Below is the last Aleks Salkin's article I read on his Facebook wall:
"Do high-rep calisthenics have any value for strength?
There’s an “issue” in the world of calisthenics training that I think needs to be addressed. It’s more like a big question, you might say.
“Do high reps have any value for strength building?”
The short answer is “Yes” and here’s why.
First, a little background.
During a conversation I had with Mark, a highly experienced personal trainer and colleague of mine who is preparing to go through the StrongFirst bodyweight cert (for which the strength test is a one-arm/one-leg pushup done to appropriate depth), he noted the following after a meeting with a certified instructor:
“My own observations…high volume, high density calisthenics do not translate well to high tension bodyweight strength work”
(if you’re not familiar with the terms, volume = number of reps, and density = amount of rest. High volume = high number of reps, High density = low rest)
And he has a point. A very good point, in fact. If you’re hoping there’s some magical number of pushups you can do in a row – like, say, 100 – that will immediately transfer into a one-arm pushup, you’re sorely mistaken.
You’re also sorely mistaken if you write off high-rep calisthenics work entirely.
My response to Mark (which he agreed with, because I am cool and awesome) was the following:
“As regards high volume, high density work, you’re right: there’s not a direct carryover, but there are other benefits, like:
1) Stress-proofing the most basic and essential bodyweight moves
2) Connective tissue strength (which often gets overlooked and undertrained, but is very well trained with high rep bodyweight moves over a prolonged period of time)
(Side note: connective tissue strength will contribute more to your long-term strength gains than just about anything else. Jasper Benincasa – one of the greatest calisthenics masters of all time – did his final one-arm chinup at age 89 and died a week later (presumably not because of the pullup, lol) and credited his tendon strength for his life-long ability to do one-arm pullups)
3) It builds more muscle, which you can later put to good use when you innervate it with high tension work (a commonly accepted finding of science and experience is that more muscle = more strength potential)
4) Better work capacity and faster recovery – so you’re not “training on the nerve” (i.e. edging closer and closer to burning out and overtraining)
What’s more, the amount of skill you build in patterning a given movement pattern with high reps – be it squatting, lunging, pullups, or pushups – goes a LONG way when you do decide to add weight.
Strength coach extraordinaire Dan John has observed that high school wrestlers – who do countless sets of high-rep pushups – tend to hit 400 lb bench presses relatively easily once they take up weight training.
Even if you’re not obsessed with the bench press, you’ve gotta admit that’s pretty cool.
If high-rep pushups can do THAT for a bench press, just imagine what they might do for your military press. Now imagine what a one-arm pushup can do for your military press!
I can speak from experience and the experience of those I’ve trained/consulted with that one of the best, damn-near fool proof ways of smashing a military press plateau is to improve your one-arm pushup strength.
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