A lot of people are finding common calisthenics exercises such as pull-ups and dips already quite difficult. There are also people who can do a fine amount of pull-ups and there are people who are finding normal pull-ups just too easy. So they are attaching big weights to themselves. They are doing weighted calisthenics.
The definition of weighted calisthenics is really straightforward. You implement weights to calisthenics exercises to create more resistance. Make the exercise harder and increase the intensity.
When To Start Weighted Calisthenics
Now we know what weighted calisthenics is. It is also useful to know whenever you should start or not. Theoretically speaking, everybody can start with weighted calisthenics. Even beginners, you can attach 5kg onto you, and from that point, you are already doing weighted calisthenics. But I recommend people who just started with calisthenics and still struggle with their pull-ups to just keep it to normal pull-ups. Keep it basic until you can perform at least 10 pull-ups. But what are some signs when you should start with weighted calisthenics?
Hitting a Plateau
Everybody who had done calisthenics over a couple of years now will notice that all exercises are getting easier. At some point, your body will find pull-ups and push-ups just too easy. Building muscle with regular bodyweight exercises has become more difficult. There is no point in doing 50 reps in a row. You will only build muscle endurance. So you have mastered your body but you will face a problem. It is like hitting a plateau. To build more strength you need more resistance. So a way to break this plateau and solve the problem is to start doing weighted calisthenics. By adding weight you increase the resistance and therefore help you break that plateau and gain some serious muscle and strength gains.
So you are currently stuck at 10 pull-ups. Your goal is to reach 20 pull-ups. A quick way to achieve this goal is to add weighted calisthenics to your workout routines. I did this at some point in my calisthenics journey. So what I did was applying weighted calisthenics for a period of 2 months in my routine. I was progressively overloading each week. This means that I increase the weights after each week. And after those two months, I could almost fly on the bar. Pull-ups got much and much easier. I was finally managed to do 20 reps in a row and therefore I achieved my goal. So if you want to increase your rep amount. Try adding weighted calisthenics for some time and watch your repetition amount sky rock.
Basic Calisthenics is Boring?
Doing only reps and sets can get quite bored. After thousands of pull-ups, you maybe want something else. So to switch things up you could start doing some weighted calisthenics. To keep it interesting you can for example see and look at what your one-rep max is. Especially if you like normal weight lifting, you will definitely like weighted calisthenics too.
Reasons To Start With Weighted Calisthenics
There are several reasons why it is smart to start with weighted calisthenics. Here I discuss the benefits of adding weights to your calisthenics exercises.
- You will become much stronger, Doing weighted calishtenics for some time will give you a massive strength boost. Imagine if you would work out and get comfortable with 20kg attached to you and after that time you would start working out without additional weights. You will fly, Just normal calishtenics exercises will be so much easier. This is also useful when you want to achieve certain skills. On the picture below you see that I perform a straddle planche with 7kg attached. I did this training method for some time to improve my planche holds and after some time I noticed I got significantly better at the planche. I went from 4 seconds hold to almost 7 seconds.
- You will build more muscle compared to normal calisthenics, You will not only get strength massive boost with weighted calisthenics, but you will also get bigger. With weighted calishtenics, your muscles need to deal with much more intensity than with normal raw calishtenics exercises. Therefore you will build more and faster muscle.
- Easier to progress, Unlike weight training, you progress in calisthenics through doing harder variations of exercises. For example, you will progress from pull-ups to one-arm pull-ups. With weighted calishtenics, it is just like normal weight lifting. You progress by adding more weight to the exercises. Much easier to track to see if you actually get stronger.
Equipment For Weighted Calisthenics
If you want to start weighted calisthenics you need weights or at least some object that has enough weight to increase the resistance. There are three different ways to get your equipment for weighted calisthenics
Free Option: Weighted Backpack
A very easy and simple way on how to start weighted calisthenics is to just grab a backpack(i suppose everybody owns one). Put some weights in it or some objects like books and you are ready to go. As simple as that. It does not have to cost money to start with weighted calisthenics.
The weighted vest is very similar to the weighted backpack but, this product is much more comfortable. With a weighted vest, you can easily make your basic calisthenics exercises harder by adding weight in the vest itself. With most vests, you can add up to 20 or 30kg additional weight. You can secure the weight vest with straps to ensure that everything stays in place.
This piece of equipment is mostly used for really heavy lifts. With a dip belt, you can attach more weight on to you than a weighted vest. Therefore you will mostly see these when people try to do a lift that goes beyond 20kg. You can add as many extra weights as you want. But the only downside of a weight belt is that it is only usable for pull-ups and dips and you need to buy extra weights in order to make it usable. But overall, for the people who want to step up their calisthenics game and have access to extra weights, I recommend investing in this product.
Using ankle weights is also a part of weighted calisthenics. By attaching extra weights to your ankle you can make lower body and ab exercises like leg raise and dragon flags significantly harder. Also if you want to increase your static holds, doing a front lever with ankle weights attached is much harder, but over time you will get stronger and improve your normal front lever hold with many more seconds. So another great piece of equipment to start weighted calisthenics with.
You can also use resistance bands to add extra resistance to your exercises. for example, you can make push-ups and dips a lot harder by adding a band around your waist. By using different or more bands you can increase the resistance and make exercises harder. For a complete guide on resistance bands click here.
If you go to a gym you will usually also have access to most of the equipment mentioned above( most gyms do). The best thing about this is that all the weights you need for the weight belt are already there. The only thing you need to do is pay your gym membership.
How to start Weighted Calisthenics
Starting with weighted calisthenics is quite simple. You can add as little as 3kg to your body weight and you are doing weighted calisthenics. How much additional weight you must add very depends on your strength level. To know how much weight is right for you, I recommend adding the amount of weight where you can perform 5-8 reps with. If you can do more reps you need to increase the weight( too easy). Below 5 reps you need to decrease the extra weight (too hard). Start low and build your way up slowly.
Before you start
So you got all the equipment you need and you are ready to start with weighted calisthenics. But, before you do there are a couple of things you need to know.
As for people who just discovered calisthenics, You can start with weighted calisthenics. However, I do not recommend it. Weighted calisthenics can be really tough on the joints. You need to prepare and strengthen your joints. This takes time. Besides, most beginners will probably already have enough difficulties with pull-ups and dips. So master those first without additional weight and then you can progress further slowly. The key here is to not rush things, just because you want fast results.
Do not rush just to get fast progress. This will only get you injured and speaking of injuries. You need to watch out when performing weighted calisthenics because if you do not you risk a chance of getting an injury. Especially when you try a heavy lift. There are 2 key points.
The first one is the warm-up. This is very straightforward but a lot of people skip this or do it wrong. Because the load is much heavier for your body than with normal calisthenics, it is highly important to warm up your joints and muscles before doing any exercise.
The next point that a lot of people are doing is, Sacrificing good form for more reps or a heavier lift. This is also called “ego lifting” and it is probably one of the biggest mistakes you can make. Doing the wrong technique is a quick way to get injured, combine this with too much weight, and you will not like the results. So take it slowly, try not to impress others, take care of your body.
Quality over quantity, remember that!