How are Calisthenics Athletes so Strong?

Written by the Boostcamp staff
Jul 18,2023 | 10 min read 1396

Strength gains with little to no equipment

Many times, we go to the gym and select a workout program that caters to size and strength. Whether the goal is bodybuilding, powerlifting, or Olympic Weightlifting, a workout program for these will usually include compound movements such as the barbell squat, the bench press, and the deadlift, as well as isolation movements. However, have you ever thought of doing calisthenics to get stronger? 

Let’s take a look at what calisthenics are, who should use them, and the benefits they can bring to your physique.

What are Calisthenics?

Calisthenics are exercises that almost entirely rely on body weight, meaning no barbells, dumbbells, or machines. In terms of equipment, they can include pull-up bars or Roman chairs for bodyweight dips, but again rely mostly on bodyweight. Calisthenics allow for the development of the following areas: 

  • Strength

  • Endurance

  • Flexibility

  • Coordination 

Despite the benefits calisthenics bring to all of those areas, you do not see them utilized in many weight training programs for sports like bodybuilding or powerlifting. Sure, you see the pull-ups, push-ups, and dips appear in these programs, but those athletes rely far more heavily on weighted movements, when in reality, calisthenics can greatly help progression

Calisthenics are also a particularly popular thing, because they are so easy to do anywhere at any time. It does not matter if you are on vacation, or just in an area without a gym, you can still do calisthenics and get a great workout in. 

Another thing worth mentioning is calisthenics athletes are freakishly strong, even though they train far differently than the typical bodybuilders or powerlifters. Calisthenics athletes may still be able to hit those heavy compound movements, or do a lot on the lat pulldown, and we are going to discuss why. 

Why are Calisthenics Athletes so Strong

Alex Bromley, who has programs within the Boostcamp training app, dove into the reasons why calisthenics athletes are so strong. He brings up the example of Hadyn Wiseman, who also is represented on the Boostcamp app and sits at relatively low body fat and body weight, and practices calisthenics, but is also an elite powerlifter. Hadyn used a lot of bodyweight movements that challenge coordination and force you to master your own bodyweight. 

Alex goes on to say that the engagement of physical activity, calisthenics in particular, will tend to be ahead of people who discover sports like powerlifting and weightlifting later in life. The deep engagement of calisthenic movements is deeply beneficial to elite strength and performance sports, so learning those movements and mastering them at a young age will put you ahead of the game later on. He then goes on to emphasize the importance of developing a base when it comes to being an elite athlete, and you cannot just go right into a “narrow” training program.

Another reason that calisthenics athletes are so strong, Alex goes on to say, can partially be from genetics. If you look at Hadyn, he has a smaller frame, and it is easier for him to obtain a high strength to bodyweight ratio. Another example Alex shows is Hadyn’s explosive abilities, which sprout from his engagement in athletics at a young age. 

To summarize Alex Bromley’s take on why calisthenic athletes are so strong, here are some key points: 

  • There is a commitment to being physically great

  • A frame that is developed to accommodate a high strength-to-bodyweight ratio

  • Leverages that allow the athlete to make very good use of his lefts

Benefits of Calisthenics 

Now, when it comes to the benefits that calisthenics bring, there are a few different topics that come to mind. First off, calisthenics typically utilize compound movements, meaning that they work multiple muscle groups at once.This makes it easier for you to get a full-body workout in a short amount of time, making it an efficient and effective form of exercise.

Just about every calisthenics exercise is a functional exercise, which means these exercises resemble real-world movement patterns that you do regularly. Here are some movements that calisthenics are made up of: 

  • Pushing

  • Pulling

  • Squatting

  • Hip hinging

  • Lunging

The functionality of calisthenic movements is another reason that these athletes are so strong when it comes to basic, weighted movements, such as the squat, bench, and deadlift. 

Another benefit of calisthenics, which Alex Bromley covered in the video, is that they force you to stay in shape, body fat wise. You typically do not see a 300 pound man that resembles a grizzly bear doing muscle ups, sure he can probably bench 315 for reps but so can a lot of calisthenics athletes, at a much lower body fat percentage. 

All snarky comments aside, engaging in calisthenics forces you to stay low body fat, which usually means a weaker lifter, but since you are developing more functional strength, you are developing a higher strength-to-bodyweight ratio. 

Who Should do Calisthenics and When Should You Start?

When it comes to who should do calisthenics, there is no sole group that will benefit more than another. Calisthenics help you to better learn and master your own body, which transfers over to your strength in the gym with resistance training.

In terms of when to start calisthenics, there also is no preferred age. In the case of Hadyn Wiseman, he was doing gymnastics-like movements from a very young age and was lightyears ahead of other kids his age physically. Then when it came time to powerlift, Haydn excelled in the sport and became an elite athlete. That being said, and Alex Bromley covered it in his video, there are a lot of benefits to starting calisthenic movements at a young age.

Calisthenics Wrap Up

So, why are calisthenic athletes so strong? You would think that guys who play around on the monkey bars wouldn’t be able to lift much, but it is certainly the opposite. Calisthenics forces a lifter to learn and master their body, and commit to staying fit. They also constantly use functional movements which undoubtedly transfers over to lifts in the gym. 

Boostcamp has plenty of free programs that help with both strength and hypertrophy, be sure to check them out and follow Boostcamp on Instagram and subscribe on YouTube!