Friday, September 27, 2013

How to gain Muscle Mass with Calisthenics? Part 1 - Workout

If I was given a dollar for every time I've heard:

"Hey man, how can I gain serious muscle with calisthenics?"


"Hey dude, is it possible to gain mass with Street Workout? I think gym is better."

or even

"Calisthenics only works for defining muscles, you won't build muscle mass, because you are limited to your own body weight."

I would have a ton of dollars, seriously, Bill Gates would jealous.

So, as a response to all of those (understandable) concerns, here it is, my definitive answer:


But that's just too easy. So let's develop, shall we?

First of all, it's okay not to believe it's possible to build serious mass with calisthenics. Why? Because extreme street workout it has been popular for a short period of time. Whenever you see a ripped dude or a fit chick, the first thing that comes to your mind is: He/She lifts. And that's okay, society nowadays has implemented this Gym = Win concept into our daily lives. And it's difficult to believe that you can get in the best shape of your life without touching a weight. So without further ado, let's see how you can do it:

- Do you even lift bro?
- No, I pull myself up.

The most important thing you need to know is this:

Resistance is resistance, regardless of the object utilized to apply it.

Repeat that to yourself. Resistance is resistance.

Your body does not differentiate between a lat pull down and a pull-up. It does not differentiate between your body weight and an external object such as a dumbbell.

That would be stupid right? Your body can't say:

Oh wait, wait, wait bro. You are doing a handstand pushup, you're not doing a shoulder press... I'm not growing dude. Nope. It's either you use weights or you stay the same.

What a rude body that would be...

So yeah, it's a matter of resistance. It's a matter of how much pressure you apply to your muscle fibers, and how you do so.

So how do I apply more and more pressure?

How do I gain muscle with calisthenics?

1- Extend the TUT (Time Under Tension)

A very simple yet effective way of applying more pressure to your muscle fibers is to extend the time these are under tension.

Let's say you can do 50 fast pushups in a row. That's great! But doing a huge amount of pushups every day is truly not the most effective way of getting tearing your muscles.

Instead, try to do 20 slow pushups. When I say slow, I mean really slow. Follow this general guideline:

- A eccentric part of 4 seconds (eccentric = negative)
- A contraction when the muscle is fully extended of less than 1 second (so you don't rest)
- A concentric part exploding up (concentric = positive)
- A contraction on 1 second when you are fully contractedSo for example, on a push-up: 4s going down / Contract about 1s when you're down / Explode back up / Contract 1s on top.

The tempo here would be: 41X1

On a pull-up, you would start the repetition on top of the bar, so the first number means when you go down (negative).

This makes it much more difficult.
There are two really important things here you need to undersand:

- Why do I only apply a slow tempo (4s) on the negative part of the repetition?

It's simple, the negative part is when you are extending the muscles, when you are stretching them out. That means it's actually the part when you are tearing your muscle fibers, and creating micro-wounds that will heal later on.
On the other hand, the concentric part of the exercise (the positive part) is when you are contracting your muscles, making them tighter. And that does not mean tearing them down (at least not even close to as much as the negative part does).
So I would rather work on my explosiveness when going up, it's harder than it looks.

- Why do I need to contract the muscle?

You always need to focus on contracting the muscles you are using. Out bodies are lazy and will try to find a way to complete the exercise as easy as possible. Try this, instead of doing normal pushups, try doing them while squeezing your hands together. Just like if you were trying to push the floor down and to the center of your hands. This will activate the chest a lot more, you'll feel it's a lot harder, and it's definitely more effective.
So, a hard contraction on bottom and top position will assure more blood flow to the muscles, you will feel the burn, the pump, and you will get a far more effective workout.

2- Progress on your exercises

That's the beauty of Street Workout, the fact that you can progress and learn new moves that, not only will they be fancier, but they will punish your muscles even harder. So whenever you feel comfortable with a move, try progressing to a harder one (e.g when you get to 15 easy pull-ups, try doing the wide).
This will make you push yourself further and harder. Your body will have to adapt and overcome those factors to grow stronger and bigger.

3- Progressive Overload

This is key to gaining muscle. You will not get better unless you aim for getting better. Progressive overload means increasing the difficulty of a workout every time; for example every week.

So let's say for example last week you did 16 spartan pushups. Next week try to do at least 17 or 18 repetitions. This is a simple way of making it harder, but there are others:

- Increase sets, not just reps
- Decrease rest times under exercises and sets
- Increase the difficulty of the exercise (e.g. do decline spartan instead of spartan)

These are just some effective ways I've found to increase difficulty every time. Which brings me to the next point:

4- Track Your Workouts

That's right, it's simple. Just get a piece of paper or a Word Document on your computer write down everything you do. Reps, sets, rest periods, extra weights... and even how you felt during the exercises, what you want to improve next time etc. You don't need a fancy chart to do so, just do it.
This is one of the most important tips. It doesn't take much time.

Also, doing this will allow yourself to watch your progress over time. Isn't it great when you look back some months ago, and what used to be your workout is now your warm up?
That's on of the best feelings you can get, and will motivate you to keep going even harder.

If you don't see progress then it's time to change something on your routines.

Are you training hard enough? Are you progressing? Are you sleeping enough?Are you eating accordingly to your goals?

These are some of the questions you should ask yourself.

5- Add some extra weights

Another one of the most popular ways of increasing tension on your fibers is to increase your weight. Don't do this until you feel comfortable with your training sessions and you want to level your game up. A nice way of doing it is to get a backpack and load it with some dumbbell plates. First add about 10% of your body weight, and keep increasing the weight every now and then.

That's it! These are some of the ways I have used to gain muscle with calisthenics, and it has worked greatly! So please, whenever anyone tells you "you cannot gain muscle with bodyweight training" send them to this post! Make them smarter and wiser.

That is all for today, now go out and spread the word: Fitness and a healthy lifestyle is what's cool.

Train Hard brothers.

"First they ask you why you do it, then they ask you how you did it."


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