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Calisthenics Progressions
Training tactics included

Written by: Owen Johnston
http://www.strengthcalisthenics.com

Owen Johnston – www.strengthcalisthenics.com
Legal & Author Information
Copyright Information:
Johnston, Owen
Calisthenics Progressions
Fitness Instruction, 2nd Edition
Copyright 2015/6
All Rights Reserved. This book may be freely printed, distributed, or copied
for personal or classroom use, but may not be modified or used for profit. It may
also be posted on any reputable website as long as you do not offer the book for
sale.
Short URL to this book (free download) – http://tiny.cc/progressions
Author & Publisher - Owen Johnston
Author's Home Page – http://www.owenjohnston.net

2

Owen Johnston – www.strengthcalisthenics.com
Calisthenics Progressions
Training tactics included
This guide lists the progressions that I teach. If you would like to view free
videos, visit the site below, where you will see links in the top menu titled
“Bodyweight training videos” and “Calisthenics progression videos”, respectively.
The top menu also has a link to a calisthenics progression PDF, which lists of all
the progressions and exercises. If you are visiting the mobile version of the site,
tap “Site Menu” in the first post.
http://www.strengthcalisthenics.com
Short URLs
Calisthenics progression videos - http://tiny.cc/progressionvideo
Bodyweight training videos - http://tiny.cc/trainingvideo
Short URL to my free downloads page - http://tiny.cc/freedownloads
View and/or download this article as a PDF – http://tiny.cc/progressions
Classes
If you would like to get feedback on your technique, and additional
instruction, get in touch with me to set up a class! I always offer a FREE initial
consultation. E-mail me at - owen@strengthcalisthenics.com
You can order beautiful, professionally printed editions of my books on
demand through Simple Print Service, the “easy way to create beautiful prints
from digital content!” Simply visit the site below, upload a PDF, and begin the
ordering process. You may choose to have a PDF file printed as a magazine,
softcover book, or hardcover book.
http://www.simpleprintservice.com
The PDF editions of my books may be read and/or downloaded for free!
Simply point your browser to the below short URL to a Dropbox folder. If you
decide you would like to order a print, download one or more of the books and
use the service at the site above. Short URL – http://tiny.cc/bookfiles
I don’t make a single cent from prints of my books made through the
Simple Print Service, nor do I ask for one. I am satisfied knowing that people are
reading my stuff, and that there is an eco-friendly print on demand service
available!

3

Owen Johnston – www.strengthcalisthenics.com
Disclaimer
This book is intended for people of good health and physical condition. The
training methods and advice in this book may not be for everyone. Always
consult your physician before starting a new exercise program. I am not a
physician, and as such, nothing in this book should in any way be taken as
medical advice or a substitute for medical advice. Also, this book should not be
used to replace advice from your personal physician.
Physical activity always carries with it a risk of injury. When you practice
the training methods in this book, always practice proper safety precaution, use
proper technique, and apply common sense. The author can not assume any
responsibility for any injury, illness, loss or damage that may result from
following the training methods in this book.
Lastly, this book is not a replacement for formal instruction. Be sure to
seek out a competent, qualified instructor who may carefully observe your
progress and provide feedback. This book is intended primarily to be a
supplement to, not a replacement for, formal training.

4

Owen Johnston – www.strengthcalisthenics.com
Calisthenics Progressions
Table of contents
Introduction and training tactics

-

6

Pushup progression
Pullup progression
Leg raise progression
Squatting progression
Bridging progression
Handstand pushup progression

-

7
8
9
10
12
13

Horizontal pullup progression
Dipping progression
Midsection hold progression
Back lever progression
Front lever progression

-

15
16
17
18
19

Specialization progression – wrist pushups
Specialization progression – chinup pullovers Specialization progression – dragon flags
-

20
21
22

Other recommended progressions
(books and free videos)

-

26

Author profile
Resources
Appreciation

-

27
28
29

5

Owen Johnston – www.strengthcalisthenics.com
Introduction and training tactics
Beside each exercise is a "progression standard" you should achieve before
moving to a harder exercise. The progression standard for dynamics is in the
“sets” x (times) “repetitions” format, and the standard for statics is in a “sets” x
(times) “seconds” format, unless otherwise noted. You don't have to work with
every exercise in a progression in order to become proficient in that progression,
or do the exercises in the same exact order listed. There are often multiple ways
to make an exercise easier or harder.
Don’t rush through progressions. This can lead to injuries or burnout. Be
patient, enjoy the journey, and give your body time to adapt. Athletes in beginner
through intermediate levels of strength should be able to stick with a double
progression. Start with low repetitions and build up to a training goal, then move
on to a harder exercise, and repeat.
Once you get past the intermediate level of strength, gains will often slow
down. When this happens, you will need to start exploring other types of
progression and structure your training cycles differently. A few proven methods
for planning training cycles:
Daily undulation periodization
Grease the groove
Stepped periodization
Weekly splits - push/pull, upper body/lower body, etc.
Or a mixture of different types
Elite level goals require many hours of dedicated, highly specialized
training and technical instruction, as well as an advanced overall foundation of
strength. The more highly specialized your goal of choice is, the more you need
to focus on it instead of other elite goals. The elite goals are comparable to
and/or borrowed from levels 4 and 5 in “Skill Guidelines for Building Strong,
Useful, Adaptable Athletes”, a collaboration between “Eat. Move. Improve.” and
APEX Movement. To quote - “While level five is not necessarily a world class
athlete, most people will not be able to perform many level five skills without
sacrificing performance in other domains.” View the document by pointing your
browser to this short URL – http://tiny.cc/bookfiles
When you are ready to start pursuing elite goals, ask an experienced
strength coach about goal selection, workout design, and training cycles.
Short URL to calisthenics progression videos –
http://tiny.cc/bodyweightvideos

6

Owen Johnston – www.strengthcalisthenics.com
Pushup progression Beginner: Wall pushups - 3x50
Novice: Incline pushups - 3x40
Intermediate:
Kneeling pushups - 3x30
Pushups - 2x20
High intermediate:
One leg pushups - 2x20
Close pushups - 2x20
Advanced:
Uneven pushups - 2x20 each side
Lever pushups – 2x20 each side
Archer pushups - 2x20 each side
One arm incline pushups - 2x12 each side
High advanced:
One arm kneeling pushups - 2x10 each side
Tripod one arm pushups - 2x10 each side
Gecko pushups - 2x10 each side
Snake pushups - 2x7 each side
Elite:
Ultimate one arm pushup - 2x5 each side
Decline one arm pushups - 3-5 each side
One arm fingertip pushups - 1 each side
One arm wrist pushups - 1 each side
Archer pushups – stretch one arm out to the side and point the fingers out in that
direction. The positioning will look like lever pushups, but in this exercise, you
are not pressing down through an object, making the exercise harder.

7

Owen Johnston – www.strengthcalisthenics.com
Pullup progression Beginner:
Leg assisted pullups - 3x30
Novice:
Leg elevated pullups (aka jackknife pullups) - 3x20
Partner pullups - 2x10
Intermediate:
Pullups - 2x10
High intermediate:
L hold pullups - 2x10
Close grip pullups - 2x10
Advanced:
Headbangers - 2x10
Commando pullups (asymmetrical close pullups) - 5x5 each side
Diagonal (side to side) pullups – 3x5 each side
Round the worlds - 2x5 each side
Uneven pullups - 3x5 each side
Typewriter pullups – 2x5 each side
Archer pullups - 2x5 each side
High advanced:
Leg assisted one arm pullups - 3x5
Leg elevated one arm pullups - 3x5
Partner one arm pullups - 3x5
Self assisted one arm pullups - 3x5
Elite:
One arm pullup for 5 reps each side

8

Owen Johnston – www.strengthcalisthenics.com
Leg raise progression Beginner:
Seated knee tucks – 3x40
Flat knee raises - 3x30
Flat bent leg raises - 3x25 each side
Novice:
Flat one leg lying leg raises - 2x20 each side
Intermediate:
Lying leg raises - 2x20
Hanging bicycles - 2x20 each side
Hanging knee raises - 2x15
High intermediate:
Hanging frog raises - 2x12
Hanging leg raises - 2x10
Reverse frogs - 2x10
One leg pike lifts - 2x8 each leg
Advanced:
Pike lifts (basically toes-ons / full range of motion leg lifts; drill flexibility for this)
- 2x7
High advanced:
Solid rollovers (basically dead hang pullovers but with more focus on strength
than momentum) - 2x5
Elite exercises and goals include, but are not limited to:
Hanging dragon flag – hold for 15 seconds
Notes on performance
Reverse frogs - leg raise to L-hold, tuck knees in to the upper arms or elbows,
reverse
Pike lifts - basically toes-ons / full range of motion leg lifts; drill flexibility for this
Solid rollover – this exercise is a harder variation of the chinup pullover and
should be completed as one smooth movement. Grab onto a high overhead bar,
and from a dead hang, perform a full range of motion leg raise, move into inverse
front hang. From there, pull with the arms until your hips are on the bar.
Complete the exercise by bending at the hips, rolling over the bar, and
straightening up your upper body into front support position.
9


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