woman does mini bands adductor strengthening exercise

While there is no denying that traditional weights (barbells, dumbbells, free weights) are the first thing that comes to mind for a weight training session, you can do plenty of strength exercises without them.

Many people are finding ways to creatively build their own resistance training programs with modified equipment, while access to their regular gym and/or equipment may not be fully available right now.

Bodyweight exercises, along with some key, easy-to-store, equipment (fitness cables, SMART Strength Bands, SMART Medicine balls, and weighted SMART Sticks) are making up the perfect at-home strength training toolbox.

How can you build strength without weights?

Create Tension

In order to build muscle and increase strength, you will need to place your muscles under tension by using significant resistance.

Time under tension is a term commonly used in strength, conditioning, and bodybuilding and refers to how long a muscle is under strain during a set. 

Muscle tension created through resistance training stimulates the growth of new muscle proteins and can lead to gains. According to ACE, muscles that are exposed to that tension long enough can build up various metabolites (e.g., lactate, hydrogen ion, inorganic phosphate, and creatine), and it is this process that creates metabolic stress in muscle tissue triggering hypertrophic growth. In other words, muscles must experience a load that they are not used to, and they must experience that load for a certain duration.

Time under tension includes making mindful movements and focusing on motor control. One way to increase your time under tension without weights is to vary the tempo during the different muscle action phases.

Time under tension includes making mindful movements and focusing on motor control. One way to increase your time under tension without weights is to vary the tempo during the different muscle action phases. Share on X

Progressive Loads

Successful weight training should, of course, include progressive loads, meaning you challenge yourself by increasing the weight load. In order to build muscle without using weights, you will need to continually challenge your muscles by increasing the difficulty of the bodyweight exercises, the pull of the tension, or the tempo (speed) of the exercise, just as you would progress to heavier weights in the gym. The idea is to place gradual, increased demands on the body, making it an effective way to build muscle without weights.

Ready? Here’s a place to start:


Sample workout

Lower Body

Front squat with SMART Strength Band

The simple squat is a powerful movement and a favorite among fitness fanatics for a good reason: they work. Squats move the muscles of your lower body (quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, hips, and calves) in unison, and that can translate to real-world strength. Squats also work on hip mobility, which is important in executing daily activities such as getting up from your chair, walking the stairs, or bending to pick up an object. Knee, hip, or back injuries can sometimes make squatting uncomfortable or even painful, but there are alternatives to help you build on your leg strength and still work the major muscles you’re trying to target. Focusing on your lower body (whether it’s squats or squat alternatives) can support increases in your lean muscle mass, which can elevate your resting metabolism and increase your calorie burn outside of your workout.

With your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width, stand on the band. Wrap the band over your shoulders and behind your head. Loop your thumbs under the band at the shoulders to control tension and keep the band from pushing your head forward. Sit back and down, keeping your knees behind your toes and lowering your bottom to knee height, or parallel. Return to stand. Repeat 8-12 reps. 

Standing adductor with Mini Flat Band

Loop the mini band around both of your ankles and stand with feet under hips. Lift leg to the side, out and away from the body, while keeping your other leg on the ground. Return to start position. Repeat 12-15 reps and then switch sides. 

Front/Back Lunges with Weighted SMART Stick

Position the SMART Stick behind your head on the upper part of your shoulders (avoid the neck). Standing tall with your feet under your hips, step one foot back with a wide stride and then lead your knee toward the ground into a 90-degree lunge angle. Return to start position. Next, step forward with a wide forward stride. Bend your knee into a 90-degree angle position while keeping your upper body aligned. Repeat 8-12 reps on each side. 

Upper Body

Standing Bicep Curl with Fitness Cable

Place your feet shoulder-width apart and stand with your feet on the middle of the cable. Hold a SMART Quick Flip Handle in each hand, palms out, and pull your arms toward your shoulders into a bicep curl position. Slowly lower and repeat. 12-15 reps.  

Push-up with SMART Strength Band 

Your push-ups will never be the same after this! Start in plank position and wrap the SMART Strength Band across your upper back, looping the ends of the bands through your thumbs. Place your hands on the floor and push your body up until your arms fully extend. Lower back down. Try to start with 5 reps and build up to 20. 

Overhead Triceps Extensions 

In a standing position, position your feet hip-distance apart. Hold your SMART Medicine Ball behind your head, elbows pulled in, and facing front. Raise the ball straight up, so your hands are directly above your shoulders. Slowly lower and repeat. 12-15 reps. 

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