Last updated on August 13th, 2018
Who else does not want to be strong and look good? But, if you are busy because of your work and family, you hardly have time going to the gym to pump iron.
I was in your shoes some years ago. Working 8-10 hours a day and with a newborn baby, I could not allow myself 2 hours a day to travel and be in the gym. On the other hand, I was not satisfied with my body. I felt plump and weak. Since I had used to lift weights before, that feeling hurt me mentally as well.
Then, I decided to search for a kind of strength training that I can do at home without lifting weights to get my body back. So, I started doing bodyweight exercises motivated by calisthenics trainees I saw on Youtube. For equipment, I only bought a power tower for pull ups, chin ups, dips and leg raises.
I worked out 3-4 times a week at home and changed my diet a little bit. After, 6 months I saw drastic changes. I gained muscle mass, became strong and lost some pounds. I felt myself well again in my skin.
And I enjoyed bodyweight training much better than lifting weights. Hence, 60% of my workout routine still consist these exercises.
Now, I have much more free time, but I still work out at home. I enjoy the freedom that the local gym did not give me. Now, I have a home gym with weight training equipment as well to add versatility to my plan. But, as I said, bodyweight training is the priority.
You may find this intro a bit long, talking too much about myself, but it is my answer to the question if you can build muscle and be strong without weight training. Which is, without doubt, YES!
But, let’s get into the details and let me give you some tips.
The KEY: Progressive Overload
No matter if you use weights or your body weight your muscles will develop both in strength and size only if you overload them progressively. That means you have to constantly challenge your muscles to grow and adapt to the more significant loads.
When someone builds muscle, he reaches that state by doing extra reps, adding a few pounds or making one more set with the dumbbells or the bar.
But, how can you do that for bodyweight exercises?
The strategy is the same, progressive overload. How?
One logical way is to increase the number of reps and sets. But, after some time that may not bring the muscle gain you want. For example, if you can do 40 push-ups making 50 will not make you stronger, but will boost the endurance of your muscles. (But if your goal is to do as many reps as you can, just do it.)
Another tactic is to change the speed, perform the moves slower or faster. That is also a new type of stimulus for your muscles that is worth to try. For example, when I slowed down my pull-ups both in the pulling and the lowering phase, I felt excellent strength development after some time.
Similar to the previous technique, you can try static exercises. A good example is the plank. You just plank, but it makes your core strong. Or the handstand, even if it is done with the help of a wall, that makes your shoulders strong.
Try plyometric moves that require explosive power. These exercises can help you a lot to get stronger. Obviously, you can perform these movements only if you have enough existing strength. For instance, clap push-ups or box jumps.Recommended: 100 push up variations to boost your upper body
Do exercises with a single limb. These require practice, but the reward is excellent strength and muscle gain. For instance: one arm push up, single leg squat (pistol squat), one arm chin up or pull up, single calf raises, etc.
And you can add more resistance by using a weighted vest which is adjustable fitness equipment. By using it, you can maximize the muscle building effects of the bodyweight exercises.
To sum up, you should always give a little something new to your muscles both on the long and short run. I mean, the next training you just make 2-3 more reps of push-ups, but your long-term aim is to reach the one arm push up.
One more tip. Do not care about what others say, test what works for you. Always learn new exercises and training techniques, and try them. The following books have helped a lot.
My recommended books about bodyweight training/calisthenics.
What are the best bodyweight exercises?
Pull ups, chin ups, push ups, squats, dip, leg raises for strength and burpees for cardio /fat loss. But, there are hundreds of variations of them to target one particular muscle group better or to boost your power.
Watch the following video for motivation and to get more ideas.
Will I need equipment?
Although we are talking about how to build muscle without lifting weights, we need equipment for pull ups, chin ups, and dips. For that, a pull-up dip station is the best buy since it provides all the stations you will need. And with that, you can have a full body workout without weights.Recommended: Best power tower reviews
If for some reasons a tower is not right for you, a doorway pull up bar is another option.
Total body home workouts without equipment to build muscle
Finally, here are two workout plans without weights for beginners to get an idea how to create your program.
I hope you found the answer to your question how to become stronger at home. Do not underestimate the power of bodyweight training, with dedication, practice, and testing you can build extreme functional strength. Plus, since most of them are compound exercises, they support your weight loss as well. You may never look like a bodybuilder, but you are going to look cool and be strong.