Body Weight Workouts For Mass: 2 Ways To Get Bigger Muscles

This is a guest post from my friend Todd Kuslikis of AShotofAdrenaline.net.  Todd is the creator of an excellent program full of body weight workouts for mass and building muscle called Bodyweight Overload.   If you purchase the program through the links in this post, I do receive a commission (thank you!).  With that being said, take it away Todd…

I remember the day like it was yesterday… 

I was sitting in my bedroom waiting for my friend to come over. We were typical High Schoolers that followed the latest trends like our life depended on it.  My buddy Kurt came over and before saying, “Hello” or “What’s up dude?” he shouted, “Turn on your computer. I HAVE to show you something!”.  With great anticipation and expecting him to tell me he won some online lottery or something he lead me to a website. It was a website that would change my life forever….

You may have heard of MattFurey.com.  If you don’t know Matt he is basically the king of body weight exercises. He trains UFC athletes, karate superstars, and of course average blokes through his program like Kurt and me.  We engulfed his online content as if it was a strawberry milkshake from Steak & Shake (one our old favorite hangouts) and eventually decided to go halfsies on his Combat Conditioning program which included a book and dvd.

When it finally came, Kurt and I created an accountability sheet which helped motivate us to follow Matt’s program. We performed hundreds of Hindu Push ups, Hindu Squats, and Bridges. After several weeks I definitely saw more definition.  But after a couple of months I became discouraged because I wasn’t gaining muscle mass.

Sure I looked more ripped but the actual size of my muscles wasn’t increasing.  Why not?

Being young and impatient at the time, I didn’t investigate the reason.  Now, after over ten years of studying fitness and nutrition I am going to break down why typical body weight programs DO NOT help you grow the size of your muscles. I will then share with you two ways of changing your current body weight routine to actually help stimulate your muscles to grow.

The Number 1 Reason You Are NOT Building Muscle With Your Current Body Weight Program.

I am pretty much as big a body weight exercise freak as they come. I’ve created a body weight exercise program called “The Complete Bodyweight Training System” that has been downloaded over 6,000 times and have created an extremely successful muscle building program called Bodyweight Overload.  Based on my experience, I’d like to issue a few words of caution when you are deciding to move forward with a program.

If your goal is to get lean then most of the body weight programs on the market are good options (as long as you follow sound nutritional advice).  But if your goal is to build muscle with your body weight program than you must listen to what I am about to say…  In order to build muscle using only body weight exercises you must FULLY fatigue within a low rep range.

I am going to give you a pretend example of a man named “Joe”.  Joe wanted to build a bigger chest and also loved body weight exercises. So he decided on a cool Push Up program that he could do in his bed room.  The routine required him to do consecutively more and more push ups over the course of 6 weeks. At first he could only do 10 reps before fatiguing. However, he really wanted a bigger chest so he stayed consistent with his routine and low-and-behold his rep number started increasing.  Soon he made it up to 25 push ups and was ecstatic. He thought to himself, “Wow! I am getting really strong!” However, when he looked in the mirror he saw more overall tone but his chest hadn’t gotten any bigger.

Joe thought, “I just need to give it more time.” So he decided to spend another two or three weeks on the program and eventually the number of push ups he could do in a row shot up to 40! Yippee!

He definitely has a larger chest now right?  Nope…

Joe looked in the mirror and thought, “WTF! Maybe there is something wrong with me. Maybe I just don’t have the right genetics.”  Well, with this discouragement he gave up his hope of ever having a chest that pops out of his shirt and went back to eating potato chips and bon bons on the couch.  With a little knowledge about body weight workouts for mass, this situation could have been avoided completely.

What Joe didn’t realize is that when the human body performs difficult movements like lifting a heavy weight or doing an extremely challenging body weight maneuver it has to recruit more muscle fibers. That’s why initially when you start a new program you’ll have better gains. Over time, however, your body will become more efficient with the movement and you have to challenge it in new ways.

Yet what happened to Joe and what happened to Kurt and I after doing Matt Furey’s Combat Conditioning program is our rep ranges for each exercise increased to a very high number. The exercises became less of a muscular strength exercise and more of a muscular endurance exercise.  Essentially the oxygen carrying capacity of our muscles improved and we became less fatigued. That’s the reason we could do 25, 30, or even 40 Hindu Push ups or Squats.

When you want to build muscle using body weight exercises or weights you must fully fatigue the muscle within a low rep range somewhere in the range of 6-8 for strength gains and 8-12 for hypertrophy (muscular growth).  So how do you do that when using body weight exercises?

2 Ways To Improve Body Weight Workouts For Mass.

There are two very effective ways of changing any body weight exercise to make it more effective. You can apply either or both of these techniques to push ups, squats, chin ups, pull ups… anything!

1. Change The Angle Of The Exercise.  The first method that you can use to make any body weight exercise more challenging is to change the angle of the movement. Let’s take the push up as an example. The normal push up requires you to be at an even plane with the ground. You let yourself drop down and then push up. This exercise works mostly the middle portion of the chest muscle region.

One easy way you can make it harder is by putting your feet on a chair. This will immediately adjust your angle and require your body to recruit more of the upper chest region. You will still be working the chest but not be relying upon just the middle portion of the chest.

 

body weight workouts for mass

How to Change The Angle Of Several Other Body Weight Exercises

  1. Pull Up – Rest your feet on a chair or elevate your feet in front of you.
  2. Chin Up – Same thing as above.
  3. Handstand Press – Instead of doing a normal handstand press against a wall put your feet on the top of a chair. You body will be in a Pike’s Press position.
  4. Squat – Lift one leg off the ground and lean forward and stick your non-support leg behind you. This exercise is known as the Bird Squat is a killer.

2. Adjust How Your Body Weight Is Distributed In The Exercise.  This is one of my favorite techniques and is utilized infrequently by the exercise community. Adjusting how your weight is distributed as you do an exercise will instantly make it more difficult. Let’s use the push up example again.

Start off in a normal push up position. Shift your weight to your right so your weight is distributed mostly on your right arm. Your left arm will be used only for support. Lower your body down to the ground using this same distribution. Press back up.

body weight workouts for mass

At first you may be only to adjust your weight in a 60/40% ratio. Over time however you’ll be able to adjust it to 80/20 and eventually 90/10.  If you go totally extreme with this technique you should try putting your non-weight bearing hand up on a chair.  You can do this technique no matter if you are doing pull ups, chin ups, squats or whatever!

Remember, you need to fatigue within a low rep range with body weight workouts for mass.  Do that and you’ll be golden!  Have fun with these techniques, they’ll definitely help you ramp up your muscle building efforts.

-Todd

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body weight workouts for massI have reviewed and fully endorse Todd’s Bodyweight Overload program.  If you are looking to build muscle and get strong without going to the gym or trying to fit a barbell into your home, this program is for you.  Get your copy today by clicking here.

Comments

  1. Hey Vic,

    Happy to be a part of such a great site. Keep up the stellar content!

    Todd

  2. Suggestion # 51 pull-ups or modified pull ups. I know there aren’t too many good body weight exercises you can do for your back without a bar or tree or something to hang from, but when you do expand your list i’d suggest modified pullups with something like the Work Horse Fitness Trainer.

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