Can You Build Muscle With Calisthenics? – And Why Most Struggle

can you build a lot of muscle with calisthenics

My 2017 Question: "No really...? Can You Build Muscle With Calisthenics?" - Here's My Backstory...

Back in 2017, I was a skinny 14 year old kid trying to build muscle from home. My goal? To build muscle and gain weight so I wouldn’t keep getting picked on for being the skinny kid in the family.

I wanted to be able to feel stronger and look more muscular when I looked in the mirror and gain more self confidence.

The thing is I was a “naturally” skinny guy, cursed with “hardgainer genetics” that made it impossible to gain weight. I felt like I just wouldn’t be able to ever feel stronger or have that muscular look, let alone gain that confidence that I wanted. Plus there were tons of weight training coaches making videos on YouTube on “Weights vs Calisthenics” or “Can you build muscle with calisthenics?” (only trying to make calisthenics look bad…)

And to make things worse, I felt miserable all the time, feeling weak and embarrassed of the way I looked. And even worse anywhere I went because I felt like I couldn’t talk to girls or go up to anyone anywhere without feeling extremely anxious or without my face turning super red with embarrassment. I felt like I would never be accepted by anyone simply because of the way I looked.

The problem was that I didn’t have access to a gym and felt desperate to “fix my body”. Which for me meant I wouldn’t be able to build muscle or reach my dream body, and that I would continue to feel ashamed of my body and remain a scrawny little kid.

Then, as is by chance, the solution came to me… (Feel free to navigate to your desired section below).

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Most Calisthenics Athletes Can't Build Significant Muscle And Here's Why...

That’s when I ran into a guy in a video where I learned a secret to “tricking” your muscles to grow…

Making it clear to me how to be able to train from home and still be able to put on muscle and weight, because I saw I could use different bodyweight exercises to still create a stimulus for growth.

can you build muscle with calisthenics reddit

I also learned that lifting weights is not always the best and definitely NOT the only way to build muscle. You need to focus on the muscle growth “lifting” principles and learn to replicate them through bodyweight training instead.

As a result I began to study the world’s top bodybuilders and NOT traditional calisthenics athletes that were training strictly for skills, weight loss, or simply did not understand bodybuilding.

After I did that, I started to find the best ways to structure my workouts and finally start training effectively. And suddenly, I was finally following a complete routine consistently and noticing changes in my chest, arms, and legs in just a few weeks.

The "Secret" Gyms Don't Want You To Know...

That’s when I realized that the secret to building muscle from home was that our muscles don’t understand the source of the resistance (or weight) but only understands what it “feels.” To keep it simple, your biceps feel the same thing when curling a 20 lb dumbbell or a 20 lb bag.

Can You Build Muscle With Calisthenics

So now, my initial plan was to start adding reps as I got stronger to consistently make my workouts harder. I started working on increasing my reps for push ups, pull ups, and squats, and didn’t stop there. I then created a routine to hit every body part during the week. And after that, I made sure to consistently train as hard as I could every single workout.

But there was still a problem…

After a few weeks, I noticed I was slowly starting to grow. But, a few weeks after that, these results began to diminish. I was still increasing my reps, I was staying consistent, and I was still training extremely hard in every single workout.

However, for the following months I saw close to zero visible changes in my body. And once again, I was frustrated and knew something needed to change.

I ended up getting so frustrated that I decided to study individual workout programs that bodybuilders were following and realized their structures did not include circuits, high rep sets or loads of static training like many calisthenics athletes taught. And I created a complete system mirroring these structures, methods, and principles from weight training and into calisthenics/bodyweight training.

Bodybuilder "Mirroring" Is KEY

Now, this blog post is not here to sell you on anything, but our “Calisthenic Aesthetics” program is completely structured and based on all these key elements, which I’ll share with you below.

This will make it possible for you to follow proven bodybuilding structures, methods, and principles that allow you to consistently build muscle and gain weight through calisthenics.

After 2 years of trial and error and 4 years of tweaking, mastering, and hundreds of dollars of perfecting, I found the perfect strategies to combine bodybuilding with calisthenics.

And as a result, I’ve been able to gain 40 lbs of muscle naturally while enjoying my training and achieving bodyweight strength levels that most people will only ever dream of.

I was not only able to achieve the body of my dreams and gain an enormous amount of confidence along the way, I can look back to my younger self and say I’ve been able to stop being ashamed of the way I looked and stop being picked on or embarrassed all the time, because we can now make consistent progress in both calisthenics and in life as a whole.

And in the end, I’m now proud of the body I’ve built, I know I can succeed in all other areas in life, and am able to inspire others to the same as well.

So that’s enough talk about me and my story. Let’s get into some of the “Dos” & “Don’ts” on how to build muscle with calisthenics.

Do's & Don't To Help You Build Muscle With Calisthenics

So to answer the next big question… HOW can you build muscle with calisthenics? Here are some key factors that you will want make sure you follow to help maximize your results:

Calisthenics Bodybuilding Don'ts

Circuit training is typically when you do 3 or more exercises without rest in between, rest, and the repeat all those exercises back to back again for multiple rounds.

High reps for me is typically over 12 reps on the first compound exercises in the workouts and over 20 on any additional exercises throughout the workouts.

This mainly includes strictly doing calisthenics skills like the planche or front lever. This doesn’t mean you can’t train them, but it is not effective when it comes to building muscle with calisthenics.

Adding tons of reps to your basic exercises will not build muscle efficiently and there’s a reason why bodybuilder don’t just add a bunch of reps to their exercises.

Calisthenics Bodybuilding Do's

This is when you do a certain amount of reps (perform the exercise a certain amount of times), rest, and then repeat for the total amount of sets.

The main compound exercises should be the base of your workouts. This includes variations of push ups, pull ups, squats, rows, etc..

This doesn’t mean just stop at 6-12 reps, but find a progression that allows you to train very near failure in this rep range (more on that below).

Bodybuilders focus on doing complete repetitions in their workouts, not just holding them in place. It is extremely rare if they do any statics and it’s never their focus.

Reps add tension on the muscles as the elongate and contract. (Basically – that’s good for muscle growth.)

Instead of adding tons of reps to their exercises, bodybuilding increase the intensity of them by simply adding weight.

With calisthenics however, we can do weighted calisthenics OR we can use progressions to make the exercises harder (like adding weight). For example, we can go from incline push ups to standard push ups and then to explosive push ups.

So can you build muscle with calisthenics?​

As you’ve seen in my story, and by going through the Do’s & Don’ts above; yes (definitely), you CAN build muscle with calisthenics (bodyweight training).

As long as… you still apply bodybuilding principles into your calisthenics training (as shown above).

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