A workout without weights can be every bit as challenging as using weights and just as effective for weight loss and building muscle – so how do you do it?
Strength training without weights is as old as the hills and is a well proven strategy to build a lean, muscular physique – just look at photos of old time bodybuilders like Charles Atlas who employed a wide range of body weight exercises to sculpt their bodies.
Workout Without Weights
Whether you choose to workout without weights or you have to because you simply can’t afford a gym membership or expensive home fitness equipment, no problem.
You can build a hard, lean, muscular physique without ever touching a dumbbell!
First off, let’s get something straight…
Your muscles do not know the difference between a barbell and your bodyweight!
What makes a muscle get stronger and bigger is the resistance it’s working against…not the cause of that resistance.
In other words, your muscles cannot differentiate between the stress and overload caused by you benching a couple of dumbbells and you performing a set of press ups.
To your muscles it’s all the same – whether the stress is caused by weights, bodyweight, a sack of potatoes…
As long as you overload your muscle so it has to adapt to the increasing workload, and you keep progressively upping the resistance and overloading it some more at successive workouts…it will get stronger, bigger, firmer.
The principles of overload, adaption and progression apply equally to a workout without weights as a workout with them.
So whether you’re looking to build muscle, lose weight as part of a weight loss program, improve your general fitness and conditioning – you do not need weights to have a killer workout!
Resistance and Overload…
OK, so where does the resistance come from in a workout without weights, what techniques do you need to employ to overload your muscles?
The simple solution is to use your own bodyweight. By learning a few basic exercises you can construct a highly effective and adaptable workout that can be done at home, whilst on vacation, business travelling – any time, anywhere.
Furthermore, by combining 15-20 minutes of resistance training using your bodyweight and if you have one, an exercise ball, with 20 minutes of high intensity interval training, you can burn fat and build muscle in three, 45 minute fat burning workouts a week.
So, here are a few ways to make your workout without weights as effective as possible – and they’re really no different to the techniques you should employ in any workout…
Use good form – really concentrate on using the best possible form and concentrate on feeling every rep, making it as difficult as possible for the working muscles to complete.
Slow your reps down – take 3-5 seconds to lower your bodyweight in a controlled manner, keeping the tension on the working muscles throughout and then explode into the positive phase of the movement
Reduce rest time between sets – rather than increase the number of reps, reduce rest time between sets from say two minutes to 90 seconds, 60 seconds and so on. For instance, if you can comfortably do 20 press ups in your first set, reduce the rest time between sets and you’ll find the subsequent sets much harder and you’ll be able to complete fewer reps.
Superset – combine two exercises that work opposing muscle groups in the same extended set. For example, do a set of press ups (chest, shoulders, triceps) immediately followed by pull ups (back and biceps) then rest for 60 seconds and repeat. It shortens your total workout time and increases your workout intensity.
Do one limb at a time – for instance, you can probably do quite a few two legged squats without weights. Try doing a one-legged squat – now how many can you do?
Incorporate active rest – Don’t sit down or stand around in between sets. Jog on the spot for a minute, do some star jumps, get on a treadmill or exercise bike if you have one. Active rest keeps your heart rate and metabolism elevated and increases workout intensity.
Employ some or all of these techniques and you’ll find your workout without weights becomes more challenging, more intense and more productive so you burn more fat, build muscle more quickly and lose weight more rapidly.
We’ve made a few suggestions as to the kind of exercises to include in an example bodyweight workout.
Alternatively, read our review of Turbulence Training, which offers some incredibly effective bodyweight and interval training workouts for beginners through to advanced trainers.