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Build Muscle With Bodyweight Workouts

I get asked all the time if you can really build muscle with bodyweight workouts only or can you really get stronger without weights?  Well I found a great article from Jimmy Smith at JimmySmithTraining.com.  Check out the article here and it should answer some of your questions.


I’ve always prided myself on being very “in the middle” of the strength and conditioning scale.Everyone wants to argue about training techniques, like bodyweight training, and debate which one is better instead of finding which method is the most optimal. If you pay close enough attention to the industry you’ll see two groups…

Bodyweight training and workouts for more muscle and less fat

Group 1: The Jumpers. These are people who generally find out about a new method, proclaim it better then anything else that anyone has ever done to build muscle or get stronger and they build gyms, blogs or their lifestyle around it. Just spend five minutes talking to any Crossfitter, paleo advocate or strongman.

Group 2: The “Don’t Know Betters”.  This is typically a combination of old school lifters, general fitness trainers or just someone that wants to “go to the gym”. They are still the people using the same training methods for years. There’s nothing wrong with that if their getting results and like it but they’ll bash anything they haven’t tried, almost out of fear.

It actually pisses me off when I hear the extreme of both ends running down the other. You’ll hear stupid stuff like “only bodybuilders train their triceps” or ” you only build muscle with bodybuilding training”.

Listen, my quest is to be the best coach possible for you guys. It’s how I increase my results and change my body but also how I help you guys do the same.  I can’t afford to be closed minded and I have to view every new or different method for the face value and not get too caught up on it.  That brings me to today’s topic of bodyweight training. Never have I’ve seen such argument over a training method. The problem is NEVER in the method, it’s in the user. Hard pill to swallow I know.

To some bodyweight training is still the same old boring stuff that you’d do in gym class.  That’s the problem!

People don’t know how to advance and progress their bodyweight training to the point that they’ll start causing enough adaptation and forcing their central nervous system to grow and get stronger.  How’s that any different than curling a weight the same way year after year and not getting results? If you knew how to advance that arm workout like I show you in my Ultimate Arm Training series then you’d be constantly making gains.


At the end of day, can bodyweight training provide you with an increased stimulus? Yes it can. The best thing about it? Bodyweight workouts are actually easier on your joints because there’s no external weight.  I’m even of the theory that bodyweight training can help to heal your joints and reduce muscle soreness because you’re forced to work through a full range of motion. One of the bigger issues with life is that we lose the ability to perform several vital movements like a full squat or a full lunge as we age.

Holding a dumbbell or medicine ball actually adds a certain amount of external stability that doesn’t exist with bodyweight training. Working through the full range of motion in the squat can increasingly rehab our hip joint.

Same thing with the push up, getting really good at the push up, like you did when you were young, can be a fantastic shoulder rehab movement for turning on muscles like the serratus that are essential for proper shoulder health.

It’s a lot easier to grab a set of dumbbells and quickly work your way up to a twenty pound or so increase. And you feel badass as you see yourself progressing from a fifteen pound curl to a twenty pound curl. So the pundits are right, dumbbell training is more effective then body weight training for building muscle.

No…you’ve chosen the easier path to success. A chin up puts the biceps in a more direct line of pull then a dumbbell curl. If you want to get big arms you need to include chin ups in your program at some point. Just think about all the ways that you can do more chin ups. You can gain weight or you can lose fat.  Both provide a better challenge. You can add rest pause reps into the workout. You can use a band for support. You can do jumping chin ups.

Same with a lunge. You can add isometric pauses half way down to stimulate your glute more. You can perform mini or half lunges or you can do jumping lunges.

With a push up, you can change your hand position or add mini holds or use a band. I show you all these progressions and more in my Weapon X workout.

At the end of day building muscle and increasing strength is based on giving your body enough stimulus and tension to adapt. I often recommend all my clients to perform one bodyweight workout per week to reduce their soreness post training and just freshen things up. Lately I’ve been finishing all my workouts with at least one bodyweight exercise that corresponds with what I trained that day. If I hammered legs then I used high reps. If I did a hard shoulder workout I’ll use some rest pause push up variations. Bodyweight training is limitless and makes a perfect finisher to any workout you can think of.

Source: Jimmy Smith


Jimmy has a great article here and has some great information on his site.

I found some great bodyweight workouts videos for ya.  This one is pretty hard core.

Here’s another one that isn’t as crazy.

So what do you think?  Can you build more muscle with only bodyweight workouts?

Chime in below or head over to my Facebook page.



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