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How To Get Huge Without the Gym

Bodyweight hypertrophy at its best.

Do you find yourself without a gym or fitness equipment to train? This is the ultimate guide on how to get huge without the gym.

During the pandemic, the only alternative for many people was to do home workouts. Some even spent money getting a new treadmill or invested in a good barbell. But what if you don’t have access to any gym equipment and still want to train hard to get stronger and bigger?

For that, we use the information laid out by Dr Mike Israetel, PhD in Sport Physiology and co-founder of Renaissance Periodization, who is a well-respected professor in the bodybuilding community.

He recently talked about what people can and should do in case they want to kickstart or continue their hypertrophy journey. See below how Israetel replied when posed the question: “how to get huge without the gym?”

How To Get Huge Without the Gym

In a video, Israetel dived deep into the realm of training without a trace of equipment—no gym, no companions. Now, if you find yourself bereft of workout space and equipment, what’s the game plan?

Firstly, let’s not forget cardio—still very much on the menu. Jogging, parkour, leisurely walks, and hikes—they’re all fair game. But what about resistance training? How does one train sans dumbbells, barbells, or stretchy bands? Turns out, there’s a plethora of exercises that demand zilch in the equipment department. Picture this: push-ups with different hand positions, dips between two chairs, crunches, bodyweight squats, lunges, and more.

Source: Big Dodzy / Unsplash

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But what about the posterior side? The pulling exercises? A sturdy tree with low-hanging branches becomes your workout partner. From pull-ups and face pulls to inverted rows and curls—nature’s gym has you covered. And for leg exercises, just seek out a staircase or ledge for calf raises and other feats of strength.

Now, you might be pondering, “Alright, Dr. Mike, you’ve thrown a bunch of exercises my way. But what if I grow weary of the monotony?” Ah, fear not! By tweaking hand and foot positions, you birth new exercise variations. Narrow or wide stance, decline push-ups, diverse grips for pulls—the options are myriad.

But what about progression? A conundrum, indeed. Adding reps is a good start, pushing yourself beyond the conventional 30 repetitions. And don’t underestimate the power of rest time. Shrink those intervals, challenge your muscles, and watch them respond with growth.

Now, for the nitty-gritty of making gains—get close to failure, often. With less weight, that might mean successive sets approaching failure. Keep rest times brief, and don’t shy away from adding volume. Your muscles can handle it when the load isn’t astronomical. Finally, make it tough for your muscles—make them grind, and growth shall follow.

In short, these are Israetel’s ideas of how to get huge without the gym:

  1. Cardio is still possible
  2. Resistance training? How about push-ups, triceps push-ups, chair dips, crunches, bodyweight squats, lunges, splits squats, single-leg squats, stair calf raises
  3. Access to a tree branch? Pull-ups, face pulls, inverted rows, inverted curls
  4. Modify hand and foot positions – elevate your feet for decline push-up for example; stick to one variation for a while before switching it up

When it comes to progression, this is what you can do:

  • Add reps – up to 50 reps in one set is robust stimulus
  • Reduce rest time
  • Try myoreps
  • Add more sets
  • Decrease mechanical advantage

What is viewed by Israetel as critical factors are:

  • Get close to failure often in the same workout for more gains
  • Take less time to rest if your lungs are good to go
  • Add sets over time before deloading and recycling

To hear Israetel explain it all, simply click on the video below.

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Advantages of Bodyweight Exercises

Incorporating calisthenics into your fitness routine offers numerous benefits beyond achieving a lean and strong physique:

  1. Versatility: Bodyweight exercises can be performed anywhere, making them ideal for staying active even during travel or vacation.
  2. Joint Strength: Progressing to more advanced movements in calisthenics challenges your joints to support your body weight, providing a unique and beneficial form of joint strengthening.
  3. Full-Body Workout: Calisthenics engage multiple muscle groups, ensuring a comprehensive workout that targets the entire body, including areas often overlooked in traditional gym exercises.
  4. Impressive Skills: Mastering advanced bodyweight movements can leave a lasting impression on those around you, showcasing your strength and skill.
  5. Cost-Effective: Many bodyweight exercises require minimal to no equipment, making them an inexpensive option for achieving your fitness goals. Basic exercises can be performed with only your bodyweight, while adding a pull-up bar or finding one at a nearby playground expands your exercise options further.
  6. Effective for Weight Loss: Calisthenics, involving multiple muscle groups, tend to burn more calories than conventional cardio exercises, contributing to weight loss and increased overall energy expenditure.

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Drawbacks of Bodyweight Exercises

While calisthenics offer numerous advantages, there are a few limitations to consider:

  1. Limited Muscle Bulking: If your goal is to achieve significant muscle mass and a heavily muscular physique, calisthenics may not be the most efficient method. Powerlifting and gym-based weight training are better suited for bulking.
  2. Plateau Potential: Progressing in calisthenics can be challenging, as you are limited to utilizing your body weight. Unlike weight training, where you can easily increase the load, calisthenics require finding creative ways to continue challenging yourself with only bodyweight resistance.

Calisthenics offer a highly adaptable and effective form of exercise, allowing for workouts anywhere with minimal equipment. They promote joint strength, provide a full-body workout, and can impress others with advanced movements. However, individuals seeking substantial muscle mass or recovering from injuries may find other training methods more suitable. Despite potential plateaus, calisthenics remains a valuable and accessible approach to achieving overall fitness and strength.

Source: Courtesy of CrossFit Inc.

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When engaging in bodyweight exercises, it’s essential to adhere to key principles that optimize results and prioritize safety:

  1. Proper Form and Technique: Emphasize maintaining correct form and technique during each exercise to effectively target muscles and prevent injuries. Focus on alignment, engage targeted muscles, and execute movements with control and stability.
  2. Progression: Continuously challenge your muscles by progressively increasing the difficulty of bodyweight exercises as you gain strength. Add variations, adjust leverage, increase repetitions or sets, and incorporate advanced progressions to stimulate muscle growth.
  3. Full Range of Motion: Perform exercises through their complete range of motion to engage muscles fully and enhance flexibility and mobility.
  4. Balanced Routine: Create a well-rounded routine by including bodyweight exercises that target different muscle groups, ensuring balance in upper body, lower body, and core exercises.
  5. Consistency and Frequency: Consistently perform bodyweight exercises 2-3 times per week or more, depending on your fitness level and goals, to achieve progress and muscle development.
  6. Proper Warm-up and Cool-down: Warm up with dynamic stretches or light cardio before your workout to increase blood flow and prepare muscles for exercise. Cool down with static stretches afterward to enhance flexibility and aid recovery.
  7. Listen to Your Body: Be attentive to your body’s signals and modify exercises as needed. Avoid pushing yourself to the point of pain or excessive fatigue and progress gradually.
  8. Rest and Recovery: Allow sufficient time for rest and recovery between workouts to enable muscle repair and growth. Incorporate rest days and prioritize sleep and proper nutrition.
  9. Adaptability: Bodyweight exercises can be adapted to different fitness levels and settings, making them versatile and suitable for various situations.
  10. Enjoyment and Sustainability: Choose bodyweight exercises that you enjoy and can sustain in the long term. Engage in variations and progressions that keep your workouts enjoyable and motivating.

Always consult with a healthcare professional or qualified fitness trainer before starting a new exercise program, especially if you have underlying health conditions or injuries. Their guidance will ensure a safe and effective approach to bodyweight training.

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