Linking is the process of combining moves to create a set.
You have a list of calisthenics moves in your repertoire. Everyone does. No matter your fitness level. You have a body, therefore you have physical ability.
The process of linking involves being aware of what you can do and when you can do them.
Most moves in calisthenics are done either on a straight bar, parallel bars, or the ground. Other equipment setups will come your way, and they offer an even greater variety of moves and combos – but for the sake of keeping it simple, we’ll think of these three.
Start by writing down or thinking about what you can do on each apparatus. These are your bag of tricks, and it’s very important to be aware of them all the time. If you don’t take the time to get familiar with your own moves, you cannot expect to remember when it’s show time.
Let’s say you have 3 basic moves on the high bar:
The Muscle Up
The Bar Hop
You have three moves available for a set, but what you choose to do first will determine the smoothness and “wow” factor of your set.
Timing is everything in calisthenics. We are doing physical exercise and therefore dealing with the laws of physics, whether we like it or not.
The most important physical law to recognize and work with is Inertia. The law of inertia states that “an object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.”
This is a major deal in creating smooth sets. Smoothness is efficiency. Efficiency is using the least amount of energy to complete the same task. Your body wants to keep going in the same direction and speed once in motion, so we can take advantage of this and not go against inertia.
I mentioned a basic set earlier:
The Muscle Up
The Bar Hop
Can you think of the best way to link these moves? When I say best I mean: using the least amount of energy by being aware of where your momentum takes you. Taking it easy has a great side effect: your moves seem effortless.
I’m going to demonstrate two ways of combining these three moves, then we’ll talk about what went wrong and right in each one.
Keep in mind there is no right or wrong way of combining these moves, but you will find that one way will be easier than others.
The 1st set:
Pullover, Bar Hop, Muscle Up.
You can notice the momentum is off in this set. Also there are two common mistakes present: hesitation to the hop and locking out after catching the bar.
Locking out is great for reps and strength workouts, but for freestyle you’ll be wasting a lot of power stored in your elbows. There’s a reason why all the ninja warriors keep a 90 degree elbow at all times. They conserve energy. Hesitation is also a momentum killer. It’s an intentional stop and restart of where you want to go.
The 2nd set:
Muscle Up, Bar Hop, Pullover.
In the second set there’s neither hesitation nor locking out. The order of the moves has a great effect on smoothness. From the muscle up I can pop my hips up without hesitation to the bar hop, then because my legs are already flying forward, I can keep my elbows bent and go into a pullover without resetting. Once your moves grow in numbers and difficulty, being great with timing will make all the difference.
We’ll combine Linking and Branching next to develop a proven way to be creative in calisthenics.