Can you build muscle without weights? YES. But, as wonderful as it sounds, but is there a genuine possibility? To know the answer to this question we will dig deep into the working of our body and brain.
And, if there is a scientific possibility for the same, we will look into different ways by which you can do that.
How does your muscles grow?
First of all, the job of your muscles is to allow you to perform physical tasks. It can be anything from walking to jumping to rotating you head.
Now, some tasks take more and stronger muscles, like lifting a sofa and other tasks take very less effort like lifting a pen.
As for lifting a pen, even a small child can do it, because he has enough muscles to do that task. But, if you tell that child to lift a box filled with toys, he may lift it, but he’ll have to struggle.
When he struggle, in reality it is the muscles in his arms that are struggling.
So the message that his brain gets is that the muscles aren’t enough to perform a task effortlessly. Your brain is like a hotel manager, who’s job is to make things function in a smooth way.
So, it will decide that to do this tasks muscle hypertrophy is needed. Muscle hypertrophy is nothing but building of muscles.
Now, a question for the readers. Do you think if that child lift that heavy box of toy only once the brain will still order muscle hypertrophy? Think about it!
You’re absolutely right! The answer is no. Until and unless your muscles are subject to a heavy tension state for a period of time they will not grow. Your brain see it as an irregular occurring and will do nothing about it.
So, the first point to note is that when your muscle have to do a job that is difficult for it, you gain more muscles.
All you have to do is do task that requires more muscles then you already have to build muscle without any weights.
How to build muscles without weights?
Isometric contraction exercises
If you are new to muscle building, then you might not have heard about them. In isometric contractions you put tension on your muscles, but without moving your joints.
For example, plank is a type of isometric contraction exercise. Or, when you try to push a wall, your muscles are contracting without any joint movement.
Watch this video to understand more about isometric contraction.
Although, there are some people who believe that you can’t build muscles with isometric contraction. But, it has been scientifically proven that isometric contraction can help your muscle become stronger.
And, without gaining muscles you can gain strength to only an extent. After that your body is required to build muscles in order to increase strength.
So, all you have to do is slowly increase the load and you’ll see certain changes in your body.
The muscle you’ll gaining doing isometrics will be lean(also depends upon nutrition) and will be immensely powerful. The second benefit of doing isometric contraction is that it pops out veins, which women find extremely sexy.
Things to remember while doing isometric exercise:
1) High load – If you want to build muscles using Isometrics, you got to use very heavy load. Think it of lifting something that you cannot lift.
2) Duration – Lots of people do isometric exercise for a short duration(5-10 secs) and they don’t see results. You have to keep your muscles under isometric contraction for at least 30 seconds to see good results. You can do it until your muscles gives up. Pushing yourself is the key!
You can check some isometric exercises here. The good thing about isometric exercises is that you can easily design one of your own. The chances of getting injured while doing an isometric contraction is close to zero percent. Isometric exercises is easy muscle building without weights.
Muscle building exercises without weights
Now, if you want to build muscles without weights, then there are several body weight exercises that you can do. There is a body weight exercise for each and every muscle of your body.
You need to understand this, your body doesn’t know where the tension is coming from, it can be due to lifting a barbell or just your own body weight.
The push-ups you do can train pretty much every muscle in your upper body.
For example, you keep you palms close to each other to train your triceps more, if you keep your palms at a shoulder distance you train your chest and if you keep your palms very far you train your upper back.
But, only doing push ups on your body weight will develop your muscles to a certain extent and after that you’ll hit a plateau. For that you can do two things.
First of all, you can perform the same push ups with your feet up the ground(on some chair), this concentrate more of your body weight to narrow region.
Secondly, you can use a bag pack and fill it with heavy things and wear it, while you do the same push ups. This strategy will come handy in pretty much every type of body weight training. Like, pull ups, lunges, squats etc.
Doing different types of push ups and pull ups will train almost your entire upper body. Checkout this video to see different types of push ups you can do.
Your legs consists of big muscle and simply using a bag with lots of weight won’t do. You have to carry something heavy while doing squats and lunges.
If you don’t want to lift weights and in spite of that build muscles, then occlusion training is the right thing for you.
The whole concept of this training is to restrict the flow of the blood away from your muscles.
This is can be done with the help of a rubber band or a rope which is elastic in nature.
You should tie the band such that only the veins(takes blood to heart) are restricted and not the arteries(takes blood to muscles).
How to do that?
Well, it is simple. Veins lie very close to the skin surface and arteries lie deep in the tissue. Hence, until to wrap the band too tightly, you won’t block the arteries.
How will restricting the blood flow help me to build muscles without weights?
It is seen that when you train using blood flow restriction technique the amount of weight you need to get a pump and build muscles is quite less, when compared to normal weight training.
In this type of training, you can do without no weights at all, but it will be much-much easier if you have an exercise band. You can also mix occlusion training with isometric contractions.
Science behind occlusion training
First of all, you might be aware of the fact that when you exercise, in anaerobic condition, your body produce lactate, which is lactic acid + hydrogen ion.
Lactic acid is anabolic in nature, which means it helps in building the muscles. When you train normally the produced lactic acid flows out of your muscles, which is undesired.
While, occlusion training restricts blood into the muscles, which means lactic acid stays in the muscles, helps build muscles better.
Secondly, BFR allows blood to pool in the desired muscles, which is similar to when you lift very heavy weights. This sends a pseudo message to your brain that you need lifting heavy loads, so you need more muscles.
This type of training is especially very effective for your arms and legs.
High intensity interval training is the best thing you can do to gain muscles without any weights. HIIT won’t help you build very big muscles, like buff bodybuilders, but it will surely help you build decent muscles. Most of HIIT routines involve pretty much every muscle in your body.
Due to the high intensity, it put immense tension on the targeted muscles for a period of time which is the first step of building muscles.
You don’t require weights or any other type of equipment to perform HIIT. Maybe a mat for comfort.
The bodies of humans was not designed for endurance, instead, it was designed to do short burst activities. For example, running from a danger or for chasing a prey.
With time, against our nature, we developed the tendency to be a high endurance machine.
But, as I said your body is designed to do high intensity activities for a short duration of time. HIIT fits perfectly into this.
HIIT is known to increase the production of anabolic hormones, like testosterone. There are multiple reason to it.
Firstly, when you perform HIIT you break down lots of muscle fibre and to repair those muscle fibre your body start producing testosterone in large quantity.
Secondly, while performing HIIT, your muscles struggles to cope up with such an intensity, which sends a singnal to your brain that you’ll need more muscles than you currently have.
HIIT helps you burn a lot of fat, but not while you do it. Instead, you burn fat for next 24-36 hrs. Which means you’ll lose fat while building muscles.
You can easily find video on HIIT on the internet. Make sure to use short duration routine which target both the upper and lower body equally.
If you want to do body building without weights, then you should be very strict with your diet. And, when I say strict it doesn’t mean you go on a zero carb or zero fat diet or you only eat protein all the time. Yes, you do need protein because your body will break protein into amino acids, which is the building block of the muscles.
Your body needs around 20 kinds of amino acids. Out of them, some are produced in your body and some you have to derive from the food you eat. The later ones are called essential amino acids.
If you are a vegetarian you most probably won’t be getting essential amino acids in adequate quantity to build muscles. Hence, you might need supplementation like whey protein.
And, unlike what many experts preach, you don’t need protein in large quantity. In fact after a level, the excess protein is of no use. To maintain your muscle mass, you need around 1-1.2 grams of protein per kg of your body weight and to gain muscle you need 1.4-1.8 grams of protein per kg of your body weight.
Secondly, don’t be afraid of eating fats. You need fats for metabolic activities, to produce testosterone, your brain is mostly made up of fats.
Carbs and muscle building
To build muscles you need carbs, as it is anabolic, i.e, it helps in increasing the rate of protein synthesis. In reality, carbs breaks down into glucose, which causes the release of insulin, which is anabolic.
A study was conducted on the effects of carbs when given in isolation and when given with leucine (main amino acid for hypertrophy), is was seen that carbs significantly increased protein synthesis.
This means, it is important to take some carbs with protein to maximise the muscle gain. Plus, you should surely include foods in your diet that increase testosterone.
These were few of things you can do to build muscle without weights. Just by sticking to them you can gain considerable amount of muscles. Although, after a point you’ll hit a plateau. After that, you might want to start adding weights.