If you want to build muscle mass , then there is no way around training in the gym with heavy weights. At least that’s what many think. But is it really like that? Or is it possible to build muscle with your own body weight? I want to deal with this question in this article.
Building muscle with your own body weight, i.e. without heavy weights, is not a real option in the eyes of many. I am convinced that muscle building is also feasible through effective training with your own body weight and, under certain circumstances, can even be the better option for you.
In this article I want to explain why and under what circumstances this is the case. But first let me tell you a little bit about my personal experiences with building muscle without equipment:
My experiences with building muscle without weights
During my studies, I was a regular at the gym. I went there about four times a week to train. I wanted to build muscle and I was convinced that there is nothing better for it than the good old gym. The question of a possible alternative did not arise to me.
During my time as a management consultant, I was constantly on the move. I was only at home on the weekends. All that traveling and long hours made it difficult for me to work out in a gym on a regular basis. So I had to find ways to do effective strength training on the go and outside of such gyms. After a while, I actually managed to integrate such training into my everyday life and got in better shape than ever before.
How did I do that? I looked at the relevant training parameters and various options that were available to me to meet them. This included training methods, exercises and light, portable equipment that were previously unknown to me. I will go into each of these briefly later. In fact, I later demonstrated in a six-month experiment that muscle building is still possible in this way at an advanced level.
You can read more about my path from gym rat to couch potato and finally to fitvolutionary in (one of my first articles) about my transformation .
As a project manager, I am now more in one place and can train more regularly in a fitness studio or my home gym. Nevertheless, I am still regularly on business trips and use the methods and tools that I learned during this time. Why go to a gym for a long time when the travel times alone are enough for a crisp hotel workout .
But why do many people doubt the muscle building potential of training without weights despite some successful examples? There are several legitimate reasons for this.
The Bodyweigth Training – Especially good for beginners?
Especially at the beginning, people are often advised to train with their own body weight . The basic exercises in bodyweight training are easy to learn, functional, train coordination and get used to the muscles with a low risk of injury. That is good and useful.
However, the more you exercise, it becomes more and more difficult to achieve further muscle gains with the same exercises. The hasty conclusion: Effective strength training with the aim of building muscle and increasing strength is no longer possible. However, this statement is far too easy for yourself. Often the duration of muscle building is simply estimated completely incorrectly and quick initial results with a lack of progress are misinterpreted.
Strength training with your own body weight is anything but suitable for beginners. However, the type of training must develop further with the level of training and your own requirements.
What actually turns strength training into effective strength training?
In order to show you that effective strength training and muscle building is also possible without weights, we first have to determine what is important in such a training so that it is really effective. Based on these factors, we can then determine whether this is really possible.
The three primarily decisive factors for building muscle are a sufficient and appropriate training stimulus that enables hypercompensation (in the form of hypertrophy), sufficient regeneration (including healthy sleep !) and the right Muscle building diet .
Since we have little direct influence on nutrition and regeneration with the type of training, sufficient stimulus across all training phases is the decisive factor to be checked.
Sufficiently great stimulus – Muscle fatigue
What really matters in effective strength training is that you provide sufficient stimulus with it. Put simply, you have to exhaust your muscles with the training. Only then is a hypercompensation effect, i.e. an adaptation of your muscles to this stimulus, possible.
This sufficiently large stimulus must be possible in all types of training relevant for strength training. In your strength training, you will train in phases in strength endurance, hypertrophy and maximum strength. Whereby hypertrophy training directly has the greatest impact on your muscle growth.
So is it possible to set this sufficiently large stimulus? To do this, let’s take a look at the different power ranges.
Strength endurance training with your own body weight
With strength endurance training you train in a range of 15-30 repetitions. Here, like fatigue, the muscles are trained under load over a longer period of time.
Endurance training has only a slight direct training effect on muscle mass and maximum strength in advanced strength athletes. If used too long and often, it can even lead to leaner muscles. However, this type of training should not be ignored because it improves blood circulation and thus nutrient transport.
Endurance training can be done very well with your own body weight. Most will not get past 30 repetitions of even the simple variations of the standard exercises if the exercises are done slowly and cleanly. When doing the pull-ups, some will even find it difficult to do the 15 repetitions, so you have to work with a resistance band as support.
So here we can tick a box.
Hypertrophy training – building muscle with your own body weight
In hypertrophy training , you train in a rep range of 6-12 repetitions. It is the type of training that aims at classic muscle thickness growth by enlarging the muscle cells (hypertrophy).
Many amateur bodybuilders only train according to this training principle for years. No wonder, after all, it is the type of training that has the greatest direct impact on muscle growth. However, it is much more difficult to achieve than endurance training without the use of weights.
However, there is the possibility of exchanging the simple exercise variants for more demanding ones. For example, one-arm push-ups or Archer push-ups instead of normal push-ups would be an option. So you should be able to train in the hypertrophic area for longer. You can get even more exercise variants if you use a few simple tools, such as use a sling trainer to help.
Incidentally, in my free training plan package you will receive a beginner’s plan and a plan with heavier, more advanced exercise variations for your strength training without weights on the go or at home:
With the exercises from the advanced training plan, you should have no problem training effectively in the hypertrophy area for some time. If you get over the 12 repetitions despite slow and clean execution, then you should also think about using the methods and aids that I will introduce to you in the chapter on maximum strength training.
We can see that there are good options for effective hypertrophy training without weights. Since this type of training is crucial for building muscle, we can make a big check here.
Maximum strength training with your own body weight
In maximum strength training, the maximum strength that can be achieved is theoretically trained with one repetition. In practice, most of them train in a range of up to five repetitions to reduce the risk of injury when the muscles are at their absolute limit.
By training in the maximum strength range, primarily the intermuscular and intramuscular coordination is trained and thus the maximum strength development is increased. So this type of training has a great impact on strength, but only marginally on muscle growth.
Triggering a sufficient stimulus in your muscles with a maximum of five repetitions is not that easy. Here you can quickly reach your limits with challenging exercise alternatives. But there are also solutions for this situation.
What can be used to quickly and easily make exercises at home and on the go even more difficult? A couple of thera bands or resistance bands are a good option here. So far I have always been able to push my muscles to their limit. The load is a bit strange but it is possible. Here you come to a short article from me about training with Thera bands .
In addition, there is also the possibility of using various intensity techniques to push the muscles to their limits faster. For example, pre-exhaustion, super sets or an increase in TuT (time under tension = duration of uninterrupted muscle tension) are also very possible when training without weights.
With the right use of tools and intensity techniques, you can also train your maximum strength . However, since this is really demanding (especially in the long term) and requires some tools, I’ll at least make a small catch here.
Progression in strength training with your own body weight
In strength and bodybuilding sports, progressive increases are often used. For an optimal development of the strength and muscle mass gain, a progressive increase should be aimed for. This means that from training session to training session you should try to increase the intensity of all or at least some of the exercises.
It’s relatively easy when training with weights. Next time, move a little more weight with the same number of repetitions or the same weight with a higher number of repetitions and bang you train with progressive increase.
This is definitely a weakness in training without weights. The perception of the intensity is relatively subjective, as it is impossible to precisely understand all the influencing factors during the next training session.
Here, too, you can work with a few tricks to at least approximately measure your progress:
- The number of reps – Do one more rep than last time
- The pace – do the repetitions a little slower than last time
- Grab shorter – mark the grip points on your Theraband and make it a little shorter the next time in order to have a greater stretch and thus greater resistance than the last time
Remember: If you do a bulk phase to build muscle, then your bodyweight exercises will automatically become a little heavier as you get heavier.
Admittedly, that requires a little more thinking than simply putting half a kilo more on the bar for each workout, but it is possible.
Conclusion on building muscle with your own body weight
By and large, we have ticked 3.5 out of 4 test points. I think that’s more than enough to give strength training with your own body weight at least a chance. With a little commitment and a good muscle building training plan you should also be able to build muscles without weights.
So the next time someone asks you whether effective strength training and muscle building is possible with your own body weight, i.e. without equipment and weights, you now know: Yes, that’s it.
Is it as effective as weight training for building muscle? If both are done consistently and optimally, then probably not completely.
Is that why it is worse? Under no circumstance. Free training definitely has its advantages and is often the much better option, especially depending on the situation. Sometimes it’s just the only option. I am therefore glad that this tool is available to me!
Then why is the effectiveness questioned so often? Probably the possibility is still not well known and prejudices are always difficult to dispel. So if you feel like it, help me with the prejudice that effective strength training with your own body weight is not possible, and share this article with your friends and acquaintances.
Muscle building and bodyweight training reading recommendations
If you don’t waste time and want to start building muscle, I want you to read my book Muscle Building Basics recommend. In it you will find out the most important things that you need to know and pay attention to for building muscle. It is the first real “no bullshit” guide for effective muscle building.
If you want to deal more intensively with bodyweight training, I recommend the book by Patrick Bauer. I don’t know anyone who is more familiar with it in German-speaking countries and can convey it so clearly. There are> 85 exercise instructions with videos and several training plans for the book. As my reader, you get an additional 15% discount on the package with the discount code “fitvolution” : Click here for the P.A.T. Bodyweight training book.