Mike Tyson's bodyweight exercise only workout builds explosive strength and big muscles

Mike Tyson got in shape using bodyweight exercises and you can get strong the same way

Mike Tyson bodyweight exercise calisthenics workout
(Image credit: Getty Images)

This Mike Tyson full-body workout is almost certainly not how he got in shape for his comeback fight with Roy Jones Jr. He obviously won that fight if it was being scored, but it wasn't, so it was a draw. Both Tyson and Jones Jr acquitted themselves well this weekend. Seriously, some people are talking shit about that fight, but we doubt they'd say it to either of those legends' faces, even now they're both well over 50. 

So could Tyson now take on someone like Anthony Joshua or – his namesake – Tyson Fury? No. But in an imaginary virtual fighting arena based on fighters at their peak? Hell yeah.

Now, if you want to know how to build muscle over 50, you'll have to ask Mister Tyson how he got in such incredible shape at the age of 53 for this fight. Given his age, Iron Mike didn't use this full-body workout. It's what he used to get strong in his prime, and as bodyweight workouts go, it is, of course, plenty brutal.

Mike Tyson must be using more modern and sophisticated methods in 2020. Still, back in the day, he mainly used callisthenics – aka bodyweight exercises – to get his trademark 'broad as a semi-truck' body. Tyson was, and seemingly still is, muscular, agile, and seriously mean. And maybe you can be too if you follow this Mike Tyson bodyweight workout. 

Want neck strength like Tyson? Use THIS unconventional bodyweight move

You might be confined to your home, but that shouldn't stop you from exercising. There are some great ways to build muscle at home, and one of them is callisthenics – a type of workout that uses bodyweight exercises only. If you think it's not a good way to build muscle, think again: Mike Tyson used a bodyweight workout to get in shape when he was the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world.

Don't get us wrong: Mike used gym equipment to train later on in his career, and we are not suggesting that he avoided weights. But the simple yet effective body weight routine he used at the beginning definitely helped him build a solid foundation for his extraordinary physique. And that solid foundation was more shredded than we'll ever get.

Regardless of what you might think of Iron Mike as a person, he was undeniably one of the best heavyweight boxers of his time. He was blisteringly fast and uncannily strong, capable of delivering big, show-stopping punches in rapid succession in the ring. He achieved his frightening physique using nothing but the best bodyweight exercises.

Unlike T3's usual best full-body workout, this is not about leveraging the best barbells and best dumbbells; it's all down to you. And not only do you not need lots of the best home gym equipment, but you also don't have to learn any ridiculous, bicep push-up style moves – so leave those fancy pistol squats and scorpion push-ups to Youtube influencers. You also won't need to punch big sides of beef in a warehouse unless you want to. You can always use a punching bag and some boxing gloves, Just sayin'. 

Of course, one might wonder how Mike Tyson got ripped using simple bodyweight exercises only? Can you build muscle using bodyweight exercises? After all, you can only increase resistance so much with calisthenics exercises and after mastering push ups, the only thing you can do is churning out more reps.

The problem is, most bodybuilders claim that the ideal hypertrophy range is between 8-12 reps per set. But by doing only 8-12 reps per set, after a few months of bodyweight training, you will stop seeing improvements, we can guarantee that. Progressive overload is key to muscle building.

ab crunches

(Image credit: Getty Images)

So, what's the secret sauce of the Mike Tyson bodyweight training? Surprisingly enough, it's frequency. It might not be as surprising to some, especially for those who are in the know about bodyweight training. To build muscle with calisthenics, you will need to up the rep range, and significantly so.

As mentioned in our press up workout tips article, overloading the muscles is important in bodyweight training. Some might say a higher rep range will 'only' build muscle endurance, but that's only true if you work with lighter weights, and bodyweight exercises provide ample amount of resistance so they can be classified as moderate- to heavy-weight training.

decline sit up

(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you want to build muscle like Mike Tyson in his heydays, you should follow his bodyweight workout plan. It's worth mentioning that Mike was doing this workout for a month leading up to his fights; the Mike Tyson bodyweight workout is intense and demanding, especially if you aren't used to strenuous exercising.

Mike reportedly worked out 10 times a day, six times a week and followed this routine: 200 decline sit-ups, 50 bench dips, 50 push-ups and 50 shrugs. For the shrugs, he used the best dumbbells but you can use the best resistance bands or the best kettlebells instead. If you have the best barbells at home, you can use a trap bar as well for the shrugs.

Mike Tyson bodyweight workout: don't forget your protein

It is worth mentioning that if you are planning on building muscle mass, you can't do it without eating right. One thing that you will need to eat more is protein: it helps muscle repair and recovery too. This doesn't mean you will need to start chugging down the best protein powder shakes but adding more protein to your diet will certainly help.

According to the manofmany (opens in new tab) website, "Tyson used to consume anywhere from 3,000-4,000 calories a day", and we are not talking about him chomping down on Domino's pizza. Just like his workout plan, Mike's diet plan was simple and effective: a lot of rolled oats, chicken and rice, steak and the likes. Also, apparently, he used to have protein shakes with six bananas in it as a snack. That's a 700+ calorie snack right there.

Mike Tyson bodyweight workout

Decline sit ups

Decline sit ups allow a fuller range of motion than regular sit ups and therefore activate the rectus abdominis muscle (a.k.a. six pack muscle) more. When doing sit ups, make sure you don't pull your head forwards with your hands: you can rest the hands in front of your chest instead.

Bench dips

Bench dips are the smaller sibling of parallel bar dips and require literally no equipment. Of course, feel free to use the best weight bench for support if you want to, that might come in handy for other exercises too.

Push ups

We love push ups here at T3. Push ups are one of the best bodyweight exercises you can do and they will build monster pecs and impressive arms. They are great for improving core strength and should you elevate your legs, you can also work your delts (a.k.a. shoulder muscles) beautifully.


Nothing says 'I work out' more than having big traps (the muscles around the neck). As well as making you look incredibly buff, traps can help stabilise the neck and reduce pressure on the upper back muscles. Shrugs also improve grip strength and we all know that grip strength is the best way to assess one's physical abilities.

Matt is T3's Fitness Editor and covers everything from smart fitness tech to running and workout shoes, home gym equipment, exercise how-tos, nutrition, cycling, and more. His byline appears in several publications, including Techradar and Fit&Well, and he collaborated with other fitness content creators such as Garage Gym reviews.