people talk about building muscle, they usually refer to training
with weights like dumbbells and barbells but the truth is building
muscle without weights is achievable as well. What is important
to understand is to build muscle, you need to stimulate those
muscle fibers whether it's with weights or without weights. The
difference is that with weights, you can develop bigger muscles
with time since you can increase the weights gradually when you're
progressing to adapt to your body whereas without weights, your
progress will remain rather stagnant.
But this article
is about building muscle without weights. So how can you accomplish
that? In fact, there are many ways you can build muscle with just
simple exercises requiring no weights. I have a program that can
build most of the major muscle groups without requiring any weights.
It's amazing how you can create a workout plan to get a muscular
body without lifting iron.
When I talk
about simple exercises, I mean it's not difficult to understand
but it does not mean it is not hard. For a beginner, it can be
hard. Most of these exercises are compound exercises meaning they
work more than one muscle group at the same time and these are
great to get a full body workout with few exercises. Your body
contains several muscle groups like the pectorals, biceps, triceps,
forearms, shoulders, back, abdominals, thighs and calves.
Here is the
muscle building program without weights that I use. The number
of sets and repeats are not obligatory. You should have your own
program that suits you best. If you're a beginner, you might need
to adjust them.
Push Ups - Work mostly the upper chest. Secondary Muscles - Shoulders(Mostly
middle and front) and Triceps
two feet on a stable chair and your hands on the floor such that
your body is in a declining position. The higher the chair the
more difficult the exercise. Lower your chest such that it nearly
touches the floor then raise it to initial position. You should
keep your body straight. Exhale when going down and inhale when
going up. Do 3 sets of 10 repeats.
(2) Push Ups
between two stable chairs - Work mostly the middle chest and outer
chest. Secondary Muscles - Shoulders(Mostly middle) and Triceps
two feet on a stable chair and place one hand on a chair and the
other one on another chair. These two chairs can be spaced out
about 60 cms. The chair which your feet is on should be aligned
to the middle of the two other chairs but spaced out to the length
of your body. So your whole body should be off the floor on three
chairs. Then lower your chest such that it will go down between
those two chairs. The two chairs technique allows you to get a
better stretch for your outer chest muscles. Do 3 sets of 10 repeats.
Push Ups between two stable chairs - Work mostly the lower chest
and outer chest. Secondary Muscles - Shoulders and Triceps
is similar to the previous one but this time, your body is reversed
with your back facing the floor. Place your hands each on one
chair and your two feet on one chair and lower your upper body
by bending your elbow about 90 degrees then raise your body up
again. Incline your chest forward when doing this exercise to
target more the chest. If you keep your upper body straight, you
will work more on the triceps. Do 3 sets of 10 repeats.
Chin Ups - This exercise requires a barfix from which you can
hang up to. Using a close grip about 10 cms with your two palms
facing you, raise your body with your arms such that your head
is a bit higher than the barfix, then lower your body to the initial
position. Close chin ups will work mostly your biceps. Secondary
muscles worked are your forearms and back mostly your lower lats
and middle back. The number of repeats and sets is up to you.
Chin up is a very difficult exercise for a beginner. At the start,
it's possible you won't be able to do a single repeat. Maybe a
chair might help you or someone holding you and pushing you up
to help you get used to that exercise.
(1) Dips On
Two Chairs - Dips are great triceps builders and with just two
chairs, you can have a great triceps workout. Place your two feet
on one chair and your arms on another chair, a square chair better.
Your arms should be spaced out about 30-50 cms. This exercise
is a bit like the reversed push ups but your hands are placed
on only one chair instead of two. The movement is the same but
this time your body is kept straight to put more emphasis on the
triceps. Do 3 sets of 8-10 repeats.
Push Ups - Diamond push ups is a powerful triceps builder and
will add mass to your triceps. Not only does it target your triceps
but it will work your inner chest as well. Diamond push ups has
some similarities with the close grip bench press. People in the
army perform diamond push ups. So it's a great exercise. This
exercise can be performed like the normal push ups, the only difference
is the posture of your hands and arms. Your hands and fingers
are close to each other forming a diamond with your two index
fingers close to each other and your two thumbs close to each
other too. One important thing to remember is you need to keep
your arms as close to your body as possible and not outwards in
order to lay more emphasis on your triceps. This is not an easy
exercise for a beginner. Do 3 sets of 8-10 repeats.
Additional Tip: When first
starting out, I was doing the normal diamond push ups but with
time when I was getting used to it, I performed advanced diamond
push ups to make the exercise more difficult. What I did was adding
more body weight on my triceps. To do so, simply elevate your
feet on a chair such that your body is in a declining position.
In fact it's the same posture as the decline push ups. The only
difference is the position of your arms and hands. Get used to
the normal diamond push ups first before moving to the advanced
diamond push ups which is a tough exercise.
Most of the
chest exercises above will work your shoulders as well and you
can target your rear shoulder muscles by doing wide pull ups.
It's a bit the same as chin ups but your hands are spaced out
wide at each side of the barfix and your palms facing away from
Chin Ups With Palms Facing You and Close Pull Ups Palms Facing
Away From you. Close chin ups with palms facing you as explained
in the biceps section will also work the lower lats and middle
back and the close pull ups palms facing away will do the same
but won't work the biceps as much as the close chin ups. But the
forearms it will.
(2) Wide Pull
Ups - Will work the upper back and upper lats. Secondary muscles:
biceps, forearms and rear shoulders.
- Work mostly the upper abs
Lying on the
floor with your knees bent and your feet on the floor. You can
place your hands behind your head. Raise your chest slightly upwards
such that you can feel your upper abs contract. Go back to the
initial position. Repeat. You can do 4 sets of 25 repeats.
(2) Leg Raises
- Work mostly the lower abs
Lying on the
floor with your hands on each side of your body slightly inclined
and your legs on the floor, proceed to raise your feet about 45
degrees such that you can feel your lower abs working. Go back
to the initial position. Repeat. You can do 4 sets of 25 repeats.
- Squats is a powerful leg builder and will work your quadriceps,
hamstrings plus buttock and lower back as well. This is a great
compound exercise. While standing and keeping your body straight
with your hands behind your head, lower your body by bending your
knees about 90 degrees. Return to the initial position slowly
and repeat. You can do 4 sets of 25 repeats.
Calf Raises - While standing with your body straight, proceed
to raise your body by elevating your heel off the floor. Your
toes and ball of the foot are still on the floor. Return to the
initial position slowly and repeat. You can do 4 sets of 25 repeats.
As you can
see, you don't need many equipment for building muscles. And you
don't need weights to get a lean muscular body. With just chairs
and a barfix, you can do many exercises which can target different
muscle groups. Many exercises also don't require any equipment.
But for sure, if you want to get more muscle mass, training with
weights should be part of your routine sooner or later. And don't
forget that the key to building muscles is to have a proper nutrition
plan or else you won't make interesting gains.
you want to specialize in calisthenics, I highly recommend you
to check out Complete
Calisthenics: The Ultimate Guide to Bodyweight Training
by Ashley Kalym.
Recommended Bodyweight Training Books and DVD
About the author
Jean Lam is the webmaster of Body
Building Resource which provides articles on weight training,
nutrition and fitness, body building book and DVDs.
Body Building Resources