How to Build Muscle With Calisthenics – 5 Rules

Lately I have been reading a lot of articles about building muscle with Calisthenics on different websites and I could draw a simple conclusion: most of them are just personal opinions (from people who have never tried Calisthenics as a lifestyle probably), myths and ‘gossips’. 

Well, first of all I want you to find out that YOU CAN build muscle with Calisthenics and more actually, it is the most efficient and the fastest way to do that if you will consider all these 5 rules that I’m going to discuss here within this article. 

So let’s get started, shall we?

#1 You Need to Create Hypertrophy

Wait, what…does it mean?

In simple terms, hypertrophy means the breakdown of muscle fiber through exercise followed by its recovery during your sleep period. Basically that’s a simple definition of hypertrophy; you ‘damage’ the muscle through exercise and it will recover (and grow stronger) while you’re sleeping and by eating the right foods.

You can create hypertrophy even if it’s about weightlifting, Calisthenics or weighted Calisthenics.

The principle is easy to understand and it is very simple to incorporate it into your training:

You need to go for HIGH VOLUME REPS. This means that you will try to raise your game and do MORE push-ups in a set, MORE pull-up, MORE abs and so on. You need to aim for many reps – that’s what you need to remember.

#2 Progressive Overload

Get the hell out of your comfort zone right now! It’s not going to work, buddy. You need to create goals that are 10% above your comfort zone and you need to SMASH them!

By progressive overload you need to understand consistent advancement. Slowly, you need to raise your goals. Let me give you an example so you can understand better.

If right now you are able to do 30 push-ups in a single set without getting exhausted, that’s still in your comfort zone. Try to set your goal to do 35 push-ups in a single set. If you are able to do them with difficulty, there you go! Work on that until you are able to do 35 push-ups without being exhausted. After that, add one more repetition to your goal. And one more, and one more.

You can apply the progressive overload principle by adding one more repetition per 2-3 workout sessions.

Let’s say you are doing 3 sets of: 15 regular push-ups, 15 incline push-ups, 15 decline push-ups and 10 dips as an workout. Next time you’re going to do this workout, perform 16 repetitions instead of 15 and 11 instead of 10.

Another way of applying progressive overload into your routines is by performing an exercise you’ve never done before, or trying to learn a new skill. Basically, EVERYTHING THAT’S OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE represents progressive overload.

BE CAREFUL! I don’t recommend raising your repetitions every single training, thing that might lead to injuries because your body might not be prepared for that volume of repetitions. Add one more rep per 2-3 workout sessions. This way you’re applying the principle and you’re less exposed to injuries.

#3 Compound Movements

You need to start doing testosterone building exercises. How are you going to do that? By doing compound movements. What are these? These are the exercises that use more than just one muscle group.

Well, talking about Calisthenics, the most of the exercises are compound movements, like push-ups, pull-ups, squats, etc. They use more muscle groups and the benefit of doing this kind of movements is that they create more blood going into the bloodstream, which leads to muscle growth.

You can also create a compound movement by combining two different exercises that use different muscle groups. For example burpees. A burpee is a combination of one push-up followed by one jump with your knees up. It is a very challenging exercise mostly used in HIIT workouts. This exercise hits your chest, your triceps, your legs and your core.

#4 Positive Nitrogen Balance

This means that you need to eat enough protein.

Have you ever heard about that 70% is nutrition and only 30% is workout? I’m sure you have. And well, this is true. It is utterly important that you eat the right things. Guys, trust me, if you are practicing this sport and you’re trying to be better at it, it means you are ambitious. Well, be ambitious when it’s about nutrition too! IT’S INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT!

Would you want to work out for 6 months and barely see the results? Just because you thought that nutrition is not that important and maybe you can cheat a little bit today and a little bit the week after? Start eating right, guys.

Now, back to positive nitrogen balance. A lot of people think that in order to build muscle you NEED to be on a caloric surplus. WRONG! That’s just a myth and it’s not true. You don’t need to be on a caloric surplus in order to build mass; what you need to do is to make sure you take enough protein

Of course, it you are on a caloric surplus it’s easier to build mass, I agree, but it’s not necessary to do that. Personally I am almost everyday on a caloric deficit and this doesn’t bother me at all, as long as my intake of protein is right.

Most people say that you need 2-3 grams of protein per pound of body weight and I think that’s too much. I would recommend 1.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight.

Remember guys, you don’t want just to put mass. That’s meaningless. You want to build muscle. That’s your goal. I know a lot of people that look very big but they don’t have strength and they obviously don’t look good, which is one of the most important goals here, right?

If you have a fast metabolism and you find yourself a hard gainer, which just gives you headache when it’s about gaining weight (I find myself in the same situation) I would recommend you this type of protein powder: MuscleTech protein. It had helped me a lot with this problem and one thing that I can tell you is that it is going to help you eat more as well! I have found the best price for you guys, on Amazon. Click the image on the right to get yours!

#5 Go Hard

The last thing that you need to consider is that you NEED TO GO HARD!

You don’t want just to complete your training. You have to stay focused all the time throughout your workout, you need to squeeze hard that muscle so you can feel the pain there! It’s not enough to do the movement of that specific exercise, because sometimes you may not engage that muscle to its fullest potential!

Remember that pain is the weakness getting out of your body. It only counts when it hurts! That’s when those gains are made. Choose this temporary productive pain that will give you some gains and some results instead of choosing the eternal pain of quitting. Make the right choice, guys!

Implement These Rules and You Will Build Mass

Well, in order to achieve your goals and to build mass with Calisthenics, you will want to make sure that you implement all these 5 rules that I’ve just discussed here with you.

Be patient! Nothing is built overnight. Don’t workout one week and wonder where are your gains. It’s NOT going to happen. It’s utterly important that you stay positive and patient. Patience is one of the main keys to success in everything. Just make sure you don’t skip any workout and you stay consistent.

So if you’ve ever wondered how to build muscle with Calisthenics, here’s your answer, folks! If you have any question about the topic and not only,  please leave them below in the comments area and I will be more than happy to help you out!

I’m Alex and it was a pleasure to write this article for you, guys!



  • John

    I thought a caloric surplus was really necessary, but now I know otherwise. I’ll keep pushing myself to go harder and longer at the gym, with some rest of course, and the right amount of protein in my diet. Thanks for the good information about how to build muscle and Calisthenics.

  • Katie

    Thank you for this article, Alex! My favorite part is to push outside of your comfort zone. That is most definitely where the magic happens. I appreciate learning some new info and look forward to more!

    • Alex Rubio

      Hello Katie,
      Thank you for reading my content, I’m glad that you liked it.
      I am going to post more articles soon, so stay tuned!
      Wish you the best!

  • Michel

    Interesting article, but what if you don’t want to build muscle with Calisthenics? In other words, you just want to tone the muscle group, but not bulk it up? Would you still follow the advice here, or would you do things differently?

    I was always told to work the muscles until you feel the burn, or else the exercise hasn’t done its job and you haven’t pushed yourself enough.

    • Alex Rubio

      Hi Michel,

      Whatever your goal is, you need to feel that burn, of course, otherwise you just won’t progress.

      If you want only to tone your muscle groups, it’s the same process, but instead of concentrating on the protein intake, you should put a lot of accent on equalizing the fats-protein-carbohydrates intake in a way that will maintain your weight, not increasing it. In other words, you should always vary your diet and just be careful to not each ‘more than you actually need’ 🙂

  • Elaine Nicol

    Thanks for the helpful rules for building muscle with calisthenics and different types of exercise. You have motivated me to get up and work with my kettlebell, I can’t wait to get off the computer this morning and get my blood flowing, something I often forget to do. I really appreciate this. Wishing you tons of success, – Elaine

  • Donald

    Hi Alex,

    This is some great information that you’re providing here.  I always wondered just what caused muscle growth.  Thanks for your explanation of the process of Hypertrophy.  I had never heard that before.  

    I have a question though.  Does this process take place as well when you bicycle?  Bicycling is my favorite choice for exercise, so i want to know if i’m getting the same benefits.

    • Alex Rubio

      Hi there Donald,

      The process of hypertrophy happens when you ‘stress a muscle’ through any kind of exercise. So when you go for a ride with bicycle (if you make it challenging, not only recreational) you activate your legs muscle. If you are going to challenge them enough, you will damage some fibers, and you will have hypertrophy when you’ll rest.

  • MrBiizy

    Hello Alex. Thank you for sharing this guide on 5 rules to building muscle with calisthenics. I had a great time reading through this guide considering the fact that I didn’t get lost unlike some other posts I have read before. This is because your explanations were simple and intensive at the same time. These rules are really effective because I have implemented some of them before but I stopped after sometime. I am planning to get back to workout routine so this guide will go a long way in helping me achieve success. Hypertrophy and Progressive Overload are insanely awesome. One thing I really need to work on especially is my nutrition because I usually overlook nutrition…


    • Alex Rubio

      Hi there,

      I am glad that my content could help you understand some things. 

      In matter of nutrition, yes, you should never neglect it, it’s the most important thing and you should always eat healthy.

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