Many people may equate resistance training with lifting heavy barbells, curling large dumbbells and working with weighted cable machines in the gym, but there are many ways to work your muscles without lifting weights.
Bodyweight Resistance Training
Many workouts rely solely on your body weight for resistance training. “Body weight is a simple source of resistance that can be used in a multitude of different ways,” says Matt Tanneberg, a chiropractor and certified strength and conditioning specialist in Scottsdale, Arizona.
From push-ups to pull-ups to squats to crunches, there are myriad bodyweight exercises you can use to work just about any muscle group in your body, says Tanneberg. In fact, if you’re a beginner, Tanneberg recommends learning to work with your own body weight first before even thinking about weights.
Swimming as Resistance Training
Although some people don’t realize it, swimming can benefit your joints, muscles, heart and overall health in big ways—and it can be considered a type of resistance training as well. Remember, resistance training is based on the idea that you apply your body against an external force, which can include water, according to Tanneberg.
“Swimming is an excellent [form of] resistance training with cardiovascular benefits,” he says. “It’s very easy on our joints, [and] it doesn’t put the same stress as running does on our ankles, knees and hips.”
“Suspension training uses your body weight and gravity to generate resistance,” says Josh Schlottman, a certified personal trainer and nutritionist based in Napa, California. All you need for suspension training is a sturdy anchor point and something to use as straps, such as a TRX suspension trainer, says Schlottman.
Exercises you can do with a TRX trainer include biceps curls, rows and chest presses. Once you have your TRX trainer, attach its anchor to an overhead location like the top of your door. Then lean away from the straps while holding them, so that your weight is now resting on the straps and your feet. You can then pull or push against the straps to perform your desired exercise.
In a 2018 study in the Journal of Functional Morphology and Kinesiologysuspension training improved the strength and explosive power of exclusively male participants (female participants showed no improvements) compared to those who didn’t use suspension training.
“There are many benefits of suspension training, including improved core strength, increased stability and balance,and increased flexibility,” says Schlottman, who adds that one of the best things about suspension training is it can be done anywhere without expensive equipment or a gym membership.
Resistance Band Training
Resistance bands, which are elastic bands with different levels of force measured in kilograms or pounds, are versatile and can be used for a wide range of strength training exercises. The best part: They may be just as effective as traditional weights. According to a systematic review and meta-analysis in SAGE Open Medicineresistance band training produced a similar improvement in participants’ strength as traditional weight-based training.
“Using anchors or your own body, you can do many different exercises with resistance bands,” says Allan Misner, a Panama-based certified personal trainer and nutrition coach who says he’s a huge fan of resistance bands. Misner also points out that resistance bands are compact and lightweight, making it easy to carry them around and train anywhere.
“Plyometrics are a form of training where you go through a movement, such as jumping and landing, in an explosive way,” says Misner. It’s a great way for athletes to build strength and explosiveness at the same time, he adds.
That said, plyometric training isn’t just for athletes. According to a review in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sportplyometric training improved the strength of participants regardless of their gender or fitness level.