“Everybody wanna be a bodybuilder, but don’t nobody want to lift no heavy weights!”
This line was shouted by 8-time Mr. Olympia winner Ronnie Coleman in one of his bodybuilding training DVDs. His point was simple. Most people would love to possess a highly muscled physique, but most people don’t have the determination or fortitude to spend years in the gym moving the heavy weight required to attain such gains. His words are true. The use of heavy weights is required for achieving this goal. You cannot build new muscle mass without a caloric surplus and the movement of heavy weights in the range of 6 to 10 repetitions per set.
So we can all agree that the use of weights – particularly free weights requiring stability and balance – is key to building muscle in the bodybuilding sense. But what about strength training? This area of lifting isn’t concerned with how you look or how big your muscles are. Rather, the focus of strength training is to improve the function of your body. The amount of resistance you can move from point A to point B is all that matters to those who train for strength. And the use of weights, while common and very useful is not a requirement for making strength gains. Yes, it requires a bit of imagination and creativity and plenty of hard work, but strength training without weights can be an effective means of getting stronger.
First, you will have to find a suitable replacement for the weights you have been using. You are currently surrounded by things that weigh a great deal. Your couch, your television, even your car all offer potential as resistance movement items. Your body doesn’t know that the large rock in the center of the garden in your back yard isn’t an Olympia barbell. You can conduct many of the same movements you would complete in the gym for strength training, using non-traditional items. In other words, strength training without weights is very possible – and often, actually preferable.
You’ll have to break out of your traditional “4 sets of 10 to 12 repetitions” mindset if you with to make strength gains while not following the traditional weight room path. Look at the World’s Strongest Man competitions. These athletes manage to pick up a single heavy object, move it a fixed distance, then drop it. And that’s it. One very long set of one very tedious and painful repetition. If you pick up a tree trunk and carry it 400 feet, will you make strength gains? Absolutely! If you flip a huge tire 75 times on your path around the parking lot, will you stimulate multiple muscle groups and force your body to adapt by growing stronger? Of course!
Strength training without weights offers a more natural approach to improving your body’s performance. It can be completed at any time, under any set of circumstances. You can use low or high repetitions, but the low variety (less than 6 movements or repetitions per set) is going to be more effective. Shock your body. Pick up any object and use it to push your tendons and muscles as never before. Use manual resistance against any wall or floor surface. If you are able to force your body to emulate the movements you would normally use in the gym to make strength gains, then you will see those same gains. Very often, you will even see greater gains, as your body has not become accustomed to these movements. If you’re going to attempt strength training without weights, you’ve got to be creative, hard working, and resilient. But in the end, the changes you see will be for the better!