High Volume Calisthenics

High Volume Calisthenics

High volume calisthenics is the most popular way to train with your bodyweight.

In fact, it is rare to see bodyweight calisthenics athletes perform low repetition workouts.

So the question then becomes, is high volume training optimal for calisthenics?

Let’s find out.


Why Use High Volume Calisthenics

Bodyweight calisthenics uses high volume training for the simple fact that they don’t add weights.

Simply adding weights to your calisthenics exercises makes building muscle and strength easier. This is because it is easy to accurately measure the amount of stress placed on the muscles.

This constant increased stress on the muscle is called progressive overlaod and is necessary to grow big and strong.

But there are other ways to add progressive overload to a muscle or movement pattern.

But these other ways of progressive overload are not very accurate, except for increasing volume.

Let’s look at the other methods of progressive overload in bodyweight calisthenics and the problems associated with them:

  1. Time Under Tension
  2. Unilateral Training
  3. Changing Leverages (aka Progressive Calisthenics)
  4. High Volume Training
  • Increasing time under tension – Increasing time under tension is inaccurate because it is hard to track whether each rep is being done for the same amount of time or not. This is especially true when using longer tempos, which you will inevitably have to endure to make progress. This makes your workouts much longer.
  • Unilateral training – This form of training also makes workouts much longer, because it increases the number of sets required to work both limbs equally. Also, after the initial adjustment phase, other forms of progressive overload will have to be used anyway. This makes unilateral training unsustainable beyond the initial adjustment phase, unless other forms of progressive overload are added to it.
  • Changing leverages – Changing leverages is one of the other main methods of progressive overload for calisthenics. In fact, this is what is usually called advanced calisthenics, where athletes make the exercise progressively harder to perform. This form of progression is painfully slow and not the fastest way to build muscle and strength. If all exercises take some level of knowledge of the movement to perform, changing the leverages makes the movement different enough to add an additional learning curve to the movement.

Increasing volume is relatively easy, sustainable and accurate to track.  

But, there is one big flaw when it come to this method of training.

Disadvantages Of High Volume Training

High Volume Calisthenics takes a lot of time – By it’s very name, high volume training suggests that it would take more time to execute.

This is because you will have to continuously have to increase the stress on the muscle over time. Thereby increasing either sets or reps. Therefore, increasing the amount of time you spend working out.

It is not uncommon for calisthenics athletes to spend several hours at a time working out. This is not the most optimal way to train.

Everybody has a life outside of the exercising, or so I’d like to think.

Unfortunately these are some of the biggest problems with bodyweight training. In fact these are hidden secrets of bodyweight calisthenics, because none of the athletes talk about them.

High Volume Calisthenics does not make you strong – The definition for training volume is sets times reps time weight.

Training Volume = Sets x Reps x Weight

Now, here’s why high volume calisthenics is great – for weaklings.

High volume by definition means that you cannot lift maximal weights. Think about it, one hand pull ups are an extremely hard exercise to do. This is because the intensity of the exercise is very high. How many one arm pull ups can you do? In fact, how many “reps x sets x bodyweight” of one hand pull ups do you see elite calisthenics athletes do? The answer would be – very few to none. Now on the flip side, how many bodyweight pull ups can these elite calisthenics athletes do? The answer is – A lot!

This is because the body is a lot heavier for one hand to carry than it is when you use both!

Let’s do some math!

For the sake of this article, let’s say you can do 3 sets of 5 reps bodyweight dips at 70 kilos bodyweight. Your total training volume for that session will be 1050 kilos.

But what if you can add another 50 kilos to your bodyweight and perform dips for 3 sets of 5 reps. This brings your total training volume to 1650 kilograms for that training session!

Which stimulus do you think would make you bigger and stronger?  

That is why high volume calisthenics has its limits.

rent forms of progressive overload on top of high volume training just makes a big mess that ends up taking longer to execute in the first place.

That is why adding weight to your calisthenics movements is the most functional and efficient way to work out!


High volume bodyweight calisthenics works well for a while, but the effects quickly fade. It starts to take longer and longer to induce enough overload in the muscle for it to grow.

This takes a lot of time and is an inefficient way of trying to build muscle and strength. This type of high volume training doesn’t end up building strength, unless other forms of progressive overload are brought into the picture.

Adding different forms of progressive overload on top of high volume training just makes a big mess that ends up taking longer to execute in the first place.

That is why adding weight to your calisthenics movements is the most functional and efficient way to work out!

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