Calisthenics Bulking? A 5-Step Guide to Calisthenics Bulking and Growing Massive

Sven Kohl is transforming his body with the use of bulking, cutting and calisthenics

People don’t generally associate Calisthenics with bulking. After all, bulking is something only weightlifters do traditionally. This notion has become so ingrained into our collective imagination about the big and burly dude, that few would associate bodyweight exercise like Calisthenics with bulking. While weightlifting and bulking do go hand in glove, Calisthenics also has a long history with bulking. Look at the many athletes and celebrities, modern and ancient, who turned to Calisthenics for bulking. It is a major misconception that Calisthenics and bulking are mutually exclusive. The truth lies somewhere in the middle, and we’ll find out exactly where that middle ground lies when it comes to Calisthenics and bulking with an actionable 5-step guide to bulking with Calisthenics alone.

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What is bulking?

Bulking is the gaining phase in an exercise routine where you gain a comparatively large amount of muscle mass over a period. This is typically accompanied with a higher degree of physical exercise and an increased caloric intake. Put simply, a phase where you train more and eat more. You give your body all the calories and nutrients it needs to keep performing your more intense exercise regime. Less thought it given about getting ripped and a higher bodyfat percentage is accepted during the bulking phase to give the body a ready supply of new calories to burn.

The bulking phase is often followed up with a cutting phase, when calories are restricted, and exercise is brought down to maintenance level. This ensures that the gained body fat is eliminated, leaving you with more defined, larger muscles gained from the bulking phase.

Careful observance of your nutrients and discipline in your exercise routine are important for a successful bulking phase. Eating too much and training too little will only result in getting fatter, while eating too little and training to much is ineffective or counterproductive.

4 Reasons to Use Calisthenics for Bulking

The benefits of Calisthenics are numerous and included among them is the possibility to bulk up in muscle mass. An advantage Calisthenics has when it comes to bulking over the traditional method of weightlifting is the fun factor. Put simply, traditional weightlifting versus Calisthenics can be excruciatingly boring! The repetitions are monotonous, and the sets aren’t varied. This can easily lead to psychological fatigue, e.g., you’re bored with it. You can force yourself to go the gym for long periods of time, but that doesn’t mean you should want too. 

A second advantage Calisthenics has for bulking is that it promotes using a high range of motion and gaining functional strength, in other words Mobility, much more than any other bulking method. Weightlifting has the tendency to produce bunched up muscles only capable of exerting effective motor control with strength doing the same, repetitive motion. 

Thirdly, unlike the modern popular imagination, Calisthenics and bulking have a very long history. Not only does our modern military use Calisthenics, but soldiers from as far back as ancient Greece have also used Calisthenics to become large and strong. 

Finally, Calisthenics is simply very effective at bulking. If you know what Calisthenics is, you know it is a highly versatile method of gaining health, fitness and strength. The bulking phase in Calisthenics can see tremendous gains to the user, provided they follow the right routines.

A 5-step plan to Calisthenics Bulking and Gaining Muscle Mass

Following these steps ensures a successful Calisthenics Bulking phase that will see optimised muscle gain. Keep in mind that bulking in Calisthenics, like in weightlifting, is already a more advanced technique. You will have to ease into it and have a body that is at least already used to exercise. Some of these steps have tangential steps, like setting up and selecting the right Calisthenics Bulking workout and your nutrition. We will provide information about those facets as well, later in this article. 

Step 1: Plan and time your Calisthenics Bulking Phase

Calisthenics bulking is a phase of heavier exercise and increased nutritional intake. It also requires that you adhere to this plan as best you can, preferably very strictly. If you’re currently ill, obese or haven’t worked out in a while, then now is not the time to be bulking. These phases can be short or very long, it depends entirely on what you expect from it and how long you’re willing to keep this going. To prepare your body for effective bulking, consider the following:

  • Lose fat with a diet until you reach a healthy BMI if you are obese. The goal is to have 12% bodyfat or less before you start bulking.
  • Start with an easy beginner Calisthenics workout to get your body used to exercise, we prefer the Cali Move Complete Calisthenics course at least up to level 2 completed.
  • When you are ready, pick the 1st of a month to start your bulking. This will make it easier to keep track of your progress Longterm.

Step 2: Lead Up to the Calisthenics Bulking Phase with a Mobility Program

After you’ve mastered the basics of Calisthenics and set a date, it is time to prepare your body for the higher intensity Calisthenics bulking workout. The best way to do this is by following a Mobility Program which strengthens your joints and practices maintaining strength through the whole range of motion. The reason for this is that for effective bulking in Calisthenics, you’ll be using both concentric and eccentric full-range motions. These Mobility Programs prepare your body for the more rigorous, continual hypertrophic workouts you’ll be doing. You can also select a Mobility App for that mobile convenience.

Concentric MovementEccentric Movement
A movement where the muscle contracts. If you bend your elbow, your biceps are contracting and performing a concentric movement. Your triceps is at once lengthening, an eccentric movement.A movement where the muscle lengthens. If you bend your elbow, your triceps are lengthening, an eccentric movement. At the same time, your bicep is contracting, a concentric movement. 

Step 3: Select the Right Calisthenics Bulking Workout and Nutrition

Your diet will be very important during this time. A healthy, well-rounded Calisthenics diet is the option for this, since it gives you all the nutrients you need to build muscle. You can also scale this up to account for the increased calories expenditure. More on caloric and protein intake below.

Your workout during this time should be a full body Calisthenics split workout that targets different body parts on different days. The level of intensity is largely up to you, however, the induce hypertrophy each muscle group should be hit every 48 to 72 hours. Popular workout splits for bulking in Calisthenics are “Upper Lower Splits” and “Push Pull Legs Splits”. There are several professional Calisthenics Programs which are ideal for bulking. We’ll go over your best options further on in this article (red., if you can’t be bothered to read on: it’s Cali Move Body Transformation).

Here is an example Push Pull Legs Split:

Mon (Push)Tue (Pull)Wed (Legs)Thu (Push)Fri (Pull)Sat (legs)
– Diamond Push-up
– Archer Push-Up
– Straight Bar Dip (on top of the bar
– Parallel Bar Dip
– Pull-Up
– Chin Up
– Reverse Australian Pull-Up (supine grip)
– Assisted Bar Muscle-Up
– Squat
– Calve Raise
– Two Legs Hip Thrust
– Sprints
– Wall-Sit
– Bulgarian Split Squat
– Diamond Push-up
– Archer Push-Up
– Straight Bar Dip (on top of the bar
– Parallel Bar Dip
– Pull-Up
– Chin Up
– Reverse Australian Pull-Up (supine grip)
– Assisted Bar Muscle-Up
– Squat
– Calve Raise
– Two Legs Hip Thrust
– Sprints
– Wall-Sit
– Bulgarian Split Squat

Step 4: Perform the Workout and Keep Tabs on Performance

Start your Calisthenics bulking by taking measurements of the following:

  • Your bodyweight
  • Your upper arm circumference while flexed
  • Your chest width standing with arms lowered
  • Your chest width with shoulders pulled back and arms horizontal
  • Your waist circumference
  • Your thigh circumference

It is also wise to take pictures, preferably full body picture wearing only your underwear. You will repeat these measurements and taking the same pictures at the same distance from the same mirror every month. Catalog this data chronologically, that way you can see your progress unfold and decide when to stop.

It is important that you keep your nutrition up and that you diligently adhere to your workout routine. This may mean that you need to increase your daily caloric intake significantly and keeping eating that much. Even if you’re not feeling hungry, unless you are sick, you will have to get those calories in somehow.

Step 5: Following Up with a Calisthenics Cutting Phase

After you’re done with your bulking phase, you may want to start a Calisthenics cutting phase. If you simply stop eating, you will find that your increased metabolic rate may start to break down muscle as well as any excess fat you have accumulated from your bulking. Ween yourself off bulking by reverting to a normal Calisthenics routine and lowering your caloric intake accordingly for two to three weeks prior to cutting.

The Calisthenics Cutting phase will drastically lower the number of calories you are taking in, while focussing on toning exercises to bring out those muscles. 

Tips To Increase Your Calisthenics Bulking Effectiveness

Here are 3 tips to increase the effectives of your bulking using Calisthenics. 

Tip 1: Determine Your Caloric Intake and Protein Requirements

It is important that you maintain your caloric uptake and that you get all your essential nutrients. Make sure above all that you get your protein in so that your muscles can keep growing. This can never be an exact science, however, and you should fully expect to also gain bodyfat. It is better to err on gaining fat than not gaining any fat. If you’re not gaining at least a little fat, you are likely undereating and that will slow down your muscle growth. If you are gaining a little fat, it means all your caloric needs are being met. 

Generally, you’re looking at the following:

  • 3000 calories for men below 30
  • 3200 calories for men above 30
  • 2800 calories for women below 30
  • 2900 calories for women above 30

Use this handy calculator to get a more exact reading for your caloric needs, while keeping in mind that a little more is better than too little. Next to your calories and nutrients, make sure you get all your supplements in daily too.

Tip 2: Slow Down and Increase Time Under Stress

One easy way to see quick and amazing results is by slowing down your movements. Use slower concentric and eccentric movements and refrain from “power moves” like plyometrics. A general rule of thumb would be 2 seconds concentric, followed by 1 second static and then a 3 second eccentric. As an example, with a Pull-Up: 2 seconds pulling up, holding at the top for 1 second, 3 seconds descending.

Tip 3: Do Weighted Calisthenics while Bulking (Advanced)

If you are already an advanced Calisthenics practitioner, then Weighted Calisthenics might fit seamlessly into a bulking phase. Especially if you’ve already bulked up before, then your next Calisthenics bulking phase can be made much more effective by adding some weight to your exercises. This can be as simple as wearing a Weighted Vest during your ordinary exercises, or by wearing a Dip Belt and doing (slightly) altered exercises with that.

The Best Calisthenics Bulking Workout Programs

For bulking we recommend a Calisthenics Program with a bit more intensity than usual. You will want to scale this exercise up to slightly beyond your usual limit and push through those limits almost constantly. It should also feature a hypertrophic split exercise and in general be aimed at inducing and sustaining hypertrophy. Good examples would be Dejan Stipke’s Workouts and the Bar Brothers System. Our top recommendation though for Calisthenics bulking goes out to the Cali Move Body Transformation course.

What sets the Body Transformation course apart from the rest is its tendency to quickly and effectively slip you into a hypertrophic routine that is quite hardcore. Yes, it is very hard and thus will see you results. But the lead up to your bulking phase is already built-in to the program. This is why we recommend the Cali Move Body Transformation course, especially if this is your first time bulking up. The lessons learnt from it can be applied immediately for future bulking phases.

What’s also handy about the Body Transformation course is that you get a nutrition upgrade, tailored towards bulking up effectively. Last but not least, the Cali Move Mobility 2.0 program fits in seamlessly as a Mobility program prior and after your bulking phase. All in all, the easiest and most complete package that will give you fantastic results with Calisthenics bulking is the Cali Move Body Transformation course.

Conclusions about Calisthenics Bulking and the Lessons Learnt

Calisthenics and bulking are definitely a thing. People have been bulking using Calisthenics since time immemorial and have had great results. That bulking is only something weightlifters do is a modern myth that simply isn’t true. With the right steps and the right exercises, Calisthenics bulking is very effective in gaining muscle mass and becoming big. 

The key takeaway here is planning and preparation, and the grit to see it through. With the 5-step plan in place, your bulking phase will be successful. The best way is to first prepare your body with a low enough fat percentage, accustom it to exercise and strengthen your joints and range of motion with a Mobility Program. If that’s all done, all there is to it is picking a date to start, increase your nutritional and caloric intake and following the right set of exercises.

Of course, that’s all easier said than done! Bulking in Calisthenics, like any form of bulking, is hard. It is an advanced method of gaining a lot of muscle mass that will come down to your mindset and how willing you are to endure adversity. Having to eat can be as agonizing as not allowing yourself to eat. The workouts are hypertrophic, so some muscle will always be aching from recovery somewhere.

However, if you’re willing to endure that then Calisthenics bulking is amazing. Together with the right program, like the Cali Move Body Transformation course, you will grow big and strong using Calisthenics for bulking up.

Frequently Asked Questions About Calisthenics Bulking

More questions we received about bulking in Calisthenics and how it's done.

Do Calisthenic athletes bulk and cut?

This depends on the athlete. Not all Calisthenics athletes want to look very big or feel the need to show very defined muscles. Some are fine with being naturally strong and big enough. Other athletes do bulk and cut using Calisthenics, growing large muscle mass which they then define with a period of cutting and doing toning exercises.

Is it hard to bulk with Calisthenics?

All bulking is hard on the body and foremost the mind. It is an advanced method to gain large muscle mass. Calisthenics bulking is very effective though, if done properly and with the right mindset to see it through. The results can be spectacular.

Can you bulk with Weighted Calisthenics?

If you already are an advanced Calisthenics practitioner or have bulked up before, then Weighted Calisthenics is a very effective way to bulk.

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