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Calisthenics is a magnificent way of getting into the best shape. Anybody can achieve a nice-looking body by just using body weight as resistance. You can exercise anywhere or at home without going to a gym. The body is its gym if you follow basic principles of natural bodyweight mechanics. But then there comes a time when you want to level up the difficulty of a bodyweight exercise. You’ll eventually feel this because you’ve become more robust than when you started. Say that you can do 30 pullups but want to make it harder to perform. So, what do you do? How do you make calisthenics training more difficult? You add weights to your exercises. Wearing weight causes the body to tire out by performing 8 to 12 reps. Thus, it becomes weighted calisthenics.
What is weighted calisthenics?
Weighted calisthenics involves adding weight to your body so you can perform in a more challenging way. Wearing and using handheld weights is excellent for adding variety to the body’s exercises. Wearing a weighted vest allows more tension to perform basic compound or isolation exercises. Movements like the push-up or Nordic curl become more strenuous. Wearing the vest makes it harder to fight gravity, making you only capable of performing fewer reps. Handheld weights can be a barbell, dumbbells, or kettlebells. If you use these tools while standing, they can be great for lower body exercise. Or, it can be great for the core and upper body if used while sitting or lying on a bench.
The whole point of weighted calisthenics is to add more resistance. Enabling the muscles to reach fatigue quicker than body weight. With body weight, you can’t reach hypertrophy in an 8 to 12-rep range. You must perform from 20 to 30 reps to reach hypertrophy. But when you use weights, the body will only do fewer reps because of the extra load. This enables the traditional rep range from 8 to 12 to reach hypertrophy with weights when you do a pushup. The result of using weights is developing explosive power, performing more reps with your body weight, and growing the muscles.
Best-weighted calisthenics equipment
Nothing is more straightforward than going to the basics and performing with weight added to the body. An excellent apparatus for doing weighted calisthenics is wearing a weighted vest. The vest allows better mobility without restricting yourself to staying in one place like a barbell. While wearing the vest, you’ll feel extra resistance performing every upper and lower body movement. Another addition to adding weight to the body without constriction is ankle weights. The ankle weights are excellent for core, upper body, and plyometric exercises. These are my preferences for the best-weighted calisthenics equipment.
Wearing weights vs. Handheld weights
The commonality with the weighted vest and ankle weights is mobility in free open spaces. You can’t move freely in open areas like you would wearing weights. The fluid movements while wearing these apparatuses are much better than your traditional handheld weights. I’m not trying to say handheld weights are wrong. You can perform compound and isolation exercises with handheld weights and get excellent results. My argument is there’s a constriction in how handheld weights won’t allow fluid motion in open spaces to occur. Transitional fluidity to run, jump, and perform different pushing and pulling variations while wearing weights is better. That’s why I prefer the vest and ankle weights instead of handheld weights. Using handheld weights mainly constricts you to one spot to do compound and isolation exercises; there’s nothing wrong with that.
I also know that I require to be stationary to exercise one area of my body. That’s my neck. I have to use the head harness to exercise the posterior side of my neck. The 5-gallon bucket is just a bonus to my weight selection you see in the picture. I use the bucket to make my squats more robust while wearing the weight vest. It generates the required tension my legs need to develop strength and power. I also understand that I can’t increase the weight of these apparatuses like handheld weights. The way I elevate the intensity while using my weights is to increase the reps and add isometrics. Doing this compensate for the loss of not being able to add more weight onto my weight equipment. This makes my weighted calisthenics training more dynamic.
What are the best-weighted calisthenics exercises?
The best exercises are often compound, but isolation also has its place. It’s much more natural and easier to perform compound. You use two joints and multiple muscles to perform compound movements that significantly affect the torso and limbs. Isolation uses only one joint to affect only a single body area. Let me show you great exercises with a weighted vest and ankle weights. If you are a beginner, try out ankle weights between two and five pounds and a twenty-pound vest. The ankle weights are well-suited for vertical pushing, pulling, and core and hip exercises. The vest is a robust apparatus for vertical and horizontal pushing and pulling. You can also benefit from doing core and lower body exercises.
Look at an article on static stretching before engaging in any physical activity. This article is to show you stretches to prevent you from underperforming and avoid tightness in the muscles.
There’s one exception to my preference for using weights in my calisthenics practice besides a vest or ankle weights. That exception is wearing a neck harness with weighted plates and remaining stationary. The neck muscles are often forgotten in calisthenics. We can only exercise the torso and limbs with the weight of our own body to see significant changes. You also can’t get a great workout done with just the weight of the skull. The neck is accustomed to the weight of the entire head. You need extra weight to receive new stimuli on the neck to develop. Doing neck extensions strengthens the back neck muscles and develops good posture. That’s why this is the only exception I accept of myself while remaining stationary with weights.
A pushup can be done vertically or horizontally. These pushing variations will target multiple muscles during the concentric and eccentric movements. The triceps, anterior deltoids, pecs, serratus anterior, and core work together to accomplish this exercise. Remember that full range of motion, angle, and posture is far more critical than quickly doing a bunch of repetitions. Doing fast reps will make you do discombobulated pushups. Why? Because elbows will flare out instead of being lateral to the torso, and the back will arch while performing horizontal pushups. The last issue with fast reps is doing a partial range of motion to finish a set. This isn’t good. The correct way is elbows are lateral to the torso, the back is straight, and performing a full range of motion.
The vertical pushup requires the upper half of the torso to lean forward at a 45-degree angle. The slight change of angle allows for engagement on the pecs, along with the abs and triceps. If you try and perform quick reps, the motion will eventually lead to performing with bad posture. That includes elbows flared out and losing that 45-degree angle by leaning back at a 90-degree angle. It’s far better to do mid-tempo to slow repetitions than fast ones to perform correctly on parallel bars.
The pull-up can be done in a horizontal or vertical motion by targeting multiple muscles on the arms and back. Another benefit to performing the pull-up is using three different types of grips. The pronated, supinated, and neutral grip. Each of these grips slightly benefits the arms differently, but the same results occur for the back muscles. The pronated grip mainly affects the brachioradialis. The supinated grip affects the biceps. The neutral grip affects both muscles. As for the rest of the forearms, it does involve the flexors and extensors, no matter what grip you choose. The back muscles exercised are the posterior deltoids, traps, rotator cuffs, and lats.
To perform the vertical and horizontal pull-ups correctly, you must expand your chest. The slight change in chest position allows for more back engagement when you pull vertically or horizontally. During the horizontal pull, the tugged elbow position allows better engagement on the back when the elbow crosses the rib cage. A wider pronated grip placement allows better engagement for the lats. Crossing the feet over each other and flexing the knees allows a better motion during the pull.
A significant benefit to wearing the vest while performing a situp and back extension is the vest doesn’t constrict. There’s no constriction to performing either of these movements because the vest is relatively small. The vest covers the upper part of the chest and crosses the navel. Extension and flexion of the spine are guaranteed without feeling immobile. A better way to perform these exercises is on an exercise ball. The ball allows far more mobility to flex and extend the spine while wearing the vest. Another option is to hold the vest and lay it on the torso while flexing or extending the spine.
The ankle weights do well for performing these exercises for the lower abdominals and hip flexors. It doesn’t matter which of these exercises you do; the ankle weights will add extra effort to perform. Both knee and leg raise use the same body mechanics to perform hip flexion. The most difficult of the two is leg raises. Extending the knees, the extra weight of the lower leg makes the core exercise harder. The knee raise is much easier because the lower leg’s added weight isn’t present. You can raise your knees a little higher, which allows for greater hip flexion. But the exercise becomes a little challenging when you do isometrics.
To make the workout even more challenging, try and perform an L-sit. This isometric exercise will challenge the hip flexors and abs to stabilize. Of course, if you can’t do an L-sit, do a knee raise hold. This is much easier since the extra weight of the lower leg isn’t present when performing a knee extension.
Exercising the hips requires isolation movements. Isolation means only moving a single joint that affects one area. Three exercises work well: hip flexion, extension, and abduction. The ankle weights accomplish giving the hip muscles extra tension. To perform each of these movements correctly, follow the direction of the muscle fibers. Also, when doing reps, apply an isometric hold at the end of a set. As you gradually do longer holds, progress toward holding even longer. Another element in doing these isolation exercises well is positioning your body correctly.
Stand straight while lifting the leg horizontally aligned with the hips during hip flexion. The quads will be the primary muscle exercised. You must lean forward at a 60-degree angle to engage the glutes well. Then you extend the leg towards the direction of the muscle fiber. During hip abduction, lay your hand on something to keep you balanced. Lift the leg away from the centerline towards a 45-degree angle to engage the gluteus medius, minimus, and tensor fascia lata.
Reverse Back Extension
The movement is the opposite of a regular back extension. The posterior chain is exercised by targeting the hamstrings, glutes, and erector spinae. How is this done? The legs are involved, and you raise the legs by extending the hips while your knees are extended. The upper torso stays in a flat, fixed position, and the hip region is on an exercise ball. Wear ankle weights to add more tension to make this exercise a little more challenging. The last part of making the exercise more challenging is doing isometrics. Hold that position as long as you can when you extend your hips by raising your legs. You will feel your posterior chain getting a great workout done.
Performing bodyweight squats becomes easy once you can do thirty reps in a set. The bodyweight squat is easy because the quads support the upper body’s weight when walking or running. It’s logical to think, “Why not just do more reps past thirty and perform a squat hold.” Sure, that is possible to make the bodyweight squat a lot harder. But wearing a weighted vest makes it more challenging because of the extra load on the quads during a squat. Performing more reps and doing a squat hold while wearing the weighted vest is the best option. Another muscle that contributes to the squad is the glutes. The glutes are responsible for the hip extension when bringing the body back up. The squat is a great compound exercise.
Then there’s the 5-gallon bucket that provides more load and more effort to perform the squat. The max amount of weight the 5-gallon bucket can support is around 45 to 50 pounds. The bucket can be filled with water, sand, or rocks. All you have to do is carry the bottom part of the bucket, place it on the torso, and squat. To make the exercise more difficult, wear a weight vest and lift the bucket at the same time. This is the most challenging way to provide the quads with the necessary tension it needs.
Of all the hamstring exercises, the Nordic curl is the most challenging to execute, especially wearing a weighted vest. This exercise is eccentric, isometric, and concentric, and you must anchor your feet so you won’t fall on your face. The purpose of this exercise is to resist your torso going down to the floor before giving out. The second part of the exercise is bringing the torso up with the hamstrings and performing a reverse hamstring curl. How can this be done? I’ll explain
Eccentric and Isometric
You must slowly elongate and hold to execute this exercise’s eccentric and isometric parts. While elongating the lower half, the upper half needs to perform a hold as the torso’s weight is leaning forward. In a second, the lower half of the muscles start to tighten when you reach your limit. That limit is the angle you can hold before your hamstrings give out. Nordic isometrics is the best hamstring hold for the muscles’ upper and lower half. You will feel the entire muscle activate.
The most challenging part is the reverse curl facing the floor at a 30-degree angle. Every single muscle fiber in your hamstrings must fully contract and bring the torso up. This isn’t easy to do, and it will take time to strengthen and perform. There are tools to support you when doing a reverse hamstring curl. Using the resistance band door anchor and loop resistance bands is your best option. When you lean the body closer to the floor, the resistance band helps to relieve some weight when leaning forward. As you reach closer to the bottom, focus on activating the hamstrings to lift the torso. Keep your back straight and your hips extended.
Another way to make the reverse curl easier is to curl back at a 45-degree angle instead of a 20-degree angle. Use the assisted equipment to help ease the motion. As time passes, you’ll want to incorporate a weighted vest to make it even harder. You’ll make this one of your workout’s most robust weighted calisthenics practices to develop hamstring power.
Like the quads, the calve muscles carry the weight of the upper half of the legs and up. When you can perform one hundred calve raises, you need more tension. To add more load, wear the weighted vest and perform more than a hundred until failure. Another way to make this exercise harder is to do calve raises on stairs. Why? Because the heel of the foot allows you to bring down the heel below the stair line. This allows the calves more range of motion to lift the heels by doing plantar flexion. To perform the movement, you use the balls of your feet to stabilize and press up the calve. The added range of motion is better than the standard calve raise on a straight floor.
Wearing weights during aerobic exercises
Walking, running, and jumping rope with your body weight are sufficient to intensify aerobic exercises. But how do you do this? You do more. That is the answer when you use only your body weight. But is there another way to intensify the workout? Yes, and the way to do that is by wearing weights. Wearing weights adds pressure downward because of gravity, which means the aerobics will be harder to perform. The benefit is this causes soreness on the whole legs, like the quads, hamstrings, and calves. Your heart rate increases more when you extend more time doing aerobics. After a prolonged session with either of the three activities, you feel light when you take off the weights. The effect after doing this for some time, you’ll be able to perform longer sessions with just your body weight.
Walking is a low-level aerobic activity but can be strenuous for longer walks if you’re not wearing the appropriate shoe. My favorite shoe to wear for long walks is the CrossFit shoe. Cross-fit shoes are eclectic to wear for all levels of activity. Wearing athletic shoes is a must when walking long distances because it can cause discomfort on the heel of the feet. Walking long distances is a great start for anyone who wants to start an active lifestyle. Walking for an hour, you’ll burn approximately 100 calories. But it all depends on your three factors, your weight, walking distance, and walking pace. Here’s a calculator to see what you can expect. Another way to transition to a healthier lifestyle by walking is by eating healthy.
Running is more intense than walking for a mile. You’re moving forward with more speed and intensity. Your heart rate increases, and you begin using oxygen to fuel your muscle cells. You also start to sweat to keep the body cool because the body is warming up. When you compare running and walking in terms of which activity burns more calories, running wins. Those reasons I explained at the beginning of this paragraph. To run correctly, you must have a straight spinal column, look straight forward, and keep your hands at waist level. Always keep your hands and shoulders relaxed to avoid tightness because it builds tension and makes you feel heavier.
Jumping rope is a fun aerobics activity that only requires at least $15 to purchase a jump rope. Performing this activity doesn’t require you to move around because you’re stagnant when practicing the fundamentals of jumping rope. When you’re learning new moves, you no longer have to be in one position. You can hop side to side, forward and backward. When I compare jumping rope to running, I say they are both great activities to increase heart rate and burn calories. Many people say jump rope is better, but I disagree. According to my experience, both have benefited me to better my cardio and burn calories. It doesn’t matter what kind of jump rope you use, as long as you understand the fundamentals and practice.
Wearing weights during plyometric exercises
Wearing weights while performing plyometric exercises is also weighted calisthenics. Plyometrics is a form of bodyweight training that enables the muscles to reach maximum explosive contraction. The method involves repeated stretching and contraction of the muscles to increase muscle power. Doing plyometrics with just your body weight is sufficient when performing high volume. But to increase the intensity, wear weights to tire out the muscles by doing quick bursts of movements. As a simple man, I chose six movements that provide adequate explosive moves to focus on fast twitch muscles. Plyometric weighted calisthenics will tire you out much more effectivily.
Push-ups are a fantastic compound exercise to target multiple muscles, but when you apply plyometrics, you get power push-ups. You perform a quick burst of movement by pushing the torso up and clapping before going back down. Doing this will increase your heart rate, and you’ll sweat profoundly.
Pull-ups are incredible because the exercise targets multiple muscles on the back and arms. Applying plyometrics to the pull-ups will make the exercise harder when your heart rate increases. Another factor that will make the muscles tire out quickly is pulling explosively and letting go of the bar. You only let go of the bar for less than a second, and then you grab the bar.
The burpee is a full-body explosive movement targeting multiple muscles, the upper, middle, and lower body. Four motions include the squat, jump, plank, and pushup. To start, perform a squat then jump with a straight body while raising your arms. When you drop your body, you put your hands on the floor with your back, hips, and knees flexed. Then draw out the whole body to be in a plank position. Perform a pushup and flex the hips to position yourself in a squat position and redo the entire process. This is a great plyometric exercise because it will increase heart rate.
A simple, but effective explosive movement to increase the intensity more than a regular squat. The difference is squat jumps will tire you out faster than a regular squat. A repetition of fifteen squat jumps vs. fifty squats is a significant difference. Now imagine doing them wearing weights. The workout will be tiresome.
The exercise is not about how high you can jump, but how far forward can you jump. Doing this requires a lot of forward momentum with explosive power. To do this, squat while extending the arms and then jump forward while flexing the arms to elevate that forward momentum.
Another powerful explosive exercise that’s similar to a long jump, except it’s more about jumping higher. You want to land on the surface of an object by doing a few things. Squat by extending the arms and then jump high while flexing the arms high. Doing this will elevate your ability to jump higher.
Weighted calisthenics is a great training regimen to increase tension for muscles to strengthen and grow. The added load certainly requires more effort, but the results will surprise you when you can do more. After weight training, doing more reps and having shorter rest periods between each set is a plus for bodyweight training. You will strengthen and grow your muscles faster with an extra load and be athletic while wearing weight. Weighted calisthenics is the way to go.
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