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.

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

{ 73 comments… read them below or add one }

Kevin Geary April 9, 2009 at 10:16 pm

Interesting. I’m going to give this a try tomorrow and see what happens. I’ve never seen this approach before.

Izwan April 9, 2009 at 10:39 pm

Yeah, I like this approach and I reckon to use this technique in :-


Sure give the full body work out with pleasure.

Nate - Fit-Life Online April 9, 2009 at 10:49 pm

I do a similar workout where I will do a superset of 5 pullups, 5 dips, and 10 bodyweight squats (sometimes I throw in 5 kettlebell swings as well). Then see how many supersets I can get done in 20 minutes.

I’m going to give Nillson’s approach a try though. It sounds like a great workout.

jon April 10, 2009 at 1:27 am

rusty, i dont really get it. isnt edt the same as high rep training??? it says to get as many reps in in 15 minutes. isnt this training for muscular endurance? the only difference i see is that you do 3 reps rest 10 seconds and do this for 15 minutes. how is this different from doing 20 reps resting a couple of seconds and 20 reps again and resting for a few seconds and so on the 15 minutes???

Anthony April 10, 2009 at 3:42 am

Definitely an informative and new approach. I don’t know how much I could utilize it, but I really think it would be beneficial to a couple of friends of mine.

Great post Rusty!

Michiel April 10, 2009 at 3:57 am

Great workout routine Rusty. I’m gonna give this a try in the next couple of weeks.
I also have another question on lifting technique. When you speak in your articles about lifting heavy weights and really build up tension in the muscles. You need to control your breathing to build up the tension, you have to slowly breath out when you put force in and do it otherwise on the negative fase. Now i have a problem when it comes to holding the breath, i seem to build up alot of tension so that my head turns red like a tomato. I don’t think this is healthy and i try to avoid it, but i have it difficult to control it.
Can you give me some advice on that? I like to have good strength but without putting huge pressure on my veins.
Thanks alot

pnw fitness April 10, 2009 at 6:26 am

Sounds like something fun for tomorrows chest workout 🙂

Adam Steer - Better Is Better April 10, 2009 at 6:31 am

Hey Rusty,

Yeah, I can see this being fairly effective. Just like with any training tool, using bodyweight and getting results is dependent on how you arrange your protocols. The great thing for your readers is that no matter how you do it, it’s pretty hard to put on non-functional mass using the weight of your own body. By its very nature, bw is functional – you’re moving your body in space.

And my contention has always been that a Functional Physique is a beautiful physique. In our book, my buddy Ryan and I introduce several ways to put bodyweight training together for strength and muscle mass (two of the five programs in the book).

This post has a good example of bodyweight exercise for strength development. Again, it’s just one of many ways to organize your bwe for a given goal.

Thanks for another thoughtful post Rusty!


Al S April 10, 2009 at 8:39 am

What type of bodyweight exercises can i do for biceps, shoulders, and hamstrings?

Helder April 10, 2009 at 9:20 am

I’ve been doing something similar for sometime, as you know i take a lot of time training without going to the gym, it doesn’t seduce as much as bodyweight exercises and outdoor training. I knew that to keep adding reps wouldn’t do me any good, so i’ve started using a similar method to that one described in the post.

There are however a few points i would like to talk about. It’s okay to sometimes go for high reps, specially with quads, look at speed skaters, it’s very common for them to do very high reps like 100/300 reps. For the upper body it’s also good from time to time, if you ask a gymnast to do push ups or pull ups you’ll fall asleep watching him do it before he gets tired. These high rep workouts are good like i said from time to time to shock your muscles, tohelp you develop yourself in a more complete way, though i’m a big defender of low reps, but both ways are needed, one more than the other in my oppinion.

Another point that i want to talk about is using body positioning to make exercise harder, the method this post talks about is excellent, but there are more, and when it comes to body weight training our bodies adapt even faster, so we need a big arsenal of option to keep the workout challenging. Changing your body position and the workout tempos will bring more dificulty to any exercise, using again the push up as an example, the easier way to make the exercise harder is to start placing your feet each time higher, the purpose eventually will be for you to be able to perform handstand pushes, that will be a huge proof of strenght you can believe me.

Also a closer grip will make push ups a lot harder too.

The method shown is this post is also an excellent way of getting in shape, to improve resistance.

Add this workout with some sprints and everyone can believe the results will be very good, and surprising too

Cody April 10, 2009 at 10:37 am

Thanks for addressing this! I was one of those guys who just happened to email you about this very subject this past week. Going to give it a try!
Nate: That sound like a Crossfit w/o.
Jon: Good question, I look forward to Rusty’s response.

Patrick April 10, 2009 at 10:54 am

Hey Rusty,
I like this strategic approach to pushups and I will give it a try. When I do pushups I like to slow the movement down to where Im holding the contraction for 5 sec at top and bottom, it makes pushups more difficult the slower it is performed and you can’t do as many, this works well with pullups and dips as well. I’m sure you see it all the time, most people go way to fast on there movements no matter if its weights or bodyweight and pay no attention to technique. Great post, its always good to learn new strategies to implement or add to the toolbox.

Terry April 10, 2009 at 12:11 pm

This sounds worth a try. I’ve never heard of it before and there are some muscles I’d like to build a little.

Good show. Thanks for sharing this.

3ller April 10, 2009 at 2:12 pm

checked out the edt page. If pavel says its good, you better believe it 🙂
Hey Rusty, sorry i havent commented in a while. But let me say congrats. Your site is really starting to take off and your ebook was awesome.
Hoping for more reports and posts


Scoth April 10, 2009 at 2:31 pm

Hi all,

I read Nic’s original article a bit ago and the reason he gave for using lower reps was to maintain the quality and explosivity of the movement to target the fast twitch fibres.
This is obviously different to the tension type reps Rusty normally encourages but might be a nice option to add some variety.

Thank you for some great information!

Jason G April 10, 2009 at 3:49 pm

I think this is an interesting technique and could be tweaked for strength training. By performing the pushups very slowly, like Patrick was saying, you could cause enough tension in the muscles so three to five reps is hard. For example you could spend ten seconds lowering your body and ten seconds raising your body. From there you can do the exercise as described above(continuous sets until fatigued). This would be a good technique when you are traveling, but I would not use it as a long term replacement for resistance training.

Wazzup April 10, 2009 at 4:55 pm

Interesting.. I might give this a try next week. I was looking for something light, but yet hard.

Patrick April 10, 2009 at 6:56 pm

I think Jason G knows exactly what i mean by 10 seconds lowering and raising on the pushups, and he brings up a very good point, that this would be good shock treatment to your body when you are traveling and or can’t get to the free weights. the combination of slow movement and continuous sets until fatique as Jason described should be quite effective when used occasionally.

Mel April 10, 2009 at 7:18 pm

Excellent write-up, however I use bodyweight movements like pushups/dips/etc. mainly for strength endurance and conditioning, but as a mass gainer I never thought to include them. If you remember from my last comment I stressed about feeling “overtrained” which may have led you to believe that I once was fat and was dieting and exercising to lose weight, however this was not the case. I was lean to begin with, I just wanted to workout to get stronger and better conditioned — but I am exhausted now.

I was just wondering how you feel about taking a whole week off of training? Something that I’m considering at the moment, to let my whole nervous system repair itself as I’ve never really given my body the adequate rest during my whole year of excessive training. I also have a fast metabolism, so maybe in conjunction with all the training I’ve been doing, my food intake wasn’t up to par which might have been putting a damper on my sex drive/energy.

So, what is your stance on a whole week off of training? Good or bad? I’m just afraid to lose lean body mass. Thanks

chuck April 11, 2009 at 1:40 pm

another question about the abs.. the only workout you recommend is plank so shall i just hold the plank for 3 counts or seconds or otherthing…just curious can you make an example. that will be kind of you

admin April 11, 2009 at 3:29 pm


Give it a shot and tell me what you think.


Burpees are brutal. It is funny that one of the most effective exercises was something we did back in Junior high. You will prbably be sweating like a pig if you do this for 15 minutes.


Your approach looks good. Give this a shot and see how it feels. Doing the same exercise back to back will probably break down the muscles a bit better if you are aiming for mass.


A bit different. You can generate stronger contractions when hitting 3 reps at a time. Also…you do this a bit differently than my typical recommendations…do 3 explosive reps at a time.


Yeah…I probably won’t use it at this time either, but it is a good method to keep in your bag of tricks.


I don’t recommend holding your breath. Breath naturally…and breath out when you are in the positive portion of the lift. Holding your breath may help a bit, but is dangerous in my opinion.


Yeah…should work well…especially for chest.


Good point…your body won’t get too big if you just use mainly body weight training. It builds a natural amount of muscle. Thanks for the links. It is cool that people can build strength, mass, and cut body fat with nothing but body weight exercises. It is a good skill to know, so you can stay in great shape on vacations or away from home.


There are a ton of options. Go to Youtube and type in “body weight exercises”. Just find one that works best. For back and biceps it certainly helps to have a chinup bar.


Good points and I agree that it is good to go high rep every now and then. I go high rep when I’m doing body weight circuits for fat loss and it works well. Also great tips on changing positioning to increase the challenge. Thanks for these great recommendations!


I think you may have given me the idea to write this post. About half of the posts I write are from ideas I get in the comment section of the site.


Your slow method will work well. This is the way I do most of my lifting. To mix it up you may want to do 3 explosive reps of push ups. It will be easy at first, but it will become tougher and tougher a few sets in.


Nick Nilsson and Charles Staley have quite a few good techniques. I don’t like the main site that they do guest posts on (won’t name it), but I do really appreciate their knowledge.


Thanks for coming back, buddy. You were reading and commenting on my site when it was just a few dozen visitors per day…now I have days that top 8,000. I really appreciate it that you were active when very few people knew about my site. I believe it is the regular readers, not me, that makes this site fun to read. Yes, Pavel claims that EDT is the best muscle building program on the internet. If I wanted to gain mass I would implement this type of training for at least part of the year.


Thanks for pointing that out. I should add that into my post. You guys are always helping me out…appreciate it!


I agree with you. I think learning how to gain strength with body weight exercise is a great skill to perfect. My future plans include 2-3 month trips to far off places like Costa Rica. I am trying to learn the skill of getting great workouts without equipment. I am a ninja master of getting good workouts in the gym, but that isn’t going to do me any good if I’m living on the beach for a few month…far from any type of equipment.


This will be a good thing to try to switch things up.


It should work well.


I take a full week break at least once every 6 months. It does wonders. Even if you lose a tiny bit of mass (which isn’t likely), you will gain it back in a week or two. The great thing about taking a break is that you can’t wait to finally go back to the gym. With a renewed enthusiasm you will get better results in the long run. So…I think it is a great idea.


I know Nick’s program mentioned abs, but I wouldn’t do abs in this manner. I don’t see a need for adding mass to abs. Just a couple 2 minute plank holds will do the trick.


Done Emmerson April 11, 2009 at 6:52 pm

Hi Rusty

I have a question about Pilates – is that just a waste of time – or would it be a good way tone muscles? (for woman that is)

Thanks a lot

Scott April 11, 2009 at 8:34 pm

Fitness BlackBOARD is gonna be Epic!

chuck April 12, 2009 at 10:43 am

another question rust.. i just finished reading edt and i have some thoughts…. in your site you recommend training with heavy weights, but in nick’s book he mentioned that you cant get fatigued with the first few sets, the problem is if you are using heavy weights you should probably get fatigue by the first set, so please give me your 2 cents rusty. thanks

Blake April 12, 2009 at 11:29 am

Hey Mel,

Taking a whole week off is a great idea. In fact it’s necessary every once in a while. The body needs it, and you will usually come back refreshed and even stroger than before. Its good to take a break from training every 8-12 weeks.


Great post. I’ll be trying this one out. I really love using compound bodyweight exercises, but have also been looking for a way to gain some mass. Thanks for th great site.

Rambodoc April 12, 2009 at 8:49 pm

Why not a post on single leg workouts, and how they benefit specific parts of the body and correct weaknesses?

Matt April 13, 2009 at 4:45 am

That’s a great article rusty and is a technique I have used to great effect for a while now with some of my clients who like to train outdoors.

Just wanted to add further fuel for the fire on this technique.

admin April 13, 2009 at 4:19 pm


Pilates is not effective for weight loss. It simply doesn’t burn enough calories or jack up your metabolism. It is better than nothing, but nowhere close to Interval work.


I need to update Fitness Blackboard. I am a bit behind. (In case people are wondering. People who download the Supplement Conspiracy, get to be on my exclusive Newsletter list…Fitness Black Board).


Heavy weight with low reps won’t fatigue the muscles…especially if you stop 1-2 reps short of failure. I recommend 5-6 sets of 3 reps with a weight you can do 5 times…or 4-5 sets of 5 reps with a weight you can do 6-7 times.


Thanks for commenting. I enjoy reading what you guys have to say. Give this routine a try.


Good point. I should do something along those lines.


Glad to hear of someone who has tried this with good success.


pnw fitness April 13, 2009 at 6:40 pm

I did this Saturday with decline push-ups.

1.) At least on this first workout, it was a bit hard to focus with stopping/and starting every 10 seconds. I looked at a timer as to not cheat. I feel 15 would have been better in preparing the following set for cleaner form.

2.) I didn’t fatigue enough to tack on more rest time (almost in the last minute). Am I missing something?

I think the next workout I’ll do declines with tall PU stands and maybe some added weight.

I did feel satisfied when it was over.

keith April 13, 2009 at 8:26 pm

hey rusty,
great site i was wondering what is your take on eating bannanas. Many people consider them as a simple carb and it is a little higher on the GI index, but its still a fruit so is it healthy? Would it be ok to eat them daily if im trying to lose weight. Thansk.

Marc Lavender April 13, 2009 at 11:42 pm

Body weight exercises are so effective and so overlooked. I find that most clients like to turn away from machines since they are “scary” looking.

Nate - Fit-Life Online April 14, 2009 at 1:40 am

Gave this workout a try with regular push-ups.

I actually did 20 minutes instead of 15 (on accident, basically), and even then I only ended up extending my rest time to 20 seconds for the last few minutes. More than anything I found myself bored during this workout. Constantly looking at my watch, and the stop/start nature of it started to get a little old.

I will say, however, that the following day I was experiencing quite a bit of soreness in my chest. So this workout must have done something right.

I might give this workout format another try with pull-ups.

chuck April 14, 2009 at 7:32 am

the original edt workout concept:

Here is how EDT works. Take two antagonistic muscles for each workout such as the quads and hamstrings. For example, lets use squats and stiff-legged deadlifts to illustrate. Go back and forth between squats and stiff-legged deadlifts for as many sets as you can in a designated time period such as twenty minutes. Charles refers to this twenty-minute period as a “PR Zone.” Choose a training load that you can complete ten times with solid form and do multiple sets of three to five for as many sets as possible in each “PR Zone.”

While training to failure should be avoided, feel free to take your final sets to the limit in order to achieve as many reps as possible. Just do not compromise form to do so. Keep the rest breaks short in between each set and only rest as long as you need. I recommend that you use a stopwatch to stay on track. Make sure to take advantage of a training journal and record the number of total reps that you complete for each exercise after each “PR Zone.”

For example, if you completed forty total reps on squats with 315lbs, your goal at the next squat workout is to achieve a minimum of forty-one reps. As long as you are doing more reps at each workout, you will make progress and increase strength and size. Here is an example of an EDT program that I tried with kettlebells:

Note: Choose a training load that you can complete ten times with solid form and do multiple sets of three to five for as many sets as possible in each “PR Zone.”

space April 14, 2009 at 10:25 am

Great Post !
I do Bw exercices on every trip away from home + gym.

But I still have one question about abs: I agree with you that mass building must not be the aim, but do you propose any specific exercise to underline (or “dig”) the separation line crossing the belly button ?

Oh and one more: how to build nice shoulders without developong traps (I hate them, they get you triangular instead af square and no bodybuilding trainer can understand what I’m talking about!)

I’m interested in the answers of everybody!
Once again I love your real life muscle blog approach ! Keep it up!

Arya-weight loss blog April 14, 2009 at 3:07 pm

Hey Rusty,
I am nearing my fat loss goal and believe I only have a week or two left. My ultimate goal is to get into a maintenance mode where I have no more fat to burn and can concentrate on holding this leanness for a long period of time and building muscle density through strength training. However I do feel my shoulders and triceps could use a bit of size. I am content with the muscle in my back biceps and chest and would like to continue to train them for tone. Is it possible to train triceps and shoulders for mass while training back, bi’s and chest for tone. Once I achieve my desired mass in my shoulders and tri’s I can then train only for tone and density.
I have seen you recommend Pavels mass routing as well as others. Can you recommend an exercise plan to attain some mass in these two muscle groups while continuing the muscle tone lifting routine you gave me? Also will I have to eat in a calorie surplus in order to achieve this. Maybe eat in a surplus on days when I lift with these two muscle groups and eat maintenance on all other days? Thanks Rusty I am getting extremely close to my desired physique and have you to thank. I want to attain this physique for not only myself but for the thousands of overweight and obese people struggling to make a change. I want to prove to them that it’s possible to not only lose the weight, but also to take to the next level and look amazing. It just takes hard work, patience, and determination.

DR April 14, 2009 at 5:51 pm


I have been a big fan of Staleys EDT for years and years.

Nick’s program looks like it should be worth an excrutiating workout or two. I would be curious to hear back from some of your readers who try out Nick’s workout.

Recently i have been using a similar method of training. I am almost finished with it and plan to switch to a lower intensity, higher endurance protocol for 3 weeks. but after that, i think i might give this program a shot.

If you wouldn’t mind, I would appreciate some constructive criticism on the program I am just finishing. While, I am a natural endo/mesomorph, this program has been great for ripping off some of my “winter weight”

Here’s a description of the program

Jay.Cee. April 15, 2009 at 2:16 am

I think this is great, but i would want to try it with some weights.
say im doing bicep curls.i still follow the same regime?

i do it for 15 minutes?how heavy is the weight supposed to be?

Alfredo April 15, 2009 at 2:48 pm

Hi: Interesting article, firdt time in this site.

I have never done exercise like that way. I will give it a try.

Thanks for the information

Amelia Burton - Health & Fitness Coach April 16, 2009 at 10:28 pm

Hi Rusty,

The thing I love about this method is it’s focus on form. So many exercisers have poor posture, internally rotated shoulders due to training with poor form.

I love your website, I’d love to know your methods for building it up so successfully! You’ve done so well!


Greg April 16, 2009 at 10:56 pm

I love body weight exercises. I have even read suggestions that until you can manage X-number of body weight exercises you shouldn’t even bother with a dumbbell. I don’t agree with that, but there are some out there that do.

Janel April 17, 2009 at 5:17 pm


I love this workout! One of the things I don’t like about getting in a “good workout” is that if I don’t get nauseous (which I hate!), I don’t feel like I worked out hard enough. This puts me in a lose-lose situation. The idea that I get to stop BEFORE it hurts and still have an effective workout that I can feel good about is amazing! (I prefer to workout light–I just do.) I’ve modified it for myself and right now I’m doing 10min of pushups, 10min of abs and 10min of lunges/squats. I’m putting together other bodyweight exercises I can do the full body workout with the 2 day split.


spen c. April 27, 2009 at 3:24 pm

sounds good to me, ive been doing body weight exercises for the past two months and i am progressivly getting stronger, but i am sure this will maximize my results and make the workouts less boring.

chuck May 17, 2009 at 5:33 am

EDT is originally designed to use a weight that you can do 10 rep. i doubt if using bodyweight exercise will do any good. (although i tried with push up and i sore for 5 freakin days) remember to ice massage the muscle after you’ve done with the routine, as the author recommended it. and rest until your soreness disappear before your next routine!! YEAP, EDT is designed to be SORE. as the author point out: your gonna pay if you want fast result. you may try the russian bear method for mass too, without soreness

JR May 18, 2009 at 9:40 am

This is a GREAT site….very addictive!

JR May 18, 2009 at 9:42 am

I did this pushup workout 4 days ago…still sore…lol. I like the whole idea of not exhausting the muscle by doing 3 reps per set, plus you can maintain perfect form with full ROM…awesome!

gabe May 28, 2009 at 1:14 am

(SORRY – WRONG EMAIL BEFORE) love this idea..BUT BUT BUT…how else do you isolate the other muscle groups with body weight moves…the push up is a no-brainer for the chest…but what about everything else??? thank you so much – peace

Tony G June 17, 2009 at 7:37 pm

I tried this workout doing 15 minutes of pull ups, 15 minutes of push ups, and finishing off with 15 minutes of sit ups. I kept my rest for 10 seconds the entire time and did 3 reps each time. I used push up bars for the push ups, using a full range of motion to try and make the workout harder. The only part that started to get hard was the pull ups. Maybe I’m just a beast or have great genetics. One thing I can say though is that it did produce a great pump, especially in my chest. Not a bad pump up workout to do back stage for any of you bodybuilders out there…

Sonny December 17, 2009 at 6:08 pm

Hey Rusty,

great post mate. I read this post on EDT and actually mentioned it to a friend who tried it. He mentioned that in between supersets you have a meal (protein and carb) and then you perfrom another superset.

I was wondering what your thoughts on this was as im following your reccomendation of not eating for 4 or so hours before working out and then waiting 1-2 hours to eat after the workout.

I would like to put on thickness, density as in have that thick muscle look that still when flexed it has that muscle tone.

Currently i just started the E2E program and also do heavy sets for low reps. The reason i was interested in the EDT program is because I want to increase my arm size as its the lagging body part. Is the EDT way to go or stick with what im doing.

So much information out there and much of it contradicts, im not really sure what to follow.

My goal is to decrease my body fat %, for some reason my fat seems to gravitate around my abs and chest. The rest of my body is quite muscular, except my arms. So while trying to increase my arm size im also looking to torch body fat.

As far as training im doing 1 day on 1 day off. The ON days i do heavy sets for low reps concentrating on arms but maintaining back, shoulders, chest followed by 15 mins HIT. The OFF days i do exercises like farmers walk, dumbell swings, barbell throws, planks, renegade rows, burpees, etc for a circuit done 3 times followed by 30 mins of kickboxing as a steady-state cardio session. I do take 1 day completely off.

Any help or tweaks in my diet or routine is much appreciated. Apologies for the long post.


Patrick January 4, 2010 at 2:08 pm

Hey Rusty,

Thank you for posting this article. I greatly appreciate it, this will help me develop a new workout system for me. I have read other articles that you posted and it is really interesting. I will definitely use FBB as your reference fitness site. I have something to ask you and give me some advice for what I’m doing.

I developed a workout my self for seven days, Sundays and Saturdays are my Cardio Days to lose additional fat. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesdays are bodyweight exercises with the required structured you mentioned ( 3 reps, 10 secs and continue for 15 mins). Then Thursday and Friday are the same thing, but this time I’ve added the 3 second count to do the actual exercise properly with better form for shock resistance, plus the same resting time. Is this a safe workout for me to do?

Thank you very much Rusty and sorry for the long post.


Giovanni February 11, 2010 at 3:58 pm

Hey Rusty,

What should I eat before and after this workout? And should I do it everyday. I’m tryna get a nice bigger chest with the pushup method.

spence March 21, 2010 at 1:18 pm

This sounds interesting. It is just one of the many ways to train with your body weight. I do have to dissagree with your statement that high rep is endurance training. You see, I have had a good expierince with body weight, and I have a cousin who only uses it. He is one of the strongest people I know and he does high rep. My friends dont want to wrestle or fight or anything with me because I am to strong for them. High rep = endurance? No, it builds both strength and endurance at the same time. Think about it with chinups. You lift say, 180 pounds for fifty reps or more in your workout. Are your mucles only going to get the endurace factor? No! Try this technique with weights. Take a exercise, such as bent over rows, and use a weight such as 150-200lbs and do 50+ reps for a month. Then see what happens.

stonecoldcrazy March 28, 2010 at 7:16 pm

You’re going to overtrain your body, and as a result you won’t get muscles, you’ll burn them, and promote stored fat.
So, is this workout good for mass and strength? I workout 3 days per week can you suggest me a way to split it? Personally I don’t like to split, I like full bodies the most, but I’ts imposible to do a fb workout less than an hour with this workout
Also, I’m going to stick to this routine 3 months or more, what do you think? Should I add anything?
PS:Nice website, very helpful

Zaffer July 31, 2010 at 2:03 pm

It makes a difference!
You do 20 reps with 5-10 sec intervals the cumulative fatigue builds faster instead u do like 5 reps wait 5 sec and do them again till around 15 minutes the volume of training increases so u land up doin like 20 sets instead of 8 -10 sets with 20 rep and besides with a high rep count like 20 the lactic acid formation in the muscles will be zippy quicker and hence fatigue point comes quicker
The point is to vary the load or tension on the muscle and by underdoing your capacity it gives a neurological spike in ur muscles
and besides anything over 8 reps either bodyweigh or iron , it becomes endurance training
So u see u need to do way more number of sets with less less reps
becoz the total volume of work needs to be more and there is no definate figure like 10 or 15 sets , how many eva in the given time line. With 20 reps and more sets the fatigure sure would build faster even if u are sm1 who can do 120 pushups in a set
The whole idea to gain hypertrophy in bodyweight workouts is many sets less reps, fatigue, once in a while u can try to max out but other wise to achieve hypertrophy only with body weight this is the way to go buddy.

Zaffer July 31, 2010 at 2:25 pm

One more thing ive experienced personally is that by doing reps way below ones capacity say u do just 4-5 reps of push ups for as many sets as u can in say 15 mins during ur workout , then once in a way u stretch to see ur max in a set and u will definately find ur max would gave gone up considerably, its very important to stop a few reps below ur capacity becoz it has a neurological effect on ones strength in the long term coz like the article says mass and strength gain go hand in hand
And if u find 3 per set is too low to get u fatigued at the end of 15 mins ,simple make it 5-6 per set , find ur balance , it differs frm person to person but the basic idea here suggested is superb
Good am really impressed
Cheers to the author!!!!

loser1 August 28, 2010 at 10:16 pm

try jumping jacks for 3 5 7 10 mins. your shoulders would look big.
thus making you look big without being big. it gives you that effect of lifting weight. but not really. its really cause you are tone and lean.

John October 4, 2010 at 4:16 pm

Great ideas for body weight training. I used to do a lot of free weights and now I only do body weight. When you switch gyms or you’re between gyms you don’t miss a beat cause you’ve always got the equipment you need with you.

Tony - Rochester Exercise Equipment October 22, 2010 at 3:11 pm

Thanks for the helpful tips. I’m kinda a small guy and I’ve been trying to build mass by drinking protein shakes and some other products that I bought at GNC. I think it’s about time I gave this a try.

pilates classes los angeles November 15, 2010 at 6:20 pm

Thanks for the tips! I will have to pass this article along to my dad!

John November 25, 2010 at 11:56 am

Thanks for response.
Can’t I just do a 3 day full bodyworkout approach to this concept?
Spend 15 minutes on bodyweight squats, 15 on chins, 15 on pushups, and 15 on dips in between chairs.
Or maybe do this twice weekly.
I have to put work in on my home Martial Arts routine which is 2 days 1 hour each and this would give me 2 days of “active” rest where I can do an easy 15 minute stretch type workout.
Any comments welcome.

Trent November 27, 2010 at 6:55 pm

What if you add weight to the excersises? would that be more beneficial?

Jason October 31, 2011 at 8:29 pm

Has anyone used this bodyweight technique for extended time? Did you experience good mass increases?

Kiri November 22, 2011 at 9:02 am

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….

Rocky May 21, 2012 at 6:15 am

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.

Victor July 21, 2012 at 11:54 pm

Great Technique, Don’t Have Lot Of Time To Go To the Gym. Keep Up The Good Work Man.

Josh July 28, 2012 at 10:32 pm

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.

abhimanyu August 21, 2012 at 7:37 am

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

Steve September 21, 2012 at 5:41 am

Holly cow I’ve never thought about this method, will be giving it a go. Thanks

Steve (UK)

Kevin Martin September 25, 2012 at 5:19 am

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.

Kevin Martin September 25, 2012 at 7:50 am

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!

RANDOM October 15, 2012 at 2:54 am

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

harry ballsonya March 22, 2013 at 7:18 am

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

Shane Baird May 6, 2013 at 1:00 pm

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.

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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