Advanced Strength Progressions for Bodyweight Exercise Skills

The bodyweight fitness world tends to fetishize the idea of advancing toward a small handful of advanced skills like the planche, one-arm chin-up, handstand push-ups, and similar moves. These are all great strength moves, but a lot of people focus too much on these outcomes at the expense of developing the full package.

In this episode, Ryan will teach you how he thinks about progressions for higher-level strength skills, both in general and with specific progression examples covering pushing, pulling, and pressing with both bent and straight arms, as well as leg strength.

Key points are living in a variation until you own it and stepping outside the straight-line progression that can get you to a skill but might also lead to injury if you aren’t careful.

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Resources mentioned

Creating Your Minimum Viable Fitness RoutineHow to Do a PlanchePull-up tutorial

Transcript of Advanced Strength Progressions

Andy: All right, all right, all right. Welcome to the Get More Badass podcast. That’s right. A well-placed grunt I think is really the defining characteristic of all quality funk music.

Ryan: I was trying to go Mr. T, but I’m just not on that level.

Andy: No, you’re not.

Ryan: Oh man, I’m not. No one is on that level.

Andy: We can get more badass, but we will never, never achieve true Mr. T badass levels.

Ryan: Where is your bobblehead, man? You got your bobblehead somewhere? You still have that?

Andy: Yeah, he’s right here for you. You hear that?

Ryan: Oh, yeah.

Andy: That is a Mr. T bobblehead bobbling. This is the best podcast because we have the best sound effects. You guys are welcome for that. All right. Today we are going to be talking about how to get more badass. We’ve talked lately about a lot of lifestyle habits, skills, high-level motivation, habit building, concepts about training, how to figure out what you need to be focused on, how to choose the minimum things that are important for you in a routine. One thing we haven’t talked about a lot in the past, a handful of podcasts is specific details that will help you in learning to do a higher-level strength development, higher-level skill development.

Andy: The neat thing is that even though there are so many different types of things you could work on, there’s always a handful of principles that applied to a lot of these, right? There’s a lot of details, but when it comes to true principles that can actually help you, that that can guide you in a lot of different contexts, there’s really not too many of them. We’re going to talk first about some of these principles that we use at GMB that can help you in things like a one-arm handstands, planches, levers, all kinds of skill work, strength work. Then we’ll go into some very specific details on some of those movements and how we apply them.

Ryan: I’m going to try and keep it simple, but put your waders on because this shit is going to get deep and it’s going to be fun. I want to start off first with this and talk about one of our lead trainers. His name is Junior. He’s located in Brisbane, Australia.

Andy: He’s really not very good at anything and he’s incredibly weak. Really one of the best examples out there I think of the fact that doing GMB like you’re never going to get very strong or very good at anything.

Ryan: That’s right and you only focus on the basics anymore at GMB. That’s right, so we can pull it out.

Andy: We’ve stopped doing any advanced training at all.

Ryan: Exactly. This is what we’re going to be talking about today is the fact that, yes, we out a lot of videos. We’re looking at the basics, but the reason for that is because that is the base that’s going to allow you to build and moved towards the high-level skills and Junior is a great example of that. When Junior first started out with us in GMB, I actually knew junior before GMB and I was teaching a seminar. It in Sydney. I was teaching a seminar in Sydney. This is before GMB. Junior came to that seminar. During the seminar, I was doing some extra things in there, GMB-ish. Junior actually took a liking more to that than the stuff that I was actually teaching in the seminar. Right away anyway, Junior came over to the dark side of GMB with us.

Ryan: Junior really was looking at getting some of these high-level skills, so very similar to a lot of people out there where they’re just like, “Yeah, I just want to get the planche or I just wanted to get the one-arm piece.” Rather than just focusing on just doing those high-level skills, it was a matter of really focusing on the foundation. The cool thing about junior was he was open to some of the advice that I was giving him and that in order to get one skill, he took a step back to look at the skill base for all the foundation of things. It wasn’t just working towards one scale. It was looking at how can he strengthen his body in a way that’s going to allow him not just get that one skill but build a body that’s going to allow him to have a platform to work on multiple skills down the line.

Ryan: Then I think this is the big thing that we need to focus on is the fact that, yes, we can’t spend a lot of time focusing on one skill, but the more that you can focus on building a body that is going to give you that physical autonomy to start working on the other things, the better off you’re going to be down the road and you’re actually going to be able to keep those high-level skills that you’ve been working on and therefore just use them at a maintenance level in order to continue moving forward. We’re going to get into a lot of this in detail here in a little bit. An example, Junior was his planche. He’s like the planche master now.

Ryan: Now for any of those of you listening that don’t know what a planche is, just imagine a pushup that your feet are floating in the air and you’re holding that position, okay? Now, the way that Junior focused on doing that was he first focused on the basic progressions, and when he hit a level that he was able to stay at a particular progression, then it was a matter of using variations of movements and putting in a lot of volume and time in order to get to the plant and that’s really what we’re going to be talking about today is looking first at the priorities of what you want to look at and get and work towards and how to focus on what you should focus on in terms of building that base that’s going to help you move towards these high level skills, okay?

Andy: Yeah, I think that that’s so … You said something that’s really important there is that a lot of people, they pick a goal like, “I want to learn the planche or the one-arm handstand,” or, “I want to learn one arm chins,” or, “I want to learn something like that.” They say, “Okay, how can I get that? I’m going to look on YouTube or search on internet. I’ll find the progression, the one true path, the exact sequence of skills that I should follow to get there because there’s only one way.” Making fun, but that’s because we do over time we’re reductive, right? Stories get repeated and what happens is the details get lost and we end up the more times people talk about planche progressions we start leaving out the things that aren’t common and so we end up with one common planche progression that starts with the tuck planche pledge and goes to the advanced tuck planche.

Ryan: You have to hold each one for a minimum of one minute before you move on.

Andy: Right. We get reductive with things, but basically people end up, they think, “Okay, the planche is my goal. I’m going to follow the correct planche progression,” and they forget everything else. They leave out all the other stuff. The path to these things is not a straight line. The reason that most people can do these things isn’t because they followed a strict progression to get them, it’s because they have built up other abilities, they’ve become athletic over time. They have developed their bodies to be able to do all kinds of things and then on top of that with a little bit of specific trading, they can do one-arm handstands. You learned one-arm handstand in a very short amount of time because you had built a foundation that had a lot of ability or one-arm chin, right?

Andy: Climbers can develop that single-arm pulling strength very quickly because they already have the grip. They already have the hang. They already have the full body use that they’re able to do, right? This is the thing. When you look at these skills in isolation, it looks like a single path that is like a step-by-step thing, the progression, right? What we’re really saying here and this is what we’re about to get into, is that a lot of it really, from the foundation, it sounds like we’re just repeating ourselves a lot, but it comes from not just following a straight line, it comes from having that broad base and all of the other things that aren’t part of the progression.

Ryan: Right. Yeah, exactly and that and that’s what we’re going to jump right into. First off, I just want to say, training multiple high-level skills is actually possible and a lot of people might jump in and say, Blah, blah, blah blah. I don’t think that is,” but the thing is again it’s looking at the other things that need to happen to allow you to be able to train those at a high level. Things like the foundation that we just talked about and especially having the time to train and the ability to recover. If training high-level skills, multiple high-level skills is something that you really want to be doing, then that’s pretty much going to be all of that you do.

Ryan: A great example is a gymnast. That’s exactly how I trained when I was young is all I was doing was training. The thing is it’s not that I was just jumping into that. There is a progression in terms of not a literal progression to get to a skill, but a progression over time where you build up the necessary strength, that flexibility and that control to allow you to start working on those particular skills. That’s what I’m getting at. Now the thing is though if you’re listening to this podcast, chances are you’re not looking to become an Olympic gymnast. You don’t have-

Andy: Or even a regional best 10 gymnast.

Ryan: Absolutely. We’re talking just like, “You’re probably just an average Joe like us,” and
that’s a cool thing, okay. Embrace that shit. In that case then, you would be better off in training the foundational skills for a longer duration of time. Yes, I understand that you want to get to planche. Yes, I know that you want to get one-arm chin. Yes, I know you want handstand push-ups. I get that. The thing is if you truly went back and looked at shoring up the foundational skills, and I’m going to get into these foundational skills a little bit, if you spend a lot of time really getting super strong in those, it’s going to allow you to move towards those advanced skills and work on those more efficiently and help you to get those faster.

Ryan: The foundational skills that I’m talking about, if we were to look at the upper body, I’m going to divide the body into upper and lower, we’re looking at a press, a pull and a push. That also includes bent arms and straight arms and then we have the legs. Now the legs also, you’re looking at a straight and bent leg. I’m going to get into details in each section here in a little bit, but just hear me out. Looking at improving your pressing strength, your pulling strength, your pushing strength and your lower body strength overall is going to allow you to move faster and more efficiently into working anything that you want.

Ryan: Let’s say that you start from the very beginning and you don’t quite have that foundation and you say, “I want to get a one-arm chin-up,” and you only focus on that one-arm chin-up, you are going to be lacking in other parts of your body. To be perfectly honest, things are going to arise that are going to keep you from moving forward with that one-arm chin-up. Yes, over time you could probably get that. What’s going to happen is you’re going to find that once you nail that one-arm chin-up without working on any place else in your body and having that foundation, you’re probably going to get injured. More than likely you will be injured. Your elbows are going to be pried. You’re going to have to step away. You’re actually going to lose that one-arm chin-up over time because you’re going to have to go back and shore up everything anyway.

Andy: Right. You can see this is true. If you look around online, if you get on the Reddit, look in YouTube comments and stuff, you’ll see any number of people that will tell you they were doing one-arm chin progressions and got tendinitis or they’re doing one-arm handstand progressions and had trouble, all kinds of things or planche and the wrist couldn’t handle it or again tendonitis, right? A lot of these things, when you focus on just the one skill and exclude other stuff, what happens is you’re stressing your body in one direction only basically and you’re not giving it that complimentary supplemental stuff that goes the other direction that strengthens it and gives you those safety valves that helps make your joints more robust, that helps give your body the ability to brace and be stable in different directions.

Andy: You can see lots of people get injured chasing these high-level skills. One of the reasons, I’m not saying it’s the only reason, there’s lots of other things that are part of this too, but one of the reasons is that we tend to exclude things that aren’t part of the progression. A lot of those progressions are pretty one sided. They’re pretty much limited in their scope.

Ryan: Right. That’s the big thing is the one sidedness. This might surprise you, I mean, because we talked about having that single focus and only focusing on that one major thing at a time, but that comes after having that foundation to be honest. Looking at how we would want to progress moving forward. In my mind, it’s first foundation and you work on that foundation and you get to a certain level where you’re good to go. What does that mean? It’s going to be a little bit different for each person, but basically looking at coming back and getting to that press, that pull, that push and then the leg strength core, the core strength is also a big component of it. To me that’s the bridge between the upper and the lower body. When done correctly, working on the foundation that is actually going to fit in-

Andy: Should be adequate.

Ryan: Right. You’ve got the foundation movements. You then explore the variations or variants of that. Then by doing enough volume over time, you get those high-level skills, okay? That’s what we’re going to be talking more about, is actually the specific skill examples of what we’re after and how to move towards that.

Andy: Right. I’ll just also say one more example about progressions is if you look on our Instagram channel, you can go and see them, we have one of our trainers, Eduardo has been lately posting a lot of skill progressions for things, some basic stuff, some higher-level stuff and really good breakdowns of a lot of different skills. If you read the comments on there, you’ll see a lot of people that, “Oh, I could get to the third progression and I’m stuck there,” and stuff like that, right? This is exactly the thing. Eduardo is able to do these things because he has a very broad base of ability and stuff. If you don’t, then what happens is you can go through and you might be able to take off based on whatever background you have, like the first or second steps on something, but then you get stuck, right?

Andy: Then you, you can’t just progress to the next one by practice because practice alone is only working on the skill portion, but you might not have the mobility or the strength to do it. Progressions are valuable and are useful, but they rely on you having more ability. They rely on you having a greater, a breadth of strength and stuff. We definitely teach a lot of progressive sets for learning different skills and stuff, but the idea is that they all need to be part of a greater context.

Ryan: Exactly.

Andy: Build that context and then apply these to the progressions that you’re working on.
Let’s look at specifics.

Ryan: Right. Looking at the specifics and what I’m going to do is look at each section the pressing, the pulling and the pushing and the legs, but I want to reiterate the fact that we’re looking at becoming well rounded in our foundation. I’m going to use an example in the weightlifting world that might actually help to preface what we’re after. Again, we’re just looking at strength in terms of when we’re looking at weightlifting and some of the examples, but what would be the bread and butter for weightlifting? It would be the shoulder press. The barbell shoulder press. You should be looking at the flat bench press. Many would be looking at chin-ups or pull ups. Then you could be looking at a deadlift or a squat.

Ryan: Now, those are really basic movements and I’m not trying to say they’re the same at what we’re after, but what I mean is if you were to spend the majority of your time first focusing on the major lifts in weightlifting, you’re going to get stronger, you’re going to get bigger. It’s basically going to set you up to be able to start working on the other stuff that might look a bit more sexy or sexier. This is what we’re after here is spending the majority of your time looking at those main movements that are going to give you the biggest bang for the buck. This is what I’m after in GMB when I’m doing programming, is I’m looking at, “Okay, how is this movement going to help set you up for things down the road?”

Ryan: A lot of the times or the majority of the times when I’m working on something, it’s me reverse engineering. A person coming to us saying, “I want to get the handstand push-up,” and I said, “Great. Okay.” What would be the entry level movement if you will for that? That’s what I’m going to do right now is cover some of those things. If we’re looking at pressing, and I’m not going to be looking at any weighted things, we’re looking at all body weight here, okay? If we’re looking at pressing, what would be an example of an end goal for a pressing movement? To me, it would be able to do handstand push-ups on the rings. The reason for this is the instability of the rings along with meeting the control. The strength as well as the range of motion and flexibility to be able to do that to me is pretty freaking awesome.

Ryan: If you can do a handstand push-up on the rings, solid handstand push-ups on the rings, that means you’re a pretty strong mofo. That means that you spent enough time building up to be able to do that. It’s going to lead to other movements as well. By purely focusing on that and getting to that point where you can do a handstand push-up on the rings, it’s going to allow you to actually do some of these other tricks that are out there without even having to really work on them. Then having that strength is going to lead for you just working a little bit on the control component of, say, a transition or another skill that’s out there related to it.

Ryan: Now, for example, let’s say you know the L-sit or the tuck to a tuck position on the rings going from an L-sit and then pushing back into a bent arm stand, by focusing on, to be honest, just mainly working towards that handstand push-up, it’s going to help you to gain the control of strength and flexibility needed for some of the other transitions. Working backwards, what would be the foundational movements when you wanted to start working on a handstand push-up? It’s very simple. I’d say inverted press. This is simply where you’re starting in A-frame position and you bend your
arms bringing your elbows towards the floor and you push back up into the A-frame position.

Ryan: Now that’s that first movement. Well, let’s look at exactly what’s going on, is we’re looking at keeping our elbows close to our body and we’re checking to see what’s going on in our range of motion with our flexibility. Do we actually have the strength, the load, the structure? What’s going on in our wrists? The other thing that a lot of people learn later down the road is do they actually have the necessary lumbar strength and flexibility needed for them to start working on these skills. What happens is people become very, very micro-focused and looking and thinking that oppressing movement is just the shoulders and it’s not.

Ryan: If you’re looking at a body weight movement and you might even have felt this before if you’re using a barbell, but the lumbar takes a good amount of strain and there’s a lot of stuff going on in the core that you need to strengthen as well in order to help you to have that control and that strength in these movements.

Andy: Right and this is a sticking point for a lot of people that we’ve worked with too. When we talk about going from like the L-sit or the tucked L-sit and then transitioning to that rear lift up towards a tuck stand or inverted handstand on rings or parallettes or something, you’re like, “I just can’t get it. I just can’t get it,” and that limiting factor is exactly that lumbar strength and control. Same thing, well, we’re going to get to that in a second but the press handstand.

Ryan: Yes, exactly right. What I’m looking at right now when I’m talking about the pressing portion and maintaining a handstand push-up on the rings is that main movement is that is a bent arm strength move well inverted, okay? I mentioned the inverted press. That’s where you would actually live and spend the majority of your time. Going deeper on that, I mentioned looking at keeping the elbows in and why am I using that cue? I hinted at this before, but basically it’s to really figure out if you not only have the strength to do that, but we’re looking at the flexibility because as you start progressing into more advanced inverted pressing movements, if your elbows are flaring out, I mean, one, you might not have the strength, but it could also be a lack of mobility, a scapular mobility and it could also lead to other issues down the road.

Ryan: Recently in a video, in fact the current video, well, it depends on when we post this, but anyway, go on YouTube and check out the pressing strength video that we have on YouTube where I’m demonstrating these handstand push-ups and I talk about keeping the elbows in. When you’re working towards these more advanced movements, if you aren’t able to do that and you have your elbows out like you’re doing CrossFit handstand push-ups, you’re going to end up leading to injuries. It’s also going to hamper you from being able to do even more advanced movements. Again, bringing everything back to the very first thing that you do and that is the inverted press, how well can you do that? How strong can you get in that inverted preps?

Ryan: From there, it’s simply looking at variations on top of that inverted press. Some variations of this would be the bent-arm bear. You’d be looking at the bent-arm stand. You’d be looking at the bent-arm stand with legs bent, bent-arm stand legs extended. Now when you’re looking at a bent-arm stand with the bent legs, the lumbar doesn’t take the bulk of the tension if you will when you’re doing that and it really changes when you start to extend the legs and that’s going to let you know if you do have the strength in your lower back in your core in order to move on to the next progression or let me say variation in this case. This is another case of where it’s not a B, C, D moving up towards the handstand push-up.

Ryan: Again once you’re very solid with the inverted press and by solid I’m talking about you could be in the inverted press position, your legs are elevated, even your elbows are in, you’re able to do this super slow with control, cool. Then it’s not a matter of progressing to the next movement, it’s a matter of using variations and this is what I want to talk about right now and that is once you have that base, that foundation, using variations is a good way to keep you excited about continuing moving forward as well because you’re using different variations of movements. It’s teaching your body to adapt to different positions.

Ryan: You’re still working on getting stronger in that inverted pressing position. You’re still working on flexibility. You’re still working on that control, but the thing is because it is a variation, it’s also teaching the body to get comfortable in those other positions. Therefore, it’s strengthening you even further. Something you want to say on that Andy?

Andy: No, that’s good. I have nothing to add.

Ryan: That’s looking at the bent-arm side of the inverted press. Now, Andy hinted at this earlier, the straight-arm press in a handstand, a lot of people are like, “I want to get the press to the handstand.” Now remember, there’s two versions of that. There’s a straight arm and the bent arm. We’re going to talk about the straight arm right now. Now a lot of people when they want to get the straight-arm press to handstand, first thing they’re looking at is, “Oh, yeah, you first have to have a handstand and then you have to have compression strength and then you have to do all this other jazz.” I’m like, “Okay, well, let’s take a step back.” Let’s first take a look really at the very, very, very foundational movement which for us would be the bear. Now, a lot of people are going to go, “What are talking about?”

Ryan: There’s another example of where, “Do you have that strength in keeping your arm fully locked out? Are able to use the scapular properly and being able to have it move because a lot of people are locked up?” When you’re performing to bear and you’re actively pushing away from the ground, the scaps move and being able to stay in that position with the arm locked and trying to get your butt in line with your shoulders and your hands. This is a great starting point. Spending more time there is going to help with the wrists and then what you’re going to do is gradually you can work on using the straight leg frogger that we have.

Ryan: Now, this to me is where I think the majority of people should live and I’m going to talk about living in a particular place a lot because people tend to want to jump to the next progression or the variation. This is what this whole podcast is about right now, is spending more time in these foundation moves and really, really getting to the point where it’s not you thinking about moving to that next progression of variation, it just happens. This is where the straight leg frogger I think is brilliant. All you’re doing now is doing this slowly and learning and progressively loading the arms, getting your butt up higher over your hand, pulling your feet closer to your hands over time.

Ryan: You’re working on that compression strength. You’re working on that control. You’re working on that strength and shit happens. I’ve had numerous people that have asked and I’m talking trainers, GMB trainers and they’re like, “I want to get the press to handstand,” and I tell them, “Just focus on the straight leg frogger.” They do. We’re talking like maybe they just do that for a month or two months and they find that their feet start floating. When that happens, they’re like, “Oh my God, my feet are floating and all this stuff is happening.” It just becomes natural for them. Now, I might say that this is the most perfect way to get to the press to handstand, no, but if you are working on wanting to get the pressed to handstand, again spend more time on this movement and just stay there and keep working on it because things are going to come up.

Ryan: You’re going to realize, “Oh, my wrists actually aren’t strong enough for me to support myself to even start working on a press to handstand.” Cool. You can go back and you can start working to strengthen your wrists or let’s say you don’t have … Your elbow is a bit wonky or something like that. Cool. That’s giving you the feedback to allow you to understand where you need to work rather than just trying to do the next progression or the next variation.

Andy: Right and so a couple of things I think are really important in that. One is like what you said about wrists. I mean that’s just an example, but a lot of times people look at a move or a skill and they’ll say, “Oh yeah, I’ve got plenty of wrist strength to do a handstand,” and you might. You might have plenty of wrist strength to perform a handstand, but what you might not have is enough wrist strength to train the rest of your body to do a handstand. To do a handstand once puts a little bit of pressure on your wrists for a few seconds, but to train yourself to practice, to where you can hold a handstand to where your shoulders, your core, your legs, your whole body is able to hold that position, you have to spend a ton of time on your hands.

Andy: What happens is that when you look at the skill, you think, “Oh, I’ve got enough strength to do that. Strength isn’t a problem,” but actually you might not have enough strength to do the training required to get that. That’s something that I think people underestimate a lot, a lot. The other thing is like you said about living in a skill, and when you look at progressions and the idea of progress, yes, progress is important. I’m an American. This is just ingrained into me. You have to always be progressing. You can’t stay stagnant. You have to, you have to make more money. You have to lift more weight. You have to run farther. You have to be more every day. You have to make progress. If you’re not making progress, you’re dying.

Andy: That’s the Protestant ethic right there. I feel like I have to do these things, right? So much of this chasing after progress prevents us from being able to actually live in the moment where we are. We’re thinking about tomorrow. We’re thinking about where we want to be, but a lot of what we need to focus is just being where we are, live in that move. When you do, you’ll find that you do naturally start to make progress, but trying to focus on progressing too much prevents you from being able to get the value out of being where you are. I don’t want to get too much into philosophy and ontology here, like if you really [crosstalk 00:31:21]. Right, but it’s very, very important. We’re going to talk more details of other skills, but like you said, living in something I think is a very, very underrated.

Ryan: Yes. The thing is I want to mention just one thing before we move on and that is I got this from my gymnastics coach, Mark Folger and he told me, he said, “As long as you stay and live in that skill long enough, you’ll always get the skill you’re after.” That’s my attitude for basically everything I think I’ve ever done. I’ve never really been the type of person to celebrate getting a particular high-level skill because I always knew I was going to get it and it’s not me being cocky. It’s simply me just going, “Okay, I know if I spend enough time working on the movements before the foundational skills we’re talking about, if I put enough volume in there, if I do them beautifully enough, each repetition and spend enough time, it’s going to happen.”

Ryan: That’s really what we’re after with this whole thing. Moving forward, we had the pressing, we’re going to move in to the pulling now. Similar to pressing, we’ve got a bent-arm and we got a straight arm. If we’re looking at a bent-arm strength movement for pulling, I would say the one-arm chin. I think that’s it in terms of if you’re able to do one-arm chin, you’re a bad mofo, okay? Now, it’s not just that. It’s the fact that the fact that you’ve trained up to that point is the carryover for everything else is wonderful. If you do it in a proper way, that’s not going to mess up your elbows and your shoulder and also your mentality when you’re working towards it. Because people can get so hooked on that end skill, like what Andy was saying too, that actually lose the fact that the process should be what we’re after and enjoying the journey along the way.

Ryan: What are we doing if we’re looking at the one-arm chin, what would be the foundational movements that we should be after in the very beginning and make sure that we could do? Well, obviously, we can say chin-ups, but I want to move down a little bit because it’s not simply about being able to do X number of chin-ups before you can move on and perform the one-arm chin-up. A lot of people miss out on this and think that, “Okay, I can do 10 chin-ups or whatever, so therefore I’m ready to work on that one-arm chin. I would move things down.

Ryan: There’s a movement in GMB [inaudible 00:34:04] called the reverse row sit back and it’s using the rings. The reason I love this is because there’s so much different things going on in the movement in different positions and forces you to have that time under tension and be very, very aware of not just what’s going on with the pull, but the position of your shoulders and your core in relation to what’s going on in the rest of the body. That’s why I’ve always suggested spending more time working on the reverse row sit back and then focus on the single-arm reverse row sit back is a good way that’s going to help you to start progressing towards working some of the other more advanced skills necessary for the one-arm chin.

Ryan: For example, once that you’ve got that single-arm reverse row sit back down solid, then you can start maybe looking at things like archer chin-ups, even mantle chin-up. You could look at even just taking the rings higher and working on that single-arm reverse row sit back or possibly jumping up, performing a chin-up and then letting go with the bar and then working on negative. Again, I’m not going to go into all of the different variations and things that you can do. All I want to do is say there’s so much more than just thinking it’s a chin-up. Look at the shoulders. Look at what’s going on with the core. Are you are you keeping the shoulder down? What’s going on with your elbow in relation to where it is in your body?

Ryan: Bring those to the lower level skills if you will. Spend more time getting stronger in the positions that you know are going to be necessary for you to be able to work other skills and other variations of those skills down the road. Do that enough, you’re going to have no problem getting some of these other skills. That’s looking at that bent-arm pull with the one-arm chin-up. If we’re looking at the straight-arm pull, then obviously I would say looking at a front lever. Going even deeper, I would actually look at being able to pull from a dead hang, go through the front lever position to an inverted hang and being able to hold and do that very slowly, making sure that your arms are locked out.

Ryan: That’s where I would suggest aiming for if you were looking at an end skill, strength skill in terms of a straight-arm pull. Now, where does that start? It’s very simple. It’s a pulling prep. The pulling prep that we have in GMB, that’s it. That’s where you should live. This is something I’m actually getting back to doing front levers. Recently I just felt like I’m like, “You know what? I’m going to spend this month working some front levers.”. All I’m doing is a front lever pulling prep. I actually haven’t done a single front lever in terms of like trying to hold it at all. The front lever prep is simply I do a dead hang and then I keep my arms straight and then I pull my shoulder blades down and that’s a pulling prep.

Ryan: Then what I’ll do is I’ll arch my back slightly, bringing my chest up as high as I possibly can and I’m just doing a lot of those now. Interestingly enough, my last session, which is just a couple of days ago, I’ve found that I was able to get my hips even with my shoulders when I did this pull. What is that? Well, hey, that’s a front lever. The thing is is I wasn’t actually trying to do the front lever. Again, spending more time on those foundation moves, then it’s going to be a matter of me, I’ll be able to play. I can go into an inverted hang and I can do a tuck lower or I can maybe do like, I don’t know, like a single-leg front lever or whatever. It doesn’t matter.

Ryan: After that it’s a matter of playing around and performing variations and just making sure that I have the form down properly, that I’m keeping the form, that I’m spending enough time making sure that listening to my body and just enjoying the process. Front lever, that’s a straight-arm pull. Next, look at push. If we’re looking at a push, for me, I would say that a planche push-up would be a really good end goal if that were something that you’re after. When I say that I think it would be an end goal, am I suggesting that everyone should get there? Are you a bad person if you don’t have a tuck planche push-up? No. All I’m saying is if you really are looking at an end goal, that would be really something to aim for.

Ryan: I give a demonstration of this on my Instagram. I did it a little while ago. You can see I’m using canes and I did, I don’t know, it was like three tuck planche push-ups. Okay, great, whatever. The thing is is spending again more time and looking at the movements that are going to help give you the feedback necessary to let you know what the position should be. I would look at the monkey and the frogger. Those spending enough time working on being able to float your body when you’re performing these. You’re actually pulling your legs off the ground pausing slightly and basically it’s a planche.

Ryan: Now, the monkey obviously is a lateral movement. The reason I have this in here too is because even though the planche is looking at more of a forward, even a backward position and as far as loading the body, I do feel that having a monkey and going laterally is also going to help work your core in order to really, really set you up to have the necessary foundational positions that are going to help you later on down the road when you’re working on tuck planches and things like that. Spending more time on those. The frogger is a great one too because it’s going to teach you how to lean forward in a position and have that control so that you don’t fall on your head. That’s also very important.

Ryan: We’re looking at that straight-arm strength first of having that position and then later you can start actually looking at the tuck. I’m sorry, I actually mixed these up a little bit. I was talking about the straight-arm planche when we’re looking at that before I mentioned the push-up position, but these are related and so we have the straight arm again as the planche and I would look at the monkey and the frogger. If we were to go back and look at the pushing component where it’s a bent-arm position, then I would look at our Spiderman and the Spiderman is one of our foundational movements What this is doing is making sure that you have the proper pushing strength on each arm. That’s a big one. Excuse me, I got a little excited.

Andy: That Spiderman, if you’re not familiar with it, it’s like a locomotor version of one arm

Ryan: Exactly and that-

Andy: You let yourself down and load onto one arm, then you step forward and load onto the other arm.

Ryan: Similar to what I was mentioning with the monkey in terms of the lateral, the slight rotation that we have, this is also going to have a slight rotation because you’re focusing on that single arm. Make sure that you do have the necessary strength on both arms to be able to start moving forward. Then, it’s just a matter of looking at using some variations and some push-up variations, leaning forward. You can even do some pseudo-planche push-ups where you’re in a push-up position, but your shoulders are past your fingertips and you focus on keeping your elbows tight as you perform push-ups. This is where also the top position of that particular pushup is going to help you for ab actual planche that you’re going to be working on later because simply keeping that top position in that pseudo-planche position is obviously going to strengthen your arms and your wrists and your shoulders to be able to start working on planche position, okay?

Ryan: Lots of stuff we’re looking at there, but basically if we’re looking at the upper body, that’s it. That’s our pressing. We’re talking about the pulling and we talked about the push. Just quickly once again, if we’re looking at press, be looking at working towards handstand push-up and then for a, I don’t even remember what I was going to say, and the press to a handstand, okay? We’re looking to pull in. It would be the one on chin and then the front lever. Remember, the foundation movements on that are going to be the inverted press, the bear, a straight leg frogger, as well as looking at reverse row sit back and then the pulling prep.

Ryan: Then for our push, I’m working towards the planche push-up. To be honest, you can mix these together, so that you’re actually working on bent arm and straight arm at the same time. You’re looking at focusing on the Spiderman in the very beginning that we mentioned and then also looking at working on the frogger and those are both going to help you for the planche as well as the planche push-up. They’re looking-

Andy: Maybe just thematically of all of these things too is that, yes, we have bent-arm and straight-arm skills that we’re talking about here, but for all of these, if you look at the things that you’re pulling out of these, we’re not just following a straight line, right?

Ryan: No.

Andy: We’re building skills around the things that these end skills need. We’re building ability around that. The planche stuff is a great example, right? You’re not just building the arms and shoulders and core to be able to hold that position. You’re building the rotational strength. You’re building the lateral strength in the shoulders and the core as well to be able to support that position, not just to hold that position, but to support getting in and out of it, to support being able to adjust when you need to so that you can hold it and actually have control over it. That’s what allows you to actually do these things well rather than to just get the Instagram half-second version.

Ryan: This is a wonderful point that I want to say and that is, to me, it’s not about just holding a particular thing. It’s about how are you moving in and out of these positions. That’s really where we’re after here at GMB. It’s, yes, it looks great on Instagram if you can do one-arm handstand or whatever, but the thing is how are you getting in and out of those positions. That’s really what we’re after because that’s really what’s going to carry over into our life and give us that true physical autonomy and comfort in knowing that we can do these things in way where it allows us to do whatever we want, okay? When I’m mentioning the handstand push-up or something like that, these are just looking at some generic strength patterns, if you will, that are an example of what we can work towards.

Ryan: Now looking at the legs, the legs, of course, if you’re looking at just getting big huge strong legs and go use a barbell, do squats and deadlifts and things like that, but if you’re looking at control, if you’re looking at really wanting to be able to do other stuff in your life, then some things to think about working towards would be the dragon squat or even the front flip. Dragon squad is where basically you’re doing like a single-leg squat that your leg is behind you out to the side. This is also looking at not just pure leg strength but also rotational strength. You’re looking at balance. You’re looking at having the necessary ankle mobility to support you when you’re doing it. You’re looking at the stability of the knee as well as how the hips are working in alignment with the upper body and the core being able to keep it in position.

Ryan: There’s so many things coming into play when you’re doing this. If you’re looking again at the legs and breaking things down, focusing on jumps, variations of the jumps, looking at the shrimp squat, the peacock squat. This is where you’re doing a squat, but you step your leg behind then you squat. Leg dominant locomotion, things for example, like the frogger or like the monkey for example, maybe just doing duck walks. I like to say sumo walks, a sissy squats, toe squats. The colt is a fabulous movement. Looking at really finding that balance and control to be able to work some of the higher-level movements. A lot of different things for the legs that come into play in terms of variations. The very beginning though first work on being able to have that range of motion, have that flexibility, looking at having basic strength in the legs and flexibility I mentioned that I don’t remember for that.

Ryan: Other things you can look at are scales, keeping the legs straight and raising the other leg. This is going to strengthen the legs as well. Then of course, we have the core and I’m jumping forward because I know this is getting long, the podcast is getting along, but looking at the core certain things, you’re going to look at the hollow body position. We can look at hanging leg raises. We look at locomotion. The thing about core is when you do other movements properly with awareness and bringing attention to performing that movement as beautifully as possible, you’re going to be strengthening your core. I’ve already mentioned this before, but things like what’s going on when you’re doing a handstand push-up in terms of the lower back, when you’re performing the front lever and you’re doing inverted pulls, you’re going to be working the core as well.

Ryan: I’m not saying you could just skip the core. What I am saying is that you’ll find as you work some of the other movements that you might need to bring more attention to the core and that’s going to help you to be able to focus on particular areas of the body that you know you need to shore up. Bringing this all together really, what I want to say is it comes down to looking at the foundation moves, getting that foundation at a point where you’re very, very comfortable with them. You’re like, “I got this. No problem.” Then you start adding in variations and then it’s just a matter of when you’re looking at specific skills, working towards the one-arm chin-up, working towards whatever it is, you give yourself enough time and I’m talking time in terms of it might take a month, it might take two months and getting in the necessary volume that’s good for you to be able to do that.

Ryan: Now volume and the time. You need to look at recovery and you need to look at everything else involved with that. Really, it’s about looking at the strength, flexibility and control in a push, in a pull, in a press and looking at the legs and how the core is related to all of those. Do that. Spend a good amount of time working on those foundations. A great example is actually what we have with integral strength and not just plugging the program, but really that’s why that was created. That’s the foundational strength movements needed that are going to help you to move forward. Likewise elements, that is also a great example of where those are the foundation to help you to look at building that flexibility, building that strength, building that control that’s going to help you to start moving forward.

Ryan: Moving forward to the next progressions are simply a matter of you feeling that you have control. If you have control over that movement and then you just test the next progression or variation, that’s it.

Andy: That comes from living in that movement.

Ryan: Yes, spending so much time doing it. There is no specific time that you must spend working on a hold before you move on to the next one. That is bullshit. Because every single person is going to be different, we’re coming in at different levels and different strength movements, okay?

Andy: Right.

Ryan: Spend the necessary time to make sure that you do have that strength, so you’re not going to be getting injured. That’s a big one. Once you hit that top of that foundation level, once you at that point where you’re like, “My inverted presses, I’m good to go.” Cool. Start working on variations. I mentioned this before, whatever that is, I mentioned in the front lever where, “How is that pulling prep where you pull in your hips are almost to front lever position?” Cool. Start working on variations of that. Do some tuck levers. Do an inverted lower into another single-leg or straddle or something like that. Mix it up but always work at your highest level when you’re performing a skill. Make sure that you’re giving yourself plenty of rest so that each repetition that you’re doing is at a very high level. Lots I just talked about there.

Andy: Yeah, it’s a lot of stuff, man.

Ryan: It is a lot of stuff and I geeked out a bit, but the thing is, again, I just want to bring it back to the fact that you just need to really look at where you’re out with your foundation. Are you happy with that? If not, go back and spend some time on it. I guarantee you, I can guarantee you if you spend time working on bringing your foundational movements up and working and get those really strong and you understand where you’re at, everything else is going to get better. I promise you. Do that and then practice as much as possible, you can get any skill that you’re after.

Andy: Definitely.

Ryan: That’s it.

Andy: Good. I think we covered a lot of stuff here and that really sums it up well. I don’t think we really need to do anything else. If you’re working on these skills or any other kind of skill that’s higher level or feels out of reach, we talked about sort of the similar ones that again, this is reductive, this is just what happens by consensus over time and when groups of people are doing certain kinds of similar training, you end up where the waters get shallower and shallower and you’re left with a puddle. Our examples end up being one-arm handstand, one-arm chin, planche. These are good things, but they’re not the only things that might be important to you.

Andy: If you’re a surfer, you’re going to have completely different things that you’re after. You’re not going to be worried about one-arm chins. If you’re doing BJJ, you’re going to have completely different outputs that you’re really looking towards in terms of what you consider a high-level skill being able to do in terms of movement to be able to move the way you want and get the positions you need, right?

Ryan: Again, I just used the strength examples today. We could go on forever looking at other movements-

Andy: Exactly.

Ryan: so we could get it right.

Andy: Look at what those things are for you though and then think about, “Okay, what is the foundation you need to build for that? What are the set of abilities, the set of physical attributes that will give you the ability to actually perform that movement or skill?” When you go about developing those and spend time living in those things for a while, you’re going to find that you don’t need to follow a straight line progression so much as you just need to let yourself naturally move on to whatever your body wants to do when you get there. Don’t take these as a prescription that everybody should be able to do these things or everyone should be chasing after these things. These are just examples.

Andy: We use them because they’re common endpoints that people say they’re trying to get to,right? Always adjust for what makes sense to you. Your mileage may vary. Your mileage should vary because we’re all coming from different places on these things too.

Ryan: All right. That’s it. Thanks for listening. Bye-bye.

Andy: Later.

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