Here’s a little-known fact. Back in history, the word “calisthenics” meant “beautiful strength.” Fast forward a few years and it morphed into the act of using bodyweight to exercise. Be that as it may, it is in your best interests to learn how to build muscle with calisthenics.
The main advantage is that you don’t have to pay for a gym membership. And you can do it from the comfort of your living room while blasting your favorite tunes. Here’s how to build muscle!
1. Learn which muscles you need to target
Without knowing about anatomy, you will make zero progress when it comes to building muscle through calisthenics. Your objective is to hit your chest, shoulders, back, legs, butt, arms, and abs. In anatomical terms, these are the pectorals, deltoids, trapezius, latissimus dorsi, quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, biceps, triceps, and rectus abdominis.
You may be limited in resources to work these areas, but you are not limited in tension. That is the true catalyst that causes muscles to grow. And it’s also the most important factor that you have to look at when doing calisthenics.
Tension is created through contractions. If those contractions are slow and steady, or held for a long time, you will get the best results. Take that into serious consideration at all times.
2. Decide what exercises you want to do
A basic push-up is a must when building muscle with calisthenics. You can kill four birds with one stone with this drill, as it targets your chest, shoulders, triceps, and abs in one fell swoop.
Do you remember tension? Well, during a set of push-ups, you feel tension in your abs the entire time, so they will surely get rocked!
Add in exercises like squats, lunges, step-ups, hip bridges, dips, pike presses, and bicycle crunches, and you’ve just worked your entire body.
If you are fortunate enough to have a pull-up bar, then you are really set! You can do regular pull-ups, chin-ups, wide grip, alternating grip, and a bevy of leg raise combinations to round out your upper body recruitment.
If you don’t have a pull-up bar, you can get creative and use the edge of a deck, an open stairway step, or a beam in your basement.
3. Execute proper form
You already know about tension. But you also have to learn about form. If it is off or faulty, you’re a goner. You’ll set yourself up for muscle imbalances, asymmetries, and maybe even injuries. Those are all things you do not want to occur!
Good form means moving through a full range of motion, going slow and steady, not using momentum, and squeezing your focus muscles at the midpoint of each rep. Take squats, for example.
Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart and parallel to each other. Look up at a slight angle and lower yourself down by bending your knees. Stop when your thighs are parallel to the floor and stand back up. Squeeze your glutes for a second upon rising and repeat.
Make sure not to let your knees go past your toes and do not bounce at the bottom – that will make your joints very angry.
4. Work out often enough to get favorable results
Although you are just using bodyweight, it doesn’t mean you should neglect common sense and overtrain. If you do a full-body workout, take at least one day off between your sessions to give your muscles a rest. If you do split body parts, you can train on consecutive days.
For example, if you do legs and glutes one day, you can focus on upper body the next, and then alternate back and forth. The main rule of thumb is not to work the same muscle groups on consecutive days.
5. Perform enough reps and sets to get a favorable response
You need to make sure your muscles are getting enough work to grow. Performing 3 sets of 10 might not get that job done. It is better to do more sets and more reps with really strict form. Aim for a range that is more like 5 sets and 12 to 15 reps of each exercise.
In the beginning, you might have to go lower on the reps and sets. Build your way up as you adapt.
There is next to no chance of failure when building muscle with calisthenics the right way. All you have to do is pay attention, put your best effort in, and stay disciplined. You will start to see results in as little as four weeks.
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