Calisthenics vs Deadlift

ancientstrength

Level 1 Valued Member
Ever since reading the book "Building the Gymnastic Body" I was amazed at the claims by the author. The book was written by a gymnastics coach by the name of Christopher Sommer. He stated that one of his students deadlifted 181kg/400lbs on his first attempt. The most impressive thing is that the student weighed 61kg/135lbs so he almost did a triple bodyweight deadlift. Christopher Sommer also mentions that the first time he tried a deadlift he could do double his bodyweight.

This made me really curious so I decided to see how much I could deadlift. To put things into context I am an intermediate Calisthenics Athlete and I never lift weights or do weighted Calisthenics. I can do 15 pull ups, 50 push ups, 10 ring dips and I can do skills such as the ring muscle up, pistol squat and advanced tuck front lever. My bodyweight is currently 69kg/152lbs.

I started off with a 60kg deadlift which felt very easy and then kept increasing the weight until I couldn’t lift anymore. On my fourth attempt I was able to pull 140kg/308lbs which is double my bodyweight. For someone who only does Calisthenics I find this very intriguing. I uploaded a video of my deadlift here:
Do you guys think this is impressive for a first-time deadlift? I would be curious to see what an advanced Calisthenics Athlete could deadlift on there first time.
 

Chrisdavisjr

Level 7 Valued Member
I reckon that 150kg would have moved if you spent some more time setting up and getting tight at the bottom position and were perhaps a little less fatigued from previous attempts. The 140kg was definitely harder than it needed to be but it's a good lift in my book!

It makes sense to me that an individual with significant practice in generating and maintaining rigidity throughout the midsection would have an advantage when it comes to the deadlift, particularly in a hip/back dominant style.

Kind of infuriating to see as someone of a similar bodyweight who trains the Olympic lifts and has only been able to deadlift 140kg once but that's entirely my problem. Nice job!
 

Nasser M

Level 4 Valued Member
Ever since reading the book "Building the Gymnastic Body" I was amazed at the claims by the author. The book was written by a gymnastics coach by the name of Christopher Sommer. He stated that one of his students deadlifted 181kg/400lbs on his first attempt. The most impressive thing is that the student weighed 61kg/135lbs so he almost did a triple bodyweight deadlift. Christopher Sommer also mentions that the first time he tried a deadlift he could do double his bodyweight.

This made me really curious so I decided to see how much I could deadlift. To put things into context I am an intermediate Calisthenics Athlete and I never lift weights or do weighted Calisthenics. I can do 15 pull ups, 50 push ups, 10 ring dips and I can do skills such as the ring muscle up, pistol squat and advanced tuck front lever. My bodyweight is currently 69kg/152lbs.

I started off with a 60kg deadlift which felt very easy and then kept increasing the weight until I couldn’t lift anymore. On my fourth attempt I was able to pull 140kg/308lbs which is double my bodyweight. For someone who only does Calisthenics I find this very intriguing. I uploaded a video of my deadlift here:
Do you guys think this is impressive for a first-time deadlift? I would be curious to see what an advanced Calisthenics Athlete could deadlift on there first time.
Thanks for sharing and creating a motivation. Calisthenics is fun and from what I have seen, it can transfer to some barbell Movements.

what program / workout you follow?
 

pet'

Level 8 Valued Member
Hello,

Yes this is a great feat of strength, especially if you never lift.

As wisely underlined by @Chrisdavisjr gymnasts usually have an extremely strong core and grip. They are able to generate a lot of tension to maintain a straight postion. Performing levers will work on hips and spine erectors. Pulls and pushes will strengthen upper torso. There are different leg moves such as pistols , airborne squats or single leg hip thrusts which will build quads and hamstrings, while working on hips as well.

Kind regards,

Pet'
 

Steve Freides

Staff
Senior Certified Instructor
Elite Certified Instructor
Ever since reading the book "Building the Gymnastic Body" I was amazed at the claims by the author. The book was written by a gymnastics coach by the name of Christopher Sommer. He stated that one of his students deadlifted 181kg/400lbs on his first attempt. The most impressive thing is that the student weighed 61kg/135lbs so he almost did a triple bodyweight deadlift. Christopher Sommer also mentions that the first time he tried a deadlift he could do double his bodyweight.
I don't think anyone who thinks about this, as @pet' has and has explained, would find this surprising. The point that must also be mentioned in these discussions is that it's much simpler to progress using weights - the management of leverages in gymnastics makes progressing trickier and quite a few folks get lost along the way.

-S-
 

xagunos

Level 6 Valued Member
I know Pavel mentioned in the JRE podcast how BW training doesn't sufficiently train the spinal erectors and I completely agree. No amount of BW reverse hypers etc. are going to equate to heavy pulls from the floor.

With that said, I have seen countless videos and read of gymnasts and calisthenic athletes first time deadlifting impressive weights.

"If one cannot manipulate one's own body in space one should not be concerned with manipulating other objects yet. Most bang for one's buck if general movement is what you go after." Ido Portal
 

the hansenator

Level 6 Valued Member
"If one cannot manipulate one's own body in space one should not be concerned with manipulating other objects yet. Most bang for one's buck if general movement is what you go after." Ido Portal
I've seen this argument before but it was never clear to me what they consider sufficient manipulating of one's own body. In my mind, if you can squat and lunge, do a few pushups, climb a ladder there's no reason you shouldn't manipulate other objects.
 

Steve Freides

Staff
Senior Certified Instructor
Elite Certified Instructor
IMO, the "most bang for one's buck" is the kettlebell swing.

"If one cannot manipulate one's own body in space one should not be concerned with manipulating other objects yet.

That's an oversimplification. There are movements of one's own body that are easy and others that require a great deal of strength. One of the great things about _not_ relying only on bodyweight lies in being able to adjust the difficulty level of precisely the same movement pattern.

-S-
 

xagunos

Level 6 Valued Member
I've seen this argument before but it was never clear to me what they consider sufficient manipulating of one's own body. In my mind, if you can squat and lunge, do a few pushups, climb a ladder there's no reason you shouldn't manipulate other objects.
I think is one is able to dip, chin and single-leg squat their bodyweight for 5 reps, that is sufficient. But that's purely opinion.
 

xagunos

Level 6 Valued Member
IMO, the "most bang for one's buck" is the kettlebell swing.



That's an oversimplification. There are movements of one's own body that are easy and others that require a great deal of strength. One of the great things about _not_ relying only on bodyweight lies in being able to adjust the difficulty level of precisely the same movement pattern.

-S-
For one single exercise, I would argue the deadlift. For one single training modality, I would argue bodyweight training.

Progressive overload is definitely more precise than bodyweight training however in terms of building a foundation, I feel pretty much every and anyone should be able to perform controlled reps of basics like push-ups, pull-ups, dips, pistols, full range split squats etc. These exercises were the original "Am I a fat bastard? Test"
 

Steve Freides

Staff
Senior Certified Instructor
Elite Certified Instructor
I don't know - and don't especially care - about the test you mention, but a number of things on your list are well beyond the abilities of most people.

-S-
 

bluejeff

Level 6 Valued Member
I know Pavel mentioned in the JRE podcast how BW training doesn't sufficiently train the spinal erectors and I completely agree. No amount of BW reverse hypers etc. are going to equate to heavy pulls from the floor.

With that said, I have seen countless videos and read of gymnasts and calisthenic athletes first time deadlifting impressive weights.

"If one cannot manipulate one's own body in space one should not be concerned with manipulating other objects yet. Most bang for one's buck if general movement is what you go after." Ido Portal
I think the issue with body weight training and hinge patterns is that there’s just nothing that loads the body the same way as the deadlift. You can, however, get really strong legs and glutes from body weight leg work. You can develop crazy lat/ back strength from front lever work, and you can develop awesome back tension and core tightness from planche (bent OR straight arm) work. So I think it’s reasonable to say that you can work all the requisite parts for a deadlift, but just not really all at once.

I agree with others here about Ido’s statement. As much as I like some of his thoughts about movement and training in general, an equal ability to move oneself AND external objects seem optimal. And what constitutes a “good baseline “ of body weight strength is indeed a huge grey area.
$0.02

Either way, it’s cool to see calisthenics carry over like that.
 

pet'

Level 8 Valued Member
Hello,

In this video, Aleks Salkins, who seems to mainly train with bdw, offers a great legs and hip routine, with only calisthenics:
In other videos we see him performing dragon flags, crawling, OAP, etc...

The link with the DL motion is that we can see him swing the Beast quite easily.

Kind regards,

Pet'
 

xagunos

Level 6 Valued Member
I think the issue with body weight training and hinge patterns is that there’s just nothing that loads the body the same way as the deadlift. You can, however, get really strong legs and glutes from body weight leg work. You can develop crazy lat/ back strength from front lever work, and you can develop awesome back tension and core tightness from planche (bent OR straight arm) work. So I think it’s reasonable to say that you can work all the requisite parts for a deadlift, but just not really all at once.

I agree with others here about Ido’s statement. As much as I like some of his thoughts about movement and training in general, an equal ability to move oneself AND external objects seem optimal. And what constitutes a “good baseline “ of body weight strength is indeed a huge grey area.
$0.02

Either way, it’s cool to see calisthenics carry over like that.
Both methods are indeed optimal but if you were to directly compare one modality to another, I still think bodyweight training is the most bang for buck.
 

Chrisdavisjr

Level 7 Valued Member
I still think bodyweight training is the most bang for buck.
If you're talking about actual dollars then I'd be inclined to agree, as it costs nothing to do push-ups.

If you're light and skinny like me, you can do one armed-push ups and pistols until you're blue in the face (about 8-10 reps of each usually gets me to a pinkish hue) but you'll not gain any considerable strength, at least when it comes to moving things other than your own body.

I really like bodyweight exercises and I've devoted a lot of time to them, I just wish I'd started training with kettlebells/barbells sooner.
 

xagunos

Level 6 Valued Member
If you're talking about actual dollars then I'd be inclined to agree, as it costs nothing to do push-ups.

If you're light and skinny like me, you can do one armed-push ups and pistols until you're blue in the face (about 8-10 reps of each usually gets me to a pinkish hue) but you'll not gain any considerable strength, at least when it comes to moving things other than your own body.

I really like bodyweight exercises and I've devoted a lot of time to them, I just wish I'd started training with kettlebells/barbells sooner.
Two people:
Person A can perform a quality straddle planche push-up.
Person B can bench double bodyweight.

Person A would likely be able to bench 1.5-1.75xBW his first time.
Person B would likely not be able to even hold a basic tuck planche let alone do any form of a planche push-up.

Although BW training is not quite the same as pure gymnastics, it's why they say gymnasts can do your sport almost as good as you if not better on some occasions, but you cannot do gymnastics at all.
 
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the hansenator

Level 6 Valued Member
Two people:
Person A can perform a quality straddle planche push-up.
Person B can bench double bodyweight.

Person A would likely be able to bench 1.5-1.75xBW his first time.
Person B would likely not be able to even hold a basic tuck planche let alone do any form of a push-up.

Although BW training is not quite the same as pure gymnastics, it's why they say gymnasts can do your sport almost as good as you if not better on some occasions, but you cannot do gymnastics at all.
But, closer to my own concerns: Which one would be less tired after shoveling snow for an hour, or carrying heavy objects or after a long hilly hike with a backpack?
 

xagunos

Level 6 Valued Member
But, closer to my own concerns: Which one would be less tired after shoveling snow for an hour, or carrying heavy objects or after a long hilly hike with a backpack?
In terms of fatigue, I have always found BW strength work less taxing on the CNS than weight training. I am not quite sure why but they are much easier to grease the groove more frequently without feeling thrashed like you may have a hard lifting session.
 

pet'

Level 8 Valued Member
Hello,

George St Pierre, who remains one of the best MMA fighter also claims that gymnasts are among the best athletes on average, due to the carryover their sport has.

Nonetheless, gymnastics learning process is relatively long.

As far as calisthenics and DL are concerned, I have noticed that since I do trail running (with a lot of hills) and hill sprints, swinging 32 or 40 is way easier now. It is even easier than when I was doing Simple.

So I think that if one wants an 'acceptable' DL (roughly 2bdw) then cals are a suitable option: hill sprints (or moves that support it such as burpees, pistols, shrimp squats) and a proper core routine. Beyond this 'threshold' it may require specific training

Kind regards,

Pet'
 

Antti

Level 9 Valued Member
Two people:
Person A can perform a quality straddle planche push-up.
Person B can bench double bodyweight.

Person A would likely be able to bench 1.5-1.75xBW his first time.
Person B would likely not be able to even hold a basic tuck planche let alone do any form of a push-up.

Although BW training is not quite the same as pure gymnastics, it's why they say gymnasts can do your sport almost as good as you if not better on some occasions, but you cannot do gymnastics at all.

How do you think bodyweight plays into this?

From what I've seen, most gymnasts are very lean with little lower body mass. Very different body composition compared to the tyoiybench presser. I'd even argue that the gymnasts are overall smaller in general.
 
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