A lot of confusion and discussions were generated everywhere, back and forth, regarding the best methods in calisthenics for muscle growth. Calisthenics enthusiasts are curious about which methods should they focus more amongst the multitude that exists. Is it sets & reps (classic bodybuilding style), circuit training, pyramids, ladders, or full-body workouts? Some of them categorized as high-intensity training whilst others as strength training or for endurance only. Still, they all utilize the exact same exercises: You have pull-ups, dips, squats, pushups, leg raises, and a lot of variations from the regular ones!
One group of trainers will come and say stick with one or two training methods only for long enough before changing entirely. In contrast, others will say, move from one way to another as often as possible. Who’s right and who’s wrong? Well, I built my physique mostly through calisthenics, naturally and over several years. So I have the expertise behind to back me up. Moreover, my friends successfully apply these strategies, too, as well as many others who got my training programs.
Which Calisthenics Methods Build Muscles?
I am the one to say that you need a mixture of all the training methods and to stick with them as it was a routine, done repetitively every week. One of the biggest reasons is that by continually changing, even if you keep the same exercises, you create more powerful neuromuscular connections. Your nervous system will increase the voltage, and that will help you perform better as strength and endurance increase over time.
You can do full-body circuits, pyramids composed of upper-body exercises, or train three interconnected muscle groups split into sets and reps using various exercises of the same movement pattern. And believe me that they all add to your hypertrophy training. Of course, one may be more suited than another, but each training mechanism provides benefits of its own.
For instance, far too many consider volume training to be cardio. In reality, it improves the ability to recover from a set to another and also the neuromuscular junction. Volume workouts are the ones usually related to pyramids, ladders, and even to sets and reps or circuits:
All these types of workouts improve lactate tolerance as well. It will increase your tolerance to lactic acid and allow you to maintain a high work rate for longer. That’s why I name these training methods endurance workouts, but never cardio as it’s about the muscles and not about the cardiovascular system so much.
Doing calisthenics circuits based on pull-ups, dips, and pushups is all about anaerobic, muscular endurance training. And sure, they develop your muscles if you eat and rest properly.
Food is exceptionally relevant, and every time I talk to people about how to get stronger, it always comes down to protein and carbs and training techniques. Not that those are not essential, but to get stronger, you need an optimal level of mineral and vitamin intake too.
What’s Most Important In Calisthenics Muscle Building?
First and foremost, what matters in bodyweight bodybuilding is training to muscle failure. Your workouts have to cause soreness, burnt, and fatigue into your muscles. Any exercise that successfully does it, even if they are pushups and not bench presses, will be well suited for the job.
In other words, it doesn’t matter so much if you do a pull-up pyramid workout, a pull-up circuit, or pick four pull-up variations and train into sets and reps. They will all be great for the purpose!
The intensity will be different, though, and volume as well depending on rest, exercises, and reps. But that relates to your own ability to perform. If I need 100 reps to cause pain in the muscles, for you 40 may be sufficient enough.
So pick a routine that squeezes and drains your muscles of energy. Compound your monthly training plan using all these methods. Don’t overthink about which one is best and how to organize them. You can’t fill everything in a week, maybe also because you do 1-2 cardio sessions. That means you need more weeks to cover everything fairly.
I’ll tell you what to chase, though. If you trained your back and biceps on Monday, then as soon as they recover, you attack them again. You can stick with the same workout if it went so well, or change it. I don’t know, and honestly, it doesn’t even matter too much.
It’s this cycle and routine you’ll have to do for a very long time. Do the same in the remaining days for other body parts.
A little exception here does full-body circuits. Usually, their purpose isn’t to grow big muscles. They instead help you burn calories and improve other aspects like stamina, endurance, cardiovascular system. So, in your effort to grow muscles with calisthenics, utilize less full-body workouts unless burning some fat isn’t a goal as well. Nonetheless, I do it even if my body fat percentage is meager.
The Training Plan to Ensure Muscle Growth
Your monthly plan, if you are relatively lean, should mostly consist of the following calisthenics training mechanisms:
- Classic sets and reps workouts (split workouts per muscle groups or movement patterns). It’s called the bodybuilding approach,
- Pyramids, or circuit pyramids. The army usually prefer this method to increase durability and endurance,
- Upper-body circuits. Extract any leg exercises here except individual core variations because it isn’t a full-body workout meant to burn calories. These routines complement and balance each other like the push & pull workouts.
- The ladder training method. This approach is similar to pyramids, and they share the same benefits.
What Isn’t Recommended When Training for Growth in Calisthenics:
If you intend on training your upper body muscles, never add at the end of your workout, anything that has to do with leg exercises. I’ve seen this a lot!
The only way you could do it properly is if you commit to a dedicated leg routine as you did for the upper body. Finish one and move to the other! Don’t throw a few sets only because that’s your instinct. And vice-versa! Use the same strategies for training the legs if you will. I have here an article about how to train your legs effectively with calisthenics: 5 Steps to Build Legs and Calves Muscular and Strong.
Plan a workout for the legs separately! If not, then design a correct full-body workout made of compound exercises that together train the whole body parts.
I hope I clarified it for you once and for all. Stop doubting about crap and pay attention to what really counts, which is executing the whole plan to the best of your ability rather than chasing the ultimate workout routine best for growing lean mass.
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