Is Doing High Reps in Calisthenics Good or Bad? (15-20+) (Based on Science)

According to science if your main goal is muscle building you should do 6 to 12 reps. If your main focus is stamina and endurance then you should do more than 12 repetitions (high reps) with calisthenics. If your goal is entirely strength then you should go with 1 to 5 reps. [1]

So doing high reps in calisthenics is neither bad nor good. It entirely depends on what you want to achieve. 

Here’s exactly how to adapt your training depending on your goal. (based on science and my experience)

What You Will Learn

  • How to train for muscle mass and strength with Calisthenics
  • How to train for endurance and stamina with Calisthenics
  • How to train to learn advanced skills with Calisthenics 

How to train for muscle mass and strength with Calisthenics (moderate reps)

Main goal: To build muscle mass and strength as fast as possible.

Number of reps/sets: Go to failure between 6-12 reps for muscle hypertrophy. [2]. You should focus on 3-4 sets of every exercise. To save time you can do 3 supersets (do all exercises in a circle without any break between them and rest in the end).

How long to rest between sets/exercises: According to science you should rest between 30 and 90 seconds for maximum muscle growth. [3]

How long to rest between workouts: In order to give your body enough time to recover you should target big muscle groups (arms, chest, back, legs) every 48 hours (2 days). [4]

How to train (Main Focus): Your main goal should be to do constant progressive overload. [5]. You can achieve that by adding more intensity by adding extra weight, using resistance bands, lowering the rest time or increasing the number of sets/exercises you do for your workout.

Recommended Equipment

  • Access to pull-up bar (link to mine) / or anything similar 
  • Access to dip station (link to mine) / or place you can do dips 
  • Weighted vest (link to mine)/ or backpack filled with bottles of water/sand 
  • Set of resistance bands (link to mine)
  • Wooden Gymnastic Rings (link to mine) / alternative for owning a pull-up bar and dip bars

Calisthenics Weekly Workout for Muscle Mass:

  • Monday: Chest and arms
  • Tuesday: Back and Legs
  • Wednesday: Rest Day 
  • Thursday: Chest and arms
  • Friday:  Back and Legs
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: Focus on lacking muscle groups

Chest and Arms (Exercises):

  • Push-ups (normal)
  • Dips (normal)
  • Diamond push-ups
  • Handstand push-ups

Back and Legs (Exercises):

  • Pull-ups (wide grip)
  • Chin ups (normal)
  • Horizontal pull-ups (with normal grip)
  • Bodyweight squats
  • Bulgarian squat
  • Wall-sit

How to train for endurance and stamina with Calisthenics (high reps)

Main goal: Aim to do more than 12 reps on all exercises to develop endurance and stamina. [6] 

Number of reps/sets: Do as many reps as you can in all exercises. If you can do more than 20 you can optionally add extra weight/resistance to increase difficulty. Do 3-4 sets per exercise.

How long to rest between sets/exercises: According to science the best time to rest for muscle endurance is between 30 to 60 seconds between exercises/sets. [7]

How long to rest between workouts: Give yourself a minimum of 24 hours to 48 hours for your body to recover so you don’t overtrain. [8]

How to train (Main Focus): Focus on doing anywhere between 13 – 25 reps. If you can do more than 25 repetitions with ease it’s better to simply increase the difficulty a bit. You can do that by adding extra weight/resistance, lowering the rest time, adding more reps and sets or by making the exercise harder.

Recommended Equipment

  • Access to pull-up bar (link to mine) / or anything similar you can use as one
  • Access to dip stations (link to mine) / or place you can do dips 
  • Set of resistance bands (link to mine) / if you decide to increase intensity
  • Wooden Gymnastic Rings (link to mine) / replaces the need of pull-up bar and dip station

Calisthenics Weekly Workout for Endurance:

  • Monday: Full Body Workout
  • Tuesday: Rest
  • Wednesday: Full Body Workout 
  • Thursday: Cardio
  • Friday:  Full Body Workout
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: Cardio

Full Body Workout (Exercises)

  • Push-ups (normal)
  • Dips (normal)
  • Pull-ups (normal)
  • Chin-ups (normal)
  • Bodyweight squats 
  • Handstand push-ups
  • Plank (hold as long as possible)

Cardio Workout:

  • Do a minimum of 20 minutes of your favorite cardio sport. Examples: Jogging, running, cycling, swimming, using a treadmill, doing HIIT workouts (Youtube is full with great workouts), hiking, dancing, etc.

How to train to learn advanced skills with Calisthenics (moderate reps)

Main goal: To master any calisthenics movement you currently don’t know how to do. To achieve this you need to get enough strength for it and learn the balance/technique that is required. You also need to develop strength and muscle in the body parts that are used in order to perform the movement.

How to train (Main Focus):

  • Example Goal: How I learned to do muscle ups. (It took me about a month). 
  • Main muscles used: Back, forearms, triceps
  • What to focus on?: Strength and muscle development in the upper body combined with explosive power and technique.

Number of reps/sets: Do between 6 and 12 reps for maximum muscle and strength development. [9]

How long to rest between sets/exercises: Rest 30 to 90 seconds between the sets/exercises you do. [10]

How long to rest between workouts: Rest between 24-48 hours to maximize body recovery. [11]

Recommended Equipment

  • Access to pull-up bar (link to mine) / or anything similar you can use as one
  • Access to dip stations (link to mine) / or place you can do dips 
  • Set of resistance bands (link to mine) / if you decide to increase intensity
  • Wooden Gymnastic Rings (link to mine) / replaces the need of pull-up bar and dip station for strength and muscle development

Calisthenics Weekly Workout for Body Development (and Learning a New Skill):

  • Monday: Full Body Workout
  • Tuesday: Rest
  • Wednesday: Skill Focused Workout 
  • Thursday: Full Body Workout
  • Friday:  Rest
  • Saturday: Skill Focused Workout
  • Sunday: Rest

Full Body Workout (Exercises)

  • Push-ups (normal)
  • Dips (normal)
  • Pull-ups (normal)
  • Chin-ups (normal)
  • Bodyweight squats 
  • Handstand push-ups
  • Plank (hold as long as possible)

Skill Focused Workout:

  • Attempt to do muscle-ups (3-5 at once)
  • Explosive pull-ups
  • Climb on top of pull-up bar (by jumping or by using something) then lower slowly as possible
  • Pull over bar (2-3 at once)
  • Dead Hang (as long as possible)

Please Note: All the exercises in the skill focused workout are exactly what I did to learn muscle-ups. If you want to learn a different calisthenics skill (only focus on one at a time) you should completely change the exercises in the workout. Do a bit of research and see exactly what you need to do in order to reach your goal.

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