I'd like to build my chest, shoulders, and lats using a simple bodyweight routine that I can do at home.

It seems like there are a million options out there, but I just want something simple I can follow indefinitely (with a few changes of exercises, reps, etc.) that will get good results that I can keep with regular workouts.

Is it possible to get big with such a routine, and could somebody suggest a routine that I could just "set and forget"?

P.s. - I ride my bike and hike a lot, so legs aren't a problem for me, and I have been getting into climbing which has helped with my arms and back, but I now want to build my chest.

Update Maybe a picture of what my aim would be would be more descriptive enter image description hereImage from http://instruct.uwo.ca/kinesiology/222/Lab2/lab2.html

  • 1
    Define big? Bigger than the average person, as big as Arnold Schwarzenegger?
    – user2861
    Jul 14, 2013 at 23:18
  • @LegoStormtroopr I heard Arnold just did bodyweight squats and pullups
    – aaronman
    Jul 15, 2013 at 1:44
  • @aaronman Useful. Most people don't want to be powerlifters or bodybuilders. They want to be fitter, healthier and better than average. That can easily be done with a body weight routine. Hence my question.
    – user2861
    Jul 15, 2013 at 3:47
  • @LegoStormtroopr he said build, and implied he was already quite fit, which is why my answer assumed he wanted to gain some mass
    – aaronman
    Jul 15, 2013 at 3:57
  • "want to be fitter, healthier and better than average." pretty much describes what I'm going for I guess. Maybe "big" was the wrong (or at least a vague) word to use. I don't want to be a bodybuilder, just have the appearance of being muscular, while also feeling fit. Jul 15, 2013 at 9:53

5 Answers 5


OK that picture helps everything - that isn't big by any stretch of the imagination, and it certainly achievable with bodyweight work.

The think about that physique is the low body fat and moderate muscle mass. To achieve the first part focus on your diet, assuming you are just lacking in size, eat close to maintenance or a little over.

With regards to how to build muscle, as people have stated, the key is volume. Focus on being able to do exercises in the 10-15 rep range with good form for 5+ sets. The challenge with body weight exercises is increasing difficultly. Unlike with weights were you can just increase the weight, your challenge is to decrease leverage.

Chest exercises can be increased in difficultly like so:

  • Push-ups on the knees
  • Standard push-ups
  • Wide-grip push-ups (A narrow grip works the triceps more)
  • Incline push-ups (the greater the incline the more the deltoids are worked)

After a certain point push-ups may become easy, but you can just throw on a backpack with some weight - books, sand, small children - to increase the difficulty.

Back exercises include:

  • Body weight rows (A broom across some chairs will work)
  • Incline body weight rows (Elevate your feet on a box)
  • Chin ups (Supine grip)
  • Pull ups (Pronated grip)

Again, a backpack can be helpful. But by the time you can go 10+ reps for 5 sets your lats will look awesome. Regardless of what people suggest, you can get a great back with body weight alone. Will you win Mr. Olympia - no, will you impress most people - yes.

Even just devoting a day to pushups and a day to pull ups will work your shoulders quite well. Your front deltoids, which are "meatier" and help build that shoulder contour actually play a large roll and are worked thoroughly in Transverse Flexion or pressing while your posterior deltoids will be worked by the rows and pullups. While both pushes and pulls will work your lateral deltoids. Both exercises have the added benefit of working your core for stabilisation - i.e. your abs, obliques and lower back - as well as the oft neglected serratus anterior - those muscles that kind of look like ribs or fingers but only show on boxers and posers.


Day A: 10-15+ reps x 5 sets pushups

Start on the knees and move to the next exercise in the list once you can hit 20 reps on your last set.

Day B: 10-15+ reps x 5 sets pullup variation

Start with rows, and move through the progressions as above.

Day C: Rest.

Repeat A-B-C until you look awesome. As I mentioned, this kind of work won't have you winning Mr. Olympia - but if you can do 50+ pushups or pullups in a single session, you will have a strong and enviable physique like the picture you posted.

  • 1
    That guy isn't big? He's not a geared up body builder but he's certainly a hypertrophy aimed model.
    – Eric
    Nov 15, 2014 at 23:07

Here are some good exercises you can do at home with only bodyweight that require quite a bit of strength, and should keep you within the 8-12 rep range for a while -- which is what you're looking for if you'd like to put on size:


Sounds like you want to bulk. Hiking, biking, and other 'extra' physical activities will not help with your bulking, no matter what your workout.

Bulking with your bodyweight is possible in my opinion... Just make sure the exercises are in the 8-11 rep range (that means, that you can't do more than 8 to 11). This means taht your exercises won't be 'easy' and will challenge you.

My advice:

Shoulders: Handstand pushups. Do them properly.

Chest: Pushups.

Lats: Pushups, with your elbows to your body.

Don't forget to keep your exercises 'difficult' enough to keep your range in the 8-11 rep range.


If hiking and biking are enough for your legs, and climbing is enough for your back, then you don't need much.

For your chest, five sets each of push-ups and dips, as many as you can do with good form, three times a week should be plenty. For the lats, wide-grip chin-ups and pull-ups are awesome.

Lifting weights would be better for bigger changes but it sounds like you only want a little more muscle.


Sorry but bodyweight exercises really peak on their usefulness quite early. For mass gain you generally want to be in the 8 - 12 range of reps even a novice can do that many pushups meaning you will not gain mass from pushups.

Pullups are not much better, unless you weight them. While they are slightly harder they too wear out there usefulness early.

Shoulders might be the exception. Don't quote me on this but handstand pushups may be difficult enough to actually increase mass. I can't speak from firsthand experience because I do use weights. The only problem with handstand pushups is the high starting level of fitness required to do them.

In the end I'll say if you want to get big you have to lift weights bodyweight will not suffice.

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