Is it possible to get a great workout without any equipment whatsoever? Damn straight! It’s just a matter of willpower and imagination. It is said that a good bodybuilder can walk into an empty room and come out shortly after with a great pump. Over the next few paragraphs, I aim to give you everything you need to know to get a great workout with only a few square feet of floor space.
We’ll start by looking at the problems thrown out by this type of no-equipment training and how best to overcome them.
Problem 1: Adjusting the Load
This can be tricky. With a kit you can add or remove weight from a bar, you can go up or down the dumbbell rack, you have the freedom to simply adjust as wanted or needed. But your body weighs what it weighs; you can’t change it. So we need to play with the exercise selection and application to achieve our desired goals.
You can play around with the leverage. For example, a Push Up done from kneeling will have you lifting approx 60% of your bodyweight, this goes up to around 70% on your toes and gets higher as you elevate the feet further and further. A Handstand Push Up will have you lifting in the region of 98% of your bodyweight. The same can be said of the Squat, a regular bodyweight Squat has you lifting around 65% of your bodyweight, switch to the Single Leg Pistol Squat and you’ll be closer to 95% bodyweight going through a single limb. That’s some difference!
So, according to your strength levels and your workout goals, you can simply adjust the leverage in a bodyweight drill by changing the angles or by emphasizing one limb over the other.
Problem 2: Training the Back
In our empty room, we have nothing to hang from, so the Pull Up is currently out of the question. There are no dumbbells for rowing, so how can I hit the back? My personal favorites are:
Holding a bridge for time, keep the heels down and pull the shoulder blades back and down. This exercise will leave you with a pump throughout the entire back, especially the lower back. This is a staple drill in almost every wrestling school around the world and for good reason, a wrestler needs a strong, flexible back and this drill delivers.
The lats are a major muscle group, they essentially pull the upper arm down to the ribcage. While most usually train with Pull Ups, when we have no option to hang, this is a decent alternative. Start by bending over and putting the hands on the floor, walk them out until you’ve reached your maximum extension, then either walk the hands back or walk the feet up. The whole time the lats, along with the other core muscles, are fighting to keep you from collapsing on your face.
This is a static pose that is great for the mid-back. Start by lying on your belly with your arms out to the side like a letter T. Pull the shoulder blades back and down, harder and harder until your shoulders and chest begin to lift off the floor. You’ll feel a great deal of tension through the midback area. Hold for time. Try this in a “Y” shape with the thumbs pointing up to the ceiling. Pulling the elbows back brings you to a W, which adds a different challenge again. These are not just back drills for when no weight is available, they also form a great shoulder Prehab/Rehab set for regular lifting.
We’ve dealt with the main problems, so what are the advantages?
Advantage 1: Every bodyweight drill is a core training drill.
Since you are moving the body through space in every lift, your body must do what it is designed to do: move as a single, coordinated unit, especially if you use locomotive or animal-like movements. Push Ups are a great core drill; they’re essentially a plank on steroids, but what if we started to move more? As you lower into a Push Up, try bringing a knee to your elbow, better again, move your opposite hand forwards. You’ll look like Spiderman climbing a wall, which is a cool enough reason to do these, but feel what happens to the midsection. Feel that powerful contraction? Better than a Sit Up? Hell yeah! Functional, you’d better believe it!
Taking balance onto one limb, be it a Lunge, Pistol, or One-Arm Push Up will cause the core to kick in as a stabilising unit, exactly as it was designed to do, adjusting to every twitch and change in your balance. Try simply standing on one leg and turning your head side to side to see what I mean. You’ll notice flashes of tension each time you wobble; this is dynamic and functional core training.
Advantage 2: You are limited by your own ability to move.
Here is a practical example: a while ago I had the pleasure of attending a seminar at my friend’s gym. He was hosting the first man to ever Deadlift over 1000lbs, the world’s strongest powerlifter, Andy Bolton. Andy went through a Deadlift workout there and then, and he invited people to join him. By his second warm up set, he was nearing my limit and had out lifted everyone by about his fourth or fifth set. He continued adding weight for approximately eight sets. The man is awesome, but other than the big lifts, his mobility is terrible. He seemed to have difficulty just stepping over the bar on the floor. What use is this phenomenal strength if it doesn’t have a practical application? The day after this seminar, I was attending a Yoga seminar, the Yin to Andy’s Yang. The instructor was totally different, her flexibility was something to see, but she was also very weak, and even struggled with bodyweight Squats!
This is where adding bodyweight to your training really comes in. It hits the middle ground combining the strength of a weight lifter with the flexibility of a Yogi into a practical and versatile body. Take for example the Persian and Kushti wrestlers favorite drills, the Dand (Hindu Push Up), Batik (Hindu Squat) and Bridge. The Hindu Push Up will bring flexibility to the spine, hips, and shoulders as well as strength, the Bridge opens up the entire front of the body while strengthening the back and the Hindu Squat takes care of the legs. Just these three, often referred to as the “Royal Court” are an awesome workout.
Taking it to a further extreme, we have the Pistol (also known as the Single Leg Squat). If you don’t have freedom of movement in your hips and ankles, you can forget about this drill. Most people I’ve taught this exercise to have had to first overcome mobility issues. Even though they had the strength to perform heavy Squats, they were fighting themselves as soon as they attempted full range on a single leg. Bodyweight training will keep you honest, you can’t cheat yourself!
Putting Your Bodyweight Workout Together
So we’ve looked at some of the main advantages, but how do we make it work? How do we put together a bodyweight only workout? There are several methods, but personally, I like to work against the clock. Since I can’t adjust the load by small increments, I find building density to be a more efficient manner of progression when it comes to bodyweight drills. When selecting exercises, I like to alternate upper and lower body drills, often adding in some kind of locomotive drill as well. Here are a couple of simple bodyweight workout examples:
Sample Bodyweight Workout #1
A1: Single Leg Squat - Max x 5 ES
A2: Divebomber Push Up - Max x 10
A3: Sprint - Max x 50m
Repeat as many rounds as possible in 15 minutes. This particular workout is one that I often perform in the park with the dog. It’s very simple and efficient. If I’m indoors and there’s no space to sprint I can substitute Burpees (x 15) or Bodyweight Squats (x 25).
Sample Bodyweight Workout #2
A1: Clapping (Plyo) Push Up
A2: Wall Squat
B1: Sing Leg Deadlift
B2: Plank w/Arm Excursions
C: Bear Push Up
Set a timer for 30 second work periods and 15 second rest periods. Repeat each circuit three times. The whole thing should take 10 – 15 minutes, each time you repeat try to get an extra rep or two in the allotted times. The Bear Push Up at the end is a killer!
You can take that format and switch up the exercises and times. Change to longer or shorter work to rest intervals depending on your wants and needs. Change the exercise selection if necessary. Can’t do Push Ups? Do them on your knees. Want more strength emphasis? Do 30 seconds left/right of One Arm Push Ups. Is the Bear too tough? Switch to Walkouts or Hindu Push Ups. It’s no big deal, work to your level and always ensure that you focus on quality of movement rather than quantity.
This article was featured in the Oct/Nov 2011 Issue of the My Mad Methods Magazine. "No Equipment, No Excuses: Could You Workout in a Box?" was written by the Dave Hedges. Learn more about the My Mad Methods Magazine by Clicking Here
Dave Hedges is the founder, owner, and instructor of Wild Geese Personal Training & Combat Fitness and Wild Geese Martial Arts. Dave has a certification from the IKFF, he's a National Level Kettlebell Coach under Vasily Ginko's IUKL-IKSA, a 2nd Dan Ed Parkers Kenpo, 1st Dan Wado Ryu Karate, Instructor Doce Pares "Multi Style" Systems, and also a Security Consultant. He uses his experience and expertise to get people into shape using kettlebells and other unconventional methods and gear. Find out more at www.WG-Fit.com
|< Prev||Next >|