Calisthenics is described as “gymnastic exercises to achieve bodily fitness and grace of movement.” But ask any gym guy or gal, and the answer is simply, “Yeah, they do those weird pull-ups and stuff.”
Calisthenics has been growing in popularity since COVID struck, which is why today, we’re looking at the Movement Athlete App/Program.
Movement Athlete App/Program Overview
Now, unlike other programs we’ve reviewed on Noob Gains before, this program isn’t necessarily focused on any time frame. This program is rather one that you buy into on a monthly basis.
The plan is found on their online site – The Movement Athlete – and you’ll simply buy a monthly subscription. They range from $3.70 – $6.30 per week, depending on how long of a time period you pay; the more you buy, the cheaper it is.
- Fitness level: All levels
- Duration: Indefinitely
- Workouts per week: You decide
- Average workout duration: 45 – 60 minutes
- Equipment needed: Minimal equipment
- Goal: Gain strength and Improve athleticism
As you can see from the information above, this plan isn’t so much a plan as it is more of a guidance system for you to learn from. After all, a plan should be adjustable to your lifestyle.
That said, they still have specifics for you to do – whether that be specific movements or even full workouts.
These specifics are split into three respective groups:
- Fundamentals: Dips, Pull-ups, Handstands, etc.
- Intermediate: Headstand, Back Plank, Bridge, etc.
- Advanced: Levers, Ring Movements, Muscle-ups
It’s clear that there’s direct progression across these movements. In fact, there’s a great focus on progressive overload in the Movement Athlete program, which, after all, is fundamental to getting stronger.
One nifty thing about this program is the inclusion of achievements that you “master” or “unlock.” As time (and you) progress, you’ll master specific skills, after which the program will reward you with one of these achievements.
So, the basics of the plan are split into two sanctions – information and the actual plan.
The Movement Athlete Details
The plan is split into two. One part is simply resources for you to study and learn from. The other is just the workouts.
Resources for You to Study
Calisthenics is basically centered around two things: Strength and technique. The first is a long and difficult thing to master, whereas the second … is exactly the same.
Thought this was gonna be easy, did ya? Well, hold on to your rings; we’re learning a few tricks first.
Once you’ve purchased your program from the good folks at Movement Athlete, you’ll be greeted with a resources web page with various links to the left, some of which include:
- Getting Started
- Mobility and Flexibility
As you might guess, this section is for you to read, absorb, and apply to the training. They realize you probably aren’t going to be using this platform forever, so they teach you how to program for yourself in the future.
For instance, the 9 fundamental movements section goes into how you want to master the respective parts of the body in regards to calisthenics – pushing, pulling, legs, core, and bodyline. These break down into the 9 fundamental movements, which are going to be the base of all calisthenic movements.
The Training section is logically the largest. In this, you’ll find everything from troubleshooting your progress to how to progressive overload with bodyweight. You’ll also get an introduction to the “TMA System” or The Movement Athlete System.
This is the system this whole plan is based on.
And unlike other systems you might find or see online, this one is personalized for you and based on your goals. Your goals and training history will dictate everything from the progressions to the movements chosen.
There’s even a little piece about mindset, which is vital for any athlete or individual that wants to do any sport for a long time period. I like that a lot.
More About the Actual Training
Now that we have covered the literary part of the program, let’s get into the business of doing planches, baby.
As mentioned before, the whole training plan is personalized to your specific goals and level of progression. But there are still some fundamentals that everyone should master – or at least should be able to master if they’re going to call themselves a “Cali” athlete…
These are moves like L-sits, forward dips, and pseudo-planche push-ups. Certainly not impossible to master, but still vital for the progression of any calisthenics athlete.
Moving on from those, you’re met with a bunch of different movements based on your current level of skills. You’ll have to master these if you want to progress because a lot of these skills build into one another.
Each skill has certain movements you need to do, certain reps, sets, and even isometric holds. Gotta start training for the iron cross at some point, right?
What Do the Workouts Look Like?
You’ll begin with the fundamental movements and move on once you reach 100% on all of these. That said, each workout “will look the same”… kinda.
See, every workout will look something like this:
- Step 1: Warmup
- Step 2: Skill work
- Step 3: Strength
- Step 4: Cooldown
This does carry the benefit of every workout being the same, meaning you won’t be surprised, ever. That said, a lot of people get bored with monotony.
Another drawback is that you have to have the app to see your movements/workouts. This makes zero sense to me. Even to track movements, you have to do it on the app.
I can understand that, for technical reasons, this makes sense. However, I hate being on my phone while training – it feels a bit unnecessary to me.
How the Movement Athlete Organizes Things
One nice thing about the webpage version of the program is the fact that you can download the movement videos, allowing you to watch them, even if you don’t have Wi-Fi.
Each movement is also split into four different sections, each with different moves for you to do:
- Strength: We’re easy to misjudge hypertrophy for strength, but the two are greatly different. Calisthenics is a strength sport, after all, and to make the biggest focus on a movement, the strength progression is key.
- Skill: These will be smaller and easier movements that will certainly carry over into the main movement.
- Muscle: Most strength athletes will spend weeks only focusing on hypertrophy, and so you will do some as well. Certainly isn’t perfect, but it’ll help. This will allow for the growth of the muscle in size, allowing for greater strength production potential.
- Endurance: While a one-rep max is cool, you might need to bang out a long set sooner or later. Having the ability to do so also massively increases your ability to perform isometric movements as well.
This allows for progression on different levels, which in turn allows you to master skills much faster as you train toward a more functional, aesthetic physique.
The One Major Gripe…(& a Few Extra Redeeming Qualities)
One notable thing about the movements given is that it’s focused on the entire body. It’s great to see that there are very few muscles that aren’t worked or skipped. Except for legs…
Legs are often overlooked by calisthenics athletes but are so important for movements like the front lever. Your glutes and the posterior chain are vital in these, and failing to train these effectively will result in gaps in your progress.
That said, you will progress to do some really hard skills such as:
- One-arm pull-up
- Front lever
- Freestanding handstand push-up
There’s no doubt that the Movement Athlete program works, especially when looking at the reviews of the individuals who have followed it in the past. And as a nice bonus, you get access to a closed Facebook group.
This community will allow you to work with your peers and learn and support them to make the most of your time with the Movement Athlete program.
The other really nice thing is the introduction of sustainable training.
This isn’t the type of training you go all out for a few weeks and then stop, especially if you’re planning to get ripped. This is something you sustain and progress for months on. This makes the plan really good value for money.
You’ll benefit more from this plan if you’re eager to learn. If you have the desire to only have the program and be told what to do, get a personalized coach. This plan is for people who want to become self-sustaining athletes for years and years to come, so you better be ready to read and take in what they teach you.
4 Movement Athlete App Pros
- You form part of a community: Sometimes, working on your own can get really bland and boring. By working with other athletes, you’ll get a sense of progress, which can be very motivating.
- Case studies: You can also see the progress other people have made, which can help sell the product but can also be motivating… not sure if this is a pro.
- It’s an app: While I may not like the idea of an app in the gym, for most, this makes the whole program a lot better and easier to follow. You’ll do the workouts and simply record the progress on your phone.
- It’s progressive: Other programs might say “use 70% of your max” whereas, with this plan, you actually do certain movements that build into harder ones. This might be because you don’t use weights, but it also allows you to progress everywhere you go in life (remember to take your rings!).
4 Movement Athlete Cons
- No audio input on videos: While the videos are very handy to see how the movements are done, there isn’t a coach or person physically telling you how to do the movements. Missed a step, in my opinion.
- No nutrition guides: Other calisthenic plans will actually include nutrition guides, especially because calisthenic athletes run the line of lean-gaining to the max. Unlike what we discovered when creating our review of Freeletics, this plan has zero mention of nutrition, which is another missed mark.
- There are movements missing: While exercises like the iron cross are hard to accomplish, it certainly is possible. This plan doesn’t have any exceptionally hard movements, nor does it have any testing. That means no one-rep max pull-up, no one-rep max dip. This is a great way to track the progress of a strength athlete, which this plan could definitely benefit from.
- UX and UI problems: While the dashboard is good for the most part, if you spend a few hours on it, you’ll begin to notice slight problems.
The Movement Athlete App/Program – Final Thoughts
The movement for bodyweight training plans is an ever-growing one. You can even see the influence sports as calisthenics has in CrossFit, as they’re incorporating certain movements into their WODs.
Finding proper training for calisthenics is actually harder said than done. It certainly isn’t as evolved as other fitness movements and suffers slightly due to this fact.
That said, the Movement Athlete Program is definitely a step in the right direction.
It can be refined slightly. While the problems are small, they will certainly stop the most-experienced athletes from joining. The fact that movements are “capped” is kind of disappointing, too.
However, if you look at this plan as a beginner’s plan, it changes completely. In that case, it scores almost perfectly. It was definitely designed for beginners, as there’s a great emphasis on learning the basics – not only of the skills – but training, in general.
The Movement Athlete app is certainly good – or even great – to most. That said, if you’re someone banging out planches with ease, you might be better off spending your money elsewhere.
Rating: 4.0 out of 5