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  1. #1
    Registered User whitedragon101's Avatar
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    Calisthenics for muscle, who is telling the truth?

    I am getting mixed information on whether you can pack on a good amount of muscle mass with calisthenics. Here are a couple of the cases for and against then the question at the bottom "who is telling the truth?" :

    For

    gymnasticbodies.com
    Point out that gymnasts attain their amazing physiques through almost exclusively pure body weight training.
    Convict conditioning
    Claims that historically the Spartans, Romans and others gained very muscular physiques from purely calisthenic workouts.
    You tube
    Type in calisthenics and there are many videos of people who work out exclusively with calisthenics and look big and ripped.
    Examiner.com
    "For thousands of years, warriors have built incredible strength and conditioning only using their own bodyweight." -MMA Bodyweight: Don't Underestimate Gravity - Joe Gregory
    "Do they accomplish this feat by lifting a single barbell, or a dumbbell, or even running on a treadmill? Nope, they do it by using their own bodyweight."(referring to gymnasts) - MMA Bodyweight: Don't Underestimate Gravity- Joe Gregory


    Against

    buildingmuscle.org
    "If you do choose to do calisthenics, if you are an untrained beginner, when you first start out you can probably put a bit of muscle on – just as if you had a hard laborious job you’d develop a certain amount of extra muscle. But, it’s pretty limited. For instance, just because you worked as a removal man lifting refrigerators once or twice every day, doesn’t mean you’d get to the size of Jay Cutler." - Pete Owen
    musclehack.com
    "Can you build a lot of muscle without weights? Well, not really." - Mark McManus
    bodybuilding.com
    This is not really a negative article but it is rather dismissive. The article here on bodybuilding.com titled 'What Is The Best Calisthenics Workout?' starts with the line, "There are no weights, and no real machines around. Your only option for a workout is calisthenics." Makes it sound rather like a last resort.


    Who is telling the truth?

    I would love to workout just using bodyweight it seems like such pure and functional strength. However, who is telling the truth, can it build muscle mass at a reasonable pace?
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  2. #2
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    Building a real amount of muscle is quite difficult, and if you aren't doing it optimally, you aren't going to get significant results. Some bodyweight exercises are decent mass-building exercises, like chins and dips, but eventually you should do them weighted to continue gaining muscle. Most calisthenics / bodyweight exercises don't provide enough resistance for the muscles involved.
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    It depends. If you arent used to working out and dont have access to a gym certain bodyweight movements will add muscle. Resistance is resistance regardless if it is external in the form of a loaded barbell or if you are leveraging your body for resistance. The reason weights are usually preferred is because it is easier to progress in small increments and because it is easier to add resistance as you get stronger.

    BUT

    You CAN progress with bodyweight movements too, but only to a certain point. Two excellent books that detail how are never gymless and convict conditioning. I would start with convict conditioning to build a solid strength base(once you are able to do TRUE one arm pushups, TRUE one arm pullups, Pistols, One arm hand stand pushups and leg raises you will be very strong) then I would move onto one of the more advanced routines in Ross' book.

    That being said the ability to add resistance through bodyweight alone is limited. But whose to say you cant add more through weights even without a gym? Take a backpack and fill it with stuff and you have added resistance. Or invest in a weighted vest.

    All in all the important thing is adding resistance. For some people this will be much easier of a task through weight training. For others a gym membership is out of the question and bodyweight based movements will be preferred. Regardless the fundamentals are the same, add resistance and eat in either a surplus or deficit depending on your goals.
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  4. #4
    Lack of iron &or sleeping SuffolkPunch's Avatar
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    Bodyweight can be intense. If you can do 20+ deadhang full range chins then you are doing OK. Any exercises where you can't do 20 reps easily, you are likely to get a hypertrophy effect.

    Explosive movements put high peak tensions on the muscles. Not for as long as the constant force applied by a barbell but still... tension is required for hypertrophy - but fatigue is also a factor.

    The things you mentioned can cause hypertrophy no question - but which is the most OPTIMAL way to cause hypertrophy? Answer: weight training - where you can control the intensity used and the time under tensions / fatigue induced.
    My Daily Undulating Periodisation log: http://forum.bodybuilding.com/showthread.php?t=163624691
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  5. #5
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    Gymnasts train with weights. So do most of the guys in the UFC. Just sayin'...
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    *C2H6O is the only macro that counts crew*
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  6. #6
    Not even my final form NZninja101's Avatar
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    I hear a bunch of people who say open chain exercises, where the body moves through space, eg chins and pullups, are better than close chain exercises, where the majority of the body DOESN'T move through space, eg lat pulldowns. Bodyweight exercises are all open chain, but the resistance is limited, that is, if you're only talking about bodyweight. If you could add resistance to all bodyweight exercises like you could to all barbell/dumbell exercises, then I can see calisthenics going a long way for strength and size
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    Originally Posted by whitedragon101 View Post
    I am getting mixed information on whether you can pack on a good amount of muscle mass with calisthenics. Here are a couple of the cases for and against then the question at the bottom "who is telling the truth?" :

    For

    gymnasticbodies.com
    Point out that gymnasts attain their amazing physiques through almost exclusively pure body weight training.
    Convict conditioning
    Claims that historically the Spartans, Romans and others gained very muscular physiques from purely calisthenic workouts.
    You tube
    Type in calisthenics and there are many videos of people who work out exclusively with calisthenics and look big and ripped.
    Examiner.com
    "For thousands of years, warriors have built incredible strength and conditioning only using their own bodyweight." -MMA Bodyweight: Don't Underestimate Gravity - Joe Gregory
    "Do they accomplish this feat by lifting a single barbell, or a dumbbell, or even running on a treadmill? Nope, they do it by using their own bodyweight."(referring to gymnasts) - MMA Bodyweight: Don't Underestimate Gravity- Joe Gregory


    Against

    buildingmuscle.org
    "If you do choose to do calisthenics, if you are an untrained beginner, when you first start out you can probably put a bit of muscle on – just as if you had a hard laborious job you’d develop a certain amount of extra muscle. But, it’s pretty limited. For instance, just because you worked as a removal man lifting refrigerators once or twice every day, doesn’t mean you’d get to the size of Jay Cutler." - Pete Owen
    musclehack.com
    "Can you build a lot of muscle without weights? Well, not really." - Mark McManus
    bodybuilding.com
    This is not really a negative article but it is rather dismissive. The article here on bodybuilding.com titled 'What Is The Best Calisthenics Workout?' starts with the line, "There are no weights, and no real machines around. Your only option for a workout is calisthenics." Makes it sound rather like a last resort.


    Who is telling the truth?

    I would love to workout just using bodyweight it seems like such pure and functional strength. However, who is telling the truth, can it build muscle mass at a reasonable pace?
    Gymnasts tend to be very small, with underdeveloped legs, or they wouldn't win Olympic
    Gold. The guys look very muscular, because their upper bodies are well developed for their small size, until you stand beside their 5'3" frame. They work out all day for hours.

    Convicts tend to be thin and weak unless they workout all day, like gymnasts. You probably don't have that kind of time, unless you are inside. The ones with access to weights get much bigger and stronger than the guys limited to calisthenics.

    Roman warriors were typically about 135lbs.

    Ancient wrestlers lifted heavy things do develop massive strength. If they were limited to bodyweight, their gains were limited. Milo of Crotona reputedly lifted a calf daily until it grew into a bull. He probably kept going back to smaller beasts and worked up to a new max. Bulls on many Greek islands were much smaller than the massive breeds of today. The key is that he worked up to lifting something MUCH HEAVIER THAN HIMSELF. He was vastly bigger and stronger than the typical warrior of the day.

    In Scotland and Scandanivia and Brittany, the ancient manly art of lifting and manipulating heavy objects including "manhood stones" is still practiced. That's how some of those guys build massive strength.....by handling a load bigger than their bodyweight. Highland games champs and Breton stone lifters tend to be so big that a gymnast medalist might be about the size of their right leg.

    Even guys who don't want to be huge, and are concerned about power to weight ratio can't ignore the weights, if they want to dominate:

    The greatest sprinters do lots of double bodyweight squats to be competitive. That is because nothing else, including sprinting, improves their sprinting power so much. That should be a clue.
    Old Man Strength:

    http://forum.bodybuilding.com/showthread.php?t=148519323&page=16

    Novices:

    http://articles.elitefts.com/training-articles/the-young-skinny-training-with-add-guy%E2%80%99s-guide-to-gaining-mass-and-strength/

    Beyond novice:

    Jim Wendler's 5 3 1(has bodybuilding templates)
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  8. #8
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    weights are probably the SIMPLEST way to effectively train, but if you dont have access to a gym you can still train effectively, you just need to get a bit more creative.

    GET convict conditioning and Never Gymless. Send me a pm if you are interested, Ill hook you up.

    Granted you wont get pro bodybuilder huge but you can develop your physique significantly. Even though I am far from anti-weights I believe that people have no business lifting until they master their bodyweight.
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    Originally Posted by jgreystoke View Post
    Gymnasts tend to be very small, with underdeveloped legs, or they wouldn't win Olympic
    Gold. The guys look very muscular, because their upper bodies are well developed for their small size, until you stand beside their 5'3" frame. They work out all day for hours.

    Convicts tend to be thin and weak unless they workout all day, like gymnasts. You probably don't have that kind of time, unless you are inside. The ones with access to weights get much bigger and stronger than the guys limited to calisthenics.

    Roman warriors were typically about 135lbs.

    Ancient wrestlers lifted heavy things do develop massive strength. If they were limited to bodyweight, their gains were limited. Milo of Crotona reputedly lifted a calf daily until it grew into a bull. He probably kept going back to smaller beasts and worked up to a new max. Bulls on many Greek islands were much smaller than the massive breeds of today. The key is that he worked up to lifting something MUCH HEAVIER THAN HIMSELF. He was vastly bigger and stronger than the typical warrior of the day.

    In Scotland and Scandanivia and Brittany, the ancient manly art of lifting and manipulating heavy objects including "manhood stones" is still practiced. That's how some of those guys build massive strength.....by handling a load bigger than their bodyweight. Highland games champs and Breton stone lifters tend to be so big that a gymnast medalist might be about the size of their right leg.

    Even guys who don't want to be huge, and are concerned about power to weight ratio can't ignore the weights, if they want to dominate:

    The greatest sprinters do lots of double bodyweight squats to be competitive. That is because nothing else, including sprinting, improves their sprinting power so much. That should be a clue.
    ^ Yes
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  10. #10
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    Originally Posted by Lackeos View Post
    Building a real amount of muscle is quite difficult, and if you aren't doing it optimally, you aren't going to get significant results. Some bodyweight exercises are decent mass-building exercises, like chins and dips, but eventually you should do them weighted to continue gaining muscle. Most calisthenics / bodyweight exercises don't provide enough resistance for the muscles involved.
    have you ever watched or seen Hannibal for King?
    he never uses weights, and he puts all the bodybuilders on shame.
    he does dips with so many variations and same with pull ups or push ups. and just take a look at him,type his name on youtube or google, you're gonna be impressed.
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  11. #11
    Banned JasonDB's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by trauf View Post
    have you ever watched or seen Hannibal for King?
    he never uses weights, and he puts all the bodybuilders on shame.
    he does dips with so many variations and same with pull ups or push ups. and just take a look at him,type his name on youtube or google, you're gonna be impressed.
    He has no legs. He is extremely lean (so he eats fewer calories than he burns... this has nothing to do with his choice of training style), but I would not put him over 165 lbs. The same physique could have been developed more quickly using weights.

    Bodyweight movements, and particularly bodyweight movements with weight added, most definitely have their place in bodybuilding... I am a fan of weighted chinups and weighted dips... but doing them exclusively and not training with weight is inefficient and basically ****ing stupid.
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  12. #12
    Lack of iron &or sleeping SuffolkPunch's Avatar
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    Cherry picking one example of a bodyweight training fanatic and comparing him to mediocre barbell trainees is disingenuous.

    If he applied the same level of dedication to basic barbell training, he would be Ronnie Coleman / Marius Pudzianowski / whoever.

    And he would have some legs too.

    I really don't see what the issue is - how expensive is a barbell?
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    Originally Posted by JasonDB View Post
    He has no legs. He is extremely lean (so he eats fewer calories than he burns... this has nothing to do with his choice of training style), but I would not put him over 165 lbs. The same physique could have been developed more quickly using weights.

    Bodyweight movements, and particularly bodyweight movements with weight added, most definitely have their place in bodybuilding... I am a fan of weighted chinups and weighted dips... but doing them exclusively and not training with weight is inefficient and basically ****ing stupid.
    well, not gonna argue about that. I personally lift weights and i don't think i would benefit from calisthenics only. I'm looking forward to lose fat and get lean by full body workout and cardio. When i'm gonna be 30+ maybe after that i will do calisthenics lol
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    Originally Posted by SuffolkPunch View Post
    Cherry picking one example of a bodyweight training fanatic and comparing him to mediocre barbell trainees is disingenuous.

    If he applied the same level of dedication to basic barbell training, he would be Ronnie Coleman / Marius Pudzianowski / whoever.

    And he would have some legs too.

    I really don't see what the issue is - how expensive is a barbell?
    Cherry picking? not really, a lot of people at my high school are hanging on the pull up bar all day and doing push ups and dips all day long. When i look at them i tell to myself holy **** why my body isn't that jacked?
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    Lack of iron &or sleeping SuffolkPunch's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by trauf View Post
    Cherry picking? not really, a lot of people at my high school are hanging on the pull up bar all day and doing push ups and dips all day long. When i look at them i tell to myself holy **** why my body isn't that jacked?
    9 times out of 10, when someone thinks someone is more jacked than they are, they are simply at a lower bodyfat percentage. Muscle is difficult to grow and takes a long time. Bodyfat is relatively easy and quick to shed with the right advice...
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    Originally Posted by SuffolkPunch View Post
    9 times out of 10, when someone thinks someone is more jacked than they are, they are simply at a lower bodyfat percentage. Muscle is difficult to grow and takes a long time. Bodyfat is relatively easy and quick to shed with the right advice...
    Not really bro. Their bf% is lower than 15% i mean they look more muscular than me because my body fat percentage is above 22. I know i can lift much more than those guys but still when someone would take a look at me he/she would call me a big guy. But those guys would be called muscular.
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    Originally Posted by trauf View Post
    have you ever watched or seen Hannibal for King?
    he never uses weights, and he puts all the bodybuilders on shame.
    he does dips with so many variations and same with pull ups or push ups. and just take a look at him,type his name on youtube or google, you're gonna be impressed.
    Are you kidding me? That guy doesn't put any pro bodybuilder to shame.

    Originally Posted by trauf
    Cherry picking? not really, a lot of people at my high school are hanging on the pull up bar all day and doing push ups and dips all day long. When i look at them i tell to myself holy **** why my body isn't that jacked?
    You've never stood next to a serious weight lifter then. Pull ups and dips are very good upper body movements though.
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    Originally Posted by Engineer_Guy View Post
    Are you kidding me? That guy doesn't put any pro bodybuilder to shame.



    You've never stood next to a serious weight lifter then. Pull ups and dips are very good upper body movements though.
    don't worry, i have, i go to the gym where the bodybuilders workout. watch Vugar Verdiyev on youtube,he also lifts there. But his routine is a split routine. So i never listen to his advices lol.
    Anyways, you didn't get the point. I said at my high school where kids are under 18.
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    Originally Posted by JasonDB View Post
    He has no legs. He is extremely lean (so he eats fewer calories than he burns... this has nothing to do with his choice of training style), but I would not put him over 165 lbs. The same physique could have been developed more quickly using weights.

    Bodyweight movements, and particularly bodyweight movements with weight added, most definitely have their place in bodybuilding... I am a fan of weighted chinups and weighted dips... but doing them exclusively and not training with weight is inefficient and basically ****ing stupid.
    Jason how ya doin? i was gonna ask you one thing.. will calisthenics help an overweight person lose weight along with hiit cardio and diet get a lean look?
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    Originally Posted by trauf View Post
    Jason how ya doin? i was gonna ask you one thing.. will calisthenics help an overweight person lose weight along with hiit cardio and diet get a lean look?
    Resistance training of any type will help with this, however why wouldn't they lift weights also or instead of them? Why would you shortchange yourself and use a tool that is only the 2nd or 3rd most effective for achieving a goal if the tools are available?
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    Originally Posted by JasonDB View Post
    Resistance training of any type will help with this, however why wouldn't they lift weights also or instead of them? Why would you shortchange yourself and use a tool that is only the 2nd or 3rd most effective for achieving a goal if the tools are available?
    a lot of people out there say that weight lifting is useless to drop body fat. Mainly because you gotta eat above maintenance to gain muscle and progress, otherwise if i eat below maintenance(which i have to do in order to lose fat) i won't make any progresses. I mean i won't be able to add pounds to my bench, squat or deads.
    One guy from Russia told me to do calisthenics for a ripped look. He said if you're gonna do advanced,modified calisthenics and do tons of them you're gonna get ripped. and that's him. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wt2yx...eature=related
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    As a beginner, I've found there is no one or the other, to be in top shape I think you need to do both.

    At the moment I am doing supersets of BW and weights. We are not all going to have access to weights all the time, so instead of doing nothing, calisthenics feels in the void. Also it adds variety to the mix.

    The real question is what is your goal?

    To add pure muscle and to get big quickly then I am guessing weights take a priority. I think once you start building the mass you can cycle between the two.

    I have also found that there is an information overload, the best thing to do is pick something and get on with it. Give it reasonable time and see if it is the results you are expecting.

    IMHO I think beginners should start of a cycle of calisthenics then move on to weights.
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    Originally Posted by trauf View Post
    a lot of people out there say that weight lifting is useless to drop body fat. Mainly because you gotta eat above maintenance to gain muscle and progress, otherwise if i eat below maintenance(which i have to do in order to lose fat) i won't make any progresses. I mean i won't be able to add pounds to my bench, squat or deads.
    One guy from Russia told me to do calisthenics for a ripped look. He said if you're gonna do advanced,modified calisthenics and do tons of them you're gonna get ripped. and that's him. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wt2yx...eature=related
    Those people have clearly done zero research into weight loss studies nor do the understand very much regarding the nature of human metabolism. Ignore them, and lift heavy weights on your cut.
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    Originally Posted by vtrader View Post
    As a beginner, I've found there is no one or the other, to be in top shape I think you need to do both.

    At the moment I am doing supersets of BW and weights. We are not all going to have access to weights all the time, so instead of doing nothing, calisthenics feels in the void. Also it adds variety to the mix.

    The real question is what is your goal?

    To add pure muscle and to get big quickly then I am guessing weights take a priority. I think once you start building the mass you can cycle between the two.

    I have also found that there is an information overload, the best thing to do is pick something and get on with it. Give it reasonable time and see if it is the results you are expecting.

    IMHO I think beginners should start of a cycle of calisthenics then move on to weights.
    I'm doing an HST program,and gonna finish it in 12 weeks and then take a break and start again. It has some calisthenics moves though. I love it. I was just wondering if calisthenics,cardio and no weights could help an overweight person get ripped.
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    Originally Posted by trauf View Post
    I'm doing an HST program,and gonna finish it in 12 weeks and then take a break and start again. It has some calisthenics moves though. I love it. I was just wondering if calisthenics,cardio and no weights could help an overweight person get ripped.
    Losing fat helps an overweight person get ripped. Heavy weight training preserves muscle mass on a fat loss diet, and people who do not weight train, in studies, lose muscle weight for as much as 50% of the weight they lose. Their body is burning off pounds of muscle as a fuel source when it could be burning their body fat stores for that same fuel... and in turn slows down their metabolism every week due to more and more muscle loss.
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    Originally Posted by trauf View Post
    I'm doing an HST program,and gonna finish it in 12 weeks and then take a break and start again. It has some calisthenics moves though. I love it. I was just wondering if calisthenics,cardio and no weights could help an overweight person get ripped.
    Weight loss occurs from a caloric deficit, not what type of exercise you do. The type of exercise you do determine what muscle fiber you break down and how it regrows. Of course muscle won't regrow any larger if you are on a caloric deficit.
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    Originally Posted by JasonDB View Post
    Those people have clearly done zero research into weight loss studies nor do the understand very much regarding the nature of human metabolism. Ignore them, and lift heavy weights on your cut.
    lol,yeah i'm lifting heavy. But will i make a progress while lifting on a caloric deficit? And is it possible to gain muscle and lose fat? I mean heavy lifting will build muscle won't it?
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    Originally Posted by trauf View Post
    lol,yeah i'm lifting heavy. But will i make a progress while lifting on a caloric deficit? And is it possible to gain muscle and lose fat? I mean heavy lifting will build muscle won't it?
    You have not given nearly enough information to answer that question. It depends on your current strength, training experience, body composition, intensity of the routine used, type of routine used, how large your deficit is, other lifestyle factors. You may not gain strength at all, but if you are not losing any you are at least keeping the muscle tissue you have, which is far better than burning it off as a fuel source to feed your caloric deficit.
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    Originally Posted by JasonDB View Post
    You have not given nearly enough information to answer that question. It depends on your current strength, training experience, body composition, intensity of the routine used, type of routine used, how large your deficit is, other lifestyle factors. You may not gain strength at all, but if you are not losing any you are at least keeping the muscle tissue you have, which is far better than burning it off as a fuel source to feed your caloric deficit.
    Well on weekends i definitely don't have a caloric deficit.On other days i have a caloric deficit. About 300-500 calories under maintenance.. The thing is, trainers in my gym tell me that i'm only 16 and i should lift heavy and forget about losing weight. They tell me my fat is still a ''kid'' fat and it will go away by itself. But i don't know.
    I weight 108 kg,6'1 ft, body fat above 22.
    My current strentgh- well my bench press max is 97 kg.
    my deads max are 85(i've actually started doing deads 3 months ago)never did them before. I never worked out my legs untill summer 2011.
    Squats max 90 kg( also started on summer 2011)
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    Originally Posted by trauf View Post
    I'm doing an HST program,and gonna finish it in 12 weeks and then take a break and start again. It has some calisthenics moves though. I love it. I was just wondering if calisthenics,cardio and no weights could help an overweight person get ripped.
    I think for you as others have mentioned you probably need to focus more on your nutrition then which workout works the "best".

    Maybe try doing full body workouts in supersets.
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