How do we grow our muscle mass with bodyweight exercises only? Does it happen to you that you can’t get to the gym, or get there quite rarely?
You might have a busy schedule, or you cannot afford to work with a coach in the gym, or maybe you just lack motivation. We all run into these difficulties, but when we don’t move, our progress and results are impacted.
However, there are easy alternatives for you to try. You can stay in shape with the help of body weight exercises. These can be very effective in growing our muscle mass, strength, or weight loss, especially when we gradually increase the intensity or difficulty of the exercises over time (also known as “progressive overload”).
But what are the most effective bodyweight exercises? Let’s explore together the bodyweight exercises that can help you grow your muscle mass.
Muscle mass development with bodyweight exercises
Bodyweight exercises are also called calisthenics. This type of exercise trains large muscle groups using very little or no equipment. Running, push-ups, pull-ups, and lunges are just a few examples of calisthenics exercises.
Strength training with body weight can increase your strength and muscle mass. Resistance to a stimulus or muscle tension is necessary to exhaust the muscle so that it can repair itself and grow. You don’t always need weights to build muscle mass, you can try this instead.
The benefits of bodyweight exercises in growing muscle mass
Strength or resistance training can only be done with the help of bodyweight exercises and gravity. There are many factors that influence the increase in muscle mass, not just lifting heavier weights.
Activates the stabilizing muscles
Weight training does not always activate the stabilizing muscles. Stabilizing muscles are smaller muscles that assist the main muscles during exercises. For example, when we do a pull-up, the triceps serves as a stabilizer.
Bodyweight training always recruits stabilizing muscles. The need to keep the whole body in balance, and in control, causes the stabilizing muscles to be stimulated. Both bench press and push-ups are exercises for the chest, shoulders, and triceps. But the bench press offers more stability by the fact that you are sitting on the bench, you have a point of support. While push-ups involve more movement of the joints and use of the core muscles.
Great accessibility and adaptability
Bodyweight exercises can be done anywhere. You can easily make changes. To make bodyweight exercises more intense, you can:
- slow down or increase the tempo
- add breaks increase the repetitions or duration decrease the break
- optimize or change the angle, for example by raising the legs
- combine different exercises
Gaining strength does not improve your mobility. But, by improving your mobility, you increase your strength. Bodyweight exercises require much more control of the way the body moves. This is because this is not a fixed position. The body can move freely leading to better mobility. Better mobility allows the body to cope better with the stress of training. This helps you improve your technique and increase muscle mass.
Compared to other types of training, following bodyweight training, you are much less likely to get injured. Bodyweight exercises are mostly functional movements. It provides muscle stimulation without putting pressure on the joints. On the other hand, lifting heavy weights puts a lot of pressure on the joints.
Improper technique and overwork are among the main factors that lead to injuries.
Functional movements imitate everyday activities. The types of movement in calisthenics training are similar to the way the body works normally. While lifting weights, our body is often fixed in a certain position by the equipment.
Effective bodyweight exercises for muscle mass growth
There are many effective bodyweight exercises for developing muscle mass, both for the upper and lower body. Let’s see which are the best for muscle growth.
Dips are a compound exercise for multiple muscle groups, such as the chest, shoulders, and arms. This exercise has different variations. Try to adapt it according to your fitness level. All you need are one or two parallel bars, a bench or chair, etc.
Push-ups are very effective for upper body strength. These involve the chest, triceps, and shoulders and also the core muscles. It is very important to involve the core muscles. There are many variations of push-ups, so you can modify them to be easier or harder, depending on your level of training.
This exercise is effective for the back muscles (latissimus dorsi, rhomboid), but also involves the shoulders and arms. When you do it, due to the vertical position, gravity increases the difficulty.
To make this exercise easier, you can opt for reverse squats or pull-ups with the help of an elastic band. This assists you in lifting, and you can then adjust the angle, making the exercise harder or easier.
There are several types of lunges, but whatever you choose, lunges are a very good exercise for the lower body. The glutes, quadriceps, and hamstrings are used in the execution of this exercise. Being a unilateral or monoarticular exercise, it can help to correct muscle imbalances.
For less pressure on the joints, opt for back lunges or stationary lunges. And if you want something more advanced, opt for the Bulgarian split squat.
The kneeling position activates the large muscles of the legs. The glutes, hamstrings, and quads work together to perform this movement. To make this exercise easier, you can do it on a box or a chair. To increase the difficulty, you can choose to squat with a jump or you can go down more when performing the squat.
Single leg squat
This is an advanced bodyweight exercise. Benefits of this exercise include unilateral balance and strength. By doing it, you will notice improvements in flexibility and mobility
For regression, you can opt to use a TRX for support or something to hold on to. You can adjust how much you go down by using a bench or a chair to sit on. The more you advance, the more you descend.
How to design a bodyweight exercises routine
You can use bodyweight exercises to incorporate weight training into your program. If you are a beginner, start with bodyweight exercises, then as you progress, add weights if necessary.
Also, these exercises are combined very well with corrective ones. If you only do bodyweight exercises try to do 3-5 workouts/week.
Start with exercises for all muscle groups in each workout. Opt for 2-3 exercises for both the upper and lower part. Since you are using the weight of your body, you can increase the frequency. Aim to perform a certain number of repetitions in a certain time. To build muscle mass, you need to exhaust your muscles.
Adjust the breaks as needed. Intensify the training by increasing the number of repetitions or working on time. You can also decrease the rest time.
I created a training program in which I incorporated the exercises described above, along with many others. They are structured in such a way as to help you develop a routine and lay the foundations of a balanced fitness program.
This program is designed to help you develop healthy habits and is the first step in this journey towards a toned body, full of energy and confidence.