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Muscularity Without Weight Training


Hello all,

I was just wondering how muscular somone can become without weight training (in a traditional sense) IF THEY WERE TO EAT TO SUPPORT MUSCLE GROWTH AND STILL PLAY IN PHYSICALLY DEMANDING SPORTS?

(Sorry for the CAPS, I just wanted ppl to read past "without weight training" before responding)

The reason why I ask is because many ppl feel that diet is more important that exercise when it comes to body composition (not strength training).

Not to mention that HITers seem to make gains in body composition with very minimal weight training if their diet is in order.

Anywho, just interested what your take on it and hearing your own personal experience.


I see what you're saying. Could be a nice little experiment.

My own take on the "diet is the most important thing" is this. It refers to the fact that your training could be perfect in everyway, but if your diet is not, then you will not achieve the maximal gains possible. ie diet will make of break your gains.

Diet alone will not create gains if there is not adequate growth stimulus. Diet and training go hand-in-hand and both should be addressed together. You'll make gains even if both are suboptimal, but you won't make maximal gains (whatever they may be - hypertrophy, strengh etc)

As a scientist though, i like your thinking, and i too would like to see to what extent a "perfect" diet could do for a good sportsman.

On a side note, i've always been intrigued as to how prisoners get such good gains when they are all given the same 3 square meals a day. Could this be an arguement against putting diet on a pedestal? (I like playing Devil's Advocate!!!)


People talk about genetics being a copout, but this is exactly what people are really talking about when they say "genetics". The people that don't lift weights, don't necessarily diet and still weigh >200 ripped, what are they doing? If it ain't diet or training what is it?

Sorry for the rant, as to your specific q, I think it depends on the sport you're talking about. I think, given the appropriate predisposition, one could achieve the upper limits of "natural" physiology without "weight training". That said, you could quite easily draw the genetic 2-7 offsuit hand (sorry too much hold 'em last night) and end up needing all of the best diet and training to achieve equivalent muscularity. I think a lot of input will be anecdotal because it's hard to tell if the sport makes the muscle or if the muscle makes the sport, but for my $.02;

Rugby, LaCrosse, Gymnastics, and to a lesser extent Hockey, seem to contain/generate some of the largest non-lifters, IMO.


Ask Herschel Walker

The myth goes that never lifted weights.

Ran sprints and did like 1000 pushups and situps a day.

Definately a genetic freak, but maybe he snuck into the weight room when nobody was looking.


The "Hershel Walker never lifted" thing is a MYTH. An urban legend. No truth to it at all. He was naturally muscular (like 100% of D1 running backs) but he busted his ass in the weight room as well.



What about the John Riggins myth.

Drank ALOT of beer and wasn't much for ANY type of off season workouts.


As a 10 year Correctional Officer in a State Prison system, I see this all the time. There are guys in there that are both muscular AND cut that have never done anyting.

Others only do bodyweight exercises, and some actually lift weights. There are others that do all the exact same things as the "gorillas" and are skinny little rails.

The diet of the prisoners is designed by a nutritionist, so most of them actually eat better in prison than they would on the outside. The biggest inmates I've ever seen got that way by pushups, dips, pullups, bodyweight squats and walking lunges. They weren't all that strong though.


We've had a thread running around here for over a year regarding Olympic gymnasts and body weight training. If you've seen the physiques of top-level male gymnasts, you'll have an idea of what kind of development is possible without directly pumping iron.


So are you saying in his interviews he basically lied? Since much of what I've read about him was just that... avoided weight training completely, at least during his college years. It surprised me back then and has stuck with me until now. The other odd thing I remember about him is that he would eat a single meal a day. Part of me wonders if he just liked perpetuating the idea of him being some kind of freak of nature.


No, he has claimed to have never gone into the weightroom, ever. I read his book about 10 years ago, and many interviews from him. Never once does he ever say he lifted.


What BW exercises are you planning to do?


The reason for that is that gymnasts have to perform exercises in positions of incredibly poor mechanical leverage (e.g. those "hanging cross" moves on the rings), thus providing an awesome growth stimulus response.

Weight training is simply simulated manual labour. If you work on a farm for example you can get pretty strong just by doing all the lifting required for everyday farm work. Indeed, CW has often experimented with some of his programs from observing such types of manual labour, Singles Club is one that comes to mind.

The point is that the body doesn't care if it is in the gym, farm or on the sports field, all it knows is that the muscles are being loaded, therefore they had better grow to survive! So if you are in a sport that requires heavy lifting or feats of strength then of course you can develop a considerable amount of bulk. The one advantage of the gym is that it provides a targeted approach to hypertrophy, therefore the gains can be more significant.


My friend used to be a swimmer in high school and would also do pushups and pullups. However, 2 years later of doing nothing, he is somehow 5'9", 185-190lbs and is muscular with visible abs. motherfucker :stuck_out_tongue:


you may get some gains but not very much. Maybe if you did some circuit training.

But the only way to build muscle is to break it down by using weights


with Gymnasts it's basic physics

Force=mass x acceleration

So they may only weigh 100lbs, but the rate of acceleration of that 100lbs is great, so still a good CNS and taxing workout, including hours and hours of training.

However most top level gymnasts benefit from, and i hate to say it "genetics"


You can build muscle with just bodyweight exercises. Chins, dips, pull-ups, one-legged squats, etc... You won't get a Mr. Olympia physique out of it, but you will build muscle.


There is no doubt he had above average genetics. However, this pic is him as a freshman in college. He wasn't exactly Lou Ferrigno. I have a larger version of that pic and I would guess his arms to be about 16". He was very lean, however. That isn't that uncommon. I grew up with guys who were just naturally muscular with little to no weight training. Considering most guys I knew growing up at least did regular push ups, sit ups and pull ups, if you add in above average genetics you will see decent development.

I am actually more surprised at the large number of people who seem to have such an extremely hard time seeing much development at all.


It depends on what you mean by "no weight training". Some of the stronger people I ever knew never lifted a bar or plate, but throwing hay bales 6 high on a trailer while keeping pace with a tractor in 100+degree heat for a whole day is a lot more demanding on the body that an hour in the gym pushing plates. They were still "lifting weights", just not in such a controlled condition as a "weight room". Much like the gymnasts, they are lifting 170 or so lbs all day long while they train for their sport.
No amount of clean diet will help you muscle up if you are sitting on your couch, but like you said, if you are doing SOMETHING (active sports, farmwork,GPP) then there is definitely a positive result when the diet is tuned in. You will most likely achieve more if you ADD the weights, but fixing the diet is a step in the right direction.


I'm sure Hershel never lifted in high college. But college?? Give me a break. He was on scholarship at a D1 school. If he refused to lift they would've sent him home packing after a few days.

People lie or exaggerate stuff all the time. Take Dexter Manley, for example, who claimed he went through college without being able to read. A guy I know played football at Oklahoma State and had a locker next to Dexter. He said Dexter would read his press clippings before games to get fired up. Dexter was a chronic liar and said he couldn't read to take attention away from his drug problems.


The majority of the people who claim to not lift at all do train. I get asked dumb questions like, "Do you lift weights?" or, "How did you get to that size?" The Answer to do you lift has now become, "not really".

I suppose if someone were writing an article this would blow up into something substantial. He wasn't that big straight out of high school. there are kids in high school today who are much bigger than that. AT THE TIME, he was considered very big because evereyone else was so damn small. I was that size in college and I thought I was small and needed more size.