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Can You Build Muscle Without Weights?

Is it possible to build muscle mass with calisthenics?

On today’s episode of Live Lean TV, I’m answering a viewer question who asked can you build muscle without weights?

In other words, can you build muscle mass with calisthenics, bodyweight exercises?

This is another Throwback Thursday post from our #TBT Q&A series.

throwback thursday

These are questions from our #LLTV Q&A series, that we filmed for our Live Lean TV YouTube channel back in 2012.

So first, I’m going to share my answer from 2012, then I’ll answer the question again, with my thoughts today.

Alright, lets get into it.

Can you build muscle without weights?

Here’s my answer from 2012.

Yes you can, to a point.

Building muscle is all about overloading the muscle with more weight.

If you’re just starting off, and you’re doing bodyweight exercises, that’s a new stimulus that your body is not used to.

This means you will be building muscle

However, after you get to a point where you can’t keep progressing, you’re going to potentially plateau.

Break Muscle Building Plateaus

That’s when you’re going to need to add more weight to the exercises, to increase the amount of weight that your body is used to lifting.

Alright, now lets fast forward 7 years later, and see if my answer is still the same.

Can you build muscle mass with calisthenics, bodyweight exercises?

Yes, you can build muscle without weights.

However, here’s the big but.

How To Workout Smarter For Your Goals

Building muscle mass with only bodyweight exercises will be harder to do.

Here’s why.

3 main mechanisms for muscle growth

In my muscle building program, Live Lean MASS 2.0, I designed the workouts to tap into the 3 mechanisms for muscle growth.

Live Lean MASS 2.0

Without getting into too much detail, let me quickly share this with you.

#1. Mechanical Tension

5 Best Tips For Muscle Growth

To sum up mechanical tension, it essentially means lifting heavy weight.

When you bench press a barbell that weighs more than your bodyweight, your muscles adapt, thus leading to muscle building.

So ask yourself, when performing bodyweight exercises, can you overload your muscles with enough weight, to fulfill this muscle building requirement.

In most cases, you can fulfill this need, with more advanced bodyweight exercises like pull ups and handstand push ups.

[HANDSTAND PUSH UPS PROGRESSION] Chisel Rock Hard Shoulders With The Shoulder Press Push Up

#2. Muscle Damage

This muscle building mechanism focuses on breaking down the muscle fibers to create muscle damage.

Should I Workout When I'm Sore?

Muscle damage is often associated with having sore muscles 1-2 days after the workout.

#3. Metabolic Stress

The last muscle building mechanism is called metabolic stress.

This can be accomplished by keeping constant tension on the muscles, and essentially burning them out during the set.

After your workout, if you get a good pump, where your muscles look full, you’ve probably accomplished this muscle building mechanism.

Pack on 15 Pounds of Muscle

Bottom line: Can You Build Muscle Without Weights?

So as you can probably tell, it’s much easier to fulfill all 3 of those muscle building mechanisms with weight training.

This is because you can progressively overload your muscle with more weight overtime.

So when it comes to building muscle with only bodyweight, the most challenging muscle building mechanism will be creating mechanical tension.

The Secrets To A Bodybuilder’s Physique

In other words, progressive overload, by lifting heavy weight.

Since your bodyweight is only so heavy, for an intermediate or advanced trainee, it becomes harder to build muscle, especially in your legs and glutes, using just your bodyweight.

You’ll have to find new ways to continually make these bodyweight exercises harder on your body.

For example, switch the traditional bilateral bodyweight exercises like the squat and push up, with more challenging unilateral pistol squats and one arm push ups.

How To Do A PISTOL SQUAT | Exercise Demonstration Video and Guide

This can help overload the muscle with enough weight to grow

Also slowing down the eccentric lowering portion of the push up, or squat, can also help overload the muscle.

How To Do A DECLINE PUSH UP | Exercise Demonstration Video and Guide

However, if you’re a beginner, your bodyweight can be all you need to start your muscle building journey.

Since these calisthenic exercises will place a new stimulus on your muscles, your bodyweight can be all you need to grow new muscle.

The Unique Benefits of Bodyweight Workouts

However, as you continue to progress, you’ll need to incorporate more difficult bodyweight exercises into your program, or you’ll eventually plateau.

When this happens, and you still want to add more muscle, it’s usually best to follow a weight lifting, resistance training program.

Regardless if you’re new to working out, or an experienced pro.

Following a properly structured program, designed for your goals, is key to reaching your goals as fast as possible.

Go take our Live Lean Body Quiz to find the best program for you, based on your goals, fitness level, and access to equipment.

Can You Build Muscle Without Weights?

Regardless if you train with weights or with just your bodyweight, we have a program for you.

I’ll put a link down in the video description below to take the quiz.

Can You Build Muscle Without Weights?


Start by taking our FREE Live Lean Body Quiz to get access to the best program specific to your goals, current fitness level, and access to equipment.

Take the Free Live Lean Body Quiz


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Questions For You:

  • Do you train with weights or do you train with bodyweight?

Be sure to share your answers in the comment section below.

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