How To Build Muscle Without Equipment (Short And Effective Workouts!)

If you are unable to go to the gym; whether that be because a gym membership is above your pay grade, or if the unlikely scenario of a global pandemic would arise 😉 – you need not fret. Even without the traditional weight lifting equipment like dumbbells and barbells you are able to effectively target all the muscles in your body with the help of your very own body weight as resistance.

I’ll walk you through two separate workout setups. First up I’ll list a routine for if you’re short on time, but you still want to get a good workout in. Alternatively I will provide you with a slightly more expanded program for maximum results. Whether you pick the long or short version; the intensity is tailored to the duration(I.e. the shorter, the more intense), both are guaranteed to put slabs of muscle on your frame!

These workouts will focus on hitting all muscle groups within a single workout from top to toe. With muscle recovery in mind my advice would be to perform these workouts at least twice a week, but ideally no more than 3 times a week. This will provide you with the ideal stimulus to recovery ratio.

The Plan In A Nutshell

Since you’ll only have access to your own body weight as resistance, most of the exercises that are listed will be compound exercises, which are movements that target multiple muscle groups and therefore provide you with the best bang for your buck.

Depending on your experience level as a lifter you can increase the time under tension during the eccentric phase of the lift(generally speaking when the muscles are being stretched, and you are lowering ‘the weight’) to make the exercises harder. I will touch more on this in a second.

For the slightly longer workout you will perform 2 exercises for the lower body; 3 pushing exercises primarily targeting the deltoids(shoulders), triceps(back of the arm) & pectoral muscles(chest), along with 2 pulling movements for the back.

The shorter workout will follow the same template, but with fewer exercises per targeted muscle group.(albeit with a higher intensity)

You might feel tempted to add more sets as opposed to what I prescribe, but I sincerely don’t recommend it. Your only job with these workouts is to maximally turn on protein synthesis with the least amount of effort within the muscles, by performing each set with optimal focus on proper form, and by feeling the muscles that you are targeting working the actual movement(also known as the mind-muscle connection)

What If I’m An Advanced Lifter?

In the graph below I will detail which repetition speeds you can follow per movement, with your lifting experience in mind. This means that the exact same template will work for someone who has just started lifting, as well as a seasoned lifter with a couple of years of training under his or her belt.

Below I will list training experience levels based on the years you have worked out consistently. While this isn’t exactly a full-proof method of describing your experience level, it is the most reliable indicator for body weight only training.

Beginner – 0 to 1 year of training

Intermediate – 1 to 3 years of training

Advanced – 3+ years of training

Manipulating Rep Speeds For Intensity

If you fall in the beginner category you can skip the info below and continue with the next paragraph, repetition speeds are not that relevant for you yet. Simply execute the listed number of sets and reps and you’re good.

The time category is devised of four numbers, each number stands for a certain portion of the lift.

The first number – The eccentric portion of the lift. This is when you are lowering the weight and the worked muscles are being lengthened. (e.g. For a push up this would be when you are lowering your chest to the floor)

The second number – When you finish the eccentric phase of the lift and you are holding the weight. Your muscles will be at their most lengthened position. (Shown as position 2 on the first photo below)

The third number – The concentric portion of the lift. This is generally speaking when you are pushing the weight and the worked muscles are being shortened. (e.g. For a push up this would be when you are pushing your chest from the floor)

The fourth number – When you finish the concentric phase of the lift and you are holding the weight. Your muscles will be at their most shortened position. (Shown as position 4 on the second photo below)

So if a certain exercise would have a repetition speed tempo of 2132 this would be a 2-second eccentric, a 1-second bottom position isometric hold, a 3-second concentric followed by a 2-second top position isometric hold. This can be repeated until you have completed the number of reps listed for that exercise.

How To Build Muscle Without Equipment - Push ups positions 2 and 4

The Plans

Like i specified earlier; the fast program is tailored to those who want to work every muscle in the body, with a minimum amount of time spent working out. This program will take around 30 – 35 minutes per session, depending on how much time you need to take a breather in between working sets.

I will specify advised resting times below as well, but by all means if you need more rest, take it. In doing so you will only prevent that you half-ass your next set 😉

The Short Program:

Exercises Sets Repetitions Tempo Rest
Split squat 5 15-20 1020 N/A
Push up 4 12 2210 30 seconds
Dips 3 12 3011 30 seconds
Door row 5 15 2012 30 seconds

The Expanded Program:

Exercises Sets Repetitions Tempo Rest
Split squat 4 15 4010 45 seconds
Hamstring bridge 3* 15-20 2011 N/A
Push ups 4** 12 3011 N/A
Lateral raise 4** 15 3013 90 seconds
Dips 3 12 3211 60 seconds
Door row 5 15 3112 60 seconds
Back plank 3 15-30 seconds N/A 90 seconds
  • * means that you are to perform a drop set. Drop sets require you to perform the number of reps in a single set until you reach concentric muscle failure(I.e. you can’t perform any more repetitions) For the hamstring bridge you will first perform a set with one leg to failure, followed by the next leg, then both legs. If you don’t reach failure with the prescribed number of reps reduce your tempo or slightly increase the amount of reps. The reps/tempo above is merely a rough indicator.
  • ** means you are to do a super set. Super sets require you to perform 2 exercises performed back-to-back with no rest periods in between those exercises. For push-ups/lateral raises this means you first perform a set of push-ups followed directly by a set of lateral raises. After you’ve done the lateral raises you can rest for 90 seconds. Rinse and repeat until you have completed 4 sets.
  • For the short program split squats have no rest times noted. This is because this exercise is a unilateral movement. Unilateral movements are exercises in which you only use one limb at a time. This means that when you exercise one leg, the other leg can rest. The same goes for hamstring bridges on the expanded program.
  • Like noted before; beginners shouldn’t pay attention to the repetition tempo and focus entirely on correctly executing the movements as seen in the video’s
  • For the lateral raises you can improvise which object you use as resistance. You can use two full water bottles or empty suitcases for instance.
  • Always aim to keep a bit of energy in the tank unless when a set requires you to go to failure, try to stop with 2 reps in reserve(meaning you could have done 2 more repetitions each set)

Recovery Is Just As Important!

Along with these solid workout programs, you need to make sure you get in plenty of high quality protein to support muscle growth and enough healthy fat content to optimize testosterone levels, fuel your activities, as well as keeping healthy blood cholesterol(HDL) levels in check.

Since building muscle is a metabolic costly activity you need to eat like you want it. Eating around 18 kcal per pound of body weight(36 kcal per KG) seems to be the sweet spot without gaining too much body fat along with it. If you have trouble eating such large amounts of food you can always opt to take in some easy calories in the form of healthy pre-packed keto snacks.

If you perform any additional non-exercise activities you can add an extra 125 calories for every hour of activity you perform.(I.e. walking, gardening, grocery shopping)

Especially pre-, post- and intra workout nutrition as well as Omega fatty acids and mineral supplementation are vital to allow your muscles to recover and supercompensate. Keto meal replacement shakes from KetoLogic® do just that trick. It has been my go-to workout shake for years. Its organic, high quality ingredients ensures me I’ll stay in Ketosis while optimizing the building muscle process, and using my own body fat as fuel to do so. As a plus – Recovery shakes like these are also an excellent way of adding in some extra calories if you are not a big eater, since liquid calories are always ‘easier’ than those from solid whole foods.

With me being an early bird – I always get my workout in before sunrise. To make sure I have plenty of energy in my system to fuel my workout, as well as support muscle growth, I always try to get some food in – even though i’m not a big eater in the mornings at all!(I compensate later in the day, though 😉 ) Kiss My Keto© protein bars are ideal for that purpose. Ever since my review of those bars it has been a staple in my pre-workout nutrition.

Follow whichever of these two workout programs is best suited to your lifestyle and needs for at least 8 weeks and assess your progress at the end. Try to weigh in 3 times weekly and aim to gain around 0.5 lbs(0,2 KG) of body weight per week. Adjust your daily calorie needs if you gain too little, or too much weight with 100 calorie increments per week.

While i don’t list this as a requirement or as part of the workout i do recommend you perform some type of light cardio, like walking a few times per week for about 30 minutes or so. This will keep your heart as fit as the rest of your body and as a bonus it will contribute to your recovery!

Which program are you most excited to try out? Let me know in the comments below!



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