Can bodyweight exercises really put on quality size? The answer is yes and no. Yes, you can do bodyweight exercises for size but there are still other things that are more important to consider.[youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v8xxaN_hxtg]
I have referenced this video before, but I’m referring to it again because it makes some really good points. The movements he mentions are all compound movements, which will always recruit more motor units than just isolation movements. This will always stimulate more muscle growth, which will put on size. He also focuses on the movements as being easy to load. This is important. The reason why lifting freeweights are recommended for size is because of the amount of weight you can add to the movements. There’s nothing fancy about this, the more load your muscles are under, the more muscle growth you’re going to get, which will result in more size as long as some other things are factored in.
Nutrition is paramount. It doesn’t matter if you are lifting with weights or just using your bodyweight for exercises, you have to eat enough to put on muscle. This is why it’s far easier to lose fat than gain muscle. Along with your Basal Metabolic Rate (the amount of calories you burn at rest), you have to factor in that you will burn more calories as you work out or go about your daily routine. When you increase your muscle size, that has to be then factored into your BMR, which means that you burn calories at rest just for having more muscle. This is great if you’re trying to lose fat, but not if you’re trying to gain muscle—it means you have to consume more calories to fill in what your body is burning off. So this should be looked at first.
Depending on what your fitness goal is, you can change the tempo of your exercise to get different results. What this means it that you will be changing the speed of which you lift. For example, if I were to do a push-up, I might spend 4 seconds pushing myself off the ground, 4 seconds at the top, and then 4 seconds lowering myself back to the ground. Changing the tempo changes the time your muscles are under tension. If you want more size, increase your time under tension.
With bodyweight exercises, there is a lot of variety. That’s the best part; it’s incredibly easy to change the difficulty of a movement with just a slight change to how the body is used in the movement. Want to make a squat harder? Do pistols. Want to make a push-up more challenging, move the hands closer together. Certain muscle groups can be focused on just by changing positions.
As long as all of these things are considered, you can turn any bodyweight routine into one for size. For example, if you notice your shoulders are lagging behind in size, you can start doing handstand push-ups. You can change the tempo of this movement to make it even harder. This movement is already hard enough with just your bodyweight, as the load the shoulders are under is more than enough for that area. If you want to add size to arms, do diamond push-ups and change the tempo. The variables are endless. The versatility of bodyweight exercise for size cannot be understated. It’s easy, it’s effective, and if you’re on a budget, it’s pretty much free.