It’s really true – you don’t need weights to build muscle. You and your body are all the essentials needed for sculpting a firm, toned body. Sprinkle in a few of the following exercises with that go-getter attitude and you have a recipe for your dream bod. What more could a girl want? Here’s our guide to strength training without weights for women.
How to build muscle without weights
Building muscle without weights works just the same as it does with them. You need to push your body to make changes by challenging it.
When you get to a certain point of intensity, your body sends signals that something tough has happened. This then tells your muscles to grow back bigger, firmer, and stronger.
So, what you have to do is take yourself there. To put it simply you just move your own body weight against gravity. The world can’t hold you down, or your muscles.
Grab a bottle of water and your headphones because we’re gonna get sweaty. Here are the best bodyweight exercises to build muscle without weights.
Ask any trainer worth her weight in gym-clothes to pinpoint her go-to exercise for the lower body and she’ll say squats. They’re not just good for shaping your booty but helping with hip flexibility and core strength as well. When it comes to strength training without weights, squats as essential!
As a compound exercise, squats recruit tons of muscle fibers. Not only does this mean they burn more calories, but they’re the most economical too. Whereas a bicep curl just gives attention to one area, the squat treats many. That’s why they’re so useful in a full bodyweight workout – especially for women looking to shape their legs.
Body weight squats are one of the most natural positions women can do. In a way, we only forget how to squat when we grow up and sit down. Let’s reclaim our right to get down low, girl.
Here’s how to do your best bodyweight squat:
- Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Ideally, your toes should be facing forward, or ever so slightly outward. Look forward to help set your neck and spine in a neutral position.
- Brace your core by tightening your abs and hold your arms out straight in front. This will be the top position of your squat.
- When you’re ready, keep that core tight as you sit back into the squat. Imagine you’re descending down into a chair until the backs of your legs are parallel to the floor. You’ll also want to keep your knees pressed out a touch to stop them falling inwards. If it helps, tell yourself to screw your feet into the floor and picture yourself pressing against two hands pushing them inward – or a mini band.
- Once you hit parallel you can take a moment to balance yourself. Then, when you’re set to return to the top, push through your mid-foot with power. It’s important you don’t let your knees collapse inward here just like in the descent.
- Rep one done – congrats. Light up those legs for the rest of the set.
Much like its sister the squat, a lunge is mainly a lower body exercise. Yet she’s more than just meets the eye.
When you perform a lunge, you’re creating what’s called unilateral movement. This means you’re moving different parts of your body in different ways. When strength training without weights you can use tougher exercises like lunges to really test yourself
You need a helluva lot of balance and coordination to do a perfect lunge. Hitting them will light up your legs, as well as calling upon your core and lower back for balance. So, with this in mind, let’s learn how to lunge properly.
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart and brace your core.
- Pick up your left leg and take a big step forward. Let your heel touch down first.
- As your foot continues to touchdown lower your body until your left knee is at a right angle. Your front shin should be vertical too, with your back knee hovering just above the ground. If you’re flexible enough feel free to let it lightly touch the floor.
- Push from your front heel to propel your body upright. As you land back in the starting position, you’re ready to go again on the other side.
We’ve looked at lower body, but what about that top half? To help add strength to your chest, core, and arms you’ve got the power of push-ups.
If you tense your glutes while doing them, they’ll even help shape your booty. After all, you’re just performing a moving plank, which is a great move for the whole body. Strength training without weights isn’t just a lower body thing, girl.
When you’re not used to doing push-ups, they can be challenging. But sticking with them can work wonders for toning your torso, especially the arms. Feel free to perform your push-ups on your knees when starting out in your strength journey to make them easier.
Are you ready to own the perfect push-up? Let’s do this, girl.
- Lay flat on your tummy in what’s known as the prone position. From here, bring your hands up so they’re next to your chest. Somewhere in-line with the middle (where your nipples are) is best.
- Next, bring your feet together and tuck the bottom of your toes into the floor. Now, brace your core so when you push up your body moves in one straight line.
- Without looking up and straining your neck, tense your core and glutes as you push through your hands. Try to keep your elbows tucked in close to your body here or at most rotated 45-degrees away from it. This will help protect your shoulders from unnecessary strain or injury.
- Push through your palms until your arms are straight. Doing this means you’re gonna get strong through your whole range of motion. The same goes for lowering your chest all the way to the ground.
- After reaching the top of the push up get ready to descend. Keep everything braced tight as you bend your elbows and take your chest toward the floor. If you don’t want to touch the ground that’s fine – just stop an inch before you get there.
- One down, girl. Keep at it
It’s about time we showed those abs some love, right? After all, you’re here to get full-body strong, girl.
Simple but so effective, sit-ups are all about abs and core strength. For years, girls thought they were the answer to getting skinny – but throw that useless word in the trash. Sit-ups are here to empower your body and make you hella strong instead.
If you’ve got a gym girlfriend you work out with they can really help here. Have them hold onto your ankles, or even better link your lower legs so you can support one another. We’ve found the hardest part of hitting a perfect sit-up is actually keeping your feet on the floor – don’t laugh it’s true.
Here’s how you can do it.
- Sit down comfortably with your knees bent and feet out in front. Put your soles flat on the ground so there’s about a 45-degree bend behind your knees.
- Lower yourself down so your back is flat on the floor. Now, cross your arms across your chest or place them next to your temples.
- Without using any momentum, call on your abs and core to raise your chest toward your knees. Your body should be in a straight line while you’re doing this. It’s easier to push your head forward when sitting up but this puts stress on your lower back and neck. If at any point you feel this happening just lower how high you sit up.
- Sat upright? Awesome. Keep that core engages as you lower yourself back down. Descend slowly under control and really dial in the technique. You’re strong, so embrace the hard work when the reps start getting difficult.
- You’re all done. Just repeat steps 3-4 until you’ve nailed every last rep.
Some girls just don’t get down with sit-ups at all. Depending on where you are or your body type, opting for dead bugs might be a bit more comfortable.
We’ve got to warn you though, girl. Don’t confuse comfortable with easy – dead bugs are far from it. These core-crazy critters will create strength all through your abs and lower back.
This is what you need to do.
- Lay flat on your back so you’re looking right up at the ceiling. Put your arms out directly in front of you like a mummy – keep them straight.
- Now, pick your knees up toward your chest so your hip is at a right angle. You now kind of look like you’re sitting in that invisible chair from the squat.
- Press your back into the floor by bracing your core. This part is really important to focus on it throughout the whole exercise.
- Time to perform the dead bug. Lower one arm directly above and over your head toward the floor. Keep it straight like you would in a backward crawl swimming motion. Straighten the opposite leg as if you were pushing on a bike pedal.
- All the time you’re doing this tense your abs and actively press your lower back into the floor, yoga mat, or blanket.
- Reverse step four and go again on the opposite side. That’s one rep of your killer core strengthening set.
Last rep on strength training without weights
We told you women don’t need weights to get strong. You can shape, tone, and strengthen your body just by moving it against gravity. Plug in your best workout playlist, grab a bottle of water and get to it. We’re going to crush this strength training without weights thing.
Use these bodyweight exercises to target all the key muscle groups. Put them together into a mini circuit or focus on individual areas to match your body goals. High-intensity, slow and steady, it’s your call. Take each movement and make it your own.
Good luck out there, girl. Soon you’ll be the strongest sister on the gym floor. Enjoy strength training without weights.
Get even stronger, girl, with these:
- Why You Should Ditch Cardio and Try Strength Training for Women
- Strength Training Exercises That Will Transform Your Performance
- The Home Beginner’s Strength Training Workout for a Woman