In this article, I am going to share how I became a successful calisthenics athlete and the lessons you can learn from it to help you be one.
Three years ago, I was an average skinny guy with a long list of questions about how to begin calisthenics, but more specifically about how to become successful. I used to look at great athletes on YouTube performing amazing feats with their own bodyweight. I was more than amazed to see them perform advanced calisthenics. So I often asked myself these questions:
- How are they training?
- Why do they get such results from their workouts, while normal people following those routines didn’t look anything like them!
- Do they have good genetics which I am lacking or do they have some other secrets?
I realized I must look beyond the obvious. In this case, the workouts, training routines and exercises were very obvious. The thing that wasn’t obvious and was lurking behind the shadows was the cultivation of great habits by all these athletes which wasn’t discussed on the videos.
I found that the secret to success was exchanging all my bad habits and health destroying activities for good habits and health-promoting activities. I’ve soon realized that a master of calisthenics is always aware of his general lifestyle which involves an adequate diet to sustain that intense training, as well as a good training schedule.
The rest was up to discipline, commitment and maybe one of the most important things of all: patience.
I stopped wasting my time and energy on non-productive activities like watching too much TV, indulging in fruitless entertainment activities, drinking too much, useless partying etc. I started imitating the lifestyle of the pro calisthenics athletes and slowly exchanged all my bad habits for good habits like daily exercise, healthy diet, getting proper sleep and rest, never skipping workouts.
In short, I stopped finding reasons why others were more successful than me and started looking for solutions to achieve what they had done and to build a physique that I will be proud of.
So what I learned from all this was that hard work along with a good lifestyle over the years is the actual key to success in calisthenics, as in other sports too. You will get no results by following Mr. X’s training advice nor by following Mr. Y’s workout routines in a short time, no matter how good they are. You will get results when you stick to them for a long time.
If your goal is mastery in calisthenics and achieving a Greek God physique then you must follow several rules like:
- Do simple compound movements. All the pro’s practice their basics faithfully and consistently;
- Your results depend on your overall lifestyle more than your workout routine, like dieting and resting properly;
- Progression is the name of the game, so always seek new methods to challenge yourself;
- You will have to find ways to overcome the obstacles that are or will appear on your path, like weather conditions that could stop you from an outside training session;
- Always remember that small daily steps are better than irregular heavy training. Whenever you are free try to squeeze in a little workout. It will all add up in the end and you will be surprised with the results.
Last but not least, don’t get trapped in the quagmire of shortcuts to an excellent physique. Consistency is the key and you can’t speed up your body’s natural potential without side effects. Make calisthenics a habit and it will reward you generously.
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The importance of these technical things is paramount. But, there is more about being successful and to be honest, I think that without some values and personality characteristics, everything is in vain and you are doomed to failure.
I managed to overcome all the obstacles and build a great lifestyle that enhanced my progress. It changed my entire character and mentality; hence it is time to talk about them so you can be successful too.
Frederick Douglass says: “If there is no struggle, there is no progress”. It is unbelievable how right he is. During my journey, I had so many struggles that I can’t even count.
Now let me talk about the iceberg because it delineates everything your character needs to achieve greatness:
I lived my life doing a variety of things. I tried different sports such as football, athletics, and swimming. I even became a professional swimmer during my childhood.
Then, time passed and I needed to work to make a living. No matter what I did, everything brought me to where I am today. This website is my job and if there is something I have learned throughout the past decade, it is that nothing can ever be achieved without struggle and hard work.
Doubt and fear of failure had always been two of the factors that influenced me, but without passion and dedication, I wouldn’t have found the courage to pursue my dreams. It is the same with calisthenics. In Romania, few persons are doing bodyweight workouts, because here everybody else is convinced that you can’t achieve a strong and muscular body without lifting weights.
That fear of not getting the desired results makes them try different approaches. I was told a lot, in the beginning, to not waste my time playing in a bar because I was never going to get anywhere. I chose to ignore that hateful and cowardly advise and follow my own beliefs even if doubt was always present.
I was right and I gained more results from my actions than they would ever imagine. When you believe it can be done, then you will find the strength and energy to move over absolutely everything. There is simply no other way!
I want you to eliminate doubt, confusion or fear because these three-flaws values will get in your way of becoming who you want to become.
As for more practical advice, I encourage you to train really hard. Don’t look for shortcuts and easy training routines, because from my own experience I know that without putting in all of my physical efforts I wouldn’t be here today, writing this article for you.
You must take the risk of pursuing your beliefs without second thoughts. Courage comes from assuming those risks and deciding to act accordingly even though the future is uncertain. And even so, don’t just quit because you haven’t gotten anywhere in a matter of months. Be honest with yourself and think about if you are truly giving your everything.
Everybody wants to be approved by society and especially by those closest to them. But if your entourage is not worth spending time with because it is toxic, then just get a distance from it and find new friends.
Toxic friends are the ones that will always offer their opinions freely regardless of the consequences. Here is an example of how they can truly influence you in a bad way without being aware of the strong impact they might have upon you:
Go to the gym and start a conversation with the most passionate weight-lifting guys, about building a great and shredded chest that performs as well as it looks by only doing calisthenics. I bet that the majority of them will advise you to cut the crap because such things are impossible.
If you asked them enthusiastically, hoping for approval, then you will leave the gym with a bitter taste in your mouth. And if you are weak and in doubt, then they succeeded by influencing you to quit what you first thought is good. If you are a strong self-believer however, then their opinion will equal 0. So then, what’s the truth?
Well, the reality is that you must always seek more answers, especially from guys that are already involved in things you want to believe are possible. I was in that spot too and I saw their ignorance as a weakness of their character. I did build a great physique and got the strength to bench press enough to impress any bodybuilder although I never do it in my training. Truth is that there are no limits on what you can achieve if you are willing to pay the price.
You will always get criticism regardless of your intentions and actions, but nothing will change until you prove the contrary. Then everybody will start to listen to what you have to say because you made natural progress. Earn that respect by working hard and being patient. Approve your own actions and stay solid. Cheat and sell false illusions and you will get haters as well.
In the picture below, I am lifting a pretty heavy log to train my shoulders, lower back, triceps and chest. Do you think I needed to ask someone if it is okay to do it? I never care, because I designed a workout routine based on that and then I listen to my body’s signals. If I get soreness in my muscle and feel my muscular energy draining little by little, then I know I am doing something right.
Now take a look at how my body is developed. You can easily notice that I have got nice pecs, and judging by the way my musculature is structured you will also notice it was all achieved organically and by majorly working only with calisthenics. Don’t cheat, improvise, be smart and work hard!
My commitment to fitness lays down over the rest of my life, so there is no rush for me since I am damn patient. Such a level of commitment can only be sustained with passion. I developed a hobby around fitness and I am also building a career with it. This makes my heart grow even bigger. You also must act with passion, because it is the only way to ensure that you will be really good at it.
I eliminated absolutely everything that caused me discomfort whatsoever and decided to get truly involved in what I am passionate about. Of course, fitness is not the only thing that I love, but no matter what I do, I give my best and this is why I came out successful. All these good habits will enhance your actions if you do things only out of love.
So, please do not get frustrated when it goes bad, because if I were to count the days in which I wasn’t mentally and physically able to train than you would be surprised to find out that they surpass the ones in which I was in a great state of mind. To get over these issues will require discipline and persistence.
Motivation is the reason for people’s actions, desires, and needs. Unfortunately, motivation doesn’t last long. I recommend you to jump over motivation, and just do the things that need to be done because you have goals to accomplish.
Monotony will always find its way into your life once a routine is established. You can avoid that by smiling at it and choosing to never get angry or frustrated. What can you do?
Be innovative and constantly change your routine:
- redesign your weekly training log
- replace certain meals, foods, ingredients
- change the training environment
- introduce something new into your workouts. Maybe a couple of new exercises and even a totally new training method
- take a rest of one full week or walk and jog during that period
- have some late nights occasionally. Go party or enjoy your evenings with the closest. Drink with moderation though.
Now having the iceberg explained from my point of view, based on my own life experience, the only things left for you are to get started. When you forget the reasons why you are doing it, come back and read this article again. Enjoy your journey!