Question: Training together with different abilities

I regularly get emails from people, usually with questions about their training, and sometimes just to say they like my videos (thanks!). A week ago I got the email below, which I thought was such a good question that I would answer it here. It’s something I struggled with too, and I many people in our position, so hopefully my thoughts will help, although please do post a comment below to share your own experiences or to make a suggestion – would be really keen to hear everyone else’s views on the subject.

I found your page while searching for motivation and advice for a female beginner in calisthenics. That said, thank you so much for making your page and putting all of the time and effort that you have into it.
I know your page says to email you if I have a suggestion, but I have come with a question instead or a request for help.
I have two friends (both males) who train with me and I am struggling not to become overwhelmed and discouraged. The progress they are making surpasses mine by leaps and bounds and they are a little lost as to how to help me train. There has also been talk of working out separately because of how I slow down their workout (in terms of the time it takes for me to complete reps and the like) and because we have different goals.
I am a college student and my course load leaves me short on time, along with that and a struggle to stay motivated (that I think stems from not knowing how to progress from where I am) I am failing to remain motivated which leads me not to train which perpetuates the cycle. Do you have any advice to combat this?
I would greatly appreciate it if you could help me out.Thank you.
I’ll try and go through this in order. So, firstly (and most importantly!) don’t be discouraged! Everyone progresses at different rates, male or female, and it’s important to only compare your progression with yourself. I keep training logs partly for this reason – to see where I was and where I’ve come – and maybe it would help you to do the same, that way you know for sure that your reps, holds etc. are increasing.
Training with friends, back in 2012
Men do progress faster than women though – that’s just life I’m afraid! They tend to build muscle much more easily, especially in the back and shoulder areas, which are typically less developed in women to start with. As you have found, you will reach a point where they will surpass you and be stronger and able to progress onto different skills to you. You just need to accept this and deal with it. There are still skills that you can learn  that you will find easier than them (for example, women typically find L-sits easier, as well as balances like elbow levers, crow and so on), but otherwise the important thing to focus on is your progressions.
For every exercise there is the right progression for you. For example for a pull up, you might be doing negatives in a bid to get your first proper one, and your sets and reps might be 3 sets of 5 x negatives with a 10 second rest in between each rep. If you can already do a few, you might be doing 5 sets of 3 x pull ups with a 2 minute rest in between each set. You might be doing your push ups on a bench because you don’t yet have the strength to do 10 on the ground. For front or back lever holds you may still be working on doing them in the tuck position. It doesn’t matter what your friends are doing – in order to train together just do your thing and they can do theirs but keep things along the same lines.
Nailing the right progression for you is VITAL to your workout (for everyone, not just in reply to this question). It is the key to making progress in your training and not getting frustrated and quitting, and is also relevant  If you are working at the correct progression for you, you should still be able to work out with friends since you will all be doing sets and reps, just different exercises.
Maybe they could help you tweak your program a bit and help you identify what exactly you should be doing? (I am more than happy to do the same if you email me more details!). Although if you have the time I would definitely recommend spending the time to do your own reading into this – it will equip you with the knowledge to constantly change and update your training schedule to always keep you moving forwards.
Pull up progressions are something I’ve written about before here, but another good article is this one by GMB Fitness. A site called Bodyweight Training Arena gives very clear illustrations for progressions for loads of bodyweight exercises – good for getting an overview of where you are and want to be. Another great resource is YouTube. I’m a massive fan of the GMB videos as they break things down very clearly, for example in this one for front lever progressions. Check out the rest of their channel here. Another excellent channel is the Fitness FAQ’s one, run by Daniel Vadnal. He also teaches very clearly, and goes into good detail about the technical side of exercises and the importance of doing them correctly.
Once you’ve identified what you need to be doing, it should make your training more efficient, which will save time and give you more time to focus on your studies and not think about what you should be doing. If you like you can even write out a program in advance so that you go training knowing exactly what you’ll be doing. This approach will also help the guys you train with!
Anyhow, I hope this helps! And if you have anything to add then please do leave a comment.

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