You’re short on equipment or just not a big fan of the gym. Getting big with body weight exercise is always an option – but it’s not necessarily the best.
Body weight exercise is becoming popular again bro. Much like the fashion industry, types of training kind of fall in and out of popularity.
There’s a myth that body weight exercise won’t build muscle.
But then again, don’t expect to magically develop pecs like Haney because you threw in a few press-ups. Or put Platz to shame because your air squats were on point.
If it was that simple we’d all be cancelling our gym membership, moving the furniture out of the front room and getting down to business.
Building muscle is all about clever planning and a ton of effort.
Here’s why getting big with body weight can be done… but only if you follow the rules of muscle growth.
The basics of muscle gain – getting jacked 101
One thing that bro’s run the risk of doing is over complicating things. Sometimes it’s the simple stuff that turns you from b*tch to brah.
And while you might not think it’s the sexy stuff; following the basic rules is guaranteed to get that muscle protein synthesis flying off the chain.
Here are the fundamentals of growing meaty slabs of muscle:
Specificity – Your workouts must be specific to your individual muscle goals. You can’t expect your biceps to grow because you hit the leg curl. You want big arms, train arms?
Progressive overload – In order for you to grow new muscle cells, you need to provide them with a stimulus that is greater than your present ability and capacity.
Individual differences – All bro’s grow at different rates. Some have awesome genetics and a high adaptability to weight training. Others do not.
Recovery – If you don’t rest and recuperate every now and then you won’t maximize the anabolic response and get jacked as fuark.
Novel stimulus – Training gets boring if you do the same thing over and over again. Varying your exercise selection once in a while helps to keep things interesting and stops you from plateauing.
But why do muscles grow?
Forget the fancy sh*t like time under tension and advanced stuff like drop sets or cluster training.
If you don’t follow the rules above you just won’t grow bro.
Your body works hard to find balance.
If you damage its cells through strength training it’ll use available energy to grow back bigger and stronger to stop it from happening again.
It’s all about presenting your body with a stimulus that forces it to adapt and protect itself by growing.
And when cells do grow back you get bigger and stronger.
Muscle growth is simply just a response to mechanical loading and metabolic stress.
But in order to continue growing you have to up the ante pretty often and use heavier weights or more reps and so on.
Can Body Weight Exercises Get You Big?
Your body doesn’t really care how you achieve the basics of muscle growth. Whether you’re using barbells, dumbbells or just your own body weight; if it achieves progressive overload you’ll grow.
It’s that simple.
Body weight exercise is the easiest form of strength training to take part in.
You don’t need much equipment or space, and you can squeeze in workouts without having to fill up the truck with gas and drive to the gym.
There are hundreds of variations of body weight exercises.
And while there aren’t an endless number of progressions, there’s still plenty to do until you reach a level of complete mastery.
So can body weight exercises help you grow huge slabs of muscle?
Let’s take a look at the basics of muscle growth again; but this time in relation to body weight training…
There are body weight exercises for specific muscles
With a bit of planning and imagination you’ll find a body weight exercise for pretty much every major muscle group.
Pull-ups, inverted rows, press-ups, lunges, squat variations, leg slides, planks, hip bridges and dips pretty much cover all of your major muscle groups.
So you’ve got specificity nailed really.
Bro Rating – when it comes to giving each muscle a specific stimulus for growth, we’ll give body weight training – 8/10.
Progressive overload forces you to adapt your technique
If you’re working hard in the gym and things are starting to feel easier you’ll up the weight that you’re lifting.
That way you continue to maximize mechanical loading and grow more muscle.
If you’re a beginner to lifting, you might find that to begin with, you can only manage a few reps of each body weight exercise.
And that’s cool.
But if you’re an experienced bro who can already bench his own body weight or squat double body weight you might find that the basic techniques are to easy.
And the only way to progressively overload is to keep adding reps.
While lighter loads can still build muscle, there’ll come a point where you’re knocking out 100’s of reps of each exercise and just not stimulating that adaptive process.
However, there are some really cool, advanced body weight exercises you can add to your program if you want to keep that muscle mass going.
So if you get to a point where press-ups just aren’t doing it for you anymore, crack out the tough stuff.
One arm push-ups, single arm rows, towel pull-ups, muscle-ups, pistol squats and all of these kind of crazy exercises will make sure you keep dangling that progressive overload carrot in front of your muscle fibers for sure.
Bro rating: Body weight provides progressive overload in beginners, but as you become more experienced, it gets less and less challenging. At that point you can add in the complicated stuff – 7/10.
Body weight training could provide a novel stimulus
If all you do for chest is heavy bench press, or your leg day consists of a few leg extensions here and there, body weight training might just kick you off your plateau and provide a different stimulus to what your body is used to.
Without the luxury of being able to keep adding weight (in the best gyms you’ll never find yourself running out of weights) you’ll eventually run out of options when it comes to body weight training.
Note: Were not talking about ‘muscle confusion’ here. That sh*ts not real. You can’t trick your body into growing more muscle. In the same way you can’t trick your body into thinking that burger and fries is a nice low-cal salad.
Bro rating: There are plenty of variations, progressions and adaptations to keep you interested and overcoming your plateaus. But eventually you’ll start to find the basic body weight exercises pretty boring – 6/10.
The heavier you are, the harder body weight training can be
We’ve all know a bro whose claim to fame is that he can bust out 10 strict pull-ups. But the dude weighs 150 lbs – no wonder he can lift himself so easily.
If you already carry a decent amount of fat mass and fall into the overweight bracket, you’ll find some body weight exercises pretty tough.
But that’s not a bad thing in terms of overloading your muscles. And as the fat comes off you’ll find that you get stronger, because your relative strength increases.
Bro rating: If you’re overweight, body weight training can be a great way to start your muscle mass journey – 8/10.
Summary – Using Body Weight Exercise to Build More Muscle
The reality is that if you choose a way of training that you enjoy you’re much more likely to stick to it.
Body weight training definitely ticks the boxes when it comes to specificity, progressive overload and adaptability.
It does build muscle.
Personally we prefer to just get in the gym, throw some heavy sh*t on a bar and get massive that way. But if you’re thinking of putting some body weight workouts together as a way of getting big, it can be done.