Man doing bodyweight exercise

The Best Bodyweight Bodybuilding Exercises for Building Muscle

12 min read

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15 Mar 2024


Hack Beast Mode

  1. What are the benefits of bodyweight exercises?
  2. How to build muscle with bodyweight exercises
  3. The best bodyweight exercises for building muscle
  4. Bodyweight workout examples
  5. Getting those gains

When you think of bodybuilding, an image that involves lifting insane amounts of weights in the gym probably springs to mind.

Huge dumbbells. Even bigger barbells. Maybe some kind of massive tractor tire to flip over and over…

But not everybody has the time, ability, or money to access this sort of equipment.

Maybe you’re just starting out with building muscle and don’t fancy joining a gym just yet. Or you want to freshen up your current routine and mix it up with other types of workout.

If any of these scenarios have you nodding your head in agreement, then you might be wondering if you can even build epic lean muscle without throwing giant weights around.

And the answer is: Yes, you absolutely can! All you need to start building your body is, well…your own body.

You just need to use your body weight as exactly that: Weight.

No fancy equipment is required. No gym memberships. No fees. No time or space constraints. It’s just you and your body getting ripped.

And we’ll show you how to do it.

We’re going to look at why bodyweight training is effective, how to build muscle using just your body, the best bodyweight movements to try, and some bodyweight bodybuilding workout examples.

Let’s get straight into it so that you can build the body you want using the body you have.

What are the benefits of bodyweight exercises?

Man doing push ups

So, why use your own bodyweight?

Surely, heavy lifting using actual free weights is the way to go with bodybuilding? Well, yes, but it doesn’t have to be.

Your body is a weight in its own right. So why not use it to push yourself and build some muscle when you can?

Bodyweight exercises are convenient, affordable, and ridiculously versatile. Plus, they offer an accessible way to build muscle mass.

If you’re not sold on using your bodyweight exclusively yet, let’s see exactly why bodyweight workouts can be a great asset in your muscle-building routine.

Convenience

You can perform bodyweight exercises anywhere, anytime, without the need for specialized equipment or a gym membership.

It’s so easy to weave these exercises into your daily routine, especially if you’re limited by barriers of time or location.

Affordability

Bodyweight exercises are not just cost-effective, they’re absolutely free! They don't require expensive fitness equipment or gym fees.

You can buy additional accessories or apparatus if you want to spice up the movements, but it’s definitely not compulsory.

Pull-up bars, resistance bands, and kettlebells can all enhance your bodyweight bodybuilding workouts without breaking the bank.

Versatility

There’s a wide range of bodyweight exercises to try, covering all sorts of movements and with variations that target plenty of different muscle groups.

From push-ups and bodyweight squats to lunges and planks, there are numerous options for challenging your abilities and strengthening various muscles across your body.

Effectiveness

Research shows that bodyweight training can be really effective for building muscle.

A study published in the journal Physiology and Behavior found that bodyweight exercises help build muscle independent of external load.

Oh, and another study demonstrated that simple bodyweight training can improve cardiorespiratory fitness with minimal time commitments.

There’s plenty to love about bodyweight exercises. Whether you’re doing push-ups at home, squats in the park, or making full-body workouts out of them, the possibilities are almost endless for building muscle with bodyweight exercises.

Next up, we’ll take a look at the key things to bear in mind when putting together a bodyweight workout routine.

How to build muscle with bodyweight exercises

Woman dong bodyweight squats

Building muscle through bodyweight exercises follows the same principles as building muscle using barbells and dumbbells.

Here are some things to factor into your exercise sessions so that you can get the absolute most out of bodyweight-only training.

Keep progressing

Progressive overload is a fundamental principle of muscle growth. To stimulate muscle development, you need to gradually increase the difficulty of exercises over time—no matter what sort of lifting you do.

For bodyweight workouts, you could perform more challenging variations (we’ll show you some later in the article), reduce rest periods between sets, or increase the number of rounds, reps, or sets per exercise.

Switch up your techniques

Another way to continually challenge your muscles is to vary certain aspects of the exercises themselves.

You could increase the range of motion, add pauses or holds midway through or at the end of a movement, incorporate more explosive movements, or use workout bands to increase resistance.

Sort the nutritional side

While bodyweight exercises contribute massively to muscle growth, proper nutrition is equally important—you need to eat enough protein to support that muscle repair and growth.

Include plenty of lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy, legumes, and plant-based protein sources in your diet.

And make sure to pair your protein sources with complex carbohydrates and healthy fats to balance out your meals and improve your energy and overall health.

Be consistent

Consistency is key for muscle building. Try to establish a regular workout routine that includes bodyweight exercises and that you can stick to, aiming for at least two to three sessions per week.

This consistency enables your body to adapt and progressively build muscle over time.

Perfect your form

Just like when you lift weights, maintaining proper technique and form during bodyweight exercises is crucial for maximizing muscle engagement and minimizing the risk of injury.

Focus on the correct alignment of your body, maintain controlled movements, and engage the targeted muscles throughout each exercise.

It can be helpful to start with easier variations and gradually progress to more challenging ones as your strength and abilities improve.

Top tip: Check out the CrazyBulk YouTube channel for some top tips on exercise form from our athletes.

Do compound exercises

Focus your workouts around big compound exercises that work multiple muscle groups simultaneously, such as push-ups, squats, and pull-ups.

These exercises are a really efficient way to engage various muscles and stimulate overall muscle growth.

Add in isometric exercises

Alongside those compound movements, you should also integrate some isometric exercises into your routine.

Isometric exercises involve holding a static position to activate and strengthen specific muscles. Examples include planks, wall sits, and static lunges.

These will challenge your body in a slightly different way to push or pull movements, so it’s a good idea to include a mix of static and dynamic exercises to cover more bases.

Mix things ups

Make sure to vary the bodyweight exercises you perform from time to time so that you can target each muscle group from various angles 

You’ll also prevent plateaus and ensure that all muscle fibers are effectively stimulated for growth—not just your favorites.

Recover and rest

Rest days are essential for muscle repair and growth, so give yourself sufficient time to recover between workouts.

Listen to your body, aim for seven to nine hours of quality sleep per night, and throw in some active recovery activities like stretching or foam rolling to reduce muscle soreness.

By following these principles and tips, you’ll be able to optimize your muscle gains during bodyweight training. But what about the exercises themselves?

The best bodyweight exercises for building muscle

Bodyweight lunges

We’ve seen that bodyweight exercises can be an effective way to build muscle without the need for equipment or a gym membership, but where should you start?

Here are some of the best bodyweight exercises to incorporate into your workout routine and how to perform them correctly.

Push-ups

Push-ups target your chest, triceps, and shoulders. To perform a push-up…

  1. Start in a plank position with hands shoulder-width apart and your body in a straight line.
  2. Lower your body until your chest touches the ground, keeping your elbows tucked in.
  3. Push back up to the starting position by extending your arms.

To make push-ups easier: Perform push-ups on your knees instead of your toes.

To make push-ups harder: Perform diamond push-ups by placing your hands close together to form a diamond shape. Or do one-arm push-ups once you’re super advanced.

Squats

Squats target your quads, hamstrings, and glutes. To perform a squat…

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and toes pointed slightly outward.
  2. Keep your chest up and your weight in your heels.
  3. Bend your knees and lower your body as if sitting in a chair, keeping your core tight.
  4. Return to the starting position by pushing through your heels.

To make squats easier: Perform bodyweight squat pulses where you only go down halfway and pulse up and down.

To make squats harder: Perform pistol squats on one leg, or do jump squats by jumping up explosively at the end of each squat.

Lunges

Lunges target your quads, hamstrings, and glutes. To perform a lunge…

  1. Keeping your back straight, take a big step forward with one foot and lower your body until your thigh is parallel to the ground.
  2. With your weight in your front heel, keep your front knee directly above your ankle and your back knee hovering just above the ground.
  3. Push back up to the starting position by pushing through your front heel and repeat on the other side.

To make lunges easier: Perform reverse lunges instead of forward lunges.

To make lunges harder: Perform jump lunges by jumping up explosively at the end of each lunge.

Pull-ups

Pull-ups target your back, biceps, and forearms. To perform a pull-up…

  1. Grip a pull-up bar with hands shoulder-width apart, palms facing away from you.
  2. Pull your body up until your chin is level with the bar, keeping your elbows close to your body.
  3. Lower back down slowly to the starting position.

To make pull-ups easier: Place a resistance band on the bar and loop it under your knees to assist with the pull-up.

To make pull-ups harder: Slow down your pull-ups, add more weight to your body (e.g. using a weight vest), or perform muscle-ups.

Dips

Dips target your triceps, chest, and shoulders. To perform a dip…

  1. Grip parallel bars or the edge of a bench with your hands shoulder-width apart.
  2. Lower your body until your elbows form a 90-degree angle, keeping your elbows close to your body.
  3. Push back up to the starting position by extending your arms.

To make dips easier: Perform bench dips using a sturdy bench instead of parallel bars.

To make dips harder: Perform ring dips using gymnastic rings or TRX straps.

These compound exercises are the best places to start with exercising using your bodyweight, as they all work multiple muscle groups. 

Start with easier variations and gradually progress to more challenging exercises as you become fitter and stronger.

Now, let’s take a look at what some sample bodyweight workouts could look like.

Bodyweight workout examples

Here are three workouts that purely use bodyweight exercises to help you build muscle mass.

There’s a full-body routine, plus upper-body-focused and lower-body-focused workouts.

Start off performing each once a week, then add in extra workouts once you feel comfortable.

Full-body bodyweight workout

Perform three sets of each exercise, with 10 to 12 reps per set…

  • Push-ups
  • Squats
  • Lunges
  • Pull-ups (or substitute with inverted rows using a sturdy bar or table)
  • Dips (or substitute with bench dips)

Upper-body bodyweight workout

Perform three sets of each exercise, with 10 to 12 reps per set (unless specified otherwise)...

  • Push-ups (use advanced variation to make it more challenging)
  • Pull-ups (assisted or with advanced variation)
  • Dips (with assisted or advanced variation)
  • Plank (hold for 30-60 seconds)
  • Mountain climbers (30 seconds)

Lower-body bodyweight workout

Perform three sets of each exercise, with 10 to 12 reps per set…

  • Squats (use advanced variation to make more challenging)
  • Lunges (with advanced variation or additional weight)
  • Glute bridge (perform single-leg variation to make more challenging)
  • Calf raises (body weight or use a step to make more challenging)
  • Side lunges (10-12 reps per side)

Other factors to consider

It’s not just about the exercises. Here are a few other things to bear in mind with your bodyweight workouts.

  • Warm up properly: Start your workout with a five  to 10 minute cardio warm-up, such as jogging in place or jumping jacks, to increase your heart rate and warm up your muscles.
  • Do a post-workout cooldown: After your workout, cool down with some light stretches or foam rolling to help your muscles recover and prevent soreness.
  • Take rest days: Muscles are built and repaired on your rest days, so make sure to take them regularly to allow your muscles time to recover and rebuild properly. Aim for at least one to two rest days per week, depending on your fitness level and intensity of workouts.
  • Listen to your body: Pay attention to how your body feels during workouts. If an exercise causes pain or discomfort, modify it or choose a different exercise. Prioritize your safety and avoid pushing yourself too hard—you don’t want to injure yourself.

Getting those gains

Couple working out in the gym

Using your body’s weight to build muscle is a great starting point and makes for a solid foundation, but it will only take you so far.

Ideally, you’ll eventually start to add lifting heavy weights into your resistance training sessions so that you can really make those BIG gains.

We’ve got a couple of extra bonus tips for you, too.

One of the best ways to get yourself pumped up and full of energy for a big workout is to crank up the tunes.

We’ve put together a playlist to help you get in the zone and ready to smash it. Give it a listen right here…

Finally, along with epic workouts, great nutrition, and a positive mindset, there’s one final piece of the muscle-building puzzle that you might be missing out on—and that’s supplements.

Now, we are NOT talking about steroids here, we’re talking about safe and natural alternatives.

We’re talking about supplements that use natural ingredients like vitamins, minerals, and herbal extracts to stimulate extra muscle growth. These supplements are completely safe to use and get results.

And no matter what your goal is with bodyweight training or weight lifting, we’ve got a supplement stack for you.

Level up your gains with Crazy Bulk

There’s a Bulking Stack for packing on solid muscle mass, and a Cutting Stack for trimming down body fat for a lean and shredded physique.

There’re also stacks for stimulating your growth hormones and for boosting your strength.

We’ve got Bulking and Cutting stacks specifically for women, too.

But if overall fitness and muscle building is your aim, the best place to start is with the Ultimate Stack. It’s got everything you need for enhanced muscle growth, boosted fat loss, and optimal recovery.

If you have other specific fitness goals in mind, make sure to check out our Supplement Matchmaker or try our Product Finder tool to find the perfect supplements to match your needs and body type.

In the meantime, you can check out the full range of CrazyBulk supps here. Now go out there and keep on smashing it.

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