The art and skill of Calisthenics comes from mastering your body. From how your muscles engage and holding full body tension to pushing all of your movement patterns to the limit. Calisthenics has no right or wrong way to progress (provided it’s safe and sensible) but a common thread of increasing strength, gains and control comes from Progressive Overload.
Progressive Overload is the foundational resistance training principal. In short, with repeated exercise, your body will adapt to training stimulus. This means that over time we need to adjust that stimulus, whether through weight, reps & sets , rest adaptation or TUT (time under tension), to increase the tension on the body. Once we have adapted to that new stimulus, we change again and so on.
Even though Calisthenics is a bodyweight discipline fundamentally, adding weight is pretty straightforward. Lets start with a weight vest.
A weight vest evenly spreads weight (from 1-30kgs) across your upper body, allowing different resistance levels for different movement patterns, exercises or progressions. You can also use the weight vest across both the bar and the rings. This makes the weight vest incredibly versatile for push, pull, squat, hinge and gait movements. But what about rotation?
With ankle weights we can work our core from the bar, a seated position or on the parallettes. Ankle weights add stimulus to core flexion and extension instantly as the weights don’t need to be as heavy due to the point of your lever (i.e. your feet) being further away. Next time you’re on the bar try some knee raises or Round The Worlds, and then add the ankle weights. I can tell you from experience, it’s a whole different level.
Great for dips specifically, but also pull ups, a dip belt can have weight plates added to really improve those strength gains in your bar work. This one is great for gym goers, as it fits easily in a bag, and the weight plates (or kettlebells) at most gyms come in varieties of differing weights allowing you to progress slowly and carefully.
Whatever your goals, whether muscle gains, improving reps, skill training or strength and power work, you can adapt any weight to fit your specific rep ranges and goals. You can even use ankle weights on a single side to improve single side strength, gains or alignment.
So you may have thought Calisthenics was just all about bodyweight, but there’s plenty of strength needed to push you to that next level and advance your skills and strength at the same time. Adding weight really makes you appreciate the journey of how far you have come over a period of time. And sets your body up to move well under tension!
I would recommend starting a little lighter when you have just applied any weighted equipment, just to get used to the feeling on your body. It can feel a little strange at first, depending on how the weight is spread. Do try and keep it even where possible when performing bilateral or compound movement, for unilateral or single sided work, it’s up to you. But make sure you have changed your programme according to what is right for you. Seek help and advice from a pro if you need to.
So add weight to your calisthenics routines, and tag us @gravity.fitness on Instagram and show us your strength journey!
Also head over to the shop section of the website to pick up any equipment mentioned in this article, or any of our other articles!
USE image of dip belt, ankle weights or weight vest from gravity archive – none on envato