Building muscle without weights? Yeah, it is totally doable and accessible to you right now! No need for a gym membership or trip to the store for top-of-the-line equipment.
You don’t even need to leave your living room to get started.
All you need is your body. Hear me out. This is how to build muscle without weights:
The Secret to Building Muscle Without Weights
It’s no secret that you can have the build you want with the right amount of exercise, diet, and lifestyle changes. But what holds many back is the idea that you need a gym membership or weight exercises to get started.
In reality, you can work on building muscle without weights in the comfort of your own home, in the park, in the office, or seriously anywhere you feel comfortable.
You can do exercises without equipment and exercise without weights. All you need to build muscle is dedication and knowledge on how to put your body to use through bodyweight exercises.
By continually challenging your muscles with bodyweight exercises, you can build muscle mass at home just as well as you would at any gym.
6 Best Body Weight Exercises to Build Muscle
The best way to exercise without weights is first getting to know what bodyweight exercises are best for building muscle.
Rotating through these options will work to target those prime areas of muscle and get you that full body workout without weights.
Start with working on those buns! Squats are an excellent way to improve core strength and work those glutes. (1)
Begin your squat by situating your feet just wider than the width of your hips with your toes facing forward.
Lower yourself as if you were going to sit in a chair and go as low as you comfortably can, then press into your feet and return to a standing position.
If you have children, an interesting challenge to add to squats is giving your child a piggy-back ride while you’re at it. Safely, of course! Know your limits before attempting this.
2. Push Ups
With push ups, you are putting your body weight to the test as you push yourself off the floor. Start by positioning your hands on the ground slightly larger than shoulder-width apart.
As you push yourself up, your body should stay straight. No butts in the air!
This exercise works to strengthen your core and build upper body muscle mass.
You can also switch things up by alternating your limbs, such as trying one-arm push ups or one-leg push ups. When trying different variations of this exercise, make sure you perform each version equally.
3. Pull Ups
Continue working on your upper body strength and target your forearms, back, and biceps with pull ups.
All you need to get started is a bar to pull yourself up from.
Place your hands shoulder-width apart on the bar, clench your butt and tighten your abs as you pull yourself straight up off of the ground.
Pull ups can be daunting, so if you aren’t totally comfortable with the thought of lifting your body off the ground, you can trying lowering your pull up bar and starting with your knees on the ground and lifting yourself up from that position first.
Like pull ups, dips are a great way to do upper body exercises without weights. If you don’t have access to fancy dip equipment at home, no worries! You can use a chair.
Start with your hands on the seat of the chair and lower yourself until your legs are bent at the knees at a 90-degree angle. Push yourself up until your arms are straight again, then lower yourself back down into the 90-degree angle.
Much like squats, lunges take aim at your glutes and are a great way to get in leg workouts without weights, as well as working to strengthen your core and balance.
To start, keep your upper torso straight and step forward with one leg.
Lower your hips until both knees achieve a 90-degree angle.
As you push yourself back up from this position, make sure you’re applying the weight to your heels. You’ll want to alternate between each leg as you go through reps.
If doing lunges for the first time, watch this video to guide you on how to do it properly.
6. Planks or Situps
While the debate is out about whether or not planks or situps are better for abs, either way you’ll want to make time to do both.
To begin a situp, lie down on your back and bend your knees with your feet firmly placed on the ground.
Cross your hands over your chest and bring your upper torso to your knees.
Why Workout 3x Per Week?
The best way to build muscle and see progress from your efforts involves two key elements: routine and consistency.
Without routine and consistency, your efforts will fall short and you likely won’t get the results you were hoping for.
Scheduling your workouts for Monday, Wednesday and Friday gives you the set routine and consistency throughout the week, with a day in between to relax your muscles before jumping back in.
On your workout days, choose four types of exercises and work through each exercise at least three times to reach a minimum of 12 different exercises. You can either do these exercises 30 seconds at a time with 30 seconds of rest in between or boost the duration of each exercise to turn up the intensity of your session.
Be careful not to overexert yourself though, as this can hurt your muscles.
6 Effective Muscle-Building Tips
1. Increase the Difficulty of the Exercises
Just as you would with weight exercises, you want to make sure you’re increasing the difficulty of your bodyweight exercises as you continue to strive to meet your fitness goals.
Push yourself until you can’t do another rep and once you’re able to do 15 reps at a time, find a more difficult exercise to pursue.
2. Increase the Amount of (Healthy) Foods You're Eating
Fitness goes a lot farther than just exercising and eating healthy. If you’re trying to build muscle mass, you’ll want to up the amount of healthy foods you’re eating!
Try to include more protein and vegetables in your diet. Switching from refined carbohydrates to items such as whole unrefined grains and fruit will also be helpful in the long run. (3)
This will even encourage more healthy habits to help you build muscle without weights!
3. Sleep 7-10 Hours
Sleep plays an important role in building muscle mass. Getting a good night’s rest will not only make you stronger mentally, but physically as well.
In fact, experts from Center for Psychobiology and Exercise Studies in Brazil concluded in a study that
Lack of sleep can lead to muscle loss by: hindering muscle recovery after damage induced by exercise, injuries and certain conditions associated with muscle atrophy.
- Experts from Center for Psychobiology and Exercise Studie
4. Drink Lots of Water
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! I cannot stress this tip enough. It’s crucial for your health and is a key player in building muscle.
Drinking at least eight to 12 cups a day will keep you moving and flexing your muscles efficiently.
This will also help carry important nutrients needed for recovering from a routine.
5. Don’t Overdo the Cardio
Cardio is an excellent method for burning fat and kicking calories, but for muscle-building purposes you’ll want to avoid going overboard.
You need fuel to build muscles. Always ensure optimal muscle recovery.
Between 2-4 days a week of cardio for 30 minutes at a time is ideal to avoid burnout.
You can also try out this list of calisthenics exercises.
6. Invest In Some Gear (Ex. Pull Up Bars, Kettlebells)
While you can exercise without weights, some kind of gear will help you along the way.
If you have the money, investing in smaller items such as battle ropes (see our article on best battle ropes to buy), pull up bars, kettlebells, a TRX band, etc. will help with resistance training and getting you on the fast track to building muscle
Building Muscle Without Weights: The Bottom Line
Now that you know how to build muscle without weights, get started on your workout! The fitness journey to build muscle is specific to the individual and experimenting with the tips above will get you started on the right path.
You know your body best and will know what it responds to. Make a plan, establish a routine and figure out what works best for you.
- William McCoy, Do Squats & Situps Work Your Core?, retrieved from https://livehealthy.chron.com/squats-situps-work-core-2958.html
- Kimberly Caines, The Benefits of Lunges, retrieved from https://www.livestrong.com/article/336841-the-benefits-of-lunges/
- Miriam E. Nelse, PhD, Will Eating More Protein Help Your Body Gain Muscle Faster?, retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/features/will-eating-more-protein-help-your-body-gain-muscle-faster