Recently, one of my regular viewers inquired about whether or not he could build muscle with bodyweight and resistance bands alone. He simply doesn’t feel that he can. Now, given the situation that most of us find ourselves in at the moment, without access to a proper gym that is, I thought this would make an excellent video topic.

I want to start by saying that just because you can only use bands or bodyweight does not at all mean that you cannot build or at least maintain muscle. It just may take some creativity. Some adjustments.

Looking at pushdowns, for example, EMG data from Bret Contreras’ experiments shows that band pushdowns are nearly as effective as rope and straight bar cable pushdowns at activating the long head of the triceps.

And EMG data from the American Council on Exercise found that bodyweight triangle pushups activate the triceps more than any other triceps exercise, even barbell, dumbbell and cable exercises.

And that, right there, is one example of an “adjustment”… taking, in this case, a triangle push-up hand placement over the standard hand placement. And in doing so, increasing triceps activation even more than the close-grip barbell bench press!

In this case, the close-grip barbell bench press loaded with 70% of 1-rep-max, or about a 12-rep-max.

Furthermore, a study from 2017 found that 8 weeks of bodyweight push-ups built just as much muscle as 8 weeks of bench pressing with a 40% 1-rep-max load.

Now, before anyone complains about how light 40% of 1-rep-max is, bear in mind that research has shown that when it comes to muscle growth, load isn’t as important as training to failure is. In other words, 3 sets of 25-35 reps can build just as much muscle as 3 sets of 8-12 reps.

And another paper from 2015 demonstrated that 6-rep-max push-ups with resistance bands produced similar strength gains to 6-rep max bench pressing.

Furthermore, EMG data from Bret Contreras’ experiments also demonstrates that band rows perform just as well as, if not even better than various cable and dumbbell variations for the back, traps and biceps.

Finally, band face pulls wildly out-perform the standard cable version.

And that’s still just scratching the surface of the data that is available.

So, I reiterate that you can, indeed, make bodyweight and band resistance work for you.

And let’s not forget how absolutely jacked male gymnasts are from all of those bodyweight movements using rings, parallel bars, and the high bar for instance.

Or how absolutely jacked prisoners are, even in California, where I’ve read that weights are banned in prisons.

So, what do I recommend?

Well, for starters, if you cannot obtain a pair of adjustable dumbbells, then purchase a full set of quality bands, as well as a doorframe pull-up bar, and parallettes and/or a quality calisthenics tool like the Lebert EQualizer… which I bought recently myself.

And even if you have adjustable dumbbells, those other items make for nice complimentary gear.

What’s great about bands is that you can combine them if you need more resistance.

So, let’s say you have a complete set of bands by Rogue… you could work with as little as 15 lbs. or go as high as 775 lbs. if you combined just one of each band.

You can also adjust how you loop them as well as your foot placement to provide even more tension. Remember, bands offer a variable resistance.

And you can even combine bands with dumbbells. There are so many possibilities, so don’t be afraid to get creative… just be smart. In other words, don’t hurt yourself in the name of creativity.

For your convenience, I’ve linked to some recommended home workout gear below in the description of this video as well as in my pinned comment, but those items ARE selling ultra-fast right now… so, if you want them, I strongly advise that you do not hesitate getting them.

Keep in mind, lockdowns may currently last through August… and there may be intermittent periods of lockdowns and/or social distancing over the course of the next two or more years.

So, consider these tools to be an investment!

Plus, we can simply never know when the next disaster may strike that could prevent us from accessing a gym, like Hurricane Sandy did to me back in 2012. Which is when I began investing in home workout gear.

Furthermore, bands are fantastic for travel since they’re so portable. I always pack a few with me in my luggage on any trips that I take.

As for how you should train at home, keep your session volume high, such as 3 to 5 sets per exercise, and also keep your frequency high at 2 or 3 training sessions per muscle group, per week, such as an upper-body / lower-body split.

This way you can maximize both hypertrophy and strength no matter where you train.

Now… if you want a structured home workout program, I’ve created a quick PDF that you can download for two bucks, which I’ve linked below. This way, you’ll get a challenging and effective home workout while helping to fund this channel at the same time.

It’s also the precise workout that I’m using right now, myself… with what basic equipment I have at my disposal, in my tiny Manhattan apartment.

Though, I do urge you to pick up a set of bands, at the very least, to use with the workouts. But, the program does offer exercise substitutions so that you can customize to a degree based on your equipment should you own a bit more, or just want to change things up a bit from session-to-session.

And you can, if need be, work with just your bodyweight too. There is also an option for that.

Just keep in mind, I designed these workouts to be basic, and for use in small spaces like a city apartment… so you won’t find any barbell or rack movements listed. Thus, if you are fortunate enough have a full home gym setup, then this program may be too basic for you.

Also note, the download just includes workouts… no diet, supplementation, or other advice. It is really quite simple, but again… it’s only two dollars!

And unlike other YouTubers, if you have any questions about my program, I tend to respond to comments… as most of you know. So always feel free to drop any questions below, and I’ll get back to you as quickly as I can. For example, if you need clarification on performing any of the prescribed exercises or whatnot, or should you need any further exercise substitutions.

Anyway, leave your thoughts and comments below.


“Basic Home and Travel Workouts” PDF:

Undersun Fitness The 5-Band Complete Exercise Band Set

Iron Gym Total Upper Body Workout Bar

Lebert Fitness Parallettes

Lebert Fitness Equalizer Total Body Strengthener

Iron Gym Abdominal Roller Wheel

Resistance Bands | Powerlifting Bands

Rogue Monster Bands – 41″ Mobility Bands | Rogue Fitness

Inside the Muscles: Best Chest and Triceps Exercises | T Nation

ACE Study Identifies Best Triceps Exercises – ACE Fitness

Low-load bench press and push-up induce similar muscle hypertrophy and strength gain

Effects of Low- vs. High-Load Resistance Training on Muscle Strength and Hypertrophy in Well-Trained Men.

Bench press and push-up at comparable levels of muscle activity results in similar strength gains.

Inside the Muscles: Best Back and Biceps Exercises | T Nation

Inside the Muscles: Best Shoulders and Trap Exercises | T Nation

Resistance Training Volume Enhances Muscle Hypertrophy but Not Strength in Trained Men

Effects of Resistance Training Frequency on Measures of Muscle Hypertrophy: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.

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