Can you really build muscle with calisthenics?

Hi! I am the author and founder of Old School Calisthenics
Build muscle with calisthenics

Building muscle through calisthenics is no easy feat. It takes a lot of time, patience, and consistency to see results. I personally experienced this transformation myself. I was quite skinny before I started calisthenics training, but with hard work and dedication, I was able to build a muscular and strong physique.

It’s important to note that many people who claim that calisthenics can build muscle didn’t necessarily follow a pure bodyweight routine. They often incorporate other forms of training into their routines. On the other hand, those who discredit calisthenics for building muscle likely haven’t relied on it as their primary form of training.

I, on the other hand, practiced pure calisthenics training for over 90% of my workouts for almost two years. The remaining 10% included some weighted exercises like pushups, pull-ups, dips, and squats. However, these were a small fraction of my overall routine. Despite this, I was still able to build a great chest through bodyweight pushups and dips.

Throughout my calisthenics journey, I never did any bench press or lifted conventional weights. Instead, I enjoyed a few weighted calisthenics exercises here and there. If you’re interested in seeing my transformation, check out my YouTube video below.

Calisthenics vs. Weights Physique

If you’re looking for a way to get in great shape, I highly recommend dedicating 1-2 years to calisthenics training. However, it’s important to avoid comparing the results you get from calisthenics to those from lifting weights. Both forms of exercise are highly effective in building muscle, but they work differently. Calisthenics focuses on functional exercises that provide many benefits beyond muscle growth, so don’t hesitate to give it a try.

Build muscle with calisthenics
During a pull-up, dips and pushups workout.

In my experience as a trainer and coach, calisthenics is a great way to build a natural and functional physique. By mastering basic bodyweight exercises, you can develop your muscle fibers in a way that is both effective and high-quality. So, don’t let doubt or fear hold you back from achieving your fitness goals.

If you’re new to resistance training, I always recommend starting with calisthenics. It’s a great way to build strength, improve your fitness, and develop a muscular physique. Plus, it’s overall more beneficial for the vast majority of people. So, give it a try and see the results for yourself!

Is it possible to build muscle with calisthenics?

Many people believe that bodyweight exercises are easy and don’t provide enough stimulation for the muscles, but that’s a misconception. Calisthenics exercises like dips, pull-ups, squats, and pushup variations employ the phasic muscle fibers that are responsible for growth. This is not just a baseless claim, as I have studied kinesiology, sports medicine, and sports physiology, and it’s all backed by science. Consistent training, along with proper nutrition, is the key to stimulating hypertrophy. It’s important to eat clean and focus on high-quality foods to ensure that the resulting mass is of good quality. However, the amount of mass you gain will ultimately depend on your calorie intake, and it’s important to strike a balance so that you don’t gain too much fat. As someone who has developed a muscular physique through calisthenics, I can say that being athletic is just as important as being massive. If you’re interested in learning more about nutrition, I recommend checking out the video below.

You might be wondering why I talk about nutrition when the question is whether calisthenics can potentially build muscles, but the truth is that food and calories are what will make this happen. Without proper nutrition and sufficient calorie intake, it’s impossible to achieve great gains. For some skinny guys, this can be a challenge, but the problem is the calorie intake, not the exercise. I understand that it can be tough to eat more when you’re burning everything out, but it’s the only way to see results.

When you do calisthenics, your body goes into a catabolic state, which is also true for resistance training with weights. However, it’s during an anabolic state when your muscles get bigger and stronger. This means that the harder your workouts are, the more nutrients and calories you need to fuel your body. It’s also important to get enough sleep for optimal muscle growth.

So, the bottom line is that while calisthenics can be a great way to build muscles, you need to pay attention to your nutrition and calorie intake to see real results. Make sure you’re eating enough and getting the right nutrients to support your workout routine, and don’t forget to prioritize sleep for optimal muscle growth.

The Impact of 10-Week of Calisthenics on Women

I stumbled upon a fascinating study on ResearchGate from June 2015 that centered on women who followed a 10-week bodyweight training regimen to assess their progress in abilities and muscles. If this piques your interest, you can read the paper here. The study found that women experienced significant improvements, although men generally tend to build more muscle than women. However, the researchers emphasized the study’s nutrition element in particular. They concluded that without a properly balanced diet, the bodyweight training program has a minor effect on body composition. Nevertheless, it does help enhance overall physical fitness, including strength, endurance, flexibility, coordination, and more. As a result, if you want to gain muscle with calisthenics, you should prioritize nutrition and sleep in addition to having a good workout program.

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