Building muscle and strength at home using just body weight exercises is possible, but limited. For ultimate size and strength gains, lifting weights is superior. That doesn’t mean body weight training should be ignored, because it’s still an effective way to build muscle and makes a great addition to any training routine.
Body weight training is great for variety, adding a few of these exercises into your routine for variety is a good idea. It’s also very handy to have some knowledge of good body weight exercises for times when you’re on the road or can’t make the gym.
Examples of Good Bodyweight Exercises to Build Muscle
1: Chin Ups – This exercise will build the lat muscles and biceps effectively. To target the biceps more, use an underhand grip with palms facing you.
Chin ups can be quite difficult if you’re a beginner or you’re very over weight, you’ll probably find most body weight exercises hard work when just starting out. For beginners, I recommend you start using a chin up bar with machine pad that offers weighted assistance to help build up strength before you go all out and try to pull the full weight of your body.
As you get stronger, reduce the level of weighted assistance and move onto manual pull ups using just the weight of your whole body. If you want to do this exercise at home you can use a chin up bar on a door frame. Beginners can place a chair under the bar and use their legs to help take some of the weight off.
How to preform:
Before you perform this exercise, I want you to know that you don’t need to get your chin above the bar. The name ‘chin ups’ does not mean you have to dislocate your neck to get your chin past the bar, just complete the exercise by lifting your body as high as possible.
Grip the bar with both hands, palms facing you around shoulder width apart. Pull you body up toward the bar and lower back down.
Don’t pull yourself up to fast, this is likely to cause swinging and your form will suffer. Slowly pull for 2 seconds up and then 2 seconds down. Perform the movement in a controlled manner, making sure to keep tension when lowering your body.
2: Jump Squats – Weighted squats is the king of leg exercises amongst bodybuilders. No body weight exercise can work legs as hard as squats with a heavy weighted bar on your back.
The best bodyweight exercises you can do for you legs are ‘jump squats’. They work your quads and are an explosive power move. They also provide you with a short HIIT exercise and gets your heart rate up. This exercise will really get the blood flowing and can help you build muscle.
How to perform:
Stand with legs shoulder width apart with you hands just behind your head. (Don’t clasp hands together)
Keep you back straight, push your bum out and squat down until your thighs are 90 degrees from the floor.
Jump up in an explosive motion, landing on your heals and moving down to the squatted position again. Repeat the exercise.
3: Handstand Push ups – If there is a spot in your home to do a handstand push up, then you should definitely be taking advantage of the opportunity to include this in your at-home body weight workout routine.
This is more of an advanced exercise. I don’t recommend this for beginners because you need to have strong shoulders to do this exercise correctly and to gain full benefit from it.
If you cannot do a full range repetition successfully then you should just practice holding a handstand against the wall for periods of 60 seconds. Make sure to have someone watch over or assist you with this your first time.
Move onto partially lowering your head towards the floor and back up. You will eventually progress into doing full range of motion handstand push ups.
4. Push-ups – Everyone knows what push ups are, we’ve all done them. There are many different types of push ups you can do that utilize different muscles and areas of the chest/pectorals. You will mainly be firing the chest and triceps muscles when you are doing push ups with some shoulder recruitment.
Doing push ups is not as risky or challenging as a free weigh bench press, but still a great chest exercise you can do anywhere.
Steep incline push ups are a great way to increase the resistance and progress. Variations of push ups include planche push ups, one arm push ups, diamond push ups, and military push ups. I could not cover all the variations in great detail and how to perform them in this post. Simply copy and paste any of the push up exercises I’ve just named into Google or YouTube and you’ll find plenty of good demonstrations of each.
5. Triceps Dips – Rest your palms on a chair behind you and lower your butt towards the ground to imitate a triceps dip. To increase the resistance, put your feet on something level with you out in front. You can also put weight in your lap to increase the resistance.