It’s being found that if external resistance that increases tension overload is utilized with bodyweight exercises such as elastic bands during push-ups, similar increases in strength can be achieved as resistance exercise
DOES CALISTHENICS BUILD MUSCLE THE SAME AS WEIGHTLIFTING SUMMARY
- Many people often ask do calisthenics build muscle the same as lifting weights.
- Using bodyweight exercises that gradually increase the external resistance can increase muscle growth similar to traditional resistance exercises.
- Volume (Sets X Reps) is a key driver of muscle growth. Since bodyweight exercises use your body weight, in order to increase the volume you would either need to do additional reps or increase sets to keep stimulating muscle growth.
RESEARCH UPDATE: 10/22: RESISTANCE BANDS DO NOT STIMULATE MUSCLE PROTEIN SYNTHESIS IN OLDER MEN
Losing muscle mass with aging is commonly known as sarcopenia. Aging results in “anabolic resistance,” in which the mechanisms for protein synthesis that occurs with resistance exercise are blunted. Sarcopenia, age-related skeletal muscle atrophy, is one of the main causes of physical disability in aged people. Approximately 30% of skeletal muscle mass is lost from 50 to 80 years old. (7)
The loss of muscle mass seems to be most prevalent in the quadriceps of older adults compared to other regions. (8) There are several factors that can contribute to the loss of muscle, such as decreases in anabolic hormones, reduced mTOR signaling in muscle, etc. Traditional heavy resistance exercise can be difficult for older and elderly patients, so alternative low-cost equipment such as elastic resistance exercise bands have been recommended.
Low-load (30% 1RM) resistance exercise taken to muscular failure has been found to produce increases in muscle protein synthesis, similar to heavy-weight resistance exercise(i.e., 90% of a 1RM). (9) Most studies using low-load resistance exercise have been conducted on young adults, and studies in older adults are very limited. Still, in training studies in older adults (three times per week for 12 weeks), light resistance exercise (20% 1RM, 80–100 repetitions, one set) was found to induce muscle growth comparable to heavy-weight resistance exercise (80% 1RM, 10–15 repetitions, two sets).(10)
Researchers measured muscle protein synthesis in younger (24-year-olds) and older (68-years old’s) men at rest and in response to exercise bands. The resistance exercise consisted of 6 sets of 12 repetitions at ~70% of a one-repetition maximum. The researchers found that protein synthesis was similar at rest between the young and older men, but the older men had a blunted protein synthesis response following resistance exercise. Key anabolic signaling pathways (i.e., mTOR. P70S6K, etc.) were only increased after exercise in the younger men.(11) The researchers concluded that older men have an impaired anabolic signaling response following exercise, which may contribute to age-related muscle mass loss.
DOES CALISTHENICS BUILD MUSCLE THE SAME AS WEIGHTLIFTING?
With the recent COVID-19 pandemic, more people are exercising at home. Compared to traditional resistance exercises, bodyweight exercises without progressive overload are inferior for increases in strength. It’s suggested that since body weight is the external resistance, repetitions are the only variable to change. It suggests that bodyweight exercises will eventually fail to provide the necessary tension overload to increase muscle growth.
DOES CALISTHENICS BUILD MUSCLE THE SAME AS WEIGHTLIFTING STUDY
Beginners can increase muscle and strength with bodyweight exercises; however, advanced lifters will need greater stimulation to increase tension. For example, one set of push-ups is probably not going to increase muscle growth due to the low volume, but several sets of push-ups can be effective for muscle growth. Here is an example of how you can provide greater tension with different changes in body position while doing the push-up. Researchers analyzed the effects of different bodyweight push-up positions with changes in training load as a percentage of body mass. The results are:
- Push-up with your hands elevated on a 60cm block, 41% of your body weight
- Push-up on your knees, 49% of your body weight
- Push-up with your hands elevated on a 30 cm block, 55% of your body weight
- Full Push-up, 65% of your body weight,
- Push-up with your feet elevated on a 30 cm block, 70% of body weight
- Push-up with your feet elevated on a 60 cm block, 74% of your body weight.
This is an example of a push-up progression for beginners to gradually increase tension on the muscle based on their body weight.