Calisthenics, or bodyweight exercises, has long been considered by many a less effective form of exercise for building muscle and strength compared to traditional weightlifting. However, this common misconception has been challenged by a 2018 clinical trial that challenges the belief that weightlifting is the single most effective way to build muscle and strength, and suggest that calisthenics exercises can be an equally viable alternative. The study compared the effects of progressive calisthenics push-up training to traditional bench press training in moderately trained men, and found no significant differences in the increase of 1 repetition maximum bench press strength between the two groups.
In the study, 23 healthy men were randomly assigned to either a push-up progression group (PUSH) or a bench press group (BENCH). The PUSH group underwent a 6-week program of progressive calisthenics push-up training, starting with easier variations and progressing to more difficult ones, while the BENCH group underwent a similar program of bench press training, starting with a weight that they could lift for only 8 repetitions and increasing the weight as the weeks progressed.
Both groups saw significant increases in their one repetition maximum bench press strength, with no significant differences between groups. The PUSH group also significantly improved their push-up progression level estimation, with a greater improvement than the BENCH group. There were also no significant differences in upper-body muscle thickness or medicine ball throwing distance between the two groups.
In conclusion, this clinical trial challenges the common belief that calisthenics cannot build muscle and strength to the same extent as weight lifting. By answering the research questions, the study showed that progressive push-up training can indeed increase upper-body muscle strength and thickness, and it can be just as effective as traditional weight training. These findings are significant because they provide valuable insights into the potential of calisthenics as a viable alternative to traditional weight training for developing upper-body strength. For athletes in their off-season training or for individuals who do not have access to a variety of training equipment, progressive calisthenics push-up training is a practical option. This study offers hope and encouragement to those looking to enhance their upper-body strength through calisthenics.
Study Title: Effect of Progressive Calisthenic Push-up Training on Muscle Strength and Thickness
Study Link: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29466268