Hypertrophy Training With Calisthenics. How To Do It?

Hi! I am the author and founder of Old School Calisthenics
Grow Muscles with Calisthenics

Hypertrophy is the process that involves an increase in the size of the skeletal muscle. The fibers get thicker, but theoretically, the organism can also create more fibers disposed parallel to the existing ones.


It is a reaction triggered primarily by certain types of workouts stimulating the muscle cells to increase in volume. This process occurs over a long period and only if followed by a proper diet and rest.

Is it possible to grow muscles with calisthenics?

It is one of the main questions I often encounter, and my answer is definitely yes. Both lifting weights and your body weight creates resistance against the neural muscular system that causes it to respond and develop. Therefore, it all comes down to how you dodge variables like volume, intensity and rest. In a way, you have to train like a bodybuilder, even if you do bodyweight training.

First, Lower the Bodyfat Ratio! Lose the Extra Weight!

A common mistake is jumping right into hypercaloric foods and hypertrophy training regardless of how high the body fat rate is. From an aesthetic point of view, it is pointless because strength workouts could bulk even more. The question is: do you want mainly size, or are you also interested in muscle quality, having shredded fibers?


Muscles don’t grow immediately, and I guess you want to see those tiny aesthetic improvements to keep you motivated. In this case, attaining a low body fat rate first is vital because you will be able to see more muscle definition as you cut.


Many prefer to bulk up and go through a cutting phase later. I did it too, but after all these years of training to achieve my best form, I am convinced that growing lean tissue is the best way yet.


I started packing on muscles after losing the extra body fat. This method allowed me to spot every incremental improvement made. Honestly, you can’t tell how useful abs workouts are if covered by belly fat.


Read the article: Burn Fat As Science Says. Which Types of Exercises Target Fat Loss?

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It was last autumn when I started my solemn commitment to getting lean. I knew I had several months in front of me to achieve the summer physique. All this time, I pushed it to the very limits, and as summer approached, I struggled and accomplished even more . Throughout the journey, I learned that it takes a lot of time and work to get there so if you are willing to make a change for the next summer as well, this is the perfect moment to begin . You need a high level of discipline to stay on the path until June, but you can lose those 20 pounds, gain pure mass or get stronger as long as you remain dedicated every week from now on . It will not be about training only. Rest, nutrition, and lifestyle can influence more. It will test your mindset. Are you going to fail or not? . If you need my help, I am here! If you need my workouts, you can find them on my website ? link in BIO ? . #calisthenicsprogram #highvolumecalisthenics #leanmuscle #summerbodiesaremadeinwinter

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Avoid These Common Mistakes in Calisthenics Training!

Don’t train advanced Street-Workout elements if you want to build muscles through bodyweight training. They obviously work to a certain extent, but they primarily overload the nervous system. You need basic exercises to train the muscle fibers more effectively.


Don’t be afraid to add more working sets. Many limit themselves to only 2-3 sets for each variation, which is not always beneficial, depending on the rep range and how trained one is. I recommend more sets. Adding more sets will not compromise the strength gains and won’t build only endurance in the utilized muscles. It builds resistance to fatigue, but it also adds mechanical work, which converts into higher demands for nutrients and calories.


Stop training full-body all the time unless you want to reduce weight. If skinny, then jump into hypertrophy training and focus on complementary moves like pushups and pull-ups, squats and sprints with core training and so on. Full-body is very effective in burning calories and building up great endurance and anaerobic benefits, but if growing muscles is more important, then focus on them rather than on the cardiovascular system.


Avoid doing too much aerobic training if you are skinny unless you have other purposes. It was generally considered that consistent anaerobic strength training produces hypertrophy over the long term, in addition to its effects on muscular strength and endurance. Muscular hypertrophy can be increased through high-rep strength training and other short-duration, high-intensity anaerobic exercises like circuit workouts. However, by adhering to the following basic principles, you should be able to gain size with calisthenics in a matter of months.

Muscles Grow Stronger and Prominent with Compound Exercises

The best calisthenics exercises to build muscles are: pull-ups, various pushups, dips, handstand pushups, leg raises, different squats and plyometrics, and lastly, various sprints. Along with these movements belong several basic variations that are at least of the same importance: diamond pushups, chinups, towel pull-ups, clapping pushups, commando pull-ups, rows etc.


While isometric exercises are known to increase static strength and thickness of the muscle fibers, it’s more likely that isotonic movements like those presented previously to work better for maximum muscle gain.


Don’t expect or compare your results with someone else’s without considering your physiology and genetic makeup. Manage your expectations and do the best with the program you already follow by applying the principles herein.


Being impatient is also a mistake. You need several months of constant training to know how you progress. I often keep the same exercises, but I use a slightly different approach, from sets and reps to a pyramid workout.

hypertrophy calisthenics training

Tempo and Time Under Tension

Time under tension refers to how much time you are putting your muscular system under load. Tempo refers to how fast or slow you are doing a repetition.


In bodybuilding, the general tempo is 3-0-3, which is considered perfect for hypertrophy. It means that the concentric portion of the movement is about 3 seconds, and the eccentric part is also about 3 seconds. You can pause at the top or the bottom if you like, for 1-2 seconds. A 3-0-3 tempo means no rest at the top or the bottom.


You can also respect this general rule in calisthenics or manipulate the tempo a bit like: 2-1-4, 3-4-4, 3-2,4, or even 2-5-3.


The time under tension for hypertrophy is between 6 to 12 seconds per repetition, or at least that’s the bodybuilding rule.


I am usually more explosive on the concentric part and slightly slower on the eccentric. I think that my tempo is, in general, 2-1-3. I compensate by adding more repetitions to each set.

Repetitions and General Volume

The volume consists of the number of sets and reps that you do. First, you must understand this principle and the inverse relationship between sets and reps. If your sets go up, then your reps will go down. And if your reps go up, then the sets will go down. You must find the sweet spot between them. To trigger hypertrophy, you must add as many reps and sets as possible, regardless of how you twist them. The focus should be to feel like you worked enough and sufficiently, but not too hard to be sore for 5 days.


How many reps, though? From experience, I can say that specific rep ranges stimulate the muscles for growth, like:

  • Pull-Ups: 6-12 reps/set
  • Pushups: 15-25 reps/set
  • Handstand Pushups: 6-10 reps/set
  • Dips: 12-20 reps/set
  • Squats: 30-50 reps/set
  • Walking Lunges: 30-50 reps/set
  • Jump Squats: 15-20 reps/set
  • Sprints: 10-20 per session and of different distances
  • Hanging Leg Raises: 10-20 reps/set.


Cut the reps in half, double the tempo for every rep, and end up with the same thing. Though I like the first one better, it should also work the other way.


You need at least 4 variations that employ the same muscles like wide pull-ups, body rows, close chinups, and maybe commando pull-ups. Do at least 4-5 sets per variant!


Regarding the overall volume, you have to do dozens or hundreds of reps per training session, depending on the fitness level, intensity and how difficult the exercises are. I usually do at least 100 pull-ups and 250-350 pushups with dips included. Sometimes I do twice as much.
Squats are even easier, so I do over 400 squats and variations like crouch walking, lunges, burpees, jumps, etc.

I know that bodybuilders or maybe even calisthenics athletes would consider these numbers efficient for muscular endurance. But in reality, this is not true because increasing the ability to resist fatigue with anaerobic workouts is one way to stimulate hypertrophy or muscle growth. And most of the calisthenics workouts you will ever do are anaerobic and will fatigue your muscles.


There are many different ways to define intensity. But the one that interests me here is how hard an exercise is to execute. For instance, the wider the grip for pull-ups is, the tougher it will be to execute for more reps.


So, there is an inverse relationship between volume and intensity. If you use a lot of intensity, your volume typically decreases, and vice-versa. The sweet spot for hypertrophy is to use a moderate intensity. You have to avoid doing only tough exercises to ensure a specific volume. More so, don’t do only light exercises for the sake of volume alone.


Some calisthenics athletes will use weights for their exercises to increase intensity: weighted pull-ups or weighted dips and squats. Others will use harder variations, like one-leg squats or one-arm pushups, lever pull-ups, etc.

I choose basic bodyweight exercises of moderate and light intensity to increase the volume even more. This way, I can train for longer and exhaust my muscles entirely. And even if I do weighted calisthenics or single-handed exercises, I also do the other exercises of light-medium intensity. I begin gradually, like a pyramid, starting with the hardest and moving towards the easiest ones.


You must exhaust the muscles to attain that muscle soreness the days after. Too much intensity will lower your volume, which works against muscle building. In a training session, you need to drain your muscles of energy, and the best way to do that is by getting them pumped and training for longer. Otherwise, it is pure strength training.


Nevertheless, when the strength dramatically decreases and you can’t keep up with the same intensity, you have two options:

  1. To reduce the intensity by helping yourself with elastic bands. For instance, you can do pull-ups or pushups with rubber bands. They will allow you to add more repetitions and preserve good form and execution.
  2. To modify the exercise and make it easier. For instance, you move from Uneven Pull-Ups to regular Chinups and Body Rows. From Dips and Handstand Pushups or Ring Dips to Bench Dips and Diamond Pushups.


Work in a precise manner that allows you to hit your set and rep parameters. Also, execute the reps in a full range of motion, keep a good form, and respect the tempo and time under tension.


For instance, if I trained my back and biceps, I’d choose 3-4 pull-up variations, as many sets as possible without help from resistance bands. Then I would complete the remaining reps using the rubber elastic bands. Good advice for beginners!


The rest interval is another thing you must always consider. It means how long you rest from set to set. The higher your intensity is, the higher your rest intervals will have to be.

It is precisely why I recommended you to use moderate or even easy intensity. Then your rest interval will be shorter. Generally, the break time, if you are looking to build muscles, is about 60 seconds between sets. Sometimes less for conditioning training, and sometimes more, if you are looking to add more strength training to your program.


It refers to how many times a week to hit a body part or a group of similar exercises (like pulling moves) or how frequently you train in a week. So, hit the same muscles twice a week.


I think you know how Cross-Fit athletes do pull-ups. They move too fast and use too much momentum. The movement that triggers hypertrophy should be done in total control, and at a lower speed. The form must be reasonable, and the depth of motion should be near to complete.

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