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A very common question people wonder is can you build muscle with calisthenics? The common assumption is bodyweight exercise can’t build muscle.. This FitnessFAQs video covers “calisthenics explained”, discussing the science behind bodyweight bodybuilding. The truth is you can build muscle with bodyweight training, if you know how.

How to build muscle with calisthenics is quite simple. I’m going to share with you the 3 rules for success with hypertrophy and muscle gain. You need to train with eccentrics, full range of motion isotonics and isometric contractions. The reason why most people can’t build muscle with calisthenics is because they are focusing on endurance training, high rep push-ups, pull-ups, dips, rows etc. This is not the optimal rep range for building muscle, but, for some reason people make this mistake with calisthenics. The best method is to stick to the 5-12 rep range as this is an efficient and effective approach. This rep range maximises the number of stimulating reps per set while being timely.

Once you understand the science behind calisthenics training, bodyweight bodybuilding will make sense. The body understands mechanical tension and fatigue. Regardless if this is through powerlifting, gym, weight training, free weights or bodyweight, hypertrophy will happen!

66 COMMENTS

  1. Excellent video. I’ve made great gains over the past year and my buddies were always giving me shit that I don’t go to the gym and I won’t gain muscle if I don’t always lift. Thanks to you, Daniel and calisthenic movement I’ve learned sooo much. Training calisthenics is so much more enjoyable and interesting…I can do it in my bedroom, in the garden or at the park. Anytime I want. And at the end of the day you can do crazy looking skills that lifters can’t.

  2. Can we just get one thing cleared? That the guy in the video doesn't look like a body builder, not even approximately, he's super athletic yes, but this isn't an example of achieving bodybuilding via Calistenics, he's too slim for that imo.

  3. This is good advice and for me works well with the upper body. But how would this apply to the lower body? The legs simply need more load to max out around 8-12 reps. How could i achieve this without a barbell?

  4. (1) is so true. I've come across several calisthenics athlete videos recently who have hit a plateau and moved to "greasing the grove" to improve further. Honestly adding eccentric reps at the end of each set brings good results without throwing your schedule out of the window.

  5. Im sorry for asking such a frequently asked question, but first of a little bit about myself:

    I’ve already been to the gym a few years back and with that being said I trained what is known as I’d call it hypertrophy specific training with about 3 sets and 10-12 reps each.

    Now to my question:
    My goal is to develope a good looking physique without having too much muscle mass and on the other hand I want a good amount of strength.
    I don’t know whether I only primarily develope a better mind-muscle connection recruit more muscle cells and so on or whether I’m also building up enough muscle mass by training strength specific as well for my goals and to what degree I am building muscle to have both goals relatively good combined.

    I appreciate your time, help and answer.
    Thank you!

  6. you said high rep calisthenics builds endurance, not muscle….so what about Hannibal, Bartendas, Fit Semi, Bam Bam, Team Wingate just to name a few. i dig your channel bro, but we gotta keep the facts straight. All of them do high reps and have built endurance, strength and muscle. ijs

  7. I personally believe we can, but we still need weights on some cases, ie: weighted pull-ups/push-ups etc, squats&lunges. Also, set your goals realistically, don't expect Arnold's 100% similar body. A jacked elite (Olympic) gymnasts body is achievable&realistic for us. But that requires A LOT of dedication and 5+ years of consistent training&nutrition. They train 6 days every week and spend at least a 2-hour session with lots of stuff!!

  8. Hello Daniel. I've been following for years and totally love your work. I'm interested in more in depth reading on biomechanics and human physiology. Could you please suggest some good authors you have found useful? All my best
    Oj

  9. 4:48 effective reps is still just a scientific concept though the evidence points toward it being a fact. they aren't far enough in the research to be completely sure it has effect. it is most likely more effective as it doesn't involve going to failure but there isn't complete certainty. I think it was good to include as it is great infromation however you also discredit it at 5:30 saying low intensity can't build muscle. the principle of effective reps however points towards higher reps as having similar if not greater effectivenes when implemented correctly.

    please take this as feedback, the video overal has great information. calistenics is an amazing form of fitness but is hard to implement correctly. you are one of the few calistenics youtubers who knows what they are talking about unlike the moron known as Chris heria for instance. Liked and Subbed.

  10. Now now, let's get those terms right. Calisthenics is either that female ballet invented in the 50's or street workouts consisting of advanced moves like muscle ups and spin flips. Not common friggin Pull ups or Dips.
    Why even bring that term up? You had a title "bodyweight BB" then all of a sudden outta nowhere comes "Calisthenics"!?
    Anyways, I don't really care… Except that it is confusing, annoying and soon we'll have ppl calling it "Calisthenics" as soon as they get outta bed.

  11. Your statements at 4:35 and 7:54 highlight a point that I've vaguely suspected to be intuitive but never quite took to heart and implemented fully. It's not surprising to hear that the most impactful catalyst for growth tends to occur when discomfort and lack of control are at their peak. Would it be appropriate to treat the early reps in a set like necessary stepping stones on the path to reaching that critical struggle phase where actual adaptations are forced to emerge? I feel as though there's an under-appreciated mental component required while trying to successfully surpass your previous limit or personal best. 
    An ongoing challenge I've encountered is finding a way to maintain composure during that moment when the instinct to bail out kicks in due to the unfamiliar and stressful nature of the sensory experience. If the initial repetitions are essentially a given, and mainly serve to propel you towards the crucial juncture characterized by an almost fight or flight response, I'm just wondering what quality some people seem to possess that allows them to stay engaged and persevere in the midst of the part which is arguably of greatest importance in terms of promoting tangible development.

  12. i think that what people mean by not building muscle in calisthenics is the fact that you can't really build really big size like you can in body building. I call it unnecessary muscle mass. All that size body builders gain is completely useless to relative strength and endurance, and can't really be applied to real world situations besides something extremely heavy being pushed on top of you or someone else… in which case you're probably already dead or injured bad enough that you can't push it off anyways. The size you can build with calisthenics is perfect, and if anyone actually cares, it's what girls find most attractive. 99% of girls are scared of dudes with hulk like muscles. there ya go meat heads, looks like you've been wasting your time. All those big IFBB pro body builders can't even come close to competing to people who live the calisthenics lifestyle. We have super human strength that took way more patience and hard work than anything those giants had to deal with.

  13. Hi Daniel, i know that doing both horizontal(rows and variations of it) and vertical pulling(pull ups,chin ups etc)are important for a beginner in calisthenics but if someone becomes more advanced what style of pulls should he focus more(horizontal or vertical) and also what would you choose ,which one would be more beneficial for a calisthenics athlete if he is an advanced one?

  14. Thank you so much for this. I want to use calisthenics to build my body (I'm an extra small woman) but I lose confidence when I hear all the misinformed say that it won't build muscle and I eventually go back to the weights. My tiny frame doesn't like the weights. I really needed this video. Thank you!

  15. I would be very interested in a video where you give a walkthrough of tips for filming exercise, how you edit your videos, doing voiceovers, what editing software you use etc.. Hope to see one in the future!

  16. You can definitely build muscle using only bodyweight exercises. You cannot however build maximum muscle. No one's going to win the Olympia without touching weights, even with the juice.

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