Strength Training Without Weights: Home Workout Without Equipment | Not Your Average Fitness Tips

Strength Training Without Weights: Home Workout Without Equipment

As I do every 6-8 weeks, I’ve recently decided to change my workout routine.  I was focused on heavy strength training to help build dense muscles.  Now I’m planning to take a break from lifting and focus on strength training without weights.  By simply using my bodyweight, I’m confident I can perform a home workout without equipment that will help me maintain the size of my muscles while actually increasing functional strength.

Two staples of any bodyweight routine are pushups and squats.  There are quite a few variations on these exercises that make them easy enough for beginners and challenging enough for advanced trainees.  They are both compound exercises meaning they work multiple muscles.  These are the best types of exercise to build overall functional strength.  Combined, these two exercises alone could really work your entire body, but there are other upper and lower bodyweight exercises that can help round out a strength training routine as well.

Pushups

While doing lots of pushups is great for endurance, I’m going to recommend a different approach.  In general, strength training is best done in low rep ranges.  Once you get past 20 pushups, you’re really building more endurance than strength.  That’s why making pushups harder is critical if you want to build strength.

For beginners, pushups can be done on their knees or standing against the wall if necessary.  Once you can do a good number of standard pushups, then the fun really begins.  Standard pushups generally provide a great overall workout for the chest, arms, and even core, but here are a few different types of pushups you can experiment with to vary the targeted muscles and make them more challenging:

  1. Closed grip pushups: focus on tricpes
  2. Wide grip pushups: focus on shoulders
  3. Decline pushups: focus on the upper chest (help build square pecs)
  4. Hindu pushups: incorporates the back
  5. Plyometric pushups: explode off the ground
  6. Hip pushup: I learned this one from my friend Yavor at Relative Strength Advantage
  7. Finger tip pushups: focus on forearm/hand strength
  8. One arm pushups: a great way to increase strength one arm at a time
  9. Handstand pushups: the ultimate challenge, significant focus on shoulders

I’d recommend building up strength using each type of pushup.  Once you work up to 15-20 reps, try to incorporate a different type in your routine.  You might only be able to perform 1-3 reps for some of the more challenging pushup variations.

Squats

Normally I am against direct leg training, especially when it comes to lifting weights.  High intensity interval training (HIIT) that blends sprinting with active recovery is all I really think you need to build leg strength.  I think weights lead to a bulky appearance whereas I aim for the lean, athletic look.  However, bodyweight squats are a good way to build up leg strength and shouldn’t result in much mass gain if done using low reps.  Once again, there are quite a few variations of squats.  Beginners can simply do half squats, gradually working until they can do a full squat.  Advanced trainees can make squats more explosive, and challenging, by doing squat jumps.  Bodyweight squats can be made much more difficult by performing the one leg variation.

Bodyweight Density Training

A simple strength training routine involves density training.  You switch back and forth between pushups and squats in superset fashion.  You do this for 15 straight minutes.  You can perform any variety of each exercise that you like, but I’d start with the standard pushups and squats so you can see how challenging it is.  Begin by performing 5 pushups.  Get up and do 5 squats.  Go back and forth like this for as long as you can.  Never start a rep that you can’t complete though; you don’t want to train your muscles to failure.  Reduce the number of reps for each exercise or add some rest time between sets as needed to recover.  I think you’ll be surprised at how difficult this is, even after just a few minutes.

Other Exercises for Strength Training Without Weights

Pushups and squats are certainly the most convenient exercises to perform a home workout without equipment but there are other bodyweight exercises that you can add to your routine.  Pull ups are a great back and arm exercise, although they require a bar or something to hang from.  You could always hang from a door if necessary.  Inverted rows, essentially horizontal pull ups, require a bar as well but could possibly be done by hanging off the side of a table.  Dips work the chest and triceps and can be done by using two sturdy chairs.  For legs, plyometrics exercises serve as a great way to perform strength training without weights as they focus on explosive movements.  Overall you can have great success and experience strength gains simply by using your own bodyweight, even if you limit yourself to variations of squats and pushups.

29 Responses to “Strength Training Without Weights: Home Workout Without Equipment”

  • [...] Strength Training Without Weights: Home Workout Without Equipment … [...]

  • When you bodyweight train you really have to become creative sometimes which is a good thing.
    ! push up is my favourite is the spiderman push up, it really loads the shoulder up or on a decline with a fit ball if keen.
    Hey you could always get your son to hop on your back for a joy ride and some extra loading!
    Cycling workouts around is a game changer for improving fitness.
    Nice ideas
    Raymond

  • Raymond,
    Spiderman pushups offer another nice change of pace to the normal routine. Weighted pushups work nicely too…although I’m not sure my son would be willing to sit still for more than 3 seconds.
    Dave

  • The human body really can be better off with just bodyweight exercises, because end of the day, muscles will grow, if they are being put through the right amount of intensity, a muscle doesnt recognise free weights, it doesnt recognise whatever pressure is being put on that muscle, it just reacts to intensity and volume, hence why bodyweight workouts are good, as everyones own bodyweight is more than enough to sculpt a strong lean physique!

  • Dave,

    Looks like you’ve got your son starting early on the fitness training! After I’m done with Visual Impact, I’m going to switch my focus towards body weight exercises and start doing some of the more unconventional variations such as Hindu pushups.

    Alykhan

  • Hazman,
    You’re absolutely correct, muscles grow as long as you keep using them and continue to ramp up intensity and volume.

    Alykhan,
    I’m on the same page as you. I’m doing the bonus phase of Visual Impact now so I look great for my cousin’s wedding in 3 weeks and then switching over to Convict Conditioning.

    Dave

  • Dave,
    I really love body weight training! I am sticking with Visual Impact until the end, but I also plan on doing more body weight stuff. I actually did a little body weight stuff on and off this summer. Have you tried any of the suspension training with a rope, like the Tacfit stuff? It is pretty awesome and adds a whole lot of exercises that you can do either inside or outdoors with the rope hanging from a tree! I am looking forward to adding some of these to my workouts in the future.

  • Kelly,
    I haven’t tried Tacfit just yet but have heard a lot of great reviews. It’s definitely a way to add some unique variety to workouts.
    Dave

  • Dave, a real solid post man! Regarding squats -I’m with you. One legged squats or bodywefight squats for reps are killer! I’ve done 150 hindu squats – it’s a workout man :)

    Yavor

  • Yavor,
    150 Hindu squats is mighty impressive. I’m happy when I can do 50!
    Dave

  • Actually – it is as hard to do 50 as it is to do 150. You just grind out 5 more reps each day and you are there in a matter of weeks :)

  • I love push ups as there are so many different variations

  • I’ve just started a strength training workout without weights. My husband and I are doing the UFC workout for the Wii. For a video game workout – it’s pretty intense. I can’t even do 5 push-ups but I’m hoping as time goes on I can increase my strength.

  • Haylei,
    Some video game workouts can be pretty tough. Work hard enough and you’ll probably top out at some point in which case other exercises might become more beneficial.
    Dave

  • Gary:

    What about wall squats – I know they’re really hard but are they actually helpful?

  • Gary,
    Wall squats really focus on improving leg endurance. Maintaining the hold is challenging and will teach you to hold a good squat position. Beyond that, I’d say there’s less functional use than a traditional bodyweight squat which can improve both strength and endurance more effectively in my opinion.
    Dave

  • Fred:

    I’m an avid weightlifter, but I know from experience that you can build muscle, strength and endurance from bodyweight exercises.

    I went to Parris Island for boot camp when I was 18. When I got there I was 6’2″ 164 lbs. After 12 weeks of boot camp, I was 174 lbs. Every ounce gained was solid muscle.

    We did tons of mountain climbers, pushups, pullups, bends and thrusts, rope climbing, running and the list goes on and on.

    Wall squats were called sitting the wall and it was torture. I hated those things.

    Nice blog you have here, Dave. Keep up the good work.

    Fred

  • Fred,
    Thanks for sharing the experience. Sounds like one tough but effective boot camp!
    Dave

  • Sam:

    This is really helpful. I have found some video on youtube also about cardio-exercise and others. This article helps us to maintain body strength and fitness without going to the gym. I’ll look out for more of your posts. Good job!

  • Sam,
    Glad the article was helpful.
    Dave

  • Wyn:

    Can u provide more exercise for building lean muscle? I don’t want to look big so I’m scared of lifting weight. All I’ve been doing is just switching around between one day cardio and one day long walk with incline on treadmill or jogging, I do only this for 6 days in a week and now I wish to build muscle but not to get bulk up like hulk!! Is there a different exercise plan for that? Please help!! Thank you.

  • Wyn,
    The best way to build muscle is through resistance training so you’ll have to expand beyond cardio. If you want to limit gains in muscle, the key is actually just to avoid overeating. The other key is to avoid training your muscles to failure. If you’re really worried about too much size, bodyweight training is probably a good place to start. I like to focus on upper body training…pushups, pullups, dips, inverted rows, etc. You can add in some lower body training as well such as squats. Again, the key in any of this is that you don’t want to train to failure. If you cause your muscles to fail, you’ll gain a lot of size. Hope that provides a good starting point. Feel free to ask any other questions.
    Dave

  • Wyn:

    Hi, I’ve start doing ur hiit routine ( the 45 mins hiit) it’s a killer but I love it. I do it on elliptical machine, now what I’m wondering is what should be the intensity that I should set when I’m doing hiit? Should I always put it on a higher? My machine range from 1-16 I usually set it at 10 for the first phase and 8 for the third phase cuz it’s so tiring in the last phase. So would it give different result whether I put intensity on high or low? Well for sure my heart rate increase higher with high intensity ofcourse. By the way thanks for last reply it was helpful

  • Wyn,
    When you say intensity, are you referring to the resistance level? If so, it’s going to depend on a bit on your goals. I like to perform an all out sprint for the first 10 minute intervals. Since I like to go as fast as I can to increase my heart rate, I keep the resistance relatively low. Higher resistance requires more muscle strength but might not require as much lung strength. Plus, I like to instantly start sprinting so lower resistance allows me to do that. Higher resistance requires more pick-up if that makes sense.

    Bottom line, if you want to get stronger legs, then higher resistance will help. If you’re more focused on fat burning, then a lower resistance isn’t the worst thing in the world. As long as you’re putting in a strong effort, that’s the biggest key.

    Hope that makes sense.
    Dave

  • Wyn:

    Yes Dave it make sense, u r really good at explaining thank you! Actually I have many question that I would like to know, but I’ll ask later so I can give you some break.

  • Wyn,
    Happy to help at any time. Keep the questions coming.
    Dave

  • Wyn:

    Hi Dave, I’m just wondering whether what I’m doing is right or not. I exercise 6 days a week, and on my training days I would eat smaller 6-7 meals a day. And I would have one day that I called “free day” on that day I wouldn’t exercise and I don’t really care what I eat!! Haha I just keep eating unhealthy stuff all day long and I would drink alcohol only on my free day. And my free day is not specific, I shift it around. So, do u think it’s ok to do that??

  • Wyn,
    Everyone has their own routine. I do things a bit different than you say. On strength training days, I eat high calorie. On cardio days or off days, I eat lower calorie and lower carb. I make sure my cheat day falls on a strength training day so all those calories are used for something. Also, alcohol actually negates a lot of the benefits of a cheat day so drink at your own risk. However, the only way to know what’s going to work best for your body is to try it.
    Dave

  • Rick:

    Hindu pushups are really hard. They really hit my back, my triceps and my shoulders. It’s a great exercise that hits lots of muscles.

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