How to Build Muscle with Bodyweight Only

The question: Can you build muscle by only using your bodyweight?


The answer? Hell yes! 
But just like lifting weights to build muscle, it isn’t easy. It may even be too hard for a lot of people. After all, in order to destroy your muscles with bodyweight, you have to use leverage, push harder than you would with free weights to find failure, and learn to have complete control over your muscles in order to activate all the muscle you need when you need it.
What this all boils down to is this. In order to build muscle with just your bodyweight, you need to do three things:
  • Work to absolute failure
  • Continually progress 
  • Extend the time under tension
Work to Absolute Failure

Forget ‘leaving a rep or two in the bank,’ or avoiding the failure point to save energy for something else. The greater the destructive stimulus, the greater adaptation the body must make, and if you want to continue to build muscle in the long run, you will need to push to failure, fully recover, and repeat.
Absolute failure for bodyweight exercises can be hard to pinpoint. Let’s face it, after you’ve done a couple dozen pushups or squats, you start wondering if you’ll ever ‘truly’ fail. But you can, and eventually the muscles give out.

Using the bodyweight squat as an example, imagine you can perform 50 repetitions before it becomes difficult to stand up. This is when your set begins, and your mental fortitude is tested. When you cannot   stand back up (or you fall to the floor) you are done. 
But just to be sure, hold onto a chair or rail and perform slow eccentric (negative) repetitions. When you fail at those, then you can stop.
You can also reverse this process by pre-exhausting the muscles. Perform an exercise to failure or close to failure, followed by the target movement. Pushups followed by dips, or vice versa, for example. 
The same method can be used for pushups, pullups, etc. Perform a regular set to failure, then do an assisted version (pushups on your knees, pullups with a band or with feet supported) until you cannot perform another repetition. It takes guts to push to this point, and if you do it right, you will feel it the next day.
Continually Progress  


There are many ways to continue to stimulate your muscles to grow, but if weight is weight (your body, free weights,) then repetitions are repetitions. High repetition sets to failure will develop your muscular endurance, but only so much muscle.
As with free weights, you must continually challenge your muscles to grow. This means increasing the load somehow, as well as the overall amount of work done. Here are two ways to accomplish this:
  • Eliminate momentum
  • Increase the lever arm
  • Destabilize the base
Eliminating momentum is another way of saying ‘slow down.’ Instead of bouncing off the bottom of a pushup or dip, lower slowly, pause at the bottom and then push back up. This ensures complete control over the movement, helps prevent injury, and makes the muscles do all of the work. Use this same tactic with every one of your bodyweight workouts and see how long you last.
Increasing the lever arm means putting your body at a disadvantage to complete the exercise. So for instance, a pushup with your feet elevated is harder than one with the feet flat. Move the hands wider apart and it becomes more difficult still; move the hands further in front of you, and although it brings other muscles into play, it is still more difficult to complete a rep.
This is an easy concept to get if you like doing planks. Most folks can hold an elbow plank for a few seconds, but as you begin walking your hands ahead of your skull, the exercise gets significantly harder. 
Destabilizing your base forces the muscles to work harder to maintain proper form and execute the movement, while also bringing additional supporting muscles into play. 
Some good ways to do this include:
  • Performing pushups with your feet on an exercise ball 
  • Pushups with one foot elevated
  • Hack squats
  • Box squats
  • One leg squats
  • Planks with your hands/elbows on an exercise ball
  • Single leg deadlift
  • Side plank with extended arm and elevated leg
Extend the Time Under Tension

One of the easiest ways to extend a set and force the muscle to work a little longer is to keep them under tension a little longer. This may mean hanging with the shoulders, upper back, wrists and biceps activated for 10 seconds when you can’t perform another pullup or row. 
It can also be done by good old fashioned flexing. After failing at that last pushup, stand up and tense your chest, shoulders and triceps in an isometric contraction for 10 seconds. 
Additional time under tension means more work for your muscles.
It Works if you Work it
Bodyweight muscle building is no mystery, and it’s no myth. With the right workout and nutrition program, and enough mental toughness, you can push your body to limits you’d never imagined, and build muscle at the same time. 

Working Out the Same Muscles Two Days in a Row

In a recent Men’s Health magazine e-mail, they were pimping a book called “Huge in a Hurry” by Chad Waterbury. In this book the author expounds upon the virtues of working the same muscle groups multiple days in a row. 
Because I focus a lot on the energy system and performance aspect I am improving when I train, this concept made perfect sense to me. Let’s go over the basic idea here.
First, working the same muscle group two days in a row does not mean taking the same bodybuilding workout routine you did for your back and repeating it the next day. That is a sure way to overtraining. 
Instead, consider the gymnast. One day’s workout may consist of a typical warm-up, then technique work on the rings. If one day is heavy on the rings, the next day may be split between strength work (in the gym) and a review of the previous day’s techniques. 
The same muscle groups are being used, but the ring’s training load has decreased, and a different modality is used in the gym. The next may be spent doing recovery exercises. An example would be lighter resistance and stretching; nothing too heavy or difficult. 
Functional workouts, such as those used in Crossfit gyms or at GymJones, focus on a particular energy system. The workouts are designed to improve strength, power, endurance or build muscle; but usually a combination of these. This approach means the same muscle groups will often be trained several days in a row, or at least with less than 48 hours recovery time.

For example, an Absolute Strength day may look like this:
Warm-up: 10 minutes on stationary bike or rower.
Dynamic-specific warm-up for:
-Deadlift: 1-2 sets at 40-50 percent of 1 repetition max x 10-20. Not to failure.
Then:
-Deadlift: 5-6 sets; work up to singles or doubles at 90% of 1 rep. max.

A Strength Endurance day:
Same warm up and dynamic warm up (only one set this time.)
-Deadlift: 5 x 12, 6,5,3,12, working up to 80-85 percent 1 RM.
Between deadlift sets do:
Stationary bike or rower x 1 minute at hard pace.
After deadlift/sprint rest 90 seconds and repeat.
Finish with 20 minutes at steady pace on rower or bike.

A Power workout using the back squat could look like this:
General warm up
Dynamic warm up with bodyweight squats or light weight.
Then:
Back Squat: 8 x 3 reps. Use a fast but controlled eccentric movement (going down,) and accelerate the bar as fast as possible when standing up. The power reps are not to failure, and are done with 40-50 percent of your one rep. max.
Although you may not want to train any single performance aspet two days in a row, these workouts could be done as strength, endurance and power three days in a row. Or as strength, power and strength/endurance. Other combinations training sport specific activities are also possible.
There are training systems that subject the trainees to heavy workloads on a daily basis, such as the Bulgarian method. Bulgarian Olympic lifters have been known to work on maximum and near maximum lifts six days a week, often enduring more than one workout per day. 
If weightlifting is not your full-time job, though, stick to varying your workload and your intensity. The results will be magnificent, and you just might make faster gains than you ever have before.
***Get the advice of a professional trainer or coach (which I am not) before attempting new and different exercise programs!
Listen to Louie Simmons teaching about increasing bench pressing power. This man has a wealth of knowledge.
Get Chad Waterbury’s book “Huge in a Hurry” here:

                                           

For more information about lifting with bands, go here:

http://www.flexandflow.com

Read more about muscle-building workouts here:

http://www.realmusclefast.com

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How to Build Strong Back Muscles

Big Strong Arms Workout Routines

Muscle Mass-The Best Basic Lifts for Maximum Gains

Building Muscle like Captain America

Getting into Captain America shape made the actor want to puke. But this was a real transformation. How did he do it?

According to an interview on Pop Sugar, the actor underwent four months of “brutal” workouts for 2 hours every working day. When he wasn’t working out, he was consuming protein. As Chris Evans said, “You get to the point where you just can’t even look at another piece of chicken.”

Of course, Chris was on a tight schedule and the body transformation had to happen fast. While eating a lot of quality protein and working out hard are important for building muscle, given more time it does not have to be a miserable experience.

To pack on pounds of solid (meaning lean) muscle over several months, read these workouts and tips:

 Strong Back Muscles

Core Workouts

Muscle Building on the Road

Muscle Building with a Suspension Trainer

Big Arms Workouts

Best Lifts for Max Gains

If you don’t have the equipment you need, or think you don’t have what you need, pick up some dumbbells and other gym equipment here:

Olympic and Standard Barbells and Dumbbells

Home Gym Pullup Bars

Remember, all you need is simple equipment. By simple I mean if all you have is your bodyweight, you can do a lot with that. If all you have is some rope, you can do a lot with that, too. Read this for some great suggestions if you think you have nothing to work with:

Home Gym Workout Routines with No Equipment

The Thor Workout Reloaded-A Twist on Straight Muscle Building

Like most people, I was impressed with the results Duffy Gaver helped Chris Hemsworth achieve for the Thor movie. I’m sure camera angles helped him look bigger and brawnier than he would in real life, but you’ve got to hand it to him, he accomplished a lot in a short time. So how did he achieve it and what did Duffy Gaver have Hemsworth do?

Three elements were present in his thor workout program. 1.) A cycle of heavy, basic compound weightlifting movements-bench press, squat, etc. 2.) Clean eating with plenty of vegetables, fruits and protein, 3) A second cycle to maintain the muscle he had built while cutting up (burning fat.)

You might think time was on Chris Hemsworth’s side during the filming of this movie, but it wasn’t. He fit the workouts in while filming another movie. Dang, there goes excuses for the rest of us!

I read the thor workout routine posted in Men’s Health UK and thought it was a good one. However, it seemed like there was one element missing: swinging heavy things.

After all, Thor swings that heavy hammer around all day long! There was an element of ballistic training in the thor workout routine, and that was with kettlebells. I thought the addition of clubbell, or indian clubs training if you prefer, would be a logical decision. So I created the thor workout-reloaded!

It includes heavy lifting of odd objects like sandbags, but you could stick with deadlifts and squats. Most important, it encourages lots of heavy swinging and core strength work! Don’t worry, you don’t have to pay for it, just click on this link and read for yourself:

The Thor Workout Reloaded

Enjoy!

Read about making homemade indian clubs and maces here:

More Homemade Clubbells for at Home Workout Routines

Building Strength and Grip with a Homemade Macebell

Home Workout Routines with a Homemade Clubbell

Shop inexpensive kettlebells here:

Kettle Bells