James Haskell: Muscle building without a gym membership

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As we enter the final run-in to the festive season, understandably most people’s thoughts will be  revolving  around lists of all the food, drink and tasty ancillary bits they need to buy over the coming 10 days, plus of course all the presents they have yet to buy!

Additionally no doubt they will be enjoying the general Christmas cheer and parties, with little or no thought beyond Boxing Day and the first day of sales.

However once the feast has past and the realities of life kick back in. The need to shed those excess pounds will loom large in the physche. Plus there may even be inspiration, in the shape of a New Year’s resolution, to start to really train properly but what if you don’t have a gym membership?

No problem at all.

Traditional bodybuilding wisdom might tell you that you need heavy barbells and expensive weights machines to build muscle, but in reality, that’s just not the truth. All you really need is willpower, dedication, and a little bit of know how.

Hitting the gym is a great way to build muscle, but it’s not the only way. So if you don’t have a gym membership, you don’t have to resign yourself to being weak and out of shape.

If you’re looking to build muscle away from the gym, here are 15 exercises to help you do so!



Push ups: The classic beginner strength exercise, push ups effectively target your chest, triceps, shoulders and abs. When you can comfortably do 20 with excellent form, you can progress to more advanced variations to target more specific muscle groups such as wide grip, narrow grip, alligator push ups, or explosive clap push ups.


Pull ups: Wherever you are in the world, there’s always something to do a pull up on. Whether it’s a tree branch, goalposts, or a set of swings at the local park; grab it with a wide grip, and clear it with your chin. Return to a dead hang and repeat. Pull ups effectively target your back, shoulders and arms; don’t be that guy who can’t do one.


Chin ups: Once you’ve found your bar, there’s no limit to what you can use it for. Narrow grip chin ups with your hands facing toward you are a great variation on the classic wide grip stance to target your biceps more effectively.


Leg raises: Hanging from the bar, lift your legs straight up so that they are parallel with your chest. Lower them back down again and repeat, without swinging. This is one of the best movements for targeting your lower abdominals.


Window wipers: A more advanced variation on the classic leg raise, move your legs in a semi-circular motion as you hang from the bar. This will bring your transverse abdominals and obliques into action.


Dips: To really target your triceps, find a bench or chair that you can use for dips. For progression, find some parallel bars at the local park.


Handstands: Handstands are a killer move for building shoulder and core strength. If you’re new to handstands, practice against a wall first before moving on to the real thing. Keep things varied with a combination of static handstand holds and handstand walks.


Handstand push ups: In a handstand position with your back against a wall, lower yourself with control towards the floor and push yourself up again. This is a great move for building tricep and shoulder strength.


Squats: You don’t need a squat rack to reap the benefits of a squat. Once you have progressed away from bodyweight squats, add weight by using sandbags, logs, or even by giving a training partner a piggyback.


Farmers walks: The ultimate exercise for building functional strength. Grab something heavy in each hand, hold them by your sides, and walk for 30 – 60 metres. Filling up a heavy duty shopping bag with rocks is perfect for this exercise.


Split squats: Lighten the load you used for your farmers walks by around 75%, and then use it for single leg split squats to build your quads, hamstrings and glutes. Put one foot back onto a bench behind you, and use the other to support your weight. Squat down, keeping a straight back and maintaining constant tension, then drive yourself back up again. Repeat 8 – 10 times for each leg.


Deadlifts: The essence of a deadlift is finding something heavy, lifting it and putting it back down again. Doing this with real world objects rather than comfortably shaped barbells will build real life strength – try doing it with a log or heavy sandbag, feeling the tension through your hamstrings and glutes.


Get ups: Lie on the floor, holding a weight to your chest. Hoist yourself upright without your hands touching the floor. Hit the deck again, and repeat.


Box drives: You can replicate a classic prowler or sled push by racking an old box with some heavy weights, standing behind it and driving it forward as if you were in a rugby scrum. If you can’t get your hands on a box, use a training partner instead.


Tyre flips: If you can find an old tractor tyre (try a local farmer or an old scrapyard) then you have access to the perfect exercise for building full body strength. Squat down beside it, put your hands underneath, then drive upwards with your legs to flip it over.


Sledgehammers: Grab an old sledgehammer or axe, and whack stuff with it. Nothing boosts testosterone quite like it.


There are hundreds more exercises you can do to build muscle without a gym membership – these are just the tip of the iceberg!  Visit for a stack more


James Haskell Health & Fitness helps you achieve a healthier and fitter lifestyle

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