T Nation

Strength Training


#1

what do you guys feel about strength training with calisthenics (progressive) ? Do you think strength training with calisthenics can get you as strong as training with weights(bench,squat,deadlifting). I have always been curious if anyone has some testimonies with this topic. I know it's hard to compare but for general strength not for sports or to be a competitive lifter what training will be more beneficial . I've been training with the big 4 for quite some time and feel really strong but wonder if this can push it to the next level.


#2

Last year I took 3 months and only did a body weight circuit of squats, pushups, situps, pullups, and hip extensions along with a second workout of plyos and short sprints. I did the circuit 3-6 times per week. I put considerable muscle on my upper back/traps. When I went to lifting again I didn’t lose any strength but my lifts felt more stable and I felt I could control the weight more. FWIW my maxes were around Bench-250x2, Squat-345x5, OHP-175x2, DL-355x5 at body weight of 180. My upper back strength sky rocketed on rowing exercises, likely due to the pushups/pullups providing the most stimulus. Doing a lot of full situps did make my lower back hurt.


#3

I don’t think you can build the same amount of strength/muscle with only body weight exercises as with free weights. But you can build strength and muscle for sure. But as it was mentioned, not all body weight exercises provide the same stimulus. Push-ups are a low stimulus for most guys and so are body weight squats. They can be made harder, but there is a limit to that.

With bodyweight exercise the thing is that at one point to increase the demands enough for the exercise to provide a strong stimulus you have to make the exercises more an more difficult from a skill perspective.

For example, push ups aren’t effective for long for guys. But you can do more demanding pressing exercise by doing handstand push ups and handstand push-ups from a deficit, but these require much more skills.

For squats you can do pistols which are also more demanding to do properly than body weight squats. Front lever work are a great back builder, but very hard to master, etc.

For a period of about 6 months all I did was body weight work. Mostly ring work and specifically working on ring dip --) iron cross progression and front lever progression. My back and shoulders progressed tremendously during that time. Pec/arms also had some improvements but legs regressed.

A Crossfit athlete I train spent a month on Sri Lanka on vacation and all he did was body weight work. Pistols, pull-ups, dips, sprints, jumps, throws, handstand push-ups. When he came back he did lose weight but not mmuscle (he didn’t eat as much for a month). His upper body stayed about the same strength (military press, bench, weighted pull ups were the same) but his leg strength decreased (front squat, back squat, deadlift and Olympic lifts decreased).


#4

Also, some people might point out that gymnasts do mostly bodyweight exercises and are strong and muscular.

True.

BUT the bodyweight exercises they use, the ones the provide a very intense stimulation require a lot of skills that was built through years of training.

AND the athlete we tend to think of when thinking about gymnastics building solid bodies have been training 20-30 hours a week, for years.


#5

Would you feel the bodyweight and limb length of a person can make a difference.
A handstand push up for a 150 lbs guy and a 250 lbs guy will be relatively the same weight.
However, as far as I understand, strenght doesn’t follow bodyweight at the same pace. Otherwise lean guys in the heavier weight categories would be hitting triple bodyweight deads like lighter lifters.

And a front lever at 6’8 seems like a far longer lever arm to me. Wouldnt that lead to more work done?


#6

[quote]Panopticum wrote:
Would you feel the bodyweight and limb length of a person can make a difference.
A handstand push up for a 150 lbs guy and a 250 lbs guy will be relatively the same weight.
However, as far as I understand, strenght doesn’t follow bodyweight at the same pace. Otherwise lean guys in the heavier weight categories would be hitting triple bodyweight deads like lighter lifters.

And a front lever at 6’8 seems like a far longer lever arm to me. Wouldnt that lead to more work done?[/quote]

Totally!

It comes down to the repetition. If doing dynamic (rep) work the same rules apply as for weighted exercises. If you cannot do more than 3-5 reps on a movement it will represent a sufficient loading to stimulate strength gains. If you can do 8-10 reps but no more the loading will be sufficient to stimulate growth.

But if you can do 20+ reps then it wont be loading enough to make you stronger and will have a marginal impact on muscle growth.

For example one Crossfit athlete I train could do about 8 strict handstand push-ups (it was his weakness) with a special program he went up to 20, at which point we had to switch to strict handstands from s deficit he started out at 9 and eventually worked up to 19, then we switched to free-standing handstand push ups (no wall support) he started out at 5 and is now up to 10. but once we can hit 20 free-standing strict handstand we will need more barbell work to get stronger overhead.


#7

CT do you have progress photos /clips from your ring training months? Would be really cool to see you doing ring work.

For what it’s worth the most jacked/muscular I looked was doing layer system. For a period of 3 months I incorporated ring lever, cross work, and handstands into the layer program and found physique benefits (that sinewy look) on top of much stabler on the big lifts (and my joints never hurt now). My bicep, lat width, and overall torso stability just exploded and felt stuff activating like never before. Then the magic quickly wore off once I got really stable on rings.

Now 1 yr later and possibly due to training too much or not correctly, and perhaps overemphasizizing ring work/gymnastics I’m much smaller, lithe looking but with stil really good vtaper. My shoulders and pecs especially are smaller. But I’m stable as hell on rings now and hit full lay front and back levers. Cross quickly deteriorates in absence of practice.

All in all Calisthentics/gymnastics made me much more flexible, agile, injury proof but at the expense of muscle and ability to do high volume barbell work. But still tweaking around (using them as warmup now only)


#8

Thanks coach. Getting a deep deficit push-up at 250 with long arms will be something that entertains me for a while.


#9

[quote]Christian Thibaudeau wrote:

[quote]Panopticum wrote:
Would you feel the bodyweight and limb length of a person can make a difference.
A handstand push up for a 150 lbs guy and a 250 lbs guy will be relatively the same weight.
However, as far as I understand, strenght doesn’t follow bodyweight at the same pace. Otherwise lean guys in the heavier weight categories would be hitting triple bodyweight deads like lighter lifters.

And a front lever at 6’8 seems like a far longer lever arm to me. Wouldnt that lead to more work done?[/quote]

Totally!

It comes down to the repetition. If doing dynamic (rep) work the same rules apply as for weighted exercises. If you cannot do more than 3-5 reps on a movement it will represent a sufficient loading to stimulate strength gains. If you can do 8-10 reps but no more the loading will be sufficient to stimulate growth.

But if you can do 20+ reps then it wont be loading enough to make you stronger and will have a marginal impact on muscle growth.

For example one Crossfit athlete I train could do about 8 strict handstand push-ups (it was his weakness) with a special program he went up to 20, at which point we had to switch to strict handstands from s deficit he started out at 9 and eventually worked up to 19, then we switched to free-standing handstand push ups (no wall support) he started out at 5 and is now up to 10. but once we can hit 20 free-standing strict handstand we will need more barbell work to get stronger overhead.[/quote]

Thanks! there really is nothing like lifting weights.