“Lift heavy.” That’s the one piece of advice you’ll constantly hear as you embark on your quest for a fitter body. While weightlifting has a myriad of health benefits – especially for women – you don’t actually need fancy equipment or expensive weights to strengthen your muscles and sculpt your body. You might be surprised at how effective your own body weight is in getting ripped.
Whether you’re looking to work out at home or simply want a break from those heavy dumbbells at the gym – we’ve put together a list of 7 workouts you can do without equipment. Without further ado, here’s everything you need to know about how to build muscle without weights.
Bodyweight Training – Understanding “Progressive Overload”
For most people, the first thing that comes to mind when they think about a bodyweight exercise and training is – high reps. Many believe that there’s no way you can get seriously cut using the weight of your own body alone. If you belong to this school of thought, you would be right.
Regardless of the number of reps that you add to your routine over time, this won’t do much to create the stimulus required to build muscle. To get stronger, you need to use a significant amount of resistance that places your muscles under constant tension. This is something you just don’t get with high-rep movement. That’s where the concept of “progressive overload” comes in.
To get the results you seek out of bodyweight training, you’ll need to progressively overload your muscles like you would if you were going to the gym. It means gradually increasing the demands you place on your body over time. Without it, your muscles won’t have any reason to grow bigger or get stronger. Here’s what we mean by that.
Suppose you’re working on strengthening the muscles in your arms. The whole idea is to continually challenge this particular set of muscles by gradually increasing the difficulty of the bodyweight movements that target them. You will probably start with a classic pushup – or a knee pushup if you have virtually no upper-body strength whatsoever. Hey, we all have to start from somewhere, right?
As the weeks go by, these movements will get easier as your muscles adapt to the tension and get stronger. At that point, you’ll need to level up by integrating some advanced movements such as chin-ups, diamond pushups, archer pushups, one-armed pushups, and so forth. You get the idea.
The more advanced your bodyweight workouts become, the higher the level of tension exerted on your body, which means massive strength gains in the long run.
How to Build Muscle Without Weights – Top 7 Workouts to Try
For best results, ensure you practice your strength training routine at least three to four times a week. The exercises we’ve outlined below contain a mix of bodyweight workouts, plyometrics, and cardio to get you into the best shape of your life.
Pushups are kind of a big deal in the muscle-building world. They engage your core, triceps, shoulders, and chest for a complete upper body workout routine. There are several different variations available to satisfy the demands of beginners and advanced athletes alike.
If you’re unable to do a classic pushup on your first attempt, don’t panic. You can work your way up by leaning on a wall, countertop, or any other firm elevated surface that allows you to do a pushup at an angle.
As you continue to build upper-body strength, you can then use the floor to do a knee pushup before attempting a basic pushup. Eventually, you can progress to more advanced variations of the workout, such as diamond pushups and even handstand pushups.
Here are some useful tips to keep in mind when performing a classic pushup:
⦁ Make sure your hand placement is a little wider than the width of your shoulders
⦁ Keep your core tight as if you were bracing yourself for somebody to punch you in the gut
⦁ Squeeze your glutes during each movement
⦁ Keep your body in as straight a line as possible during each rep
⦁ Use wrist-bands for additional support
Chin-Ups and Pull-Ups
First off, it’s important to distinguish between the two, and yes – they’re not the same thing. A chin-up is performed with your palms facing you, whereas pull-ups are performed with your palms facing away from you. Both exercises engage the muscles in the arms and back, although chin-ups are generally easier to do and place more stress on the biceps.
To do these exercises at home, you’ll need to get a pull-up bar and mount it above your doorway frame or on the wall. If you’re just starting, use a pull-up assist band to help prop you up. It’s a great way to prepare you for the real deal.
If you can’t perform a single chin-up or pull-up even with an assist band, try doing the opposite instead. Use a ladder or chair to position yourself above the bar. Then, once you’re hanging from it, try to lower your body slowly until you’re in a dead-hang position with your arms fully extended. This will give you a chance to build some strength before attempting a chin/pull-up.
Crunches are an excellent way to strengthen your core. Keep in mind that these are nothing like old-school sit-ups. The main difference between the two is that sit-ups require that you move all the way up from the floor to a sitting position, whereas crunches don’t. They only require you to move your upper body a few inches off the floor.
This allows you to engage a larger set of muscles in your abdominal area, making them more effective in strengthening your core. Use a gym mat when performing crunches to avoid lower-back discomfort.
Planking is an effective way of strengthening your core and abdominal muscles. It also engages your lower back and hips to improve your overall posture and body balance. When you first start doing planks, you’ll tremble in the beginning. This is not unusual for beginners since it focuses your entire body weight on your muscles. With time, however, the shaking does eventually stop as your muscles continue to grow stronger.
As you progress, you can add the following plank variation to target your core even more.
⦁ Assume a high plank position on your yoga mat, making sure your hands are fully extended
⦁ Brace your core to prevent your lower back from sagging and keep your spine neutral
⦁ Then, lift your left hand off the ground and tap your right thigh with it before returning your hand to its initial plank position
⦁ Repeat the same movement with your right hand tapping your left thigh, and then return it to its original position.
Flutter kicks target the core, lower abs, quads, hip flexors, and glutes. If you perform them while lying on your stomach, they can build your lower back muscles. Flutter kicks are a little like swimming, except in this case, you would be doing it on dry land – at least where leg movement is concerned. To perform classic flutter kicks:
⦁ Lie on the floor face-up with your arms straight, palms-down on both sides of your body
⦁ Next, raise and lower each of your legs alternately, keeping them at a 45-degree angle to the ground
⦁ Ensure that each of your legs is hovering a few inches above the floor when you lower it
To make it harder, try incorporating a resistance band around your knees or thighs, and perform the flutter kicks with your head and neck lifted a few inches off the floor.
Squats are by far one of the most powerful exercises when it comes to building muscle. Each movement targets your hamstrings, quads, glutes, lower back, and core. Here are some helpful tips you can use to master the basic squat.
⦁ Ensure your feet are shoulder-width apart
⦁ Put your arms behind your head or hold them out straight in front of you
⦁ Keep your back in a neutral position and look straight ahead as you perform each squat movement
⦁ Squat as low as you can with your back straight, and squeeze your glutes as you come back up slowly
⦁ Keep your weight on your heels throughout
Consider wearing a weighted vest for progressive overload or use resistance bands to kick things up a notch. Resistance training increases muscle strength as the muscles work against a weight or force.
A squat jump is another one to try. During a squat jump, you increase your power and improve upper and lower body strength. It also allows you to burn calories faster than a regular squat.
Step-ups target all the major muscle groups in the lower body, including the calves, hamstrings, and glutes. All you need is a bench, platform, chair, or games box to do it. Step-ups are not only great for building muscle; they also improve body balance and stability.
When you first begin, make sure the elevated platform you’re using isn’t too high. Anything that’s around knee height or below will suffice. Alternate each leg when doing reps when you first start. After a few weeks, you can advance to several reps on each leg before switching to the other.
One of the great things about step-ups is that, unlike squats, they don’t load an excessive amount of weight on your knees. This is particularly useful if you’ve suffered a knee injury in the past.
Good Things Take Time
There you have it – how to build muscle without lifting weights. Be sure to stretch or do some foam rolling after your workout routine to minimize soreness and shorten recovery time. Remember, Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) is a normal side effect of any new strength training activity you engage in.
Avoid working out the same muscle groups two days in a row to give them enough time to recover. That’s how you get stronger.
Above all, be patient and keep at it. You’ll begin to notice changes in your body after a few weeks of consistent work.
Not sure how much protein your body requires for muscle growth? Check out our blog to find out.
Daniel has developed a passion in the health and fitness after serving in the Military for over 5 years. He continues to share his knowledge and adding value to those who are serious about their fitness goals. His past failures and experience in working out at home has equipped him to helping others achieve results at their own convenience!