Can I start building muscle without weights? This is probably the question I am most often asked and after 20 years in the fitness industry I can say “yes it is possible to build muscle without weights if you follow the same principles that weight training does”.
The three principles of muscle growth
Regardless of the type of training used all physical improvement is based on the three principles of adaptation, overload and progression. If you follow these rules you cannot fail to build muscle regardless of the resistance that is used.
The human body will always try to prevent possible injury and damage by adapting to any physical activity that is demanding and performed on a regular basis. For muscle growth as long as the number of exercises, sets, reps and intensity is correct adaptation will result in increased muscle size and strength even with bodyweight exercises
This is what allows the adaptation to take place. Unless the body is subjected to an ever increasing overload the body will not change as there is no reason to do so. In simple terms, once your body finds the number of sets, reps and resistance being used in an exercise easy you have to increase one or all of the above to carry on getting bigger and stronger.
This principal refers to the rate at which the overload is applied in order to cause body adaptation. There is an optimum rate at which an exercise overload should be applied. If the rate it is too easy, it will result in stagnant progress and if it is too difficult, it is likely to result in injury and disappointment. In simple terms if you tax your body on a regular basis your muscles will get bigger and stronger to make the training easier and less likely to injure or damage your body. As your body adapts and begins to find the workout less demanding you must increase the intensity of the training to continue building bigger and stronger muscles.
When building muscle without weights you must do exactly the same and continually increase the intensity of your training to encourage new muscle growth.
The number of sets and reps
After nearly 100 hundred years of experimentation it has been proven time and time again that the best way to build a combination of muscle size and strength is a routine that consists of 4 exercises of 3-4 sets of 6-10 repetitions for each muscle. This is the system that practically all professional body builders use today and is the same system that Legends such as Arnold Schwarzenegger and Frank Zane used 35 years ago and that is because it works.
Your body does not differentiate between the resistance of weight training and bodyweight exercises and therefore if you follow the same number of exercises, sets and reps for building muscle without weights as you would with weights will get the same results. So the secret is to continually increase the difficulty of your bodyweight exercises so that 6-10 reps is as taxing as an exercise with weights would be.
The two methods of progressing
The first method used to make a bodyweight exercise more difficult and therefore keep within the 6-10 rep range needed for muscle growth is to change the position of your body slightly to alter the leverage being offered. For example, in an exercise such as press ups you can progress from standard press ups, to diamond press ups, to hip press ups to the progressions needed for planche press ups to actual planche press ups and even progress further to isometric planche press ups. If you consider that in over 20 years of owning gyms I could count the number of people that can do 10 planche press ups on one hand you can see how with a little imagination you can always keep the number of reps within the 6-10 rep range needed.
The second method of bodyweight exercise progression is to gradually progress from the two limbed to one limb version of an exercise. If you take pull ups as an example, you can progress from standard two arm pull ups, to clapping pull ups (most people can’t do 10) to doing negative one arm pull ups to finally doing one arm pull ups. I said I could count the number of people who can do 10 planche press ups on one hand. For one arm pull ups I need no hands as I have never seen any one who is able to do 10 proper reps.
The things needed for building muscle without weights
How much muscle you build and how successful you are depends on a number of factors listed below.
What your goal is?
Do you want to look athletic and generally fit?
Do you want to look strong and powerful, like someone who spends a lot of time working out?
Do you want to go the whole way and be the new Arnold Schwarzenegger or Dorian Yates?
Once you now what you want to achieve there are a number of ingredients you need to be as successful as you can be. It’s kind of like making a cake. You need all of the ingredients for it to be just right, so lets look at the things needed for building muscle without weights.
Motivation is with out doubt the single most important thing needed for building muscle without weights or anything else in life. Regardless of any of the other factor if you do not have motivation you simply cannot succeed. You might as well hang up your gloves now.
How important your genetic make-up is to reaching your goals depends on what goals you have set yourself and how your genetic make-up fits in with them.
The first thing to say is regardless of what genetics you possess everybody is capable of building muscle without weights and a body to be proud of, so no excuses please
So will your genetics hold you back?
If you want an athletic body that is toned and muscular then you can definitely build it with bodyweight exercises such as the incredibly demanding crucifix roll-out.
If you want a stocky more muscular and powerful looking body it is still well within your reach once you progress with bodyweight exercises such as one arm press up as long as you stay within the sets and reps required.
Want to be the new Arnold Schwarzenegger or Dorean Yates? Sorry only those with the perfect genetics for building muscle can achieve that level of success. Yes, these legends have unbelievable motivation, drive and intelligence but so do many others who will never be as successful. Building muscle without weights is easy but to be the best you need the best genetics. For example, the great Tour De France rider Lance Armstrong’s heart is one third bigger than the average persons. You can see he had the perfect genetics for his sport.
I take nothing away from these great athletes; I am just saying that if you want to reach the top of the muscle building tree. Trade in your parents and go and get yourself some big muscular ones. Having said that as I mentioned before motivation is the key in life so if you want to be the best body builder go for it and don’t take no for an answer.
The number of times per week you train
We are all limited by time restrictions in life, with work, family and the general necessities of day to day living it is sometimes hard to fit in your training program. However, if you want to and get the best possible results from building muscle without weights you should train at the very least 3 times per week.
If you can train 4 times a week so much the better because this enables you to train both the top and bottom part of your body twice per week.
Quality of training
It does not matter how many times a week you train if the intensity is not there you are wasting you time. You can only succeed at building muscle without weights if you constantly make the muscles work harder. Remember intensity is vital so do not just go through the motions.
The food you eat is the key to building muscle without weights and the diet you follow should reflect the results you want. Why? Because the diets for losing weight, building an athletic body and building huge muscles are as different as the goals themselves.
A quick diet guide
If you want to lose weight
Eat 4 very small meals a day containing all the vitamins, minerals and protein required and make sure you consume 500 calories less per day than your body needs to maintain it present weight.
If you want to build a more athletic and toned body
Then you should still eat 4 times a day making sure you consume between 1.5 to 2 grams of protein for every Kilogram that you weigh and keep your calories at body maintenance level.
If you want to build huge muscle mass
Then it is all about calories and protein. Put simply you need to eat 5 times a day, consume 1.5 to 2 grams of protein per kilogram that you weigh and take in 500 calories per day more than you need to maintain your present weight.
These are sound guidelines but everybody is unique so they are not cast in stone and please remember do not confuse weight gain with muscle gain. There is a big difference so take things gradually.
Sleep is when all your hard training pays off because it is the time that your body repairs itself and makes you bigger and stronger. Try to get at least 7 or 8 hours sleep per night. If you are lucky to still be young enough to want to party all weekend then the odd long night won’t hurt you but if you constantly party you will not get the fill benefit of building muscle without weights.
In my years as a gym owner and instructor I have seen many young men put on huge amounts of muscle very quickly through the use of steroids
The people who do go down this road will never gain the same respect given to those who have built there bodies through hard work and dedication and neither should they.
Anything which can dramatically alter your body must also have dramatic side effects. As the saying goes, every action has a reaction. If you doubt this check out the chronic illness and premature death rates of the body builders of the 60s and 70s. Steroids are a definite no, no.
Building muscle without weights is possible if you follow the principles of adaptation, overload and progression. If you include the same number of exercises, sets and repetitions as weight training you will get the same results.
Still not convinced? Have a look at the bodies of Olympic gymnasts. They never use weights yet still have fantastic muscular bodies and some of the highest strength to bodyweight ratios that exist.
Remember you do not need lots of equipment, time or expensive gym memberships for building muscle without weights all you need is motivation and knowledge and this site gives you both.
If you believe you can achieve then you already have.
Note, the extreme abs program is based on the tried and tested method body builders use to build muscle. Read it to learn the best way to train the abs
The tough wall press up
The awesome grip pull up
Bruce Lee the legend
My sporting heroes
How the mind muscle connection will take your workouts to new heights
See the fat burning guide to compliment building muscle without weights
Back to home page
Note, for those of you who want to train with weights check out www.extreme-fitness-now.com for great advice and training programs.