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When most people start training, one of the first questions that pop to mind is this:
“Can I build muscle with body-weight exercises alone, or do I need to join a gym?”
After all, body-weight training seems fun, versatile, and accessible. But is it also effective?
Today, we’ll give you the definitive answer to that question. But first:
What Makes Our Muscle Grow In The First Place?
Before we can answer this question, we first need to take a look at what makes our muscles grow. Here are the most critical factors:
1. Training Volume
Training volume refers to the total amount of work we do for each muscle group within the training week. The easiest way to measure it is to calculate the number of hard sets we do.
Research seems to suggest that the more volume we do, the more growth we experience. To a point, of course, as doing too much can lead to the opposite – muscle loss.
General guidelines suggest that we should do anywhere from 10 to 20 weekly sets for each muscle group. This also includes overlapping volume (e.g., how our biceps work during a chin-up).
2. Training Intensity
Training intensity refers to how heavy we tend to lift, relative to our one-repetition maximum (1RM). For example, if you can do a single pull-up and you do it, then that’s an example of a high-intensity, 95-100 percent of 1RM set.
Aside from doing enough total sets, we also need to do enough repetitions. And, as you can imagine, for us to achieve that, we need to train within a productive intensity range. For hypertrophy, research seems to suggest that we should train in the 60 to 85 percent range. Meaning, we should do most of our work in the 5 to 20 repetition range.
This should come as no surprise, but we need to put effort into our training if we ever hope to build muscle mass.
The problem is, in the pursuit of muscle, many people push themselves too hard, pile on too much unnecessary fatigue, hinder their performance, and slow down their recovery.
According to research, training to failure is not vital for muscle growth, and we can achieve the same (if not better) results by always leaving one to three repetitions in the tank.
This is the least important factor for muscle growth, as research suggests that training volume is the most crucial factor for growth.
In other words, doing our weekly sets is the most important thing. Whether we do them in one, two, three, or more workouts is of much lesser importance.
So, Can We Get Muscular With Bodyweight Training?
Absolutely. As you can see, muscle growth comes down to fundamental aspects of training that surpass the simplicity of exercise selection.
So long as you cover the above criteria, you will be able to build muscle just as effectively with a bodyweight program as you would with a fully-fledged gym routine.
So, if you prefer bodyweight training (or have no other choice for the time being), apply yourself, and you will build a fantastic physique.