Now that I have a lot of extra time in the day and many fewer distractions than usual such as getting up at 5:00 AM to prepare for the day, hour-long commutes, and driving and picking up the kids to/from their many activities that are currently on hold, I have managed to calm my wandering mind enough to really focus on a program and monitor my progress. This is as opposed to freestyling everything and consequently half-assing most things. I have been working on a Grind-Style calisthenics routine that incorporates my own flair into the mix. “My own flair” would be working the same muscle groups every day (gasp!) and doing micro-workouts. In Grind-Style calisthenics, among other things, you pick a simple routine and keep it consistent and then make progress by adding a rep or two in the final set rather than at the beginning. Then you try to bring the final sets up to the first one in terms of rep counts and then in the next workout, increase the reps in the first set and start the thing over again. So, for example, with push-ups, if you did 12, 10, 8 in one workout, the next workout you would shoot for 12, 10, 9. Once you nailed three twelves, you would bump the first set up to 13 or more. This is very smart because it prevents you from spending yourself on the first set and forces you to make progress in the gritty, gut-busting section of your workout. But in tiny little increments.
I’ve been doing this Grind-Style workout plan with push ups, pull/chin ups, hover lunges, ring dips, full body-weight ring rows, and assisted pistol squats. For my own special flair, I’m working each muscle group each day (because dangit, you should be able to do that!) and generally doing these as micro-workouts. So I may do the push stuff in one session and the pull in another session later in the day and so on. Each session takes about 5-8 minutes. I’m not a fan of timing things but I do try to keep the rest between sets consistent by waiting until my breathing rate returns to near normal before attempting a new set. This is likely about 30-60 seconds. I chose three sets for each exercise as a starting point because I knew I could handle it from outset. If I had chosen more sets I would likely burn out on volume before making much progress. I chose the exercises below because they are difficult enough for me that I can’t usually get more than 12 – 15 reps a set, and in some cases significantly fewer. Already, just a few days into this, I’ve surprised myself. (Each exercise below links to a video showing how to do it.)
Exercise Grouping 1
Feet elevated diamond push ups: Sunday 4/5/20 – 14, 12, 11 Tuesday 4/7/20 – 14, 12, 15 ** , Thursday 4/9/20 – 15, 15, 15 ** (note: my feet are elevated about 2 feet, or on the 2nd step of the stairs)
Pull/Chin Ups: Sunday 4/5/20 – 12, 10, 9 Tuesday 4/7/20 – 12, 12, 14 ** Thursday 4/9/20 – 13, 13, 13 ** (I usually do either neutral grip pull ups or chin ups as regular grip pull-ups give me a sore elbow)
Hover lunge: Sunday 4/5/20 – 12, 12, 12 Tuesday 4/7/20 – 14, 13, 14 ** (usually I have my hands resting on a chair or wall so balance is not the main challenge in this exercise)
Exercise Grouping 2
Ring dips: Monday 4/6/20 – 14, 15, 12 Wednesday 4/8/20 – 14, 14, 14 ** Friday 4/10/20 – 15, 15, 16 **
Full body-weight ring rows: Monday 4/6/20 – 5, 5, 4 Wednesday 4/8/20 – 5, 5, 5 ** (this is a very difficult exercise for me and relatively new in my repertoire, but I like it because I see it as the pull analog to the dip)
Assisted pistol squat: Monday 4/6/20 – 7, 8, 7 Wednesday 4/8/20 – 8, 8, 8 **
In the 2nd completion of the first day’s workout and the 2nd completion of the second day’s workout I was able to increase the reps significantly. This tells me two important truths that Grind-Style calisthenics seizes upon as justification for its existence: 1) you can and should make progress in small measurable steps in the more challenging portion of your workouts, and 2) you likely can do more than you think you can. Much more.
We’ll see how this goes. The challenge now is to stick with the plan. Looking ahead, I anticipate that progress will certainly stall at some point, at which time I think it would be useful to add some rest between repeats.
I have two exercise groupings here and I chose those after careful consideration. I really want to distill this workout down to its most potent and effective components. So you don’t see any exercises where the rep ranges would be high, such as body-weight squats or standard push ups, where I generally do 30 – 50 per set. I want the difficult exercises only, so the attainable reps per set are fairly low, but not too low. The full body weight row is a challenging one for me because I have not practiced it consistently. But I expect the reps to increase there rather quickly. You could choose more exercises if you wish, but if you do, I recommend that you group them together and maybe add a third day.
If you want to try this and you are fairly new to body-weight training, I recommend choosing three exercises in total, one from push, one from pull and one type of squat. Choose a variation (such as hand and foot position) that allows you to get at least 6 or 7 reps and up to 15 in a single set using good form. If you choose standard push ups and can do 10 with good form for example, I recommend starting with 8 on the first set and then see what you can get on sets 2 and 3 with consistent rest times between sets and go from there using the Grind Style technique described above.
Here are all the videos in order:
** = way to go, champ!