CategoryNeat Progression

Back Bridge Progression

bridge grace menendez

The back bridge is one of the most important exercises you can do. Regular back bridging improves posture, counteracts chronic sitting and makes you a better human being overall (OK, I may have exaggerated on one of these points). However, it’s one of the most neglected moves because it looks more like yoga than a true feat of strength.

But that’s a big misconception in the world of strength training: In order to be able to move yourself or another heavy object through space, you need to be stronger than you are inflexible. Most people think yoga is just a fancy way to stretch, but it’s really a back and forth between contracting and lengthening your muscles while increasing body awareness.

The back bridge is a perfect example of this. You need to have considerable strength in your lower back muscles, hamstrings, shoulders and triceps. But your hip flexors, abdomen, shoulders and your spine need to have above average flexibility to get into this position. If either one of those things is missing, strength and/or flexibility, you won’t be able to hold a clean, deep back bridge.

Having this balance of strength and flexibility let’s you move with more ease at everything you do. Therefore, back bridging is also a really good overall therapy for your posterior chain. While I don’t like generalized attributes like “most important”, I think this is a must-have in your arsenal.

Get ready, drop your head back and lemme ‘splain the progressions to a full bridge and tricks to clean it up.

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How to Get Your First Pull-up


The pull-up is one of those exercises that get’s you a lot of bang for your buck. It works your lats, biceps, abs, shoulders, forearms and triceps (yeah it’s true). It’s the only exercise that really needs some kind of equipment, but if you’re willing to be creative, you can always find something to hang from.

I need to be honest with you: Because I began with strength training by lifting heavy weights, I could already do a couple of pull-ups when I switched to bodyweight-only training. I guess I’m lucky to be a guy in this case, because men naturally have more upper-body strength than women. So women will initially find it harder to do pull-ups. Some might even think that they will never be able to do even one. I disagree. You just need to work a bit harder, ladys.

First off, it’s obviously easier to do pull-ups if you’re fairly lean. If that’s a problem for you, start eating healthier while you work on your pull-up progressions.

Although I never had to use these progressions from ground up, I have enough experience with other bodyweight progressions to be confident that the progressions below will help you get your first pull-up. And for all you strong people who already can do a couple of pull-ups, this article might still be worth your time. I included tips to improve your form and some of the exercises are a nice addition to work your pulling muscles from other angles.

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Handstand Push-up Progression

Handstand pushup

The handstand push-up (HSPU) is another basic exercise that should be in every serious bodyweight strength trainee’s arsenal. It helps develop your shoulder, triceps and core strength. It also helps if you’re working on your free-standing handstand. And it’s a good thing to stand upside down from time to time, for circulation ‘n stuff.

The HSPU is very straight forward to progress to. Once you get the basic technique to kick up into a handstand against the wall, all you need to work on is your pushing strength in this position. I suggest starting this progression when you mastered regular push-ups.

Let’s dive into it.

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Pistol Squat Progression


The pistol is the ultimate calisthenics leg exercise. Once you mastered the classic pistol, you can do it everywhere, everytime. It’s challenging not only strengthwise, but also requires quite some flexibility in your hips, quads, hamstrings and ankles.

Basically, it’s a one-legged deep squat, where you hold one leg straight in front of you and push with the other leg. Not only does this require serious leg strength (the kind of strength you would need if you squatted with a barbell that’s about as heavy as your own bodyweight), but the balancing part adds even more difficulty. For this reason, the pistol also works your lower back and abs and even the quad of the passive leg. So it’s really a heavy compound exercise for your whole body.

You can progress in very linear fashion towards the pistol if you already have the necessary flexibility. Let’s see if you have it.

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One-arm Push-up Progression

one arm push up

The one-arm push-up (OAPU) is the mother of calisthenics pushing exercises. It’s one of my favorite exercises, because it’s so simple. You can do it anywhere, all you need is a floor. It primarily works triceps, shoulders and chest, but you need some serious core strength and the ability to generate tension throughout your whole body.

Besides, it’s an exercise that is pretty straight forward to progress to.

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