Fitness

Can you Build Muscle with Bodyweight Exercises?

Most of the time when we hear the words “build muscle”, we automatically think of weight training with equipment such as free weights and machines. But can you also build muscle with bodyweight exercises, without the use of additional weights?

Table of contents:

What is bodyweight training?

Bodyweight training is, as the name says, training with your own body weight. In these workouts, the resistance your muscles work against is provided entirely by your body weight. Common bodyweight exercises include push-ups, squats, dips or sit-ups. The adidas Training app offers a wide range of training plans and workouts to exercise at home.

Young man doing workout to build muscles without weights

Build muscle: How does muscle growth work?

If you want to understand how muscle growth works, a good place to start is with the muscular system. Every single muscle in your body consists of many fibers, like ropes made out of different materials. When these ropes work together better as a team, your strength increases without causing any visible physical changes. Or in other words, the coordination between the fibers improves through the repetition of exercises. This usually takes about 6 to 8 weeks. If you continue to train, hypertrophy will occur and your muscle fibers will grow in size. This is also when you will start to see noticeable changes.

During strength training, your body thinks to itself: “This workout was hard. I’ve got to find a way to make it easier next time.” Your body thus repairs micro-injuries to the muscles caused by the workout, and at the same time adds a little more tissue for future training sessions. These injuries are tiny “micro-tears” in the muscle fibers caused by intense exercise.

If you regularly increase your training performance and keep pushing yourself, your body has to continue adapting to the new stimuli. You could almost say that your muscles grow after training just to be on the safe side, so they are ready for anything the next time. Muscle growth begins during the recovery period when your body repairs the damaged fibers. The other important thing you need to know is that the number of muscle fibers in your body was determined at birth. Thus, training does not increase the number of fibers, but instead their thickness and shape.

Don’t forget:

The proteins stored in muscle cells are essential for muscle growth. A balanced, high-protein diet is just as important for gaining muscle as working out regularly. Our nutrition guide provides you with the tips you need to eat right for cardio, strength training and rest days.

Muscle growth takes time

Your training should stimulate your muscles, but not every workout will immediately cause your muscles to grow. You might be wondering when you will start to see results. Be patient, because it takes weeks and months of regular training until you’ll start to see your muscles develop.

The only way to stress your muscles is through regular and varied training. Muscles disappear as fast as they appeared if you don’t keep pushing them. Finding a fitness routine that you enjoy makes it easier to stick with your training. After a certain period of time, your muscles will get used to this stimulus. If you continue to use the same routine, eventually you will plateau and no longer make progress. That is why it is important to continually increase your training performance. But don’t forget to schedule rest days, too. Taking days off from training is vital because it allows your muscles to recover and grow. 

Remember that it is not only your muscles that are changing through exercise. Tendons, ligaments and bones also have to adapt to the new physical demands.

Woman is training on top of a building to grow muscles

Bodyweight exercises: Can you build muscle without equipment?

Of course, you can! You don’t necessarily need free weights and resistance machines to build muscle. It all depends on your goal:

  • Home workouts without equipment is a great way for novice strength trainers to grow their muscles. Using your own body weight as resistance really challenges your muscles. This in turn makes them grow stronger and you will gain muscle mass. There are lots of different exercises and workouts you can do using your own bodyweight. As mentioned above, the main thing is that you keep upping the bar to make things more challenging and that you give your body time to recoverImportant note: Beginners should let a physiotherapist or fitness expert demonstrate the exercises before starting with training. It is very important that the exercises are performed correctly in order to gain muscle mass properly and to avoid injury.
  • Are you already a fitness pro who is working out regularly? If you are interested in high-level strength training and bodybuilding, then weights are necessary to maximize your muscle gains. In some cases, bodyweight training quickly leads to performance plateaus. Weight training with equipment makes it easier to track your gains, know when to increase the weights, and you’ll see results faster. 

Did you know that…?

If you want to increase the intensity of your full-body training, focus on extending your range of motion (ROM). If you train with the full range of motion, this means that the muscle is under constant tension throughout the entire range of contraction (maximum flexion and extension). This allows you to build up significantly more strength.(1) Developing a mind-muscle connection is also helpful. This involves concentrating on and thus activating the actual muscle being targeted by the exercise.

Another option for adding more variety to your no-equipment workouts: You can increase the resistance of your workout by simply using a fitness band.

Also check out this blog post for more training tips for effective muscle building.

Young man tries to grow his muscles with bodyweight exercises

Positive effects of trained muscles

Training with your own body weight not only improves your physical appearance. It also produces other positive effects like giving you tighter skin, better posture and reducing stress. Stronger muscles also help stabilize your joints and support your tendons and ligaments.

Are you also interested in losing fat? Great, then your newly developed muscles will help you burn more fat while you are resting because they require more energy than fat. People who regularly engage in full-body workout also benefit from another effect – the afterburn effect. This refers to the fact that your body continues to burn calories after you finish exercising because your metabolism remains at a slightly elevated level. Exercise also improves your mental health, and stronger muscles build self-confidence.

Bottom line

There’s no question that you can build muscle without equipment. Bodyweight exercises constantly challenge your body in new ways, improves your endurance and can be done anywhere, anytime, without needing any additional weights or equipment. You just need a little more patience. But the results are on their way. Stick with it and keep pushing your body to its limits!

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