How can muscles be built up?
Large, defined and athletic muscles are the dream of almost every sports enthusiast. But how is this possible and what does my muscle need to grow? Increasing the muscle cross-section is the solution! A muscle consists of three different fibers, each of which reacts to different loads.
To achieve such loads, it is recommended to work in a repetition range of 1 to 20 repetitions or under a load of about 60 – 100% of the 1 Rep Max (1RM). This allows all muscle fibers to be addressed. To cover the repetition ranges, your workout and the repetitions per exercise should vary. For example, for your back: pull-ups with 5 repetitions and 5 sets, rowing on the rings with 12 repetitions and 3 sets.
The next crucial factor to induce muscle building is the intensity of your workout. Each set should be trained close to muscle failure. The repetitions of the set are chosen in a way that after the last repetition just one or no more repetitions are possible. So, depending on the exercise, you can either go completely to muscle failure (e.g., isolation exercises) or leave 1-2 more reps "in the tank" (e.g., more complex exercises, such as pull-ups, squats, etc.).
A resulting factor is the so-called “Time Under Tension” (TUT). This indicates how long the muscle is loaded. According to the literature, an optimal TUT is between 30 and 50 seconds. This time period ensures that your muscles receive sufficient stimulus to trigger changes in size.
As you can already guess, the TUT is significantly influenced by the number of repetitions. Additionally, cadences can be used if this time is not achieved or needs to be extended. A slower execution of the concentric and/or eccentric movement phases can be applied.
The last major influence on muscle growth is the “Range of Motion” (ROM). A muscle should always be trained through its full range of motion for optimal growth. This influence is unfortunately often forgotten or neglected, because it is of course easier to shorten the movements, thus achieving more repetitions and thereby strengthening the ego. The rule here is to neglect ego and to pay attention to a clean execution over the complete ROM.
In summary, for muscle growth, a specific mechanical stimulus under 60-100% of 1RM load, training a set to muscle failure and a TUT of about 30-50 seconds is optimal. In addition, all movements should be performed over the muscle's COMPLETE ROM.
Is it possible to build muscle with calisthenics?
Now, to build muscle using calisthenics exercises, the preceding factors must be considered. For beginners, this should not be a problem, as sufficient intensity can be achieved over several sets when ROM is taken into account. However, as experience and strength progress, further progressions are needed to meet the initial conditions.
Example: If an athlete can easily perform more than 20 pull-ups over several sets, he will no longer experience significant muscle growth. Therefore, it is advisable to find suitable progressions of the exercise at an early stage in order to fulfill conditions again. Thus, the example of the pull-up can be worked with additional weight or other versions, such as typewriter pull-ups or one-arm chin-ups. By doing this, noticeable muscle growth is possible again.
Building muscle with calisthenics is especially possible for beginners. Advanced users will have to resort to progressions at a certain point in order to maintain the conditions for muscle building. A suitable training plan in which all muscle groups are trained with a certain volume is recommended.