I love seeing people get excited when they purchase their wee callisthenics program online; a “Get your muscle up in 40 seconds” program, or some other jargon. Ok chief, who was that program written for? You? Well the person that designed it has never met you, heard of your training history, know any kind of imbalance you may or may not have…. and they’re gonna give you your quick fix front lever skin the loop de loop?
I poke fun of course, all programs you follow are a stepping stone to you experimenting with yourself and I love it, I loved it when I did them and it definitely added structure to my sessions and kept me focused. I don’t like wasting my time anymore though. What I have found over the years is that going directly after your deficiencies is the best way to make progress. Everyone has a part of a certain ability, you just have to locate which parts you DON’T have and get them, then you can focus on the movement as a whole.
For a strict ring muscle up for example, if you break it down into parts you need:
1. A false grip
2. Pull up
So if you’re crazy hot at pull ups and dips, is a program full of pull ups and dips really going to get you your muscle up? Or is a program of you doing Russian dips for your transition and false grip rows and wrist strengthening exercises going to get you there faster? If you’re good at pull ups and dips I know you’re going to do pull ups and dips anyway, the LAST thing I am going to give you is pull ups and dips.
Did I just give away how all my private clients seem to get muscle ups so fast? Yes. Do I care? No. If 1000 people read this probably 13 will actually take this onboard. It’s what we do, the guy with the triple shredded washboard 8 pack must know more! He’s sexy!! In real life I’m sexier, I’m just not that good at photoshop or hanging out at beaches… I hate sand.
When it comes to the limbs, legs and arms are really slaves to your ‘core’ ..still hate that word, always reminds me of bums’n’tums classes. If your core is dysfunctional you are never really going to have great control over any of your extremities. For lower body I would use single leg exercises to check balance and also if you’re overly dominate to one side. Obviously you’re always going to have one side that you prefer but if you can do 30 one legged squats on one leg and only 5 on the other, well, do you see where I am going with this?
Using the pistol squat or airborne lunge is great for a lower body push, for a lower body pull you can have single leg deadlifts, and even mixing up which side you’re holding a kettlebell in will start to locate some weaknesses in your anti-rotational strength. I was playing around with this movement the other day:
Single leg clean & bottom up press
When it comes to upper body it is crazy important to test your arms individually, especially if you are really barbell dominant with your training. Neck and shoulder injuries are so easily avoided if you just test a few simple things. The bottom up press is a great one, if you can press a 20kg kettlebell in one hand but only a 10kg in the other then there’s your issue that needs addressed, and honestly, until you have sorted out that issue I wouldn’t go back to the barbell. If you can bench press more than your own bodyweight for ten reps but you can only do three pull ups, there’s another thing needing worked on – unless you’re a competitive lifter, then that comes down to trade off. Single arm rows, single arm presses, one arm push ups, all great things to test, and again something I would use regularly in my warm ups and cool downs.
Here is another example of experimentation with my overhead pressing, no issues on right arm but left presented weakness when fully rotated to the right side:
Always do what you love and what you’re good at, but if you’re already good at something the upkeep of that skill is relatively low, devote more time to your weak areas and you’ll ultimately start running out of them.