How to build muscle with bodyweight exercises: 9 surefire hacks

If you’ve been slacking on your fitness, adding strength training into your routine is one of the quickest ways to start toning up. Strength training includes bodyweight exercises, using free weights or gym machines, and cardio.

This article will focus on bodyweight exercises and how you can quickly build your muscle mass with them. Ready? Let’s get started. 

Bodyweight exercise hacks for muscle growth

1. Increase the number of reps

Increasing the number of reps you do is a simple but effective technique to promote muscle growth.

While you may lift lighter weights than you would in the gym, increasing the reps means you can still reach the RPE (a scale that measures how strenuous your workout is). You can still get there, even if it takes a little longer.

2. Reduce the time spent resting

It’s vital to take pauses in between sets, but if you want to increase the intensity, cut the intervals in half. If your rest break usually is between 60 and 90 seconds, then do your following set after taking the minimal time of 60 seconds.

If you reduce your time off between sets, you can maintain the intensity of your workouts. Plus, you’ll know you’ve improved if you can complete your set just as well with less rest time.

3. Experiment with different modifications of one movement

There’s always more than one way to do something. Take, for instance, push-ups. It’s one of the widely known bodyweight exercises for stimulating muscle growth.

Push-ups consist of a regular push-up in which your feet and hands are leveled at the same height. A decline push-up, on the other hand, is an excellent way to challenge yourself.

To do decline push-ups, ensure that your feet are elevated on a raised platform (such as a chair or bench), and your hands are at a lower level (could be the ground).

The weight distribution shifts in this position, giving you greater weight to push against. Locate a higher surface if you need to make it even more difficult.

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If you want to start with a less complicated variation than the typical push-up, using your knees instead of your feet is an excellent place to start. An incline push-up is also a viable option.

Because your upper body is elevated and your lower body is on a lower surface, this is the opposite of decline push-ups. It will be easier than a regular or decline push-up because there is less weight on your upper body.

4. Train to failure

Another technique for building muscle with only bodyweight workouts is to train to failure. This implies you’ll use an AMRAP (as many reps as possible) method to complete your reps until you’re physically unable to do so any longer.

Keep in mind, however, that you must maintain proper form at all times. It’s futile to squeeze out a handful of extra reps that affect your technique, not to mention that it’s unsafe.

To thoroughly break down those muscles while preserving good form, train to failure.

Take note of the word “recovery.” It is frequently overlooked in this instance. When you exercise to failure to completely break down a muscle, you must provide enough time for the muscle to recover and rebuild. So, don’t employ this method every time you train, and if you do, make sure the following week is for rest and recovery, or at the absolute least a deload.

5. Increase time under tension

If you increase time under tension while doing bodyweight exercises, you can boost muscle growth.

What is time under tension?

This refers to how long you’ve been placing pressure on your muscles. You can do this by slowing down your movements rather than rushing through them to finish quickly.

Let’s take tempo squats as an example.

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Don’t just squat and then jump back up. Add a count to each part of the squat movement to make it a tempo, such as 3 2 1 0. Count to three as you lower yourself. 

Pause at the bottom for about 2 seconds. The following number is 1, so take 1 second to return to your starting position from the bottom.

The last number, in this case, 0, denotes the amount of time you can pause at the top before continuing to the following rep. You can add a tempo change to any exercise to put more strain on your muscles and promote growth.

Slowing down the eccentric part of the movement is another approach to extend time under tension. 

6. Mechanical drop set

By incorporating a mechanical drop set into your training, you can gain muscle using bodyweight movements.

This varies from a traditional drop set, in which you perform the same exercise until you reach failure, then lower the weight and repeat. To accomplish all of your sets, use the mechanical drop set, which involves exercising until you’re too tired, but modifying the activity slightly to enlist the support of other muscles.

The first set can be the elevated heels squat if you’re working on your squat. Find something to stand on that will gently lift your heels to accomplish this. This is going to be a quad-dominant workout.

After these reps, switch to a narrow stance squat to keep your feet closer together without the elevation, and then conclude with a wide-stance squat to work the glutes and hamstrings to finish the mechanical drop set. This will count as one set, so make sure you don’t stop until you’ve completed all three variations.

As a result, those muscle fibers will be fatigued, causing them to heal and grow larger than before.

7. Calorie surplus

Not all of your muscle-building activities take place in the gym.

The kitchen is where a lot of the hard work takes place. It would help if you consumed a calorie surplus to grow muscle appropriately. This means you should consume more calories than your body consumes daily, as these extra calories will provide your body with the extra energy it requires to build muscle. Bulking is a term that many people are familiar with.

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Let’s say your daily maintenance calorie need is 2000 calories. That is the amount of food you must consume to maintain your weight—you will not gain or lose any.

Adding an extra 200-500 calories to your diet will put you in a caloric surplus, allowing you to gain muscle while minimizing fat accumulation. Your daily calorie goal will be about 2200-2500 calories.

This is only an example of caloric surplus because it is a quantity that fluctuates significantly from person to person. Some people may discover that eating at this caloric surplus causes them to gain too much weight quickly, and they may need to reduce the number of excess calories they consume.

Alter your calories to fit your demands if you find that you want to eat at a greater or smaller surplus.

8. Ensure you eat lots of protein

Protein is the building block of muscles. This is why it’s critical to make sure you’re getting enough protein in your diet to support muscle growth. You may stimulate muscle growth and see the improvements you want to see when you combine it with your strength training, whether in the gym or doing bodyweight exercises.

9. Sleep

Finally, if you do not adequately invest in recovery, putting on serious muscle will be difficult. Sleeping for at least 8 hours per night is the most critical thing you can do.

Forget about the other supplements that claim to help with recovery. Nothing beats getting a healthy 8 hours of sleep each night and a power nap each day.