Calisthenics can be a valuable asset if you’re looking to build strength and power. I’ve been practicing calisthenics for almost 10 years now and I’ve never been stronger and more capable in my life. I’m a stronger cyclist, skier, hiker and I can help a friend move into a 5th floor apartment with ease.
A lot of people doubt the ability to build strength with bodyweight training. I used to doubt it myself, but if you understand how to progress moves like push-ups and squats, you can build a lot more strength than you think.
I’ve never been this strong, even when I used to lift weights. Not that one is inherently better than the other, but calisthenics training does have some advantages for building functional real world strength you might be missing from just lifting iron.
#1 Calisthenics develops whole body strength and muscle control
Strength is more about your nervous system than it is about muscle tissue. Your muscles already possess all of the strength capacity you’ll ever need. The only challenge is learning how to make use of that strength.
Bodyweight training requires you to literally learn how to use your muscles in a synergistic and coordinated way. You need to know how to use your hamstrings with your glutes and claves in order to do a single leg squat. If you want to work your abs you’ll have to learn how to use your hips and even your back to make your core stronger.
#2 Calisthenics brings a lot of tension to the muscle with less stress on the joints.
When I first got into bodyweight training I was relieved to find I can still push my muscles hard without a lot of stress on the joints. I always found weight training involved a tug of war between how much weight my joints could handle against how much weight I could lift. Usually, my mind gave out before my muscles due to the stress in my joints rather than the stress in my muscles.
Training in calisthenics usually involves far less stress in the joints thereby removing the natural brake that can hold you back.
#3 Calisthenics will build strength through shoring up weak links
You’re only as strong as your weakest link and it’s easy to neglect the muscles in the hips, back, core and posterior chain when doing popular weight lifting moves. You may be able to get away with weak hip on a leg press, but not when doing advanced leg calisthenics. A lack of balance and control will force you to confront your weaknesses in order to continue making progress.
In the end, you can get strong through any number of ways, but if you’re struggling to break a plateau you may just find the answers you need through adding in some progressive calisthenics training to your program.