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The most affordable and convenient way to build muscle

Expensive gym memberships tend to make fitness enthusiasts overly dependent on machines and free weights to work their muscles. But as noted strength and conditioning specialist Bret Contreras points out, many people are embracing the prospect of training efficiently in the comfort of their own homes through bodyweight training. By bodyweight training, these people can save thousands of dollars on gym membership fees—without compromising the quality of their workout.

In his book, Bodyweight Strength Training Anatomy, Contreras explains how bodyweight training is, without a doubt, the most convenient type of resistance training. “All you need is your own physical being. You'll never be without equipment or a facility, and you'll never need a spotter,” he says. “In other words, if you learn to use your body as a barbell, then you'll always have the ability to obtain a great workout.”

Contreras, a regular contributor to several magazines, including Men's Health, Men's Fitness, Oxygen, and MuscleMag, notes that a person can gain tremendous functional fitness in terms of strength, power, balance, and endurance from progressive bodyweight training. Meanwhile, recent research shows that flexibility can be enhanced to the same or even a greater degree through resistance training than from a stretching routine.

Through bodyweight training, Contreras stresses, you will also never fear having subpar training sessions while on vacation because you will be able to perform effective workouts from your hotel room. “You'll realize that you don't need barbells, dumbbells, or elastic resistance bands,” he says. “With sound knowledge of the biomechanics of bodyweight training, you can learn to create just as much force in the muscles as if performing heavy resistance training.” In addition, he notes that the money you save from not going to a gym can be used for healthier food choices, helping you realize even better results from your training.

While Contreras believes all strength trainees should master their own bodyweight as a form of resistance training before moving on to free weights and other training systems, he is adamant that a person can maintain muscularity and fitness solely by performing bodyweight exercises. “As you progress to more difficult variations and increase the number of repetitions you perform with the various exercises, you will continuously challenge your neuromuscular system,” he explains. “Your body will respond by synthesizing more protein and laying down more muscle tissue. In essence, your body adapts by building a bigger engine.”

Featuring drawings, instructions, and descriptions of 156 innovative and unique exercises, along with a rating system to help you determine the level of difficulty of each exercise, Bodyweight Strength Training Anatomy goes far beyond standard pull-ups, push-ups, and squats to work every muscle in the body. Contreras, who maintains a popular blog at, also has instructions on creating a customized, equipment-free workout program for building a stronger, more toned physique.