Build Muscle Mass With Body Weight Exercises

April 9, 2009

I don’t talk too much about building mass, since it really isn’t the main focus of this site. That being said, I know there are quite a few readers who do want to add a bit of mass. I am going to talk about how to put on mass with nothing but body weight exercises. I don’t care if you can do 80 push ups or 30 pull ups, here is a way gain size and make body weight exercises challenging again.
build muscle with body weight exercises
[I found a body weight routine that will even challenge people in peak condition…like this guy!]

Let Me Give Credit to Nick Nilsson…

Nick Nilsson is the guy who outlined this body weight workout. He has written numerous books and is probably best known for his work with Charles Staley on Escalating Density Training (a video course on gaining mass and definition at the same time by lifting multiple low rep sets with compressed rest periods). I haven’t mentioned either of these guys on my site before, because the subject matter here is more focused on building strength and muscle definition without adding size…to get that slim “Hollywood” look. As far as mass building goes, these are the guys I recommend.

The Common Problem With Body Weight Training

As soon as I read this outline, I knew Nick had come up with a solution to a common problem. You see…the problem with something like push ups is that you quickly get too strong for them to be challenging. A set of 50 reps of push ups is high rep “endurance training”. The problem is that even if you go to failure, isn’t really hitting the muscle fibers with the most growth potential.

High Volume With Compressed Rest Intervals

A key to gaining mass is to aim for a high volume of work while lifting weight that is heavy enough to challenge the muscles. You also want to keep the rest somewhat brief in between sets to get the full pump in the muscles…this is the optimum condition to put on size quickly. Here is the solution that Nick came up with to get this done with body weight exercises.

As Many Sets of 3 Reps As Possible in 15 Minutes

This is done in a strategic way, which I will explain in a second. The reason he suggests 3 reps at a time is to limit fatigue in order to maximize training volume (sets and total reps). Both Charles and Nick believe that you should train muscles for output and not fatigue…which is why their programs build strength and mass, not just muscle mass. Too much fatigue is bad for building strength. They believe in a high volume of quality reps without hitting failure, which is a unique approach in the bodybuilding world (and why I dig their approach).

How the Workout is Structured

1) Pick one body weight exercise – Push Ups (as an example)
2) Do 3 reps and rest 10 seconds then 3 more reps…repeat
3) When it becomes tough to do 3 reps, extend the rest time to 20 seconds
4) When it becomes to tough to get 3 reps, extend rest time to 30 seconds
5) Keep doing this exercise for 15 minutes straight. As soon as it gets tough to complete 3 reps add another 10 seconds to the rest time in between sets.

Tips: Make sure to avoid failure on all of your sets, but push yourself. By avoiding failure, you are limiting fatigue and you will get in more sets and reps in the 15 minute period.

Other Tips for This Mass Building Routine

Nick recommends 15 minutes for back, chest, and quads…and 10 minutes for hamstrings, shoulders, biceps, triceps, calves, and abs. He recommends a 2-day split doing a total of 4 workouts per week. Day One back, chest, biceps, abs and calves. Day Two quads, hamstrings, shoulders, and triceps.

Note: You could certainly use this same method with weights as well. I’m imagining there are probably a few people who have a weight set at home that they are too strong for. Consider using this lifting method with those weights to get some good use out of them again.


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Thanks for reading all these years!

----> (New) Facebook Comments..."Cause all the cool kids are doin' it!"

{ 73 comments… read them below or add one }

Joe October 31, 2014 at 11:24 pm

As a lot of bodybuilders reach the five-ten year mark of training, they hit certain training plateaus that
make it challenging to make lean muscle mass.

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