Body Building Resources

Building Muscle Without Weights
Workout - 12 Exercises
By Jean Lam

When 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.


(1) Decline Push Ups - Work mostly the upper chest. Secondary Muscles - Shoulders(Mostly middle and front) and Triceps

Place your 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

Place your 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.

(3) Reversed Push Ups between two stable chairs - Work mostly the lower chest and outer chest. Secondary Muscles - Shoulders and Triceps

This exercise 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.

Biceps and Forearms

(1) Close 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.

(2) Diamond 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 you.


(1) Close 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.


(1) Crunches - 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.


(1) Squats - 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.


(1) Standing 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.

If you want to specialize in calisthenics, I highly recommend you to check out Complete Calisthenics: The Ultimate Guide to Bodyweight Training by Ashley Kalym.

Complete Calisthenics: The Ultimate Guide to Bodyweight Training

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.


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