Often people think that to build muscle, they need expensive gym equipment at home. On the other hand, some believe that they need to have a huge selection of machines i.e. at the gym to work out effectively. But believe it or not, you can get fantastic results just by using your bodyweight. Bodyweight training can be an effective way to build your muscle and strength, as well as burn fat and improve flexibility. The key here is knowing the right way to do so.
What is bodyweight training?
As the name suggests bodyweight training is exercising with just your bodyweight. It is a form of exercise that includes different actions belonging to a group of movements known as ‘closed kinetic chain exercises’ (CKCE).
CKCE are defined as those where the foot (for a lower body exercise), or hand (for an upper body exercise), doesn’t move and remains in constant contact with a surface. Some examples of these are pushing, grasping, and running. You often perform these exercises rhythmically and with little to no equipment.
Busting the myth about bodyweight training
Unfortunately, most people associate bodyweight training with high reps and less intense workouts. Likewise, they see it as maintaining rather than building muscle. Therefore, many people believe that there’s no way they can achieve serious gains, both in strength and muscle growth, with bodyweight training alone.
Well, there is some truth to this, especially if they were simply relying on a high volume of reps. The reason for this is because large volumes of reps are not usually enough to continually build muscle.
You may have come across the term time under tension at some point. What this means is that if you want to get stronger and build muscle, your muscle needs tension with a reasonable amount of resistance. This is something that you cannot easily replicate from high reps alone.
So to make bodyweight training an effective method of building muscle, you have to progressively overload the muscles in the same way you would in the gym.
What is progressive overloading?
Progressive overload refers to the concept of placing demands on your body, which you need to gradually increase to help stimulate muscle growth and gain strength over time.
In return, the improvement in your overall performance will enable you to increase the intensity of your training sessions. Without progressive overload, your muscles have no reason to grow and adapt to handling heavier loads.
So to build muscles without weight, you need to continually challenge your muscles. You can do so by increasingly difficult bodyweight exercises, just as you would use heavier weights in the gym.
One of the best ways to ensure that you're constantly challenging yourself is to work towards advanced exercises, such as chin-up, pistol squat, planche, l-sit, and the front lever.
These advanced bodyweight exercises demand high levels of full-body tension that lead to huge strength gains. Keep in mind, that it will take a great deal of patience and dedication to progress with these exercises. But it is incredibly rewarding.
The Benefits of Bodyweight Training
In comparison to open kinetic chain exercises (such as the pull-down, bench press or leg press), closed kinetic chain exercises offer certain advantages, such as the following:
- Demanding more from your body, in the way of coordinative ability and stabilisation
- Engaging multiple joints and muscles in every movement
- And, arguably, they are more functional
Bodyweight exercises increase flexibility and mobility
By sitting at a computer all day or even doing intense weight exercising where you’re muscles and joints tighten up afterward, this can cause an increased lack of mobility and flexibility.
Bodyweight training can help increase mobility and challenge the muscles that stabilise the body. Bodyweight exercises also consist of movements involving your entire body, which can also increase your core strength and overall training performance.
As there are no weights involved to put down transitioning from one exercise to another is easy and rest periods between exercises are shorter, allowing you to keep your heart rate elevated and help you get into the key fat-burning zone. The bottom line is, if you’re burning fat without weights, CKCE bodyweight exercises are fantastic.
Key CKCEE exercises - but with a twist!
The most important closed kinetic chain bodyweight exercises are movements that the gladiator tribe is all familiar with. Squat, pull/chin-up, and push-ups, are extremely vital because their combination can provide you with a full-body workout. Additionally, each of them can be progressed easily.
Squats are considered to be one of the best exercises you can possibly do. It's easy to use progressions that you can make harder as time goes by.
And once mastered the basics and you feel that your muscles are experiencing significant time under tension, you can start performing some more complex CKCE exercises.
This unique calisthenics leg exercise allows you to build tremendous strength in your lower body, abs, and lower back, without the need to use any equipment. Practicing pistols can help improve your flexibility, balance, and overall muscle control.
The benefits of pistol squats
- Improves the strength, control, and symmetry of both your legs.
- It helps condition your body and muscle.
- It works all of your leg muscles, including hamstrings, quads, glutes, calves, and hips
- Strengthens your core to help you achieve rock-hard abs.
- It provides better balance and body awareness.
How to do a pistol squat
Start by standing with your feet together.
Raise one of your legs as out in front of you while the heel of your other leg stays on the floor.
With your core tight and spine straight, push your hips back. Then, bend your standing leg and slowly lower your body as far as you can while at the same time extending your other leg in front of you.
Again with your core tight push your body up to the starting position by straightening your standing leg.. Repeat the entire steps with your other leg.
Aim for at least 3 sets of 10 reps on both legs with 20 seconds rest in between your sets.
Pushups engage your chest, shoulders, triceps, and core for a complete pushing exercise. Therefore, it's a quick and effective way to build your upper body strength. Also, since it engages your abdominal muscles, pushups can strengthen your core and lower back, as long as you do it properly.
There are plenty of pushup variations to satisfy just about anyone, from beginner to the advanced athlete. And yes, there’s a reason they’ve been for the last 120 years, they're kind of a big deal.
The benefits of push-ups
- A great full-body workout that can help you become stronger
- Improve both your balance and speed
- Helps build and maintaining muscle density
- Pushups define not just your arms but the entire body, from shoulders to back and chest
- Helps develop a strong core
1. Clap Pushups
You need speed and power to perform clap pushups. No matter your fitness level, it's very challenging for anyone at first, but this exercise is worth practising. Once you perfected it, the result of engaging all those additional muscle fibres is a killer chest burn.
Throw in a few clap pushups when doing your chest workouts. It is advisable to do them from time to time but not every day. The best time to perform them is at the start of your workout session when you're not at all fatigued.
How to do a clap pushup:
- Begin in a plank position. Keep your legs and arms straight and shoulders above your wrists while engaging your core.
- Breathe in, and then as you exhale, bend your elbows while lowering your whole body to the floor
- Build enough force to lift your hands off the ground by pushing through your palm
- Push yourself up as explosively as you possibly can while keeping your body straight
- Clap your hands before landing back to the ground on the same position as you started
- Repeat for up to 8 reps
A one-leg pushup is very challenging, even for the most advanced. You can only execute this movement completely if you have proper stability from your feet all the way to your head. Also, you need to fire up all the muscles in your body to lift yourself. This pushup variation increases core activation and upper-body load.
How to do a one-leg pushup:
- Start by getting into a basic pushup position, ensuring that the position of your arms is a bit wider than the width of your shoulders.
- Stretch your feet backwards while keeping your body straight.
- Lift one leg off the floor, then lower your chest as you inhale. Make sure your leg is raised throughout the set.
- Push your body back to your starting position while exhaling.
- Repeat with the other leg raised.
This type of pushup got its name from the superhero since its movements resemble that of Spiderman climbing a wall. Spiderman pushup is a variation of the standard pushup that further targets your obliques and core. At the same time, it also actively engages your lower body, especially your quadriceps and hip flexors.
How to do a Spiderman pushup:
- Position yourself in a standard pushup form and ensure that your body is aligned from your ankles to your head.
- Lower your body to the ground.
- Raise your right foot and then swing your right leg out sideways while trying to touch your knee to your elbow.
- Return to your starting position and do the same steps with your other leg.
Pull-Ups and Chin-Ups
Pull-ups and chin-ups are amongst the most important exercises to both novice and advanced athletes alike – which is why it sometimes referred to as ‘the upper body squat’.
- Pull-ups are performed with your palms facing away from you.
- Chin-ups are performed with your palms facing you.
Both pull-ups and chin-ups work the back and arms, but chin-ups place slightly more stress on the biceps and are easier than pull-ups. Here are some pointers on form.
How to do a pull-up:
- Grasp the pull-up up bar in a shoulder-width grip with your palms down.
- With your legs off the floor and arms straight, hang on to the bar with a steady grip.
- Slowly pull yourself up while pulling your elbows down to the floor.
- Pull yourself all the way up until your chin passes the pull-up bar.
- Lower yourself slowly to your starting position.
- Repeat the steps.
How to do a chin-up:
- With your palms facing your body, grip the chin-up bar firmly but comfortably.
- Use your upper arm strength and slowly raise your body and then stop once your chin is above the bar.
- Lower your body in a controlled motion until your arms are straight.
- Repeat the entire steps.
If pushups are pull-ups are too difficult you can start with negatives. To perform a negative, start at the top of the bar then lower yourself as slowly and as controlled as possible. Doing this is an excellent way to build strength that will progress you to basic pull-ups and chin-ups.
Fuelling Your Body
It's crucial to fuel your body with the right nutrition, protein, vitamins, and minerals for any type of exercise. If you don’t all your hard work pays off. And this is especially true when your main goal is to build muscle.
At Gladiator Fitness, we're passionate not only about training. We also want to make sure that our athletes are equipped with the best, high-quality products to help them build muscle, become faster, stronger, and be the best version of themselves.
Check out our range of protein.