How to Build Muscle with Body Weight Exercises

Delve into the best way to build muscle, even if all you have is just your own body weight.

Ben Greenfield
6-minute read
Episode #296

I recently finished reading a book called "Neuro-Mass”, which is also chock full of good body weight and isometric training routines. The relatively simple routine outlined in the book has absolutely blown my mind. It basically goes like this: you start with what is called a "grind", which is basically a super slow set. For example, if you are doing this type of neuromuscular training for your legs you might do a super slow lunge with one leg forward in the back leg elevated on step. Next, you moved into some kind of a power, explosive movement. For example, using the leg training analogy above, you could do lunge jumps. Then you finish with an isometric hold that builds up a time of lactic acid and finishes off the muscle group. For this, you would use something like an isometric lunge hold. And that's it. You can do these type of workouts with kettle bells, dumbbells, body weight, you name it and I'm now – because of how much I'm traveling – doing these workouts about three times a week in a hotel room. The workouts are somewhat unconventional, but I highly recommend these as another way to build muscle with body weight only exercises.


So, if your goal is to build muscle does this mean you never need to visit the gym again? Are health clubs with weights now useless?

Not exactly.

First, strength and function are important, not just hypertrophy and, as the study results show, strength and function are best build with some kind of external load. Next, this study examined beginner exercisers, who may respond better to body weight only exercises compared to trained participants. Finally, the study looked at biceps only, and it would be interesting to observe if the same results apply to all the other muscle groups too.

However, if you’re pressed for time or don’t have much equipment, it does indeed look like a body weight only training session comprised of something like 4 sets of 20 reps of hard, controlled movements for a body part, with 30 seconds rest time in between sets, can certainly build muscle size!

Do you have questions, comments or feedback about how to build muscle with body weight exercises? Join the conversation at http://www.Facebook.com/getfitguy.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.


About the Author

Ben Greenfield

Ben Greenfield received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from University of Idaho in sports science and exercise physiology; personal training and strength and conditioning certifications from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA); a sports nutrition certification from the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN), an advanced bicycle fitting certification from Serotta. He has over 11 years’ experience in coaching professional, collegiate, and recreational athletes from all sports, and as helped hundreds of clients achieve weight loss and fitness success.

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