Whether you have access to a gym or not, there is really no excuse for not taking care of yourself and putting your health first.
There are tons of exercises you can do without weights, in the privacy of your own home, hotel room or office to build muscle and improve your physique and health.
While weight training and machines are great, the simple fact is you CAN build muscle without equipment. We’ve all heard or used the excuse, “I just don’t have time to get to the gym.” In our busy lives, it’s easy to find excuses not to exercise. At the end of the day, whether you’re traveling, working late or the kids are wearing you out, you WILL feel better if you get it done.
Build Muscle Without Equipment With These Body Weight Workouts
Exercises that require you to move your own body mass are critical to functional strength at every fitness level. Because you aren’t using added resistance for these exercises, it’s best to focus on moving as quickly as you can and completing more reps to exhaust your muscles. Of course, form always comes first, but in general, body weight exercises come with a much lower risk of injury than weight training.
I’ve included a list below of my Top 10 Bodyweight Exercises to help you build muscle without equipment in your home workout. Many of these you’ll have heard of, but I’ve included my tips for perfecting your form and usage of these critical moves.
Squats work 85% of your body’s muscles. Just let that sink in for a second. That’s more than any other exercise in the book. In addition, squats are known to promote testosterone production better than any other exercise. If you want to build muscle
For achieving a deep, healthy squat, start with your feet shoulder width apart, your toes pointed slightly out, and as you descend, keep your back straight and focus on sticking your butt out and keeping a tall chest. As you sink down into your squat, drive your knees outward and your heels into the ground to maintain balance. If you need to, you can extend your arms as you sink for added balance. When you’re trying to perform these as fast as you can, this added balance can be very helpful.
Body weight squats can be performed every day if you like. You can also vary up your squats by trying one-legged squats (jackknifes) or sumo squats (wide stance).
Push-ups are the original upper body workout. Anywhere, anytime, you can blast out push-ups and work your chest, shoulders, triceps and back. Keep your eyes up to promote better breathing and descend until your chest touches the ground.
For variation, widening your hands will work more on your chest, whereas bringing them closer together will put more resistance on your arms.
Putting your feet up on a chair or the wall will change the angle of your push-up and work more of your upper chest while increasing difficulty.
Using a chair, coffee table, or even your bed frame, you can isolate your triceps and chest with the dip. This is a great exercise for carving out that horseshoe on the back of your arms. Remember to keep your head up to straighten your spine.
Wall sits are an excellent way to burn out your quads and build endurance. With your back flat against the wall and your hands at your sides, sink down to create a 90 degree angle at your knees. No leaning on your knees! Personally, I like to use the timer on my phone for these. Start by trying to hold the wall sit for 60 seconds or as long as you can stand the burn.
Lunges are one of the best bodyweight exercises out there but proper form takes some practice. People have a tendency to sway during the transfer of body weight onto the lead foot. As you shift your weight to your forward stepping leg, remember to keep your upper body straight and focus on the downward motion of your hips toward the floor, not forward—this will get you nice and low for a complete repetition.
Beginning on your stomach, keep your spine neutral and press your body weight up onto your forearms, keeping them flush with the floor and at 90 degrees from your upper arm. Tighten your core to make your body a straight ‘plank’ and squeeze your abdominal muscles to increase the intensity. Planks are another exercise for which I recommend using a timer. Try 90 seconds and tell me you can’t get a core workout at home.
Here, the concept is similar to a plank in that your upper body should be resting on a flush forearm, but you want your chest facing the wall, creating a hinge at your waist that will stress your obliques and core.
This one is just like it sounds and will do work on your love handles and lower back. Lay on your stomach, then stretch forward and lift your arms, legs and head off the floor like you’re trying to fly—hold for a few seconds and release.
Crunch with Leg Extension
I like to combine the leg extension with a crunch to work the upper and lower abdominal muscles. Lay on your back with your heels just off the floor, bring your knees up to your chest and finish with a crunch, squeezing your abs as your knees and chest meet. Release the crunch as you extend your legs away from your body, but keep your feet off the ground for the remainder of the set.
A burpee is a complex movement combining a squat jump with a pushup. These are an excellent progression for multiple muscle groups. The main thing to watch is your lower back; avoid caving of your spine as much as possible when you crouch and pop up from the push-up.
If you’ve been training for a while and think bodyweight exercises don’t provide enough resistance for growth on their own, you can raise the intensity of your home workout by creating a circuit. This will build muscle, endurance and add an aerobic element to your bodyweight movements and really increase the difficulty of your home workouts.
Circuit training works by keeping you moving constantly and your heart rate up by resting one primary muscle group while working another. You’ll be amazed by how much physical output you can get done in shorter time using this method.
While planning a circuit, it’s important to switch off muscle groups so you are resting one group of muscles between exercises. So, if you start with pushups, move to squats, then an abdominal exercise. This sort of pattern will always keep a group of primary muscles working while another is recovering.
So there you have it, my favorite exercises for home workouts to build muscle without equipment. At home or on the road, these exercises can help you shape up and trim down while promoting your overall health and functional strength. No gym? No problem.
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