I’m a skinny guy (6:2 145lb) and I’ve been trying to put on muscle mass. I’ve started calisthenics and I’m doing chin-ups now. I’m doing half the amount of max reps every day and I’m eating more protein but I haven’t seen any results at all. Anyone got any tips?

  • 1
    How long have you been doing this? And by "calisthenics" could you list out specifically what you're doing? – Eric Nov 5 at 17:41
  • Calisthenics usually doesn't provide enough overload to really grow muscle. As @Eric says, much more detail is needed. – JohnP Nov 5 at 17:50
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    I submit that calisthenics can provide enough overload, but when "doing half the amount of max reps", then certainly not. – Alec Nov 6 at 8:22
up vote 4 down vote accepted

First you need to keep in mind that gaining one pound of muscle per month is a fast rate (above average), and that two pounds seems to be the upper limit. Muscle growth requires three things - sufficient stimulus, necessary nutrition, and rest/recovery. Shortchanging any one of those three will result in slower to nonexistent results.

Second, your body doesn’t know the difference between bodyweight training, dumbbell/barbell training, resistance band training, or anything else. The only thing that your body recognizes is this, resistance. The amount of resistance that your muscles are forced to act upon will be the stimulus which starts the muscle building process. Working your muscles to or close to failure within a few sets is the best way to achieve this. If your muscles aren’t sufficiently stimulated, your body will see no reason to build muscle.

Third, it’s important to always remember that when it comes to your body, your activities will determine the shape and your nutrition will determine the size. This has several implications, but I’ll try to keep things relevant to you. It sounds like you’re pretty skinny, if you have a low bodyfat percentage, then the only way to build muscle is to be in a caloric surplus while having enough protein (0.8g per lb of bodyweight is plenty). How much of a caloric surplus should you aim for? Enough that sees you gaining 1-2 lbs per MONTH.

Fourth, you need to work your entire body to see optimal results. Your question is worded in such a way that suggests you are only doing chin-ups. From your toes to your ears, you should be training all the major muscle groups. You certainly could build bigger biceps and lats by doing chin-ups, but you would be missing out.

Fifth and finally, you’ll need to practice something called “progressive overload” if you want to build muscle for more than a month. Progressive overload is where you continually add more resistance to your training routine to compensate for you increases in strength. And yes, this is very much possible with calisthenics, it just takes a bit more creativity.

Perhaps try doing much slower reps and the negatives. Going slower essentially increases the "resistance" to your muscles.

Also, might help to add weights. Such as a weight vest or weight belt. A backpack with stuff in it would add weight, but I think it could damage the back due to the bag not centred with your body and shifting if you jump for the bar and drop down to the ground when done. So definitely would need to be very careful or avoid using a back pack.

One more thing you might try to even out with variations of pull ups. Then add dips (on a chair's edge if you don't have a dip bar) and push ups. That should target additional muscle groups to help bulk up.

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