Bodyweight Strength Feats and High-Frequency Training

Bodyweight strength feats. Everyone admires them, but very few can perform. Planches, front levers, human flags, handstand push-ups – they all amaze the crowd and require solid strength. Despite the fact that everybody wants to perform bodyweight strength feats, very few actually try to learn the skills. Usually calisthenics are considered as an afterthought by guys who train mainly with weights. However, bodyweight training can be as hard as weight training (if not harder) if you know how to implement it right. And I’m here to show you just one of the ways.

What Is High-Frequency Training?

High-frequency training (HFT) is a training approach that calls for working a certain muscle group or a certain exercise 4 or more times a week. What can I say about it? It is a great way to gain strength fast. Also, it’s a highly underestimated way to build recovery speed and work capacity. And my experimentation shows that HFT and bodyweight exercises together create a perfect mix. Bodyweight exercises are less demanding on your spine and joints than weights, therefore you can repeat some exercises far more frequently.

Let’s Get Back to Strength Feats, Shall We?

It turns out that you may not need to rest 48-72 hours between sessions to gain strength in some exercises. You can literally add reps every day (of course, for a certain period of time; nothing works forever).

Let’s take me as an example. At one point, my goal was to work up to wall-assisted diamond handstand push-ups (you should definitely try this feat of strength; it’s a killer for an upper body). How did I train for them? I picked appropriate hand width and simply performed these push-ups every day. I was able to add reps every session. And once I hit 5-6 reps in a first set, I moved my hands one palm closer or half a palm in the next session. This way I made it to the feat. To be fair, I should note that I was already pretty proficient in handstand push-ups, when I trained for diamonds.

I think HFT works due to neural adaptation and nature of practice itself. The more you practice something while not burning out – the better you get at it. You can work up to some feats of strength in such manner, but you should set everything up right.

How to Set Up High-Frequency Training?

Pick a skill. Prepare to train every day or at least 4 times a week. It won’t be too hard because you don’t need any equipment, just your bodyweight. Then pick the progression step right. Don’t start too hard. It’s better to begin with a relatively easy step than to burn out right away. Something like 6-8 rep or 20-30 seconds (for static holds) max. Then set up the volume. Provided that intensity is right, I recommend no more than 20 reps or 30-60 seconds total per day. In my experience, it’s the most productive volume for gains in strength (and even in muscle). Don’t worry about sets. Just hit no more than 20 reps or 30-60 seconds total per day. Don’t train to failure. Leave a rep or two in the tank on every set. Once you get acquainted with such frequency, you can add intensity a bit. A progression standard is to be able to do 5-7 reps or 30-60 seconds (slightly less for more demanding static holds like straddle planches or straddle front levers) in the first working set. Then you can move to a bit harder exercise. Repeat until you get the skill or hit the plateau. In case of the latter, you should put this skill into maintenance mode and shake things up. For example, pick another skill or return to more infrequent training. After a couple of weeks, you can return and progress again.

Some Guidelines and Tips

I warn you not to get carried away with intensity in heavy pulling exercises. And first of all, I mean the one-arm chin-up and the muscle-up. If you go too fast too soon, you have all the chances to develop elbow pain, which is totally unproductive. On the other hand, I haven’t experienced any bad side effects from practicing front levers, back levers or one-arm chin-up holds (again, provided the intensity is not too high). Additionally, if you have any annoying pains from an exercise while doing HFT, stop it. Use more infrequent training instead.

What about your current training? Well, it depends on how the skill you picked will interfere with your current routine. For example, if you picked handstand or handstand push-ups, it will be a great idea to go easier on your presses and so on. If it doesn’t interfere, then don’t change anything. Just put your skill practice at the beginning of the training session. Or if you have the opportunity to train twice a day, then leave at least 6 hours between HFT and regular sessions.

Closing Thoughts

Don’t overcomplicate things. High-frequency strength training works and makes perfect sense. I challenge you to try it. Thanks for reading.

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Alex Zinchenko

Alex Zinchenko

Alex Zinchenko is a strength addict, a coach and the author of the Rough Strength blog, where he shares his crazy ideas regarding training and nutrition. He is honest to toothache, straightforward like a train and too daring to believe that heavy calisthenics, kettlebell and sandbag training along with intermittent fasting can deliver all the results you want.

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