The worldwide popularity of Calisthenics has soared in recent years. Calisthenics is a form of exercise that consists of body-weight exercises such as push-ups, pull-ups and dips which is increasingly becoming a substitute or addition to people’s gym routines. The internet is now abundant with people who show that training consistently and progressing at Calisthenics can bring with it incredible results! Moreover, with effort, patience, and persistence towards Calisthenics, comes with it the ability to perform jaw-dropping, gravity-defying moves such as Human Flags, Planches, and Handstands, not typically seen in your local leisure centre. 😉
Plus, it’s a completely free form of exercise, and with Calisthenics parks frequently popping up around the UK, it can be a great way to train and socialise with like-minded people.
Today I am fortunate enough to bring you an interview with one of the best Calisthenics athletes in the UK: Ashton Drilleth-Sheriff.
With this interview you will gain unique insight into his story, training methods and the mentality that has taken him from being a complete beginner who struggled to do just a few push ups, to one of the most technically advanced and dench Calisthenics athletes in the UK.
When did you starting training calisthenics and why?
Ashton: I started training when I was 16 but I only got serious about calisthenics when I was 19. When I was 16 I used to do push ups and sit ups in my room, but it was in my first year of university that I started to train for specific calisthenics movements. I got into it after I saw the famous ‘HannibalForKing’ video, and I remember being blown-away by the control he had over his body. I said “I want to be able to do that” and never looked back.
What advice can you give to someone who wants to progress at Calisthenics from a complete beginner to an advanced athlete like yourself?
Ashton: Be patient. I used to get really impatient with myself when I wasn’t seeing the results of my hard work paying off instantly. Some advanced calisthenics skills can take years to learn, so you have to be patient with yourself. I used to injure myself all the time trying to do skills I wasn’t ready for, so if there is one piece of advice I could give then it would be it is “just be patient, and the results will come if you put the work in”.
What do you attribute the crazy progress that you have made down to?
Ashton: Luckily, I have always been very determined when it comes to achieving my goals, so whenever I set my mind to something I always aim to do it to a high standard. But what’s equally important (if not more important) is my consistency. The “secret” to progressing with calisthenics is consistency. It’s something you must do regularly if you want to get better at it. It’s impossible to make significant progress if you only do it once a week, or even twice a week. You have to commit at least three days a week to it.
Can you share with us any specific experiences that has helped to develop your exceptional attitude towards training?
Ashton: I was somewhat serious in my first year of university, but I still had a relatively casual attitude towards working out. But that changed when I went to a free calisthenics community session hosted by BlockWorkout in London. I was one of the weakest people there; everyone was doing pull ups like they were nothing and I couldn’t keep up at all. That got me fired up, and then I went away and religiously trained the exact same circuit I had done the first time I went to BlockWorkout until I could do it with ease. I would say that was the pivotal moment in my calisthenics journey that made cross over from “casual” to “serious”.
How much is calisthenics a mental game? Can you give us insight into how you stay motivated towards training and progressing?
Ashton: Calisthenics is entirely a mental game. It is 80% mental, 20% physical. The introduction to my blog The Beauty of Strength and Writing is about this very idea. Long-story-short, calisthenics is a mental game before you even begin because you have to tell yourself that one day you will be able to do the superhuman things you’ve seen in the videos. Most people’s minds give up at the very thought of committing to it once they go to the pull up bar and realise they can’t do 10 pull ups, so those who survive and strive are the real warriors. At the moment what motivates me is seeing how people’s lives are enhanced by exercise. I love sharing what I do with people and educating them about it because it makes them want to try it too. When they do, they are always surprised with what they can achieve and then they begin to have a more positive outlook about themselves. I absolutely love that, because you can see them transform right in front of you. It’s an amazing thing to see. Nine times out of ten if you educate them in the right way then they’ll want to stick with it, so it’s not just a temporary change, it’s a long term positive transformation.
How often do you train and how do you split your training plan?
Ashton: I train about five times a week, and I will split my upper body workouts into push and pull days (chest and triceps on one day, back and biceps on the next) and then I’ll (reluctantly) do legs.
Do you train weights as well? In your opinion is it best to do both weight training and calisthenics if you want to gain mass, increase strength, and develop technical skills? If so what balance do you recommend?
Ashton: It depends. If I want to quickly build size and increase strength, then yes, I will train with weights. I will do weighted calisthenics and conventional weight lifting. I think a balance is good, but it depends on your goals. If you’re someone who’s into their freestyle calisthenics, then training with weights will be counterproductive because ideally you want to be as light and as nimble as possible. But if you’re all about your static holds then training with weights can help you hold them for longer.
How important are other people to your progress? For example, who you train and surround yourself with?
Ashton: Incredibly important. We’ve already spoken about how important consistency is, but it can be hard to stay consistent when your friends are going out every week – especially if you have FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). Let’s say your friends want to have a big night out on Friday. Saturday comes and you have a hangover, which means no training. Sunday rolls on and you’re still feeling a little bit groggy – and also it’s Sunday: you want the day to relax before you start work on Monday. Monday comes and you’re too tired from work to train. You think “ahh tomorrow”, but then you find yourself drinking in a bar with your friends on Tuesday for a company social event. Already that’s four days of training missed in the week. This is the cycle that most people fall into, which is why they find it hard to make progress. Break the cycle and commit to your workout routine, and you’ll be blessed.
How have you taken your passion for Calisthenics and turned it into a business venture?
Ashton: I’m currently in the process of trying to build my YouTube channel Ashton Fitness and I am trying to grow my Instagram page. Hopefully someone – cough, Nike, cough, GymKing – could sponsor me at some point!
Future plans and goals for calisthenics and business?
Ashton: I don’t like to speak on future plans like that! I talk about things after they’re done.
Where can people find out more about you? Your Calisthenics tutorial videos etc…?
Ashton: You can find me on all the most popular social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram), but the platforms I devote the most attention to are YouTube (Ashton Fitness) and Instagram (Ashton_Fitness_Official). I also post more in-depth calisthenics content on my blog The Beauty of Strength and Writing, so check that out if you want to further your calisthenics knowledge.
Huge thanks to Ashton for taking his time to do this interview, and of course much appreciation to you for reading it!
What I think Ashton’s story testifies is that with hard-work and persistence, anyone can sky-rocket their physical shape and condition using Calisthenics!
So why not consider incorporating Calisthenics into your weekly exercise routine and revel in the long-term benefits?
If you’re not sure where to start check out Ashton’s, ‘How To Start Calisthenics (With Beginner Workout Routine!)’ here, (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s5TZ26lwHEI), and definitely have a look at all the other useful content all over his social media.
Look out for our next interview with a multiple world-record holder, who went from watching films with Jackie Chan on TV as a child, to starring in these films years later as a stunt-performer!
Until then all the best,
(P.S: If you’re interested here’s the video that motivated me to start Calisthenics (Besides meeting Ashton a while back of course!) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SKtQvfT2jO8