Once you’ve broken through the beginner phase in bodyweight training, things usually start to feel a little easier on the body, which can result in a slight plateau in progress. That’s why variations on exercises exist, as explained in our books.
However, there is something else you can do to shock your body into strength and muscle building overdrive, and it’s surprisingly simple.
We’re talking about adding weight. Gasp! Using weights in bodyweight exercise? Sacrilege! Well, not quite.
Think about it this way: it’s well known that muscle growth is directly related to the load the muscles are placed under, and that consistently increasing that load is key to continued strength and muscle gains. Adding weight in bodyweight training just another way to increase that load.
Now, we’re not suggesting you swap the bar for the bench and start pushing weights in bodybuilder fashion. No, no, no. Instead, we recommend incorporating a little extra weight into your existing training routine.
How so? Well, here’s three examples to get you started.
Great for: biceps, triceps, chest, shoulders, lats.
How to: buy a dip belt (click here to see our recommendation on Amazon), carefully and securely attach a light weight such as a weight plate or kettle bell to test with, and perform the exercise as normal with perfect form. Once you’ve achieved the same rep range as you could do without the weight, you can add a little more weight and repeat.
Great for: legs, glutes, core.
How to: grab a barbell pad to protect your back / neck and strap it onto the bar (again, you can click here to see our recommended pad). Start by squatting the bar alone (as these usually weigh around 20kg by themselves!) and perform the exercise exactly as you normally do, with perfect form using a squat rack. Once you’ve achieved the same rep range as you were capable of before using the bar, you can add a little weight to each side (securing with sprung collars) and repeat, progressively moving up in weight once you’ve hit your target rep range with perfect form.
Weighted Pull-ups & Chin-ups
Great for: biceps, triceps, back.
How to: here’s another chance to use your new dip belt! Simply strap it on again, add a little weight and perform the exercise as you normally would. As always, once you can perform your usual rep range with perfect form, go ahead and add a little more weight. Be careful when coming down from the bar with extra weight – don’t just drop off!
You can add weight to plenty of other exercises, such as lunges (dumbbell lunges), other squats (goblet squats etc.), push-ups (weight plate on back with a spotter to ensure it doesn’t slip), calf raises (donkey or dip belt). However, we encourage you to start with the above three, as these are key compound exercises that will yield incredible results.
Weighted calisthenics can be a real shock to the system. It’s important to use the right equipment (check out the links in this post for recommendations) and always use perfect form. Sacrificing form to squeeze out a few more reps won’t do you any favours. In fact, it’s completely counter-productive.
Remember, you should always start with your own bodyweight, then, once you can comfortably perform an exercise such as squats, dips or pull-ups to 12 reps (or whatever your usual rep range is), go ahead and introduce a light weight and aim for 12 reps again. You should not add more weight until you’ve hit that rep range again with perfect form on the current weight.
So, it turns out training calisthenics doesn’t mean you have to be allergic to weights! If you follow this simple tip and introduce a little extra weight into your existing bodyweight training routine, you will be astonished at just how dramatically your results will level up.