The reason it’s tough is that to build more mass with just bodyweight training means you’ll have to have a TON of patience, commitment, and dedication. Shoot, this goes with any training.
However, when it comes to building mass with bodyweight training it’s all about progression and if you want to get yourself stronger, faster, and in this case, BIGGER, you’ve got to force your body to adapt by making things harder over time.
Now, before I get into sharing my top 3 methods on how you can build up more athletic muscle with just bodyweight training alone, let me make myself clear in stating the fact that if you truly want to build more athletic mass in the fastest time possible, bodyweight training alone isn’t going to be your best bet for this.
Obviously training with external weights like barbells, dumbbells, and kettlebells will always be your best way to slap on functional mass quick, but that doesn’t mean you can’t put those tools aside for a while and still achieve gains in powerful muscle.
So, with that being said, let me dig into some of my favorite methods for adding mass onto your frame with just bodyweight training.
Bodyweight Workout For Mass #1 – Bodyweight POWER / STRENGTH Contrast Training.
This method is by far one of my favorite ways to train in general.
Start off with a low rep power-based exercise first to get the body firing on all cylinders, then finish the set off with a strength-based exercise that works the same movement pattern second to add more volume.
I like to do this with weighted movements a TON, but I love doing it with just bodyweight training as well. One of my favorite examples of this is when I train specifically to build up the chest.
A go-to set up for this would be first to hit a set of 5-10 explosive plyo push ups where you’d want each of these reps to be as explosive as possible.
After you finish those you’d then move directly to a strength-based movement working the same plane of motion where in this case you’d go to some regular push ups or ring push ups to increase the intensity and crank these out for as many reps as you could get done just stopping a few reps short of failure.
Here’s some other example of this set up:
A1: Squat Jump x 6-10
A2: Bodyweight Pause Squats x 20
B1: Lunge Jumps x 5-8 / Leg
B2: Step Ups x 10 / Leg
C1: Broad Jumps x 5-10
C2: Single Leg RDL x 15 / Leg
A1: Plyo Push Ups x 5-10
A2: Bar or Ring Strict Dips x sub max
B1: Kipping Chest To Bar Pull Up x 5
B2: Strict Pull Up x sub max
C1: Explosive Recline Row x 5-10
C2: Feet Elevated Recline Row x sub max
***Quick Notes on this method –It’s best to try and go directly from the power movement right into the 2nd movement with little to no rest – Do anywhere from 3-5 sets with 60-90 secs between sets and AVOID taking any of your movements to failure – we want QUALITY reps NOT, slow, grinding reps – there’s a time an place for that which I go into in Method #3 below.
Bodyweight Workout For Mass #2 – Density Acclimation Training.
My next go-to method for building up more mass with just bodyweight training is what I like to call, “Density Acclimation Training.” This set up is all about forcing your body to grow via progressive gains in volume over time.
The more volume you add in over time, the more you force your body to adapt by either growing bigger or getting itself stronger.
I many cases, you get BOTH. Take a look at some of the bodies that Olympic Gymnasts have.
These guys do LOADS and LOADS of volume of the same movements over and over and what happens over time is they grow because their bodies are forced to deal with the amount of volume they have to take on overtime.
Now, the set up for this method is pretty simple – pick two movements that work different planes of motion then use them in a classic superset fashion.
For example, You’d do 10 push ups then immediately do five pull ups back to back with little to no rest between movements. Repeat that 4-5 sets total taking about a full minute for rest in between sets.
BOOM. Lots of work done in a short period. Kind of cool I know, but this isn’t anything entirely new. The KEY to making this work for you is in how you use it over time in a progressive manner because again, that’s what it’s all about if we want to build mass = Increasing the amount of total volume you get done over time.
So, using the example above this is how we’d get this done.
● Week 1 – You’d do 5 sets of each movement (push ups x 10 / pull ups x 5).
● Week 2 – You’d do 6 sets of each movement with the SAME reps on each.
● Week 3 – You’d go back down to 5 sets of each movement but INCREASE the REPS of each to 15 and 10.
● Week 4 – You’d now go with 6 sets of each movement with the SAME reps on each from Week 3.
● Week 5 – (DELOAD) 4 Sets of each movement at the original reps you did in Week 1.
See where this is going?? In short what you do is slowly increase the amount of total volume you’d do each week, which makes it increasingly harder and harder over time.
You stick with this, and you’ll grow like a weed. I usually use this set up for around 4-6 weeks max then change things up or take a DELOAD week by cutting back the total volume (as you can see I added in for Week 5).
Something to keep in mind for when it comes to gaining mass is how it’s not just about the work you put in, but rather about the amount of REST and RECOVERY you allow yourself to get.
YES, you need to put in the work to beat your muscles down, but it’s only when we allow ourselves to recover when we truly grow new mass and strength.
So before I move onto my final bodyweight training method for mass, I thought I’d share another way I like to use “Density Acclimation Training” which is with the “AMRAP” method.
If you don’t yet now, “AMRAP” stands for “As Many Rounds (or reps) As Possible” and it’s truly one of my favorite methods to use. This setup is also simple (but can get BRUTAL).
Taking the example I used above with doing 10 push-ups immediately followed up 5 pull ups back to back, instead of just doing a fixed amount of sets, you’d now do the two movements for a set amount of time.
So, in other words, you’d crank 10 push ups then 5 pull ups and keep doing so for a let’s say 5 minutes. Maybe you get 4 sets of each in that time, perhaps not. You just get As Many Rounds As Possible in 5 minutes.
The week after you’d keep the reps the same and try to increase the total amount of volume you got the week before.
This adds an extra bit of challenge that always makes things more fun and exciting as when you have a set amount of volume you know you were able to get the week before; it pushes you hard to get to that same number or better.
After you’re able to increase the volume with the same amount of time, you can then increase the time up to 6 minutes, OR you increase the reps to 12 push ups and 6 pull up and keep the time the same.
Either way works as there’re many ways you could switch things up to progress.
The bottom line is to make sure and increase your overall volume each time, so you earn the right to advance ahead.
***Quick Notes on this method –It’s important to focus in on QUALITY reps NOT, slow, grinding reps – Just like with Method #1 – avoid pushing your body into failure when you’re doing movements – there’s a time and place for that which I go into more detail next…
Bodyweight Workout For Mass #3 – Using Failure To Your Advantage
With this last method, it’s all about knowing when to take your bodyweight training movements to failure and when not to.
Most people train to failure every single set which is a major mistake that actually can cause you to go ass backward with your progress in strength and muscle gain.
YES – we want to go to failure now and then, but NOT all the time. The primary reason why you want to avoid this is, so you give yourself a better chance of recovering from your workouts especially if you’re trying to get a ton of progressive volume over time.
Trust me, if you always go to failure, your progress in adding more volume week after week is NOT going to go well. I know how it goes first hand…
Now, as I mentioned before, this isn’t to say you shouldn’t ever take your bodyweight training to failure. It is after all “the struggle” we put ourselves through from time to time that ultimately helps us grow.
If you’re going to go to failure with your bodyweight training movements, I always recommend you cut back on your total sets or make sure to decrease your overall volume. The rule of thumb here is it’s either training to failure OR volume.
You can’t have both and expect great results in return.
So, how do you use FAILURE to your advantage?? Well, you use the minimum effective dose to get the job done. With this, the saying, “More is Never Better” needs to come into play.
Because when it comes down to training to failure, “BETTER is BETTER.”
That’s the ONLY way it works. So with that being said, let’s look at how I would use training to failure properly.
I’ll just use push-ups as an example:
● Week 1 – Push Ups 4 sets x sub max reps
● Week 2 – Push Ups 5 x sub max
● Week 3 – Push Ups 2 x MAX FAILURE reps each set
● Week 4 – (DELOAD) – Push Ups 3 x sub max
For the 1st two weeks, you train using a fixed amount of sets while only going to sub max reps and AVOIDING failure. You’d increase the volume for Week 2 then on Week 3; you’d hammer the movement with just 2 MAX FAILURE sets.
These need to be ALL-OUT to complete failure for it to work. Push the limits.
The week after you’d come back with a tapered week to allow for a bit of recovery than from there, you could get back into the same set up as Week 1 to 3 is while increasing total volume for all weeks.
So something like this:
● Week 1 – Push Ups 5 x sub max
● Week 2 – Push Ups 6 x sub max
● Week 3 – Push Ups 3 x MAX FAILURE each set
● Week 4 – (DELOAD) – Push Ups 3 x sub max
The over scope of training to failure is to help you totally break down your muscles, so they come back stronger and bigger, but if you’re always doing this week after week, you’ll not going to allow enough time for recovery.
Remember at the beginning of this article how I hit on the importance of having a TON of patience, commitment, and dedication…
Well, there it is. So, there’s 3 of my go-to Bodyweight Training Methods for Mass. Have fun using these methods for new gains in athletic muscle!