Historians trace the art of calisthenics — or bodyweight exercises — back to ancient Greek gladiators preparing for the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 B.C.
Now more than 2,500 years later, calisthenic training is still one of the best ways to improve all-around strength and sculpt what many coins the “Greek God physique.”
Cali Move’s Body Transformation Basics is a 29-week beginner program featuring calisthenic progressions to increase strength, muscle size, and total-body stability.
Check out our review of this (mostly) equipment-free program below!
Table of Contents
- About the Creators – Sven Kohl
- What Is Cali Move’s Body Transformation Basics?
- Body Transformation Basics Details & Features
- 5 Solid Benefits of the Body Transformation Basics Program
- 5 Negatives of Cali Move’s Body Transformation Basics
- Wrapping Up This Body Transformation Basics Review
About the Creators – Sven Kohl
(Kohl’s bio on the Cali Move site is in German, which, despite my 23andMe ancestry results, is not a language I know. So I dug through a few interviews with Kohl to uncover this…)
Sven Kohl is a former physical therapist who quit his PT gig to start the Calisthenic Movement YouTube channel back in 2013 alongside co-founder Alex Lorenz.
The duo now boasts more than 3.69 million YouTube subscribers, with a few videos that have since gone viral. The most popular of all is their Perfect Push Up walkthrough video, which raked in more than 31 million views in the last five years.
What Is Cali Move’s Body Transformation Basics?
(FYI: If it wasn’t clear before, Cali Move stands for Calisthenic Movement and has literally nothing to do with the state of California. Not that I thought it did or anything. 👀)
Cali Move’s Body Transformation Basics is a 29-week beginner program designed to maximize strength, muscle size, core stability, and general fitness in just seven months. The catch: aside from a few modified exercises, the only resistance you’ll use is that of your own body weight.
Through 45–90-minute workouts, five distinct phases, test weeks & training weeks, and various training styles (like capillarization and circuits), Kohl will guide you toward a God-like physique.
Body Transformation Basics Details & Features
(If I had to rate this program on the module alone, I’d give it a 1/10 — and even that’s being generous. Between the sheer number of modules, constantly needing to reference the hidden calendar, time-locked content, and complicated exercise cards, my head is spinning.)
OK, now here’s a closer look at the modules within BTB:
Explanations of the Program
Whether it’s Athlean-X or BodyFit, most training platforms are figure-outtable with a little clicking and patience. Unfortunately, this right here is not one of those platforms. Really, if you skip the Explanations of the Program module, you’ll do the program entirely wrong.
The “Frames” are more like the exercise cards included in each workout.
The “easy” way to explain them is to think clockwise. Start at the top-center of the card, and then follow it right, down, left, and up until you grasp the entire exercise.
This is what you’ll find on each card (and where) with a few examples:
- Top center: Name of the exercise — Horizontal Push
- Below the exercise: Repetition maximum goal — 20RM
- Below the RM: Up and down arrows showing the eccentric and concentric time under tension for the exercise — 2 down and 2 up
- Center of card: GIF demonstrating the exercise at the proper pace
- Top right corner: Intensity level — 10 (where 10 is “all-out” and any number below that is a rough percentage like 8 is 80% of the exercise’s RM goal)
- Just below the intensity (if applicable): “F” means train to failure on your last set
- Bottom-left corner: Rest between sets — 60 seconds
- Top-left corner: Number of sets — 4
Once you complete the exercise for the required number of sets, scroll down to find the rest period, and get ready for your next exercise.
The Types of Weeks
Body Transformation Basics follows the same general pattern during its five phases.
Each 5–7-week phase starts with a “test week” where you’ll practice each exercise to find your 15 or 20 RM. If you can’t come within 1–2 reps of the goal with the standard exercise, you’ll need to swap in an exercise progression instead — a variation that’s either easier or harder.
After the test week (which Kohl also describes as a “de-load” week) comes 4–6 weeks of training featuring those very same exercises.
Before marking the “General Explanations” lecture complete, grab a copy of the program’s schedule and either save it to your phone or print out a hard copy.
Here’s a closer look at the program ahead:
This module is where Sven shoves everything that doesn’t fit anywhere else. That includes a few 10% discounts on other Cali Move programs and bundles.
Kohl added six resources to this section, but these were the three key takeaways:
(Totally expected plot twist: If you want the real nutrition guide for BTB, you’ll need to buy the Nutrition Upgrades.)
The Cali Move team doubles down on the importance of green vegetables, fruits, and berries while rallying against processed foods. But the only useful piece of information in this 3-minute video is the protein recommendation: 1.5g per kilogram of bodyweight.
In the Cali Move world, regeneration is all about reducing muscle soreness, repairing microscopic muscle tears, and releasing metabolic byproducts in the body.
Kohl’s suggestions include:
- 5–10-minute cold/hot showers (change the temperature every minute)
- Heat packs or hot baths
- Low-intensity activity, like walking
- 7–8.5 hours of sleep per night (& eating carbs before bed to lower your cortisol)
- No sit & hold static stretching
- Ginger to curb muscle soreness by 25%
Kohl really hammers down on recovery and regeneration. While three calisthenic workouts per week don’t sound like much, don’t skip rest days!
Cali Move also included two follow-along warm-ups in Body Transformation Basics — one featuring Sven and the other starring “El Eggs.” These 10-minute warm-ups feature sloooooow controlled dynamic movements to improve your mobility and increase blood flow to your muscles pre-workout.
Note: Kohl locked everything except weeks 1 & 2 of the Prep Phase. Unfortunately, the rest of this review will only focus on the Prep phase’s test week and week 1 of training.
BASICS – Explanations of the Prep Phase
Each phase has a separate module called “Explanations of …” where you’ll learn more about the 5–7 weeks ahead. In the preparation phase, Kohl focuses on higher rep ranges to better prepare the muscles for the next 20-something weeks of training.
The 5-week prep stage targets two styles of training: capillarization — to build out a wider network of blood vessels throughout the body — and circuits.
Kohl breaks the prep phase down into 10+ exercises, each with its own video explaining proper form to avoid common mistakes.
This is also where you’ll find the progressions I mentioned earlier. If you can’t complete an exercise within 1–2 reps of the goal, you can either make it tougher — like ring push-ups — or easier — with modified knee push-ups.
The prep phase highlights:
- Pike walk
- Easy bridge raise
- Prone arm circles and swimmers
- Horizontal pull – inverted row
- Horizontal push – push-up
- Glute ham raise
- Hollow body crunch
- Candle raise
While some are a bit longer, the videos will help you master the moves before you advance to phase 1 and beyond. However, GIFs of the progressions in the actual workout modules would’ve been even better to avoid last-second modifications or memorizing 11 progressions.
BASICS – Prep Phase – Test Week 1
BTB’s test weeks are all relatively light, with 2–3 workouts, though they tend to be long. The goal is to perform some variation of the progression until you can complete 15 or 20 reps.
If you think you’ll exceed or fall short of the rep goal by 2+ reps, stop the set as soon as you realize. Then, rest for 5+ minutes before trying another progression for that exercise.
Test days in the prep phase include a single set of 4–5 exercises at an intensity of “10.”
Kohl recommends carbs 2–3 hours before test workouts, 5 minutes of rest between exercises, and dynamic exercises or walking while resting.
BASICS – Prep Phase – Week 2 – Sample
Week 2 in the prep phase involves two capillarization workouts: Capi A and Capi B. Here’s a look at the Capi A workout:
- Horizontal pushes – 4 x 20RM (60 seconds rest)
- 90 seconds rest
- Horizontal pulls – 4 x 20RM (60 seconds rest)
- 90 seconds rest
- Squats – 4 x 20RM (60 seconds rest)
- 90 seconds rest
- Hollow body crunches – 4 x 20RM (60 seconds rest)
That really puts into perspective how unnecessarily complicated the “frames” are. Capi B follows a similar pattern, though it features five different exercises.
The Rest of the Program
I’d love to tell you about each of the phases, exercises, and training styles that appear later in the program … but I can’t.
For whatever reason, Kohl “locks” the rest of the program to prevent you from looking ahead, automatically “unlocking” the content at set time intervals. The final week — week 29 — won’t be visible until 180+ days from now.
But here’s how the Cali Move website describes each phase’s goals:
- Prep: Build joint resilience to prepare for the following four phases
- Phase 1: Early hypertrophy training and fatigue resistance
- Phase 2: Mid-range hypertrophy training
- Phase 3: Strength and hypertrophy with holistic training
- Phase 4: Mid-range hypertrophy training at a higher volume
(What’s the point of requiring users to pay in full for a program — AKA: not a monthly subscription — and then still controlling what they can view and when?)
5 Solid Benefits of the Body Transformation Basics Program
- Despite their reputation, calisthenics can and do increase muscle mass and strength. A study published in The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research compared the effects of progressive push-up training (like BTB) and the traditional bench press. After four weeks of training three sessions per week, both groups improved their bench 1RM, although neither reported significant muscle growth. (It was eight weeks, after all.)
- On that same point, calisthenics can also improve body composition — the ratio of lean and fat mass within the body. In 2018, researchers recruited elderly participants and led them through a 12-week progressive calisthenic program with four-second reps (again, just like this program). The slow, controlled calisthenics group decreased their hip and waist circumference, lost body fat, and improved strength and muscle mass.
- The GIF exercise demonstrations stay on pace with Kohl’s preferred pace. Instead of counting reps and seconds during the eccentric and concentric portions, follow the pace of the GIF while tracking your reps.
- The program really is beginner-friendly and adaptable as you improve. Start with the basic progression, but if it’s either too simple or too challenging, follow one of the modifications instead. Just like you’d add more reps to a set or plates to a bar once you max out in a standard routine, BTB is a progressive program.
- In the debate over calisthenics vs weights, Body Transformation Basics proves that you don’t need a gym membership or to do traditional cardio or weightlifting to sculpt a more aesthetic physique.
5 Negatives of Cali Move’s Body Transformation Basics
- The exercise card (or frame) concept is way more confusing than it needs to be. The timed GIFs are helpful, but the clockwise motion and lack of words make each workout unnecessarily complicated.
- If you suddenly need to change your progression mid-workout, you’ll need to exit the workout module and re-watch the videos in the “explanations” section. It would’ve been nice to have frames for the variations within each workout, too.
- While many of the modifications are doable at home or in a gym, fitness clubs like Planet Fitness don’t typically have rings or uneven bar apparatuses.
- The concept of intensity levels makes absolute sense. But asking a complete newbie to predict exactly how many lunges they can do (within a 1–2-rep range) to determine which progression to do seems like an oversight.
- Did Cali Move really have to lock content? The nutrition plan is also non-existent unless you purchase the Nutritional Upgrade.
Wrapping Up This Body Transformation Basics Review
Despite the 50/50 split of pros and cons, the benefits of Body Transformation Basics certainly outweigh the downsides. This 29-week program can completely transform your physique, offers modifications for all skill levels, and puts a more exciting spin on traditional training.
Of course, this Cali Move program isn’t without its faults. The platform’s layout is a headache, there’s locked content, and the lack of nutritional data could cause confusion.
Overall, if you’re burned out by regular weightlifting and want to build a Greek God physique the old-fashioned way, Cali Move’s Body Transformation Basics program is a solid choice.