How to Bulk Up From Calisthenics

Calisthenic exercises like pullups are great for building muscle mass.
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Many people think that weights are essential for bulking up, but this isn't the case. However, according to Jason Ferruggia, owner of Renegade Strength and Conditioning, body weight exercises, otherwise known as calisthenics, need to be part of your program. Ferruggia recommends including more advanced calisthenics though, rather than just focusing on traditional pushups and situps.

    Start every workout with a plyometric exercise. Plyometrics are explosive exercises that involve jumping, leaping or bounding. They are the key to activating your central nervous system and improving your performance in the weight room, says Chad Wesley Smith, author of "The Juggernaut Training Method." For your lower body, do box jumps, broad jumps or single leg hops, and clap pushups for your upper body. United Kingdom track coach Brian Mackenzie recommends keeping your repetitions low, but emphasizing movement quality and power. Pick one exercise and do five to eight sets of two to six reps.

    Split your workouts into upper body and lower body sessions, and train four times per week. Train your upper body on Mondays and Thursdays, and lower body on Tuesdays and Saturdays. According to strength coach Chad Waterbury, author of "Huge in a Hurry," upper lower splits allow you to use more volume and train at a higher intensity than full body sessions do, which is ideal for maximum muscle growth.

    Choose your exercises carefully. The majority of the exercises you do should be compound multi-joint ones that work multiple muscle groups, as these hit more muscle fibers and stimulate more growth. You want to balance out muscle groups too, so make sure you train your quadriceps, hamstrings and calves in your lower body sessions, and chest, back, shoulders and arms on upper body days, rather than focusing on single muscle groups. A sample lower-body session may include split squats, single leg glute bridge raises and standing calf raises, and an upper body workout could be pushups, chin-ups, inverted rows and dips. Start by doing three sets of 10 repetitions on all exercises, and add more reps and sets as you get stronger.

    Consider your diet. To bulk up, you need an excess of calories to support muscle growth. Add 300 calories per day to your current intake, and weigh yourself once per week. If you're not gaining muscle add an extra 100 calories per day, or if you're putting on too much fat, reduce your intake by 100 per day.

    Strive to make the workouts more challenging the stronger you get. To ensure constant progress and maintain muscle growth, you need to progress in every workout. This can be done by simply doing more reps and sets. Alternatively, choose more challenging exercises. For instance, if your plan includes pushups and squats, aim to progress to single arm pushups and single leg squats, or add weight by wearing a weighted vest.


    • Consult with your doctor before embarking on any new exercise plan, and ask a qualified trainer to demonstrate any exercises that you're unsure of.

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