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Monday, June 22, 2015

AA Podcast Episode 4: 12 Mistakes in Building Muscle through Calisthenics

In this episode of the Alpha Asian podcast, I talk about body weight exercises and how to build muscle from calisthenics:



Here are the show notes:

I’m not sure what it is, but there’s a fascination with body weight only programs.  It’s the number one search topic on my Strength and Physique blog, and I know many personal trainers have their own body weight only programs.

I don’t think it’s the cost factor (calisthenics can be done without equipment), because I’ve seen people do just body weight exercises at the gym.  Which is ridiculous, because why do calisthenics at the gym when you can do them anywhere for free?

Not only is there a lot interest in body weight only programs, but there’s a lot of interest in building muscular bulk through body weight only programs.  Can you build muscle mass on just calisthenics?

Yes.  But the road to muscle mass is long and narrower on a calisthenics program.  Wanting to build muscular bulk on just body weight exercises is like wanting to go to Vegas by bicycling there instead of flying in.  It can be done.  It’s just harder.

Although there are lots of body weight only programs out there, there aren’t very many that focus on building muscle mass.  At least there aren’t any that effectively build muscle mass.  Most body weight programs are just general fitness workouts or fat loss workouts.

There are some good books on body weight training purely for strength.  The two that I recommend are the The Naked Warrior by Pavel Tsatsouline and Convict Conditioning by Paul Wade.  These 2 books serve as a good intro to strength calisthenics.

Paul Wade also has a book called C-Mass, but it’s not quite as good as Convict Conditioning.  The book does a good job of reviewing muscle building principles, but the actual program is very rudimentary.

Now if you’re looking to build muscle solely through calisthenics, then you’ve got to ask yourself, “Why?”

Why build a house with just a hammer when you should have an entire toolbox?  You can build a decent physique on body weight exercises only, but having a decent physique is not the same as having the ultimate physique.

If you want the ultimate physique, then you'll need to go to the gym and train with a variety of equipment. But if you're satisfied with a decent physique, then moderately difficult calisthenics will develop some.

Now if you decide to train with just calisthenics to build muscle, then stick to these principles:

1. Do pull-ups, dips and squats
2. Include a balance of movements
3. Go through a full range of motion in your exercises
4. Do high reps for muscular size
5. Alternate between high and low reps
6. Do multiple sets of low reps
7. Focus on single lines of motion
8. Avoid plyometrics
9. Incorporate isometrics.
10. Do unilateral movements
11. Attach weight
12.   Cycle your training