In a new video on his channel, YouTuber and fitness influencer Pigmie carries out a month-long experiment with the goal of improving his strength, endurance and power by exclusively performing what would traditionally be considered bodyweight exercises, while wearing a weighted vest.
He starts out the challenge simply enough, with a full body workout comprising pushups, pullups, squats, lunges and core work, in a 15-pound vest. He is able to complete each movement with ease, and increases the amount of sets he is doing in the vest from 3 per exercise to 4 or 5.
“With every movement so far basically being a compound movement, with only 15 added pounds, all of the sets and reps were really adding up,” he says.
Pigmie soon increases the weight of the vest to 20 pounds, and introduces plyometric exercises like box jumps and jumping split lunges to his routine. He then continues to work on his explosive power in the upper body portion of his workout, with clapping pushups.
“However, I was quickly humbled,” he says. “Trying to be quick on every compound movement, the added 20 pounds for me was quickly fatiguing, and a lot of my exercises went from being slightly explosive to just normal reps.” He experiences similar difficulty with static holds.
In the second week, he switches from explosive movements to exercises with a deeper range of motion, such as pike pushups using parallel bars, decline pullups, knees-over-toes lunges, and depth jumps. “In my opinion this rivals, even beats, some of the best weight training exercises when it comes to the stretch, contraction, and mind-muscle connection,” he says of the pushup variation.
As he hits the halfway point of the challenge and enters the third week, Pigmie trains for pure strength, upping the weight in the vest again, going up to 35 pounds and then eventually an “ambitious” 45 pounds. “I was able to complete a 5×5, with the last rep requiring extreme exertion,” he says.
However, he adds that the additional weight and cumulative fatigue made lower-body work incredibly difficult. “The accumulation of all these compound movements was catching up to me,” he says. “I realized I probably needed to take some extra rest days if I wanted to see future improvements from this experiment.”
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At the end of the 30 days, Pigmie conducts a test to determine what kind of effect the weighted calisthenics training has had on his performance, and sets a new pushup max in 2 minutes, hitting 68 reps compared to his previous PR of 55. “My pushups felt so much faster and stronger,” he says. “I also felt like I had so much more pushing endurance.”
He makes similar improvements in his pullup performance, adding 3 reps to his PR, and finds that his grip on the bar feels stronger.
“It was pretty awesome to just grab the weight vest and go, getting a great session in and making cohesive, full body, strength and connection improvements that I know are going to play over athletically into the goals I want to achieve.”
Philip Ellis is News Editor at Men’s Health, covering fitness, pop culture, sex and relationships, and LGBTQ+ issues. His work has appeared in GQ, Teen Vogue, Man Repeller and MTV, and he is the author of Love & Other Scams.