Can body weight exercises build muscle mass… this sort of question has a short answer but at the same time there is also a long answer. Simply put, yes you can build muscle mass with bodyweight exercises without a doubt. However there are many factors at play here that determine where on your body you can build the muscle, how you can build muscle mass with body weight exercises, and who can build muscle with body weight exercises.
The living proof
Anyone who has watched the Olympics has probably noticed the fantastic physiques of the top performing athletes that compete in the games.
Its no secret that gymnasts performing at the Olympic level have chiseled bodies for the most part. However the only exercises they partake in are bodyweight based exercises. Whether it be through tumbling, using the pummel horse, or the trapeze bars, gymnasts build sculpted muscle through body weight exercises.
Sprinters, if you have ever notices have built thigh muscles, toned glutes and washboard abs. For them, it would be utterly pointless to do any sort of body building. A top heavy sprinter wont make it ahead off the blocks. As a result they only tend to focus on running to build the muscle they have.
The list goes on. Boxing, basketball, swimming, and nearly ever track and field sport all involve athletes whom have achieved amazing bodys through body weight exercises almost exclusively.
Based on the living proof we can all agree that bodyweight exercises can build muscle mass. However, these are Olympic athletes whos lives revolve around working out, and eating right. They live and breath their sports and have developed their physiques over years of dedicated work.
However, not everyone has the time to spend 5 hours a day on their body (very few people have the willpower to begin with) so how is it possible for the average guy or gal to really make a difference in their body and build muscle mass through body weight exercises…
Where on your body can you use bodyweight exercises to build mass?
You can pretty much any muscle on your body with body weight exercises. The thing is, it can be a bit of a challenge to build up some parts of your body.
For instance for a full back workout, a pull up bar is really all you need. With a pull up bar your can work nearly ever back muscle to some degree and you can build lean back muscle just with the pull up bar.
However it can be a bit more challenging to build muscle mass with body weight exercises for example on your quads. Yes sprinters noticeably have defined leg muscles, but most of the time they aren’t bulky.
It is extremely hard to use body weight exercises to build muscle mass for the quads and hamstrings. To really develop your quads and hamstrings, weighted squats and deadlifts should be in store. Simply doing body weight squats is good for staying in shape and burning calories, but you wont build bulky muscles anytime soon.
In addition body weight exercises can build muscle mass for compound muscle groups. For instance, as I mentioned before you can build a sculpted back from these exercises. However, it is particularly difficult with body weight exercises to target isolated muscles such as the rear delts.
How can you build muscle mass with body weight exercises?
If you don’t know, muscles only grow under stress.
Put in a overly simplistic way, when you exercise you put your muscles under stress. When the muscles are put under stress, afterward they either can die from the stress, or repair themselves so that they are even stronger then they once were. This leads to muscle growth.
However, once your body gets used to the amount of stress you put on your muscles, the more your body becomes complacent. Unless you constantly expose your muscles to increasing stress and strain, your muscles simply wont grow.
That being said, in order to bulk up your muscles with body weight exercises, you need to constantly increase the stress on your muscles through your workouts.
Incrementally increasing the amount of pressure your muscles are exposed to is easy through weight training. In a nut shell you simply just need to gradually increase your weight for each set week by week and month by month.
For body weight exercises, doing this is not as easy. Its not as if you can make your body heavier on command so that you can push yourself harder doing pushups.
You can improve your muscle endurance by adding on more reps onto each set but this wont allow you to build larger muscles. Tacking on more reps might build your muscles to some extent but your progress will quickly plateau.
This being said, the best way to build a muscular body with bodyweight exercises would be by adding some variation to your workouts.
For instance, instead of doing the same pullup routine every day, maybe try alternating between pull ups and chin-ups. Maybe the next week focus on pulling up fast, pausing for 5 seconds at the top and the going down slowly. Maybe the next week try to do one hand pullups if your up for it.
Bottom line is that if you want to build muscle with body weight workouts, you most importantly need to incrementally add more stress on your muscles each workout. Variation in your workouts is a great way to do so.
Who can build muscle with body weight exercises
Almost everyone can use body weight exercises to build mass. Anyone who doesn’t want to get a gym membership, is a beginner in fitness or exercise, or simply wants to get in shape can achieve amazing results with body weight exercises.
However for some people I would not recommend body weight exercises if their goal is to build muscle.
People who are morbidly obese can absolutely build muscle with bodyweight exercises. No doubt about it. However if you are obese and want the muscle to show through the fat, I would recommend taking a different course of action first. First off, I would advise you to work on doing more cardio training to shed away some of the fat. After you lower your bodyfat percentage a bit, then building muscle through bodyweight exercises is the next step.
The other type of person I would not recommend body weight exercises to is the person who is already has a decent amount of muscle. If you are a body builder body weight exercises as you probably know should be more supplemental exercises to your preexisting gym routine. As I said before, you cant expect to build tree trunk legs by just doing bodyweight squats.
At the end of the day, building mass through bodyweight exercises is tough. That does not mean by any means that is not possible. By taking the necessary steps to ensure that you keep your body on your toes by constantly challenging yourself, this feat is achievable.