Full disclosure: The fastest way to increase your muscle mass will always be by lifting really heavy stuff. Overloading muscle fibers causes microtears, and during the healing of those tears, your body produces larger, harder muscle fibers in response, thus a larger muscle. But size is one thing; strength is another. And if your goal is to gain muscle strength, plus a little more mass, then all you need is the body you live in.
“Bodyweight workouts are not only an efficient way to build muscle, but they’re also a great way to strengthen your entire kinetic chain in a way that gym machines can’t,” says Jayson Lee, a personal trainer in New York. . Town. In other words, without the chair to sit on or the bars to stabilize you, you’re forced to work everything from your torso to your glutes to your calves to help you maintain balance and proper form when you do something like push-ups on one leg. arm (more on that in a minute), says Lee.
In fact, you may even need less body weight than you think to see muscle growth: a study in the European Journal of Applied Physiology found that simply contracting your arm muscles as hard as you can while flexing and straightening your elbow for 10 repetitions, five times a day, is enough to significantly increase your arm mass after 12 weeks. And another study from CUNY Lehman College in New York City found that performing 30-second isometric holds (contracting muscles) between sets of resistance exercises increased muscle size in men faster than resting between sets.
Lee suggests that to get the most bang for your buck in bodyweight exercises, consider supersets, where you work opposing groups of muscles in a single session. And practice isometric holds between each set.
Devote two sweat sessions a week to your upper body and two to your lower body; you can mix and match, but you’ll see more changes, faster, by exercising the same muscle groups in one session. It’s a similar concept to lifting weights: that is, you’ll overload the muscle enough to cause minor damage, and by repairing that damage, your muscle will grow back bigger and stronger.
Start with these upper and lower body circuits. For each exercise, do three sets of 15 to 20 reps. Between sets, perform isometric contractions of the body part you’re working on. Repeat each circuit three times.
Circuit 1: Upper Body
Push up: Start on all fours, with your hands under your shoulders. Extend your legs straight behind you to form a straight line from your shoulders to your feet. Bend your elbows, keeping your arms close to your body, and lower your chest two inches off the ground. Stretch your arms again at the beginning.
Inverted row: Lie under a sturdy bar so your shoulders are directly below it. Reach out and grab the bar with an underhand grip. Keeping your body in a straight line (shoulders to toes), bend your elbows and lift your chest toward the bar. Release.
Hand push-ups: Start on all fours, with your feet against a wall. Shift your weight to your hands and slowly walk your feet up the wall until your legs are straight and your body is on a steep incline. Keeping a straight line from your feet to your shoulders, bend your elbows and lower your shoulders toward the floor. Straighten back to the beginning.
I ask: Stand between two sturdy objects (or use the dip bars at the gym). Place your hands on either side and press up so your arms are straight. Bend your knees slightly and tuck your feet behind you so they don’t touch the ground. Bend your elbows and lower your body until your arms form a 90-degree angle. Straighten up and go back to the start.
Circuit 2: Lower Body
squats: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, toes slightly pointed out. Bend your knees and sink your butt toward the ground. Lower until quads are parallel to floor, knees over toes. Straighten up and go back to the start.
Mountain climbers: Start on all fours. Get into an extended plank position (arms straight). Lift your right foot off the floor, bend your right knee, and bring that knee up toward your chest. Straighten your right leg and repeat on the left side. Move your legs up and down as fast as possible while maintaining good form for 30 seconds.
Bavarian Split Squats: Stand with your back to a bench, about two feet away. Lift your right foot and place it on the bench behind you, keeping your right knee bent. Bend your standing (left) leg and perform a lunge. Stop when your left knee is over the toes of your left foot and your right knee hovers just above the floor. Straighten to start. Do three sets on each side, alternating legs per set.
Walking lunges: Find a long hallway. Take a giant step forward with your right leg; Bend your right knee and lower yourself into a lunge, keeping your back leg slightly bent. Lower until your right knee is over your right toes. Push your left leg back and rotate it to the front. Shift your weight forward and lunge onto your left leg, keeping your right knee slightly bent behind you. Note: To make it more difficult, clasp your hands behind your head the entire time.
Circuit 3: Upper Body
Lift: Stand under the pull-up bar. Reach out and grab the bar with an overhand grip. Hang from the bar with your arms straight, knees slightly bent to keep your feet from touching the ground. Keeping your gaze forward and slightly up, bend your elbows and lift your chest to the level of the bar. Relax again at the beginning.
One arm push up: Start on all fours. Stretch your legs out behind you in an extended plank position. Slowly shift your weight to your right side, so your left arm is no longer supporting your weight. Adjust your feet slightly so that your right arm forms the tip of a long triangle with your feet as the base. Raise your left arm and tuck it behind your back. Bend your right elbow, keep your weight centered on your right hand. Bend over until you think you’ll lose your balance (these will be shallower than traditional push-ups); start over. Do 15 reps, switch arms and repeat.
plank above: Start in an extended plank position, with your arms straight and your body in one long line. Bend your right elbow and lower your right forearm to the ground, then bend your left elbow and place your left forearm on the ground. Press through your right forearm and hand to straighten your right arm again, followed by your left. Reverse direction and repeat.
reverse trace: Sit on the floor, knees bent, feet flat, hands flat on the floor behind your hips. Lift your hips off the ground and begin to crab-crawl forward then back. Crawl for 60 seconds for a series.
Circuit 4: Lower Body
Box jumps: Stand in front of a bench. He bends his knees; jump on top Jump or back up.
Reverse lunges: Stand with your feet together. Take a big step back with your right foot. Bend your right knee until it is just above the floor. Push through your left (front) foot and swing your left leg behind you. Repeat.
Increase: Stand in front of a bench. He steps forward with his right leg, then his left; lower with the right leg, then the left. Reverse direction and repeat.
sits on one leg: Stand with your back to the bench. Lift your left leg off the ground in front of you. Bend your right knee and sink your butt back until it touches the bench. Immediately engage your glutes and hamstrings and return to standing. Do 15 reps on the right side, then switch legs and repeat.