Why is calisthenics not for you: The other side of bodyweight training - The Movement Athlete (2023)

🧐 If you’re looking for a workout that is easy to do, with minimal equipment needed, then calisthenics might be a perfect choice.

You can literally do it anywhere and anytime. It’s also great because there are no restrictions on who can participate using this approach.

However, despite these benefits, there are those who don’t find calisthenics as an enjoyable option for them to choose from.

In this article, we will discuss four major reasons why that could be and what you can try if it applies to you too!☝️

The popularity of calisthenics is growing, but not everyone is jumping on the bodyweight train.

If you are considering giving it a try, there are some reasons why you should think twice before committing to using your own body weight as your approach in your fitness journey (not that you have anything to lose trying out calisthenics).

What is calisthenics?🤔

Lsit pull-ups for strong lats. Photo from freepik

But let’s first define what is calisthenics.

📌Calisthenics, although gaining much popularity just now, has been here for ages. There were records up to 480 B.C. that Spartans, the elite-level greek shoulders, practicing calisthenics.

It’s a form of resistance training – using external force (the resistance) to increase muscle, power, and strength. 💪

🏋️‍♀️ Weight training is also a form of resistance training that uses dumbbells, weighted machines, barbells, and other external weights.

With calisthenics, we use our own body weight as resistance in which popular exercises for strength training and muscle size comes into mind such as (but not limited to) pull-ups, push-ups, handstand press-ups, and other bodyweight exercises. 🤸

Calisthenics can be trained for general goals such as develop muscular strength, lose weight, build muscle, increase mobility, improve body awareness.

🎯 Goals for the calisthenics journey may also be more specific such as developing specific strength gymnastic-inspired bodyweight movements such as learning handstands, planche, levers, and other advanced bodyweight exercises.

You can read more about the advantages and disadvantages of the approach in the link below:

Is calisthenics really a better way to train?

Calisthenics freestyle street workout

A sample of calisthenics freestyle move

With the general concept of calisthenics explained, we shall further expound that we won’t be pertaining to calisthenics freestyle.

🤸 Calisthenics freestyle or also known as “bar flow” for some is a more dynamic and high-risk variation of the regular calisthenics training we see.

Freestyle is focused on the technique of high-impact movements and connecting these to form a set of flows that display amazing specific body moves to the sport.

As a result, we won’t be focusing on this niche of calisthenics and focus on the training that provides minimum risk and more general fitness goals. 🎯

4 Reasons why calisthenics might not be for you 😢

Aiming for specific discipline goals

Want to get stronger with clean and snatch? Training it specifically. Photo from freepik

Train for specificity even if your specific goal is building general strength.

Calisthenics is a great approach for building many different goals such as building strength, developing muscles, bullet-proofing joints, improving mobility.

BUT each category might also have a sub-category that bodyweight training might not be as much efficient as other methods like weight training.

For example, if you’re aiming to build your general strength, calisthenics exercises such as the dips and push-up in a full range of motion will hit the necessary multiple muscle groups to develop that upper body strength.

If you want to be able to lift a heavier load on the bench press, dips and push-ups can help, HOWEVER, it will not be as efficient as using free weights and practicing the bench press itself.

This holds true for other disciplines and different exercises. If you want to be able to lift more weight, then lifting weights will make better use of your time. If you want to improve a particular motion in your kung fu or other martial arts, then focus on those motions.

You can still use calisthenics exercises as supplementary strength training from time to time and change this up.

Calisthenics as your MAIN strength training workout

Don’t get me wrong.

Calisthenics can still help you build massive muscle strength especially if you also combine calisthenics with weight training OR use weighted calisthenics.

You can always ditch the “calisthenics versus weights” idea and implement external weight in your calisthenics workouts as long as you do it safely and smartly.

Want to build the massive bodybuild physique

Why is calisthenics not for you: The other side of bodyweight training - The Movement Athlete (1)

Arnold Schwarzenegger in his younger years as a bodybuilder.

One myth that’s very popular in the fitness realm is that “calisthenics can’t build muscle“.

This is absolute rubbish!

With the right programming, volume, high intensity, and use of proper calisthenic exercises, you can build muscle mass calisthenics alone.

But there’s a caveat.

Isolation exercises needed for a bodybuilder physique

Bodyweight exercises hit multiple muscle groups or even the full body most of the time. This is great for burning more calories, strength training, and general muscle mass development, but if you want to be massive as a bodybuilder, it won’t be as efficient as weight training.

In order to produce the bodybuilder physique, you need to hit MORE training volume safely using isolation exercises. These weightlifting exercises (on top of compound movements, of course!) generate enormous amounts of muscle tear that increase the potential of your muscle growth.

Daniel Vadnal of FitnessFAQs demonstrating bodyweight bicep isolation exercise to grow his bouldering biceps.

Isolation exercises do exist in calisthenics, but they are not “true isolation exercises”.

With true isolation movements, you can hit one muscle group at a time until it breaks down.

With compound movements or “isolation” movements of calisthenics, your whole body or other muscles can fatigue before you can get the specific muscles you are targeting to “break down”.

Choosing between weight training and using your own body weight will depend on what is your ideal physique.

You don’t have the patience

There are no shortcuts to the specific or general strength training that a calisthenics workout provides.

Building general fitness

Build general fitness ring dips.

If you opt for the calisthenics workout as your method of developing your fitness level, then expect a tough road ahead.

In order to be efficient with bodyweight training, your body will adjust by improving your strength and developing your body composition by fat loss and muscle gain.’

Improvements through reps can be more quantifiable but progress might seem harder to see since the progression isn’t as straightforward as adding weights.

If you’re a beginner, you’ll feel and see the improvements soon. Don’t just expect to see it after just one or two training sessions.

Trust the process.

Learning skills takes time

You can learn how to hold a handstand in less than a month if you have the proper foundation but learning a one-arm handstand takes much longer. Expect not less than half a year to build the necessary skill component.

There are two major factors affecting the time it takes to learn a skill.

One is the physical demands, the specific muscular strength, and joint strength you need. Maybe also some mobility factors for other skills.

Two is the neurological factor. After all, calisthenics skills require technique and “muscle memory”. Your mind should know what to do and your body how it’s done.

For both you need time, but more so for the neural factor because that can’t be trained directly. You just have to train the movement over and over again until eventually it “clicks”.

With barbell training, you are moving an external weight against gravity instead of using only your own force on yourself which is a much different context. That means there are fewer neurological factors involved, meaning more people should succeed faster with weights than with calisthenics skills in general.

This makes sense since some movements require strength not only locally at one joint or muscle group, but also throughout the whole kinetic chain (the link between muscles).

For example – full planche requires around 1 to 3 years of dedicated training

Planche leans trains the planche feel and builds specific strength. One of the best planche progressions out there!

If you want to learn planche, increasing your pushing strength will not be enough, and training too many exercises that don’t help you towards your planche goal will only take up your energy.

It will require focus and dedication, and a long-time commitment since your body will not instantly adapt to the high demands of planche.

Many factors affecting skill work

Take note that learning a skill depends on many other factors such as your height, the amount of effort you put in, your ability to adapt, and so much more.

Just train smart and stay patient with your progress if you want to succeed with calisthenics.

When you don’t enjoy it

Photo from freepik.

There’s no point in choosing calisthenics if you don’t have fun training with the approach in the first place.

No matter how effective calisthenics is and how much progress you make, you’ll end up unhappy and inconsistent with your training if you don’t like it.

Do what works for you 👊

It all boils down to preference. While calisthenics can be effective, there are many other training styles that work better for goals and personal taste.

What works best is different from person to person and you need to find out what your preferences are in order to make the most out of it. 🥇

If you don’t adapt well or if injuries keep happening no matter how safe your approach is, or you’re just getting frustrated with the results, then maybe an approach isn’t really for you.

💪 Don’t give up just yet though since there’s always something new coming up with fitness!

There will always be a way around obstacles so it all boils down to preference once again. Just stick with whatever makes sense and helps bring progress into your life until you reach goals that may not even exist anymore because they’ve become part of you and your lifestyle.

Weight lifting vs bodyweight training

Here’s a brief comparison of the two most popular approaches to fitness.

🏋️‍♀️ Weight lifting

Weight training is the mainstream approach to strength training and muscle development and for a good reason.

  • Straight forward approach to progressions
  • Isolation exercises for muscle growth
  • Effective strength training

Possible cons are:

  • ⛔️High risk to injury if done with improper form
  • ⛔️Prone to “ego lifting” (doing too much too soon)
  • ⛔️Prone to neglecting other important fitness attributes
  • ⛔️Requires equipment or gym access

🤸 Bodyweight training

Calisthenics is a rising star in the fitness industry and can be a solution if it fits your needs, goals, and lifestyle.

  • Effective for building muscle and strength
  • Improves other aspects such as mobility, flexibility, body awareness
  • Many skills to learn for holistic development
  • Minimal equipment needed

Possible cons are:

  • ⛔️Not as efficient in building absolute leg strength
  • ⛔️Program structures require knowledge of proper progressions

Both

Then there’s also always the option of doing both.

It shouldn’t always be black and white.

There’s nothing wrong with implementing both training methods in your workouts as long as you have the proper guidance and knowledge on how to make it suit your goals safely. 💯

🏆 Calisthenics is an effective approach for many fitness goals, however, it may not always fit your lifestyle or needs.

If you’re hesitant with calisthenics, you can always try it out for a month since there’s no one stopping you. You can easily do it in your own home.

For a more effective trial, we highly recommend a proper program that helps you start your journey safely with maximum results while keeping it fun and sustainable.

Try out The Movement Athlete.

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