The debate over the muscle building effectiveness between body weight exercises and weight training exercises has been going on for years.
Some fitness enthusiasts swear by body weight exercises while others, say it’s a waist of time. Where do I stand?
To tell you the truth, I’ve never really given it much thought until I received an email from a reader of www.building-muscle101.com. The email got me thinking that certain conditions will prevent one from actually going to the gym.
I mean, not everyone can make it to the gym or even make it to their basements for a workout. Jobs, family and other commitments can make it virtually impossible to keep a steady workout environment.
Anyways, here’s the email (It’s a little long but it explains the situation):
“Hi there, I was looking at your website for the past few days called Building Muscle 101 (great site by the way) when I came across this e-mail address and I was wondering if you would perhaps point me to a section on your website which could pertain to my situation. I’d love to read everything you have on there but you do have a very extensive site and my internet availability is limited to say the least. I’m sorry if these questions seem stupid and may be a waste of time but I figured I’d ask anyway.
First off all, my working out revolves around my job schedule. But I do love working out, I absolutely love it. But I know I am going about it all wrong…
I am a scaffolder in Saskatchewan and I put in a LOT of hours. Sometimes 7 days a week for long stretches. It is a very physically intensive job (the way I like to work it is anyway, it’s done great things for my back) and there are also many times I am out on the road working for weeks at a time, which brings me to my point.
I don’t always have access to a gym, weights, or even things I could substitute for weights in hotel rooms when I am out of town (they are usually small towns with no gym access, in little dive hotels, and we pack as light as possible).
I have, on too many times, started weight programs which I can keep up with for 2 weeks then I get thrown off my schedule and am back to square one on my weight routine and basically start from the beginning over and over and over. This has been going on for years. It’s a very frustrating feeling that almost makes me just want to quit and sit in front of the t.v. drinking beer and smoking.
It really doesn’t yield much for results at all. I sometimes try to work all week then workout like crazy during the weekend but that just makes me exhausted with no days of rest and still hasn’t been giving me very much in the way of size.
I do work out as much as I can in my room and have been doing lots of push up, leg lifts, burpees, and other dominantly core exercises I can do on the floor of my room during the night.
I was wondering if doing this type of exercising is even worth it when trying to build size and definition which is what I am looking to do. If it is, is there perhaps a section on your website which covers this and if there are some routines on there I could follow (when I do these floor exercises I am basically just winging it doing whatever exercise in whatever order).
I’m not looking to become a competitive body builder or anything, but it would be nice to see some sort of results for all the time I put into exercising (other than the health benefits which are more than worth it for those alone I suppose). I just read a section on the site about the proper diet and have made some notes and have already gotten rid of most of the (delicious, haha) garbage I have been eating which should help me some. I apologize if this is long, this isn’t what you posted your e-mail address on your site for, and/or these are dumb questions.
As I read this email, it got me thinking that not all of us want to use weights to build muscle and strength. Certain people will want to workout without weights in order to build their fitness levels. I actually remember being in this same situation at one point in time and remember doing my workouts in my hotel room.
Now, weightless workouts can be an effective way to train (just ask a Marine), provided you do it right. If you find yourself in the above noted situation or simply want to train without weights, you have to remember to approach it the same way you would if you were to train with weights. As I read the above noted email, there were certain parts that caught my attention. Here’s a section that got my attention:
“(when I do these floor exercises I am basically just winging it doing whatever exercise in whatever order)”
If you want to improve, you need to treat your fitness program in a serious and organized manner. Even if you were to train with weights in a well equipped gym, you wouldn’t see the results you were looking for if you “winged it” and did whatever exercises in whatever order. The point is, you have to be organized in your approach.
You must follow certain directions in order to keep improving and building more and more fitness. To workout without weights, you need to:
1) Decide what your goals are. Do you want to build explosive power, build muscle or simply keep your fitness levels up?
2) Once you decide what your goals are, you must decide which type of routine to follow and what exercises to include.
3) Set up a workout routine that you can use and set up a schedule when to do the weightless workout. For some, you need to decide when to do your workout. If you find your self in the above noted situation, you need to decide when to implement a workout with no weight and follow it strictly while your on the road.
For others, who don’t wish to this type of routine, you have to decide on your program based on your personal schedule. Let’s say you know that your going to be on the road for two weeks. What you need to do is have a two week “road workout routine” that you would follow strictly. You would lay your workout routine out and decide on which days you would need to follow th routine.
4) Keep a log book in order to keep track of your repetitions. Remember, in order to get the most from your workouts, you need to keep progressing and the only way to do that is to keep track of what you did in the previous workout. If you want to build strength and muscle, your going to need to beat what you did in the previous workout. That is, let’s say you did 15 push ups the last workout, your going to need to do 16 this workout in order to keep progressing. Or you can do the same 15 push ups but with less rest time in between sets. The point is to keep improving with each workout.
When I was on the road with my old job, I would have a “road workout plan” that I would follow and use this program for the days or weeks I was on the road. If I knew I was going on the road I would bring my log book and any exercise tools that I needed with me. Mind you, my equipment was limited, but I did brink some exercise bands and wrist grippers.
What I’d like to do now is provide you with a workout that doesn’t require the use of weights which will allow anyone to follow. Now, this program is not a complete beginners routine and is for building strength and muscle. Some of the exercises in this routine are challenging but give it time and you’ll be able to do these exercise with no problem.
Here is the training sequence:
Now, you can be flexible with this schedule to match that of your own needs. For example, maybe you can only workout twice per week. In that case, simply adjust the schedule to match that of you own.
1) Sissy Squats
2 sets of 12 repetitions.
This exercise is for the front of the thighs. All you need for this exercise is a chair or something you can hold onto with one free hand. Take a look at the picture below. Images courtesy of http://www.freetrainers.com
2 sets of 12 repetitions
This exercise will work the butt, hamstrings and thighs. However, it is primarily a quadriceps builder (front of the thigh). You don’t need to use any weights for this exercise. See the exercise description and illustration below.
To do the push up, simply get down on your hands and knees. Straighten out your legs or come forward a bit so that your legs are straight. Make sure your legs are straight and together. Place your hands under your shoulders with your palms on the ground.
Simply push up from the ground until your weight is supported with your arms. To do a repetition, lower your body to the ground until your chin comes close to the ground. Once your chin is close to the ground, push up again.
You will want to do 2 sets of 12 repetitions. Try resting about 30 seconds in between each set.
2 sets of 12 repetitions
This exercise is a chest and triceps builder. For our purposes, we are going to treat this exercise as a chest builder. See the image below. Image courtesy of bodybuilding.com
The idea here is use either three chairs or your bed and one chair. If you go with the three chairs, you are going to use two chairs for each of your hands and one chair for your feet. If you go with the bed and chair, you’re going to use the bed for your hands and chair for your feet. However, this can be a little uncomfortable and shaky so I suggest you use two chairs for your arms. You will want to rest about 30 seconds in between each set. Now, you’re going to have to make sure the chairs are stable so that they don’t move but you shouldn’t have a problem. Remember, you want to do 2 sets of 12 repetitions.
5) Chin Ups or Chair Pull Ups
2 sets of 12 repetitions
You can either do chin ups or chair pull ups. If you have the opportunity to do chin ups, do those. There are some portable chin up devices you can use that work pretty good. Simply go to your local Walmart and they should have a selection of portable chin up bars.
However, for those of you who can’t perform chin ups or don’t have the necessary equipment, try doing chair pull ups. Whatever exercise you choose, try doing 2 sets of 12 repetitions.
Chair pull ups
For this exercise, you may need a broom handle or something that will handle your body weight. Your going to need two chairs. Take a look at the image below.
The first thing you want to do is position the bar on two chairs. Simply slide under the bar and grab the handle with your hands at shoulder width apart. To perform the exercise, simply pull your body upwards, while keeping your body rigid, until your chest hits the bar. Pause for a second and lower yourself back to the starting position.
2 x whatever you can do.
I’m going to give you the option of doing this exercise. The hand stand push up is one of the best exercises for the shoulders and triceps in a weightless workout. However, it is one of the hardest to perform. I’ll leave it up to you.
This exercise is for the shoulders and triceps and is a demanding movement. The movement is tough because there is no cheating. You can only use your arms and shoulders to push your own body weight up. At first, you may have a hard time completing even a couple of reps. Hang in there because I’m sure that over a couple of weeks, you’ll be able to do 6 to 8 repetitions. What you want to do is get 12 repetitions. This is your goal.
Image is courtesy of: www.beastskills.com
To do the hand stand push up:
This is tricky so it may take you a few tries to get into the proper position. Find a wall that is bare and has plenty of room. The next thing you want to do is place a pillow next to the wall where you’re head is going to rest. What your going to do is to do a hand stand against the wall. See the image below.
Once you get into a hand stand position, you should be slightly resting your head on the pillow. What you want to do is to lift your self up until your arms are fully extended as in the image below:
Remember, this is a tough exercise to do so take your time! Once you lift your self up, slowly lower your body back to the starting position. This is very important! Don’t let yourself fall down! Try doing a couple of reps to start. If you can’t do one rep, that’s ok. Give it another try the next workout.
Here’s a video on how to do this exercise:
I suggest doing 2 sets of 8 repetitions. However, it you can only get 4 repetitions, that’s ok. The main thing is to keep improving with each workout. Try resting about 40 to 50 seconds in between each set.
7) Arm Curls
2 sets of 12 repetitions
This exercise is a neat little exercise that will work the biceps muscle. To get into position, stand with your feet at shoulder width apart with your arms at your sides. With your right arm, reach over and hold onto your left hand. You might have to hold up your left arm a bit.
Once you’ve grabbed your left hand with your right, your going to try and curl the left arm up, but your going to push down with your right arm to give it some tension. This may take a few times to get used to but once you get it, this exercise is quite useful. Once you’ve done 12 repetitions with the left arm, your going to do the same for the right arm. Try doing 2 sets of 12 repetitions for each arm.
8) Standing Calf Raises
3 sets of 20 repetitions
To finish off the routine, try doing 5 sets of 100 jumping jacks or jump rope. Both of these exercises are great for cardiovascular endurance.
Alright, there you go, a workout without weights and will help you build muscle and strength. As for your diet, see the following pages for more information:
To get the most from this workout, you will need to be consistent and you will need to track your progress and keep improving with each workout. With each workout, you will want to add more and more repetitions. This way, you know that you are progressing with each workout.
Good luck and all the best,
Blake has been weight lifting for about 28 years now. He's 45 years of age and started seriously training when he was 18 years old.
Blake is the founder of Building-Muscle101.com, a successful fitness website that has been around for more than 15 years.