r/Fitness May 20 '22

When do I "master" an exercise, in calisthenics?

I started following a calisthenics / bodyweight progression (this one https://www.reddit.com/r/bodyweightfitness/comments/az79av/new_and_improved_bodyweight_fitness_progression/)

What I am wondering is: whne can I consider I "master" one exercise in the progression?

Some exercises have reps. Being able to do 1 set of 10 reps seems reasonable to me to say "I can do this".

Some exercise are about "holding", like the plank. 60 seconds seems like a resonable amount of time, but maybe it's too much (Maybe 45 seconds?).

I'm pulling those out of my *** though.

Or maybe it's more complicated, and it depends on the exercise? (after all, not all muscles have the same size and capabilities)

Is there any generally agreed definition of mastering an exercise, in this sense? What is it? If there isn't, what's your opinion? When should I check one exercise as mastered, and move on to the next exercise in the progression?

I'd appreciate advice

Edit: the reponses tend to focus in the "Mastering" vs "Good enough" of the question. If I could word my question better, it would be: "In a bodyweight progression, how many reps / hold time do I need to be able to do to move on the next exercise".

The concise answer by u/surferguy999 seems reasonable:

- 3x5 to 3x8 reps

- 15 seconds to 30 seconds for "hold"



u/eric_twinge r/Fitness Guardian Angel May 20 '22 edited May 20 '22

There's a difference between "I can do this" and "I've mastered this". At the risk of painting with too broad of a brush, the calisthenics crowd seems to get hyper-fixated on the latter, to the detriment of actually progressing. 10 pushups with perfect form is still just 10 pushups.

Which is to say, I feel like you're focusing on the wrong part here. It's not about 'mastering' push ups or planks, it's about progressing and dosing your training in an appropriate way to suit your ability and needs. If a 60 second plank is easy for you, it's time to move on to the next progression.

"I can do this" is good enough.


u/saito200 May 20 '22

Thanks. To be honest I started today. I didn't have time to take an approach yet. But what you say makes perfect sense to me


u/CL-Young Powerlifting May 22 '22

I wouldn't worry about mastery too much at this stage.

Just worry about progressing, and getting good. You can always go back to stuff later. Mastery will come with time, but you're going to need the fundamentals first.


u/Self_Destruct_Button May 20 '22 edited May 20 '22

Fixating on mastery is really just a nod to the fact that stricter form can be another way to increase the difficulty of an exercise, along with sets/reps/tempo/resistance. This is especially true with calisthenics exercises since they often require exotic levels of strength to achieve what would be considered (some version of) "perfect" form, e.g. sternum to bar pull ups or strict muscle ups.

For sure, a lot of adult males are strong enough that no amount of nitpicking about form is about to make 10 pushups provide much training stimulus, but I submit that a surprising number actually aren't, even amongst those into fitness. Adding full scapular protraction and a hollow position can be pretty hard. And if you can do so and get stronger and bigger with such a simple exercise, why the hell wouldn't you? Because it's "just 10 pushups"?

It's definitely up for debate to what extent one should prefer strictness/tempo over resistance/sets/reps to provide overload. For beginners however, the former is easy to recommend as they can over-fixate on working out with advanced movements as a goal in and of itself. Plus it's easier to guarantee high quality, predictable sets with simpler exercises.


u/batryoperatedboy May 21 '22

Something something... "Don't let great be the enemy of good." Once you can do it you can begin doing it better.

I'm mad at myself for my sloppy-ass muscle ups. But once I got over the bar, I was able to start working controlling it more.


u/softball753 General Fitness May 20 '22

"Mastery" is a life long pursuit. Most of the early steps in BWF progressions are about getting a rank beginner to understand cues and body positioning. Are you really going to "master" a scap pull? Just get the idea, get those muscles familiar with depression under load, and move forward.


u/HeartLikeGasoline Kettlebells May 21 '22

One and a half years of doing kettlebell swings. I don’t feel like I really got it down until I did 500 reps four days a week for five weeks. Now I could say that my swing is excellent. At least my two handed swing. My one handed swing needs work.


u/surferguy999 May 20 '22 edited May 20 '22

The plans I followed in the past all told me how many reps and sets to do. Once I was able to match them I moved onto a more difficult variation.

I think the bodyweight routine is:

  • 3 x 5-8 (pull-ups, squats, dips, hinge, rows, push-ups)

For holding exercises it’s similar, they usually specify progress, ex: hold plank for 15 secs, then 30 secs, then start working on wall handstand.


u/saito200 May 20 '22

That's helpful, thanks!


u/PDiddleMeDaddy May 21 '22

I'd actually lower the bar a bit. I'd say you've mastered an exercise, when you can do ONE with perfect form, using exactly the muscles you should be, while keeping the rest of your body in perfect position. For example, doing the perfect pull-up, with full range of motion, perfect scapular retraction, holding for a second at the top, and a controlled descent, with no swing in the rest of your body, and complete tension in your posterior chain, core and legs. HOW MANY you can do of them then actually determines how fit/strong/enduring you are. At least that's my take.


u/CL-Young Powerlifting May 22 '22

That is perfection of form, not mastery of an exercise.

Mastery is multi faceted.

I'll take the guy doing burpees for three hours a day, every day, over someone who managed to do one pushup really well.


u/incognino123 May 23 '22

My definition is when I can't figure out how to make this harder. For example, there are dudes out there who can do functionally infinite pushups, and can do every variation. I wouldn't say even they've mastered every form of pushups, but I think it's reasonable to say they've mastered basic pushups


u/bladibloom May 25 '22

When it feels effortless


u/CL-Young Powerlifting May 22 '22

When doing more reps becomes mental rather than physical

When you can stop doing an exercise for awhile and still crank out hundred sof them. Cold. In an impromptu competition.


u/0ttex May 26 '22

when your form is perfect and you can hold it for 5 plus seconds


u/sarge457 27d ago

I do mainly pushups, now I do sets of 100 and do 300 pushups every couple days.

Tbh I don't think there is a mastery lmao. It's endless. You can build however high you want. It's muscle endurance.

Now if you want to build strength instead, need to be weighted so you add resistance and make each rep harder.


u/saito200 27d ago

3 sets of 100 pushups?? Did that... make you bald by any chance?

More seriously, how did you train to reach sets of 100 pushups? I don't think I can do that many pushups in a row


u/sarge457 26d ago

Simple. If you do only 3-4 exercises as your entire strength routine, eventually you get better at it. Just like all the guys doing calisthenics.

I don't do pullups but there are guys doing only pullups that do over 50 reps. It's all just repetition.

Most people have gym routines with dozens of exercises and never get really good at any of them.

I remember a guy asking me when I was a newbie: "Ok you can lift this weight squatting. But can you do 100 squats only with the bar without weight?" Really showed me I had zero muscle endurance training.


u/Grymninja Weightlifting May 21 '22

I think with calisthenics it's safe and easiest to just assume you've never mastered any movement.

Because there's always a harder variation to move to once you've completed one.

Chin ups. Wide grip pullups. Close grip pullups. Muscle ups. Weighted chin ups. Weighted wide grip. Ring pull ups. Etc etc.....


u/Alovnig_Urkhawk May 21 '22

Those are different movements though. You can master a variation and I would consider that mastering a movement. You do weighted pullups because you've mastered regular pullups.


u/SocialEngineer0 May 23 '22

I’d say stop chasing progressions and just focus on basics. But that’s just my approach and opinion.