It seems like the friction between hardcore supporters of weight training and hardcore supporters of bodyweight training has existed since the beginning of time. One group says lifting weights is all you need to build strength, mass and improve athleticism, while the other worship the ability of bodyweight movements to build real, functional strength and power. So which one is better and more effective?
The one true answer is: none. Both of them offer amazing advantages and you should stop limiting yourself to just one style! To build a complete physique with optimal muscle balance and coordination, you need to include both types of training into your regime, even if your primary goal is putting on as much mass as possible.
The truth is that throwing in a couple of bodyweight exercises into your regular weightlifting routine will help progress your resistance training, improve your mobility and flexibility and accelerate your strength and mass gains. And the best part is that they can be performed anywhere and anytime and they’re easily modified to challenge anyone.
If you think your strength and fitness level has surpassed the demands of most bodyweight moves, think again. By simply adding extra reps, performing the exercises faster or very slowly or adding a ballistic movement such as a clap at the top of a push-up, you can always design a tough bodyweight workout that will make your heart race and muscles scream.
In this article we’ve put together some of the best bodyweight mass builders out there, so put the weights away for a moment and give these exercises a chance to help you build a bigger, leaner, stronger you!
The standard push-up works the entire body and will help you tone your arms, abs and lower body all at the same time, although it primarily targets the pecs, triceps and anterior delts. Perhaps most importantly, push-ups will improve your muscle coordination by teaching your muscles to work together more effectively.
To perform a push-up, get into a high plank position. Place your hands slightly wider than shoulder width, directly under the shoulders, and keep your body in a straight line. Descend in a slow and controlled manner until your chest almost touches the floor, keeping the back flat and the eyes focused in front of you. As you breathe out, push your body back up to the start position but keep your body perfectly straight through the motion.
#2. Knee-to-Opposite-Elbow Push-Up
Once you master the basic push-up, you can up the intensity and the number of muscle fibers trained with this challenging push-up variant. It’s really a great exercise to help you create a more varied workout.
Start at the top of the standard push-up position. Keeping your back straight, slightly lower your torso and bring your right knee to your left elbow. Pause for a second, then return your leg to the starting position and extend through your elbows until you reach the top of the push-up. Repeat with the opposite leg and arm and keep alternating sides on each rep.
The squat is a fundamental human movement pattern that involves nearly every muscle in the body and will train your core like no other exercise on earth. By squatting regularly you can powerfully boost your overall fitness, mobility and performance and sculpt incredibly strong glutes, quads and hams.
To begin, stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. As you bend your hips and knees and start slowly lowering the torso, push your butt back like you would if you wanted to sit in a chair, while keeping the back straight and the head neutral. Keep descending until your thighs are parallel to the floor, then push through your heels to stand back up in the original position.
#4. Tuck Jump
Tuck jumps are a classic plyometric exercise that uses fast and powerful movements to improve agility and power, and many athletes successfully use it to eliminate unwanted body fat and improve their on-field performance.
Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and keep your hands by your side. Engage your abs, roll your shoulders back and get down into a quarter squat with slightly bent knees. Push your hips back and lean forward with a flat back, then explosively jump up as high as possible by pushing the ground down. As you jump into the air, try to bring your knees to your chest and grab them with your hands. Try to land softly with the knees slightly bent and immediately jump again.
Besides maximally engaging the glutes, quads and hams, lunges can strengthen your core and entire lower body and improve overall stability and balance.
To perform them, stand with the hands on your hips and position your feet at hip-width apart. Keeping your upper body straight with your shoulders back and relaxed, engage your core and take a big step forward with the right leg. Slowly lower your hips until both knees are bent at about a 90-degree angle and the left knee is close to touching the floor. Drive your front heel into the floor to return to the starting position and repeat with the other leg.
Can’t do a single pull-up yet? Don’t worry, everyone has a hard time with this one. Just keep practicing and you’ll get there – and it’s going to be more than worth it because pull-ups are one of the best strength and mass building exercises, especially if you want to maximally develop your lats and biceps.
To begin, grasp a bar with a shoulder-width, overhand grip and pull until the bar reaches chin level and pause for a second. Slowly lower yourself down until arms and shoulders are fully extended and immediately start pulling your body up again.
The muscle-up is an advanced exercise that takes a ton of strength and practice to master. If you’re trying it for the first time, it’s normal for the grip and the movement to feel a bit unnatural. You should be able to perform 5 strict pull-ups and 5 strict dips before attempting to do the muscle-up. In short words, a muscle-up involves transitioning your body from pull-up to dip in one smooth, fluid movement.
To do this, start in a dead hang position on a straight pull-up bar. Keeping your core engaged, pull yourself up until the bar reaches chin level, then explosively throw your chest and head over the bar. Next, press your hands down and drive your body upwards until your arms are in full extension. Make sure to engage your shoulders and triceps to lock out your elbows. Return to the start, bringing your chest to the bar, then lower yourself to a dead hang and repeat.
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Good luck and stay tight!