If you are looking for muscle building exercises, the first thing you will probably think of is a gym and heavy weights.
Sure, that’s a good option too. But have you ever considered how independent you would be of studio fees, weather, time & Co. if you had effective muscle building exercises at home without equipment?
Would be pretty cool, right?
Then this article is for you.
First of all, I would like to make it clear: Muscle building exercises are not just for men.
Women also benefit from it – without building big muscles – I’ll tell you the secret of a defined figure later.
Muscle building exercises – a look behind the scenes
But let’s first take a closer look at the term muscle building. What do we mean by that?
Basically, you can differentiate between two types of muscle building that you can achieve with different repetitions:
- Sets with more repetitions will make your muscles grow faster. The reason for this is that more fluid is stored in the muscle cell (the sarcomere). 8-12 repetitions are a good guideline. I also work with these values in my muscle building training plan. This type of muscle building is also called sarcoplasmic muscle building or muscle hypertrophy.
- Sets with fewer repetitions trigger a growth stimulus in the muscle tissue. However, this does not increase the volume as quickly, but your muscle becomes stronger. This is also called myofibrillary muscle growth.
Both types of muscle building go hand in hand and are generated with high or very high resistance during the exercises. In science it is even controversial whether it is at all possible to specifically trigger one or the other muscle building with training. I see it this way: the effect is there, but it is small. So unless you’re planning to do bodybuilding (which wouldn’t make sense without heavy weights anyway), you can neglect that.
Your training plan should always include different types of training anyway. So sometimes more in the classic hypertrophy range of 8-12 repetitions, then again only with around 6 repetitions and very high resistance. Both are justified!
What causes muscle growth?
The secret lies in training, as well as in nutrition (protein-oriented and with excess calories).
Let’s take a closer look at the training. You can currently assume that you will achieve the best results at 80 to 95 percent of your 1RM (one repetition maximum – you can only manage one repetition) (see the study). Interestingly, this corresponds more to the lower spectrum of the muscle building mechanisms mentioned above. My recommendation for practice remains as follows:
The final repetition should be about your technical failure. That means, no further repetition is possible without you:
- Getting dirty,
- Work with verve,
- Making sounds like Godzilla or
- Takes forever to repeat (5 sec. +)
Then it’s time to pause.
If you orient yourself in the form of 6 to 15 repetitions – in bodyweight training it is difficult to adjust the resistance in very fine steps anyway – you are on the right path.
The muscle building stimulus during training is caused by:
- Mechanical charge (by contracting against a resistance)
- Metabolic stress (due to the breakdown products during activity)
- Muscular trauma (small injuries within the muscle)
Here you can see a good English summary of the topic:
Since we now know how muscle building basically works (if you want to find out more, I recommend this English page), we dedicate ourselves to the actual topic of the article: Muscle building exercises without equipment!
Oh stop! I still have a promise to keep. Exactly: The secret of a defined figure for women.
Women and muscle building training
As a woman, do you have to be afraid of training with heavy weights or good muscle building exercises without equipment?
No, of course not!
This is good news: You can train just like men, but you won’t get as muscular because, as a woman, you don’t have the hormonal level to do it. You live the decisive lever in your diet. If you don’t get a full increase in calories, then muscle building is not possible. The term muscle building exercises is then in truth misleading.
We can also take a look at the study situation.
In an American study from 2002, scientists examined the consequences of strength training in women with different levels of resistance and thus different repetitions:
- Group 1 trained with 8 repetitions at 85% of the maximum weight (in training Latin means then 1RM, which stands for “1 repetition maximum” – the maximum weight that can be overcome or the maximum resistance that can be overcome with just one single repetition)
- Group 2 trained with only 45% of the maximum weight (1RM) for 15 repetitions.
The astonishing result: The women in Group 1 burned more energy and triggered a stronger afterburn effect after training.
Another American study from 2009 followed 122 women for a long six years. The researchers found that the women who did 8-rep strength training three times a week at 70-80% maximum weight (1RM) lost the most weight and body fat.
A similar study from 2007 – also from the USA – came to the following result:
We conclude that resistance training is a viable long-term method to prevent weight gain and deleterious changes in body composition in postmenopausal women. Jennifer W. Bea (study author)
Strength training is also useful for women and does not immediately result in an inflated man’s body. Especially if you orientate yourself at the lower end of the repetition spectrum (i.e. more in the 8 than in the 15 repetitions – here you have less pumps and therefore fewer protruding blood vessels and do not feel like you are “bulky” so quickly). So: don’t worry ladies and get on with the weights uh, resistance!
If you want to learn more about strength training for women, read or check out my fellow blogger, Mark Maslow.
5 characteristics of good muscle building exercises without equipment
As you probably know, there are innumerable exercises you can do with your own body weight. An almost infinite variety. But be careful: Not all of them are suitable for muscle building training.
Pay attention to the following criteria when choosing your exercises:
- The resistance of the exercise is changeable .
It doesn’t help you if you have a good exercise, but it can’t be made more difficult if you get stronger.
- The exercise is functional.
This means that the exercise depicts everyday movement patterns.
- The exercise requires a lot of muscle mass at the same time.
Almost always given in bodyweight training anyway, just compare biceps curls and Pull-ups.
- The exercise involves more than just one joint .
You learn how your muscles work together in more than just one joint.
- You need a lot of energy to do them.
Your muscles are working at full speed and burning loads of calories.
So that you can leave the screen with a clear recommendation, you will get my top 6 muscle building exercises without equipment in the next chapter. They cover almost your entire body, that’s all you need at the beginning.
6 exercises that will make your muscles grow
First of all, I would like to make one thing clear: Training alone does not make your muscles grow.
Above all, your diet is the decisive factor when it comes to building muscle. You can find details on this in this article from me.
Correct technique: Stand about shoulder width apart. Your feet can be turned slightly outwards. Make sure that the soles of your feet always remain completely on the ground (imagine three points – two for your toes, one for your heel – that should stay on the ground) and bring your knees forward towards the tips of your feet (they may as well sticking out slightly above your toes). Make sure that your upper body remains upright and stretched. You can use your arms as a counterweight in front of your body. Then you bend your knees and go down as low as you can. Then straighten your legs again.Stressed muscles: You you mainly train your front thighs (M. quadriceps femoris), your buttocks (M. gluteus maximus), your thighs (sciocrural muscles) and your back extensor (M. erector spinae).
Common mistakes: You are not going deep enough (with the half knee bend 90 °, with the deep knee bend thighs and lower legs touch), your feet are turned out too far, the soles of your feet do not completely touch the ground, you do not squat in the full range of motion, your standing position is too far or too tight, your knees fall inward and your upper body does not stay upright Here you can find more information about the correct technique for the squat.
Required equipment: Table to hold onto if necessary
Variations: With jumping (more difficult), holding on to the table (easier), only half kneeling (easier), crouching down completely (more difficult), one-legged variants, pistols
Stressed muscles: You mainly train the back of the upper arm (triceps brachii muscle) and chest muscles (pectoralis muscle). But the stabilizing muscles of your body also work at full speed when you are in one of the push-up positions.The classic among bodyweight training exercises .
Correct technique: Place your hands about shoulder width apart and make sure that your upper arms and elbows are close to your body. Then bend your arms so that your chest touches the surface of your hands. Then fully extend your arms again.
Frequent mistakes: Working with momentum and spreading the arms too far outwards should be avoided. Here are more common mistakes: Doing pushups right – avoid these 6 common mistakes.
Required equipment: Wall, table, bench, possibly ball
Variations: Place your hands higher to make it easier, raise your legs to make it more difficult.
Correct technique: You can do pull-ups on the pull-up bar with different grip techniques. If you want to do more for your upper arms, the comb handle is the right choice. Your palms are facing you. I recommend the upper grip (instep grip) with the back of your hand facing you (like the other fingers, you can put your thumb over the bar or around the bar), because you can address your latissimus better. In any case, it is important that you use the full range of motion, i.e. go down into the slope (but keep your shoulders tense) and go as high as you can – at least with your head over the bar. Here you can find out everything about pull-ups. Here you can get help with learning your first pull-up.Stressed muscles: You mainly train the front of your upper arm (M. biceps brachii and brachialis) and your broad back muscle (M. latissimus dorsi).
Common mistakes: Half repetitions (don’t go all the way down), work with leg swing. Concentrate on calm movement to counteract this. Possibly. also helps you if you clamp a Blackroll between your thighs.
Required equipment: Bath towel, pull-up bar, resistance band
Correct technique: Lie on your back on the floor and keep your feet close together. Lift your legs up, making sure that your lower back stays in a neutral position. There should be some space underneath, but no hand should fit underneath.Stressed muscles: You you mainly train your hip flexors (M. psoas major) and your abdominal muscles (especially M. rectus abdominis), but also your front thighs.
Common mistakes: You hold your legs with the joints of your spine (sagging / hollow back)
Required equipment: Bench, mat, possibly pull-up bar
Variations: Tighten your legs while sitting (easier), Tighten your legs on a slope (more difficult)
Correct technique: Lie on your back. Place your hands on the mat next to your ears. Then press yourself into the bridge, your head still touching the ground. With the bridge, the most important thing is to bend your back as much as possible while remaining stable. Since you do it with the help of your muscular strength, you have no injuries to fear. However, increase yourself a little more slowly than you might do with the other exercises.Strained muscles: You mainly train your back muscles (especially erector spinae), but also your legs and upper arms (triceps brachi).
Common mistakes: Too shallow bend in the back (gets better over time), feet too far forward, hands too far away from the head
Required equipment: mat
Variations: Turner Bridge, going from the stand to the bridge on the wall (more difficult)
Correct technique: Lie on the floor and keep your feet close together. Then push yourself up forcefully so that your thighs and upper body form a line and you are stretched at the hips.Muscles used: You mainly train your buttocks (gluteus maximus muscle), the back of your thighs (sciocrural muscles) and your back muscles (erector spinae muscles).
Common mistakes: You are not stretching your hips enough, your feet are not close together
Required equipment: mat, stick
Variations: One-legged variants, slightly raising feet (more difficult)
Conclusion muscle building exercises
In this article you learned how muscle building works and which 6 muscle building exercises without equipment I recommend.
Here again to repeat:
- Leg lifter
With these “Big Six” from bodyweight training you can train yourself to be an extremely strong and efficient body, regardless of your gender. The fact that you look good naked is a nice side effect.
My training recommendation: Choose the difficulty of the exercise according to your fitness level so that you can do 10-15 repetitions without a break. Then do 2-3 sets of one to two minute break from each exercise. The training then 2-3 times a week and in a few weeks you will be a different person. Promise!