The Hidden Power of Weighted Calisthenics

The most fit individuals in the world strap weight onto their bodies when they perform pull-ups or dips. Why do they do this?

Although calisthenics has many benefits and is an amazing way to training, there is one big limitation. The limitation being that you are limited by your own bodyweight. The solution to this is weight calisthenics.


What is Weighted Calisthenics?

Weighted calisthenics is a form of training where you are adding weights to your bodyweight movements.

Sounds counter intuitive? Perhaps, but it is the optimal way to train if you want build more strength and more muscle.

Progressive overload is the name of the game when it comes to strength and muscular development.

Your resistance in calisthenics is just your bodyweight. Once you get strong enough, your bodyweight will not be challenging enough for exercises such as squats, push-ups and pull-ups.

Once you can perform more than 12 reps of any of these movements, you are exiting the muscle building rep ranges and are entering the endurance rep range. Thats not an issue if you are trying to improve your endurance.

However, if muscle and strength is your goal this is a huge problem. You will hit strength plateaus since you are no longer challenging your body with more resistance..

To perform calisthenics you'll need to use equipment other than your bodyweight.

The equipments for weighted calisthenics include:

  • Weight Vest
  • Ankle and Wrist Weights
  • Dip Belt + Weight plates
  • Resistance Bands + Chains

The equipment you'd want to use depends on both the exercise you are about to perform and your general preference. Weight vests are the most versatile but also cost the most.

Weighted Vest are the most versatile, but can cost the most as well.

Dips Belts can add a lot of weight, but are limited to pull-ups and dips.

Ankle weights are limited by weight and are limited to pull-ups, leg raises and dips.

Resistance bands and chains, add a non-constant resistance and can be great to add to push-ups which are more challenging at the bottom of the range of motion.


The Benefits of Weighted Calisthenics

Progressive Overload

The main benefit of weighted calisthenics is the ability to progressive overload by adding weight instead of adding repetitions. Adding 1 rep to a set can be much more challenging than adding an extra 1.25kg. By allowing to make micro adjustments you can progressive much more consistently.

Micro-plates range from 0.25kg-1kg and are a great way to progressive overload.

Safer than Weight Lifting

Weighted Calisthenics also is much safer and easier to perform than traditional weight lifting, since all the movements are closed chain.

Weighted Pushup (closed chain) vs Bench Press (open chain)

Leaner Physique

Weighted calisthenics will keep your body fat in check as adding too much excess mass will lead in a decrease in exercises such as weighted pull-ups where you must lift your own bodyweight.

The same can't be said with weight lifting exercises such as the benchpress. Generally the higher the body fat, the more you will be able to bench press.

Powerlifting vs Weighted Calisthenics Physique

Weighted Calisthenics Saves Time

Since you will need to perform less repetitions to get the same stimulus you will save time.

Also instead of performing unilateral calisthenics exercises which require performing the exercise on both sides you can do weighted bilateral exercises to cut your sets down in half.

Unilateral exercises (left) take twice as long as bilateral exercises (right)

Improved Athleticism

Furthermore, weighted calisthenics will lead to improved athleticism like calisthenics since they are essentially the same movements.

Less Equipment Required

Lastly, weighted calisthenics requires a lot less equipment than traditional weight lifting. For example a weighted pull-up will require just a bar and weight plates where as a lat pulldown will require an entire lat pulldown machine.

A benchpress will require a bench and generally 225lbs of weights where as for a weighted dip if you weigh 180lbs you will only need roughly 225-180 = 45lbs since you will be lifting your own body as well.


When Should I Start Weighted Calisthenics?

You should start weighted calisthenics as soon as you can perform over 12 repetitions of a movement. For example if you can perform 18 push-ups, it is time for you to add enough weight to the movement where performing 3 sets of 8-12 is challenging. This way you are performing the rep ranges optimal to build muscle.

You can also perform repetitions in the 2-6 rep range to truly unlock your hidden strength potential. If you are aiming to perform super human advanced movements like the one arm pull-up, this is a good rep range to train (ie. 3 set of 3 weighted pull-ups).


Weighted Calisthenics Push Workout

Here is an example of how to train your chest, triceps and shoulders using weighted calisthenics:

Weighted Dips (3x6 with vest, belt or band)

Weighed Push-ups (3x10 with vest or band)

Weighted Pike-Push-ups (3x10 with vest)

weighted tricep push-up (3x10 with vest or band)

Weight tricep extension (3x10 with vest)

Weighed sit-ups (3x12 with vest)

Rest 2-3 minutes between each set

Weighted Calisthenics Pull Workout

Here is an example of how to train your back and biceps using weighted calisthenics:

Weighted Pull-ups (3x6 with vest or belt)

Weighed Inverted Rows (3x10 with vest)

Weighted Chin-ups (3x12 with vest, belt or ankle weight)

weighted inverted bicep curls (3x15 with vest)

Weight inverted shoulder shrugs (3x10 with vest or ankle)

Weighted Hanging Knee tucks or Leg raises (3x10 with ankle weight)

Rest 2-3 minutes between each set

Weighted Calisthenics Leg Workout

Here is an example of how to train your legs using weighted calisthenics:

Weighted Squats Jumps (3x3 with vest)

Weighed Squats (3x10 with vest)

Weighted Lunges (3x12 with vest)

Assisted hamstring raises (3x15 with band)

Weighted standing calf raises shoulder shrugs (3x10 with vest)

Weighted Plank (3x30sec with vest)

Rest 2-3 minutes between each set


Conclusion

Calisthenics is a great mode of training. However depending on your goals, strict bodyweight calisthenics may not be the optimal method to reach them. If building strength and muscle is your ultimate goal weighted calisthenics is most likely the best way to ensure you reach your goals.

Best of Luck! Once you are able to perform muscle ups with weights attached you'll feel like an absolute machine!


About the Author

Remy started calisthenics in 2014 and has mastered advanced movements such as the one arm pull-up, front-lever, one arm muscle-up and more.

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