Build muscle with these four bodyweight exercises 3 years ago

Build muscle with these four bodyweight exercises

Free weights are not the only tool in your arsenal when it comes to building muscle

Do not underestimate the power and potential in your own bodyweight. Moving your body through various transitions is a proven way to build pain-free size and strength.


Ashley Grossmann is an Oxford-educated former management consultant who traded banking and suits for a career in the gym. Here are Grossmann's tips for building size and strength using just your bodyweight.

Ring Row

The ring row is a massively underrated exercise for building a big back and bulging biceps.

  • To make the most of it, keep your toes up and brace your midsection so you don’t sag at the hips
  • Increase the difficulty by sending the feet forwards until you’re practically horizontal; you can even elevate your feet on a box to make it super tough
  • To maximise muscle gain, focus on tempo, that means taking at least 3 seconds to lower to the bottom and add a 1 second pause at the top.  Time under tension is a crucial part of stimulating size so don’t speed up to make it easier

Shoot for 4 sets of 8-12 tough reps.  If you can do 4x12, move your feet to make it harder next time.  


Ring Push-Up

The ring push-up is a tough variation on a classic upper body movement.

  • Again focus on the tempo, with a 3 second lowering and one second pause at the bottom
  • Try to get a good stretch there to work the full range of motion then turn thumbs out when you lockout at the top
  • The extra instability will force greater muscle recruitment and get your chest and tris firing on all cylinders

Same sets and reps as ring rows, and if 4x12 is easy, elevate your feet on a weight plate or two.


Ring Dips

Dips done on rings work similar muscles to the push-up: chest, shoulders and triceps.

  • Look straight ahead and lower your bicep all the way down to the ring to work the delts hard and progress your chest and tricep development.

Start with 5 sets of 3-5 then add reps to each set as you feel ready.

Ring Pull-Ups

Pull-ups are seen as primarily a lats exercise, but with the ring pull-up you'll also experience bicep and forearm growth.

  • Descend all the way to a dead hang and turn your hands out at the bottom
  • Then add a pause at the top with the rings in contact with your chest
  • Squeeze your toes together and keep your lower body under control to maximise the demand on the midline as well as your back and biceps

Start with 5 sets of 3-5 then add reps to each set as you feel ready.  

By focusing on time under tension through tempo and slowly building up the reps, your bodyweight plus a set of rings can be all you need to get comprehensive upper body development.

These movements are also the foundation for progressing on to more advanced exercises such as the prized muscle up, so keep working on them and many doors will unlock.

Read more: proven methods for performing more pull-ups