A lot of people these days are always on the search for ways to get fit and healthy without paying for a gym membership. I have found myself in that very same boat. It could be because budget is tight, no gyms are within walking or cycling distance or the fact that the idea of being in a gym is about as appealing as an axe to the face. The success and abundance of boot camps in recent years shows that people are now realising the benefit of the bodyweight workout.
My belief is that as long as you’re not an athlete looking for performance related gains, you do not need a gym to get in shape. There are obviously big benefits to being a member of a gym or fitness facility like the camaraderie with other members and staff to help motivate you. If the gym is not for you, do not use this as an excuse to become inactive and unhealthy. Keeping fit and healthy is not determined by your bank balance, what gadgets or equipment you have available to you, what’s on TV or that rabid dog growling outside your front door. The only thing that determines whether you keep fit and healthy is you. Everything else is an excuse. Bodyweight workouts could be the answer if you are looking to fight off these excuses. You need three things; your bodyweight (unless you currently reside on the moon, this should be easy to bring along), direction and motivation. Consider this your direction. Realise your goals, write them down, stick them on your fridge and that will be your motivation.
These are 8 benefits to using bodyweight workouts
You are no longer constrained by gym opening times. Bodyweight workouts can be done anytime anywhere and can be over and done with within a few minutes. “I don’t have time” is no longer an excuse.
2. Efficient workout
Shorter time for better gains compared to steady state cardio. If your goal is fat loss then bodyweight exercise will get you results in far less time than running or cycling. More on this next week.
3. One size fits all
There is something for everyone in this category. Multiple progressions and literally hundreds of exercises
4. Improvement in Core muscles
Body weight exercise targets the core more than any machine or steady state work.
5. Great outdoors
Bodyweight exercising gets you outside. I used this form of exercise last year when travelling meant I had no access to a gym. This picture is of me training at the spectacular Iguazu Falls. Obviously taking the urine.
No need to pay for that gym membership anymore so you can easily afford that combine harvester you always wanted.
7. Cardio and strength
Bodyweight exercise has the potential to improve both your anaerobic and aerobic strength resulting in great improvements in strength and cardiovascular endurance.
8. Injury prevention
Most rehab exercises use just bodyweight. Master your own bodyweight and it will help bulletproof you against injury.
OK, I’m convinced. What do I do?
Similar to the “comfort food” phenomenon, people have “comfort exercises”. These are the exercises that people are good at and they enjoy doing. It usually involves muscles that can be seen in the mirror like bench pressing for that puffed up chest look or doing bicep curls in the squat rack to invest in the latest gun show. Sticking to what you are good at will inevitably lead to muscle imbalances. This can put you at a higher risk of injury and will also mean you will never achieve anywhere close to your potential strength. When trying to decide what bodyweight exercises to do for the upper body, try thinking of them in terms of pushing and pulling in both a horizontal and a vertical direction. An essential rule of upper body training is to balance the push with the pull. Many, if not the vast majority get this wrong whenever they do strength training where they carry out far too much pushing and almost neglect any pulling movements. This is usually because they cannot see the results in the mirror or they just plain suck ass at it. This inevitably leads to people seeing an Arnold Schwarzenegger in the mirror where the hunchback of Notre Dame is the actual reality.
To give you an example in terms of bodyweight, a pushing movement in a vertical direction is a V shoulder press. The opposite pulling movement in a vertical direction is a chin up. A pushing movement in a horizontal direction is a press up. A horizontal pulling movement is an inverted row. Obviously, bodyweight exercises can also include those that target the core specifically (reverse crunches), the posterior chain (bird dogs) and the legs (bodyweight squats).
Bodyweight workouts are usually put together in a circuit format. There are more body weight circuits online than I have had chocolate biscuits and I do love a good chocolate biscuit. This site is one example that gives three workouts for beginner, medium and advanced trainers.
There are literally hundreds of ways to form a bodyweight circuit and guys like Craig Ballantyne and Alwyn Cosgrove are some of the best minds in the business when it comes to the subject. Next week I will give some information on how I program these workouts for myself and other people which give better fat loss and strength gains than running or any steady state cardio ever will. For the moment however, this program is a great way to start on the road to owning bodyweight exercise.
Do the following circuit three times and do each exercise for 12-15 reps. Do not rest unless the program mentions rest. The pulling movements can sometimes be challenging for people to find equipment to hang off so try and improvise. If you are unsure on any exercise please google it to get an idea of how to do it. Remember to warm up for 5-10 minutes beforehand with some light jogging or skipping.
60 second rest
V Shoulder Press
60 second rest
Running on the spot (with high knees) for 30 seconds
Side plank left for 30 seconds
Side plank right for 30 seconds