Getting Ripped with Calisthenics. Progressive Overload or Volume?

Hi! I am the author and founder of Old School Calisthenics

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It shouldn’t be a mystery anymore whether calisthenics can get you ripped and extremely strong. The world is full of bodyweight athletes who proved you can grow an extremely muscular body. Thus, the only question left is about the pathway. Because I successfully developed a ripped body with calisthenics and packed at least 20 pounds of beef over the past years, I can show you the natural way to exceptional results.

You need a handful of basic exercises and then a monthly plan based on two training methods: one is called progressive overload and the other, high-volume calisthenics. Let’s begin with the exercises!

You need a variety of compound movements that engage more muscle groups at the same time. I provided below a list of my essential exercises:
The List with Essential Calisthenics Exercises

I highlighted in red the exercises of higher intensity that generate a lot more tension in the muscles. They can be part of your progressive overload workout. All the others are excellent for accruing higher volumes.

Progressive Overload Training and Volume

Progressive Overload Calisthenics

What progressive training does is to continuously add tension in the muscles using harder and harder exercises. The only problem with this mechanism is that you can’t endlessly add more tension because the muscles will tire, and your strength will drop significantly. And that affects your total volume much needed to drain the muscles entirely.

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The mighty One-Arm Pull-Up unquestionably stands amongst the hardest strength exercises . I never explicitly trained to achieve this magnificent strength feat and yet unlocked it as a byproduct of my basic bodyweight training. Boosting only one repetition required years of consistent training . I am thrilled with the result. It's proof that my training program works even though gaining a colossal level of strength isn't my general focus. Health and general athleticism is my primary goal, and ever will. I care more about complexity and variety rather than mastering impressive feats . I will continue to work the one-arm pull-ups indirectly, till it becomes smooth and easy . . . . . . . . #onearmpullup #onearmchinup #onearmchinups #onearmchinuptraining #onearmpulluptraining #onearmpullupprogression #strengthtraining #strengthandconditioning #strongman #strong #pullups #heavypull #strengthfeat #calisthenics #streetworkout #pullupsprogression

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If you see my graphic below, you can understand why progressive overload alone is not enough:

The relationship between volume and intensity for muscle and strength growth

Why is Volume So Important in Building Muscles?

Contrary to what people believe, the amount of volume done in a workout is strictly related to hypertrophy. If you desire more gains, then you need to embrace sets and reps! And the only way to accrue more volume once the muscles can’t endure the same tension anymore is to continue with lighter exercises.

It is an effective method that generates extreme muscle soreness. I know that more and more trainers nowadays say you don’t need fatigue, lactate in your muscles, and soreness to stimulate muscle growth. But the experience taught me well, and I’m afraid I have to disagree. I believe that high-volume calisthenics is even more essential than progressive overload to get that burn in the muscles.

Yet, an increased volume can lead to overuse or overtraining. You can avoid it with rest, by following a deload week, with sports massages, or by changing with cardio for a couple of days.

The Training Methods You Can Do

You can either combine progressive overload and high-volume calisthenics in a single workout or split them into separate sessions. If you merge them, then begin progressively. For instance, start with Body Rows and finish with Towel Pull-Ups. Once you can’t do any more reps of the hardest bodyweight variation, continue with lighter exercises like Chinups and Body Rows again. It is an excellent training strategy!

I attached below an entire uncut workout of me doing both progressive overload and high-volume bodyweight. The only difference is that I used external weights instead of bodyweight variations. There isn’t a big difference between the two except it takes less time if you train with added weights and progressively build tension through increasing the external resistance:

Weighted calisthenics represents only a tinny fraction of my training. In general, I do high-volume calisthenics, and when I refer to volume, I can only think of four workout methods:

Pyramid and Ladder WorkoutsPyramid and Ladder Calisthenics Workouts

These two methods are very similar. The pyramided training begins from the highest rep range and systematically decreases. The ladder system starts from a single rep and gradually up (in small steps) to the highest amount of reps and then back down.

They are efficient because the pause is minimum, and the workload is immense. Their purpose is to burn your muscles entirely. I have dozens of workouts like these in my High-Volume Training eBook, so if you have it, just pick several of them and build a monthly plan. For those who don’t have it, click on the banner below. I also added there progressive overload and weighted calisthenics routines.

Circuits and Classic Sets and Reps

If you get creative enough, then you can do a pyramid workout in a circuit style. You build up volume and shift from an exercise to another. Or you can establish fixed rep ranges and move from an exercise to another. Then repeat the same cycle several times. How many reps you should do depends on the fitness level and pause. But for your information, you don’t rest in-between. The break time you have is between the cycles only:Circuit and Circuit-Pyramid Calisthenics Workouts

Another method I enjoy a lot is the classic bodybuilding workout, meaning sets and reps. You can pick, for instance, five pull-up variations and do traditional sets and reps. Add as many sets or reps possible:

Bodybuilding Calisthenics Workout

There is an inverse relationship between sets and reps. If sets go incredibly high, then reps will drop, and vice-versa. Both ways are great!

You can do 100 pull-ups in multiple ways, all of them being great methods: sets of 5, 10, or 15 reps. You can do 100 regular pull-ups or use various grips and split the sets equally. It all depends on you!

To conclude why you need such a broad spectrum of methods is due to monotony, challenge the muscles with new and more intense training, and to make your workouts more enjoyable. Most of my gains came once I started to enjoy training hard. You have to embrace all these consequences of hard work like pain, cloaked ears, lactate, glycemia breakdown, pump, soreness, etc.

All this stuff I talked about matters and compose a big picture, and with time, you will achieve that Greek Body. Below I attached also a video with the same subject:

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