Weighted calisthenics training is a great tool for building muscle and strength, but there's a lot more to the story than just slapping on a weight vest and cranking out weighted push-ups.


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By Chris Wright

Chris has spent many years working and teaching in the IT field. He enjoys spending time outdoors and learning about new topics. He likes playing golf, spending time at the beach and working on classic cars and woodworking projects.

42 thoughts on “Weighted Calisthenics; Tips For Building Muscle and Strength”
    1. Good call! I once had some steel-toed boots and they certainly made my hips stronger. When I switched back to sneakers I was like “holy hell my feet as so light!”

    1. That they are! one thing that helped me a lot was to also practice just holding the top of the dip position for time wile focusing on keeping tension in the back. The more back tension you maintain in all dips the stronger you will be.

  1. I switched from bodyweight to 5×5 stronglifts ( heavy compounds ) this month, will do this for a few months to gain some strength and then I will switch back to ( weighted ) calistehenics. I’m gaining some serious strength in a short period 😀 but I love calisthenics to much and will continue to progress in that. 5×5 is also a bit stressfull for the joints/muscles.

  2. As a mindset I consider non-weighted calisthenics to be “Zero” or “neutral” in terms of weight(ofcourse only speaking of the basic movements
    This allows me to think of my body as an easy and simple thing to move

  3. One movement pattern I would add, ( you may consider this just another form of unilateral) would be loaded carries

    Put that weight vest on and go for a walk, and watch that casual stroll become intense cardio

    The effects on your traps and abdominal muscles will be rather dramatic to

    And yes, I’m downloading that book

    1. @particularly unhappy nut heard from what source? And what evidence was given?

      When someone makes a positive statement of fact, it is not up to you to disprove what they’ve said, but up to them to prove what they have said
      This means at this point it’s up to you to provide evidence

      because a lot of statements like this are what we call conventional wisdom, meaning someone everyone thinks is smart has said it, but has provided no evidence for it, and everyone just accepts it

      If you are a follower of Jim Wendler, he recommends Hill Sprints, and Prowler pushes, but he also recommends walking with a weighted vest

      I have heard that walking with ankle weights is bad for your ankles, and I can believe that, because when you lift your foot off the ground the ankle weight is pulling down on your foot

      That’s Force applied in a direction your joint is not designed to resist Force
      Your joints are designed to carry your weight, and I’d want to see evidence that just an extra 40 lb is going to damage them

      Especially when you consider that anyone, who is overweight is already in effect doing a loaded Carry every time they walk

  4. Pavel says the only thing that cannot be worked with body weight exercise is the lower back. Do you believe that is a significant deficiency or can it be overcome with weighted calisthenics? Or is it really no big deal at all?

    1. completly false as there are plenty of moves that can work it, any extension chain exercise will do that. but my perspective has long been that trying to work the lower back specifically is a mistake, mostly because the lower back isn’t so much a muscle group but more like a joint. There’s not a lot of muscle in the lower back to work, but instead it’s best to get the whole posterior or extension chain working as one cohesive unit from head to heel.

    1. I used to think that too until I learned how to do them correctly. I’ve long had bad knees too, but now I used them to fix my knees and they are probably the one move in my program that’s actually the easiest on my knees over any other move, aside from calf raises.

    1. There are so many ways you can advance it’s not quite possible to say. Especially since it depends on what you’re doing now and where you want to go with your training.

      You can look through some of my other videos for ideas on how to progress (each playlist focuses on a particular movement chain/ muscle group so it’s easier to find what you’re looking for. ) or you can check out my book, Smart Bodyweight Training (https://goo.gl/pnJd2b) which has a host of advanced exercises and programing ideas you can apply to take your training to the next level, wherever that may be.

  5. Can you do a video addressing bodyweight exercises and big people, not fat, big. I’m old (50’s) and packing some extra weight, 30+ my guess. Calisthenics have some different issue for big people that can put on muscle vs. skinny people.

    1. There’s not that much difference really. As a trainer, I always base my clients programs around their current capabilities. I really don’t take weight, size, height, age, gender, or experience into account very much. I just take an honest look at what they can now do, maybe struggle to get out of a chair, or maybe they can do 100 single-leg squats, and I go from there.

      So that’s what I would do. Get a basic foundation of how to progress calisthenics (like in my book Grind-Style Calisthenics https://amzn.to/32TQhQh) and then just start with whatever level you can comfortably do and then progress from there.

      So it’s like any other journey. Start with where you are now and then take one step forward.

    1. It’s not too unusual. Cramping like that is a sign that your nervous system isn’t used to putting that much tension through the muscle and it’s getting a bit freaked out. Practicing regular calf raises may be the best fix for that.

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