Reason 1: Calisthenics Indorses Leanness, Barbells Promote Bulking
According to the dictionary definition, an aesthetic physique is one that’s pleasing to look at. The condition requires a combination of decent muscle mass and leanness. If you have one without the other, the impact on the spectator suffers.
If you’re in “bear mode”, you have the size, but you also have the big gut and possibly the double chin – features instantly robbing you of attractiveness points. If you are ultra-lean but have no muscle mass, you look like a malnourished cadet.
Bodyweight training encourages people to preserve or acquire leanness. When you lose fat, pull-ups, dips, push-ups and the rest of the calisthenics movements instantly become easier since you’re meeting less resistance. Therefore, calisthenics athletes who are practically amateur gymnasts stay away from bulking to avoid gaining lard.
Conversely, the world of barbells is filled with stories of people reaching scary bodyweights in the name of moving heavier weights. Why? Because heavier men lift larger barbells. Hence why strength standards are categorized by bodyweight.
The relation between one’s bodyweight and the weight on the bar creates a direct incentive for many lifters to remain fat – an instant aesthetic killer.
Reason 2: Positive Mental Reinforcement
What are the most common tips that naturals receive when their barbell numbers stall?
- Eat more (bulking)
- Eat even more (ultra-bulking)
- Switch to a different routine (train harder) while eating a lot more.
The results? Grotesque. Many strength permabulkers increase their body fat levels to unhealthy and unaesthetic percentages (25%+) in order to pick up more weight and reach some arbitrary numbers burdened with the task to make them “real men”.
As a bonus, the promised muscle gains aren’t there either because naturals cannot build a lot of muscle in the first place. Most people who bulk heavily end up fat or skinny-fat despite spending a lot of time in the gym torturing their musculature. The most frequent outcome is natty depression – a condition that deserves a separate post.
Meanwhile, bodyweight brahs enjoy positive reinforcement because their numbers are skyrocketing without painful and pointless force-feeding.
When your pull-ups go from 5 to 20, and your abs begin to show, you smile.
When your bench press is stuck at 195lbs even though you’re gaining weight every week, and your gut calls you fat every time you tie your shoes, you get depressed.
Reason 3: More realistic expectations
Most naturals spend a lot of their “enthusiastic years” contemplating men who are clearly on steroids. As a result, we get conditioned to looks and strength numbers that are practically in another galaxy.
If you go on YouTube, you will see many guys benching 315, 405, 500 and even 600 while showcasing 20-inch arms or more. Some may say that roid-powered accomplishments have no effect on you once you’re “enlightened”, but it’s not true, is it? They affect you subconsciously even when you know the inner mechanisms of the industry.
The first reaction of a natural is to deny the obvious and continue dreaming. You say to yourself – “they may not be natural, but this doesn’t mean that I can’t get close to their numbers.” And then you start the perpetual search for the perfect program. Sadly, none of the training templates get you to the miraculous metamorphosis.
The toxic comments of people who were lifting more than you when they were five years old aren’t helping either. You begin to hate yourself for failing to satisfy the criteria even though the odds were against you right from the start. Therefore, in a sense, barbell training stimulates direct self-hatred.
Of course, the bodyweight world can stimulate an inferiority complex too. Many specimens are doing exceptionally advanced gymnastic skills that require years of dedicated practice and a specific body type. Good luck doing movements like the iron cross when you have the wingspan of a basketball player.
However, the bodyweight basics are more than achievable for naturals and potent enough to produce decent results. Most men could get to 15 pull-ups and 20 dips in a row fairly quickly. Then, you can progress to more advanced movements like the muscle-up and weighted dips and chin-ups.
Another bonus factor is the natural status of many bodyweight trainees. Not all of them are natty but many are. The heavyweight bros who look like bodybuilders are enhanced, but the vast majority of the regular guys aren’t. Hence why you are more likely to meet fellow natty souls among the bodyweight gangs than in the bodybuilding and powerlifting circles.
Reason 4: Upper body focus
Hate it or love it, males are heavily judged by their upper bodies. Developed arms, back, chest and shoulders would do a lot more for your aesthetics than a set of tree-trunk legs. When you add six-pack abs, even if they are not razor-sharp, your levels of aesthetics improve significantly in comparison to the force-fed squat and deadlift specialists who confuse their big guts for “overdeveloped abdominal muscles from pressing too hard against the weightlifting belt”. Sure, brahs.
Calisthenics is upper body specialization and will build up the “second floor” fairly well.
A long time ago, the bar crew the Bar-barians issued the following challenge to become a member:
40 dips, 20 pull-ups, 50 push-ups, 5 muscle-ups in 10 minutes
Finding someone who can complete the above with good form without noticeable upper body development would be difficult. Somewhat ironically, their current requirements are even more ridiculous.
There’s Nothing Wrong with Barbells
Barbells are not inferior to calisthenics. The shortcomings, in this case, come from the corrupt muscle industry and the mentality that the lifting community has been showcasing.
Barbells make programming easier and produce aesthetics bodies too.
Also, you cannot get a truly thick back without lifting weights as no bodyweight exercise hits the spinal erectors sufficiently. Front levers, back bridges, planches…etc. cannot produce the back thickness that comes from weighted back exercises e.g., deadlifts, non-supported barbell rows…etc.
How can I optimize barbell training for aesthetic purposes?
The key factor is to avoid unhealthy bulking for the sake of lifting more weight. If that condition is met, all anti-aesthetic bodies are neutralized for the most part.
You may also have to introduce more upper body volume to your routine because many barbell programs tend to be focused on hip dominant lifts.
Why is bulking so ineffective for naturals?
Bulking as a natural = getting fat. Why? Because the synthesis of protein within the body is limited and cannot be accelerated by overloading yourself with food and supplements. Steroid users, on the other hand, enjoy intensified synthesis of protein. Their ability to build muscle quadruples; the extra food that they consume goes into muscle-building rather than fat storage. Even roiders who don’t lift can build a significant amount of muscle mass (more).