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Fitness Questions From Instagram (October 2021)

  • Square vs twisted hip front splits?
  • How to program for 1 rep max based strength training?
  • Good weighted pull up standards for calisthenics?

I noticed you complaining about hip rotation in the front splits in your stories recently. Is the goal to be fully squared and straight at the hips, or is it still ok to have the more turned out back leg?

What we’re dealing with here is the battle between the ‘true’ front split and the ‘open’ front split. The main difference is the alignment of the hips. The ‘true’ front split is a split where the hips are completely square with the torso and the rest of the body. It goes without saying this version takes god tier hip extension flexibility.

The square/true front split

The ‘open’ front split is more commonly seen – particularly among enthusiasts who are trying to get their first ever touchdown – as it requires less genuine extension of the hip on the back leg and can be ‘cheated’ easier.

How to tell if I'm doing my front splits right? What does it mean to keep  your hips square - Quora
The bottom image showing the back leg orientation of an ‘open’ front split

Even by asking this question you’re ahead of the game; I’ve had to shatter a few dreams in the past when I’ve told people their split is dirty as it’s not truly square. Heck, I’ve even had to do it to myself!

But understanding the differences allows you to make progress with the progression you need/want more.

Many people wrongly snub the open front split but in ballet circles for example, it’s desired and useful. Although another perspective is to chase the open front split and that way you have the ability to do both. Anyone with a true front split is 99% likely to be able to do an open front split. If we look at the reverse scenario you can be sure the percentage is much much different.

In a perfect world you would be able to do both, so why not train for both? Generally you’ll be good at the one you do/have been doing and suck at the one you haven’t. This in itself is a good compass for where to go next: what one are you worse at?

Do more of ________ style!

From an athletic standpoint though, I think the true/square front split has the edge. It has your back hip/leg in more extension/internal rotation and this is really handy for sports & activities – particularly those requiring stride length.

(I have an article on the horizon that goes into more detail on the activities which the front split benefits, by the way. So stay tuned for that!).

I want to start doing Micha Schulz’s ‘KOW’ (King Of Weighted) program soon and saw you’ve used this routine and reviewed it. Do you have any advice on how to set the numbers to work from? Should I use my absolute/current 1 rep max on all moves or less? I’m not exactly sure and wondered what you thought!

(For those who haven’t read the review, here it is: How I Got A +90kg Dip & A +60kg Pull Up ((Review Of Micha Schulz’s ‘KOW’ Strength Program)).

Wow, that’s going old school and brings back lots of good memories. That’s the routine that led me to a 95 kg dip & a 60kg+ pull up.

How I Got A +90kg Dip & A +60kg Pull Up (Review of Micha Schulz's 'KOW'  Strength Program) – Straight Talking Fitness

Now if there’s one rule I’ve learnt when it comes to strength training/intensity programs, it’s PEOPLE ALWAYS PROGRAM TOO HEAVY and then back themselves into a corner, burnout and underachieve. I’ve done it myself way too many fucking times.

So to answer your question, I wouldn’t go any higher than a training max. Meaning something you can always hit even on your shittiest of shit days. This was exactly where I screwed up when I did the program and it cost me plenty of kilos, I’m sure. I went in and used numbers based off that one time when there was a harvest moon, I’d just banged the girl of my dreams and hit a lifetime PR…

Whereas real life isn’t quite so sunshine ‘n’ rainbows, sadly. Pre-programming too high made me start grinding lifts way too early in the phases and come the peak weeks, I’d be spent and fried. The weeks where I was supposed to hit new maxes were super tough and I felt shit all the time. Don’t do this!

The real clues to using this program lie in the RIR (Reps-In-Reserve) figures. In the early weeks the RIR is as high as 3 on most lifts and gradually works down to 1 or even 0 towards the end of the phase, pre de-load. Abiding by this will allow a nice smooth ramp up and you should sail past your original 1RMs, providing your recovery (sleep, nutrition etc…blah blah blah) are where they should be.


Another big mistake I made while using this program was letting my form get sloppy(ish) on the real heavy sets. Obviously true 1-3 rep max sets are never going to be totally flawless but you really need to be careful not to let flaws creep in. For example, I would let me scapula elevate more than it should on the heavy dips & pull ups. This gave me a nice shoulder issue that I’m still not fully clear of now, even as I write this.

It’s not the program’s fault as it’s a balanced routine designed by a very smart guy & athlete. It was me letting my form and awareness go south, which I’ve since written extensively on and learnt from, so maybe check out my recent post: How I BUTCHERED My Pull Ups For YEARS

I’ve seen on your Instagram stories you’re back hitting the weighted pull ups. Man, I’d love to be hitting 35-40kg for reps like you! What do you think are good standards when it comes to weighted pull ups?

Thank you! I’m only doing them because they’re in the program I’m using ;). Not that I think they’re bad, they’re just very easy to get carried away with and the injury risk is high/the recovery time can be long if you go heavy on them all the time. Plus like the last question, it’s easy to start allowing crap form in exchange for numbers on the belt!

Anyhow, to answer your question, I think it’s very relative. And this question makes me think of the classic discussion or dilemma in calisthenics: who’s stronger, the heavyweight or the lightweight?

I’ve been asked this as many times as I’ve wondered it, and I can honestly say I think it’s category specific. So the lightweight guy with the massive weighted pull up & dip wins but the heavyweight who can do front levers, iron crosses & planches also wins.

Make sense?

Basically, when it comes to weighted moves, your bodyweight plays a big part. I weigh 87kg, give or take, and can dip 90kg or more but there are guys dipping that who weigh 20kg less than me! Pound for pound they’re stronger, easily. But if they’re holding static levers at 67kg, it takes way less force and power than it does at 87kg.

Simple physics.

I say all this to illustrate the fruitlessness of pulling random numbers out the air. Instead, I use percentages of your bodyweight as the guide – and these numbers are a little arbitrary but if you hit them you can be sure you’ve got elite pulling strength.

60-80% of your body weight added to you, basically. Assuming decent form, this will see you having a great foundation for training the front lever, muscle up, one arm pull/chin up and just about every other pulling element in the calisthenics world.

So for example, at my weight of 87kg I would need a weighted pull up 1 rep max of between 52 & 70 kg, to fall in the goldilocks zone. Just run the maths on your own bodyweight and see what the range is for you. Of course more strength is always better and there are many athletes out there boasting pull up 1RMs with 100-120% of their bodyweight added to them, but 60-80% is still a great number to strive for!

I hope you enjoyed this month’s questions as much as I did. Make sure you subscribe to my email newsletter to be notified anytime I publish a new post, and by doing so you’ll get your copy of my popular Ebook, Strong With Rings, a book with all the exercises and routines you could ever need to get started with bodyweight & gymnastics rings training.

If you would like your question answered next time, follow me on Instagram (@straight_talking_fitness) and fire me a DM. I’m always happy to chat shop! Alternatively, send me an email:

Until next time…

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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