The 3 Fundamental Rules For Muscle Growth

You want to build muscle with calisthenics, right?

You’ve told everyone around you that you are going to get bigger and stronger than ever. 

You’ve been hammering at it hard. Maybe you’ve even seen some visible results in the mirror already (Good for you!).


But then all of a sudden you come to a halt.

More work. More hours. No progress. 

So you ask yourself: “What made me progress in the first place?”


You actually don’t really know.

Maybe you just did everything right by accident. And if you did, now is the time to know why.

You don’t want to be the next idiot who just keeps doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results.

Let me share the 3 fundamental rules for muscle growth.



Rule 1 – Mechanical Tension



You need mechanical tension/progressive overload to provide the body with adaptation signals (1, 2).

This basically means that you need to tell your body: “Hey you lazy bastard, you need to start growing!”.

You need to say it often enough.

And you need to keep increasing the volume by which you say it.



Key Takeaway: Note that it’s not about sweating or about having sore muscles, it’s about consistently increasing the ‘mechanical tension’ over time.

Sore muscles can actually be an unwanted by-product of excessive amounts of training.

They just prolong your recovery period and are by no means an indicator of consistent progress.


Can you increase mechanical tension through weightlifting? Yes.

Can you increase mechanical tension through calisthenics? Yes.

Both work at building muscle, because they follow the same principle:

Increased mechanical tension over time.  


In weightlifting this is achieved by adding another weight plate.

In calisthenics this is achieved by using gravity to your advantage.

Take a planche progression for example.

You can go from a planche lean to a tucked planche to a straddle planche, each one being significantly more difficult than the previous one. 

By moving your center of mass or by just using one extremity you can increase the ‘loads’ without increasing your weight. 



Key Takeaway: What does this mean for you?

If you don’t have external weights you can still increase your weight by using gravity to your advantage.

All you need is a body.

And some gravity.



Rule 2 – Protein Intake & Caloric Surplus



You need proper amounts of protein and increased caloric intake to fuel muscle growth.

One of the few things that all effective muscle building diets have in common is the importance of protein intake on body composition and specifically muscle growth (3).

How effective the body is at building muscle is not just related to protein intake, but also to the caloric balance of an individual.

Being in a caloric surplus isn’t a necessity, but a slight surplus provides a useful buffer to prevent the loss of lean tissue (4).


Key Takeaway: What are the practical implications for you?

You need to start tracking your caloric and protein intake.

Eat slightly more than you need (200-300 calories) and do so with enough protein on your plate (1.6-2.2 grams g/kg).

Note: Your protein requirements might differ based upon your caloric state.

Want to know how to start tracking your calories and get a fully customisable 30 day diet plan with meals? Click here to get the Bar Brothers Nutrition System.



Rule 3 – Sleep, Stress & Deloads



You need ample rest/recovery to allow muscular adaptation.

Sleep is an extremely important anabolic activity (4).

Muscles grow when you sleep, not when you workout.


More, lack of sleep has actually shown to increase muscle breakdown amongst a few other negative effects (5).

This is highly related to chronic stress which in turn can also negatively impact your recovery.

It can even double the time you need to recover from 48 to 96 hours (6).


You need to realise that working out only provides your body with the mechanical signals which activate adaptation.

The real adaptation happens when you rest and recover.

The real challenge here is to find a good balance between working hard and resting deep.

A simple tool which you can use for this balance is a regular calisthenics training deload after 4-6 weeks.


Key Takeaway: What are the practical implications for you?

If you sleep late, wake up early and have less than 6-8 hour of sleep a night, you are probably decreasing your gains.

Additionally, doing just more training without proper balance of recovery can lead to levels of stress that can double the time you need to recover.

Instead of setting just a wake up alarm, make sure you also set a sleep timer to remind yourself you need to go to bed or add a relaxation ritual to your daily habits.



The 3 Fundamentals For Muscle Growth



If you stick to these simple rules, anything can potentially build muscle. 

Stop wondering whether or not you can build muscle with calisthenics.

You’ve been doing it your entire life.

Right now your body is contracting against gravity, essentially just holding yourself up is a body weight exercise.


Try putting a new born baby in an upright position and see how much effort it takes to just sit up, let alone stand up straight.

The question isn’t whether or not you can? The question is more a matter of whether or not this is the path you want to choose?

Of course it’s not just about building muscle, but if you base your decision solely on that criteria, calisthenics can definitely get you there.



Don’t Be An Idiot, Apply The Principles!


Ultimately there is no 1 path to building muscle, there are many.

Some people feel passionate about lifting weights, others want to experience more freedom and turn the world into their gym. Others rather remain the flabby couch potato.

And that’s all fine.

Whatever your path may be, the fundamental rules to building muscle are the SAME FOR EVERYONE.

Even if you are a special little snowflake. 


It also applies to you.

Don’t stop your progress by thinking that you are different.

If you have 2 arms, 2 legs and 2 eyes you are pretty much the same as the other 99% of people out there.

Hell, it actually gives you even less of an excuse to think you are different.  


And it means you don’t need to choose between lifting weights, doing just calisthenics or adding weights to your calisthenics training.

You can do it ALL.

Stick to the fundamentals and decide whether the path you choose is right for you.

That doesn’t sound idiotic does it?


Beast mode ON!


Now I’d like to hear from you:

Did you like this post?

Or maybe you have a question.

Either way, leave a quick comment below right now.




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