Building muscle is often the main goal of any gym-goer, but there are ways to achieve this other than pumping iron.
In this instalment of the Masterclass series, Myprotein PT Kay Johnson breaks down how you can build muscle if you don’t have access to gym equipment. It’s time to work out from home …
Whatever your reason for choosing to work out without equipment — whether you’re saving some pennies by foregoing a gym membership or simply prefer working out at home — you can still get a great workout in. And yes, that includes building muscle. Here’s what you need to know if you want to build muscle without weights.
Increase your reps
A relatively simple one, but if, for example, you were doing weighted pull-ups at the gym, you’ll need to complete more non-weighted pull-ups for it to have the same effect.
Train to failure
Instead of starting an exercise intending to do however many reps, instead just complete as many reps as you can until you can’t go on any longer. And do the same for the next set.
Decrease your rest time
In other words, reduce the amount of time between sets you spend on Instagram or texting your friends. Put your phone down and get back to it.
Different variations on the same move can help you to build muscle, even with no equipment.
Increase time under tension
By increasing the time your muscles are under tension, your muscles will need to work harder.
Introduce these principles if you feel like your workouts are getting easier or if your progress has plateaued, and things should soon pick up again.
Bodyweight exercises are, as it says on the tin, exercises that use only your body weight as resistance, with no additional weights. And the way to build muscle, without weights, is to increase how challenging the movements are.
But be realistic. You won’t be able to build extreme levels of muscle, like a bodybuilder, because of a lack of progressive overload on your muscles. If building serious muscle is your goal, bodyweight exercises will only get you so far.
High intensity interval training (HIIT) is a great way to get in a good workout without equipment. And it’s perfect for all levels of fitness because it can be tailored to the desired level of difficulty. For example, a beginner could do half burpees while somebody more advanced could do full chest-to-floor burpees.
Additionally, a beginner might start with two or three 30-minute workouts per week and work their way up to three to five 45-minute workouts per week.
It’s a cheap option and you can complete it in a whole host of locations. Including anywhere in your house, in a quiet corner at the gym, in your garden (depending on the weather and how wet you want to get) or even if you want to squeeze in a small workout while you’re on your holidays.
If you’d like to use some equipment, but don’t want to buy any, you can improvise. Have a look in your cupboards — tin cans make for great dumbbells and 1.5L bottles of water are a great barbell alternative when squatting. Get creative and see what you can find knocking about.
Take home message
Whether you’re a beginner, just looking to mix things up, or you’d like to incorporate some more bodyweight exercises into your routine, then go for it. Working out without equipment doesn’t mean you can’t build muscle. As long as you follow these principles, you should carry on seeing progress.