BWTA Is Calisthenics Better For Muscle Growth

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A lot of people ask the question, “Is calisthenics an option for building muscle”?

The answer to this question is not a simple yes or no. It all depends on what you’re hoping to accomplish with your fitness routine and your goals in mind.

This article will explore the advantages of building muscle with calisthenics and answer this question. It will also show you how to build muscle with bodyweight exercises, to help you achieve your fitness goals compared to weight training.

 

Principle of building muscle

Before we dive into the topic of calisthenics advantages and calisthenics vs weight training fiasco, let’s take a look at what it actually takes to build muscle.

Training

BWTA Training

The number one thing people usually factor into building mass is training and that’s for a good reason.

Not every training will work for maximal muscular development (or hypertrophy). The most effective approach is through resistance training or using your muscles to work against a force or weight. There are many forms of resistance training such as weight training, banded exercises, kettlebells, or our favorite, body weight training to name a few.

Getting enough stimulation to induce hypertrophy is the key. You need to play with the exercise volume (reps and sets), training frequency, exercise difficulty, progressiveness, and type of exercises in order to get an intense workout, create muscular tears for muscle building potential.

More on this topic in this article: How to build muscle mass using bodyweight only

Nutrition

As much we want to think that building muscle is solely based on training, nutrition plays a major factor.

The general advice to build muscle is to eat more calories than what your body needs to sustain its current physique along with eating enough protein requirement and other macronutrient requirements. Other

You won’t build as much muscle mass even with the proper strength training workout, calisthenics workout, or weighed training if you’re not eating properly.

Cover what your body needs to repair the “damages” done through training. For more help in this department, here’s the Ultimate Bodybuilding Nutritional Guide.

Recovery

You will never build lean muscle with proper nutrition and training alone. A neglected factor that plays a huge role in gaining muscle is recovery.

This refers not only to sleep but also all the other forms of rest your body and mind can take to maximize its potential to grow after your calisthenics exercises or weight training.

Our bodies do not get stronger or build muscle during the workout. In fact, when we “damage” our muscles that we get weaker. After the stimulation from the workout, we need to fuel our bodies using food and recover through rest and sleep to let our bodies repair themselves. That’s the time we gain muscle and strength.

Especially when we are highly driven, we tend to overtrain and focus more on the training aspect and nutrition. Always keep in mind that you need to let your body (and mind) recovery to get gains.

Neglecting recovery can lead to overtraining and overfatigue which will set you back further in your progress.

For more help on recovery, check out the highly effective tips below:

The Ultimate Guide to Workout Recovery – 9 Tips on recovery to build more muscle, gain more strength, and learn skills faster

Why you should build muscle mass with calisthenics

Calisthenics CAN build muscle and offers many other benefits and reasons why you should opt for this resistance training type for your hypertrophy goals.

Improved strength and other aspects

BWTA Planche

Aside from muscle-building, calisthenics can also promote many other aspects of the human body.

Strength development is a natural area that you’ll encounter if you’re training with a proper calisthenics program structure. Learning strength keeps your muscle-building potential high so you can work on harder progressions of the fundamental exercises and keep building muscle. With free weights, you can simply add external weight to make an exercise harder. With calisthenics, you move through more advanced progressions that put your body at a mechanical disadvantage keeping your body challenged.

Aside from strength, body awareness, coordination, and control can be mastered especially when learning calisthenics skills and training with a full-body workout.

You get to enjoy the full health benefits of bodyweight workouts while also achieving the goal of gaining mass.

Holistic growth to basics and skill training

BWTA Basic and Skill training

Shoulder strength, mobility, and stability are vital aspects of handstands which are also perfect for overall shoulder health.

Let’s just look at the physique of high-level calisthenics athletes or even amateur ring gymnasts. You’ll notice that their physique (especially with the upper body) is already at a top-level and that’s because of both having a good solid mastery of the basic calisthenics exercises as well as highly specialized muscles for skill work.

For example, their bouldering shoulders were developed from shoulder presses (bodyweight) and planche training. Their backs seem like a huge shield thanks to excellent pull-up mastery and front lever work. Their muscular legs are from pistol squats and from explosive leg training.

Their muscles and physique aren’t really their goals but a by-product of their holistic training.

Can build serious muscle

BWTA Coach Jeremy

Coach Jeremy’s strong physique!

A very common and debunked myth in the fitness industry is that calisthenics can’t build muscle.

Many people who fail to build muscle using calisthenics fail to make the modifications needed to challenge their bodies enough to induce muscle growth. These individuals tend to use a single progression of an exercise then also limits their volume which prevents them from building serious mass.

Integration of strength training along with the hypertrophy principles allows developing lean muscle while opening the potential for more growth.

Adding volume through isolation

BWTA Pushup

Tricep push-ups is a good isolation exercise to target the triceps while minimizing chest activation.

Another way to induce hypertrophy is by improving metabolic stress. You can do this by increasing the training volume on targeted muscle groups.

Work on major muscle groups then hit the same muscle groups using “isolation” exercises at a time. This hits one muscle group at a time which safely adds volume and allows to train near muscular failure safely.

Always do your compound exercises first before moving to specific muscle group isolation work.

Weight loss with muscle mass

It’s possible to lose fat while developing your muscles with just your own bodyweight. This is called “body recomposition”. It’s mostly achieved through strength training with hypertrophy principles as well as a slight caloric deficit.

REMINDER: Muscle building principles

Always remember that the stimulation from your exercises is worthless if you don’t satisfy the other variables. A proper repair process leads to muscle building potential and you can add more “muscle definition” through proper nutrition.

While your workout plays a massive role, you can also be burning calories with extra movements or NEAT (non-exercises activity thermogenesis) and cardio after your main muscle and strength training for muscle growth. Just don’t overdo your training and listen to your body!

Here’s a thorough guide on hypertrophy training with calisthenics:

HOW TO BUILD MUSCLE MASS USING ONLY YOUR BODYWEIGHT

Simple

BWTA Leg training

No need for weights for your leg training.

Bodyweight exercises require nothing special but your body weight. Other equipment can help but you can always use different equipment available to you.

Equipment is usually available and accessible anywhere. They are used to modify your body positions which puts you at a more mechanical disadvantage to increase the difficulty of an exercise.

If you would need any equipment, the best things you can invest in are:

  • Pull-up bar
  • Dip station
  • Gymnastics rings
  • Resistance bands
  • Parallettes
  • Chalk

And that’s it! From there, you can already get a ton of exercise.

If you don’t like investing in these pieces, you can always find access somewhere in your local park or find alternatives from your furniture or surroundings. Here’s the Ultimate Guide on Calisthenics Equipment and Cheap Ways to Replace it.

You can get strength training and bodybuilding workout through calisthenics alone without needing weight machines or free weights.

Check out this full-body workout with minimal equipment: Ultimate Full Body Workout

Trains mental focus

BWTA Kick up Against the Wall and Hold

Coordination and awareness are needed for handstands.

Strength training and muscle building with weight lifting are very straightforward. Move the free weights and add more weights if the exercise gets easier.

Working with your own bodyweight requires a full body and mind concentration because a lot of things are happening. You need to focus on multiple muscle groups and coordination.

For example, when working with barbell squats. You just have to add weights and follow the same motion.

For calisthenics leg workout, if you want to improve your squats, you need to work towards pistol squats which require more than just leg strength. It also requires balance, mobility, and coordination which is though on the mental focus.

Plus you can do your calisthenics workout outside to create a more relaxing at the same time conducive space for focus.

Learn technical skills

BWTA Technical skills

Technical calisthenic exercises require specific lean muscle mass in order to control your body easier in the specific situations the skill require you of.

As mentioned earlier, when training for planche, you will get to build your shoulder muscles while learning the aspect of learning forward and scapula retraction.

Add your technical skill training in your warm-ups while more calisthenics strength training that’s on the technical side can be placed at the beginning of your workout.

Your calisthenics workouts can be focused on hypertrophy which includes mostly basice movement patterns but you can also include some skills as well.

Fun and tons of variations

BWTA Leg training

There are plenty of exercises you can do with bodyweight training as well as combinations you can add as well!

You can get more lean muscle while enjoying your workout through fun and challenging movements. There are also tons of variations you can do!

The key in calisthenics exercises muscle gain is by staying consistent with your progressive overload. This means making your workouts consistently more challenging than the previous workouts. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to go all out every exercise. Just keep it more challenging even by just adding a single rep or lessening the rest period by 10 seconds.

Remember, our bodies are very powerful and can adapt quickly to the stimulus we apply. We have to force the body to adapt every single session no matter how small the change we do.

Low-cost

BWTA Pushup

You can already get a good upper body stimulation from a box, some pipes, and just your bodyweight.

With calisthenics, your own body weight is enough to keep you challenged without lifting weights. A pull-up bar and a dip station are already a lot!

Resistance bands are also excellent for adding variety and adding assistance or challenge to a workout.

No need to lift weights but you can also add external weights if you fancy it.

There are also tons of exercises for fat loss. Your body burns more calories with the added variety.

Keep burning calories thanks to more cardiovascular and sustained exercises. More calisthenics movements can be moved towards muscle endurance that helps burn calories to burn fat while gaining muscle.

You can achieve this all at home without much investment in fancy equipment or expensive gym memberships.

Stronger core

BWTA Stronger core

Front lever variation that requires a ton of core strength!

Calisthenics requires strong core muscles even for the most basic exercises.

You’ll think of specific muscles when working with pull-ups such as your back and biceps but a study shows that there’s a high stimulation for the core muscles when performing the exercise. The same thing goes for exercises such as push-ups, squats, and especially for calisthenics skills such as front lever and planche.

More than that, there’s a ton of core exercises that can build muscle strength and size for your midsection using bodyweight alone.

 

Calisthenics vs Weight training

Pistol vs Weighted squat

Instagram post from TMA on the difference between these two exercises.

Weight lifting is not something you can throw away. There are also benefits to weight lifting. Free weights are still very effective for upper body and lower body gains but bodyweight training also offers a good option if you want to lose weight and build muscle.

Weight training exercises offer convenience in terms of a straightforward progression and solid option for easier isolation compared to body weight exercises.

But still, the calisthenics vs weight training debate can be on hold and instead, perceived as an opportunity to see the advantages of each training approach.

BWTA anterior deltoid isolation

Weight lifts for anterior deltoid isolation that’s perfect for planche.

You can always get the best of both worlds by using both. It will just be a matter of preference and if the training approach fits your lifestyle and training goals.

Conclusion

Calisthenics workouts offers solid reasons why you can opt for it when building an amazing physique.

Here’s again a rundown of the advantages of calisthenics work:

  • Holistic development other than just hypertrophy
  • Still build an amazing physique with high mass and minimal fat
  • Simple to execute
  • Develops mental focus
  • Teaches technical skills
  • Requires minimal equipment
  • Tons of fun and variety
  • Develops a solid core

Building muscle isn’t exclusive to weight training. You can do it with bodyweight exercises.

The best workout routine will still be the one that meets your fitness goals while at the same time keeping your enjoying the process.

Calisthenics can fit many goals such as building muscle mass while losing fat to improve body composition, develop strength, improve mobility, and much more.

The Movement Athlete approach does exactly that but does so by focusing on whole-body development for better movement and improved life.

If you want to build muscle while improving your movement, begin your personalized calisthenics journey through the assessment below.

 

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