Weighted Calisthenics- Ankle Weights, Weight Vests And Weight Belts


MAY, 2021

What Is Weighted Calisthenics?

Weighted calisthenics is a bodyweight training style that incorporates additional weight, typically in the form of weighted vests, to increase exercise difficulty. 

Weighted calisthenics incorporates pull ups, push ups, dips and other compound bodyweight exercises. It allows for athletes that prefer to perform bodyweight exercises to make the exercises sufficiently difficult to continue to progress.

The focus of weighted calisthenics is on compound upper body exercises, however elite athletes sometimes extend this to static holds such as planche and front lever as well. 

weighted vest

Weighted Vest Highlights

  • Up to 20Kg of added weight
  • Weight is well distributed
  • Removable blocks allow for easy adjustments in weight
  • Can be used for both lower body and upper body exercises

Does Weighted Calisthenics Build Muscle?

Calisthenics builds lean, ripped athletes. To build muscle (hypertrophy) you need to be in the range of 8-12 reps per set at your limit. Weighted calisthenics can keep you in this range by making exercises harder.

Weighted calisthenics results in greater muscle mass than regular calisthenics, and is recommended for both strength and size gains. It’s a way to bulk and produce a bigger physique, while still focusing on calisthenics exercises! 

Weightlifting Vs Weighted Calisthenics

Weighted calisthenics brings calisthenics closer to weight lifting. In essence, the body is loaded in both types of training, working roughly the same major muscle groups. The major difference is the types of exercises.

Typically calisthenics exercises have fewer points of contact and engage postural muscles to a greater degree. What the smith machine is to bench press, bench press is to weighted calisthenics.

Although there is less stability and you will struggle to lift nearly as much weight, weighted calisthenics is a more well rounded way of incorporating extra weight into training, and will result in greater functional strength improvements.

weighted belt

Weighted Belt Highlights

  • Lightweight and easy to travel with
  • Can be used with weight plates and kettlebells for unlimited added weight 
  • Great for pull ups and dips
  • Easy clip-on mechanism

How To Start Weighted Calisthenics

Weighted calisthenics should only be done by advanced calisthenics athletes that already have a good foundation in pull ups, push ups and dips. A rough prerequisite guide would be to be able to do at least 15 pull ups, 50 push ups and 15 dips – all with perfect form.

Next you will need some weights. Weights for weighted calisthenics come in several different forms, and are usually chosen based on the exercise. Some common options include:


Kettlebell Highlights

  • Great in combination with a weight belt
  • Can add significant weight to pull up and dip exercises
  • Great as standalone tool for strength training

1. Ankle Weights:


Ankle weights are a great tool for building core strength. They are attached around the feet and can make most bodyweight exercises desirably more difficult. Their best use is for core exercises such as leg lifts, where they can provide a significant resistance to the exercise. They can also be used to hold the feet down in sit ups. They can be used to train hip flexors as well.


Due to their shape, they are usually quite light and cannot significantly increase the difficulty of most compound exercises (with the exception of core exercises). Their placement also hinders their ability to make leg exercises more difficult for the most part.

ankle weights

Ankle / Wrist Weights Highlights

  • Adjustable Weight
  • Great for both cardio and strength exercises
  • Can be used in conjunction with weight vest and belt for increased added weight

2. Weight Vest


Weighted vests are the most popular weight used in weighted calisthenics because they sit in a very comfortable position that evenly distributes the weight vertically down. They are also able to hold a significant amount of weight, many weight vests hold anywhere between 15-30 Kg. 

Often they are made up of little pouches that have removable weight pouches, sand bags or metal blocks. This allows you to not only change the amount of weight you are lifting but also the distribution of this weight. 


Some weight vests have flimsy tightening straps that don’t work as intended when significant movement occurs. This causes the 2 sides of the weight vest to smack your back during some exercises, and for others the weight vest can slide, resulting in a less than optimal weight distribution. 

weight vest

3. Weight Belt


The main advantage of a weight belt is that it does not weigh much and is super compact. Weight belts usually use weight plates that can be found in any gym. The plates are threaded through a chain which is then retehered to the belt.

In this way, the weighted belt is more convenient than the weighted vest. Weighted vests need to be transported everywhere because the weight pouches are not commonly found in gyms. This also means the weight belt is not limited by the weight limitations on the weighted vest’s limited capacity.


In theory you can load the weighted belt a lot more than the vest, but in practice due to where it sits and how awkward it is to get into position, this is a massive struggle. It’s also somewhat inconvenient because you need to unload the plates every time you need a break, which is time consuming.

Weight belts also have poor weight distributions and are strictly limited to vertical upper body exercises such as dips and pull ups, unlike the more versatile weight vests.

weight belt

Written by Vic

Melbourne-based Personal Trainer, Calisthenics Athlete and the Founder of Street Workout St Kilda. Super passionate about bodyweight training and the art of movement.
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