Can You Still Make Progress (Gainz) Without The Gym

Can You Make Gainz Without Weights?

The answer is YES!  You can most definitely make gains without the benefit of free weights or machines.

The issue simply becomes a question of how can we achieve Progressive Overload and stimulate muscle mass gains.

Now research has shown us that you can gain muscle regardless of how many repetitions of a particular exercise we do.  All it really responds to is loading (or resistance), volume (how much, how long) and metabolic stress (physical exertion level).

By playing with these three variables is how we get muscle mass and strength gains.

The Body Doesn't Know The Difference Between A Barbell Or Dumbbell

Now your body doesn't know the difference between a barbell, a dumbbell, kettlebell or cable exercise.  All it recognizes is a force that it has to work against.

Now, there's advantages to using all of our fancy toys to help build muscle, but when it comes down to it it's all the same.  A force to push or pull against.

Now, if we can get enough force along the right vectors, we can essentially overload the muscles and make them adapt and grow.

The problem with body weight training for some more advanced lifters is that it's too easy.  The exercises simply become 'boring' for the body.  Been there, done that, can do like a million of these.

In which case you're going to be building a lot of muscle endurance doing a ton of push-ups and situps.

So What Do You Do

Well, you make it harder.  You overload the system by increasing the amount of bodyweight placed on the musculature.

And unlike in powerlifting you use leverage against you to make the body work harder.

This can be as easy as lengthening the lever arm or increasing the body weight load on the tissues.

Here's a couple examples of how you can increase the progressive overload on the chest, shoulders and triceps in the pushup.


You can also utilize this for a inverted pulling exercise as well.

Check this one out for how you can progress and regress an inverted pulling exercise.


It Doesn't End Here

Now like I spoke on in the above videos, another way to increase the amount of intensity of your body weight exercises is going to be with controlling the negative portion of the lift (eccentric contraction).  This phase of the lift is where the body is absorbing it's own body weight as resistance and can effectively overload the muscles quite well.

Be wary as adding a lot of negatives will leave you super sore, but ultimately satisfied you got an excellent workout!

Additionally, you can also add a bit of isometrics into your routine as well to help fatigue those muscles further and build strength.

Isometrics are basically holding a position or pushing/pulling against an immovable object.  Typically, the strength increases from this type of training occurs in 10-15 degree intervals.  So you'll have to hold at multiple positions in order to achieve an effective level of strength through the full range of motion.

Now Let's Get After It

You have some more tools in your toolkit now to assist with your at home workouts.

Stand by for my latest workout in the Armory!  Body Weight Training 101 

This will be a six-week program tailored toward bodyweight training entirely!

Jess Howland

Jesse "Captain Smash" Howland is the owner of SMASH’s Strength Lab, which offers targeted personal training to reach a variety of fitness and physique goals. A natural bodybuilder, competitive powerlifter, certified personal trainer, and nutrition coach, Jesse is often the go-to resource for personal training Ottawa. He studied Exercise Science at Oregon State University and even trained at the world famous Gold's Gym. He's a former US Army Captain with the 86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, a former blog writer at Veterans Fitness Career College, and former Chief Executive Officer at U.S. Army Forces Command (FORSCOM). His workouts and personal training are army-inspired to help reach your weightloss, athletic, or physique goals.