Can’t BUILD MUSCLE with Calisthenics? Here’s why


Building muscle with calisthenics isn’t as easy as with weightlifting. Weightlifting was created for this very reason – to improve your physique To get your muscles to grow it’s crucial to lift heavy. But what is considered ‘heavy’ changes all the time as you get bigger and stronger That’s why most of the equipment in gyms allows to quickly increase or decrease the weight you’re lifting. This feature allows for all the exercises, machines and training plans to be optimized for bodybuilding. It’s completely different with calisthenics. Bodyweight training is all about moving your body and your weight is pretty much constant in short periods of time. Of course, you can use only a part of it just like when you’re doing australian pull ups, but when you get to a point where you pull or push your whole body, it’s pretty much all the weight you have. And this is the moment a lot people make the mistake. As you get bigger and stronger, how do you progress on a lat pull down machine like this one? Well you probably increase the weight. And how do you progress when you learn your first few pull ups? You try to do more pull ups. I know I’m generalizing, but I think that’s pretty common and instinctive approach for both cases for most people. If you’re doing what I just said, then that’s probably why you can’t build more muscle with calisthenics. It’s because of this wrong way of progressing your workouts. In the first example, you increase the difficulty of each rep, whereas in the second one you increase the number of reps. You’re slowly getting out of the optimal rep range for hypertrophy and you start to work on the muscular endurance instead. What you should do is to make the exercise more difficult by increasing the weight you’re pulling or pushing. Let’s quickly get through the best ways to do that. Weight vest This is the most versatile option, but only to a certain weight. The vest I have weighs 10 kg and it is very comfortable and pretty easy to put on. Maybe a 15 kg one would be good as well, but anything above that gets very bulky and can be difficult to put on by yourself. These are the biggest drawbacks of the vest in my opinion. On the other hand, they do have a few unique features, that other weight types that I’m gonna talk about, don’t. First of all, you can use it to do exercises like push ups, squats or calf raises. Most other weights can’t be used for this purpose or are much less comfortable. Secondly, most vests are made of multiple smaller weights, that can be removed to control its mass very precisely. The vest is also easy to move around, if you train outside. You just put it on and go to your training spot. Waist weight This type of weight is the best for bigger loads. With a proper belt you can comfortably put on even 100 kilograms. It’s great for doing pull ups, chin ups or dips. It cannot be used for push ups though. I’ve seen many different ways of attaching the weights to your waist, but the simplest one is with a belt or piece of cloth and a plate weight, kettlebell or even a bottle of water or sand. You just do what you have to to make it work. Ankle weights although they’re made primarily to make the ab exercises harder, they can also be used as a weight for pull ups or dips. Their weight is usually small, going up to around 5 kilograms (11 lbs) combined, but they can be successfully used in conjunction with the vest to let you adjust the weight even more freely. So if your goal is primarily to build muscle you should approach progressing the workouts like this. Lets take dips as an example. You can do 10 reps maximum with your bodyweight. After a month of training you see that you got stronger and can do 13. Instead of going further with the number of reps, you should attach additional, let’s say, 10 kilograms (22 lbs) to your body. This will bring your max reps down to 7 or 8. Exactly where you want it to be. After another two months of training you get to 12 reps maximum with this additional weight, so you add even more weight to bring your max down and so on. As long as your max reps stays between 6 and 12 you’re doing it right. This should be true for all the exercises you do. Pull ups, push ups, dips, leg raises, chin ups and so on. Here is my workout routine that is aiming at building muscle. It can work wonders if done for a longer period of time. It’s gonna be only upper body though, because legs are too strong for those types of weights and I train them with a regular barbell and set of weights on a separate day. I deliberetely made some mistakes in this workout, so I can analyze it and correct them for your better understanding of the subject. I’m doing 4 sets of every exercise, close to max reps in each set. I start with wide grip pull ups with a 10 kg vest. In the first set I managed to do 10 reps. Then I did 9, 8 and 7, so every set was in proper rep range. Nothing to change here. The next exercise is handstand push ups. Here I didn’t add any weight, instead I increased the range of motion by doing them on parallets. That being said I was able to do 7, 6, 5 and 5 in consecutive sets. Generally speaking the exercise is a little too difficult, because in 3rd and 4th set I got out of the 6-12 range. However in a few sessions I will be able to do one more rep in every set, so that’s not a big deal. After that I did dips with both vest and ankle weights, so approximately 14 kgs of additional weight. On the first set I did 15 reps and that is way above the desired 12. Next sets looked like this: 13, 12 and 11. Almost all sets were above the desired range, so I should have added more weight. Probably around 20 kgs in total would be right. Next, I did push ups with 10 kg vest. I also used parallets, because the vest decreases the possible range of motion slightly. The results look like this: 14, 11, 11, 9. As you can see the first set was above the desired range, o I should’ve add a little more weight to make the exercise harder. Then I did toes to bar with 4 kg ankle weights. I was able to do 11, 7, 7, 6 and that’s all great. And lastly, I did chin ups with both vest and ankle weights again, so approximately 14 kgs in total. I managed to do 8, 7, 5 and 5, so I shouldn’t have added the ankle weights. It made the chin up too difficult and on 3rd and 4th set I was able to do only 5 reps. As always bear in mind that I’m only talking about the training aspect of building muscle. There’s also diet that is just as important in this process. Also genetics have to be taken into consideration, because not everyone puts on muscle with the same ease. This is all for this video. Leave a thumb up if you liked it and stay tuned for more videos! See ya.