It’s been 5 months now since I let you in on my journey with Calisthenic Movement’s new mobility program – Mobility 2.0.
Which means it’s HIGH TIME for an update!
When I last checked in with you I was about to wrap up the first phase of the program, which is 13 weeks in length. Since then, I’ve got my teeth sunk well and truly into phase 2 – a phase lasting another 7/8 weeks.
After that I’ll be on to phase 3/the final phase. So as you can see, this program is definitely comprehensive. And normally a numerical system like this could lead you to think the step up in intensity is vast. But it’s really not the case, CaliMove ramp up the phases slowly and diligently in such a way you almost don’t realise you’re about to reach the next phase.
Every workout isn’t ‘just stretch further than last time’, more often than not it’s doing similar moves and ranges, for slightly longer or more rounds, with occasional introductions of what I call ‘stepping stone’ movements; ones that bridge progression gaps nicely and prepare you for harder moves down the line.
Because of this variation, you avoid being bogged down by never ending overload increases that leave you feeling drained and ducking constantly, waiting for the dreaded plateau to hit you.
Even the variation in the length of the sessions keeps you on your toes. Sometimes you’re ready for a 20-25 minute session and the session for the day is just 12 minutes. Needless to say, this naturally has you focusing much more than you would have done.
There’s even a frequency variation if you’re following the program to the letter, where the days you ‘train’ each week are quite different. Some weeks you’ll do just 3 or 4 days, whereas others will be 6 or 7.
Although I will admit: I haven’t been following the exact day schedule as written, I’ve been using the program as a warm up for main training and even using it as a stand alone on days I feel I want to move, or I’m in a good environment for it (see the pics in this post ;)).
Phase 1 Vs Phase 2?
Even though I’ve said there’s not monumental step ups between levels at least initially, obviously things do change. One of the big changes is the step up in movement complexity. In phase 1 there are many coordinatively demanding moves – crab walking, single leg scale touches, kneeling flows and whatnot…
But those moves aren’t too demanding on flexibility, whereas in phase 2 you see the start of moves that not only demand fairly high coordination, but definitely higher flexibility. For example, back bridge push ups, single arm table hold rotations, deep squat sky reaches, archer squat flows & more…
In all honesty, when I did my first level 2 session I felt like a rank beginner. It was as if I needed to warm up for the warm up, if you feel me? Just because of the step up in the aforementioned flexibility and coordination.
But don’t worry, it didn’t last long.
Thanks to all the ground work in the previous phase, every session thereafter felt doubly easy – i.e. the rate of adaptation felt faster and faster. Which is another slightly hidden benefit of the program: it’s very multi-faceted, in that it has you doing a plethora of moves/actions/functions of the body, so when you’re tasked with new stuff, it’s easier because you learn easier, thanks to you being well prepped & primed.
For anyone familiar with general programming and progressive overload, you can see yet again how CaliMove have worked through a roadmap of sorts.
Deep squats transition towards overhead squats, single leg compressions shift to double leg compressions, passive hanging works into active/passive combos and finally single arm hanging, and bridge variations as well as various flows, grow in complexity.
Then the workload is intelligently scaled up to push more adaptation until you’re then onto phase 3.
My Own Improvements?
So what about me personally? What changes have I seen throughout level 2?
The first and most obvious thing is how much easier the sessions feel. As I said before, in the first handful of sessions in level 2, it felt laborious and more of a workout than a warm up or mobility session. But these days it feels much smoother and almost enjoyable.
A big part of this is movement pattern recognition of course; your nervous system knowing and understanding the movements. This takes the thinking out and you can focus more on the doing.
In addition, seemingly small and insignificant things are notably easier – things like keeping the arms up in an overhead squat, or holding the arms behind the head in the ‘bunny ears’ squat, or even in the ‘advanced pancake’ (where you have to hinge in and out of a pancake, while holding your arms overhead and alongside the ears throughout).
This is the beauty of sheer repetition and exposure. Use it or lose it, as they say. But these used to be very tricky for me. It’s well documented, almost endlessly so, that my overhead flexibility/thoracic extension is a weakness, and these moves require a decent baseline standard of this.
I’ve also seen this translate into an easier handstand line. Sure I can handstand at 3am if you wake me up and ask for one, but the line and entry is never 100% guaranteed (damn tight shoulders again), although I’ve found almost free gains here – I can kick up by almost stepping up (floating the hip above the shoulders & hands) and even tuck jump nicer without having to do 20 minutes worth of shoulder openers.
And that’s not to say pre-session mobility work is bad or wrong, rather if you can find a way of having the end result without having to do it, or so much of it, that’s a big WIN.
WTF (Why-The-F*ck) Can’t I do That?!
Hilariously, phase 2 was also the phase that had weird stumbling blocks for me; moves I just couldn’t get to grips with, at least initially. And when you do the program, you’ll likely have some of these too. Strange ranges your body just dislikes for whatever reason.
One of mine was the butterfly to pike stand – like the name suggests, you sit on the floor in a butterfly then push your arms out in front of you as you lift your hips, centring your weight over your feet now and standing up to a pike fold position, then repeating back and forth.
This was STRAIGHT UP IMPOSSIBLE for me. No matter how much leaning/back rounding I did, my butt wouldn’t get up enough and my feet hated me for trying. The outsides of my ankles would yell at me in rebellion. The only way round this I found was starting off with a cushion or keeping my shoes on and starting from the top down, never letting my weight go all the way into the floor.
Like, what the hell?
It’s a completely different ‘failure’ than when you simply can’t access a position due to restriction. Take the pancake for example, you could scale it as follows:
- Seated Straddle
- 45 degree forward lean pancake
- Forehead to floor pancake
- Stomach to floor pancake
Because in this case it’s a control issue. I can access the positions individually, I just can’t transition between them with adequate control/elegance.
Like anything though, it’s a practice/experience game and I did get better with these, with time. There’s 2 mindsets that crop up when you find ‘awkward’ moves like this…
- ‘Oh well, I’m just not going to do it then. I’m no good at it and I hate it, and it hurts. Goodbye’.
- ‘Damn! Why can’t I do that? The demo video looks so easy and surely it shouldn’t be this hard? Let’s get problem solving!’
It’s fascinating to see who naturally falls into which category. You would think as a rule of thumb, the more experienced trainee would embrace the challenge of discomfort and the newbie would hate it…
But that’s not a written rule by a long shot. We all know super experienced people who are great at what they do but they ONLY do said thing. Which causes overuse issues, stagnation and stunted development. I’ve been there. I was a muscle up ‘bot’ for years at the expense of progressing other stuff.
Conversely I’ve worked with many people one on one who are brand new to moving/training, and really enjoy the process of unpacking why they may not be able to do something. So I really think it’s a mindset more than an automatic state attached to a given experience level.
I was fascinated by my inability do the butterfly to pike stand – and not just that – but I also sucked at transitioning from the bottom of an archer/cossack squat, to the ground and back up again, unassisted. (Admittedly this one is understandably harder).
Rather than just not do it, I found myself spending more time playing with these moves; trying to find ways to assist them just enough so I could do them, while not over-assisting to where I wouldn’t be challenged.
This is a great Segway to another variable in the program that’s progressed in phase 2 much more so than phase 1…
As I mentioned in my big write up delving into phase 1, the program is time based. You work for a given duration of time for a given amount of rounds. The default rest between moves and sets is 15 seconds but CaliMove do tell you this is just a guideline, and you’re free to modify it as needed.
If you find something hard and don’t feel ready, rest longer. If you find something doable and wish to challenge it, rest less or not at all, in some cases.
Which is exactly what I did over the last few weeks. On the more basic exercises requiring less coordination/setup, I would run through the rest period entirely which works really nicely on sessions that have 2 working sets per round, with the 15 second break between them. You just carry on. So instead of 2 x 40 seconds with 15 second break, it’s 1 bigger work window of 95 seconds!
I found this to be a real gem on more basic moves like pike sit slides, most if not all of the wrist drills, pancakes, butterflys etc. Where the moves are dynamic anyway, you could get a great rhythm going and almost find a state of flow, while all the while improving range quite noticeably.
In some ways this is my own spin on it. Other real world examples (and personal ones) are in deep squat and reaches, you might just sit in the deep squat and let your arms/upper back rest for a bit, instead of standing up and shaking the legs out/walking around. You may even just carry on all the way through.
The point is as you get better with the program, your body’s tolerance will improve and you’ll find yourself not needing the total rest as much as you used to. What’s even nicer is it doesn’t tend to be a robotic process either. Usually I would be very numbers, NUMBERS, NUMBERS, and try to be ultra precise with what moves I did for how long and then how much more I do next time, to ensure I’m getting better.
This phase it was very varied. In short, I listened to my body without trying. In other words: you get better at interpreting exactly what your body wants/needs.
I’d just feel fine with carrying on and other times I’d stop without questioning it in my head. No judgements. Which may seem weird but it’s a form of presence & awareness; you’re out of your head and in to your body in some capacity. It’s an enjoyable break from the almost unavoidable noise of the mind in a busy modern world.
That said, towards the end of the second phase, the work duration & overall volume was on a gradual increase right up to the very end. This would skyrocket the demands of moves like back bridge push ups, the aforementioned ‘bunny ears’ and passive to active hanging, to mention a few.
It all depends on the nature of the move. On movements where time is often needed to access more range, this was great. Yet on moves requiring more strength in contracted positions (yes you, damn compression leg lifts) this felt like strength training at times. But let’s face it: real flexibility training IS strength training.
2 down, 1 to go!
It’s onto phase 3 ASAP now and I feel like a kid on Christmas Eve looking ahead to what awaits him tomorrow, as I take a cheeky look into the ingredients of the third and final phase.
A few things jump out at me…
Back bridge circles – because I know they’ll be nye on impossible for me still but a great longer term goal nevertheless.
One arm scapula raises – because I can do them as well as ever lately courtesy of finally getting my injury seen to (more on that in a later post). But this will be a great way to really test them out!
Hollow rolls – because I often incorporate these to the group sessions I coach to catch people out, as I know how good a move these are, yet here I’ll be challenged to do them regularly for differing time frames.
Squat figure 4 drops – because I’ve not tried them for some years now and fancy my chances more than ever now. This will be a great opportunity to pit myself (and my new expectations) against them.
And my last pick is the lying stick dislocations, because these are a case of what once was. Back in 2018/19 I had an amazing dislocation game, yet over the subsequent years due to injury, I’ve lost that level substantially.
There was a phase some months back where I stubbornly tried to train it back to where it used to be, all to no avail. All that happened is it exacerbated my injury symptoms to the extent I’ve not gone near it since. But with tailored and diligent rehab under my belt, I think now is as good a time as ever to try again, no?
Of course there are dozens and dozens of other exercises in the next phase with some being similar to the previous phase and others being totally new. I’m sure I’ll stumble across a new set of ‘dark horses’ in phase 3 again, too – exercises seeming easy on paper but tripping me up good and proper in reality.
But that’s just all part of the game, right?
As usual I will update you on everything that goes on in the third & final phase – the good, the bad & the ugly! I’ll even write a more detailed final roundup of the program as a whole, along with some objective feedback once I reach the summit.
All being well it should be done and dusted in around 8-10 weeks’ time, depending on how efficient I am with the program and how often I can sit down to write. But you know me, nothing if not consistent 🙂
Thanks so much for reading & be sure to leave me your feedback/experiences with the program, too, including any questions you may have!
Until next time…
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