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Will Calisthenics Make Me Bigger? (Yes, Here’s How)

Reading time: About 13 minutes

Yes, calisthenics will make you bigger. Increasing muscle mass is down to proper hypertrophy training. Which you can achieve with calisthenics.

Getting big with calisthenics comes down to changing levers of exercises, alternating grips, varying rep tempos, and sustaining a caloric surplus. There are many examples of people building muscle using calisthenics training.

With these various training techniques, the main benefits of calisthenics are in functional strength. Gaining a more toned defined physique, rather than mass alone. It's essential to note that calisthenics emphasizes athleticism and strength-to-weight ratio, rather than sheer size.

But still want to see how big you can get with calisthenics? Hypertrophy training is the way: by focusing on maximum exercise intensity for at least forty seconds per set. You will always get bigger, calisthenics or not.

How Big Can You Get Naturally With Calisthenics? 

Many people refer to the somewhat outdated models of “mesomorph, ectomorph, endomorph” to determine how big you can naturally get. While these body type models still hold true to some degree, it varies highly with individuals. Everyone has their own genetic limit to getting big naturally, and calisthenics can sure get you far.

Now, in terms of natural size, muscle insertions can have a factor in this. Tendons can be longer than a muscle belly, which means you might have steep peaks in your biceps, for example. Which is part of your genetics, and you can’t change that - which is fine.

image of a man with a short bicep head demonstrating an example of having a long tendon in the bicep


In terms of muscle gain only using calisthenics, then there is a certain limit to how big you can get. You can only achieve so much resistance with just your own bodyweight. Eventually, you will be too strong for your bodyweight to challenge you enough to trigger hypertrophy.

This limit to calisthenics comes after years of training and correct programming of workouts. You would have progressed to the maximum level of all calisthenics skills. And explosive planche push ups with claps every rep would be your standard push day routine.

You can try sustaining a caloric surplus, and increasing your own body weight to make exercises harder. But again, there is only so much you can do, ultimately speaking. Eventually, you’d reach all genetic limits using this method.

So after reaching the pinnacle of calisthenics mastery, and you take a look in the mirror. You will find an extremely shredded and muscular physique… But if you want more…

Just use a weight vest.

How To Get Big With Bodyweight Alone

Stimulating muscle hypertrophy is the only way to increase muscle mass. We do this in calisthenics by changing exercise variations and levers. So more resistance is put on specific muscle groups.

Changing the lever of a calisthenics exercise means altering the position of your body, varying the load put on certain muscle groups. For example, in a push-up, putting your feet on a raised platform shifts the lever. Increasing the pressure on your upper chest.

When it comes to how often you can train, it’s quite easily manageable to train every single day. In a varied routine that gives each muscle group enough time to recover, you can train every day.

illustration of an example calisthenics workout routine targeting one move per day throughout the week


Each muscle only needs forty-eight hours rest. So whatever routine you decide to create, as long as you allow for that minimum recovery time, you’ll progress. Sometimes you may need longer depending on how hard you trained, which would be about seventy-two hours rest.

For the sets and reps, all that matters is intensity and time under tension. There is a minimum of forty seconds tension on a muscle per set. And you shouldn’t go more than eighty seconds if you want maximum muscle mass increase.

You can set a timer, then just do reps until the timer rings. Or you can use tempo, and count the time under tension at each phase of the movement.

Does Calisthenics Make You Lean Or Bulky?

Your caloric intake determines how lean or bulky you are. Calisthenics is merely a group of exercises and skills that rely on your body weight. In general though, calisthenics makes you leaner as you use more muscles at once.

Many people who train martial arts use calisthenics exercises. Push-ups, squats, lunges, crunches, bicycle crunches, and many other exercises make up their training. They are often very lean to better outmanoeuvre their opponents.

So in terms of lean and bulky, it’s really down to how you stimulate the muscle. If you train high reps for longer, then you’re going to get leaner and more toned. If you train low reps at high intensity you will get bulkier.

Calisthenics merely determines the movement pattern.

Can You Gain Size With Calisthenics?

Yes, you can absolutely gain size with calisthenics. If we look at gymnasts, we can notice the most aesthetic and shredded bodies. Many people believe you cannot build muscle mass with just body weight training, and while there are certain "absolute" limits, you can definitely build a shredded physique.

Many people think gymnasts are on gear. Which there may be some examples of, for sure. But it doesn’t take away from the fact that if you look at the vast majority of gymnasts, they still achieve very impressive physiques (just remember to hit legs).

Using only calisthenics, it is possible to gain size. Just remember it’s mainly dictated by your nutrition sustaining a healthy caloric surplus. Two hundred to three hundred calories above maintenance, over a few months, will provide your body enough energy to build mass.

How Fast Does Calisthenics Build Muscle?

There are mixed answers to this, people have said you can generally pack on about two pounds of muscle every month (naturally). You would also expect to see fat gains. It varies for every individual, but in general, it takes about 2 months to notice significant gains from calisthenics.

If you really want to estimate how fast you would put on muscle when training calisthenics. You’d have to take into account your genetics, training intensity, recovery, consistency, and nutrition.

With nutrition, balance is key. Don’t just have protein, or only fat, or only carbs, or taking away any of the three key macronutrients. Sure you can have some bias for protein, like thirty-five percent protein rich food per meal, just get enough fats and carbs too.

In terms of protein intake, you need to get minimum 1g of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. Others argue 1.7g, 1.5g, 1.2g, or even 2g protein per bodyweight. If you’re getting at least one, and no more than two, you’ll be okay.

In terms of training and stimulating muscle. Weightlifting is the fastest way to grow muscle mass.

There are more inner workings going on with calisthenics that make it slower. Such as different nerve connections, which contribute to your body’s coordination and mobility. This takes energy to develop too, so less is put into muscle growth.

Weights isolate your muscles, maximising intensity, as all force in concentrated. So it creates more intensity in less time. Which is ideal for muscle growth.

Are Calisthenics Guys Strong?

Calisthenics guys are very strong relative to their own body.

Take into account the two types of strength; the first one being absolute strength. Which is the exact weight you can move without considering body weight. And then relative strength, which is how much weight you can move relative to your body.

If a skinny kid weighed sixty kilograms, and a bulkier guy was one hundred kilograms. And they both could do a muscle up. Then you could say that they were of equal “relative strength”.

But the guy who weighs one hundred kilograms has more “absolute strength” because he’s pulling more overall. If you want to determine if calisthenics guys are strong, you have to decide whether you’re talking about absolute strength, or relative strength.

Should I Lift Weights Or Do Calisthenics?

Do callisthenics to gain more muscle control, coordination, and tone. Lift weights to gain more absolute strength and muscle mass. Generally, it’s best to find a good balance of using weights to isolate specific muscles, and calisthenics to train large muscle groups.

Why not make your workouts reap as many benefits as possible? Both are tried and proven ways to train. "Hybrid" weights and calisthenics training has the most benefits.

Are Calisthenics Worth It?

Whether calisthenics is worth it or not is dependent on your goals. If you value extreme coordination, control, stability, and relative strength skills. Then calisthenics training is one hundred percent worth it.

People who only do calisthenics have greater “carry over”, meaning they can do more things with their abilities. Calisthenics gives you functional strength as it uses exercises that mimic natural body movements, translating everywhere:

    • Parkour
    • Climbing
    • Swimming
    • Running
  • and many other activities
  • If you want sheer muscle mass, and maximum absolute strength. Then having a weight training routine is ideal for the fastest muscle growth, and easiest to track progress.

    You can also simply decide if it’s worth it based on the results of others.

    If you want to get a similarly toned and developed physique like this:

    before and after transformation of a shirtless man from germany using calisthenics training to achieve his physique


    Then calisthenics is the way.

    If you want to look more like this:

    before and after transformation of an arabic man using weight training to achieve his physique


    Then weightlifting is the best way to achieve that.