There’s no question that lifting heavy weights will help you gain muscle, but there are limits to relying solely on the gym and its equipment for getting buff. You may be surprised to learn that bodyweight training can be just as effective when it comes to building mass — but you’ll have to do it the right way, and with the right exercises.
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Keep in mind that gaining muscle through bodyweight exercises may require a lot of patience. Some of these moves are truly advanced, but once mastered, will challenge your body in new ways. Here are some of the best bodyweight exercises for building muscle.
It would be unwise to plan a bodyweight workout session for building muscles without chin-ups, which do amazing things for your biceps and lats. The perfect full-range rep for this is 20. Pull up slowly from a dead hang in a way that the chin passes the bar. However, make sure that you are able to perform this without flailing your legs or crouching the upper-back portion.
2. Inverted Rows
Some of the variations of the inverted row exercise are ideal for strengthening and adding mass to the middle back. These variations include inverted rows with ropes, rings or a bar. While doing inverted rows your lower back, hamstrings, and glutes also get the proper isometrics for developing the strength of the muscles in that area. Increase the level of difficulty over time to see even greater results.
3. Rope Climb
Ah, the dreaded rope climb. It’s an arduous task, but highly effective for building the forearms, lats, pecs, abs and upper back and increasing your overall strength. If you manage to get your hands on a rope, climb it once or twice a week. The goal should be to climb up a 20 ft rope employing only your upper body.
Push-ups are still the best form of exercise when it comes to chest building, beating a barbell press or a machine exercise any day, by a huge margin. Push-ups with rings, push-ups on one hand, inclined or suspended push-ups with feet strapped down are some of the most recommended variations. If you want to notch up the difficulty level you can try 10 push-ups on one arm.
Dips are a great way to work on the chest and triceps using minor variations to the form, especially if you want to hit the lower chest fibres. Set a goal of 50 reps to be done on parallel bars. Once you are able to do at least 20 perfect reps you can increase the difficulty level by including a 3-second isometric pause at the bottom position.
6. Handstand Push-Ups
Handstand push-ups are perfect for building big shoulders and are not as painful as barbell military press exercises — if you can master them. Top-tier gymnastic coaches know that mastering the perfect handstand can improve the body’s overall fitness and athleticism. When you are capable of holding a handstand against the wall for 60 seconds you can slowly proceed into the handstand push-ups.
7. Hand Walking
Hand walking is not something you can do right out of the gate. It takes time and practice. Once you have mastered the art of walking on your hands, you can effectively increase the strength and stability of your shoulders. However, you will need some assistance in the beginning to be able to do it correctly, and without injuring yourself. It works your abs like crazy (no crunches required).
8. Pistol Squats
Pistol squats are not like ordinary squats, and take weeks to become proficient. It can be highly taxing on the core, lower body muscles, and the nervous system. These tough squats also help the development of the lower body muscles by stabilizing and strengthening them. If you are able to do twenty reps on each leg, you are hitting an impressive target.
9. Jump Squats
Jump squats are another variation on traditional squat exercises, and seem relatively easy, but will catch up to you quickly. To do this you have to first bend your knees to a regular squat position, engage the core and then jump as high as you can. When you are getting into position make sure your feet are shoulder-width apart. You can target 2-3 sets consisting of 10 reps.
L-sit exercises are quite doable and help you achieve a very strong core. To do one, sit on the floor stretching your feet in the front, then raise and hold your body up using your hands. Alternatively, you can do these on a bar or a set of kettlebells for a higher lift. These exercises hit your triceps and also aid in other forms of exercises. You can do four sets of L-sits with a 10 second hold to really see the difference.
Aside from building muscle and increasing strength, bodyweight exercises have other benefits as well. Convenient and accessible, you can build muscle easily by simply using your own bodyweight.