Hate the Gym? Build Muscle With These Moves You Can Do at Home

young woman stretching her stomach on fitness mat

Want to build muscle? Try these moves that you can do at home. | iStock.com/Jacob Ammentorp Lund

Staying active is one of the best ways you can live a longer, healthier life. Sounds easy enough, but most adults spend a good chunk of time sitting each day while at work. The New York Times reports results from a study that revealed those who sit a lot drastically increase their chances of developing diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and dying prematurely. Though that might encourage you to hit the pavement or hop on the bike, that may not be enough.

According to the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, adults need to focus on muscle-strengthening activities in addition to aerobic activity. You might be tempted to blow off the suggestion, but getting ripped isn’t the only point. Everyday Health explains incorporating strength training into your workouts can increase your metabolism, boost energy, and help protect your bones. While fitness fiends have no trouble picking up the dumbbells to crank out reps, some people would rather do just about anything than hit the gym. If you find yourself dreading a trip to the weight room, there’s another way that’s just as effective.

Health reports bodyweight training is one of the biggest fitness trends growing across the country. It’s exactly what it sounds like. Instead of lifting plates and weights, you modify your movements in a way that helps you utilize your own heft. The best part is you don’t need any equipment. Heck, you don’t even need a gym membership.

1. Squats

Squats can help you build muscle

Squats are awesome for strengthening your leg muscles. | iStock.com

Squats are a workout classic because they’re one of the best ways to strengthen your lower body. Livestrong.com explains this move works your quads, glutes, and hamstrings. Legs are only half of the story, though. FitDay points out this move can help strengthen your core and help develop hip flexibility, which makes you less prone to injuries. And with no equipment, you really can do them anywhere.

Start with your legs shoulder-width apart and raise your arms directly in front of your shoulders. Keeping your head erect and your torso straight, lower your body until the tops of your legs are parallel to the floor. Raise yourself back up to the starting position. Check out Livestrong’s illustration if you’re having trouble with form. Fitstream recommends aiming for at least 100 repetitions before moving on to something more advanced. Once you’ve mastered the basics, you can move on to pistol squats. Bodybuilding.com demonstrates the best technique for this challenging move.

2. Handstand push-ups

Man doing handstand push-ups

Handstand push-ups are challenging and effective. | iStock.com

While plenty of different exercises help build stronger arm muscles, shoulders can be particularly tough to target without the equipment at the gym. The best way to focus on this important muscle group is to modify some moves you already know. Take a classic push-up and turn it upside down, literally. Handstand push-ups might be one of the best ways to target your shoulders. Don’t be too intimidated by the name — you don’t need to have perfect balance. STACK demonstrates how to perform the move using a wall to help you balance. This one is a serious challenge, so Bodybuilding.com says patience and persistence are key. Do as many as you can for now, and add additional sets as you get stronger.

If chiseling muscles is of minimal importance, remember that shoulder strength is still important. SparkPeople explains your shoulder is one of the most unstable joints in the body, so regular strengthening will help you maintain range of motion to prevent injuries. If a handstand push-up is too advanced to start, work your way there with a pike push-up. Start with 10 repetitions and add sets as you’re able.

3. Star plank

Man doing planks

The star plank is way more effective than crunches. | iStock.com

You can do crunches until you strain your neck, but the move still won’t come close to sculpting your midsection like planks do. Active explains most people do crunches incorrectly, which can actually make your belly appear more bloated. Plus, you can seriously hurt your back with all that bending. Planks are a much better bet, and you can make them even more challenging by going with a modified version. Men’s Fitness explains star planks offer more of a challenge for your core and also work your chest and shoulders.

Start in a push-up position, then walk your arms and legs out so your body forms an “X.” You’ll be about six inches away from the ground. Bracing your core, hold for 10 counts, then walk yourself back to the starting position. Trainer Gregg Cook spoke to Men’s Fitness about the best ways to strengthen abdominal muscles, and his short video demonstrates this move at the beginning.

4. L-sits

Man doing a L-sit for exercise

Hit your abs and triceps all at once with this exercise. | iStock.com

While loads of men look to weights and other equipment to sculpt their abdominals and triceps, gymnasts have known for years that you don’t need any equipment to get results. Muscle & Fitness explains this tough move will also strengthen your shoulders and core. The exercise is tough, so don’t be surprised if you can’t hold it for very long to start.

Many gyms have bars specially designed for L-sits, but you don’t need them in order to perform the move. In fact, Lifehack explains doing this exercise from the ground will make it more challenging since there’s less room for movement. Sit on the ground with your legs straight out in front of you, then firmly plant your hands on either side. Lift yourself off the ground, keeping your legs straight, and hold for 30 seconds.

5. Single-leg standing calf raise

Calf raises at the gym

Calf raises are great for strengthening the legs with no equipment. | iStock.com

Though it’s tempting to focus on larger muscle groups when you’re building strength, you don’t want to neglect smaller ones. Your calves need just as much attention as any other muscle group, maybe even more. The Houston Chronicle says maintaining strong calves helps stabilize your ankles and feet. It’ll also reduce your chances of a painful pull, which could take months to heal.

Skip the fancy gym machinery and do this simple exercise in your living room. To perform this move, stand with your fingers against a wall to help you balance. Standing on one leg, raise up as high as you can onto your toes. Once fully extended, squeeze your calf muscles and hold for two seconds. Slowly lower back to the starting position, and repeat as many times as you can. Then, switch to the other leg. Men’s Health recommends performing this move two times a day for six straight days.