Traditionally, bodybuilding workouts revolve around a combination of barbell, dumbbell and resistance machine exercises. However, you can get an effective bodybuilding workout without any equipment, just by using body-weight exercises, says Zach Even-Esh, owner of the Underground Strength Gym in New Jersey and author of "Bodyweight Bodybuilding Secrets." The key is to vary your exercise selection and find ways to make them more challenging.
Start by learning body-weight squats. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and squat as low as possible by pushing your hips back and knees out, then stand back up again. Once you can do three sets of 15 repetitions fairly easily, progress to single-legged exercises. These are much harder and will challenge your muscles a lot more, leading to more growth. Try lunges going forward and backward, as well as jump lunges and split squats. Single-leg exercises build muscle mass and strength and improve joint stability, notes Mike Boyle, owner of Mike Boyle Strength and Conditioning in Massachusetts.
Upper-body pulling exercises work your back, biceps and trapezius muscles. The ultimate weightless upper-body pull is the chinup, which focuses on the rhomboids and lats in your upper-back as well as your arms. Vary your chinups by performing them with an underhand, overhand or parallel grip. If you can't do full chinups yet, use a resistance band looped round the bar to provide assistance, or try inverted rows. Set a bar to chest height in a power rack and sit underneath it. Grab the bar with a shoulder-width grip, straighten your legs out and pull yourself up until your chest is an inch from the bar. Once you can do three sets of 15 repetitions, transition to chinups.
Base your upper-body push routines around dips. Legendary bodybuilder and trainer Vince Gironda was such a fan of dips for building muscle that he replaced all of the bench presses in his gym with dipping stations. Use a set of parallel bars -- start with your arms straight and descend until your elbows are bent to 90 degrees, then push back up forcefully. Pushups also work your upper body. Vary your grip on pushups -- a wide grip hits your chest and shoulders, while the narrow grip version emphasizes your triceps. You can also try pushups with your feet elevated to make them harder.
You can perform weightless bodybuilding workouts alongside a free-weight and machine-based plan, or make them your only method of training. To build muscle with weightless workouts, you need to constantly make the exercises more challenging. For example, try doing exercises with a slow tempo, vary your grip position and stance or perform all of your exercises in a circuit fashion. Strength coach Mike Mahler recommends doing six or seven body-weight exercises back to back for sets of five to 10 reps each and repeating the circuit five times.
- "Bodyweight Bodybuilding Secrets"; Zach Even-Esh; 2009
- ACE Fitness: Bodyweight Squat
- Strength Coach: Classifications of Single Leg Knee Dominant Exercise - A New Look at An Old Idea
- Bodybuilding.com: Bodyweight Exercises for Size and Strength
Mike Samuels started writing for his own fitness website and local publications in 2008. He graduated from Peter Symonds College in the UK with A Levels in law, business and sports science, and is a fully qualified personal trainer, sports massage therapist and corrective exercise specialist with accreditations from Premier Global International.