Calisthenics Explained – Are Bodyweight Exercises Good For Building Muscle?

Calisthenics Explained – Are Bodyweight Exercises Good For Building Muscle?


Exercises that uses only the weight of your
body as resistance are known as calisthenics. And, just as any other “resistance” training,
the goal in performing calisthenics is to promote muscle growth and strength. Originating
from the Greek words “kalo,” which means “beauty”, and “sthenos”, which means “strength,” calisthenics
rose into prominence in the 19th century by the “father of gymnastics” Freidrich Ludwig
Jahn, and fitting enough, there’s nothing really that is a better embodiment of “beauty”
and “strength” than gymnastics. Since calisthenics uses your body’s weight
as resistance, it’s also known as bodyweight exercises. And the big question about bodyweight
exercises is how effective it is for building muscle and strength, or if it’s as effective
as lifting weights. To understand this, we need to understand
how our muscles grow and get stronger. Muscular and strength adaptation occur when a stimulus,
or resistance, is applied to the corresponding muscle at a high enough intensity to invoke
muscle overload. Simply put, the more weight you move with your muscles, the more your
muscles adapt and become bigger and stronger. But it doesn’t mean that any type of weight
movement will work. Take jogging, for example, although can be very taxing on the heart muscles
and promote cardiac muscle growth, it will not promote much skeletal muscle growth, not
even in your legs. The problem here is that the stimulus is not strong enough to target
all the leg’s muscle fibers. If you’ve watched the muscle fibers video before, you will understand
that we have three different muscle fiber types, one of which is used for endurance,
known as type I, and the other two are used to provide great amounts of force, known as
type 2 fibers. Since running doesn’t require large amounts of force from your legs, type
2 fibers are hardly fatigued and not a lot of muscle growth occurs. It’s also the reason
why many do not consider jogging as a calisthenics exercise even though it only utilizes your
body’s weight. But other calisthenics exercises do, in fact, illicit high enough of a demand
to hit those larger muscle fibers. Take a pull-up, for example, where on average, people
can hardly even do 5, the movement demands all fiber types to fire and eventually exhaust,
thus promoting muscle growth. Push-ups is another good example of a calisthenics
exercise that can illicit muscle growth, especially for beginners that struggle to do even 10.
But eventually you will run into the problem of not having enough resistance. As tough
as it may be to get to your first 10 push-ups, eventually 10 will be just an easy warmup.
When you start hitting 20, 25, or 30 push-ups easily, then we run into the same problem
as we saw with running. Of course, you can definitely modify the push-up to make it tougher,
such as elevating your feet on a platform, but ultimately you’re not changing the amount
of demand on the muscle groups involved in a standard push-up, instead you begin shifting
the muscles involved in the movement. With feet-elevated push-ups, you anterior shoulders
begin taking the brunt of the resistance instead of your chest. So if you wanted to build your
chest, you won’t have enough resistance. And you might be thinking, “Why not just add some
weight on your back?” Well, at that point, it’s no longer just bodyweight, thus no longer
calisthenics. The next natural progression is using weights.
As great as calisthenics can be, there will a point where certain muscle groups, especially
the strong muscle groups such as your chest, legs, and hips, will eventually need greater
resistance. Also, since calisthenics require you using multiple muscle groups to perform
an exercise, which isn’t a bad thing at all in terms of natural and functional development,
but it does make it tough to isolate certain muscles. Now, that’s not to say that calisthenics
cannot build an aesthetically appealing body. After all, you have guys looking like this
from performing just bodyweight exercises, but when you compare them to this, there’s
a clear difference in muscle growth between the two regimens. Heck, even Olympic gymnasts
have to use weights to push their maximum potential. This is not to say that calisthenics has no
place in anyone’s exercise program, you just have to understand its uses. The great thing
about calisthenics is that it’s absolutely free. All you gotta have is the ground you
walk on and a park with bars. The only time you have to spend money is from buying things
like suspension systems or gymnastic rings. For beginners, bodyweight exercises will provide
all the necessary compound movements that are usually found in a beginner program, and
doesn’t require you to motivate yourself to go to the gym. So if you do calisthenics and
you like your results, stick with it. If you feel like you’re starting to hit a wall, then
it’s time to move up to weights. Ask your health and fitness questions in the
comments below. Please check us out on patreon and like and subscribe. Thanks for watching!

100 Replies to “Calisthenics Explained – Are Bodyweight Exercises Good For Building Muscle?”

  1. For people nitpicking the Medrano/Heath comparison, I apologize, you're right, the comparison is not the best. What I propose is that if you really want to be up in arms about it is that you go ahead and find me a calisthenics ONLY individual (which, respectfully, Medrano is not) and then I'll be happy to provide you a natural bodybuilder for comparison. And if you're still going to argue about it, then I have nothing else to share with you. Remember, this video is about whether calisthenics can build muscle (which it can), but lifting weights will clearly be a more efficient and effective route.

  2. See calisthenics can be modified to do with weights as well and the comparison of frank mendrano and phil heath is useless as frank is a vegan and dont take much supplements and phil is taking shots of steroids…so what u put into ur body lays much emphasis on how ur muscle grow disregarding the kind of resistance training u doin

  3. PictureFit Hi, love all your videos! You've done quite a few on starting exercise and dieting (for beginners) and on weight loss, but could you do one on gaining weight (specifically muscle) for those who are skinny/underweight? (Eg what's the right amount of diet and exercise? Are there studies tracking underweight people.becoming healthy weight?)
    Thanks 😊

  4. 3:42 You only hit a wall when you can do CTI or one arm planche push-ups/one arm (wall free) handstand push-ups or maybe a perfect form one arm muscle up

  5. Although I agree that you need to add more resistance once you hit a brick wall but I don’t think going to weights is the answer. Maybe for legs and doing some compound movements like deadlifts, squats, snatches are definitely beneficial but there are 100s of moves you can learn in calisthenics/gymnastics which require much more strength of every single area of the body which build pound for pound strength with the use of levers and learning to rep and support ones weight in more disadvantaged positions. Take a push up for instance; you get to 25 push ups and it’s too easy, a basic push up is the very beginning of push and to increase more weight in resistance to the chest you can move to “Pseudo Planche Push ups” this is achieved by learning a “planche lean” which is a prerequisite to the planche that conditions the shoulders and Straight arm scapula strength for advanced moves like the full planche in later progressions. Now with pseudo planche push ups you protract, lean forward so your shoulders are in front of your hands and you push up while maintaining the lean, although the primary targeted muscle is the shoulder, it takes way more muscle power and more chest muscle recruitment to push back up to the front support position and you can go through the whole progression and get up to a full planche! Would take you a few years though. And hey if you wanna work your chest to the maximum with calisthenics why not go for a gymnastic iron cross one day? Iron cross pullouts too? Since the mechanics of that exercise is mostly on the chest also and takes a ridiculous amount of strength far beyond the reach of a lot of average gym enthusiast, it’s free, but you have to fall in love with it to be willing to put the dedication in. Maybe you should do a video on advanced calisthenics vs weights because this just seems biased towards weights.

  6. I m 17 and 5'9 and an absolute beginner i am not overweight and not even underweight ( a little bit of stomach)and i can't do 1 push up or a pull up properly can anyone help me? And also jogging has little positive on my leg strength? Then what do i need yo train my legs at home?

  7. Body weight exercises and exercises using only bodyweight are two different things…if I do a pull-up which requires me to lift my weight that's a bodyweight exercises then if I add 10kg I'm still lifting my own weight and working the same muscles but forcing the type two fibers to engage aren't I?

  8. A lot of butt hurt calisthenics dudes in here. The guy clearly explained that there’s progressions in calisthenics and that they don’t necessarily make you stronger just because they are harder. At the end of the day you’re still only lifting the same weight. And for the pretentious douches asking bodybuilders if they can do a human flag, let me see y’all power clean 405 with good form or squat 485 with a 2 second pause below parallel

  9. Do you even calisthenics bro? The next progression from a push-up is not weights lmao. Their are more then enough variations in body weight exercises to keep you occupied well beyond pushups

  10. For pushups you should move your hands further back towards your waist as doing a normal pushup would only use about half of your weight and not all of it, the further you get to the center of gravity the harder it will get, theirs almost no reason to lift weights but yeah as he said you will

  11. Weighted calisthenics is a thing and will increase strength allowing you to do advanced exercises such as the planche and front and back lever.

  12. im a long term calisthenics athlete and muscle growth is definitely slow. But you do get leaner and stronger and also much more athletic and fit which is way better than muscle in alot of terms. Muscle growth does not = Strength and calisthenic athletes usually have a lean strong body with definition and tone but most bodybuilders don't.

  13. Idk why so many calisthenics people are defensive, weight training is 100% faster at putting on muscle, as the training are just too versatile, if you ignore other factors such as strength and mobility. Comparing only muscle size, people who only do Calisthenics, majority are smaller than natural bodybuilders or powerlifters. When I say majority means the average calisthenics people and not Hannibal / vadym oleynik, and compare to people like alpha destiny and omarlisuf

  14. 3:06 you compare a normal person to someone who take steroid.
    I do calithenics so i know what i am talking about : the main objective isn't build muscle but it's acheive hard exercises like planche, front lever… and build superhuman strenght and control.
    If you want to build muscle, go to the gym, if you want to build strenght and acheive hard things that look very cool and nice, do calithenics.
    If you want to build strenght only, be a strongman.
    That's it.

  15. I swear by Calisthenics but there is 1 MASSIVE disadvantage to it if you injure yourself there is almost no way you can do the exercise you are looking to achieve say a pull up with an injured rotator cuff or cup whatever it is but free weights give you a way around that but I will always pic Calisthenics over weight lifting any day of the week unless I am injured

  16. if push ups are easy, do more push ups? but after a while, it is a waste of time compared to weight lifting to reach the stress level.

  17. Dude you are so wrong. There isn’t rule that doesn’t allow you to use weights in calisthenics. I don’t know from who that rumor started,but ancient Greeks used rocks,other humans or items,even horses (for squats) to perform their workout. In addition,if an athlete uses additional weight to perform muscle-up,that exercise stops being a calisthenics exercise and becomes gym exercise? I don’t think so. And If someone believes that the right guy has better body than the left,the left is natural and the right is disfigured from steroids. If you want to see a natural body,seek the father of modern bodybuilding,Eugene Sandow,a guy who never used steroids (because steroids discovered after a decade of his death) and you’ll see there are no major differences with the guy on the left. The only thing you are right is that you can’t go for bodybuilding and maximum muscle gain with calisthenics.

  18. It is hard to hit a wall with calisthenics, once you do 1 arm anything it get s 3 times more difficult, plus calithstenics makes you stronger in general as in all muscles are used

  19. and huge walker did 1750 push ups every day and looks jacked as fuck so? adding more reps is good only if u add them and dont be doing 30 push ups max every day u need to surpass the plateu and thats the only way u can build muscle with just adding reps also consider doing your reps with good form over numbers

  20. People lifting their own body is always better than people lifting weights and roids … Extreme fitness doesn't look like a big cloud of muscles … It looks more like a sharp blade of katana!

  21. 2:33 Calisthenics is all about strength,mobility,stamina,balance and of course progression .You push you pull and you dip with your body weight not with your arm's like in weight training. You can see some bodybuilders that can't even do a pull up while they can lift 100kg. So it's a joke to say that If you put weights in your body is no longer calisthenics because then you tell us that is the same thing with weight lifting while it's something completely different . And that's only the basics,what about static exercises?(front lever,planche,handstand,backlever etc.). Many people use weight too in those exercises,does it stop being calisthenics?I don't think so.

  22. As it's said in the video, some calisthenics exercices aren't enough to build some muscle.
    However, you can choose to play on the number of series or/and the rest time between series.
    Lafay and Paul Wade's Convict Conditioning are good and strong systems/programs that have understood that :
    – https://www.google.com/search?biw=1421&bih=1256&tbm=isch&sa=1&ei=vVVwXKysJ4-4gwfwiagg&q=convict+conditioning+results&oq=convict+conditioning+results&gs_l=img.3..0i19l2.3908.4660..4806…0.0..0.383.1329.4j1j2j1……1….1..gws-wiz-img…….0j0i30j0i8i30i19.UUvuKdFhwxo
    – https://www.google.com/search?biw=1421&bih=1256&tbm=isch&sa=1&ei=sVVwXK7aE4zhUuebp6gE&q=methode+lafay+resultats&oq=methode+lafay+resultats&gs_l=img.3.1.0l3.27909.30472..30608…0.0..0.135.589.5j2……1….1..gws-wiz-img…….0i67j0i24.o1CIQ8e3o6U

  23. Gymnastics Ring Dips will never get easy, trust me. If you ever trained calisthenics you know that this point of everything gets easy doesn't exist

  24. I don't care about muscle growth or strength gain. I am concerned with being healthy overall, being in shape and having low body fat. Is calisthenics enough for that?

  25. My friend did gymnastics for 10 years, I lifted weights for a month and demolished him in an arm wrestle (duh)

  26. Adding weight to a calistetics exercise for example a push up is still calistetics, it is a body weight exercise but you are adding weight to your body to make it harder, if you're using the weight soly to exercise your muscles then that's when it is no longer calistetics but if you're adding weight to a body weight exercise then it is still calistetics

  27. When things are too easy that’s not when u switch to weights that’s when u start doing weighted calisthenics

  28. i really like calisthenics, but i have to admit that the only reason that calislthenics bodyes looks awesome is because of the low fat % of their bodys, not because of their muscle, also, there is something you dont tell in the video, calisthenics is by far most entertaining since you try to do new movements like skateboarding, there are movements that needs years to perform in a good way, while the gym is just, the same and the same and the same but with more weight on it, it doesnt give you any skill actually

  29. I really love calisthenics…… these calisthenics guys are the real deal in terms of strength, flexibility and power

  30. Adding weight to your body is called weighted calisthenics. The movements are still body movement because you are not actually carrying the weight which is body building. Weighted calisthenics is adding weight to your body and not lifting.

  31. If you do calisthenics and feel like you are at the max, you are not, add weight to you exercises but don’t move on to weight training unless you actually want to. Calisthenics always has great progressions for every move. For example, the regular progression of pushing is pushups and the most advanced is full planche push ups. If you can do those then add a weight vest. Even increase reps or do the exercise slow to make it more difficult.

  32. Bruh. This wrong. A simple diamond pushup is going to increase your progression on that exercise. There's also a whole load of other exercises that progress you further. It's all about levers

  33. 4 month of lifting weights i saw no progress at all
    2 weeks after calisthenics i see progress
    For me calishtenics are fun, cheaper and build muscle faster

  34. OK, but the guy on the right’s body looks ugly. Do you want muscles, or to look good? They are not necessarily the same thing. The guy on the left is very muscular and actually looks good, that’s the thing. Also, I just really don’t like training with weights, it’s boring and there’s just something about it that is so unenjoyable.

  35. I've been doing calisthenics for a while now and from my experience I can say that yes you will hit a wall when regular pushups,pullups, get easier…what I do is choose a harder progression and rep it out like hell…..if you see guys in New York city parks they look like body builders and they mostly only do bodywieght excersises.

  36. I say why don’t try the advanced progression like archeresti pushup or one armed push ups? Nibba learn

  37. I consider weighted calisthenics as a paradox

    If calisthenics its only bodyweight exercises, then if you add weight becomes weighted calisthenics
    So if calisthenics is only bodyweight, then weighted calisthenics is not calisthenics, but it is

  38. The definition of calisthenics is actually movements where a part of you’re body are the resistance…
    Weighted calisthenics is still calisthenics!!

  39. All of the callisthenics haters out there try a full front lever as it is a move involving only strength and almost no technique

  40. Calisthenics is more natural and gives you the body a human should have the guy in the right is not natural at all you need steroids to look like that

  41. If you wanna know if it works go look for transformation videos, there are many examples of it actually working… if that’s not enough go do 10,000 pull-ups or push-ups and see if they work for yourself.

  42. Probably it will take you a year of calisthenics to reach muscle level which weight training would get u in 7-8 months.
    So from building muscles perspective, Cal not the best option.

  43. Suppose, 2 twin brothers, same body composition, genetics etc.
    One joins gym and other starts Calisthenics.
    Both follow diet religiously and give it all in their workouts.
    Who will be more muscular at the end of one year?

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