Build Muscle Mass With Body Weight Exercises

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.

74 thoughts on “Build Muscle Mass With Body Weight Exercises”

  1. 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.

  2. On the exercises I was strong on, like push ups I would do 4 reps with slow negatives and fast on the way up. I also hold my breath for all the exercises to get my hear rate up. I found that by doing this I’m building mass and my joints are feeling good. I cant wait to try this out with a weighted vest.

    My chest gets the same soreness I get from benching heavy weight, this works for sure.

    If its to easy add reps up to 5 I think and then try adding weight.

  3. This does not work.. I lost 44 pounds in 2 years by doing this.. i lost size, and i am nappy

  4. Pingback: Mind In Solitude Workout : @LovingFit
  5. This post was a good help towards creating my workout plan

    I thought i would share it with you all

    There is no rest between exercises

    Day 1
    pushup – 5 min
    wide pushup – 5 min
    decline pushup – 5 min
    close pushup – 5 min
    tricep dip – 5 min

    Day 2
    wide pullup – 5min
    close pullup – 5 min
    reverse crunch – 5min
    close chinup – 5 min
    bicep holds – 1 minute (3 angles)

    Day 3
    squat – 5 min
    lunge – 5 min
    quad extension – 5 min
    hamstring curl – 5 min
    floor hip extension – 5 min
    calf raise – 5 min
    reverse calf raise – 5 min
    rocca press – 10 min

    Abs are exercised daily with 25 reps of 3 sets with the following exercises

    basic crunch – leg raise – bicycle crunch – side touch – flutter kicks

  6. Haha well good news, first day and I already reaches my previous maximum reps! Did 30 sets of 3 reps on pullups, and 28 sets of 3 on single bar dips. Super excited tk keep this up, especially since now I know I can do at least the same output in 1/10th of the time I previously thought was possible. Thanks for posting this!

  7. I’m gonna give this a go for a couple weeks. Originally my goal is to achieve a muscle-up (both arms at same time), but if it can help me get more power on my pull-ups and single bar dips (with more muscle mass) I’d be more than happy to give it go. I’m gonna throw this is in addition to my training for the general movement of muscle ups, as well as my sprints/tabatas/hikes for fat burning and lower body work.

    For the past month or so, I’ve been generally doing a more extended form of this: I would cycle between different pull-up variations/dips but with a lot of rest in between each set, as long as 5 minutes at times. I would try to get as many reps as comfortably possible each set (without going to complete fatigue, typically 5-10 reps each set). Basically I was trying to get as many reps as possible in a day of each excercise. Ive definitely gained some mass from this and making good progress with getting to a muscle up (I can do 5 decent sternum pullups, and 1-2 staggered muscle ups. When I started 4 weeks ago I couldn’t do any sternum pullups) but I’d like to try this out because its more time efficient and maybe more effective. Saving time and compartmentalizing it would be great instead of spending hours at a park. However I’m going to use a different more relaxed method for my headstand presses (as many reps before failure, but random sets throughout the day, focusing on increasing max reps and explosiveness, right now Im at 9 reps on an average set) and compare the difference.

    I’ll report back in a few weeks to let you all know how it goes.

  8. weighted push ups are great!! pulll ups and chin ups with weights also r grt!! all u need is a backpack

  9. See… This just doesn’t make any sense to me at all. IMO, by only doing X amount of reps then resting and performing X number of reps again until 15 minutes is complete is just a waste of time. You’re doing less reps in a long period of time therefor you are not building endurance nor are you building strength because fewer reps are being performed.

    For example, in 20 minutes I do sets of
    5 – pull ups
    10 – pushups
    15 – body weight squats
    My last go around I did 20 sets in 20 minutes. I have gotten stronger, built muscle mass, and increased my endurance. All of these goals were met in only a 20 minute workout.

    If you just want to bulk up, hit heavy free weights. If you want to gain strength and stay lean then circuit training is the way to go. Supplemented by 5 days of cardio and eating a lot of food.

  10. I use this method in a 45 minute circuit 2-3 times a week. 15 min inclined pushups with my feet approx 4 feet above head and I was able to do 23 sets of 3 in 15 min, then I did regular pushups and I did 25 total sets of 3, Finally I did dips I call slow negative, explosive positive dips. The negative motion must last 10 seconds and the you explode with doing the positive. each 3 rep set should last at least 34 secs, I’m telling you this is intense. I haven’t felt my triceps this sore in a while. I have seen moderate size increase but muscle definition is and firmness has at least doubled. I have been doing this for 2 and a half months. I also noticed that even though I don’t try to increase my rep total in one set for push ups and dips my max rep set has gone from 25 to 47 in 2 months and 12 dips to 29 in two months. I am a HUGE fan of this technique.

  11. Some of you are missing the point of this workout…Those of you who are not feeling the effectiveness of this workout is because you are using less weight, ex. you are using something that you can do 20reps on….some of you are able to do 10+ pushups with your own body, so if you are going to try this routine out, then you probably won’t require too much rest and will not be able to get a good workout out of it. So, you need to increase the tension, as an example try using a 5lbs back-pack that you can tightly strap around and do a push up with this routine…I guarantee that you wilkl start feeling it….some of you will feel this more on a pull-up then push up as pull ups are very difficult to do compared to a push-up….I am sure you can build good muscle mass with this program because what you have to understand is that your body does not know if you are using bodyweight, free weights, machines or resistance bands…it really comes down to the amount of resistance that you use in the workout….when you are easily able to use your body weight to do exercises….start adding resistance….be it a weighted vest on you, weighted anklets…etc…or you can even go to free weights…but, I personally think…body weight exercises will get you a better body then, free weights…I find free weights to add more bulk…and ppl who build with free weights are less flexable and have low speed…The Navy seals use body weight in their workout to build strength and endurance….and they are the toughest men out there…anyways…this is my 2 cent….

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