The Best Bodyweight Bodybuilding Workouts for Gaining Muscle – BarBend

The 1977 documentary Pumping Iron is chock-full of footage of bodybuilders like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Franco Columbu preparing with regard to the 1975 Mr. Olympia competition. There’s a lot of on-screen clanging plus banging of weights, but very little calisthenics to be found.  

Nearly five decades later, resistance training still reigns supreme for building muscle — whether you’re a professional physique athlete or a first-time gymgoer . What are you to do, then, if you are trying to bulk up yet can’t make it to the gym (or don’t have the well-furnished facility at home)?

man performs pull-up with wide grip
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Do you give up on your pursuit of gains? Heck no. As it turns out, you don’t need in order to pick up a barbell to put on muscle (though it will certainly help ). Bodyweight or calisthenics-based training can, in the right climate, build comparable muscle to that of lifting weights.  

Your body can be both the canvas and the paintbrush. Here are the few bodyweight-only workouts you can use to develop muscle, as well because the science behind why calisthenics is surprisingly effective for hypertrophy .

Best Bodyweight Muscle building Workouts

Greatest Bodyweight Bodybuilding Workout regarding Chest

International Chest Day is typically celebrated upon the bench press or even with a pair of heavy dumbbells. In their absence, you can nevertheless develop your pecs by taking things (way) back in order to basics.

The particular Workout

Chest coaching without weights is easier to perform than some other muscles, but you’ll still have to make do with fewer exercises than you’d otherwise enjoy during a standard in-the-gym session.  

Push-ups, dips, and their own many variations will need to be the particular cornerstone associated with your approach to chest teaching if a person want in order to grow.

  • Single-Arm Wall Push-Up:   2 x 8
  • Decline Push-Up:   3 by 15 
  • Chair Dip :   2 x 15
  • Single-Arm Slider Flye:   2 x fifteen

If you do not have access to floor sliders , a hand towel or even a folded t-shirt will do in a pinch.

Best Bodyweight Bodybuilding Exercise for Back

It is said that will bodybuilding shows are won from the back. Even if you don’t compete, an underdeveloped posterior chain can negatively impact the entire appearance of your physique.

Without rows, deadlifts , or cable exercises on the menu, you’ll have to go extra-hard upon your back again work to ensure your upper body is proportional.  

The Workout

Provided you have access to a stable horizontal bar , you can get quite the back workout within through the few select exercises — some of which might surprise a person.

If you lock your pelvis into extension and focus strongly on drawing your own arm back towards your sides, the ab rollout will be actually a half-decent lat exercise since it trains the motion of shoulder extension .

Best Body weight Bodybuilding Exercise for Shoulders

The anatomical design and function of the deltoids make them quite tricky to properly train if you do not have dumbbells to work with. That said, nothing is impossible if you’re committed plus creative.

The Workout

Unfortunately, the majority of calisthenics exercises for your shoulders will mostly stimulate the anterior, or front, deltoids. Lateral and posterior glenohumeral joint work is going to be hard to come by without using some other types of equipment.

While the side plank is the stellar oblique movement , supporting your torso is usually facilitated in order to a large degree by a strong isometric contraction at the shoulder. You should feel your own lateral delts and rotator cuff start to burn if you hold it long enough.

Best Bodyweight Bodybuilding Workout for Arms

Gym bros the world over may scoff at the prospect, but you can in fact load up your guns without ever performing a single biceps curl or even cable pressdown (not that there’s anything wrong along with piling on the isolation work to grow your arms).

The Exercise

Fortunately, two of the most reliable and efficient calisthenics workouts — the particular push-up plus chin-up — rely heavily on assistance from your triceps and biceps , respectively.  

  • Close-Grip Chin Up:   3 by 12-15
  • Inverted Row:   3 x 12-15
  • Decline Push-Up:   2 by 12-15
  • Diamond Push-Up:   4 x 15

While the push-up plus chin-up are pretty great at taxing your arms without weight, they won’t stimulate your biceps and triceps as directly or fully as proper isolation function will. As such, the bodyweight-only arm workout will end up stimulating your own chest and back as well.  

Best Bodyweight Muscle building Workout intended for Legs

Whether by seemingly-infinite sets associated with heavy squats or stacking every 45-pound plate in the gym onto the leg press, heavy lifting is the backbone of most bodybuilders’ lower-leg days. Without big weight load of your own, you’ll have to turn to your own bodyweight.

The particular Workout

While your 2 legs possess no problem carrying a person around all day, standing upon one foot will change the particular game. You’d be surprised just how hard a workout of single-leg everythings can be.

Can You Build Muscle With Bodyweight Training?  

In short, yes. The reality of the situation is a bit more complicated, but you shouldn’t let any naysayer get into your head plus convince you that your efforts are futile just because a person aren’t working with the barbell .

For a real-world example, you need only look to career gymnasts to get confirmation that will weights aren’t the only way to gain mass. Within fairness, though, professional gymnasts are usually among the genetic elite and may become more predisposed to hypertrophy than your own average fitness enthusiast.

Luckily for the layperson, the particular scientific community has some words associated with encouragement since well. Research reviews on the subject have mostly concluded that calisthenics education can develop significant amounts of muscle mass, even in trained subjects. ( 1 )( two )

Furthermore, studies on specific exercise comparisons have yielded some interesting results. Namely, that bodyweight movements like the pull-up and push-up are comparable in stimulation and muscle tissue activity to the lat pulldown and along with press , respectively. ( 3 )( 4 )

Critics of calisthenics pertaining to muscle growth tend to remark that will your body’s weight is not enough in order to induce the right amount of tensile force on muscles.

However, modern literature around the mechanisms associated with hypertrophy perform acknowledge that you can facilitate muscle growth during low-load scenarios, ( 2 )( 5 ) and that high external resistance isn’t the just path forward.

man works chest on parallel dip bars
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Strictly speaking, although, calisthenics does fall short within the arena of strength gain . There’s little scientific evidence to support the idea that bodyweight instruction will increase your strength potential to a significant degree, in least in comparison with resistance exercising.

Fortunately, power isn’t the particular main priority of a bodybuilder (but this deserves your own attention regardless).

Benefits of Body weight Training for Bodybuilding

Don’t allow time away from the weight room dissuade you. Bodyweight-only training may not be the golden chalice of muscle development, but it can provide a few unique benefits to your overall health and fitness , athleticism, and fulfillment.


For first-timers or those just starting their particular self-improvement journeys, bodyweight training is the fantastic option. While the gym may be familiar territory meant for seasoned veterans, newcomers may not know the particular lay from the land .

Furthermore, you can perform bodyweight-only movements in the comfort and privacy of your own home. Calisthenics also teaches you awareness about your personal body in space, as well as how to control your own limbs as they bend and straighten.  


Even a well-designed resistance training program for muscle mass growth could be cumbersome or even frustrating to finish if your gym is definitely packed in order to the brim every time you go. Rude patrons, the lack associated with sufficient equipment, and the general neurological stress of weighty lifting — all things that will dock points from bodyweight lifting.

woman focuses on plank position in exercise studio
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On the other hand, bodyweight schooling earns major points designed for convenience. You’re never brief on plates , plus you never have to fight for a barbell . Everything you need for your own workout is quite literally with you from your jump.

Supplements Resistance Coaching

If your weight room hiatus comes to an end, you should nevertheless consider keeping some body weight movements in your workout plan. Bodybuilding is certainly easier in case you make weights the centerpiece of your programming, yet calisthenics have got their place as well.

Namely, because stellar workout finishers . It’s easy, convenient, and especially safe to bang out a set of push-ups or inverted series to absolute muscular failure at the particular end of a chest or back again session.  

You can certainly push your own limits along with weights or even cables since well, but you’d generally want a spotter within such situations to avoid any possible mishaps.  

Saves Time

Bodyweight training can be quick, dirty, plus effective. The limited number of exercises at your disposal for a given muscle tissue group has a silver lining — you’re not likely to suffer from paralysis by analysis debating which two curl variations belong in your own arm day.

Moreover, large barbell work in particular demands the thorough warm-up and extensive ramping scheme. Deadlifting 500 pounds can be impressive, however, you can’t get there in two sets; warming up for big compound lifts can take as long as 15 to 30 minutes all on its own.

man focuses on chest contraction during push-up
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Calisthenics coaching requires much less preparation and ramp-up period, allowing a person to jump right in to the work itself.

How to Progress With Bodyweight Teaching

No matter your modality of choice, you require to apply some form of progressive overload to encourage muscles growth (and strength gains) over time. Unfortunately, this is a good area in which strength training has the edge. It is straightforward and convenient to add another 5 pounds to a barbell.  

For most bodyweight movements, altering the particular difficulty comes in the type of adjustments to your own technique or posture that result in significantly more challenge (think performing a single-arm push-up instead of on 2 arms). Since you can’t delicately tune the difficulty dial, you may have to appear to other avenues.

Increase Your Rep Count

The particular most simple way associated with overloading bodyweight exercises is certainly by simply turning up the number of repetitions you perform.  

However , this method tends to work best on workouts that are usually already challenging — in case you may comfortably boom out thirty reps associated with chair scoops already, aiming for 35 reps instead probably is not that much harder.

Reduce Your Rest

You can make your workouts harder by increasing the density of your own training — the amount of period it takes a person to complete the function itself. In case you normally rest a full minute between sets of pull-ups, for instance, set a timer and only break just for 50 seconds next time. Then, rest for 45 seconds the particular week after.  

Use Intensity Techniques

Most intensification techniques such as drop sets or cluster work will translate simply fine from resistance teaching to calisthenics.

For example , you can create a makeshift drop set simply by performing some push-ups in order to near failing, and after that extending the set by resting on your knees instead associated with within the plank position.

Rest-pause plus cluster education works especially well with calisthenics too. If you’re doing clustered pull-ups, simply let go of the pub for a few moments to catch your breath before continuing on. Simply no need to rack the bar or even let go of a pair associated with dumbbells along the way.  

No Weights? Simply no Problem

Bodybuilders live and die by the quality of their workouts. When a plan goes awry, such as your gym temporarily closing or your daily schedule is thrown directly into chaos, you have two options; feel sorry for yourself, or improvise plus adapt .

In case you choose action, don’t be afraid to appearance beyond the particular dumbbell rack for a satisfying workout. Bodyweight-only training isn’t ideal for hypertrophy, but in the pinch, instruction your muscles along with just your own bodyweight works surprisingly well.  


  1. Iversen, V. M., Norum, M., Schoenfeld, B. J. et al. No Period to Lift? Designing Time-Efficient Training Programs for Strength and Hypertrophy: A Narrative Review. Sports Med 51, 2079–2095 (2021).
  2. Krzysztofik M, Wilk Meters, Wojdała G, Gołaś A. Maximizing Muscle mass Hypertrophy: The Systematic Review of Advanced Resistance Education Techniques and Methods. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2019 Dec four; 16(24): 4897.  
  3. Kotarsky, C. J., Christensen, B. K., Miller, J. S., & Hackney, K. M. (2018). Effect of Progressive Calisthenic Push-up Training upon Muscle Power and Thickness. Journal of strength plus conditioning research, 32(3), 651–659.  
  4. Doma, K., Deakin, G. W., & Ness, K. F. (2013). Kinematic and electromyographic comparisons among chin-ups and lat-pull down exercises. Sports activities biomechanics, 12(3), 302–313.  
  5. Schoenfeld, M. J., Peterson, M. D., Ogborn, Deb., Contreras, N., & Sonmez, G. T. (2015). Effects of Low- vs . High-Load Resistance Training on Muscle tissue Strength plus Hypertrophy within Well-Trained Men. Journal associated with strength and conditioning study, 29(10), 2954–2963.  

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