I’m a fan of easy-to-follow lists, so here are 10 simple tips to get the most out of your calisthenics workout:
1) Sleep well. Doing anything remotely taxing when you’re sleep-deprived, especially working out, is not only going to be difficult but also likely to cause pain and injury.
2) Don’t workout immediately after eating. You should ideally give your body 2-3 hours after eating before you work out, otherwise you will feel full and won’t be able to work out very effectively, as well as running the risk of digestive discomfort.
3) Be consistent – this is one of the top reasons for lack of progress, or what people call a “plateau” – the point where you feel like nothing you’re doing is allowing you to get better and stronger and you’re struggling with completing the workout you’ve been doing for months. If you workout every two days for 2 weeks, and then all of a sudden stop working out for a week, you will very likely find that you’re struggling with doing the same workout.
4) Always push yourself to muscle exhaustion. How do you know when you’ve done this? You won’t be able to physically do another repetition, because your muscles will be too tired. This doesn’t mean you should try to hurt yourself or “push through the pain”, but you should feel discomfort and your muscles should be telling you that they can’t do anything more.
Muscle exhaustion is key for growing muscles because it tells your body that it is unable to do something, so it has to adapt by growing more muscle and getting stronger.
5) Switch it up. Do a different variation of the same exercise you usually do, like a clap push-up instead of a normal one. Or try to do 2 more reps than normal. Or do a plank instead of crunches. Or do a completely different workout. Introducing change is not only great for keeping your workouts fun and challenging, but also for getting better results – your workout will be more difficult and your muscles will constantly have to adapt, instead of being used to doing the same thing you did last time.
6) Eat healthy. As I pointed out on the Diet page, diet is pretty much half the battle. If your diet is bad, you are only going 50% out of your workouts. Also, if one of your goals is to increase strength and muscle mass, you should try to eat more protein. You don’t need to go overboard and count calories or buy protein powder, but protein-rich foods like eggs, chicken, fish, and beef should be a part of your daily meal.
7) Get a nice post-workout meal. The time window right after your workout is ideal for not only replenishing your energy, but also beginning the repair and growth process for your muscles – scientists have done studies on this stuff! This is exactly why bodybuilders go crazy about their post-workout ritual.
I would personally recommend a full, healthy meal involving lots of protein and some carbs – something simple like chicken with a salad and some fruit after.
Alternatively you can go for a protein shake, by either mixing protein powder with a glass of water or milk. You can also optionally add fruits/vegetables for a full smoothie, but make sure not to go too crazy on the sugar.
If you don’t want to use protein powder, you can also use raw eggs instead. For example, you can combine raw eggs or milk in the blender with a banana and/or other easy-to-blend fruits. Other great post-working foods are yogurt, whole-grain oatmeal/cereals, and nuts. Whatever you choose, combine a source of protein with a source of carbs. You should ideally have your meal within 1 hour of your workout.
8) Don’t workout through injuries. One of the most frustrating examples of a calisthenics injury is wrist pain – it prevents you from doing push-ups, and many other exercises. But pushing through the pain will only make things worse by increasing the time it takes to heal, or even worsening the injury.
The best thing to do is to simply wait until your injury has fully healed before resuming work with that muscle/body part, and seeing a doctor/physical therapist if necessary.
9) Don’t forget to warm-up! I’ve already pointed this out in the getting started page, but it is important enough to repeat. Warming up is key for preventing injury and getting your body ready for a workout. Simple stretches and cardio for a couple of minutes should do the trick, and there are hundreds of warm-up ideas on the internet.
10) Stay motivated. Motivation is key for doing anything remotely difficult in life. Think of the health benefits you get from working out, and the improvements in your physical appearance. Listen to music while working out. Watch some motivational videos. Whatever works for you, be persistent, keep your head up, and you will see success!