The Complete Guide To Building Muscle Without Weights

Brad Borland
Written By: Brad Borland
May 26th, 2015
Updated: October 27th, 2021
48K Reads
Man doing pushups with dumbbells at home
Don't let the lack of weights hinder your gains! Here's a list of the absolute best bodyweight exercises that pack on the muscle without the use of dumbbells, barbells, or machines.

Don’t have access to a fully stocked gym replete with every machine and contraption imaginable? Bodyweight training is nothing new but the growing numbers of individuals reaping huge rewards from it are.

What’s the big deal about building muscle without weights? It’s convenient, it’s efficient and you can take it anywhere. Of course a few minor pieces of equipment are extremely helpful such as stable bars and racks and benches but you won’t have to wait in line for a bench press or leg press machine.

By carefully constructing a plan utilizing the best exercises to do without weights you will be able to actually build some appreciable muscle along with real, full-body strength. All it takes is a little know-how, perfect technique and the creativity to increase intensity and difficulty over time.

The Very Best Exercises To Build Muscle Without Weights

Below are some of the very best exercises done without traditional weights or machines. These are not only conducive to an effective muscle-building workout, they also work to get you more functional and manipulate your bodyweight in a real-world way.

Bodyweight Exercises For Chest Growth


Push-ups: These can be done with your feet on the ground, elevated or with your hands on a bench. Also, don’t be afraid to add in some plyometric push-ups and staggered hand placements.

TRX presses and flys: If you are capable of utilizing a TRX system you open up a new set of chest exercises impossible to do otherwise. Presses and flys using bodyweight challenges you in stabilizing during an unstable movement making your chest work twice as hard.


Pull-ups and chin-ups: Nothing can beat pull-ups and chin-ups for developing your back whether you supplement your training with traditional weighted moves or not. Wide, narrow, reverse-grips are all incredibly effective and a major challenge – but the reward is worth it. 

Inverted rows and TRX rows: The inverted row will actually activate more muscle fibers than the traditional bent-over row. Increasing difficulty is easy by placing your feet on a bench and conversely you can regress the move by raising the bar.

Bodyweight Exercises For Back & Shoulders Muscle Growth


Pike push-ups and handstand push-ups: The basic handstand push-up, although challenging, is a true display of strength and control. For those not quite at that level the pike push-up is a great place to start to build an impressive set of shoulders.

TRX face pulls: Another great advantage of the TRX system is that it not only allows you to focus on hitting your rear delts it also will work your entire upper posterior chain including rear delts, traps and rhomboids.


Inverted rack/TRX curls: The trick with an inverted curl is to keep a straight line from your feet to your shoulders. Curl up and come up for a peak contraction before returning to the starting positon slowly. The TRX will provide more of a challenge but less wrist strain.

Reverse-grip chin-ups: Not only are reverse-grip chin-ups for back development they can also be highly effective biceps builders as well – if not more so than weights. The important difference is when bigger arms are your goal to round your back and make your biceps do the majority of the work.

Best Bodyweight Exercises To Develop Arm Muscles


Rack/TRX triceps extensions: As with biceps your triceps can get a thorough workout from the rack or the TRX system. Think of it as a reverse nosebreaker. Just be sure to keep that straight posture from your feet to shoulders as you lean into the rack facedown and lower toward the bar with your forehead.

Parallel bar dips: Performed with more of an upright posture with your elbows close to your sides dips are a great mass builder for size – possibly more effective than traditional weight training.


Bulgarian split squats: With your rear foot elevated and your other foot out front lower your body in an upright position – shoulders back and back straight. Touch your knee to the floor before returning. Don’t lock your knees and focus on muscle contraction.

Step-ups and lunges: Done in seemingly countless ways step-ups and lunges do wonders for real world functionality. Static, reverse, walking and lateral are just a few examples of how versatile lunges can be. As much of a hamstring builder as a quad builder lunges work the entire thigh and shore-up your weak side at the same time.

Pistol squats: Either done on the floor or off a bench pistol squats are extremely challenging but highly effective. Balance, strength and functionality are just a few of the benefits. A good rule of thumb when attempting these is to start slowly and use assistance such as a bar or to only go half way down to gradually build strength.

Box jumps: Traditional? No. A unique tool for building power in your lower body? You bet! Box jumps, depth jumps and straddles are just a few tools at your disposal. Developing power can become an incredible tool toward building bigger, stronger legs.

Bodyweight Exercises For Leg Muscle Growth


Ball and TRX leg curl: Stability is the game when it comes to leg curls done with your feet on an exercise ball or strapped in a TRX system. Along with hamstring activation your glutes will get a much needed wake-up call. Be sure to keep a straight, rigid body from your knees to your shoulders.

Glute/ham raises: Another challenging but oh so effective muscle-builder is the glute/ham raise. To fully perform this difficult move requires great strength and control. However, you can regress the move so you can start building that strength by using either a bar for support or by pushing off the ground for assistance.


Single-leg calf raises: Muscle imbalance is rather easy to come by especially when machines are used ad nauseam. Single limb (or unilateral) work is a simple and instant solution to this problem. Single-leg calf raises also force you to focus on the contraction and get more “in-tune” with the muscle fibers.

Squatting calf raises: As a lesser known bodyweight calf exercise squatting calf raises have you raise your heels while in a squatting position. Be sure you are on your toes and your thighs are rested on your calves. Also, perform slow, controlled reps and get that squeeze at the top.

Posted on: Thu, 10/08/2015 - 02:07

Good description

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Posted on: Thu, 10/08/2015 - 09:39


Posted on: Sat, 06/27/2015 - 08:08

pictures would be helpful, thx

Posted on: Sat, 05/30/2015 - 12:56

Thanks for your helpful gaidens how to do thanks once again

Posted on: Thu, 05/28/2015 - 10:04

Yep. Even though I don't workout like that - worrying so much with isolating muscles on my body - I do many of the mentioned exercises, such as the push-ups; pull-ups; chin-ups; Pistol squats; chest, triceps dips; handstand push-ups, and many more, on a regular basis within my workouts :)

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Posted on: Thu, 05/28/2015 - 12:54

Awesome, Rosa!

Posted on: Wed, 05/27/2015 - 22:42

awesome article it's really good And very useful,thanks for posting Brad.

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Posted on: Thu, 05/28/2015 - 12:53


Ervin Ellis
Posted on: Wed, 05/27/2015 - 10:56

What is a TRX system?

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Posted on: Wed, 05/27/2015 - 17:15

Hi Ervin. It's a strap training system developed by a Navy SEAL who needed a means to train while deployed. Very light and convenient.

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Posted on: Wed, 05/27/2015 - 10:11

I'm here to answer any questions you may have...