Surely you have watched the Olympics at least once in your life, and you have witnessed incredible athletics and mental strength tests and seen truly impressive and inspiring physiques.
Think only of the weak and muscular bodies of the sprinters, with extremely well-developed buttocks or of the gymnasts with their sculpted arms
Well, training for gymnasts consists mostly of bodyweight exercises. And yet, their muscle mass is enviable! Which invariably leads us to the question “can you build muscle mass just by training with your body weight”?
The answer is simple: You can definitely build muscle mass without all those discs and dumbbells in the gym. But of course, it will be a bit more complicated to use your own body weight to add muscle mass.
Can bodyweight Exercises build Muscle mass?
If you are a beginner or if you have a very limited exposure to resistance training, then the answer is yes, bodyweight training will definitely build muscle mass! For the rest of the categories, the mission will be harder, although achievable.
If you are used to lifting very heavy weights at the gym, working with dumbbells or changing discs on the machines, it will be difficult to find a replica for this type of training at home. The secret is to change the way you train in general. Maybe this will mean performing the exercises more slowly or increasing the number of repetitions, sets or time allotted to each movement.
To build muscle mass it is necessary to challenge the muscle. So, your goal will have to be any change that manages to provoke the muscle, and you will find the optimal challenge only through repeated attempts!
Bodyweight exercises have the advantage that they are functional, compound movements that allow you to focus on shape without added resistance. You will be stronger in terms of the movement patterns you use in your daily life, and in addition you will work several joints and muscles at the same time, with exercises such as knee flexion, push-ups or push-ups.
You will also work many smaller muscles, especially when performing stabilizing exercises, such as bird-dog, cranking and one-sided movements. This type of movement targets the upper and lower body, along with the torso, causing muscles that you do not always work when you train with weights.
How does the Human body build Muscle mass?
Accumulation of muscle mass – hypertrophy – involves challenging muscle tissue and increasing protein synthesis, the process by which cells build new proteins. You can do this through exercise, in three ways: creating mechanical tension, metabolic stress or microtrauma.
Although most types of training will include all three ways to induce hypertrophy, which will lead to the greatest benefits, different training techniques may target one method over another. You don’t have to think about your workouts to focus on one method or another, but it can be helpful to understand exactly how each method manages to build muscle mass.
This is the first thing that happens when you lift heavy objects. If you have ever tried to lift a dumbbell from the ground that weighs more than you, you have definitely felt the mechanical tension: you do your best to keep your shoulders tight, your spine in a neutral position and your torso tense.
Mechanical tension generally comes into play during weight lifting. You load the muscle with enough resistance to create tension, causing the cellular and molecular responses that then lead to the accumulation of muscle mass.
By increasing the number of repetitions and sets (ie the total volume) of each exercise, you can also increase the mechanical tension, which gives the muscle the benefits of building muscle mass.
Slowing down the eccentric action or the descent phase of an exercise (for example, going down in a knee bend) can provide additional tension. For some people, certain exercises with their own body weight provide enough resistance on their own (a float or a traction, for example).
The result of metabolic stress is the burning sensation you feel when your muscles are tired. It is known in the bodybuilding world as a “pump”, because the muscles are filled with blood, which can make them look swollen and vascularized.
You feel it at the pulsating knees, when you maintain the lowered position of a float or at the last repetition of a series of abs. Metabolic stress occurs when metabolites (waste products that form as a result of exercise – lactate, for example) accumulate in muscle tissue. This accumulation causes hormonal, cellular and growth factor reactions, providing another way to boost your muscle mass.
Metabolic stress can stimulate the release of anabolic hormones (hormones such as testosterone or growth hormone, which stimulate protein synthesis), can lead to cell growth and amplification of growth factors, proteins that can stimulate tissue growth by promoting cell reproduction.
Microtrauma occurs when you cause small tears in the muscle tissue, as a result of the effort you make, but especially as a result of resistance training.
Your body will then work to repair those injuries, thus promoting muscle growth. Any exercise can cause microtrauma (knee flexion, straightening), but even more so the new movements. Dancing, running, bodyweight exercises can all cause microtrauma, not always a result of mechanical stress.
How can you do more Muscle through Your own weight Exercises?
There are many ways you can change your regular weight training, and the good news is that even small changes can lead to greater muscle gains!
Here are some concrete tips that will show you how to challenge your body and encourage muscle building. Their order does not matter, and the best way to include these strategies in the program is up to each athlete.
Try one or all of the five tactics below in your next workout and see what puts your muscles to the test the most.
1- Increases the number of Repetitions and series and Decreases rest time.
The more you repeat an exercise, the more metabolic stress you put on your muscles.
Perform more repetitions and sets of body weight exercises than you would normally do with weights to have similar results. It also limits breaks between repetitions and evenings, without sacrificing proper form. This way you will put more stress on the muscles, promoting growth.
Research shows that a low-load endurance workout (either low weight or body weight) combined with short periods of rest can improve metabolic stress and increase muscle size, even more than lifting heavy weights and long breaks.
2- Change the angle or Tempo of the Exercise.
To accentuate the microtrauma, try to change the angle of some of the exercises, for example by stepping sideways in the case of squats, or by adding an inclined plane to the floats. Changing the angle may involve moving other muscles, or it may involve other areas of the same muscle group.
You can also try to lower the tempo on the eccentric or lowering phase of the exercise and then explode. Another option is to lower the tempo of the entire exercise. For example, go down in a knee bend counting to three, hold the bottom position until you count to three, then get up again counting to three. This increases the period when your muscle is tense, which means that you will increase the probability of microtrauma.
3- Add position Holding points and Repetition halves
A method that adds more metabolic stress to the muscles, causing more muscle mass gains.
For example, if your cramps seem light, hold the lower position of the movement for a few seconds (when both knees are bent at 90 degrees) before getting up. Or go down in the fold, then do only half of the lift, go down again and only at the end return completely to the starting position. You can try to stop before returning to the starting position and in case of knee bends or buttock bridge.
This idea works because the muscle is tense for a longer period of time and, in addition, eliminates any point in the movement where the muscle could take a break.
4- Make several Plyometric movements
To boost muscle tension, add explosiveness to the movements you make. Do bending knees, bending squats, bending jumps, burpee jumps – all of which are extremely important for building muscle mass.
Stronger contraction in the case of explosive movements means that the muscle works more intensely and has a higher probability of microtrauma and as such the accumulation of muscle mass.
5- Perform one-sided Exercises
Go from typical bilateral exercises to unilateral movements. This means turning a knee bend into a pistol knee or one-leg knee bend, turning the buttock bridge into a single-leg bridge or a simple board into a one-arm and / or leg board. These simple transformations can increase microtrauma in a muscle, just as they can add more tension or load to that muscle.
Don’t stop Progressing
In the case of any type of exercise, there is a risk of reaching a plateau phase, if you do it indefinitely without playing with variables or without continuing to challenge your muscles in new ways.
That is why it is important to add progress to your training program, adding variations to the exercises and increasing the degree of challenge in the movements. Thus, the muscles will build continuously.
When the movements start to seem easy to you, you probably don’t already gain muscle mass and it’s time to transform your training routine!
Disadvantages of Body weight Exercises
It is often extremely difficult to create enough mechanical tension, especially in the lower body, to stimulate that growth of large muscles.
1- Targeting the largest Muscle groups
Performing basic bodyweight exercises – push-ups, knee bends and push-ups – will give you excellent training for your chest, arms, shoulders and quadriceps. But the two largest muscles in the body – buttocks and lattisimus dorsi – will be difficult to provoke with body weight exercises alone. If you have a traction bar you can get some decent lattisimus dorsi, but the buttocks will still be difficult to work.
2- Increasing the level of difficulty
The continuous complication of the exercises (absolutely necessary according to the principles of progressive loading) becomes more and more difficult if you do not add an increasing number of repetitions. And even when you increase the number of repetitions, you will most likely end up improving your muscle endurance, which does not translate into muscle mass accumulation.
To add weight using bodyweight exercises, you need to increase the difficulty of these basic movements. As shown above, you can progress with pistol knee bends, one-handed or one-leg plan, one-leg buttock bridge, or single-handed barbell pulls for the back and biceps.
The benefits of training u Body weight
1- I do not require any Equipment
Because your own weight exercises can be done anywhere, it will be easier to have consistency in this type of program.
2- It is an excellent Starting point
If you are new to the world of strength training, bodyweight exercises will be a great place to start. You will build muscle mass, you will feel better in your skin and you will develop a solid foundation of strength, which you can then apply in weight training, or in any other chosen training mode.
Body weight Training variant
Below you have a program composed of two circuits, which you can do anywhere and anytime.
Perform the exercises in sequence, with no rest time between exercises, in 3 rounds.
Kneeling with body weight – 10 repetitions – 3 seconds per eccentric, 1 second holding in the lower position.
Floats – 10 repetitions – 5 seconds on the eccentric, 1 second holding down.
Hollow Hold – 45 seconds hold.
Rest time – 60 seconds after each round.
Perform the exercises in sequence (with 30 seconds of rest time between exercises), in 3 rounds.
Tractions – 5 repetitions – 5 seconds per eccentric.
Skater’s jump – 30 seconds.
RKC board – 30 seconds.
Rest time – 60 seconds after each round.