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Calisthenics for Strength?


Hey guys this is my first post. I've been a lurker on this site for quite some time and I can honestly say this is where I get the best information from. I wanted to get out of the shadows and interact with some of you fine gentlemen. I train mostly for strength but have never been in a powerlifting competition. I am 5'9 22 years old about 230 pounds with a 335 raw bench, 510 raw deadlift (no belt), and squat I'm not sure. I hate when people don't reach proper depth so I squat way below parallel to prove a point lol and the best I've done is 335x3.

Okay so here is my first question, I was wondering if any of you guys use calisthenics along with your heavy lifting to help increase strength. I know some guys do a few hundred pushups a week in conjunction to heavy benching and they say that over time this does help their strength levels. I was curious if anyone here has seen good results doing this? I'm not just talking about pushups too but other things like handstand pushups and bodyweight squats that mimic the movement pattern of some of the big lifts.

Thanks in advance!


Unweighted calisthenics, while they have their place and can be used for conditioning, relative strength, mobility and other things are not going to affect maximal strength much.


It is said that plyometric movements can strengthen tendons and muscles. I don't think doing it will make your stronger (not much anyway), but - for a strength athlete - it maybe makes sense from an injury prevention perspective.

I think the same effect can probably be seen in your friends who do push-ups as well as normal bench-pressing: the push-ups don't make them lift (significantly) more, but improve the condition of their tendons and muscles making them overall better suited to progressing well.


Single legged squats and pull ups are the only two I can think of that would most directly improve strength, depending on your current ability.


Thanks for the replies guys.

Yeah I agree with what you wrote here. I find when I consistently do pushups my benching goes up steadily. So maybe calisthenics in that regard don't directly contribute to strength but help prepare the body to make more stead adaptations when heavy weights are used.

By the end of my next bench cycle I want to get 365. I have a 50 dollar bet with my brother that I'll be able to bench 365 and be able to do 100 pushups consecutively so I'm trying to figure out how to tackle this goal.


I'm an acrobat, so I need to do calisthenics... it's a different form of strength altogether, but it helps transfer quite a bit.

For instance, there's a great amount of rotator cuff stability and lat strength involved in performing a front lever, and this helps me keep a tighter back on the bench.

In acrobatic hand-balancing acts, you're also expected to floor press people into the air, or perform lunges while balancing two women wrapped around you (see photo). While strictly not calisthenic, the use of gymnastic strength skills and abilities lend to being able to perform these movements better... Powerlifting assists in it. And vice versa. My acrobatic and gymnastic training has made my lifting better. I'm a raw lifter who's explosive enough that I need to train like an equipped lifter, since I never have issues in the hole, just at lockout.

More than that, most bodyweight skills are pull-heavy, so it's a good way to balance out the push-heavy bench movements. I have a client who's a football player (former VTech starter) and I've taught him to handstand, front and back lever, as well as hold a human flag and we're getting close to a one-handed handstand. The back lever, which involves hanging from the air and basically doing a reverse hyperextension with ALL your bodyweight, has a tremendous transfer to the deadlift and we have him pulling over 600lbs without a belt at 220lbs.


Know any good online resources for these gymnastic style bodyweight movements?


http://www.beastskills.com is a great resource for a lot of recreational bodyweight movements. So it's got most of the basic skills there.

http://www.gymnasticbodies.com is a renowned resource for gymnastic strength development, although it takes on a more strictly-gymnastics approach (and also involves ridiculous movement skills that are well beyond what one would consider the "basics").


Been doing Waterbury's plp for about 2 weeks now, and while have been making small, consistent strength gains my endurance has gone way up. Feel like I recover way faster between sets than I used to. It's actually pretty awesome.

Edit: I'm running WS4SB now lifting 3 days a week, switching ME moves every 3-4 weeks and doing one day of sprints and sometimes jumps. Strength is a major goal, and the plp seems to be helping.


Wow thanks for the great advice. This is exactly the kind of response I was hoping for. I've never really been interested in calisthenics or gymnastic type stuff before but lately I have been. I think it has to do with the fact that although I've been getting stronger I feel like my ability to "move my own body" isn't as great as it used to be. This got me interested in calisthenics.

Been doing pushups and pullups everyday... max of about 35 pushups right now (want to be able to do 100+) and ten pullups (want to be able to do at least 20, then hopefully a muscleup). and I know some people think that strength training and calisthenics can't go hand in hand but I'm not so sure. That guy you train that can deadlift over 600 at 220... that's incredible! I weigh 230 and the most I've ever pulled is 510. Maybe I should get a pair of rings and start practicing lol.


I wrote this for a muscle-up program not too long ago, if it helps at all: urbanevo.com/training-blog/12-weeks-to-a-muscle-up/

Best of luck. I enjoy the bodyweight stuff. If nothing else, people have a better understanding of how ridiculous it is to do a lever or a flag or a handstand than they do of the difference of work/dedication/strength it takes to deadlift 500lbs versus 225.


Most definitely they can! Gymnast, acrobats and rock climbers exhibit great RELATIVE strength, if that’s your goal. Disadvantaged leverages can also increase resistance without adding load…for example going from a tuck lever to full lever or push-ups to one arm or handstand push-ups or lunges to airbornes to pistols. These moves will require and enhance stability, joint health via reduced loading and high tension demands when practiced, always good for a powerlifter! However if you are a powerlifter seeking a higher total it goes without saying you must practice the main lifts. I’d utilize them if you wish to obtain more relative strength as they are not likely to induce such high mass gains as weights, since adding excess hyper trophy to your frame wold make these moves extra difficult. They are a useful tool, as is any, pending usefulness on the task at hand.