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Fitness Questions From Instagram (January 2021)

The differences between doing pull ups with the scapula/shoulders engaged at the bottom vs engaging/disengaging between each rep, what movement pattern the parallel bar dip is and how to know what level you’re considered in calisthenics (beginner, intermediate, advanced)……

With the pull/chin up, people say you need to reach full extension before you start the next rep, but how much shoulder shrug is necessary? I’ve been practicing a full dead hang at the bottom of each rep but I feel like power production is hampered and overall strength isn’t increased enough to warrant doing so?

Really interesting question! Basically, the dead hang is a marker for killing all momentum. This is why the ‘dead stop’ pull/muscle up style is used in competitions: it stops people using the stretch reflex at the bottom of each rep to get more reps/make the reps easier.

Interestingly, I always coach/program the dead stop pull up into my plans where possible just so it trains them to generate power from nothing. That said, if you’re goal was ‘optimal’ development of the pull up muscles (lats, rhomboids, mid traps etc…..) I would say the dead stop isn’t necessary and the constant tension approach would be better.

Here’s the long and short of it: I would use the non dead stop (but still to a locked arm at the bottom) until you get to a desired rep number or rep/set scheme. Then I would progress to lower reps with the dead stop version. That way you will build a nice hypertrophy base before layering on more strength; the two will feed each other cyclically, basically.

What plane of movement is the dip done in? Is it a vertical or horizontal pushing movement?

The dip is a vertical (DOWNWARD) pushing movement. In a perfect dip the shoulders and body actually travel FORWARDS somewhat AND down. If you were to descend straight down, the elbows would have to move back behind the wrists and the shoulders would have to jam up into elevation, in order to hit ideal depth.

This technique would also limit chest involvement/activation.

Ideal form has the elbow staying on top of the wrist/hand throughout the movement. From there you descend as low as your shoulder (extension) mobility allows.

Interestingly, in the ‘street workout’ circles and weighted calisthenics competitions, the style you see is slightly different still; they use a ‘closed chest’ dip whereas I’ve just described an ‘open chest’ dip. The differences are subtle but lie in hinging at the hips/flexing the spine more and thus not opening the chest at the bottom of the dip. The elbow angle still finds 90 degrees or so, just without the same stretch on the pecs.

A good way to visualise this is by comparing it to regular bench pressing vs powerlfiting bench pressing, where powerlifting world will arch their back to push the chest higher, which shortens the distance the bar travels and thus, allows more weight to be lifted. The open vs closed chest dip is basically the dip version of this!

The Instagram post from Micha Schulz below shows more………

I’m looking to get started with a proper calisthenics training program but I’m unsure what to go for as many of them have beginner, intermediate or advanced labels. I see you’ve got experience with Calisthenic Movement’s programs who also have those requirements. I can do 7 pull ups, 18-20 push ups, 14 dips and I’m working on the handstand and L-sit. What programs do you think could be suited for me?

At your current physical level I would say you’re still at the beginner stage but still have a nice base already. Depending on your goals down the line, I’d boost your numbers to around 15 pull ups, 20-30 dips and 30+ push ups before looking properly at moves like ring muscle up, back/front lever, handstand push ups etc.

Good idea working on the L-sit and handstand as well! They’re great entry level intermediate moves that will support the bigger moves to come.

In terms of CaliMove I’m pretty sure they still have their prerequisites on their site for their level 1-5 programs? In my experience those ranges they have are pretty accurate. I’m actually running their level 5 mastery program at the moment as a reconditioning tool for the big skills (front/back lever, planche, one arm pulling, handstand pushing etc) so that should show you how far they can take you.

That said, I do think past a certain strength level it can be a good idea to train moves in phases as the general approach can be a lot to recover from once you start pushing all the skills to high levels. But that won’t be for a few years yet, so for now a beginner-intermediate routine might do just the trick!

If you’d like a question answered in these monthly features, hit me with a DM on Instagram (@straight_talking_fitness) or if you’re not into the whole social media gig, email me or even leave a comment below.

Thanks for reading and thanks for those who sent questions.

Oh and happy new year guys!

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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