For many, purchasing weights including the bars, plates and bench to use them on is simply too much to afford. The same applies to paying a monthly fee to a gym of which most of their facilities you will never use, such as the swimming pool, racket sports or the sauna areas. Therefore it’s wise to look in to ways to build muscle without using weights though doing so is limiting as I will explain.
Progressive resistance is what stimulates your muscles to grow, providing you are eating enough food so that your body has extra energy to use, and whatever form of resistance is of little consequence to the process. If you constantly challenge your muscles with more resistance then they will continue to grow, therefore weights aren’t absolutely necessary to build muscle.
The most popular and widely known bodyweight exercise is the push up. The push up allows one to increase the number of reps continuously thus adding more resistance – causing your muscles to adapt. Generally with the push up you are limited to increasing primarily stamina and the number you can perform, and unless you add more weight (such as strapping a pack to your back with objects in) it’s not possible to build much actual muscle size. This is the main problem with bodyweight exercises.
Another problem with not using weights is you are unable to properly measure the amount of resistance you’re adding – this is the biggest advantage to using weights. You can accurately measure and know precisely the amount of resistance (in kg or lbs) that you’re adding and tracking your progress becomes much easier.
When I first started bodybuilding I began doing push ups, crunches and squatting without weights. This helped me get used to training with resistance and I advocate doing this before embarking upon lifting with weights, though it’s not necessary. Training with weights for the first time however can be daunting so it’s a good way to introduce your body and mind in to building muscle. If you want to build muscle without weights then you should do so for up to 3 months – at this stage you should progress on to using weights to sufficiently increase the resistance so that your are still able to add the resistance required to keep your muscles growing.
It’s difficult for me to advocate never using weights to build muscle – therefore I won’t as I don’t believe it’s the best way for you to reach your goals and adding size and strength. Compared to training with weights there is no comparison or substitute great enough.