In order to constantly keep adding weight, build muscle and strength and progress with bodyweight training you need to eat more calories than you burn, train regularly, do all exercises with proper technique and tempo, have enough intensity with your workouts and progressive overload with every workout you do.
Here’s exactly how to do all those things in order to progress. (based on science and my personal experience)
What you will learn
- How to eat more calories than you burn (be on a caloric surplus)
- How to train regularly (at least 3 days per week)
- How to train correctly (have great technique, tempo and intensity)
- How to progressive overload (how it works + examples)
How to eat more calories than you burn (be on a caloric surplus)
In order to build muscle and gain weight your body needs to consume more calories than it burns every single day. That process is called caloric surplus. 
In order to do it correctly you first have to roughly understand how many calories you burn every day. To get that number please use a calculator like this one.
Once you know the number you need to maintain your weight, you need to add 10-20% to it. (the more calories you add, the more fat you will also gain with the muscle mass)
Example: I found out that I must eat 2100 calories to maintain my weight. 2100 + 210 (10% out of 2100) = 2310 calories.
Now I have a new goal – eat around 2300 calories every day in order to bulk up and gain muscle.
Now it’s time to calculate all your meals so you understand how many calories each meal has.
In order to do that you can use a free tool like this one (or any other) to calculate (find out) how many calories, proteins, fats and carbs are in every meal/food you eat.
Simply type the name and write down the info (on a piece of paper on online on your phone/PC)
Example: I eat 1 banana every day so I would write down: 1 banana – 105 calories, 0 protein, 0 fats, 27 carbs
Do this for all the foods and meals you eat and then calculate the total amount of calories, proteins, fats and carbs (I know it takes time but you do it only once!)
Then aim to eat the calculated amount almost every day.
If you don’t see any results after a week, increase the amount by 100 calories and weigh yourself again after 7 days. Or if you start gaining weight too fast, decrease the total calories by 100.
Don’t forget to test your body and adapt your meals depending on the results you get.
Quick Tip: Try and aim to include in your meals protein rich foods like meat, eggs, milk, beans, nuts, protein powder, etc. I wanted to keep things simple so I haven’t made you calculate your lean muscle mass and calculate how much protein you would need because it’s not that important at this stage. Simply by eating healthy enough calories with high protein foods, you can really progress with calisthenics and build muscle and strength.
How to train regularly (at least 3 days per week)
In order to maximize muscle growth and strength you need to train every muscle group (arms, legs, chest, back, etc) every 48 hours (2 days). .
So that means that you can target every big muscle group 2 or even 3 times per week in order to maximize your results.
In order to make this happen make sure you are giving your body enough rest (2 days) and aiming to train each body part at least 2 times per week.
Here are 2 great bodyweight routines you can try (I have used both of them):
- Monday: Chest and arms
- Tuesday: Back
- Wednesday: Legs
- Thursday: Rest Day
- Friday: Chest and arms
- Saturday: Back
- Sunday: Legs
- Monday: Chest and arms
- Tuesday: Back and Legs
- Wednesday: Rest Day
- Thursday: Chest and arms
- Friday: Back and Legs
- Saturday: Learn advanced moves
- Sunday: Rest Day
Bonus: If you want more info about how to structure your workouts read my in-depth guide.
How to train correctly with calisthenics (have great technique, tempo and intensity)
Have great technique: To keep getting results every single repetition you do must have perfect form and technique. That will make sure you stay away from injuries and maximize your efforts. In order to make sure you always have proper technique, use a mirror, ask somebody to watch you and constantly educate yourself by watching tutorial videos on Youtube and reading articles about how to do each exercise.
Example: I want to learn handstand push-ups. I watch a video on how to do them. Once I’m comfortable enough I find an empty wall and try a couple of times just to stand on my hands while balancing my legs on the wall. (It’s hard but slowly I begin to learn) Once I can do a simple stand without losing balance I try to do 1 rep…
Use the right tempo: When you are doing bodyweight exercises you need to do all exercises slowly and in a completely controlled way. The right tempo for all exercises is this: do slowly the negative part of every rep (the part where you go down) and do explosively but in a controlled way the active part (the push/pull part).
Example: To do a pull-up you hang until your arms are straight. Then you pull yourself up until your chin reaches the bar and your back is contracted. Then you hold the contraction for a bit. After that you slowly lower yourself until your arms are straight again in a controlled way.
Have enough intensity: If you aim to do push-ups and you can do 20+ without even feeling the burn then you need to increase the intensity. You can do that in many ways but the simplest way that works the best is to simply add enough resistance so you can only do between 6 and 12 reps for every single exercise (this is the best range for muscle growth according to science ). You can add resistance by using a weighted vest, resistance bands, doing more difficult variation, etc.)
Example: In order to increase the difficulty and intensity I decided to add extra 10 kg (20 lbs) on my weighted vest so now I was able to do only 9 push-ups (instead of 20) without sacrificing proper form.
How to progressive overload (how it works + example)
Progressive overload is simply the process in which you slowly become stronger and can do more reps, lift more weight or withstand the same resistance for a longer period of time.
This process is an essential part of building muscle and strength because without progress within your workouts you won’t see any results.
So to make sure you always progress you can do one of the following things:
- Write somewhere the number of reps, sets, weight used for each workout you do (use notebook or online program)
- Aim to improve your results with every workout you do (do one more rep, add a bit more weight, do a harder variation, hold for 5 seconds longer, etc.)
- Lower the rest time between your exercises and sets (try 60 seconds instead of 90)
- Add one more exercise or one more set (this will increase the difficulty)
- Do a completely new workout/exercise (it will shock your nervous system which will cause growth and strength gain)
Example: During my last workout I managed to do 8 muscle-ups (the last one was very difficult). In my next workout I will try my best to do 9. Even if I fail I’ll try again next time until I succeed.
And remember that in order to continuously get bigger and stronger you must follow all those principles. Ignore any one of them and you won’t see any significant results. I’m speaking from personal experience.
Now go and give them a try!