Calisthenics for Building Muscle


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Calisthenics’ is on the increase amongst body building circles because they are now beginning to realise that if performed correctly body weight exercise can build muscle mass.

Think about this concept – it really was not that long ago that bodybuilders did not have access to all of the high tech gyms and free weights to build muscle. Amazingly many of the top bodybuilders such as Charles Atlas relied heavily on calisthenics to become bigger and stronger.

Unfortunately many body builders are still sceptical about adding calisthenics into their gym routines because there are mixed reviews in terms of its success.

The main issue why people fail to build muscle with calisthenics is that they are using a muscular endurance protocol instead of a muscle growth model. These two models are totally different in their entirety and the outcomes achieved will not be the same.

Think, to build muscle in the gym – ‘Would you use a muscular endurance model?’ Hopefully not because your success would be rather limited and the same principles apply for calisthenics – so let’s explain this further!

Try low reps

As a bodybuilder you tend to focus on a lower rep range to build mass by overloading the muscle. This strategy causes the muscle to produce micro-tears and ultimately to grow.

Therefore if you want your muscles to grow using calisthenics then you need to adopt the same principles. You need to get out of the mind set of trying to knockout as many bodyweight exercises as possible and stick within an 8-12 rep range.

The main reason why bodybuilder’s fatigue their muscle during a lower rep range is because they add more weight into the equation. You can achieve this principle by using bodyweight exercises and adopting the following 2 training methods:

Angular Training

For angular training all you have to do is to change the angle of your body to make the exercise more challenging.

A good example of this concept is to make a push more difficult; then elevate your feet off the ground as this changes the angle of the push up and this concentrates more on your upper pectorals.

There is a huge amount of different ways to change the angle of your body and a small change can make a big difference to your muscle size.

However never perform an exercise beyond its natural range of movement at the joint/s and always concentrate on good form when executing all bodyweight exercises.

Alter your weight distribution

This training method has the most impact on making any bodyweight exercise more challenging because it can fatigue the muscles used rapidly. For example if you keep pumping out 60 push ups that is great but you are working towards muscular endurance.

Try this technique instead of a 50/50 split why not alter the weight distribution on your arms to 40/60 or 30/70. Don’t forget to shift to both sides so they are being working equally.

Keep within an 8-12 rep range and adjust your weight distribution until you are working within these rep boundaries. This is by far the easiest method of increasing the difficulty of the exercise.

Perform multiple sets

Bodybuilders tend to perform more of the ‘same sets’ of the ‘same exercise’ in order to fatigue and micro tear the muscle tissue.

A good strategy when performing bodyweight exercises is to perform between ‘6-8 sets’ of the same exercise on the same muscle group. This will ensure that the muscles are fully fatigued, thus ensuring maximal micro tears for muscular growth.

Perform a split work out

A split work out is where you perform one body part per day and this training method ensures that your muscles are fully fatigued whilst having enough time to recover effectively.

A key point to consider is that your muscle grows when resting and the right work outs are important to ensure micro tearing has occurred-to facilitate this muscle growth.

An example of split work out regime is as follows:

  • Monday – Chest/Arms
  • Tuesdays – Shoulders/Back
  • Wednesdays – Legs
  • Thursdays – Chest/Arms
  • Fridays – Shoulders/Back
  • Saturdays – Legs
  • Sundays – Rest

Overload your work outs

Overload is a very important principle of training that is fundamental to a successful muscle growth of any kind. Your muscles do adapt very quickly to any training regime and over loading the muscle group will create a new stimulus for growth.

There are a variety of training methods to overload your work outs and these are as follows:

  1. Add some extra bodyweight exercises onto the end of your workout
  2. Increase the number of sets performed as this will fully fatigued the muscles used
  3. Increase the frequency of the work outs per week but remember that you need proper rest to grow effectively

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Hi, my name is Jonathan, a fitness blogger and bodybuilding enthusiast and I am the founder of Skinny2Fit. I want to provide you with easy access to good advice that is both simple and to the point. Helping you gain muscle mass and strength!



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