There are many ways in which someone can workout and build muscle. Typically when looking to bulk up, majority of them turn to gym equipment. Nothing wrong with that, but there is an alternative. In this article we will look at bodyweight exercises and if they can help you build muscle.
In order to build muscle, it needs to be met with some form of resistance. Using your own bodyweight is a great way to start. In order to see more growth, increasing the challenge of each exercise would become necessary.
You can increase the challenge of the bodyweight exercise in a couple of ways. Initially increasing your reps would be the first step. For example, if you’re currently completing 10 push ups per set. Increase to 15 or 20. You could also increase the number of sets you’re doing during the workout.
With this method of increasing you’re sets and reps. Eventually you will come to a point where it wouldn’t make sense to go any higher, especially if you’re in a time crunch. Sure, it would be great to brag about being able to make a thousand push ups a day. But for the sake of building muscle only there are other options to choose from.
We will look at those options later in this article but first lets take a step back.
What Is A Bodyweight Exercise
Bodyweight exercises are the type of workouts that use no or very minimal equipment. Push ups, pull ups, sit ups are all examples of bodyweight exercises. Simply put, if you’re using your own bodyweight in as the main form of resistance, than you’re doing a bodyweight workout.
What makes a bodyweight exercise so effective is that it often promote other areas of fitness. Although some workouts may seem very basic, often times you would be building core strength, endurance or balancing techniques simultaneously.
A quick example would be a push up. Primarily you’re working your arms and chest when performing a push up. In order to keep proper form and make them the correct way. You engage your core, and keeping balance with your legs.
Many elements of a bodyweight exercise involves various areas of your body, making them a great choice as your go to workout.
When you’ve begun to hit your limit, and you feel you have maxed out your sets and reps. This is a good time to consider “progessing” to the next variation of your workout.
What Are Bodyweight Exercise Progressions
Going back to the point previously in the article of making your workout more challenging in order to see more muscle growth. You now get into bodyweight exercise progressions.
Bodyweight exercise progressions is a variation of your current workout that creates more of a resistance to help overload the muscles. When standard push ups become too simple progressing to an inclined push up would typically be the next step.
An inclined push up is done by finding an object to elevate your feet, like a chair, step stool or stair case. From there you’d continue your exercise as normal. With your legs and feet elevated, your bodyweight is putting more pressure on your upper body. Causing a larger overload on the arms and chest, making the workout more challenging then the standard push up.
It doesn’t stop their though, if you’re worried about bodyweight exercises being too restrictive or limiting. You may be pleasantly surprised that there is quite a bit of progressions for a variety of exercises that all start with basic bodyweight workouts.
For starters you can check out our articles of push up and pull up progressions. Something to note is that the degree of difficulty increases with each progression. For obvious reasons, the higher difficulty leads to a tougher workout which is what you want for muscle growth.
With that said you typically would want to follow the progressions in order and not get too far ahead than what you may be capable of. Some of the exercises do require strength but also a lot of it depends on core strength and balance, which you get to develop as you move along.
Is Bodyweight Exercises Better Than Using Weights
Although it should come down to preference and goals for which types of exercises you choose to pursue. There are a couple of differences that may help in your decision process.
Using weights is usually the first thing that comes to mind when looking to build muscles. Typically you could see results a bit quicker if you’re just looking to get bigger. In order to get a more well rounded work you are in way forced to move around to various machines (if you’re at the gym) or have different sets of equipment in your home.
Weighted workouts are focused on specific areas of the body. Generally speaking one type of workout doesn’t having any overflow into other areas.
With bodyweight exercises, it requires much more movement on your part. Because of this, you’re often building the smaller muscles in the muscle and increase your mobility and flexibility.
If you think about it, you’re pretty stagnant when using external weights. You often are sitting on a bench or standing in one spot in order to keep your proper form.
With bodyweight exercises proper form is important also, but in a way where you need to engage many parts of your body in order to keep it still and balanced.
An example would be for a pull up, it’s ineffective if you’re twisting and kicking all the way up the bar. Instead, you’re engaging your core, keeping your legs tight and committing to the pull up.
Like mentioned earlier, it’s should be a personal decision whether to use bodyweight or external weights as your main workout for muscle building. There are upsides choosing either, and whichever you choose, it should align with your health goals and lifestyle preference.
Having a hybrid version of the workout, where you utilize both bodyweight and external weights will likely give you the best of both worlds. You get the focussed attention on the muscles when lifting weights and the flexibility and mobility from calisthenics. It could also be the way you find out which type of exercise is good for you.