It's Not All About Lifting Weights
Mike Tyson famously became heavyweight champion without lifting any weights whatsoever. Sure, lifting weights is the easiest and fastest way to build muscle but bodyweight exercises are a highly useful alternative and in some cases just as good as pumping iron.
Bodybuilders look to build muscle by continuously making their exercises more difficult and placing even more strain on their muscles. With weight training, you can increase the intensity by simply adding more weights. Without weights, you can make your exercises more intense by doing more repetitions, taking shorter breaks in between exercises, and doing more advanced and difficult exercises.
So whether you’re cooped up inside, unable to afford a gym membership, or just want to try something new, let’s take a look at some other ways you can bulk up.
Most weightlifters will choose the bench press as their main chest exercise. Without weights, the push up is your best alternative. The footballer Adebayo Akinfenwa (Google him, he’s a big fella) shared a chest exercise he used while gyms were closed during Covid 19. You do 10 press ups and take a ten second break. Then do 9 press ups and take a 9 second break, and so on counting down until you reach 1.
You can also do more advanced push ups. ‘Archer pushups’ is where you lean to the left and the right. Pseudo planche push ups is where your hands are leaning closer to your stomach and are great for your lower chest . Decline push ups are where you do push ups but put your feet on a chair or raised surface and are great for your upper chest.
Investing in a pull up bar and doing pull ups will also be hugely beneficial. You can also buy push up bars which will allow you to do more push ups and put less emphasis on your wrists. Resistance bands will also help you, as will a pair of gymnastic rings.
This is where you’ll really need a pull up bar as a chin up is the best bodyweight replacement of bicep curls. Resistance bands will also prove useful as you can simply perform biceps curls using the bands. You can also do inverted bicep curls while hanging off gymnastic rings too.
But exercising your biceps without any equipment is not gonna get you very far. There’s an exercise known as a bicep leg curl where you sit down and try to do a bicep curl with your leg, which is your best option without weights. Akinfenwa suggests doing bicep curls with buckets of paint and doing as many reps as possible.
Diamond push ups are a great bodyweight exercise that targets all three areas of your triceps and requires no equipment whatsoever. You simply perform a regular push up but put your hands together to form a diamond shape. You’ll find that if you do a push up with your hands closer together, you’re taking away the pressure from your chest and simply putting it onto your triceps.
Dips are another hugely popular exercise for triceps and can be performed at home if you have two sturdy chairs to use. This exercise can also be performed by using gymnastic rings.
Handstands are a great exercise for your shoulders and you’re basically placing your entire body weight onto them. Although it’s an incredibly difficult exercise, some people even do handstand push ups, which act as a shoulder press upside down. If you can’t handstand, holding your feet up against the wall and slowing walking up higher will help you adjust to this move.
If you’re looking for a safer move to do at home, the shoulder press up which, as the name suggests, alters the push up to work your shoulders is the best exercise with no equipment.
Resistance bands will also come in very useful for your shoulders. All of the typical shoulder exercise for weights such as the shoulder press and flies can be mimicked using resistance bands.
You generally don’t need to use weights to work your core. Common core exercises such as the plank, sit ups, and leg raises all require no equipment so you’ve no excuses whatsoever! Your core is also loosely worked on in exercises such as squats, press ups and dips.
Pulls ups and chin ups are also great for strengthening your back, and any back exercises you would normally do for your back with dumbbells, such as the ‘dumbbell row’, can also be mimicked using resistance bands.
For no equipment whatsoever, push ups are an exercise that will also work on your back, as is the plank. Using a sturdy table you can also perform inverted rows.
Your legs will be the most difficult muscles to build through body weight exercises. Lifting your own bodyweight with your legs is also known as ‘standing’ and this won’t get you huge muscles any time soon. But there are still exercises that will prevent a ‘chicken legs’ scenario.
Squats are a leg exercise staple so you can simply perform squats without any weight attached. Since you’re using no weights, you will simply have to do more squats to burn out your legs. When Mike Tyson was in prison, he would have a squat game using a deck of cards. He would place 10 cards along the floor side by side. He then squats down to pick one up and places it on top of the card next to it. Then you squat down to the two cards and pick both of those up,one by one. You then place those two on to the next card and repeat again.
If this squat game doesn’t seem like fun (it’s very difficult to make squats fun), you can try pistol squats which is where you squat with only one leg. Alternatively, you do squats while carrying a backpack with a cement bag or anything heavy inside.
So these exercises are just a short introduction of how you can build muscle and gain strength without using weights. Below are some Youtube channels that will give you details on how to perform these exercises and much more.
Austin Dunham – Austin is a huge guy with some great exercises. If becoming as bulked up as possible is your goal then this is your most suitable channel.
Thenx – Chris Heria is a street workout champion and is insanely skilled in using pull up bars and gymnastics. Lots of helpful videos for all levels and hugely motivational at just how cool his very advanced moves look.
CalisthenicsMovement – Really in depth channel that covers calisthenics across all levels.
Tao Physique – This guy gives great tutorials on how to bulk up using gymnastic rings. He’s also pretty hilarious too.
Minus the Gym – Those of you hoping to buy no equipment whatsoever will love this channel.
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