Do Calisthenics Make You Ripped? No, diet makes your ripped.

Most people living the “bodyweight dream” on YouTube are ripped. It’s close to impossible to see a calisthenics master spotting a big fat gut and massive love handles. It’s all about abs, abs, abs. This fact seems to be the reason why many wrongfully assume that bodyweight exercises will help your get lean and defined faster than anything else. They won’t, at least not directly.

The reason why the bodyweight guys are so ripped is that extra body fat does not make you better. Being over 8-10% BF is not beneficial at all as far as bodyweight/gymnastic performance is concerned. Thus, most bar guys are ripped but not as a result of their training. It’s more of a prerequisite. The heavier you are, the more weight you have to pull/push. That’s why the calisthenics/bodyweight/bar guys do not allow themselves to get fat.


image source: tpsdave;


What keeps you lean is your nutrition. Unfortunately or not, training does not burn a lot of calories. A regular workout consisting of 45-60 minutes resistance training does not use more than 300-500 calories depending on how heavy you are. Keep in mind that probably 50% of those calories are needed simply to be alive during that period of time. In other words, thanks to your workout you may create a caloric drop between 150-300 calories. That equals one big apple. You eat one and your effort becomes almost pointless, if your goal was to create a deficit through exercising. It does not matter whether you train with weights, bodyweight or the shake weight.

For the average person six pack abs have nothing to do with a preferred type of training. If your food intake is right, you will have lean abs regardless of anything else. Of course, training your abdominal muscles and musculature as a whole is also needed in order to build some mass and preserve it during dieting.

Many people, such as Hannibal For King, are known for eating junk food and still remaining super lean. By the way, Hannibal is no more than 6-7% BF. He is as lean as you can get without feeling severe consequences. However, it’s to time to think. Just because somebody is saying something, it does not mean it’s true. How do you know that Hannibal is eating junk food only? Are you with him all the time? Do you spy on him to see what he is eating? I hope not.

I can hide what I eat from my family without much trouble. Hiding it from strangers on the Internet happens without even trying.

This leads me to an interesting story that my mother told me a long time ago. One of my mother’s classmates was having extremely good grades. She was good at everything. However, whenever she was asked how she prepares her lessons for school, her response was: “I study from time to time. It’s not much, but I try. I studied for the last exam while watching a movie in the cinema.”

One time, however, the father of that wonder girl, preparing for exams in the cinema, revealed the secret and said that he used to stop the electricity of the apartment in an attempt to make his daughter go to bed. She wasn’t sleeping at all and was reading all the time.

There’s your secret. {As a side note: That girl is now a professor}

This is why I rarely trust people who try to make incredible accomplishment seem easy. That never worked for me, and I don’t think it works for the majority of people either. As I have said before: you can cheat others, but you can’t cheat nature. Therefore, don’t assume there is some kind of a secret that makes us all that different. The path from point A to point B is similar for most people. Not the same, but still similar.


I know how you can add 50 lbs or more to your bench press in 2 months or even less time. Just eat a lot of food and gain 30+ lbs of fat. {haha}

A couple of years ago a relatively popular powerlifter whose name I forgot posted an article based on the idea that you have to “eat your way through a sticking point” as the popular lifter Hugh Cassidy used to do. The author revealed a special diet – you eat one cake a day. It worked for a friend of his.

It’s true that extra water and fat help you lift heavier weights on the barbell. That’s because higher bodyweight equals better levers in the squat and the bench press. There’s a reason why Paul Anderson (American weightlifter and strength legend) remained so fat throughout his entire career while people like Jasper Benincasa (bodyweight specialist) need to be thin and lean.

Bulking, and especially dirty bulking, will not help you as far as gymnastic/bodyweight are concerned. The only thing that helps is gaining muscle at right places which happen to be the arms, shoulder girdle, back and chest. Yeah, yeah! I know that the bodyweight guys say they train their legs, but it’s not really true. Most don’t bother and usually all their leg training is some sort of jumps or stair climbing once a week. I am not saying that’s a crime, but you don’t need big leg muscles to do it, and lower body training is definitely not a priority for the bar crews. If anything, having lean and explosive legs is where it’s at as far as gymnasts are concerned. Thus, bulking is not an option.

With that said, you can lift weights and still remain super lean. Problem is, you won’t be able to lift as much and this frustrates a lot of people. I used to be one of those people. I somehow convinced myself that I will be a powerlifter and got up to almost 200 lbs. (195 lbs.) which for my small frame is a lot. I have very thin ectomorph bones and being 200 lbs is a ton. It would equal 220 lbs for somebody with thick bones.

Anyway, I was able to lift more, but I was feeling horrible. To make the situation even worse, I was able to reach the “strength” levels from my fat state weighing 40 lbs less. I know a lot of people who bulk up way further than that. It’s not unheard of to get to 240 lbs. at 5’9″ just to lift more weight.

Somewhat ironically, in order to be competitive in a weight class you have to outmuscle your competition. Let’s say that we have two people with the same height competing  in the 200 lbs class. One is 25% BF while the other is 8% BF. Who will be stronger? It’s hard to tell for sure, but most of the time the guy with less body fat and MORE muscle wins. It’s a battle between the soft and the hard. The hard wins. In order to be competitive in a weight class you need have as much muscle per inch as possible.

In conclusion

Bodyweight exercises have no magical qualities that will somehow tell your body to burn fat faster. Most people who specialize in that type of training just don’t allow themselves to gain extra fat, and that’s done through dieting.

Anybody who claims that calisthenics will give you the freedom to eat whatever you want most likely does not eat as much as he thinks and/or is just feeding you false information.

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