In this post I want to talk about how you can get big and strong using just your bodyweight. I am going to flesh out some of the fundamental considerations while trying to get big using bodyweight exercises only.

I am assuming here that the reader is familiar with basic bodyweight exercises and their variations.

Basic Concepts

1. Progressive Overload must be maintained.
Over time you have to increase the resistance of the exercise you are performing. In bodyweight work this is done by doing one of 4 things-
a. Changing the leverage
b. Putting more weight on one limb
c. Increasing the range of motion
d. Tightening up the form

2. You must incorporate all the basic movements.
Don’t just do pull ups and dips. You have legs, use them. In addition the added leg size will increase the resistance for your upper body, enabling you to build a larger upper body in the long run.
The basic movements are-
1. Pushups of all sorts
2. Pull Ups of all sorts
3. Squats
4. Leg raises and sit up variations
5. Bridges and hip extensions
6. Inversions
7. Loaded carries of all sorts

3. You have to train in a variety of repetition ranges to get truly big.

You have to utilize movements that let you to do very few repetitions to build raw strength. However, the majority of your training must be done in the 6-20/set range. A few higher repetition sets here and there will build the tendons as well. Using maximum effort isometric exercises like front levers, flags and L sits will develop absolute strength as well.
4. Use variations that throw more work on the under developed parts. Don’t underestimate single joint movements like sissy squats, ham glute curls, bodyweight tricep extensions and front lever pulls.

5. To build the muscles of the torso use bilateral exercises. To build the muscles of the limbs use unilateral exercises.

6. Do some explosive work to help develop your maximum strength.

Jumps, clapping push ups and pull ups must be performed. You have to do some throwing as well.
Biggest Mistakes People make

1. Not covering all your bases.

This is the biggest reason people fail to get big with calisthenics. They will forget to train the lower body, or do heavy loaded carries or isometric holds or jumps and sprints and then wonder why they cant get bigger.
2. Not performing exercises properly
People  have not learned how to juice exercises for all their worth. They will do push ups in sloppy form and do a set of 30 and think its time to move to diamond push ups. You really have to learn how to make a movement literally perfect. Only then move to something more advanced.

3. Training too often and too hard too early.

4. Moving to harder variations too soon
5. Not keeping a training journal
6. Not moving to harder variations

7. Not eating enough.

You have to eat to grow, specially around workouts. This is as true of bodyweight work as it is of powerlifting or bodybuilding. But be mindful of fat gain, as unlike powerlifting or bodybuilding, it will immediately hamper your progress with bodyweight work. Stay below 15% bodyfat and eat a lot of proteins and carbs around workouts. If you feel you are getting fat, just cut the calories for a few days or add conditioning work.  Keep it simple and don’t get so fat in the first place that you need to do something dramatic or complicated. If you are over 15% bodyfat, deal with that first and gaining mass later. You will never go beyond rudimentary bodyweight movements being fat.
Program Checklist

1. Any productive mass gaining routine utilizes limited exercises and decent volume and intensity. Aim and program for a balanced physique.

2. Have decent mix of extremely difficult, quality repetition work, ultra high repetition work, heavy isometric and explosive training.

3. Stress the whole body with loaded carries and reap the anabolic benefits.

4. Build the torso muscles first and then the extremities.

5. Build your weaknesses.

6. Use intelligent repetition, set and frequency schemes. Don’t exercise for no real reason and avoid junk exercises and sets.

7. Eat well but in moderation.

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