Does High Reps/Volume Calisthenics Build Muscle And Strength?

Training calisthenics high volume/reps aka. Old school calisthenics is a great way to get a good training session with minimal equipment, but is effective for building muscle and strength? keep reading to find out!

Does high rep/volume training build muscle?

Performing a higher volume of repetitions creates metabolic stress, which is a mechanism of hypertrophy. This stress induces changes at the cellular level, promoting adaptations in the muscle tissue that can lead to muscle growth.

Research has shown that performing sets in the 5-35 rep range taken close to failure is most effective for building muscle (1). However, that doesn’t mean higher rep ranges won’t build muscle.

If you enjoy doing high repetitions/volume training, then you can rest assured this training style definitely can build muscle.

What about strength?

While high reps training does build strength it is more effective at building muscular endurance. For maximal strength gains, incorporating lower rep ranges and higher resistance is most effective (1).

Strength is also specific which means you get stronger at what you train. Therefore if your goal is calisthenics skills, then only training the basics (push ups, pull ups etc.) at high repetitions isn’t effective.

Pros Of Old School Calisthenics (High Volume/repetitions)

High reps/volume calisthenics training has its pros and cons, and the effectiveness of this style can vary based on individual goals and preferences. Here are some pros to consider:

Builds Muscular Endurance: High reps and volume can enhance muscular endurance, allowing you to perform more repetitions of an exercise before fatigue sets in.

Metabolic: High-volume training can contribute to increased calorie expenditure, potentially supporting weight loss or maintenance.

Access and Convenience: Calisthenics often requires minimal equipment, making it accessible and convenient for individuals who prefer or need to train at home or in outdoor spaces.

Cons of Old School Calisthenics

Here are some cons you should consider to using the old school calisthenics style:

Not Ideal for All Goals: High reps/volume calisthenics may not be the most efficient approach for specific goals such as maximal strength, power, or skill development, where other training methods is more effective.

Risk of Overuse Injuries: High-volume training without proper recovery can increase the risk of overuse injuries, such as tendinitis or stress fractures.

Mental Fatigue: The mental aspect of pushing through high-repetition sets can be brutal, potentially leading to mental fatigue or burnout.

Final thoughts

Old school calisthenics involves performing bodyweight exercises at high repetitions/volume, making it appealing to those who prefer workouts without the need for extensive equipment. Ultimately, preferences in training style are highly subjective. The most effective training routine is one that you can stick to.

To continue building strength and muscle with high reps, it’s critical to incorporate progressive overload. This can involve increasing the difficulty of exercises, adding variations, or periodically incorporating phases of higher resistance.

  1. Schoenfeld BJ, Grgic J, Ogborn D, Krieger JW. Strength and Hypertrophy Adaptations Between Low- vs. High-Load Resistance Training: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. J Strength Cond Res. 2017 Dec;31(12):3508-3523. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000002200. PMID: 28834797.


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