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10 Best Calisthenics Exercises that Build the MOST Muscle

Build muscle with these top exercises.

Learn about the best calisthenics exercises that build the most muscle.

“Choose the right calisthenics exercises and you will build muscle mass with them. Pick the wrong ones and all you’ll get is a conditioning effect at best and not much muscle growth for your hard work.”

Check out the top choices from Jeff at Athlean-X.

Human Pullover

“This is definitely a hard exercise but it is one that is amazing at building up the size of the lats.

Think about pulling down with your arms in order to lift your body off the ground rather than curling your body up by contracting your abs. The overload created here is felt instantly, making this one of the better calisthenic back workout inclusions.”

Chin Up

“This is a great bodyweight biceps exercise.

Athletes-doing-Chin-Ups How to Build Big Biceps with Bands Calisthenics Exercises that Build the MOST MuscleSource: Unsplash / CrossFit Inc

Sure, it hits the lats as well, but the supinated position of the forearm helps to put the bicep muscles in the crosshairs and get you building bigger arms quickly.

Maintain enough distance of the body away from the bar throughout the movement in order to keep the focus on the biceps rather than the lats.”

Handstand Push up

“There is perhaps no better shoulder builder than this when it comes to bodyweight exercise options.

The wall is a good way to offload some of the weight and assist you in gradually building up your strength to be able to handle your entire body. This calisthenics exercise will hit your front, middle and rear delts and should be included in your shoulder workouts.”

Hanging Leg Raise

“The abs are muscles too, and they respond just like any other to overload and resistance. In this case, the resistance comes in the form of your legs.

Be sure to curl your pelvis up and not just lift the legs if you want this to target the abs rather than the hip flexors.”

Push Up

“The push up is one of the absolute classic calisthenic movements out there.

While I’ve gone on record in the past of saying that far too often people choose the easiest version of the exercise and just build up the number of reps that they can perform on it, I think there is a better way.

Especially when the goal is to build as much muscle as possible, you need to choose a variation that is more challenging and capable of driving overload on the chest.”

push up

Pull Up

“The pull up is of course the king of all bodyweight back exercises.

Don’t forget to include this in the calisthenic exercises you are doing in your training split. This will hit your entire back, including your lower back for stabilization.

Nothing like having to lift the weight of your entire body up to the bar, and the pull-up will reward you for the effort.”


“Dips are another one of those classic exercises with just bodyweight.

You can even add some additional weight around your waist if you are looking for the extra challenge.

The key to building a bigger chest and shoulders with this movement is to safely lower yourself down to about 90 degrees, pause briefly and then power back up with the muscles rather than momentum.”


“No athlean-x video is complete without addressing the need for a corrective exercise.

In this case, my favourite of all time is the face pull. Many people don’t realize that you can actually perform a face pull with your own bodyweight in a doorway. Watch how it’s done and start building up the strength of the rotator cuff, rhomboids and rear delts with calisthenics.”

GHR / Levitation Squat

“The legs will get hit hard with the combination of a glute ham raise and the levitation squat.

The first will work the posterior chain while the second will hit the quads and anterior chain muscles. The latter has the advantage of being a single leg exercise that has some distinct benefits over the pistol squat.

Either way, these can be tough but they fit the bill for creating the overload necessary to drive muscle growth.”


Learn More

Add Nordic Curls or the Z Press into your training.

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