When building muscle, there are a few things that make an impact on your progress. One is how much you are able to pump the muscle with blood and metabolites. When you train and your muscle is tense, this forces blood and hormones like testosterone and growth hormone to collect there.
Now the muscle will be ‘occluded’ meaning that blood will pool and all the signals will be sent to encourage more growth.
The other thing that matters is the amount that you recruit and use your muscle fibers. The more you tear your muscles (called ‘microtears’), the more they’ll be forced to work to repair themselves and grow back bigger and stronger. Simultaneously, using your muscle fibers in any capacity can improve your ‘mind muscle connection’ and thereby help you to increase the amount of control you have and your ability to engage muscles as you need them.
This means that the actual amount of weight you’re using doesn’t really matter. As long as you are challenging the muscles, you can use no weight or lots of weight.
This is why body-weight training works but it’s also why there are more options available to you if you want to get more creative with your weight training. Here are some examples:
One way to challenge yourself during a workout is to provide the resistance yourself. This allows you to precisely control the amount of resistance you’re up against and thereby to strengthen muscles accordingly.
To do this, you simply need to grab hold of one arm for example with a free hand. You then prevent that free arm from curling with the other arm and thereby provide yourself with the necessary resistance you need to grow.
Self-resistance is a great way to train if you don’t have access to any equipment and you’re travelling but it can be tough on the joints and not particularly enjoyable so it isn’t a good long-term solution!
One way to train your muscles is through something called static contraction. This simply involves tensing and contracting your muscles as much as you can even without any movement just to recruit muscle mass and just to control your mind-muscle connection.
When you use dynamic tension, this takes this one step further by including movement. You simply need to go through movements like curls but while tensing your biceps. There are no weights but the tension combined with the movement provides essentially the same thing.
Finally, another option is something called ‘speed training’. This involves curling weights and using your muscles in other ways but as you do, you will be going through the movement as quickly as possible. This in turn means that you’re using the same amount of power in the muscle fibers in order to accelerate. The weight isn’t there but you’re still required to produce just as much force as though it was – and as a result you can get similar benefits from this kind of training!