Hi everyone. Found this site though Google & I like Al’s YouTube channel so thought I’d ask for some help. I’ve been doing bodyweight exercises for a year now and tried different approaches (pull up programs, splits, full body, sets, cycles) and my lack of progress has got to the point where I feel like giving up. I’m almost 40, weigh 145lbs (slowly gaining weight now) and my goal is to build muscle while working my way to the harder moves.
For the past couple of weeks I’ve been doing full body consisting of 2 push (push up & dips progressions) 2 pull (pull up & horizontal pull progressions) and 2 legs. 90 seconds rest between sets. For legs I do weighted squats/deadlifts. And some core work. I’ve been doing this every other day.
I recently found a website with some progressions for different exercises where you add one rep per workout until you reach 3 sets of 8 reps before starting from 4 reps on the next progression (which I’ve been doing). Is this enough reps for building muscle? And stopping after a certain amount of reps feels a bit like I’m maybe not pushing myself. So should I perhaps go for (or close to) maximum reps each time until I can hit around 12 reps on each set? Or at least try to add one rep per set? I do a regular tempo & focus on my form and try to squeeze my muscles.
I know this is quite long winded, I thought it best to be detailed about what I do to get some good advice. I do like my current routine, I’d just like my questions cleared up & make sure I’m finally on the right track. Thanks for your time.
Well, firstly, keep in mind that as you gain weight the harder moves will get that much harder. So you may want to get where you want to be skill-wise before you focus on gaining weight. As a general guideline, I think a good level for most to shoot for is to be comfortable doing clean handstand push ups or one arm push ups, muscle ups, pistol squats, and back levers. I think people should strive for the stand to stand bridge, but most won’t. You should at least be comfortable with the bridge, though. While you should focus on advancing exercises, don’t neglect weighted pull ups and dips to help you gain weight.
Your routine looks adequate overall, but yeah you could stand to benefit from doing up to 12 reps per set.
Deadlifts and squats are among the best barbell exercises you can do, particularly for your goals. The only upper body lift I’d really suggest is the standing strict overhead press. I can’t tell by how you worded it but I would suggest doing them on separate days, not the same day. You should give the Jefferson deadlift a try, it’s odd but it is a nice hybrid of a traditional squat and deadlift. If all you do for lower body is Jefferson deadlifts and pistol squats, you’re fine. But sprints help too. If you have the conditioning for it, you should probably try sprints at least once a week. You can do deadlifts one day (along with upper body pressing), squats another (with pulling), and superset sprints and pistol squats on day 3.
Of course, if you’re training like that, you need to rest enough and eat enough good food.
Lastly, keep in mind that muscle fibers tear during the negative portion of a rep, which ultimately leads to muscle growth.
Thanks for your reply. The reason I’m gaining weight is because my primary goal is to build muscle, so I need to be gaining weight. I’m aiming for around 2/3lb a month. I’d guess it would take me a year before I can do muscle ups & back lever. And while I want to do this long term, I wouldn’t like to think it would take me another whole year before I can even think of building any muscle. I know gaining weight will make some exercises more difficult but isn’t that the same for everyone that builds muscle with calisthenics?
I’ll go up to 12 reps a set before progressing. Do you recommend adding one rep per set or going for as many as I can do until I hit 12 per set? I got the adding one per set from a website called startbodyweight (sorry if I shouldn’t mention it here).
I’m also a little confused about the way my routine is. You said it looked adequate but then made it sound like I should be working out consecutive days? Also where would I add the weighted exercises?
Since gaining weight is more important for you, don’t worry so much about the progressions. As long as you are comfortable with waiting longer to attain more advanced skills, they will come with consistent training.
I actually do recommend shooting for a rep goal instead of maxing out. If you find it to be too easy, maybe you need a different exercise or different rep/set scheme. Feel free to mention other appropriate sites, as far as I’m concerned.
Oh, I simply meant on a 3 day per week cycle. If you’re hitting everything hard, you should probably do the weighted exercises each once per week. The most important weighted exercises for you are deadlifts and/or squats. The reason I recommend the Jefferson lift is because it is similar to both a squat and a deadlift but feels safe than either. Plus it’s a way to minimize weight use. As a calisthenics athlete, being able to do a heavy Jefferson lift and getting good at pistol squats (even weighted pistols) should ensure that your regular squat and deadlift would be strong, assuming familiarity with the lifts. As for upper body weighted exercises, remember that these are largely supplementary to calisthenics. For this reason, I would typically recommend overhead pressing and/or weighted dips in addition to weighted pull ups. These will let you focus on mechanically simple, easy to track weighted exercises that will ensure that you maintain a certain level of relative strength that will allow you to build muscle and have carry over to your calisthenics. You may want to limit the upper body lifting to one day per week so that you can focus on pure calisthenics upper body exercises the rest of the week. Sprinting isn’t necessary but a great addition *if* you are conditioned for it.
I’ve not replied sooner because work has been mental! I’ve had a think about your last response (thanks by the way).
As I’m wanting to put on muscle mass and with you saying to add a workout with weighted pull ups & dips etc, would it be sensible to make all my workouts like that? I have a vest with 45lbs of weights (as well as weight plates I could put in a backpack).
Maybe stick to 1 or 2 variations of an exercise and work up to 12 reps before adding a little more weight and working back up to 12 from around 6.
Jefferson lifts & sprints for legs. A mix of dips, push ups & overhead press for pushing. And for pulling, weighted pull ups & work though the horizontal pulls progressions unweighted as they lead to front levers (eventually).
I hope I’m not over complicating things!
It’s up to you man, those are all great exercises. Try that out for awhile and see what it does for your size. Weighted pull ups and dips are great, but of course as a proponent of advanced calisthenics I would advise you to do some advanced progressions to increase the difficulty rather than relying solely on adding weight to the basic exercises. But do both, mix it up, see what works best for you. If you haven’t checked it out, you may want to look into Paul Wade’s book C-Mass, it’s all about putting on mass with calisthenics.
Thanks for the advice. I’ll take a look at C Mass as well. One other thing, how often do you personally recommend working it? Different people say different things so I’d like your opinion please. I’ve just started doing 2 days on, 1 off.
It depends on your conditioning. If you can handle and recover adequately doing 2 days on 1 off then go for it.
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