How to build muscle with high volume bodyweight training?

high volume bodyweight training


Anyone who does not have access to the gym and bodyweight workout is the only option left with you then this article is going to make you aware of all the tips and tricks to grow with bodyweight workouts only. 

Your muscle does not understand the term “weight lifting”, it gets stronger by adapting itself to resist higher resistance. Tips to build muscle with high volume bodyweight training:

  • Increase the number of repetitions or sets.
  • Include different variations to hit the same muscle fibers.
  • Use weighted vests to increase resistance.
  • Increase time under tension with Isometrics.
  • Train till total failure

No matter whether you train with dumbells, machines, or bodyweight, the right strategy will help you grow stronger and bigger.  Now, lets get

Can you build muscle with only bodyweight exercises?

Of course, you can! high volume bodyweight training has been proven effective to improve strength and hypertrophy. 

Many lifters are not really compelled by the bodyweight training because it does not allow the perfect rep range (6-12) needed for hypertrophy. Perfect rep range is one of the biggest misconceptions of the fitness industry.

  • 1-5 reps are for strength
  • 5-12 reps are for hypertrophy
  • 12+ reps help in muscular endurance. 

Truth is, a perfect range for hypertrophy is a lie. No matter if you are doing 5 reps or 50 reps, you can experience muscle gain if you are training your muscles till failure.

An interesting study conducted at McMaster University, Researchers found some really interesting facts, they concluded: “Resistance exercise load does not determine the hypertrophy gains”. Researchers found, muscle protein synthetic rates of the group that lifted a low weight until failure resulted in similar hypertrophy as a heavy load lifted to failure.

To support the argument, let’s take an example of lightweight Olympic lifters who lift incredible amounts of weight without putting muscle mass. If the lifting heavy is the only deciding factor then how could these Olympic lifters were soo lean? 

The fact is, your muscle hypertrophy does not depends on the weight you lift, it depends on whether you are lifting the weight until failure. 

Constantly increasing the volume of your bodyweight and training until your muscle reaches its failure will lead to muscle hypertrophy. 

Think Failure, Not Fatigue

Many lifters don’t understand the difference between failure and fatigue. Fatigue is temporary and you can go for another set after a little break. On the other hand, reaching failure is a point where your body doesn’t allow you to go another set. 

Most of the lifters are training until fatigue, not a failure. 

A number of reps don’t matter, the weight of resistance doesn’t matter either, you need to concentrate on hitting muscle failure. 

Art of Progression with Bodyweight training

art of progression with bodyweight training

How to increase the intensity is one of the most difficult part of bodyweight training, you can easily add a few pounds in your barbell but you have got a constant bodyweight that doesn’t change. Here are some tips for progressive overload with bodyweight. 

1- Increase the number of reps

Increasing the total number of reps is one of the best ways to increase the overload. 

For example, if you are doing pushups, increase 10 pushups every week. So if you are doing 200 pushups in 8 sets, then do 210 pushups in 8 sets next week. 

Another example of pullup progression: 

  • Week 1- 5*5*5*5*5, 5-sets  
  • Week 2- 6*6*5*5*5, 5-sets 
  • Week 3- 6*6*6*5*5, 5-sets
  • Week 4- 6*6*6*6*5*3 (so in the fourth week, we introduced additional set)
  • Week 5- 7*6*6*6*5*3, 6-sets

2- Increase the number of sets

If you cant increase the number of reps then increase the number of sets. 

This happens especially with pullups, I have seen guys who could not go further than 15 pullups. Adding a few more sets is always a great idea, this will help in breaking plateau and stimulating new growth. 

3- Time under tension

Once you master the high number of reps then its time to increase the time under tension. 

Slowing down the workout momentum can play a dramatic role in muscle gains. It not only improves your strength but also improves your ability to control the movement. Additionally, slowing down the momentum also help you pay pore emphasis on negative reps and develop better control over movement.

4- Weighted vests

When it seems like the workout is getting a little boring then its time to add a few pounds of resistance. Training with weighted vests came into fashion because of CrossFit athletes who practice high-intensity bodyweight circuits. 

A weighted vest is my favorite option to increase resistance while bodyweight workouts. 

How high volume bodyweight training help?

bodyweight core workout

The problem with the bodyweight training is you can’t really stick to the 8-12 reps, but increasing the total volume can assist in training the muscle to failure. 

Of course, training with bodyweight feels lightweight to many serious lifters, for example, many experienced lifters can do 50 pushups in a row or 100 squats in a single set. 

If you are taking those high reps up to failure then you will surely trigger the muscle growth

1# Muscular endurance

Muscular endurance is about your muscle’s ability to exert continuous force without reaching fatigue. High volume bodyweight workout definitly allows you to develop that intense work capacity. 

How does greater muscular endurance help in bodybuilding? Bodybuilding is all about pushing body for those extra 2-3 reps, improves work capacity helps in achieving those extra reps that do make a difference. 

Most of the lifters at the gym develop incredible strength but have really poor work capacity which leaves a lot of muscle mass on the table. 

2# Metabolic stress

For me, it doesn’t matter how many reps you do each set, I can make your 5 rep set as difficult at 20 reps by increasing the time under tension. 

Metabolic stress is a physiological process that occurs during high volume training that leads to metabolite accumulation [lactate, phosphate inorganic, and ions of hydrogen (H+)] in muscle cells. Metabolic stress has been proven to trigger crucial hormones that contain anabolic properties. 

High volume training also puts your body under extreme metabolic stress because of increased time under tension. Performing a high number of reps not only pushes more blood into those muscle tissue but also creates metabolic stress for growth and hypertrophy

3# Blood supply:

High volume training has been proven to create new capillaries in the skeletal muscle. Increased capillarization has been observed in training studies performed at 70–80% of V˙O2max whereas training at an intensity of 45% of V˙O2max has been shown to have no effect on capillarization. How to maintain 70–80% of V˙O2max? By keeping shorter rest periods below 120 seconds. 

How does capillarization help in muscle building?

Capillarization promotes supply of nutritious blood to the muscle cell which promotes growth and recovery. 

4# Muscle fiber recruitment

When my client’s complaints about the lack of muscle activation then I usually ask them to do high volume sets. 

Performing high rep bodyweight workouts increases the time under tension which sends the signal to the brain to recruit more muscle fibers to support the movement. 

This adaptation of improves muscle fiber recruitment helps in improves strength, and improved metabolism. 

5# Joint strength

Most of the lifters are pursuing muscle thickness and density, but totally ignores the joint health. High volume workout may help in improving tendon thickness and resiliency. Increasing the thickness not only protects you from uncertain injuries but also stores greater energy to lift heavier.

Not surprisingly, Louie Simmons (former American powerlifter and current strength coach) incorporates a lot of very high rep work to training his powerlifters (mostly done with bands or sleds).

Bodyweight training FAQ

1- Can you get ripped with just bodyweight exercises?

Getting ripped or gaining weight is a matter of proper nutrition. If you pay emphasis on eating clean food and tracking your calorie intake then you can surely get ripped with bodyweight workouts alone. A high protein diet with low carbs is always an optimum solution to get ripped.
You must have seen calisthenics guys who develop s greek good type physiques by just bodyweight workouts.

2- Bodyweight exercises for beginners?

5 bodyweight exercises can help you build a stronger version of yourself. 2 workouts for the upper body and 3 workouts for the lower body.
– Pushups for the stronger chest
– Pullups or chinups for a stronger back
– Squats and Lunges for Legs
– Glute bridge to engage gluteal muscles, core of the body, low back,and hips

3- Should I do 200 pushups a day?

It depends on the amount of damage you are doing to your muscles, if doing a 200 pushup is easy task for you then you can surely do in on daily basis, but if those 200 pushups take your body to complete failure then its not really recomended to do in on daily basis.
Your muscle requires proper recovery time, and training a muscle on daily basis is not the best way to promote growth. I would suggest to do 200 pushups on every alternate day.

4- Is it safe to do bodyweight exercises everyday?

Absolutely! its 100% safe to do the bodyweight exercises everyday but we do not suggest to do the same workout everyday.
You can split the training days into chest day, back day and legs day. Dividing the muscle groups into different training days not only help you train better but also allows proper recovery time for every muscle group.

Thanks for reading. Questions welcomed in the comments as always. 

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