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Has anyone put on mass from bodyweight exercises alone?


Brett
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I'm trying to put on some weight/mass. I'm a muay thai kickboxer and my primary methods of training are calisthenics and cardio. I'm in great shape but would like to be bigger.

 

I recently read Convict Conditioning. Really great book on bodyweight exercises.

 

Has anyone on here put on significant mass though from calisthenics alone? I would just like to hear from experience. I just started increasing my calorie and protein intake and eating more frequently, but I'm wondering if I should just start lifting weights again for a little while.

 

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My upper body routine consists of only bodyweight exercises, for example weighted dips & pull ups. I also do a lot of work on gymnastics rings - very demanding in my experience & I've defintely gotten bigger & stronger doing it.

 

I'm currently working my way towards achieving an 'iron cross' on the rings. Like all static gymnastic moves it may look simple but it's incredibly difficult.

 

Having said all that though, at the end of the day no routine will add bulk if you're not eating enough. Personally I'm not trying to add mass because it'll make cross exercises even harder!

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Bodyweight stuff can be good for a bit of mass, but unless you keep getting heavier at a weight proportionate to your progress to keep up the challenge, it can only go so far

 

For example, nobody is going to gain much of anything for mass when they're eventually able to crank out 100 push-ups in a set. Once you get past a certain point, you'll be improving conditioning and muscular endurance, but 100 push-ups does NOT translate to being able to bench double or triple bodyweight, so the true max strength gains and appropriate size gains will be slow after a point unless you add more resistance. And honestly, what's any more "pure" about doing push-ups with weight on your back than it is doing a bench press, for example?

 

But again, this all depends on what you really want out of training. Bodyweight stuff CAN be extremely challenging for the more unique things (like muscle-ups on rings, ring dips, iron crosses, etc.) but for the everyday stuff for general back, chest, leg, shoulder and arm stuff, they'll have limitations unless you improvise, and that can't be done without making it a "more than bodyweight" program in the end. And, like James said, without enough food, mass just won't happen no matter how great the program!

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Yes, that's right, but this program (in convict conditioning at least) is based on building mass. He sets it up based on progression. Once you get to consistently doing 50 pushups, you start working towards one handed pushups, one handed pullups, handstand pushups (one handed handstand pushups!), back bridges, one legged squats, hanging leg raises, etc. It's kind of fascinating because he claims that in prison it was all he had access to.

 

I haven't had much results yet cos I'm still building strength for just the basics.

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I hear ya. I need to get some rings!

Rings are a great addition to bodyweight training.

muscle ups

dips

push-ups

pull/chin-ups

flys

tricep extensions (basically doing a skull crusher but your facing the ground)

rows/ one arm rows

 

You can make pretty good progression with all bodyweight stuff with out having to add a vest or weighted back pack. But, like some posted earlier, you need to eat more to gain mass. It also depends on how much cardio your doing. If you are running a couple miles a few times a week, that is going to make it that much harder to gain weight. Do you do any type of cardio or conditioning?

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Once you get to consistently doing 50 pushups, you start working towards one handed pushups

 

The one problem being, the translation from high-rep push-ups to a one-handed push-up can be a BIG leap for most people, and that's where a lot of frustration may set in. The lighter you are, the easier it will be, but even though I can knock out about 40 push-ups in a set, there's no way in hell I can do it 1-handed without a TON of assistance from the other arm. Then again, I weigh 230, so someone weighing 170 lbs. or less may have much better luck.

 

one handed pullups

 

Don't want to rain on anyone's parade, but the lineup of people who can do a even a single 1-arm pull-up is very, very short unless you're a gymnast with exceptional upper body strength from years of training or have an incredible strength to bodyweight ratio in place from the start. If you want to know how hard it is, try a 2-handed pull-up with your bodyweight strapped on to you (or, someone your size hanging from your back), then think of it being the same, BUT, just with one arm . My dream has always been to do one, I move about 2" before it's over with (even being able to 1-arm dumbbell row just under bodyweight for a few reps doesn't carry over on it for me). I've seen training logs of people who are champs at weighted pull-ups who spend years working to try single-arm style and never make it happen. Just wanted to note that the 1-arm chin or pull-up is a VERY lofty goal that most won't achieve, but definitely something to aim for.

 

handstand pushups (one handed handstand pushups!)

 

Again, problem being the issue of progression is the challenge. To do handstand push-ups from the get-go, you have to already have some excellent strength in the shoulders and triceps to where you can at least come close to doing a barbell overhead press with bodyweight. You CAN cheat it a bit by being out further from the wall to increase incline a bit and incorporate more chest work (making it easier), but getting to where most people can do even a few handstand push-ups is the tough spot. Unless, of course, you have a spotter to help you de-load some of your bodyweight until you develop the strength to do it unassisted.

 

one legged squats

 

See issue with push-ups again, same case in this one

 

It's kind of fascinating because he claims that in prison it was all he had access to.

 

No doubt about it, some people in prison maintain great physiques via bodyweight stuff if they don't have a yard for weight training. BUT, many of them were anything but small guys when they got there, so always take claims with a grain of salt. After all, Combat Conditioning DOES cost money and needs a gimmick to stand out!

 

Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to knock bodyweight stuff hard here. It's convenient, can be done almost anywhere, and can give great results dependant on goals. The two caveats I'm trying to point out are that sometimes, it's just not feasible to make the jump from one thing to the next (such as high-rep push-ups to a single-arm one) and that there will be limitations to what you can get out of it for mass gains vs. training with barbells and dumbbells.

 

I wish nothing but the best of success with the program - I'd love to hear that it works out well for you, so keep us posted how it goes!

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Although I'm a real fan of bodyweight stuff I agree with the thrust of what VeganEssentials is saying. When I talk about getting bigger doing bodyweight exercises I'm not referring to endless push ups, but rather, to take the example of 'push' work, dips with over 50% of your own bodyweight added via plates dangling on a belt; there's a world of difference. Personally I suck at push ups, I can barely do more than some folk I know who don't really train at all, but I can do a dip with my own bodyweight added, so clearly there's no direct correlation between the two.

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Would anyone happen to have any more info about bodyweight training or the convict conditioning program?

This is a great book on bodyweight only training

http://www.rosstraining.com/nevergymless.html

Ross goes over all types of bodyweight exercises and workouts. He said he wrote the book originally when his wife had a baby and he needed a workout program that would be quite. Definitly one of his best books.

Here are some other links:

http://thebodyweightfiles.blogspot.com/

http://bar-barians.forumotions.com/

http://www.bodyweightculture.com/

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I have been using Mark Lauren's "You Are Your Own Gym".

 

He is a former Navy Seal trainer, and the book is entirely bodyweight conditioning. He presents four 10 week programs that grow progressively harder: beginner, intermediate, advanced, and elite. He weighs close to 200 punds, and is pretty muscular.

 

I am in the advanced 10 week cycle, and have put 2 inches on my chest, and 2 inches on my arms, an inch on my calves, about a half inch on my thighs and neck, and my waist has stayed about the same (I would like to lose a little there). I have gained 15 pounds overall. I eat 6 to 7 vegetarian (mostly vegan) meals a day, consuming at least 1 gram of protein for every pound of desired weight, and once a day, I use a vegan meal replacement packed with protein, fiber, and the recommended daily value for vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

 

I'm still on the small side (150 pounds at 5'6"). I was always a "hard gainer". But I have seen better results on this program then anything else I have tried. I think bodyweight exercises, like 1-armed push-ups, work more muscles than some forms of weight lifting that often isolate specific muscles. The first time I actually successfully did more than one 1-armed push-up, my obliques were sore for two days, as well as my chest and triceps.

 

When I first started this work-out program, I thought a 1-handed push-up and a 1-legged squat was literally impossible for me, or would take years and years to work into.

 

But I stuck with the program anyway. And 27 weeks later, I am cranking out about 10 of each (1-armed push-ups on each hand, and 1-legged squats on each leg) before hitting failure. And I know how to make these exercises harder when they get too easy - for example, elevate the feet for the push-ups, and stand on a pillow for the 1-legged squats.

 

It simply is not true that you cannot make bodyweight exercises harder when you find it easy to hit high reps doing it the way you were always doing it before. Mark Lauren explains that when a body-weight exercise seems too easy, you can always do it with one limb, or change your leverage, or your stability to make it harder.

 

Move from push-ups to one-armed push-ups against the wall, and then one-armed push ups with the hands elevated on a chair, then one-armed push ups on the floor (which is as far as I have gotten). Mark would have you move next to one-armed push-ups with the feet elevated on a chair (elite course).

 

I imagine that beyond his elite course, you'd eventually do one-armed hand-stand push-ups, then one-armed hand-stand push-ups with the hand on a ball, etc....(you get the idea). By the time you can crank out 50 or 100 one-armed hand-stand push-ups with the hand on a ball, I think you'd have already seen some results in your body!!!!

 

Oh. And if you add some power/ashtanga yoga on your rest days, and get some cardio a few times a week, eat right and sleep right, I don't see how you can't see some results.

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  • 2 months later...

I'm at the interval stes. It says 3 minute intervals. So 3 minutes for one set? The first set goes to muscle failure and than rest until the 3 minute ends? Than start a new set?

And it says at the interval sets to do 6-12 reps and 3 sets. But sometimes that 3×12 is not that hard. Or should I do all stes to failure?

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  • 4 weeks later...

This chap, LittleBeastM, is very strong and does some very impressive things. He uses bodyweight-type exercises but adds extra weight for some of them.

 

 

LittleBeastM Sharpening The sword' Raw Strength'

 

Then he is seen doing some triceps exercises on

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1MRwdZLZ_fg

 

Easy But Very Effective Tricep Routine (Megasuperset!!)

 

Does anyone know how he can do so many reps without rest but still build such impressive strength? I would have to join youtube to ask him. I also wonder how often he trains like that. I doubt if it's every day.

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  • 1 month later...

I used to do dips between two chairs. I put 3 yellow pages on each to increase the height. It meant I had to keep my legs bent all the time with my knees near my waist but it allowed me to do dips. I used to place my hands on top of the books, but press up handles on top of the books would have given a better hand position.

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This chap, LittleBeastM, is very strong and does some very impressive things. He uses bodyweight-type exercises but adds extra weight for some of them.

 

 

LittleBeastM Sharpening The sword' Raw Strength'

 

Then he is seen doing some triceps exercises on

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1MRwdZLZ_fg

 

Easy But Very Effective Tricep Routine (Megasuperset!!)

 

Does anyone know how he can do so many reps without rest but still build such impressive strength? I would have to join youtube to ask him. I also wonder how often he trains like that. I doubt if it's every day.

He posts a lot over here http://bar-barians.forumotions.com/

Lots of bodyweight stuff, mainly pull-ups, muscle ups and dips though

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