[Not so] new training

For the time being I’ve pretty much stopped karate in so far as I’m not a member of a dojo and don’t practice very regularly, except for sessions on the punch bag and the odd kata session (although I still do boxing and kickboxing classes regularly). Once you reach a certain level in a sport I don’t think you ever really “stop” doing it – it just occupies a different part of your brain where you turn it over in your mind until you start again, so I’m not too worried about the blip in the bigger picture which is the rest of my life.

Anyhow, rather than vaguely alluding to what sort of training I’m doing now I thought I’d actually write a post about it, if only to allow me to write further posts about it without anyone who reads this wondering what the hell I’m talking about :)

One of my new years goals was “6 weeks to supplement-free abs” and at the same time a friend told me one of his goals was to do a planche. As part of the former, I ended up doing a lot of reading into the best value exercises and, out of curiosity, looked into the latter to see just how you’d work up to doing something that requires such an insane amount of strength. Both of these pointed me in the same direction – towards exercises that primarily utilise ones own bodyweight (also known as calisthenics), rather than relying on machines and gadgets.

In mid-February I was looking to expand my training and calisthenics seemed like the way to go. I’m a big fan of purity and simplicity, and something that only relies on your own body is obviously going to tick those boxes. There are also many similarities to the way I approach my karate training, so in many ways it seemed like the logical strength training program to embark upon.

I decided to start with the basics – as in everything, get them sorted and you can build a massive tower on your foundations later ;)

These will really depend on your strength when you start – below are what I’ve decided to call “basics” and focus on for the first year or so:

Image of Sai Ngo by Stefan Lubo

Upper body 

Lower body 


To build up to being able to lift my whole bodyweight I used the assisted machine at the gym. It took about two months. To ensure good progress I took the weight down (the amount of weight is equal to how much of an “assist” you get) when I could comfortably do five reps at a certain level. If you want to build muscle and make progress quickly, this is a good tip to use for all types of strength training, in my opinion. Getting to this point also meant I could progress to training on bars outside, instead of being confined to the sweaty gym.

One issue that wasn’t too much of a problem for me because of my martial arts background (finally those years of knuckle push-ups and punching the crap out of things are paying off!) is that initially it canes your wrists. It’s taken me about three months to feel like they’re really solid, but I still find they get stiff sometimes and invariably end up stretching and moving them when I get a minute (usually on the tube!).

I do calisthenics three or four times a week. I vary the types of workout that I do and also the part of the body I focus on, and try to train outside when I can (i.e. it’s not raining, cold and/or I can fit it in around work). I was going to launch into talking about the different types of sets you can do here, but actually this post is already quite long so I’m just gonna go find a picture to post to break up all these words, and talk about sets in another post.

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3 Responses

  1. Felicia says:

    My dad was an avid calistenics fan for much of his life. He called them his “exercises”, LOL. Your post just gave me a lot of great memories, so thanks :-)

  2. gai.ninja says:

    Oh that’s so cool! The simple exercises are always the best :)

  1. February 13, 2015

    […] on from the last post, here is some more detailed information on the type of sets I normally do when training on the bar, […]