Are ThenX.com calisthenics and weight programs legit? Will Chris Heria’s online workouts transform you into bodyweight bodybuilders?
Those are all valid questions and you are in luck. I spent more than a year and a half following ThenX online programs so I could share my experience with you.
This will be a lengthy, honest review, that reflects my point of view on why I started doing calisthenics, why I chose ThenX and what were the results of doing ThenX workouts for more than a year.
First, let’s start with the why.
Why I started doing calisthenics with ThenX
I remember the day I saw ThenX youtube video, called “10 minutes of hell workout 2016”, for the first time. To put you into the context. Back in the day, I was a fatso, who wanted to change his life from the ground up.
After many months of soul searching, the only logical conclusion was to stop being fat and be fit instead. So I took action and started to look for online bodyweight workout tutorials, that can be done at home without any pieces of equipment.
One day, a random link to ThenX youtube channel appeared on the top of search results. Video thumbnail showed two shredded sweating dudes, who don’t look like usual bodybuilders.
I was curious. I soughed after the same physique without the need of going into the gym. I didn’t hesitate for too long and immediately smashed the play button.
My initial impression of watching was quite positive. I have never seen a fitness video, that has such high video production quality. Each video had a captivating intro, original music, and positive engaging narrative. Camera movements were smooth, dynamic and recorded the same scene from multiple concurrent angles. Plus ThenX videos were shot in his own gym.
When it comes to the exercises in the video, I was blown away. Freestanding handstands, muscle-ups, upside down deadlifts, front lever raises, weighted dips. I wanted to learn them asap.
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That was spring 2017. ThenX channel had only around 250k subscribers. Now at the time of this review, they grew to over 3.1 m subscribers.
It’s incredible how far you can go if you consistently provide value to your audience and teach others how to be their best self.
5 reasons why I purchased ThenX.com membership
Anyway, each ThenX video ends with an ad, that shills you to become a paid member at ThenX.com. For a cost of $10 a month, billed annually, you will get access to ThenX online calisthenics programs and technique guides.
I was hesitating to Pay more than 100 bucks upfront.
I was a cheap bastard, who even didn’t want to pay for a gym membership, just because there was a free alternative. Street workout parks are free and there are plenty of them everywhere. And who knows if I would still practice ThenX programs a year after.
Fortunately, ThenX offered freemium access to their online content.
For each of their 8-week workout program, you can access the 1st week for free. As for their technique guides, the first few videos are free to watch too. Additionally, there are free daily workouts, that are generated automatically every day.
This was a perfect value proposition for me.
- First, I could test daily beginner level workouts for as long as I wanted.
- Second, randomly generated daily workouts seemed to have a larger variety of challenging exercises than usual 7-minute workout apps.
- Third, I wanted to build a new habit and there was no better way than to start doing something every day.
- Fourth, I discovered a street workout park, that is located 10 minutes from my home, so there was no excuse to not go out every day.
Are ThenX free daily workouts worth trying?
As I said free content was one of the main reason I gave ThenX.com a shot. So I started doing ThenX daily workouts daily.
It took me a month before I tried every possible beginner exercise generated by daily workouts.
One day, I tried to do a daily intermediate leg workout to test my abilities. The jump in difficulty was so high I couldn’t even finish my second round.
After a month of dieting and doing free daily workouts, I was hooked. My body fat percentage went down, while my strength climbed up.
On day one, I could do only 5 regular push-ups. 30 days later, I was strong enough to bust out 4 diamond push-ups. So yeah, even free content can change your life and make you stronger and leaner.
My first impressions after buying ThenX membership
I was ready to do proper 8-week ThenX beginner program, so I bought 1-year membership with my credit card.
By becoming a paid member, you will get access to previously locked video content. I was surprised how much content was locked behind a paywall.
Want to learn handstand? Check.
What about muscle-ups? Check.
Every major calisthenic move is covered. You will learn handstands, pullovers, muscle-ups, front levels, planche, press to handstands, straight press to handstands, jumps on the bar and human flags.
To protect your wrists when training planche or handstand.
Check out these parallettes on Amazon HERE.
If you ever wanted to learn those flashy street workout skills you saw in talent shows, you could acquire it with thenX tutorials. As I said earlier, I was ready to start ThenX beginner calisthenics program.
ThenX online beginner calisthenics program flaws
Little did I know, that following ThenX program is not exactly straightforward for beginners.
Firstly, video content is not always synced with actual content on the website.
E.g. in one video showing a skill progression, Chris Heria says to the camera that, he will show us a workout, that will help us in achieving the next progression. But there is no promised workout video in the technique guide section. It seems like they forgot to add a promised workout, or they removed it afterward but didn’t update video content to reflect the changes.
Next, there were some confusing parts in the beginner workout program.
In the first week, they tell you to do l-sit for 15 seconds. But the video shows an l-sit on the floor. How in hell can a person, who never trained calisthenics, do an l-sit on the floor in the first week of a beginner program?
It took me 3 months of dedicated training until I could do 5s l-sit on the floor.
Then there is a progression chart with unrealistic goals.
I believe the chart was tailored to calisthenics veterans, steroid users or very young people in their puberty, who have superhuman recovery rates. At the end of the 8-week program, you should be able to do at least 15 pull-ups.
I don’t see how it is achievable by doing ThenX beginner program. If you followed a program dedicated especially to pull-ups, like grease the groove, then yes. But not with ThenX circuit-style endurance training.
My personal record after finishing ThenX beginner program was 6 pull-ups with good form.
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Another thing that I found pointless is the recommendation, that if you missed the requirements or couldn’t finish the workout, then you suppose to repeat the whole week.
It would make sense if repeating the whole week again would help you in achieving the unmet repetition amount. Say, from 8 push-ups to 12 push-ups. But this is not the case.
Most of the time, the reason you won’t be able to finish a workout is the steep jump in the difficulty, like from 0 muscle-ups to 10 muscle-ups as a warm-up. You then either give up and do something else or you repeat whole week multiple times and get bored.
ThenX online beginner calisthenics program benefits
So far I was mostly complaining. Are there any pros at all?
Sure, what I liked the most about beginner program was the variety and intensity of the exercises. I didn’t have time to get bored, workouts are that intense.
And what about real-life results?
With proper nutrition, I shed fat fast. I did not become muscular but gained some strength though.
Beginner program helped me to progress from 1 pull up to 6 pull-ups.
6 pull-ups are rated as poor according to the ThenX progression chart. My back was clearly underdeveloped and weak.
On the other hand, my triceps are naturally big by default, so I managed to meet ThenX goals in dips, push-ups, pike hold and assisted pistol squats.
Below are the most important lessons beginner program gave me:
- I learned to stick with the workout schedule no matter what
- I developed a sense of activating my mind muscle connection
- I became obsessed with keeping proper form all the time
You won’t learn that from bodybuilding bros in the gym.
My first impression on ThenX intermediate calisthenics program
After finishing ThenX beginner program, my confidence went through the roof. I immediately jumped into ThenX intermediate calisthenics program.
But as I started following the program, I again noticed a lot of inconsistencies and flaws. Like, 10 muscle-ups as a warm-up. Really? I concluded, that I should not blindly follow their recommended routine.
Apart from muscle-ups and handstand push-ups against the wall, all other exercises were within strength limits of a fresh beginner graduate.
Similarly to the beginner program, intermediate workouts are focused on endurance. You will do high volume reps with minimal rest in between sets. Don’t expect anything else than sweat and total exhaustion. The program was also much more challenging and fun due to increased difficulty and a new set of exercises.
Okay, but will you become calisthenics ninja by doing the intermediate program?
After 8 weeks, I improved my pull-ups from 6 to 10 and I achieved new personal records in dips to l-sit and straight bar dips.
One thing I couldn’t improve at all was handstand push up against the wall.
The program will eventually reveal your weak spots. In my case, underdeveloped shoulder joints slowed my progress down. There is nothing more to say about the intermediate program.
Taking a break from ThenX and experiment with weighted calisthenics
After 2 programs, that lasted 17 weeks in total, I was burnout from doing ThenX calisthenics workouts. I wanted to try something new.
At this point, I still kept in mind my failure of reaching 15 pull-ups, even after finishing the intermediate program. I decided to try weighted calisthenics to reach my goal faster.
It made total sense, if I get stronger by doing weighted pull-ups, I should be able to do more reps without weights. So I started with a 5 kg plate. And WOW.
I felt the burn again. I felt, how my shoulder and biceps tendons are torn apart. I felt, how wearing a weight belt while doing move, that most of the people in the gym can’t do with clear form, can bring you unsolicited attention.
The more weight I added on a weight belt, the longer recovery I needed between each workout and the fewer reps I could do in total. I still bulked at that time, so I could add 2,5 kg plate every two weeks without being injured.
For the first time in my life, I saw the results of progressive overload in practice. My lats were as a result somehow wider than usual.
3 weeks of weighted calisthenics had more impact on my physique than 17 weeks of pure bodyweight calisthenics.
My first impression on ThenX intermediate calisthenics and weights program
Fast results convinced me to start ThenX calisthenics and weights intermediate program asap.
The program is formed around push-pull days with legs, abs and shoulder days in between. It will teach you the most important barbell exercises, such as deadlifts, squats and bench press.
My first impressions were not actually positive.
First, it was so boring to just grab a weight and move it in space. There is no technique involved and you can easily cheat the form. In calisthenics, if you don’t know how to activate muscle mind connection, your progress will stop really quickly. With weights, poor form is compensated by surrounding muscle groups. You will think you are getting stronger, but is it just an illusion. You can get away with it for a really long time until you get injured from muscle imbalance.
Second, I felt the burn after lifting heavy weights, but I didn’t feel the pump, that I got from doing high-intensity circuit calisthenics workouts. With less intensity and less emphasis on endurance comes better recovery rate. When you overdo calisthenics, you stay sore for at least a week before your body completely process accumulated lactate acid. Soreness from weights lasted only a day or two.
Third, 30 seconds rest between exercises is not enough. Your muscles don’t have a chance to recover from heavyweights.
What you should be concerned about is the lack of emphasis on proper form. ThenX is missing any explanation behind lifting with proper form. You should educate yourself from another source.
Moreover, ThenX program includes some pretty dangerous weight exercises, that could cause you some serious injury, like dumbbell flies and Barbell upright rows.
Apart from the holy trinity, other barbell and dumbbell exercises are subpar at best.
I did gain some muscles, but I was not satisfied with my overall physique. Maybe because I was still in permanent 200-400 caloric bulk. I gained fat at a faster rate than muscles as a result.
But thanks to permanent bulk, my lift increased every two weeks. Sets and reps are designed with bulking in mind anyway.
You will train for strength for one week and then switch to hypertrophy training another week. Otherwise, mixing lifting and calisthenics was fun.
Coming from calisthenics, it is a gentle way to introduce yourself into the world of weights. You will try basics exercises and you will learn your true strength limits.
I ditched ThenX and created my own workouts routines
Nowadays, I prefer not to mix calisthenics and weights in one workout. If I did, I couldn’t be able to improve in neither of them. Weights exhaust your muscles to the point, you won’t be able to produce the same amount of reps as if you would in a fresh state.
On the other hand, If I started with pull-ups, I could still slash out 10 reps in deadlifts afterward. With slightly more discomfort, but without breaking the form.
So today my training regime is strictly divided into multiple parts, each focused on different goals.
First, I start with a warm-up. This is non-negotiable. The warm-up helps me to dynamically stretch my tight tendons, so there is a lower chance of an injury. It usually takes 15 mins.
Next, I do a handstand practice routine. This my most rewarding and fun part of the day. I have to train handstand when I am still fresh.
After handstand practice is done, my core is so sore I don’t have to train abs anymore. Then I continue with calisthenics moves, that requires both strength and skill. This could be anything from muscle-ups, pullovers, front levers or planche.
If the move relies only on strength and endurance without any skill requirements, then I do pyramid style training. Otherwise, I do 4 sets of 4 to 6 exercises.
Finally, I finish my day with hypertrophy focused weight workout, that targets a specific part of my body. For example, I rotate between back and biceps day, chest and triceps day and shoulder day.
Ok, enough my personal experience. Let’s dig into ThenX content deeper and do a proper detailed review.
Review of the ThenX video web content
Let’s look into ThenX web content in more detail.
ThenX video content is divided into 3 main sections. Daily workouts, programs, and technique guides.
Other website features are not important nor interesting. You can visit their shop and buy ThenX merchandise. You can look at their member directory and see who is part of ThenX community. Or you can manage your account in the profile section.
ThenX daily workouts
Let’s start with the daily workout section.
For me, daily workouts were the reason I stuck with ThenX programs. Each day a new workout is published.
I think workouts are created by hand manually, or at least semi-manually. Because from time to time, they put a rest day after a long chain of workouts.
The focus of the workouts alternates between abs, whole body, chest and triceps, legs, back and biceps, shoulders. Exactly in that order.
There are 3 types of daily workouts: fat burning, rep building, and Tabatha.
Fat burning workouts
Fat burning is a workout, that has a higher number of exercises (7-8) with high rep count, duration and lighter difficulty. You will do exercises, that are a staple of classic cardio workouts. Jumping jacks, mountain climbers, low plank high plank, bicycle.
So on a chest and triceps day, you will do your usual triceps exercises like dips, then you will spicy it with mountain climbers. I don’t know how much more calories you will burn, but definitely, more than you would expect.
Repetition building workouts
Next, there are rep building days. It means, that workout is focused on specific parts of the body.
On a back day, you will do every pull progression you can think of. Why? In theory, rep endurance is improved by exhausting each and every muscle in your back.
I like rep building days a lot. It gives me the feeling, that I am improving in something.
Then there are Tabatha days. Tabatha workouts don’t have sets and reps, but sets and duration instead. For example, on a back day, you will do 25 seconds of pull-ups, then 25 seconds of jumping pull up negatives.
I don’t get the science behind duration based workouts. What’s the point? It’s very hard to keep constant effort the whole time. Most people will slack off and make bigger pauses between reps.
Additionally, Workouts are very similar to fat-burning days, with a little twist. There is a bigger emphasis on explosive exercises, like burpees and bicycles.
I think Tabatha is just a rebranding of a classic fat-burning circuit style training.
Each workout starts with a warm-up and ends with 4 rounds of fat-burning exercises. I think 4 rounds is a lot.
As a beginner, you will spend one hour and a half each day every day. At least I was. So ThenXs statement, that workouts can take you from 45-60 mins, is wrong.
Technically, if you skip the warm-up, train like a robot, never exceed rest time and keep maximum effort all the time, then maybe. I was not able to finish the workout in less than 60 mins. 30 seconds rest is just enough to catch a breath. One day it was so hot outside, that I almost threw up after a fat-burning workout.
Don’t push yourself too hard and always watch your health.
If you are a total beginner, daily workouts will help you with building habits, gaining strength and learning proper form.
From my experience, by the end of the third month, you will get used to the intensity and difficulty of daily workouts and you will have to increase the change the routine. That was the right moment to start ThenX Calisthenics beginner program.
Review of ThenX online workout programs
Now let’s talk about workout programs. ThenX offers 3 levels of difficulty: beginner, intermediate and advanced.
On the beginner level, you have an introduction program and a beginner program.
ThenX introduction program
Introduction program is a place, where you can find tutorials on all basic calisthenics exercises. There is step by step guides on pull-ups, push-ups, dips, pistol squats, and l-sit holds.
Each move has its own introduction intro, which will explain the pros and cons and show correct form with a full range of motion. After watching the intro, you can start practicing the easiest progression. In the case of pull-ups, you will start with Australian pull-ups.
Each video clearly explains patterns behind movements. What you should do and what shouldn’t. Proper form vs improper form. Instructions are mostly clear and for example, I was able to pick up the mechanics of scapula retraction, even though it took me a while to understand how to activate my scapula. By seeing the video over and over, trying to imitate the motion shown in the video, I was able to learn the strict form easily.
Then after you learn the form, you will build up strength for the next progression by doing rep building workouts. Each move is broken down into multiple progression steps. And even those steps are can be broken down into dozen variations. In the case of Australian pull-ups, another variation is Australian chin-ups. Having different variations is important for activating all muscles involved in the move in all possible angles.
Every second progression has a master workout, which will test your capabilities. The workout is done in a reverse pyramid fashion. You start with the hardest progressions and you scale down in difficulty with each set.
I found it challenging and fun. You immediately apply what have you learned. I remember I did pull up master workout for almost a month, doing jumping negative pull-ups, jumping pull-ups, Australian pull-ups, Australian chin-ups, in all grip variations. I was embarrassed, that I couldn’t pull myself up and have to jump up on the bar, but nobody cared and negatives helped to reach my first pull up.
Now, let’s talk about the negatives of an introduction program.
One thing, that frustrated me so much was unclear instructions on reps and duration requirements.
What does it mean to do Australian pull-ups wide, shoulder, close and hold 4x times? Should I do it sequentially or do should I do 4 reps for each grip and then continue with other variations?
And how long should I hold myself? Should I use all three grip variations for holding?
This made me so mad. I thought, that if I follow instructions word by word, I will be a calisthenic beast like Chris Heria in no time. I was afraid of doing it wrong. What if following wrong instructions will hinder my progress?
As a beginner, you want clear step by step guide, that you can blindly follow. You don’t want to guess. You don’t have experience yet to judge, what is best for you and what is not optimal.
I was not alone. There were many others, who were on the same boat. Almost every tutorial video has a comment section, that is flooded with questions on how to interpret confusing instructions, but ThenX never bothered to reply or to include answers into their Faqs section.
Once you are a paid customer, you are invisible. There is no customer support what so ever.
Besides this, content in Introduction program is legit and learning my first pull up convinced me to buy the subscription.
ThenX beginner program
Now let’s talk about beginner program.
It is an eight-week program. Each week is gradually harder than the previous one. Every second weekend with a challenging workout, that will test your progress.
Similarly to daily workouts, each workout day has its own purpose. One day you will focus on fat burning, another day on the whole body.
Apart from familiar daily workout types, there are two new additions, increase repetitions days and challenge days. The main difference between dailies and beginner program is the doubled difficulty in terms of sets and reps. There are two rest days a week to compensate for higher intensity.
Beginner program has shorter warm-ups but also has more than one round, each having at least 6 exercises. And you repeat each round three times.
When you take into consideration the total volume, while keeping 30 seconds rest and 30 seconds set, you will have trouble finishing workout under one hour. In fact, each workout took me nearly two hours to finish.
I don’t think it’s necessary to work out that much to achieve your strength and hypertrophy goals. I was always dead exhausted after the workout and I was wondering if overtraining was a real thing. During the fifth week, I almost wanted to give up, but I pushed myself through the pain.
If I could start my calisthenics journey again, I would choose a different style of training. The one with less volume and more tailored to my goals. Anyway, if your goal is to be an endurance beast, then this type of workout is ideal.
Let’s review the benefits of each type of workout in the beginner program.
This workout mixes exercises, that you learned in the introduction program, with few cross fit exercises, like burpees and shoulders to shoulders.
What is unique about whole-body workouts is an emphasis on doing cardio exercises in between static and strength exercises. Your muscles will have a chance to rest and you will burn more calories that way.
Anyway, there are some exercises, that are out of place. I mean, as a beginner, who just finished ThenX introduction program, it’s highly unlikely, that you can do 10 reps of diamond push up as a warm-up on your first day of a beginner program.
It would make more sense if they told you to take as much time as you need to finish those 10 reps, but there were no such instructions. I could do hardly one rep.
Increase repetitions day
This workout will force you to put maximum effort into each set.
What does it mean? I was confused too. But my theory is, that you should do as many reps as you can, in one go, until you form breaks. No pauses between reps.
Workouts are mainly focused on building pull-ups and dips strength, as they are the hardest exercises a beginner will face.
Fat Burning days:
Fat burning workouts are pretty useless. I mean, I clearly see the point of doing cardio. But as a beginner, I want to build muscle and be stronger, not to do bicycles 6 times in one hour.
I get it. You can’t train you strength movements every day, and putting full cardio workout once in a while is a convenient way to fill out empty days in a program.
I just didn’t enjoy it at all and had to drag myself each morning.
The Cons of ThenX beginner workout program
Sometimes, there is an error in a workout program. I don’t know if an error was made intentionally, but I can’t come up with the reason, why are some exercises included in that particular workout.
Take for example back & biceps workout in the second week. They put high knee raises as the last exercise of a back & biceps focused workout. What’s the point?
Next. Workouts get more and more difficult, which is achieved in many ways.
- First, the number of exercises is constantly increasing with every week. Be prepared to do 8 exercises in one round, while having two rounds!
- Second, rep count peaks on maximum effort days and can range from 12-20 reps.
- Third, the duration of holding poses gets longer as well.
- Fourth, they will introduce harder exercises in the middle of the program, that will spice things up a little bit. For me, I found straight bar dips and dips to l-sit to be refreshing and challenging.
Then there are exercises, that is almost impossible to do properly as a beginner, and would require weeks of dedicated training. E.g. 8x toes to bar as a warm-up in leg day on week-five. The same applies for handstand hold against the wall 30 secs as warm top on whole body day.
Next. One of the biggest frustration is misplaced video content.
In a beginner program, they tell you to do 15-sec l-sit. But when you play the video, Chris Heria is doing l-sit on the floor. Floor variation is like 100 times harder than l-sit on dip bars.
As a beginner, you are confused and you just can’t continue in the program until you learn l-sit on the floor. Because instructions clearly say you should repeat a whole week if you face any troubles.
Should you follow video instructions or rely on your common sense? I mean, I paid my money for a workout program, so I expect clear and realistic instructions. It’s like when your math teachers tell you to solve derivative equation just after you learned how to sum two numbers.
Anyway, I can’t deny, that beginner program will bring you results. I learned a lot about myself by finishing it. E.g. that I am stronger in pushing movements due to naturally big triceps.
Meanwhile, I progress very slowly with pulling movements due to my short tendons, that requires at least two weeks to heal.
If I would go through the beginner program again, I would do many things differently.
ThenX intermediate calisthenics program
Similarly to the beginner program, Intermediate program is 8 weeks long.
I started Intermediate program two weeks after ending beginner program. The two-week pause was necessary to recoup myself and let my body cool down a bit.
I knew the Intermediate program will have exercises, that is unbelievably hard for beginner and would require dedicated training to do them properly. And again there would be no tutorial on ThenX, that would help me with learning those moves. So I told myself, let’s not waste time on dedicated training and just wing it. If exercise is too hard, I will skip it.
The structure of ThenX intermediate program is quite similar to the beginner program. With intermediate program comes a dedicated shoulder day. It is because you will have to reach 15 reps of handstand push-ups against the wall on a final challenge day. Shoulder day should help you get the required strength. I didn’t, but I enjoyed shoulder day doing new fun exercises such as pike walks and handstand push-ups against the wall.
The first week starts smoothly, but then the difficulty ramps up really quickly. On the last day of the first week, you will do 2 rounds of 17 exercises, 5 times each. Or 170 exercises in total. That is insane. There is no logical reason to do so much cardio. Unless you really want to push your endurance limits and burn fat. I had trouble with finishing the workout in a reasonable time and always came late to work.
At week 7, you will finally taste headbanger, really fun exercise.
Generally, I really enjoyed doing the intermediate program. The only caveat is that it just takes too much time and I didn’t see any change in my physique. But it helped me in reaching 12 pull-ups, 7 more than my maximum at the end of ThenX beginner program. So the real value of the Intermediate program lies in pushing your endurance limits.
Fortunately, that after two years since launching ThenX.com, they managed to fix a lot of errors, like 10x muscle up as warm-up, mismatched videos or worse, wrong workout days!!!
ThenX intermediate calisthenics and weights program
This is an 8 weeks program with only one rest day each week.
Weights don’t rely on muscular endurance at all, so if you train each part of the body only once a week, there is plenty of time to recover.
Workout days are structured in similar ways to calisthenics programs. There is core, back, and biceps, legs, shoulder, chest and triceps, whole body, pull-push, abs days.
In the first week, you will be doing as much as two to three weight exercises each day. The minimum to learn the form of the exercises.
The way how weight and calisthenics exercises are combined is completely random. Sometimes, you do weights only in the first round, and then bodyweight-only in the second round. Sometimes you do the opposite. Sometimes, both weights and calisthenics are mixed together.
I don’t know if randomness was on purpose, to initiate muscle confusion, but it sure as hell confused me. In the gym, I had to run back and forth from weights area to cross-fit area like a madman. And it happened to me quite frequently, that barbell station was in the meantime occupied by someone else. Therefore I didn’t meet the recommended resting time of 30 seconds and had to wait 10-15 minutes before I could access barbell again.
About the resting, 30 seconds rest is maybe good for endurance bodyweight training, but in the case of weights training, it’s not enough. You are forced to reduce weight to meet the reps and strict resting periods. If you rest longer for 1 to 2 minutes, your muscles will recover enough to lift more weights. More weights mean more gains. And gains are the primary reason why anyone starts with lifting, right?
If you bulk during ThenX Intermediate Calisthenics and Weights program, you will notice some beginner gains. So don’t worry, doing this program is still better than doing random workouts found in bodybuilding magazines.
Another thing, that frustrated me is unclear instructions. ThenX crew will show you the basic form in the video, but proper posture is only one half of a coin.
Each weight exercise deserves an explanation video on how to activate the right muscles groups. If you don’t know the science and biomechanics behind each lift, you will have a tendency to load as much weight as you can do and cheat your way through the ROM, not intentionally of course.
Take a chest flies for example. They don’t tell you to retract your scapula and to activate the only chest with shoulders locked. They don’t tell you to never go beyond your back with your elbows. Ignoring biomechanics will cause muscle imbalance and will lead to potential injury.
Another confusing instruction is to choose the weight, that will allows you to do a predefined number of reps. As a beginner, you don’t know your one-rep max. It will take many workout sessions before you get the feeling of your strength limits. Quite often, I chose too much weight and ended up doing only 5-6 reps instead of 10. It is an issue with weights, that can’t be loaded in small increments. If the increment is by 5Kg and you can do 10x10kg, adding 5Kg on top means a 50% increase in intensity. Your body is not able to adapt so quickly to increased weight.
ThenX technique guides
The last part of the review will be about technique guides.
In my opinion, technique guides section is a true source of value for calisthenics beginners. It was one of the main reasons I subscribed to ThenX.com because I wanted to learn all those fancy moves you see on youtube.
While 8-week programs have a specific goal in mind, like helping you gaining overall strength and endurance, it will end exactly after 8 weeks. But with skill techniques, they take forever to master. And ThenX had all technique guides I sought after.
Guides are conveniently divided into 3 difficulty levels. As a beginner, you will learn pull over and handstand. As an intermediate, you will learn straight arm press to handstand, muscle up and handstand press. As advanced, you will learn front lever, full planche, jump on the bar and human flag.
Two years in my fitness journey, I managed to master only pull over after a year and a half.
ThenX pull over technique guide
Yes, pull overtook me that long. It is a consequence of choosing regular workout routines over practicing technique skills. I imagine, that if you focused on one particular skill at a time and followed grease the groove method every day, you will achieve it in a matter of weeks or months instead of years.
But my main goal was not to learn skill asap but to reach my natural physique potential before I get old. I can’t speed up the adaptation process of my tendons anyway, so I am patient while learning new skills.
My experience with many injuries taught me, that you can’t hurry the process and sometimes, it is best to de-load and take a pause for week or two (which does not apply for planche training thought).
So I started with pullover technique guide two years ago but learned proper one just half a year ago. Why? Not because of the bad technique guide, but because my core was not strong enough to lift my butt up over the pull-up bar.
Sure, I could do toes to bar progression 6 months in, but the jump in difficulty from toes to bar to upside-down deadlift was enormous for a beginner.
It was not until I dedicated myself to training on dip bars instead of pull up the bar every week.
The hardest portion is to lift legs up, so I lowered the difficulty by training on dip bars. I jumped from the ground to deadlift position and practiced upside down deadlift straight away. After some time, my core got stronger. When I reached 3×3 reps, I knew I could do one over on pull up bar.
You see, sometimes ThenX progressions are not detailed enough and you have to break down the move yourself to fight against plateau.
ThenX handstand technique guide
Next skill I tried to learn was a handstand, taught by Chris Heria.
In hindsight, I wish I learned handstand from Gabo Saturno instead. ThenX guide will teach you handstand progressions the wrong way.
Yes, basics are covered, like stomach to wall drill, finger balancing tips, kicking up and exiting methods, but this is not enough.
I wasted like a year following this guide and the only thing that I achieved was back to wall handstand for 60 sec with an arched back.
What is missing is an emphasis on hollow body position and the importance of mobility and flexibility training. These are crucial parts that will make free handstand effortless.
To this day, I still can’t do a free handstand at my will. But after I started to follow Gabo Saturno tutorials, I progressed from random kicks ups and falls, to 5 sec free handstands here and there, in a controlled manner.
Gabo Saturno is a yoga practitioner and unlike other calisthenics gurus, who rely fully on strength to master things, he will guide you into the world of flexibility and mobility, which will put get you to the next level.
So after regularly doing flexibility routines, I was able to kick up with much more ease and be aware of my feet in the air. Nowadays, I focus on unlearning arched back posture, that I learned with ThenX technique guide.
Well, I can’t fix my past, but you can avoid my mistakes by learning skills you want only from someone, who is the best in that field. Chris Herias strengths are in explosive movements and weighted calisthenics, so you can safely learn muscle up 360 or jump on the bar from him, but learn handstand from someone else.
ThenX muscle-up technique guide
The last ThenX technique guide I ever tried was the one teaching muscle-ups.
I started the muscle-up journey a year ago, but I didn’t achieve unassisted muscle-up following this guide yet. The reason is, that my shoulder tendons take forever to gain the required strength.
After all, I reached my first pull up after 3-4 months of dedicated training, so reaching muscle up can take 10 times longer period. I needed more strength, but ThenX guide is only focused on technique. There are no workouts, no strength progressions, nada. ThenX will only teach you the skill by breaking down a full range of motion into smaller parts.
Yes, skill is tricky, but you will learn it fast once you have required strength. And I lacked strength.
Should I do explosive pull-ups forever, l-sit pull-ups, high pull-ups or muscle up negatives?
After a month of trying, I didn’t see any progress. So I switched to resistance band assisted muscle up training, which allowed me to skip strength barrier and learn skill immediately.
Btw. want to learn muscle ups faster?
Check out these resistance bands on Amazon HERE.
Now I enjoy doing assisted muscle-ups and I feel, that my shoulder tendons are adapting each week. I train muscle-ups once in two weeks and each workout increases my maximum volume by 10 – 15%. I see the progress, which is important.
ThenX review summary
So to wrap up.
As a beginner, you don’t want to rely solely on one program from one guru, but try to be open-minded and try different teachings from other gurus as well. Write down what works and what don’t and once you identify the method, that helps you progress faster, then do it.
The problem with ThenX guides is that it teaches you calisthenics the same way Chris learned it himself, which is not suitable for everyone. Not everyone has the same muscle insertions as Chris, same tendon recovery and flexibility.
I prefer more scientific technique guides, that are straightforward to follow and focuses on the most important things in each learning phase, like technique guides from Gabo Saturno or Osvaldo Lugones.
Btw, I started front lever training by following Osvaldo’s guide and I see nice progress. My back was never stronger and I can almost do tuck front lever raise now.
ThenX unanswered beginner FAQs
Now I would like to take time and address important questions from ThenX comments section, that bothered me and that I had to figure out myself due to lack of customer support.
- Can you add more leg days? I am hitting most of the upper body 3/4 times a week but legs only once.
Yes, you can, bodyweight exercises are great for fat loss, but if you want to gain muscles, you better replace ThenX leg days with some barbell squats. That being said, one leg day a week is sufficient to avoid chicken legs syndrome.
- Is it worth to pay the premium?
Yes, if you like free trial workouts, you will get a lot more value with a premium membership, which will keep you busy for years.
- Where do I begin with programs, I am intermediate.
Try to do daily intermediate workouts. If it is too easy, try intermediate program anyway. The program alone is twice as hard as daily workouts in term of volume. If you want to start an advanced program, be sure to be able to perform advanced moves with proper form.
- Warm-ups sets seem to be just absolutely random. How are that shrugs on pull up bar are a warm-up for a leg day?
Yes, that is a common ThenX.com flaw. Warm-ups make no sense most of the time. They should be about high-intensity interval exercises, that will help you increase your heart rate.
- I just don’t get the part when they say max, it doesn’t make sense
It means to do as much as you can in one try without breaking the form.
- I don’t see any response from the questions people ask, and no follow-up messages from their members, why?
Because there is no ThenX customer support.
- Guys, I am the only one that finds this exaggerated? I am sorry, but this should be for beginners, people, that never did workout seriously yet, the warm-up is 10x pull-ups…for 2 times so 20.
Yes, warms up seems to be created by monkeys.
- I can’t do l-sit, what should I do.
Do an introduction program workout for moves you don’t know, while doing daily workouts, until you learn the move.
- Don’t like the programs. They don’t scale normally, a big jump from beginner to intermediate. The intermediate is harder than the daily intermediate workouts IMO. Also big jump from intermediate C&W to advanced C&W. I will do dailies until it gets fixed.
This won’t get fixed. Bodyweight exercises are like that. Harder the move, the bigger jump in difficulty. Planche is million times harder than pull over.
- What is alternate for the fat-burning day, if I am not fat? How should I progress from beginner level to the next levels? I am extremely ectomorph, my training goal is muscle gain as well as looking big. Looking forward to the reply.
If you want to build muscles, eat-in caloric excess and train weights, not calisthenics.
- With the pull-ups being wide/shoulder/close grip, can we do the wide first, then 30-sec break, then the shoulder, 30 sec and so on? Only because I feel like I give it my all for the wides, then have nothing left to push myself on the remaining grips.
Treat each grip as an isolated exercise. Do wide grip then rest 30 secs and then do close on and so on. If you can’t complete the rep amount, you don’t have the strength and endurance required, so just rest as needed until you reach your rep count.
ThenX unanswered intermediate FAQs
- Hey there. I have a doubt. The challenging workout is made of 3 rounds of each exercise. I usually don’t maintain the number of reps equally of all 3 rounds, so how would I interpret the reference chart? For example, round 1-15 reps, round 2 – 10 reps, round 3 – 8 reps.
Good question. My take on this is to do maximum effort in the first round while resting for 2-5 mins, so you recover enough to be able to achieve true max in the next round.
- I have a question that I’ve been thinking over the past week. So all these workouts seem to be using huge rep ranges that are meant to get the muscles to complete failure. I mean I am doing explosive push-ups, then maxing out regular push-ups over 15 reps, then knee push-ups 15 reps again, I am maxing out dips. Does this mean that these workouts focus mostly on endurance and conditioning? I mean Chris himself has said that strength building in the 7-12 range, then why do I need to do those crazy max outs on pretty basic moves 5 days a week? Sure it’s challenging, but maxing out your dips 3 times after maxing out your push-ups, knee push-ups, and bench dips 4 times is challenging even if you can do 100 push-ups and have very strong chest and great triceps. It’s a question of endurance, not strength. Should the program be supplemented with low rep workouts? What’s your view on how these workouts are constructed?
Pyramid style workouts are the best for gaining strength and endurance necessary for leveling up to the next progression.
- Hi guys, I would like someone to give me their opinion, I am bringing in front level, I am currently training out front lever with progressions (Monday only for that) but I do not know if it would be the most efficient way, based on this as and when you could include progressions to the intermediate routine? Day of chest and triceps? Back and biceps? Abs? Thanks and regards.
It totally depends on your recovery rate. With a front lever, you need your back and shoulders at least partially recovered to make any progress. I am training for front levers now, and I need to rest at least a week after a regular back workout to attempt front lever training. But that is just me. Fortunately, front lever progression depends a lot on shoulder strength, that is required to initiate scapula retraction. So if you have tired shoulder, you won’t be able to squeeze any reps. If you are doing intermediate now, just do it on your first workout day after rest days. Even if your first day is a back day, you will sacrifice some pull up reps for the front lever.
- I completed the 8 different weeks, but I don’t think I am ready to get up one level, I think I will start all over again and tweak things a little to make them harder.
Yes, ThenX says you should repeat the week if you were not able to finish all requirements in the program. From my point of view, this is nonsense. If your goal is to have the same endurance as Chris Heria, probably you should repeat workouts until your body get used to such high reps volume. Otherwise, just move on and do other things, such as doing technique guides.
- Hey, I am on week 4 of beginner and I must say the workouts are getting too easy, do you think it’s okay if I jump to the intermediate program? I complete all exercises with very little rest in between with no problems and sometimes I do extra sets. Opinions anyone? 🙁
At the end of every second week, there is a challenging day with a reference chart. If you can meet the good level requirements, then you are in line with the beginner program. If you meet an excellent level, then just skip to the intermediate program. The jump in the difficulty is not that great.
- These are super sets right?
Kinda, supersets in weight lifting mean rotating multiple lifts without any rest. In calisthenics, this can be considered as supersets. 30 secs is maximum recommended rest time if you want to increase your endurance thresholds.
- Why are abs trained once per week? Isn’t it possible to train them more often?
There is no point in training abs every day. As an intermediate, you won’t see your abs anyway, if your diet is not in check. First diet down below 14% body fat. Then stay on a constant caloric deficit and train hard, while trying to always activate your core.
This way you don’t have to dedicate your time to training your abs. After reaching sub 13% body fat, you will finally see your abs shapes, if you squeeze them hard enough, in good lighting. Only then, if you want them to be bulkier, then target your abs specifically with dedicated workouts. My daily handstand training is enough to maintain my abs visibly.
I hoped the review helped you with the decision whether to buy a membership or not. I don’t regret buying membership and spending almost a year with ThenX programs.
If you would like me to write more fitness reviews, then you can support me by sending a donation. Online workout programs are not free and gym memberships and training equipment are not free either.
So thanks for reading and see you in the next post.