Upper Body: Barbells vs. Bodyweight Exercises

image source: Picography;

image source: Picography

Regardless of what the gym owners and mainstream bodybuilding media say, you can reach the genetic potential of many upper body muscles through bodyweight exercises. The extremely well-developed torsos of gymnasts serve as evidence. However, this does not mean that you should become a monkey for the sake of it either. In this post, I will present you a few guidelines to take into consideration when building an upper body routine.

CHEST & TRICEPS

Dips and push-ups have the capacity to produce powerful pectoral muscles.

When the basic versions of the exercises become too easy, the lifter can switch to more advanced variations or add weight with the help of a belt. For example, you can start with regular dips and push-ups, build up to high numbers and then transition to the versions on gymnastic rings.


Note: Before adding weight to your dips, build up to 2 sets of 20 quality reps with just your bodyweight.

BACK & BICEPS

Pull-ups, chin-ups and horizontal rows will build your biceps and back. If you add hyperextensions, your lower back will get strong too. Just like dips and push-ups, you can either progress to harder variations (e.g., front lever) or simply add weight.

What about barbells and dumbbells?

Exercises like the bench press, the row, the deadlift and the overhead press will make your upper body insanely strong. Moreover, those movements are scalable and allow for a very methodical progression because you always know how much you are lifting.

In addition, the spinal erectors will receive a lot more work. There aren’t bodyweight exercises that can match the effect on the spinal erectors produced by barbell pulls. Planks and other movements for the core are fine but not nearly as efficient as a deadlift for example.

Nonetheless, you can build a strong chest, lats and arms without training with barbells and dumbbells.

Are all popular calisthenics legends natural?

Many popular calisthenics masters have/had obvious gynecomastia. One of them is Hannibal For King. You do not get gynecomastia at 35+ years of age when you are 5-8% body fat just like that.

Nonetheless, there are more naturals in the bodyweight community than the bodybuilding sector.

What about legs?

You can build decent legs with sprints, bodyweight squats, pistols, Bulgarian split squats and rope skipping. However, barbell training certainly owns bodyweight drills when it comes to the development of brutal leg strength and hip power.

What should I do?

Instead of worrying what’s “better”, combine both. Having said that, weightlifting is technically more complete and efficient in terms of strength and mass production.

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