Following on from the last post, here is some more detailed information on the type of sets I normally do when training on the bar, and also ones for cardio and other conditioning. Bear in mind that the examples given are what I do now, and not what I did when I first started.

Generally, with the exception of the warm up, I focus on one type of set. I used to do running at the start of a session, and then calisthenics, but in the last month or so I’ve stripped that out and do it on completely different days. It was too much to do both, and the aerobic/anaerobic natures were competing with each other, plus recovery was a nightmare.

Warm up
This is mostly the same every time I train in the gym: 10 minutes on the cross trainer, some mobility exercises to loosen up my arms, shoulders, legs and back, a few push ups/burpees/whatever I feel like to get my muscles warm. Before the aircon at the gym died I’d do a bit more cardio, but now it’s too hot for that. If I’m working legs I’ll always do more cardio to make sure they’re warm enough as otherwise my quads do weird hurty things.

Sets of 2 or 3 (or more) exercises done back-to-back (normally ones that do not work the same muscles). For example:

  • 3 sets of 10 x pull ups and 20 x push ups
  • 3 sets of 10 x chin ups and 10 x dips

Straight sets
These are probably the type of set I do the least. They take longer due to needing to rest between each set (something that supersets avoids) and also they’re just a bit boring ;) I increase the numbers depending on my max for that exercise.


  • 4 sets of 7 pull ups
  • 4 sets of 10 dips
  • 4 sets of 7 chin ups
  • 4 sets of 20 push ups

Static holds
These help build strength and have been instrumental in getting my reps up, especially for pull ups. An example for pull ups would be:

Hold self in top position (chest to bar) for 10 seconds, lower so arms are at 90 degrees and hold for 10 seconds, then lower so arms are locked out and hold for 10 seconds. Repeat three times for three sets.

You can use static holds for anything really – I often do static L-sits and sort-of tuck planche things (with my feet on a swiss ball and arms at as much of an angle as I can without face-planting into the floor).  Static holds also build muscle – they’re one of the reasons why gymnasts look so muscley.

Pyramid (and reverse pyramid) sets
A great way of building endurance since you end up doing a lot of reps but the rest between sets makes it feel easier.

An example of a reverse pyramid session for pull ups would be 5 sets of:
1 pull up
2 pull ups
3 pull ups
etc. up to your maximum (at the moment this ends up being about 7)

Random variations
Mixing it up’s good – it stops you getting stuck in a routine (to which your muscles would become accustomed) and also keeps things fun and interesting. Today I did:

  • 2 push-ups then 1 pull-up, repeated to a total of 20 push-ups and 10 pull ups (3 sets of)
  • 1 dip then 1 chin-up, repeated to a total of 10 dips and 10 chin-ups (3 sets of)
  • 10 side-to-side hanging knee raises and 10 hanging leg raises (3 sets of)
  • Then headed to the studio for 3 sets of various ab exercises and handstand push up negatives. 
  • Kicking session

My pure cardio sessions involve running, which I won’t go into here. I do that on days when I don’t do calisthenics. For conditioning, which I normally do on the same day, I do one of the above types of sets involving burpees and plyometrics. Mostly I do supersets. Yesterday’s example was:

5 supersets of: 12 burpees, 3 handstand push-up negatives, 12 tuck jumps over a box (side-to-side), 20 single-legged swiss ball jacknifes (10 each side)

By putting together lots of the hardest and most painful exercises I find they go much quicker ;)

This is a given. Massive stiffness and loss of mobility will result otherwise. There’s a lot of information online already, so I won’t go into it here. Also, it’s pretty personal since everyone is built differently and will also feel different from day-to-day.

If you want some help sorting out a routine of your own, then this thread is a good place to start.

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