Another 4 weeks have rolled by which means it’s time for an update on my adventure with Calisthenic Movement’s Level 5 Mastery Program!
As I mentioned in my recap of phase 1, phase 2 excited me far more than phase 1 purely because of the switch from preparatory moves to more direct moves. A real world example of this is: handstand wall drills becoming free handstand work, one arm scapula pulling prep becoming archer pull ups and archer rows/push ups becoming one arm push ups.
For the record, the program structure remains much the same: 4 sessions per week with 2 of those sessions containing a lower body exercise. Volume and overall workload is very similar too. The progression comes in the form of movement intensity and complexity.
And as I teased in my last write up, the 15 minute handstand practice at the start of every session comes into play! This was an interesting addition because it forced me to consistently train handbalance at a higher frequency than I was otherwise doing.
As I said before also, I’m past the basic free stand handstand level and while I could train endurance and go for lots of 30-60 sec holds in 15 mins, I knew full well the mounting fatigue would be counter-productive and this wouldn’t be ‘SKILL practice’.
What I did instead was work a mix of chin on chest/look at the feet straight body holds (in my opinion one of the best next steps for anyone who has a comfortable 30 second straight free handstand), tuck holds, flags and fingertip support holds.
One thing I found here that I kinda knew anyway, was 15 minutes isn’t a big enough window to truly improve these higher level progressions of the handstand. Sometimes I found it would take 15 minutes just to find my groove and get going with the one arm shifts! That said, there’s nothing to say I couldn’t increase the window to 30 mins and trial that?
Also, on ‘bad days’ where I couldn’t buy balance I actually regressed back to wall facing work, which I’ve preached many times as a coach myself. This was one arm holds for time and tuck slides.
Bent Arm Training & Other Skills
This phase had some nice bent and straight arm skills. We saw the emergence of an old favourite of mine, front & back lever rotations, along with one arm pull up work and my nemesis, the handstand push up.
It’s been an arduous year with some of these skills as I have had one arm pull up (for one rep once on both sides) and front and back lever nailed down good enough to where I could not only hold each lever, but lift out while keeping the body line. However, a bicep injury in summer halted my back lever to barely a straddle/halflay, simply due to the intensity on the biceps with the hands turned back aka supinated, aka the CORRECT way to do a back lever.
Front lever is temperamental and with my bodyweight in mind (87kg) this is always a fickle hold that comes and goes slightly. As for handstand push ups, these are always poor and still are far behind the heights I’ve hit on other patterns. To date my best wall facing rep count is 3 with questionable back arch. BUT, these have come along quite noticeably in this phase as I can now lower to the floor and hold the bottom position with little to no strain, there’s just some arching on the way up that needs ironing out.
And I can proudly say I have my supinated back lever back (and the back lever liftout!) courtesy of the consistent training thanks to the program!
Some slightly lower profile moves that have pleasantly surprised me are the one arm push up and V-sit. I went through a phase of obsessing over the V-sit some years back, to then realise how mobility dependent it really is. From 2019 onward I worked hard on my lower body mobility – including a shit load of compression work & hamstring mobilising, which led to a pancake and eventual front splits……..
When I tried ‘V-sit kicks’ I was quite happy with how I high I could get my feet and pause for a strict second! Needless to say, this made me hungrier to push on with the move.
One arm push ups are a controversial move for good reason as they’re hardly ever performed with good form.
What’s good form, you ask?
Here’s a quick check list as far as I’m concerned:
- Hips & shoulders stay level
- No – minimal lateral flexion of the spine aka letting the shoulders shift away from the working arm
- Both shoulders rise as close to at the same time as possible
- The chest and torso go as close to the floor as possible (Full ROM at the elbow & shoulder)
Check almost every one arm push up video you can find, you’ll see all sorts of monstrosities; tons of twisting, no range of motion, loads of lateral flexion and the scapula moving all over the show………
So with these, I kept my reps to 5 maximum even though the range was wider in the plan (3-8) and filmed each set week to week. I then focused on trying to level off my shoulders as I ascended more and more, as this was an initial weak point of mine. The other thing I tried to do was keep my straddle relatively narrow and not splay the feet excessively wide. Again, this makes things harder.
What’s Going On In Phase 3?!
Peering over the horizon into phase 3, we see the arrival of more volume on the static holds (planche/front lever). The back lever is phased out in favour of the planche, which makes sense. The planche is the back lever’s big brother. And the added bonus here for me is how much I suck at the planche anyway. So extra work here is welcome & required.
There’s also a nice mix of dynamic front lever and planche work, too. We see front lever rows aka front lever pull ups come in, as well as front lever raises. Traditional wisdom suggests high volume static holds aren’t the best when it comes to levelling up your statics……..heck, even I’ve written a lot on this. But I’m not against revisiting things and trying them, plus I won’t fuck around with the plan; I’ll run it as written.
Although because dynamic work is plenty too, any improvements on the levers will be hard to credit to any single approach, but instead, will be most likely down to the whole holistic approach.
Archer pull ups and handstand push ups are similar and one or two core exercises change slightly but all in all, this is a similar set up and layout to the last phase.
The handstand work is also down to 2 sessions per week instead of 4. This may allow me to attack the 2 sessions with more intensity?
I’ll be back in 4 weeks time with another detailed write up on my experiences with the THIRD phase. Slowly and steadily we’re ticking off the phases piece by piece.
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