Weighted calisthenics pros and cons

SHALL I THINK OF WEIGHTED CALISTHENICS AS A SORT OF TABOO?!

Let’s continue analyzing all possible aspects of including weights into your classic Calisthenics routines.
As you might wonder from the title of this article, here we would like to emphasize the most common pros and cons you might think of.

Let’s say first of all that, if you strictly believe in bodyweight trainings without any further assistance if not by means of resistance bands, including weights into your workouts would be against such principles and you might see that as a sort of “taboo”, hence forbidden.
We all know that Calisthenics indeed is often understood as a synonym of bodyweight training, so this indirectly implies also avoiding to use weights compared to bodybuilding for instance (but of course this is NOT a rule).

I believe for sure that, mastering all the different skills with just your own bodyweight, it’s simply great!
It allows you to find out which are your true body’s capabilities and your limits, to eventually go beyond them progressively and most of all, it makes you realize that it’s really not needed that much in order to get a great workout with just a bar, a pair of parallettes, a pair of rings, a bit of knowledge, method and plenty of goodwill.

However, it’s also true that, during your journey you might encounter moments in which, after working out for a very long time with just your own bodyweight, you’d like to try out something new that gives more emphasis to the motor patterns you’ve already mastered.
Well, in this sense think of adding weights, for instance to the fundamentals of Calisthenics such as pull-ups, chin-ups, push-ups, dips etc. as a way of trying out something that can sensibly increase your strength, body mass and capabilities.

WHY TRAINING WITH WEIGHTED CALISTHENICS CAN POSITIVELY AFFECT YOUR BODY CONDITION AS WELL AS YOUR STRENGTH (PROS)

Let’s talk first thing first about the pros of including weights into your bodyweight workouts.
For sure, as we all know, Calisthenics means using your own bodyweight in a way that can lead you to master very difficult skills and get stronger than ever.

Now, in consideration of this concept, you can adapt and mix all different exercises and their variations, in order to avoid or diminish chances of plateaus in the longer period.
Nonetheless, there’s still an element that can be somewhat limitative in all this, that is: your own bodyweight.

Said that, I do not wanna surely deny what I’ve been confirming in more than one situation or stated in more than one article; sometimes you might just feel the need to provide your body with a new stimulus because you can’t achieve further progressions despite the efforts.
A stimulus that can allow you to overcome those plateaus, to go beyond the limits imposed by using in every single workout your own bodyweight and by working all the year through progressions in order to achieve new elements.

Of course, this consideration can work much better if you are keen on mastering the main skills, hence working on monthly schedules with the aim to master them rather than training in strength and endurance, where instead a key to success is just including additional weights ever since and high amount of sets and reps in a short time range.

For sure the process of including weights into your bodyweight trainings is beneficial in terms of developing more strength that indirectly will help you to achieve in shorter time the progressions and so, through them, the full form of each skill.
Another positive effect of including weights, is the fact that you will also increase the body mass working in hypertrophy, since using additional weight stimulates your muscle fibers so to grow and so it does your overall body mass.

This principle applies mostly when you train strength and endurance in Calisthenics; endurance training provides you with much more volume due to the high sets and reps you must perform while eventually diminishing progressively also the time set to do so.
After performing and mastering the main basic exercises such as push-ups, pull-ups/chin-ups, dips and later on muscle-ups with a fair amount of reps per each, your tendons and ligaments will be enough conditioned so to start including also weights and provide them with a new load.
This new load wants you to consider providing tendons and ligaments with a proper time range so that they will adapt to it in order to let you progress towards a heavier one in due time.

To make a clear example of this principle is sufficient to consider a subject that has never approached weighted chin-ups for instance.
If said subject switches from performing 4×10-15 reps to 4×10 reps of chin-ups with 10-15 kg additional weight, is not said that he will be able to master them without feeling stress in tendons and ligaments.
According to which genes, body and age you have, the process might differ.
Is fundamental to build a progression chart where you can choose among these four methods suggested below:

1) LOWER LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY OF THE SAME EXERCISE : this means that, according to the example above, if you’ve never approached bar chin-ups (hence starting from a dead hang position), could be useful to approach firstly weighted australian chin-ups, where instead you’ve mastered already the full form with high volume of reps and so applying a new load, in addition to your own bodyweight, will give it a little boost

2) HIGHER LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY, MORE SETS / LESS REPS (TO START WITH): in such case would be great to approach, if you can master them already with clean form, bar chin-ups with additional weight, but with the aim to start performing more sets with less reps so to give proper adaptation to tendons and ligaments while still maintaining a very good workload

3) HIGHER LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY, MORE REPS / LESS SETS (LATER ON): contrarily to the previous step suggested, in this case you are already in a phase where you’ve become quite good at weighted chin-ups because you’ve progressively increased the overall strength and so you might want to lower the sets and increase the reps per each one of them

4) INCREASE THE LOAD, HENCE MORE WEIGHT (FINAL STAGE): if you have been training according to a progressive overload, the last option is for sure to increase the load previously achieved and mastered so to avoid also in this case any pleateau

Of course the four methods I’m proposing above are just some of the many different options you could have, let’s say these are the most common and well known.

WHICH ISSUES CAN BRING AN ADDITIONAL LOAD TO YOUR BODY (BACK AND JOINTS)?! (CONS)

After analyzing the different ways you can use to train with weighted Calisthenics, let’s look at another important aspect of it: common injuries, aches and pains.

Well, when you start loading weight upon your shoulders and back, surely it’s not the healthiest thing ever.
If you think about the famous posture of the hollow body, hence with posterior pelvic tilt so to put the spinal column in a safe position (as straight as possible), well now it’s the right moment to adopt it before attempting any weighted exercise.

I highly suggest you to use additional weights always in the safest way possible; this means that before starting the concentric phase, like for instance the pulling one while performing weighted chin-ups or pull-ups, you must go into the hollow body position while in dead hang.
Only once you have gotten the posterior pelvic tilt and you feel that your lower back is safe and the belt is not heavy as it was before in that area, only then you should start to pull your body up.
It’s definitely better to get this habit as soon as possible because, since you’re supposed to increase the strength in duly time and so it does the load you’ll periodically use to perform basic exercises, you wanna make sure to be able to bear that load without bringing any more pain and suffering to your lower back.
When you perform push-ups the principle is the same; this is a clear proof of fact that either you perform exercises on a vertical or horizontal plane, that doesn’t change the fact that the load acts on your lower back.

Another important aspect to consider is the stress you bring to your shoulders while increasing the load you put on yourself.
Adding weight indeed, it doesn’t only affect your lower back, but also your shoulders since the heavier load the more stress tendons and ligaments will get, while hanging.
Also in this case, whenever I come across random videos on YouTube of people performing pull-ups or dips with very excessive loads such as 100 kg and above, well instead of thinking about how strong that subject is (that for sure catches the attention anyway), I rather think about how much stress it’s bringing to his tendons and ligaments such action.

Remember, is not a show the one you have to put on, but an attempt of training wisely and providing your body and C.N.S. with new stimuluses so to progress, to increase the strength and to be aware that you’re on the right path without calling injuries on its way.

To sum up, from a more anatomical point of view, and in consideration of the most common injuries that can generate by adding loads to your bodyweight, we can identify the following ones:

a) Lower back pain : as we stated above, if you don’t assume the hollow body position before starting the eccentric phase whenever you are hanging on a bar or on parallettes in case of dips or on the floor in case of push-ups, it’s highly possible that that load will negatively cause a damage to your vertebrae

b) Shoulder pain : the pain generated by the load you add to your bodyweight can be responsible also of causing tendon lacerations or a ligament tearing

c) Elbow pain : epitrochleitis and epicondylitis are two of the most common types of pain that can be generated by a non-correct movement while performing pull-ups and chin-ups, dips and push-ups

I really do hope that, with this article, I was able to make you more aware of the risks of loading weights on your body without a proper previous “preparation” and that, thanks to it, now you can adopt all the proper precautions and methods so to limit, diminish or even avoid any fastidious injury.

THE MORE YOU LEARN THE MORE YOU EARN

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