They all matter more than you might think.
If you’re on your way toward greater and greater feats of calisthenics strength and your goal is to hear “Do you wanna join our traveling circus as the freakishly powerful, leotard-clad strongman?” at least once a week, odds are you are going to butt up against some plateaus eventually, let me do you a favor and tell you a couple of “secrets” (i.e. observations) I’ve discovered that have helped me a lot and will help you too. They’re unconventional (i.e. not just “get tight!”, “tense your abs!” etc.), but can mean the difference between marching forward and sliding back.
1) Where your eyes are looking matters.
Wherever you look, your body will follow. If you look up, it will activate the extensor reflex. If you look down, the flexor reflex. So if you’re working on an exercise that requires a lot of flexion – like, say, the Dragon Flag – it may not be a bad idea to look toward your belly button to intensify the contraction. If you’re doing a stand-to-stand bridge, you’re going to want to try to look behind you. Trust me – don’t stare idly, eyes all glazed over and such. Look with purpose and you’ll set yourself up for greater success.
2) What your legs are doing matters.
Or more to the point, what they’re NOT doing. If your legs are as loose as a rag doll, they’re going to torpedo your efforts. As my friend Josh “Chimpy” Halbert says “Loose legs are heavy legs.” Rid yourself of the concept of “upper body” and “lower body.” It’s all one body, and if you’ve ever attempted a free-standing handstand, you’ll know all too well that jelly legs will bring your otherwise impressive inverted feat straight to Earth. Activating your legs and glutes will give you greater stability in things like handstands, planches, elbow levers, and so on.
Other things, such as maintaining the hollow position, working the basics hard, progressive overload, etc. are always going to be important. Just don’t let that encourage you not to look after those head-slappingly simple things that pave the way for greater and eye-popping feats. The journey’s already a long one and doesn’t have to be made any longer.