Building Muscle Without Weights

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I love weight training, but sometimes you just don’t have the equipment. Or maybe you don’t feel like lifting heavy weights.

I’m gonna show you how you can start building muscle without weights.

Hi, it’s Ivana helping you get fit healthy and strong at any age.

In my Online Course, I show you how to build muscle and lose use fat. And a lot of the exercises are done without weights, which is fully in line with what I’m gonna talk about in this video.

And at the end, I’m gonna mention one thing that many people forget when they’re trying to build muscle without weights.

Progressive Resistance Training To Build Muscle Without Weights

To achieve muscle hypertrophy, which is muscle growth, you want to use progressive resistance training. And that simply means that you’re increasing the of resistance as you get stronger. Now, it seems very obvious if you’re using weights, if you started with five pounds, you go up to 10 pounds, then you go up to 12 pounds and then 15 pounds and so on and so on. But when you’re using body weight, it’s not quite the same.

Obviously you can load things over time. If you’ve got some items at home, perhaps, but there are really not gonna create that much resistance. So you have to be a bit more creative to make building muscle with no gym most effective.

Using Compound Exercises

You wanna use compound exercises as much as possible. And that means that you’re involving more than one muscle group at the same time. And more than one joint though. Things like squats and dead lifts. And when we’re talking about body weight. There are things like the glute bridge that you can do as well.

Pushups are also a compound exercise. I’m gonna talk about how you can modify your pushups.

Leg training is very effective because it allows you to use multiple muscle groups simultaneously. And the muscles of your legs are larger than the muscles of your upper body. So you’re gonna expand more energy doing leg exercises, as well as anyone who’s ever done.

Increasing The Challenge To Build Muscle Without Weights

Any kind of leg training knows it is challenging. Now increasing the challenge of certain body weight exercises is a bit tricky, but I’m gonna start with pushups, which are a common upper body exercise that many people try to do at home.

Changing the position that you’re doing the pushups increases the intensity that you need to work at. So you can start on your knees for push shops and then work into an incline pushup than into a regular pushup. And then a decline pushup, which is the more challenging version. And there are a lot of variations.

I actually created an entire video about pushup variations, which you can check out as well.

Progressive Bodyweight Exercises

I wanna use pushups as a simple example of how you can increase the challenge of certain body weight exercises. So you might be able to start off and do let’s say 20 regular pushups.

That’s pretty good. So in order to increase the resistance and make it progressive, you can try a more challenging variation of the pushup, such as the decline pushup that I mentioned, or even a Spiderman pushup, which is extremely challenging.

You’re using different parts of your body for that, but you’re also loading your upper body more than you would for a regular pushup. And if you can do 20 regular pushups, you might only be able to do five or maybe even 10 plyometric pushups. So that means that that’s a more challenging exercise. And if you move up, then that’s an exercise you can move onto.

You could also work your way to 30 regular pushups first, if you wanted to. But once you get to a certain point, you’re working more on your endurance rather than your strength.

Rep Ranges To Build Muscle Without Weights

Now, we traditionally said that maximum muscle growth occurs in that eight to 12 rep range are sometimes even that six to 12 rep range.

We are starting to see evidence that higher rep ranges can continue to produce muscle growth. You won’t build as much strength as you would if you were doing a heavier weight or a more intense exercise, but you will be able to build muscle that way. So that’s actually really good news for people who are relying on bodyweight exercise is to build muscle.

Bilateral Vs Unilateral Exercises

For lower body exercises like squats, you can start off bilaterally and then work your way into a unilateral. And perhaps work your way up to a single leg squat down to a chair, or even a full pistol squat where you are coming down on one leg all the way to the ground. And then coming back, begin for something simple, like a glute bridge, which is a good glute exercise that you can do at home. You can start that off bilaterally, both legs together.

And the single leg glute bridge is actually quite challenging.

The same thing with a hamstring towel curl, for instance, two legs together, not bad, but if you try a single leg, it becomes a bit more challenging.

So if you move from the simpler, easier variation to the more challenging unilateral variation, you’re going to continue to be able to build muscle without weights training.

Training The Back

The back can be quite difficult. If you don’t have any equipment, it is a little bit less obvious what you would do with body weight in order to build muscle course. If you have a pull up bar that you can put into your home, then that’s very helpful. You’re not really using weight. You’re just using your body weight to pull up.

I also find the suspension trainer quite useful for this. So if you can get into different positions in order to train your back, either just an inverted row, or you can actually do flies in the reverse position in order to strengthen your upper back as well.

Modifying Leg Exercises

I’ve already talked about how you can modify pushups and squats, but you can also modify exercises like lunges. There are a lot of different variations.

So if you just go from an easier variation of a lunge to a more challenging variation that can help you make your training progressive and continue to build muscle without weights.

Progressing Chin-ups Or Pull-Ups

For chin ups or pull ups, you can vary the grip. It’s a little bit easier if you have your palms towards you than it is the opposite way. And narrow grip is also easier compared to a very wide grip pull-up.

Working Hard Enough To Build Muscle Without Weights

You don’t necessarily need to go to complete failure on every set, but you do want to go to, to fatigue for most of your sets. Now I’ve seen people in the gym doing a weight for 10 repetitions, and it’s pretty clear that they could have done 20, that might help them to maintain their muscle mass slightly.

It’s better than sitting on the couch after all, but you’re not going to be able to see much muscle growth. If you’re not maximizing the amount of effort that you’re putting into your workouts.

Other Ways Of Progressing Your Training

You can also make strength training progressive by changing your rep range. The number of sets that you’re doing.

The tempo, which is just the pace of the exercise that you’re doing.

You can also vary the rest periods in between in order to stimulate growth. So you can have a shorter rest period or a longer rest period, and then be able to do more repetitions. You could do 10 pushups and a very short rest period, and then do another 10 pushups. And that might be one way of stimulating the muscles to grow.

Mechanisms Of Muscle Hypertrophy

Muscle grows through mechanical tension. And that’s the amount of weight that you’re lifting. And I’ve talked to about some ways of actually modifying that tension for body weight exercises, muscle damage, which occurs through exercises that are new to you or eccentric exercises as well.

Things that cause more DOMS, delayed onset muscle soreness. That’s muscle damage.

They also can grow through metabolic stress. That’s often what we talk about when it’s moderate weights, and it’s often the pump in bodybuilding. Just that feeling that you are stressing the muscle more during a particular workout.

There’s always a bit of controversy in the research about what contribution each of those mechanisms of muscle hypertrophy actually have. So whether it’s more important to have mechanical tension or metabolic stress or muscle damage. I think it’s important that you try to incorporate all of those things into your program. Especially if you’re not using any weights, because then you need to be more creative in order to build muscle.

Preventing Muscle Imbalances

Remember as you’re planning your muscle building program without weight that you wanna keep it balanced. Just doing pushups at home on a regular basis, isn’t going to build balanced muscle.

If you’re doing pushing exercises like a pushup, you also wanna be doing pulling exercises like an inverted row or a pull up. Otherwise you can develop muscle imbalances and injuries. And I also think it’s really important to incorporate leg work. Because, ass I said, those are larger muscle groups. They’re gonna stimulate more overall muscle growth.

What Most People Overlook When Building Muscle Without Weights

And here’s the thing that many people overlook when they’re building muscle without weights: you need to have your nutrition in check.

And that means that you have enough protein in order for you to build muscle. You need 0.7 to one gram of protein per pound of body weight per day in order to build and maintain muscle. So if you’re doing all the workouts and you’re training progressively. You’re stimulating the muscles to stay and to grow, but you’re not getting enough protein and you’re not enough calories. Then you won’t be able to build further muscle.

You may actually get leaner, but you may also lose muscle. So make sure you’re getting in enough protein and enough calories in order for you to continue to build muscle. This helps when you’re pushing your muscles to grow through progressive resistance training.

Ivana Chapman

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Ivana Chapman

Ivana Chapman

Ivana Chapman BSc BA CSCS is a Canadian fitness and nutrition coach, happy wife, and mom to an energetic 7-year-old boy. She is a YouTuber, writer, published fitness model, speaker, 3rd Dan black belt in Shotokan Karate, former World Cup Karate Champion, one-time marathoner, and CBBF National level Natural Bikini competitor. She loves weight training and chocolate, not always in that order of preference.
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