How to Build Muscle Without Using Weights
Build Muscle:Whatever you have seen, think, or ‘know’, building muscle is not a particularly easy task. It is possible to build muscle mass at a decent rate if you do the things that you’re supposed to do – e.g. you train hard, you intake the correct nutrients, you follow a smart training program, you sleep well and for long enough, and overall are very focused and committed to the muscle building cause. Which is exactly the problem. Unless you’re a professional competitor, it requires careful dedication and strict adherence to even get some of these right. However, like everything else in life, it is possible, and I’m going to tell you how.
The first question you need to ask yourself is simple. How experienced with weight training are you? If you have never lifted a weight before in your life, you can build muscle with the simplest and easiest of bodyweight exercises. If you are relatively experienced, this unfortunately means a different focus is required. So, we’re tackling this problem from two different angles, and the only thing you need to do is be honest with yourself about your current state.
The Basics of Building Muscle
As succinctly as possible, to build muscle, you need to follow a system of ‘progressive overload’. This is industry lingo but when broken down it makes perfect sense. That is, over time you must provide more and more resistance to your muscles, in order to provide the required stimulus for them to grow. Let’s think of that in real world speak.
On Monday, I perform an exercise with x weight or resistance. The next time I train, I use x+1 weight. The time after that, x+2 weight – And so on and so forth. This means that a load stronger than previously is always stimulating the muscle, so therefore causing the muscle to adapt to the new resistance, weight or load. Consequently, (with the right nutrition etc.) the muscle grows. But the point of this article is to tell you how to build muscle WITHOUT the use of weights, so let’s get into it.
For The Lesser Trained
Start off by learning the basic exercises that you’ll be using frequently to build some muscle. These are ‘compound’ exercises (exercises that use many muscles in the body, thereby maximising their effectiveness).
Form tip – remember to sit back with your weight in your heels, and keep your chest up. The king of lower body exercises; the squat works predominantly the major muscle groups in your legs including your quads, hamstrings and glutes. If this is too hard, sit down onto a chair and stand back up again
The Push Up
Form tip – keep your glutes tight and lower body strong so that your hips don’t sag down towards the floor. A full body developer focused on your upper body. You will feel it in your arms, chest, stomach and shoulders. If this is technique is too hard in the beginning, start by doing a push up leaning against a wall.
The Reverse Lunge
Form tip – remember to keep the weight through the heel of your front foot. Effectively a squat but using one leg more than the other, this is a functional movement that targets your hamstrings, quads and glutes. By stepping backwards rather than forwards you greatly reduce the pressure on your knees. Stand with your feet together and step backward into a lunge.
The Reverse Row
Form tip – As with the push up, keep your whole body tensed so that you keep as straight a line as possible and avoid sagging.
To perform the reverse row – place a broomstick across two chairs. Lie on the floor [on your back] and grab the broomstick with both hands, and pull your chest towards it. It’s like the push up, but targeting your upper back muscles and biceps.
When and How Much
Using just these basic exercises and your own bodyweight, you can build muscle. Each exercise targets a different part of the body, but all are compound exercises and work some muscles harder than others. Start by performing them as a circuit 3x a week, performing one set of exercise (10 squats) before moving onto the next exercise (10 push ups). If you can perform 10 repetitions of each exercise, that is a great start. Depending on your ability, work to increase your performance every workout session.
This will look something like this: (Assuming you can just about do 10 of each to start)
Once you have completed the circuit of 4 exercises, rest for 2-3 minutes and then repeat the whole circuit again. If you get the same number of reps as you got the first time, repeat the circuit for a third time. If you don’t, (say you get 10 reps the first time around and only 8 the second time) then stop there for the day. Only increase the reps when you complete all three sets with good form.
For The More Trained
If the above workout is far too easy for you and you can perform 10 or more reps for each exercise with ease, a more advanced tactic is required. For simplicity, we’ll use the same exercises, but with more advanced techniques.
Instead of performing a normal repetition each time, count to 5 on the eccentric (downward) portion of each movement. So with the squat, that means as you lower your butt towards the floor, you do a slow 5 count before coming back up. This greatly increases the time under tension that you’re putting your muscles under, greatly increasing their workload and consequently, potential for growth.
Therefore, with this workout you are increasing two variables simultaneously – the repetitions performed and the time under tension due to the 5 second count. This will cause a big overload on what your muscles are used to and really kick up your fat burning potential as well. Try it and you’ll see how much more difficult this makes the exercises! This also requires some discipline because you need to do the reps without cheating!
So whether you are a beginner or an advanced trainee, it’s very possible to build muscle and even get more ripped without weights, just by performing simple bodyweight exercises!
Always leave a day between workouts, ideally you would perform these 3x a week giving you the weekend to really relax and recover. Make sure you eat a lot of protein, especially on the days that you workout!