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Muscle Building Bodyweight Workouts

Mike Thiga transformed himself from a scrawny 148 pounds to a massive 187 pounds. In slightly less than 6 months, he packed on 39 pounds of solid muscle, all without ever lifting a weight or going to the gym.

Learn how he did it in Bodyweight Exercises to Build Muscle

Bodybuilding and Fitness Newsletter 9/28/2022

Build muscle with BODYWEIGHT training (don't just add reps!)

By Mike Thiga author of The Muscle Experiment

Doing bodyweight training on a regular basis specifically to increase muscle mass (hypertrophy) relies on you training with two very important principals in mind. We are going to briefly discuss these two vitally important principals to help you change your bodyweight workout to ensure muscle growth and increase the lean body mass you carry.

Principle 1: Time Under Tension (TUT)

Time under tension (TUT) is not a new concept to anyone who has been training with weights as it is the only way to increase strength. The amount of time that your muscles are put under tension when doing a movement needs to increase more than it was previously if you want to increase strength (progressive resistance).

Muscle strength comes from the breakdown of the muscle fibers that get re-built during recovery time. The lactate that is produced from this strenuous activity is simply a byproduct of the metabolism dealing with all strenuous activity, like all weight training and bodyweight training.

This was studied in an extensive study done in The University of Brasilia in Brazil. The objective of the study was to isolate how three different types of approaches to training change blood lactate levels in the volunteers in the study. They were split into three groups.

The first group did 10 reps making each subsequent rep slower than the previous one, using about 30 seconds for the concentric and 30 to 120 seconds for the eccentric on each rep.

The second group did 10 reps max by holding isometric movement at full extension for 5 seconds on each rep. The third group also did a 10 rep max but would hold the isometric contraction for 20 seconds, fully extended and doing this before performing their 10 rep max using normal speed.

The results clearly showed that group one produced the highest lactate levels of the three groups. This means that the slower a movement is done the more metabolic stress will be caused. This increases the lactate levels that increase the strength you can generate.

Principle 2: Tension Under Tension

It might be unfortunate for you to hear that TUT will increase strength but not the size of a muscle significantly. This is obvious as a marathon runner would have massive legs if this was so, we know the opposite is true. Research clearly shows that the amount of tension your muscles are put under when training is vital for hypertrophy.

Increasing tension and lowering reps using your bodyweight is not as complicated as it might sound. When you are in the gym it's easy to just select a heavier weight than you did the last time you trained. To put your body or a body-part under more strain (tension) and lower the reps means you need to change the angle of the stress put on a specific body-part. A good example is a push-up where you can increase the tension on one side by doing it with one arm or just slightly less pressure than the other arm.

For example, if we consider push-ups, you normally distribute your bodyweight equally between both arms. However, if you put more of your weight on either arm, the resistance that side has to deal with the increase tension. There are many ways to play with weight distribution using percentages.

You can use the angle of your body to increase or decrease the amount of strain you put on a particular group of muscles. If we go back to the push-up which obviously puts tension on the chest, we can simply change the angle which redistributes your bodyweight and the tension, allowing you to focus on adding more weight (tension) on a particular part of the muscle group you are focusing on.

Doing a push-up on a decline or an incline will change the angle of distribution the same as doing a one-handed push-up would. Tension can also be effectively increased by squeezing the targeted muscle at the top of the concentric movement. A good example would be squeezing your biceps when reaching the top of chins or pull-ups. This forces your muscles to recruit a lot more muscle fibers, impacting directly on the size of the muscle. Squeezing your biceps at the top of a chinning movement would increase the tension and increase muscle growth.

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