Can Calisthenics Build Muscle?

man doing calistenics

Can you build muscle using just your body weight? It’s a common question asked by newcomers to calisthenics. In short, sure, you can build plenty of muscle using your body weight.

Take a look through fitness videos on YouTube, and you’ll find dozens of influencers pumping up with pushups, pullups, and other bodyweight exercises.

How Can Calisthenics Build Muscle?

Calisthenics is effective at inducing a physiological state known as “muscular hypertrophy“. In plain English, hypertrophy means a metabolic condition where your muscles are growing. Atrophy occurs when your muscles start shrinking.

It’s All About Resistance

Creating the conditions for muscular hypertrophy requires training under high levels of tension. Time-under-tension is what spurs the best muscle growth, whether you’re training with weights or with your body weight.

As the body overcomes the forces initiating the tension in your exercises, it creates the conditions required to institute hypertrophy. The body adapts to the stress of your workout, breaking down muscle tissue as you go through your exercises.

Provided you have the right nutrition and recovery plan in place, your muscles grow back stronger and larger to accommodate the regular stress put on the body through your workouts.

Bodyweight or Free Weights? – It Doesn’t Matter

The reality is that your brain can’t distinguish between working with weights or your body weight. The defining element of your training that determines hypertrophy – is your time-under-tension.

Therefore, it doesn’t matter if you’re working in the squat rack or doing bodyweight squats – time-under-tension is what counts when stimulating muscle growth.

How to Use Calisthenics to Induce Hypertrophy

It might sound impossible to build muscle as effectively with your body weight as you can with free weight like barbells. However, it’s true. There are two primary keys to inducing a hypertrophic state with your calisthenics training.

Control the Eccentric Movement

Emphasizing the eccentric part of your movement is essential for inducing hypertrophy. Controlling your descent in pushups or pullups, and exploding off the bottom of the movement gives you the best form for making gains.

Use the Right Workout Structure and Training Tempo

Structuring your workout with the right elements and variables is essential to optimizing your success with your calisthenics training.

Elements like the number of reps and sets and time you spend resting between each exercise also play a significant role in inducing hypertrophy.

Your exercise tempo is critical in setting your body’s work rate and the time you spend under tension during your workout. It’s important to include compound movements like burpees and pullups that exercise several muscle groups simultaneously.

Use the following to set your workout parameters.

  • Use between 12 to 15-repetitions per set.
  • Execute four to six sets of each movement.
  • Use a slow tempo that triples the time spent under tension in the eccentric part of the movement.
  • Keep rest times as short as possible.

Commit to a Calisthenics Workout Program and See Results!

By structuring your calisthenics workout and committing to your training, you’ll see results. Keep a journal and log your experience to track your progress.

Hoping that our answer to the question “Can calisthenics build muscle” has satisfied you, we recommend you read our article on the Saigon squat.