Can Calisthenics Preserve Muscle?

handstand pushup
April 20, 2023 0 Comments

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In this article I will be answering the question “can calisthenics preserve muscle?”. Calisthenics has become a very popular form of exercise and many people prefer it to lifting weights.

You can also incorporate weights into calisthenics for even better results. This is known as weighted calisthenics. This article will explore whether calisthenics can preserve muscle mass. 

You may not be able to lift weights for a certain period of time for whatever reason. By the end of this article you will have a great insight into whether calisthenics can help you avoid losing muscle.

Can Calisthenics Preserve Muscle?

The simple answer is that calisthenics can help you to preserve muscle mass if you are unable to lift weights in the gym. This is providing that you fuel your body with adequate nutrition.

You should also aim to hit the body from different angles with your calisthenics exercises to make exercises harder and provide room for progression. For best results you could do weighted calisthenics.

Weighted calisthenics would enable you to add size and strength in the absence of traditional lifting in the gym. However, you would need access to bands, weighted vests or weights to load the exercises.
handstand pushup

You Can Preserve Muscle With Calisthenics

Calisthenics can help you to preserve your lean muscle mass – there is no doubt about this.

You only have to look at gymnasts and other athletes who practice calisthenics movements regularly to see that they have great physiques.

Making use of apparatus such as rings for calisthenics movements can present new challenges and allow you to provide a new stimulus for muscle growth. 

As with all forms of exercise, you should aim for progression. If you are not doing weighted calisthenics then you should aim to add reps on exercises.

On the push up you can shoot for higher reps over time with your bodyweight and try one arm push ups as well to make the exercise harder.

You can also build in a progression for exercises such as diamond push ups. This exercise is fantastic for the triceps, getting more reps over time on this exercise will undoubtedly add some serious mass to your arms.

For the legs you can try calisthenics movements like the pistol squat and bulgarian split squat. The pistol squat is more advanced and takes some practice. 

The bulgarian split squat is more accessible and is very practical to perform from home. You can build in a progression of shooting for more reps over time on this exercise.

To make the exercise harder you can do the reps in a slow tempo fashion. This will put the muscle under more tension and help to facilitate more muscle growth.

There is a good article from Shape on why everyone should incorporate calisthenics into their workout routine – read the article here

>> Learn how long it will take to do more advanced moves like the front lever

You Will Likely Lose Strength

A word of warning if you are doing calisthenics exercises to replace your gym workouts – you will lose strength on gym exercises!

If you were performing barbell squats, bench presses and deadlifts in the gym and you switch to calisthenics exercises for a period of time, you will lose strength on the aforementioned exercises.

This is due to the specificity of training principle. You can get stronger on specific exercises by doing that exercise regularly and making progress.

If you stop doing an exercise and replace it with a completely different exercise, you will lose strength on that exercise.

It is true that bodyweight bulgarian split squats and pistol squats will help to preserve lean muscle in your legs. However, these exercises cannot compete with a barbell back squat in the gym.

With a barbell back squat you have unlimited loading potential and an exercise that can make you brutally strong. You simply cannot replace an exercise like this with a bodyweight calisthenics movement.
clarence squat

Nutrition Is Very Important

Nutrition is always very important when it comes to fuelling your progress with your workouts. You simply cannot make great progress with your physique and strength without a sound nutrition plan.

The vertical diet is a great bodybuilding diet for gaining size and strength and was developed by Stan Efferding. I have talked about this diet before on my site, you can check it out HERE.

When you are performing calisthenics movements as a replacement for weighted exercises in the gym, your main focus is on preserving lean muscle mass. Nutrition becomes crucially important.

If you are in a caloric deficit and not consuming adequate protein or carbs, you will simply lose lean muscle. You have to ensure that you are fuelling your body with adequate nutrition to support muscle growth.

Red meat is fantastic and beef is a great choice for bodybuilding. Ground beef and rice is very simple to prepare and can form the base of your diet. You should also be sure to include plenty of vegetables as well.

beef and rice

Weighted Calisthenics Is Even Better

If you are unable to train at a proper gym for a period of your time but have access to some weights and bands at home, then you should give weighted calisthenics a try.

Weighted calisthenics will allow you to add more muscle and strength than you have now! You will not need to worry about preserving muscle mass, you can add more lean muscle to your frame.

Exercises like the dip, push up, pull up, pistol squat, bulgarian split squat can be weighted and you can become brutally strong all over. These exercises will also have a lot of carryover to other exercises in the gym.

If you are able to work up to doing reps on the dip with three plates, you will have a jacked upper body and thick meaty triceps. There is simply no doubt about this.

I personally believe that everyone should incorporate some weighted calisthenics movements into their gym workouts as well. In the video below Alex talks about the benefits of weighted calisthenics. 

It is easy to track your progress and make great gains in muscle and strength over a period of time. The good thing about weighted calisthenics is that you can do it from home with basic equipment and some weights or bands. 

You don’t even need to be able to train in a commercial gym to build an impressive physique that you can be proud of!


Final Thoughts

Can calisthenics preserve muscle mass? The answer is that it can when combined with a solid nutrition plan. You should also aim to make progress and can make bodyweight exercises harder by altering angles or using just one limb.

You will very likely lose strength on some gym exercises like the bench press, squat and deadlift. This is because these exercises require consistent training and respond best to specificity.

To make gains in lean muscle and strength you should consider weighted calisthenics as a replacement for your gym workouts. Minimal equipment is required but you would need a dipping belt and a way of adding load to exercises.

If you have any comments on this topic please leave them below. As always, stay safe and enjoy your training!

>> Is The Bar Brothers Workout Good? Find Out Here!

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