How to Bulk Up and Build Muscle with Calisthenics (The Ultimate Step by Step Guide)

How to Bulk Up and Build Muscle with Calisthenics (The Ultimate Step by Step Guide)

You still look small. Are you sure you are not lying to me about working out?

This comment hit me right in the heart. 

Yes, I’m training 5 times per day every single week… – I said to my defense

It surely isn’t working man. Look I’m not trying to be mean or anything but if I was working out 5 times per week and didn’t have any results I would probably quit. I’m trying to be honest with you so please don’t get mad about this. Whatever you are doing it’s clearly not working.

Even if it wasn’t a very pleasant thing to hear his comment was actually true. I’ve seen myself in the mirror and I wasn’t getting bigger or stronger. 

I was still skinny and I hated it.

How I felt

Don’t worry I’m not mad. Unfortunately, you are not the first person to tell me this and I can see myself in the mirror and on the digital scale. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong but it clearly isn’t working… – I continued.

Do you have 10 minutes available? – He asked

I reached out in my pocket, looked at my smartphone to check the time and told him that I do.

Excellent. Please be focused because I have something really important to tell you that is going to help you to bulk up and build more muscle with calisthenics…

Hi there my name is Bozhidar, and in this article I will share with you everything I did to transform my body from skinny to big and muscular.

Yes, it’s really possible if you really want it!

Here’s a part of my transformation:

I’m the dude from the pics!

If you read this guide till the end you will know exactly how to bulk up and build muscle mass with calisthenics fast and effectively. 

In order to make the whole guide easy to digest I have split it into 5 easy steps you can follow. 

Here’s how they look:

  • Step 1 – Eat Enough Food
  • Step 2 – Have a Good Calisthenics Workout Program
  • Step 3 – Make Sure Your Training Is Focused On Muscle Building
    • 3 Things You Should Do If You Want to Bulk Up and Build More Muscle Mass With Calisthenics
  • Step 4 – Invest In Muscle Building Supplements
  • Step 5 – Keep Track on Everything

But let’s not stop just there.

If you want the best of the best I highly recommend you to take 3 seconds and download my awesome free guide How to Start Calisthenics: The Ultimate Guide.

It’s has 10 times more indepth information than this post and is going to help you get way faster and better results.

Simply enter your email below and I’m going to send it to you…

DOWNLOAD OUR COMPREHENSIVE FREE GUIDE

HOW TO START CALISTHENICS

  • Calisthenics: the ultimate beginners guide (step by step)
  • 3 full body calisthenics workout routines
  • Different warm ups, alternatives, progression plan
  • The top 6 moves you need to master in calisthenics
  • And much more...

So without any further ado, open your ears and prepared to be poured the elixir of knowledge…

Here we go!

How to Bulk Up and Build Muscle with Calisthenics (The Ultimate Step by Step Guide)

After listening to my friend’s advice (it took way more than the promised 10 minutes) I finally got a plan.

With his help, and a nice calisthenics program I bought I finally started to get some progress.

Only a couple of months later I managed to gain some muscle, increase my overall weight and even started to wear bigger clothes!

Yes, my arms grew a lot and some of my t-shirts were getting tight…

Here’s exactly what I did (and still do) in order to achieve that…

Step 1 – Eat Enough Food

The first and obvious change I did was to my nutrition

It seemed that “eat a lot of healthy foods” wasn’t enough and I had to be more strict on my diet if I wanted to get results.

I started to count down calories, proteins, and meals. 

I created different meals, started to track everything down and soon after my changes, the results came.

Here’s how you can do the same:

Find Out Your Bulking Calories

The first and basic thing you must do is to find out how many calories you should eat in a day if you want to bulk up and build some muscle and strength.

In order to do so please go to this free online calculator:

Once you are there simply add your current information and click the button “Calculate” so you can get a rough estimate of how many calories you need in order to KEEP your current weight.

Here are the results I got after I entered my details:

As you can see this calculator has given me 2500 calories I must every day in order to keep my current weight intact.

But they are not enough

In order to become big and build more size and muscle, I’m going to eat way more than that number.

It’s preferred to increase your calories with a number between 10 to 20% of their original number. [1]

The lower the percentage number you choose, the lower the amount of fat you will gain with the new weight. The opposite thing applies if you pick the higher number. So depending on your goal and fat tolerance pick a number you would feel comfortable with.

Here’s how you are going to do it:

Let’s say I have picked 15% (in the middle range) and I have just learned that I have to eat 2500 calories.

So in order to increase the amount correctly, I’m going to do this simple math equation (you can use a calculator if you want):

2500 + 2500 x 0.15 (15% of 2500) = 2500 + 375 = 2875 calories

But to make things easier I will simply round them to 2900.

So in order for me to bulk up with calisthenics, I would have to eat approximately 2900 calories every day.

Now repeat the same step and find out how many calories you should eat!

Once you are ready keep reading because it’s really important to know how you separate them…

How to Separate Your Calories Into Meals

The next thing you have to do is to separate your calories into reasonably sized meals.

The number of meals and calories per meal you choose to eat is entirely up to you because there isn’t a right or wrong way to do it. [2]

In my opinion, it’s way better to eat smaller meals more often because you won’t need to eat huge amounts of food at a time or be hungry for hours.

With that being said it’s time for you to take a pen and a piece of paper (or an empty Notepad or Google Docs document) and write down the names of how many meals you would like to eat in a day, their names and how many calories you would want them to have.

Here’s an example of how I would do my daily meal plan for my 2900 calories

  • Breakfast: 500 calories
  • Post-workout: 500 calories
  • Lunch: 700 calories
  • Snack 1: 300 calories
  • Snack 2: 300 calories
  • Dinner: 600 calories

As I said this meal plan is only an example and yours may look completely different from mine. 

Your main goal should be to make sure that all your meals combined contain the exact number of calories.

Example: 500 + 500 + 700 + 300 + 300 + 600 = 2900

Now take your time, create a similar meal plan and write it down.

Once you are ready continue to the next part…

Pick Your Favorite Bulking High Protein Foods

Now it’s time to pick the foods you are going to eat!

Similar to the number of meals there aren’t any rules of what and what you should not eat but try to follow some common sense.

For example don’t include junk and processed food, things that are very high or sugar, salt or slimy fat. 

Instead, include different foods high in protein such as different types of meat, dairy products, nuts, and beans. 

Again these foods are only an example so pick only foods you like that you wouldn’t have a problem eating on a regular basis.

Your next goal should be to create your personal list that contains at least 15 different foods you would love to eat regularly.

Here are a few healthy high-protein and high-calorie foods you can include in your list:

  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • Cottage Cheese
  • Nuts
  • Beans
  • Chicken breast
  • Peanut butter
  • Brown and white rice
  • Sweet and normal potatoes
  • Whole grain pasta
  • Oats
  • Different types of fish
  • Fruits and Vegetables
  • Greek yogurt
  • Almonds
  • Quinoa
  • Lentil
  • Whole grain bread
  • etc.

Now take a few minutes and create a similar list using your favorite foods.

Write down everything and once you are ready, continue to the next part…

Create Your Meals

Now it’s time to combine all the foods and create the different meals you have chosen at the start. 

Don’t worry it’s not as difficult as it may seem.

Your main goal here is to create each one of your meals separately so it contains the calories you have chosen.

Example:

If my breakfast is 500 calories I need to select different foods that combined give me this exact amount. 

In order to see how many calories are contained in every one of my chosen foods, I will use this website.

Once there simply type in the name of the food you want to search, select the amount you would like to eat and see how many calories and protein it contains.

Then do a couple of basic calculations, create a couple of simple and yummy meals, choose the portion sizes and you should be ready.

Here’s exactly how it should look like:

Let’s take for example my breakfast meal.

In order to fulfill my daily goal, I would have to eat 500 calories. 

After selecting and doing some research I learned that if I eat 5 fried whole large-sized eggs

and 2 normal slices of white bread

I would get roughly about 500 calories which is exactly what I need.

Now I would repeat the same steps for all my other 5 meals.

Yes, I know this may take me some time but trust me if you ignore this step and just eat random stuff you won’t get far.

That’s why I highly recommend you to give your best and create all your different meals appropriately.

After all, you are the one that is going to eat them, not me!

Once you are ready with all your meals and you know which foods to combine and what amounts, the only thing that is left for you to do is to buy all that food in bulk (it saves you both time and money) and prepare it.

Here’s a great short video teaching you all the basics of meal prep

Take a look if you like:

After your food is nicely cooked and prepared your next goal should be to keep track and eat everything. 

Yes, by that I mean every single meal!

And please don’t skip meals. 

If you want to bulk up and build muscle and strength with body weight training it’s vital to eat enough calories. 

So every meal counts…

After we are finished with the eating part it’s time to move on to the training…

Step 2 – Have a Good Calisthenics Workout Program

I’m sorry to tell you this but if you currently don’t follow any workout program you are probably not going to see all the gains you have dreamed about…

Yes, that is the hard truth that took me 6 months to figure out and during that period many bad things happened. 

So please, don’t ignore this step.

Working out without a solid program is like hiking on sharp rocks bare feet. Sure you could probably make it but it’s going to be really painful and it’s going to take a while…

Let’s see why…

Why do you need to have a bodyweight training program?

Because that’s how real progress is made. 

By using a program you will know exactly what to train, what exercises to do, how many reps, sets and in which order.

You will know everything you need to do to become big, strong and keep getting progress.

Having an exact training plan focused on all those things I just mention is going to 10X your results

Sounds good, doesn’t it?

Sadly not all programs are made equal

Here’s why…

What makes a good bodyweight program?

Even if there are countless different things I’m going to share only the most important ones. 

For example who has made it? It is somebody with ton of experience or knowledge or a complete beginner who is just starting out. 

Is this program tested and proven? Is it something that has been thought hundreds of people who have seen positive results or are you the first one to try it.

Is it made based on science? Even if a certain program sounds good it won’t be very useful if it’s not following the basic rules of building muscle such as time under tension [3], progressive overload [4] and rep range aimed for hypertrophy [5]. (don’t worry we will talk about all of them later down the article)

Does it have the right intensity? If you want to be successful with bodyweight training you must train with the right intensity. If the things you do are too easy for you and you have to do a lot of repetitions in order to reach your limit you are doing something wrong.

The same thing applies if you choose too difficult movements that you can barely do. A good program’s main focus should be to put you right in the sweet spot where you can do everything without any problems so you could get constant progress and results. 

Damn, that’s a lot of stuff! 

Does such a program even exist? I see your point Bozhidar, but is there something that “perfect”?

Very good question and here’s the answer…

What is the best muscle building bodyweight program?

It would sound great if the answer was: The one you are currently using!

But if I tell this I would probably lie…

The reason why I’m so negative is because I’ve wasted 6 months of following a body weight program I’ve personally made using random YouTube videos.

This is how it feels…

As a rookie, I didn’t know what the hell I was doing and that cost me many months of nerves, broken dreams and depression.

That’s why I highly recommend you invest in a pre-made calisthenics program.

Sure it’s not going to be free but it’s the best way to have guaranteed results. (as long as you are going everything right)

If you are looking for a proven calisthenics program that is designed using science and experience I highly recommend you take a look at Bar Brothers The System.

This is the first program I bought that really worked and by following it I got excellent results.

If you want to check my results and learn how this program can help you too please click here to read my complete Bar Brothers The System review <<.

After all, I’m not the only one who likes this program…

Some of the other people following this program

Hey Bozhidar, I’ve just checked it out and this is really a nice program and I would definitely buy it but… right now I’m 100% broke… I currently don’t have any money to spend… Could you help?

Don’t worry I know how it feels. I was broke once and it ain’t cool. 

If that’s your case (and you are not just being cheap) you could take a look at my tutorial here

I know it doesn’t come close to the complexity and information you get from this program but it’s still a good way to start if you don’t have any money.

With that out of the way now you should have finished with the eating and workout program part.

Now let’s see those important details I promised earlier…

Step 3 – Make Sure Your Training Is Focused On Muscle Building

Sadly even with the best training plan and meal plan you still won’t get far if you are not training properly.

During this step, I will share with you everything you should know about building muscle.

Let’s begin…

3 Things You Should Do If You Want to Bulk Up and Build More Muscle Mass With Calisthenics

Following those 3 things is going to guarantee that you are going in the right direction.

Ignore them and say bye-bye to your sweet dreams of becoming the son of Zeus…

Here is the first rule you should follow…

1. Focus on Progressive Overload

No matter if you are using weights or only your body weight progressive overload is the key to building muscle mass. [6]

But what exactly is progressive overload?

In short, progressive overload is the process in which you increase the level of difficulty for the exercises you do.

It’s the time where you gain new strength and power and the first time you decide to add 5 lbs more for your push-ups.

As long as you are making your movements harder you will see positive results in your physique.

What is the most effective way to do progressive overload?

Even if there are many different ways to go about it the most popular and easy method most people use is to simply increase the level of resistance.

And how would you do that?

One word – equipment.

You said what?

Yep, using additional equipment in your workouts is one of the best ways for you to keep your strength and power continuously improving.

Equipment? But I don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars…

Don’t worry, you won’t need to spend a lot of money in order to get big. 

If you are smart about it and listen to what I have to say your investment could be below $100 bucks.

Let’s see how you can do that…

What is the best calisthenics equipment for muscle mass and size?

Even if there are many different things you can combine with your body weight training I had found that these are the top 3 pieces of equipment you can use in order to get huge and strong…

Gymnastic Rings

I really love training with gymnastic rings because they are the most versatile piece of equipment you can get.

You can carry them everywhere and can easily hang them on any solid tree branch or strong enough place in order to do your workouts.

In addition to that, you can also adjust the height of the rings making them ideal for push-ups, dips, and pull-ups only in a couple of seconds.

And that’s just a small fraction of all the things you can do once you have these bad boys in your backpack.

But the best part is the fact that they are way more difficult to use compared to a basic pull-up bar or parallel bars making rings a perfect way to build more strength and muscles using the power or progressive overload. 

If you want to own solid wooden rings with enough height I highly recommend you to check mine:

My gymnastic rings

These are the ones I use almost every time I go out for an outdoor workout and are one of the biggest players when it comes to my muscle gains.

Click here if you want to check them on Amazon.

Resistance Bands

Adding resistance bands in your body weight arsenal is one of the best things you can do.

Bands are the best way to isolate and target specific muscle groups without the need to buy expensive adjustable dumbbells or weights. 

They are an amazing way to do progressive overload because they can be used with almost any body weight exercise or can be used alone. 

Here are some great scenarios you will probably meet:

  • Are push-ups getting too easy for you? – Include a medium band and try again.
  • Can you do 50 body weight squats without any problem? – Try again with having a couple of bands on your traps.
  • Don’t know how to isolate your biceps? – Attach a band to a nearby tree branch and do bicep curls.

As you can see bands are one amazing piece of equipment totally worth the small investment

If you are interested and want to buy a set I highly recommend you to check mine:

My resistance bands

I have used them for over 2 years now and they are almost like new. My only tip should be to go for the biggest set because eventually, you are going to have the strength to use all of them.

Click here if you want to check my bands on Amazon.

Weighted Vest

Another very effective way to do progressive overload in order to bulk up and build a lot more muscle is to wear a weighted vest during your body weight workouts.

Sure it won’t be very comfortable because nobody likes to wear a heavy backpack but after you see the gains in the mirror you will quickly forget all of that.

Lol bro is that you?

The main reason why I believe that using a weighted vest for progressive overload is so effective is the fact that in some models you have the option to adjust the weight

That way you are going to have the freedom to adapt your vest different body weight exercises and keep progressing when needed without any problems.

And the best part is that you can get a very good vest for a pretty low price.

For example check mine:

My weighted vest

It’s very easy to adjust and I’ve bought it for a very reasonable price. 

Click here if you want to check this vest on Amazon.

Hey man, these pieces of equipment are great and that but are there more ways to build effectively bigger muscles?

I’m glad you asked because yes, there are. 

Even if they are not as effective as including extra resistance they could still help you get bigger and achieve that greek god physique you always dreamed about…

Let’s check them out!

2. Use the Right Repetition Speed and Range

If you want to bulk up and build muscle you have to focus on 2 things:

  1. Doing all the exercises using the right repetition speed
  2. Focus on a specific rep range

What is the ideal rep speed for hypertrophy (muscle development)?

If your main goal is to build more muscle with the help of your body weight you should aim to do around 3 seconds per repetition. [7]

Here’s how a good 3-second repetition looks like:

  • 1-second pull or push (positive part of the movement)
  • 0.5 second hold/squeeze (contraction)
  • 1.5 second controlled drop/getting down movement fighting against gravity (negative part of the movement)
Here’s how it looks

The main reason why you should aim to do a 3-second rep is because you want to have enough time under tension so you could build muscle mass.

The ideal time under tension range for muscle growth is between 30 and 60 seconds. [8]

That’s why the rep speed goes hand in hand with the number of reps.

Here’s how it works…

What is the ideal rep range for muscle growth?

If your main goal is to build more muscle and size you should aim to do between 6 and 12 repetitions near failure but it’s preferred to do between 8 and 12. [9]

The goal here is to have enough strength so you can do ONLY 12 repetitions and not simply stop at 12 because you have to.

That’s why it’s important to adjust the level of difficulty in such a way that you can only do every movement during this rep range.

But the most optimal way to do this technique is by combining both strategies

If you do 10 repetitions with 3 seconds per rep you will get 30 seconds of time under tension which is ideal for muscle hypertrophy. 

That way you are going to optimize your workouts for muscle growth.

And who doesn’t want to have big and well-defined muscle?

With that being said let’s see what is the 3rd and final tip…

3. Target and Isolate Your Muscle Groups

Even if doing calisthenics is one of the best ways to target your body it’s not that great for isolating your muscles.

And without proper isolation, you will not get good muscle development in certain areas.

Legs, I’ve never heard of them…

I believe you don’t want to look like this, do you?

If you really don’t want to get in the above situation and complete with chickens you should isolate different muscle groups and target them using different angles, techniques, and exercises.

For example, try and do workouts which mainly focus on your chest, biceps, triceps, back, legs and abs separately.

I won’t get into huge details about which exercises to do because you can find that with only a simple google search…

Instead, I will share with you how I do it.

Because I own many different resistance bands I use them as a complete replacement of dumbbells and a barbell. 

With their help, I can do many of the same exercises targeting very specific muscles from different angles.

Sure you must find a solid anchor point but once that’s done you can target your whole body with ease…

And that’s really it.

Now you know what are the best strategies to improve your training straight away in order to build more muscle mass and strength.

But it’s not over. 

I have a couple more important tricks up in my sleeves I want to show you.

Let’s check them out…

Step 4 – Invest In Muscle Building Supplements

Oh no, I have to spend money again…

Before you hate me I want to say that this is completely optional.

While supplements could really help you get enough protein and calories fast they are not necessary. 

And let’s not forget the fact that they are not that expensive at all – a good supplement will cost you around $20-30 bucks per month which is going to be a lot cheaper than buying a ton of food you have to prepare and cook.

With that being said let’s see what are your options…

Which are the best supplements I can get to build more size and muscle mass with calisthenics?

Even if there are probably 10 different types of supplements “promising such things” I personally use only 2 which are:

  1. A good protein powder
  2. A weight gainer

Here are the reasons why I use them …

1. Best Protein Powder for Calisthenics

The main reason why I use protein powder daily is because I don’t like to cook, prepare meals and bring them with me anywhere I go.

Especially If I’m on some type of a hike or I’m away from town.

It’s 10X easier to bring a spoon of powder and mix it with little water when I need to than worrying about my food getting bad or worse – have leaking problems and making a huge mess inside my backpack…

But the best part is that protein powder is way cheaper than regular food so it saves you money and time at once.

If you are wondering which protein powder I use here you go:

My protein powder

I find this protein very affordable, tasty and useful. In 1 scoop of this powder, you get 24 grams of protein, 120 calories and 5 grams of BCAAs which are also very helpful in building muscle [10].

Click here if you want to check my protein powder on Amazon.

2. Best Weight Gainer for Calisthenics

I personally really love to take a scoop of this supplement daily because it saves me a lot of eating.

Can you imagine how much food I have to eat in order to get extra 600-700 calories when my current daily goal is 3000 calories?

Multiply that by 3…

It’s insane!

Yes, that’s right. 

That’s a lot of food and a lot of food means a lot of money and time spent on buying, cooking and prepping.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying you shouldn’t eat real food and completely rely on weight gainers and other supplements.

What I’m trying to tell you is that supplements are a great addition to your meal plan because they can save you both time and money and make bulking up and building muscle way more effective and easy.

If you need to eat a ton of calories every day but don’t want to cook and bring meals with you I highly recommend you take a look at my weight gainer:

My weight gainer

It’s very cheap, has over 600 calories per single scoop and tastes really good.

It also has 25 grams of protein, 3 grams of creatine and many vitamins. I think you will like it.

Click here if you want to learn more about it on Amazon. 

So now you know which are the best muscle building supplements for calisthenics and why I use them.

If you have the money I highly recommend you include them in your training and nutrition and see what happens.

Especially if you have to eat a huge amount of food every day…

With supplements out of the way, there is only one final step left.

Please don’t skip it because if you do then everything you did so far will be pointless

Here’s why…

Step 5 – Keep Track on Everything 

What will happen if you did the exact same chest workout for 5 months straight without changing a thing?

Hmmm…..

Probably nothing I guess….

Yes, that’s right. If you want to keep getting bigger and bigger for many months and years ahead you must keep track of everything you do.

  • Which exercises you do
  • How much weight (or which bands) do you use
  • Are you gaining or losing weight
  • Are your arms, legs, and shoulders growing?
  • etc.

That way you could see if you are heading in the right direction only in a couple of seconds.

But that takes some effort…. and I’m lazy…

Well what is more important for you:

To reach your goals and look like a new Marvel Superhero or to keep being skinny and lazy?

Somebody said a superhero….

I really hope you have chosen the first option because that’s how it’s done.

It takes time to track down your progress but eventually it’s going to be worth it.

Speaking of which…

What is the most effective way to track down my progress?

While there isn’t a right or wrong way to this, the most simple thing you can do is to use an ordinary notebook and write down every week (or every day) your most important information.

Here’s how it should look like:

Today’s Date (Ex. 10.07.2020)

My current weight: 75.4 kg (165 lbs)

How many calories I have to eat: 3000 calories

What is my goal: to build muscle and size

Exercises

  • Squats – heavy band (10-12 reps)
  • Pull-ups – weighted vest with 10 kg (8 reps)
  • Chin-ups – weighted vest with 10 kg (10 reps)
  • Regular push-ups – medium band (12 reps)
  • Ring dips – light band (10-12 reps)
  • Handstand push-ups – no weight (10-12 reps)
  • and so on…..

If you want to you could write down every day the workout you did and include all the exercises, reps, sets, rest time, etc. 

The more simple option is to write down some of this data once every week and compare it to the information you got on the previous week and see if you are getting any progress.

Even if the progress isn’t huge don’t worry. 

Small progress is still progress – be grateful that you still have any!

The Next Steps

Finally, it’s over…

You have reached the end of this guide. Congratulations!

Now you should know (if you have read everything) what and how to do in order to bulk up and build muscle mass with calisthenics!

I know this is not a short guide but please follow (and actually do) all of the 5 steps if you want to be successful. 

And remember that if you want muscle mass and size you have to do something. If you only read this post and find excuses you will not achieve anything. 

That’s why I highly recommend you get off your butt and do something! 

But wait there’s more!

If you want to get EVERYTHING from this post you need to do these 2 simple steps:

STEP 1:

Enter your email below and get instant access to my awesome new guide How to Start Calisthenics: The Ultimate Guide.

It’s 100% free and it’s going to help you a lot.

Plus, you are going to find plenty of solid advice inside.

Here you go:

DOWNLOAD OUR COMPREHENSIVE FREE GUIDE

HOW TO START CALISTHENICS

  • Calisthenics: the ultimate beginners guide (step by step)
  • 3 full body calisthenics workout routines
  • Different warm ups, alternatives, progression plan
  • The top 6 moves you need to master in calisthenics
  • And much more...

STEP 2:

Use the helpful links below if you want to learn more about a certain thing and take a couple of minutes and read even more awesome articles about calisthenics.

Here is a quick recap of a couple of useful links you may need:

With that being said the end is finally here.

I’m going to miss you…

If you really liked this guide and found it helpful but want to learn more awesome and useful things about calisthenics please check out my other similar guides:

And please don’t forget to leave a comment below! I will answer anything.

Thank you for reading this guide and I hope it helped you learn a thing or two about how you can build muscle mass and size using calisthenics.

Now take action and get big!

Hope to see you again,

Bozhidar

P.S. Man, I really wished I had this guide a couple of years ago…

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