The main pros of bodyweight training are that it’s free, it can be done anywhere by anyone and it does build muscle, strength, endurance and help you burn fat.
The downsides are that it’s harder to progressive overload (increase the intensity to progress), it’s not easy to develop strong legs and you are somewhat limited to the number of exercises you can do depending on the available equipment.
Now let’s use my experience with calisthenics and help you decide if that’s something you want to do.
What you will learn
- What are the pros of doing bodyweight exercises (Things I like)
- What are the cons of doing bodyweight exercises (Things I don’t like)
- How to do calisthenics without any drawbacks (My Experience)
What are the pros of doing bodyweight exercises (Things I like)
1. It’s free: It doesn’t cost a monthly membership to workout with bodyweight exercises and get big and strong. You can even use a free public calisthenics playground or use old scraps and make yourself a free pull-up bar. (or use anything similar in shape you can find). You can also use a backpack full of bottles filled with water or sand as extra weight for your workouts.
2. It can be done everywhere and by anyone: Bodyweight training can literally be done anywhere you can think of – at home, in the yard, in the park, at a hotel, at the beach, in the forest or even when you are on vacation. And it’s safe to be done by anyone no matter the age, gender or knowledge. You can watch a couple of videos or ask a friend and start doing push-ups in a matter of minutes.
3. It does build muscle, strength and endurance: Even if you only use your body weight you can still get big and strong according to science . But to achieve great results you need to do between 8-12 repetitions, rest between 60-90 seconds between the sets, eat more calories than you burn that are high in protein, sleep around 7-8 hours per day and focus on progressive overload. (aim to do one more rep, add more weight, do a harder variation or anything that will increase the intensity.)
4. It helps you burn fat and get healthy: Because bodyweight training helps you build muscle and strength, the newly added muscle mass actually helps your body to burn more calories and fat. . The more muscle mass you gain (which goes hand in hand with strength), the faster you are going to burn that extra weight. Combine that with walking, running or any other type of cardio workouts and you will get healthy in no time.
5. It boosts confidence: Once you pack some weight, get some strength and learn a couple of basic moves you will get more confident. You will feel better about yourself and you will reflect on everything you do. Just focus on building the right training, eating and sleeping habits and calisthenics will completely change your life.
What are the cons of doing bodyweight exercises (Things I don’t like)
1. You are limited on exercises and equipment: Sadly if you don’t own a pull-up bar with enough space or some type of dip bars or a set of resistance bands or something that adds resistance you are very limited on the number of available exercises you can do. Sure, there are still a lot of exercises you have available but you won’t be able to efficiently target your back or be able to learn a lot of the great calisthenics movements.
2. It’s hard to grow your legs: Even if there are great exercises like the one-leg squat, bulgarian squat, the walking lunge, or the wall sit, it is really hard to build very strong and big legs. You can still achieve great results from your body weight but to a certain point. The lower body (butt and legs) is the strongest muscle group in the human body and it requires a lot of resistance or very intense workouts in order to grow.
3. It’s a bit harder to progress: If you only use your own weight as resistance you are very limited to progressive overload. Your body will eventually reach its peak strength for that resistance and the progress will stop. Sure, there are many variations of each exercise that are harder to do but eventually you will have nowhere to go. That’s why at some point you must include in some weight some type of extra resistance if you really want to build more muscle, develop more strength and increase your capabilities.
How to do calisthenics without any drawbacks (My Experience)
The ways I currently do bodyweight training in order to fix all those problems are there:
- I do some bodyweight exercises with added weight (weighted calisthenics)
- I combine my calisthenics workouts with basic weight training from my home gym (squats, bench press, overhead press and deadlift)
That way I’m not limited to the number of exercises I can do.
I can easily develop and maintain a very strong and equally developed lower body and don’t have any problems with continuous progress because of the extra resistance I can include within my workouts.
I can also do a very large number of different exercises and target any part of my body.
Here’s a short list and links to all calisthenics equipment I currently own and use regularly (if you don’t want to have similar problems like I did in the start)
- Pull-Up bar you can attach to wall, ceiling or doorframe (link to mine) / alternative is a doorway but it’s not the safest or tallest one (link to great alternative if interested)
- Portable dip bars (link to mine)
- A complete set of loop resistance bands (link to mine)
- Wooden gymnastic rings (link to mine)
- Parallettes (shorter dip bars for push-ups and L-sit) (link to mine)
- Weighted Vest with at least 40 lbs max (link to mine)
So in short, bodyweight training doesn’t have any problems that can’t be fixed. It brings only improvements in your life.