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How to train maltese?


Welcome back Caliathletes! It’s been a while, but here we are with another hot topic that probably most of you have been wondering about the “how to and when”: the maltese.

A little anticipation is worth making regarding the contents of the following article:

“Since we are going to talk about a very specific skill that comes straight from gymnastics, our aim is just to gather as many information and techniques as possible in order to provide you with an exhaustive workout plan you might decide to adopt by the time you start training such skill.
There’s no will at our end to somehow replace what is the higher knowledge that comes from all those who are pure gymnastics coaches as well as athletes all around the world.”

Maltese is known to be one of the hardest static skills in Calisthenics and we cannot say it was entirely created in this field as it comes from gymnastics and here then “adopted”.

It’s probably one of the most stressful skills together with the famous Iron Cross on rings, since it brings a lot stress to bicep tendons, shoulders and last but not least to elbows because of the hyperextension of the arms, due to the position you have to hold.

For these reasons, it is highly recommended to approach the maltese only after achieving properly at least a good and solid 10-15” Straddle Planche as well as the full planche in perfect form for a similar time range, so to have very tight shoulder-scapula activation as well as a proper posterior pelvic tilt (PPV).

The load indeed, is mainly concentrated in the upper part of the back, front deltoids, trapezius and scapula in order to hold the stance properly.
It is not definitely a skill to underestimate since it’s hard to get if you are not used to holding a straight arm position.
If you think to be able to approach it just because you are able to hold a straddle planche at shoulder-width, make sure firstly to check your arms…if they’re bent, that’s not gonna work! Remember, the key is to aim to “quality over quantity” especially when it comes to such specific and advanced skill.


Since the very beginning of your planche journey, my biggest suggestion is to start working on this skill by performing it both on the ground, hence on your hands as well as on parallettes: high, mid and low are all fine.

The reason comes mainly from the fact that, if you start stimulating your CNS (Central Nervous System) with different motor patterns, especially for such skill, you’ll be able eventually to approach the maltese with a good tendon conditioning. It would be best to achieve this goal prior to the specific training you’ll have to start including in your daily routines.

Said that, another important factor for all those who are already familiar with the straddle planche in clean form (perfect line between legs and upper body), don’t forget that varying the position of your hands and wrists while holding it makes a huge difference and helps a lot in order to provide further support for the maltese.

So, once again, if you have a solid 10-15” straddle planche with wrists in line with your shoulders, start extra-rotating them passing through a 45° angle until you reach eventually a full supine position, so to approach a 90° external rotation that will bring a little more stimulation during the isometrics.
In this case, try it out on parallettes first and then on your hands considering also placing them in a position where fingers are pointing backwards compared to the line of your hips.

Once you have mastered also a fair range of seconds in such supine position or extra-rotated, start differentiating the distance between hands/parallettes; so if you started like I suggested at a shoulder-width distance, enlarge it step by step. DO NOT go all the way from a shoulder-width position to a one where hands are very far one another.


Let’s take a look now at which are the most common and safe exercises you might include in your workouts, so to approach the maltese progressively and with a constant improvement:


as for the planche progression, the very first exercise that comes in handy when approaching maltese is for sure the lean in said position. Of course, in this case is worth saying that you shouldn’t get into a full maltese stance when leaning; in order to build a proper tendon conditioning, you should instead try to amplify the distance of your hands progressively while increasing the seconds of hold.

As you can see from the title of the exercise, I also suggest approaching the leans both on parallettes as well as on your hands, for the same reasons previously explained.Set as a goal to achieve for each position you will go through at least 10 to 15” hold for 4-5sets, to make it solid


I believe that this second exercise might be useful to perform at the beginning of your journey, since its main goal is to let you understand the proper shoulder blades activation while holding the stance. In particular, start by laying supine on the floor already in maltese stance, hence with arms wide opened to the sides, posterior pelvic tilt and hands placed correctly for the activation.

From there start activating your shoulder blades by protracting them, so to be able to elevate for repetitions the whole body while keeping in contact both your chin and feet with the floor.As you can see, the goal is indeed to elevate most of your body, but while yet providing a sufficient support on the floor


a well-known exercise among the ones that are helpful to build a solid conditioning in your tendons for straight-arm exercises.
Once on the floor in a push-up starting position, place the rings at feet height, from here with arms straight start opening them progressively until you reach eventually the closest point of your face to the ground at every repetition. At the beginning you might also perform this exercise with slightly bent arms, is not a mistake, but then your goal must be with straight ones. Aim to achieve in both cases, 4sets x 10reps


I suggest performing this compound exercise on a bench so to have stable surface on which practicing. In particular, here the goal is to get into a hollow body position and then, while simulating the maltese stance with your arms straight and opened up on the sides, elevate for repetitions the dumbbells or the barbell so to apply a load at the end of both levers.

You decide which weight adopting, but always for the sake of safety of your tendons, I would suggest starting with no more than 5-10kg maximum each dumbbell or a 10-15kg barbell. 4sets x 10-15reps would be a solid work


a very common eccentric exercise well known to be one of the most effective for approaching more advanced skills such as planche and maltese. Purpose of this exercise is to develop a proper shoulder blades and lats’ strength in order to hold the maltese stance. You will need two boxes or also benches at a height that allows you not to touch the floor with your legs/feet. Place the boxes inclined enough compared to the line of your body so that you are able to place yourself in between them and provide space to lower your body while performing the exercise.

Place both arms on top of the boxes with hands pointing backwards, this means that shoulders will be facing forward, lower yourself sufficiently so to be able to elevate your whole upper body until reaching an upside down vertical position. In this phase, since the whole load is on your shoulders, maintain your legs tucked or in advanced tuck position to start with and from here start performing eccentrics by activating both lats, shoulders and shoulder blades. Consider initially a time range of 5” minimum each eccentric. 4sets x 6-8reps (5” each) could be a fair goal to achieve, considering then the fact to progress towards harder stances such as one legged, straddle and at the end full maltese


starting from the same stance of the previous exercise, here the goal is to perform a dynamic movement rather than an eccentric one, by lowering your whole body for repetitions, until the line is parallel to thefloor. In terms of progressions, you can follow the same steps as before, hence starting with a tuck maltese and from there progress towards the full one (in duly time, do not rush).
4sets x 6-8reps can be a good work volume


this exercise works effectively both for planche and maltese.

It allows you to vary the load that acts directly on your arms so to provide an even more efficient conditioning in your tendons. To perform it properly, my suggestion is to use a bench so to be elevated with the entire body from the floor sufficiently to have a wide range of motion for your arms while maintaining the hollow body position.
Since the goal is to simulate in the closest way possible the maltese stance, I suggest opening your arms straight enough and with an angle of at least 45° or even more compared to the line of your hips, so to get closer to a very wide stance while holding dumbbells.
In regards of which dumbbells using my suggestion is always to think wisely and to not overload, especially at the beginning.
So for instance, 2,5 or 5 kg maximum each dumbbell, can be a fair load to start practicing with.

The exercise consists in maintaining the hollow body position while moving up (until reaching the height of your head) and down (until reaching the line of your hips or even lower to increase the rom) contemporarily both dumbbells together with arms straight so to provide the proper conditioning, as I said above. Consider 4sets x 10reps as a good workload


as for the planche progressions once again, passing through this step is definitely wise so to start feeling the difference while holding the very first and easiest stance of the maltese on the floor, that is in the tuck stance. Considering this first stance you have to assume in this case, can be of help trying to perform the exercise with the support of parallettes.

In this way, you’ll be able to focus on the shoulder blades activation without worrying about the distance of your body from the floor due to the wide open position of your arms.
On the floor, hence by means of your hands, this exercise is definitely harder and more difficult to perform due to the very short distance of the body from it.

Stated that, once you get at least 10-15” of maltese tuck hold, you can consider going on with the other typical progressions, hence passing through one leg, straddle and full form aiming on developing always a fair amount of seconds for the sake of tendons conditioning.
Also in this case I suggest aiming to perform at least 4-5sets of 10-15” hold per each stance; in case of the one leg maltese 10” per leg can be fine


another important tool that can be of help and that I would personally include in the maltese progression is the maltese hold with the assistance of a resistance band. In regards of which resistance band use, it’s up to you depending on how much effort you do in holding the maltese. It’s very important not to rush with this skill since, as we previously said, it’s very stressful for both joints and tendons, hence using the proper help is fundamental in order to avoid tendonitis or elbow pain along the journey.

After choosing the proper resistance band, the second suggestion I would like to give is, which stage of the maltese approaching with this exercise.
Well for sure, since you are supposed to have mastered already a good conditioning in your tendons so to approach holds in straddle maltese and then, after developing a fair amount of seconds, you can also consider passing to the full one.
I suggest aiming to perform at least 5-6 sets of 10” hold; in reference to such work volume, it’s worth saying that there’s no specific rule as for the planche, but it’s wise developing good amounts of seconds so to consolidate the form

“I believe I was able to gather some of the most effective and common exercises you can consider including in your workouts if achieving a maltese is among your new goals and you have at least 10-15” solid of full planche.

Of course, since we are not gymnasts, the approach is definitely different from the one implemented by professional gymnasts so, as we said above, you can always integrate this list of exercises with some more specific ones coming straight from the world of gymnastics.

Overall, it’s very important to keep in mind the two main elements to work on, when approaching such advanced and stressful skill, that are: tendons’ conditioning and adaption.”

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