume in CaliMove’s original template would still be enough to maintain and build good lower body strength, without the excessive fatigue accompanied with heavy barbell lower body lifts.
When’s phase 2 & what’s waiting in it?
Phase 2 is coming up next over the next 4 weeks and things amp up in terms of complexity. The general structure seems to stay similar but the movements move up the progression ranks.
As a short side note, it’s been nice doing the lower volume because it’s meant I can play with skills like the handstand, still train some muscle ups and do some low volume work for levers, handstand push ups and one arm chin ups. I know the purists may protest I’m NOT FOLLOWING THE PROGRAM EXACTLY, but as I said, I’ve done this for years and am very accustomed to high volume/frequency training and can easily balance this by how I feel.
Maybe even ‘El Eggs’ himself might frown upon this but he has told me before it’s ok to do some cross training, as long as you’re respectful of your recovery reserves, or ‘regeneration’ as he puts it.
Interestingly, phase 2 sees the introduction of handstand blocks – allocated time to handstand practice. I’m quite excited for this as I’ve been finding it hard to put the time into handstands lately where they’ve not been officially programmed. I personally do better when I have set times and routines for the handstand, so these upcoming 15 minute blocks 4 times a week will force me to focus on my weight shifts, tucks, flags and ‘head in’ holds.
If you like clips from my training, check out the new YouTube video below where I talk through the last 4 weeks. Any support for my channel you can offer is eternally appreciated! I’m trying to up my production quality and content quality as the weeks and months go on.
Stay tuned for the phase 2 round up in a month or so!
Thanks for reading.
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.