Personally I stopped going to the gym a long time ago. They started getting too fancy – too many cable machines and treadmills and too little real equipment, like squat racks and parallel bars.
It’s fascinating how the ratio of ripped to fat people closely correlates with the modernness of a gym. The more useless machines there are in a gym, the more unfit people there are. And that’s no coincidence.
Today I’m about to tell you how you can build real muscle by using the very little equipment in your gym that actually makes sense. I’ll also talk about the king of all fitness equipment – a very cheap and insanely effective one that you can set up almost anywhere. You’ll find out what are the keys to building muscle and what are some of the best exercises.
Ready? Let’s do this.
The key to building muscle
Before we get started, I need to make sure you know this… If you want to get bigger, there’s only one thing that you need to keep in mind: you need to get stronger.
Growing muscle is how your body adapts to increasing workload and you can only increase the workload by getting stronger. Now that you know that the key to getting bigger is to get stronger, let’s take a closer look at how to go about it.
The 3 keys to building strength
There are basically 3 things to keep in mind when hitting the weights:
1. Do compound exercises
This one’s actually more related to gaining muscle than strength. Of course you can get stronger on bicep curls too, but that won’t have anywhere near effect on muscle growth as you’d get by doing really hard, compound exercises.
The keyword here is testosterone. The more and bigger muscles you engage in an exercise, the stronger the hormonal response will be. Your largest muscle groups are the quads, glutes, the back and core muscles - only when you hit’em hard will you start seeing real results.
That’s why the squats are called the king of all exercises. They engage the whole legs, your lower back and your core muscles. That is, if you do them correctly, which brings me to the next point.
2. Use free weights
Again, you want to recruit as many muscle groups as you can for the same reason as above. Isolated exercises, such as squats on a Smith machine, take out a lot of work that your core and stabilizer muscles would otherwise have to do. They can screw up your posture and create muscular imbalances, which is bad for your joints.
Using free weights will engage muscles that you don’t even know you have, but they’re extremely important. These muscles deep inside your core are what ultimately determine how strong you really are. Your core is to your body as a trunk is to a tree. If your core is weak, you are weak.
Always use free weights when you hit the gym. You’ll build functional strength that you can actually use outside the gym.
3. Keep increasing the workload
You should always push yourself and keep increasing the difficulty of your training. Do something more than you did last time.
There are two ways you can go about this: you can either increase the weight, or you can do more reps. Personally I don’t recommend doing any more than 8 reps as that won’t do much good when it comes to strength. If you can do 8 reps, add some weight, or otherwise increase the difficulty.
As I said, your muscles grow in response to the increasing workload. If you keep lifting the same weight, you’ll keep looking the same.
Now that you know the basics, it’s time to take a look at the best piece of fitness equipment that money can buy.
The best investment in your fitness
This small investment will bring you great returns in form of massive upper body strength. What am I talking about? It’s the single best piece of equipment that completely revolutionized my training: gymnastic rings.
What I love about the rings is that they’re very portable and extremely versatile. You can hang them high and do all kinds of advanced stuff – from muscle-ups all the way to the iron cross. You can hang them low and do some inverted rows or push-ups. You can make things harder or easier on yourself, so they’re useful for everyone regardless of their fitness level.
If you have a pair of rings and a little floor space you have all you need to get ripped. Now let’s take a look at the exercises you should be doing.
The most effective muscle building exercises
The squats are really the king of all exercises. The way I see it, if you’re not squatting, you’re not working out. They are the building block of any training routine.
It might seem that you can’t increase the difficulty of bodyweight squats. Well that’s true to some degree. If you can do 8 one legged squats, then there’s not much room for improvement without additional weight. If you can’t, well then get to work.
After you have the one legged squat down, you’re ready for the next level. Have one of your mates sit on your shoulders and you have a nice piece of live weight for your squats. I love this type of squat, because it’s one level above squats with barbells.
That’s because you have to balance out every small movement your “weight” does. It engages the core even more than your regular barbell squats. Plus it looks pretty bad-ass.
Once you can do 4 sets of 8 reps with your mate, find someone heavier or have them wear a backpack. Be creative.
Ain’t no exercise like good ol’ pull-ups when it comes to building a massive back.
Boring? I’ll tell you what. You’re probably doing them wrong. Try keeping your hips open all the time next time you hit the bar/rings. That means your trunk and your legs should form a 180 degree angle. If you can do 8 of those in a row, you’re ready for the next level.
If you can add some weight, do that. If not, work on the one arm pull-up. That should be your ultimate goal. By the time you work up to be able to do a 1APU, you’ll have a massive back.
Dips are my favorite chest/triceps exercise. They might be quite easy for you to do on the parallel bars. If this is the case, it’s time to move on to the rings.
The difference is even greater than squats with a barbell vs. squats with a person on your back. The first time I tried dips on the rings, I couldn’t squeeze out one proper rep. I was shaking like a dog shitting razor blades, even though I’d been doing them with 36 kg of additional weight on the parallels.
Start with your elbows pointing behind you, which is the easiest variation. Gradually move on to the point where you’re doing them with your elbows pointing to the side. After that, try not touching the strap with your forearms. That’s a good few months of work until you can manage 8 proper reps.
Once you’re proficient at both the pull-ups and the dips, try to combine them into one single movement – the muscle-up. Muscle-ups are something like squats for the upper body. They can range from fairly easy (a dynamic muscle up with a kip, on the bar) to ridiculously hard (a slow and controlled one with your elbows at 90 degrees and your hips open, on the rings).
More bodyweight exercises
You can check out my favorite bodyweight exercises on No Will No Skill’s Youtube channel where we’re making a series of videos called Witness The Fitness. They usually come with a description too.
Exercise will only take you so far
These exercises are just some of the best ones you can do to build some serious muscle and functional, real-life strength. There’s a LOT more, like sled pulls, handstand push-ups, etc. However, when it comes to building muscle and being ripped, you can have the best training routine in the world and you won’t achieve your goals unless you fix your diet.
Starting with these principles, you now know how to build muscle with little or no equipment.
The title basically says it all – it’s a guide to getting ripped and maintaining that state all year round, while improving your immune system and avoiding diseases. All this without too much effort, simply by living a little more like a caveman. You’ll also find some more muscle building exercises and a lot more.
Check out the book on amazon and grab while it’s free below!