While lifting heavy weights is certainly the fastest route to getting jacked, it's perfectly possible to build muscle using bodyweight exercises alone. And with gym closures a distinct possibility as long as there is no Covid-19 vaccine on the immediate horizon, we figured we would share some tips on how to get stronger without having to add dumbells to your shopping list.
Muscle-building bodyweight workouts
So long as you’re continually stressing your muscles, you’ll see gains from bodyweight exercises. You’re just swapping the gym’s weights rack with your own body.
The better news is that you’ve got some different options you can choose on your path to bigger muscles. And some might surprise you.
There’s one thing, however, there’s no getting around. Building muscle requires discipline and sustained effort. Anyone that tells you otherwise is lying or trying to sell you a miracle product that – spoiler alert – doesn’t work.
You weren’t expecting to see running in this list, were you? Jogging won't ever get you hench, but hill sprints are an effective way of building strength in your legs, and increasing muscle endurance and fast-twitch fibre development. Not only that, it’s a form of high-intensity interval training, which is proven to burn fat at a rapid rate. So, not only can hill sprints build your muscles, you’ll also be able to see them!
The simple act of running up a hill has a similar effect on your muscles as lifting weights in the gym. Your muscles in your core, legs and feet all coordinate to power your body upwards, fighting against gravity as well as supporting your weight.
Find a steep hill, at least 35m long, and go. Sprint up as hard as you can, then walk or gently jog back down. Start by trying to do three. Then five. Finally work your way up to 10 and beyond. Want some extra motivation? Time yourself. The pride you’ll feel as you shave seconds off as the weeks pass will make it much easier to keep at it.
2. Home workouts
The most obvious answer! From press-ups, to lunges to pull-ups, any kit-free workout that requires you to hurl your own body around will build muscle.
We’ve got a simple four-week muscle building bodyweight plan that caters both for beginners and experienced exercisers. Check it out.
Shadowboxing is excellent for improving your balance and proprioception (your awareness of the position and movement of your body.) It will help work those little stabiliser muscles all over your body, giving you a better platform to lift heavy. If you want lean, fast-twitch muscle, start throwing punches.
Try high-paced shadowboxing for five two-minute rounds, with a one-minute break between each round. Start the first round with just your hands, then round two just focus on kicks. For rounds three, four and five put everything together, being conscious to keep up the intensity whenever you feel it dropping.
Just beware of your surroundings. LED TVs and hanging lightbulbs tend to take issue with being accidentally swiped.
There are few exercises better for working your shoulder muscles than handstands. The strength required to hold yourself up is just one aspect of this impressive bodyweight exercise, with your wrist, core and stabilising muscles all through your body also helping keep your balance.
Loads of free handstand training programmes are available, designed to take you from needing a wall to stay upright all the way to doing freestanding handstand press-ups. Find one that lets you follow along day-by-day, like the video this enthusiastic chap presents.