How to Gain Muscle Fast without Weights
It may have been ingrained in your head that you need weights to build muscle. Not the case! You can build muscle size with little or no equipment in the comfort of your home. The key is to do body weight exercises. In fact, body weight exercises have benefits you don’t get from working with weights. They work your body in a natural way so that they improve the way your muscles function as a unit. Body weight exercises are ideal for building functional strength greater functionality while boosting the size of your muscles. Here are six tips to build muscle fast without weights.
Do Mostly Compound Body weight Exercises
Building muscle is easiest when you focus on compound exercises, those that work more than one muscle group at a time. These movements also involve the coordinated motion of more than one joint simultaneously. Bodyweight exercises that do this include push-ups, pull-ups, triceps dips, lunges, and squats. Doing these exercises works almost every muscle group in a time-efficient manner.
To focus on your core and glutes, add a few isometric exercises, like planks, glute bridges, and hip thrusts. With these exercises, you’ll get a well-rounded workout that will, over time, hypertrophy your muscles and help you build muscle fast without weights.
Do Harder Variations of Certain Exercises
When you first start training, get the basic movements down. It’s challenging to do exercises like triceps dips and squats with good form when you first start out. Once you’ve mastered the basic moves, modify the exercises to make them harder. Depending on the exercise you can do this in various ways.
For triceps dips, elevate your feet when you do the exercise. You can also elevate your feet when you perform push-ups to force your muscles to work harder. Do wide push-ups where you place your hands further than shoulder-width apart. Also, add narrow-grip push-ups where your hands are close together when you do the exercise. Both variations are more challenging than a standard push-up. Wide push-ups work the chest more than a standard push-up while a narrow-grip places more emphasis on the triceps. Then try staggered push-ups. These will prepare you to do an ultra-hard variation, one-armed push-ups.
With challenge comes change! Muscles grow in response to progressive overload, gradually increasing the stress you place on the muscles in a controlled manner. Doing harder variations challenges your muscles by forcing them to adapt to new movement patterns. Controlled change is what leads to continued muscle growth.
Vary the Tempo
If you always work your muscles the same way every time you train, muscle growth will eventually plateau. One way to promote greater muscle hypertrophy and build more strength is to vary the tempo of the exercises. Do some sets with a fast, explosive tempo. When you pick up the speed, you recruit fast-twitch muscle fibers right away, the ones designed for strength and power.
At the other end of the spectrum, you can slow the tempo down for exercises like push-ups and dips. Slowing the tempo increases the time the muscles are under tension. Studies suggest that more time under tension is a stimulus for muscle protein synthesis. Take advantage of it!
If you normally take two seconds to raise your body during a push-up, double the time to four seconds. Pause for a second at the top and take five or six seconds to lower your body back down. You should quickly feel the burn in your muscles. Try to increase the time even more as you get stronger. Some super-fit people do super-slow push-ups where they take 10 seconds to raise their body and 10 seconds to lower it!
Don’t Stop until Your Muscles Are Exhausted
To maximize muscle gains, do enough reps to thoroughly exhaust the muscles you’re working. Muscle failure is where you do enough repetitions that you’re unable to do another one with without your form falling apart. You don’t need to train to muscle failure every time you work out. In fact, that can be detrimental to muscle gains. But, take at least a few sets to near muscle failure each week to “shock” your muscles. During other sessions, stop a few reps short of muscle failure.
Add Some Power Moves
Moves that use explosive power activate fast-twitch muscle fibers too. They also get your heart rate up for cardiovascular benefits. Start with a basic plyometric move like squat jumps and do a set between your other exercises to keep your heart rate up. Once you’ve mastered basic squat jumps, increase the challenge by doing box jumps, an exercise where you jump on and off a sturdy bench or platform. Start with a low platform, as the risk of injury is higher.
Focus on Nutrition
Don’t neglect nutrition if you’re trying to gain muscle fast. Make sure you’re getting enough protein. Sports dietitians recommend 1 to 1.6 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight if you’re highly active. Don’t skimp on calories either. You need a slight calorie surplus to maximize muscle hypertrophy gains. If you get those calories from whole, unprocessed foods and are consistent with exercise, you’ll gain more muscle than you will body fat.
You don’t need a gym membership to build muscle fast. You have your own body weight to work against and you can do it at home. Use these tips to maximize your muscle gains.
“The Mystery of Skeletal Muscle Hypertrophy” Richard Joshua Hernandez, B.S. and Len Kravitz, Ph.D.
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “Protein and the Athlete — How Much Do You Need?”
J Physiol. 2012 Jan 15; 590(Pt 2): 351-362.