Mixing Weights With Calisthenics

Mixing Weights With Calisthenics

Here is an email I get often from people seeking to improve calisthenics scores in PT tests. Either they ask to do pull-ups, pushups, dips, etc every day or how to mix them into a weight lifting program. Here is what I recommend:

Hi Stew - I really enjoy weightlifting three times a week. I was wondering if I can do a pullup / pushup workout the day after weightlifting and not overwork myself. Right now I'm at 96 pushups in 2 minutes, but only 13 solid pull-ups. Thanks for the email access.

Your PT scores are pretty good and I would keep up the calisthenics workouts especially if you are seeking employment into the military or law enforcement careers. I have no issues with lifting weights. As a former power lifting football player, I love lifting weights, but calisthenics should also be considered "weight training" as it still provides significant resistance to your bones, joints, muscles.

For instance, if you do a pullup, you are pulling your entire body weight over a bar. Now try to do the same amount of weight on a lat pull-down machine. If you have never tried body weight pull-downs, let me warn you - THEY ARE HEAVY! So consider pull-ups a heavy weight lifting exercise as far as recovery is concerned. Your lats, biceps, grip muscles will require up to 48 hours rest to fully recover.

Pushups - These exercises are a bit different as a pushup is about 50-60% of your body weight placed on your chest, shoulders, and triceps. This is like a 200 lb man doing a bench press with 100-120 lbs. This is not that tough, but if your volume of repetitions is significant (greater than 200-300 reps) in a pushup workout, you will need at least 48 hours to recover from high repetition workouts.

How about dips? Dips are tougher on the shoulders, chest, triceps than pushups as you are placing your full bodyweight on that joint so proper form is recommended. Usually I recommend to not go down where your shoulders are lower than your elbows as it will stress our most versatile joints to potential injury. Once again, recovery is needed after a pt workout that involves parallel bar dips as well.

So if you like to lift weights, add the calisthenics exercises to the end of your workout to fully burn them out OR start off with bodyweight exercises like pull-ups, pushups, dips to warm up prior to lifting weights. Both types of resistance training will pump you up and develop muscle growth, strength, as well as stamina if you use a moderate high repetition workout program.

Don't forget your cardio! Especially if you are seeking a military or law enforcement profession and training for indoctrination / academy programs you will be running - a lot! So build up your running accordingly over a reasonable period of time. Do not just start out one day and hit a 5 mile run out of nowhere. If you are just starting out on running, only add 10% of time and distance per week (starting at 1 mile of running a day) as long as you are not experiencing any pain while or after running. If you are overweight and need to lose 30-40 lbs, consider a non-impact aerobic activity like biking, rowing, swimming, elliptical gliding or just walking as the impact of running heavy can be a burden on your knees, shins, heels, and lower back.

Please feel free to email me if you have questions regarding your fitness. If you have questions about a specific fitness test, please let me know at stew@stewsmith.com - I will be glad to help.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as  a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National  Strength and Conditioning Association. If you are interested in  starting a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle - check out  the Military.com Fitness eBook store and the Stew Smith article archive at Military.com. To contact Stew with your comments and questions, e-mail him at stew@stewsmith.com.

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