Whether you’re a busy parent, a businessman away from home, a prisoner behind bars, or on a tight budget that doesn’t allow for a gym membership, we’ve all had times where we don’t have access to a gym. But no worries, not all is lost! Not being able to make it to the gym regularly doesn’t have to prevent progression towards a healthier body and an aesthetic physique.
Enter bodyweight and penitentiary style training.
When it comes to building muscle, I feel that training with weights yields better results than any other type of training. There are times however, that I like to switch things up anywhere from two to six weeks and utilize only what God gave me to hit some really intense workouts. I like to use these workouts as a deload of sorts, to give my joints and nervous system a much needed break from the wear and tear that training with heavy weights brings on them.
Benefits of bodyweight training
- Bodyweight workouts can be done almost anywhere! Most parks even have a station where you can do pull ups and dips (or monkey bars for that matter) so you can train while your kids play. Its a win/win because not only do you get to spend time with family and get a good workout in at the same time, but also get to set a good example for kids letting them know that even into adult life people should stay active and get out of the house. Also with this beginners who have been too shy to step into the gym can get a good base built up before embarking on a weight training journey.
- The freedom to train outside in the sun will supply the body with some much needed vitamin D. Vitamin D helps protect the body from certain illnesses (source), aids in the battle against depression (source), and can even help maintain higher testosterone levels in men (source). I know from recent blood work that I had a deficiency, and getting out in the sun more often is a simple solution to getting more vitamin D.
- It’s free! Unless you’re a student or in the military, most of the time there is a monthly fee to workout. With the versatility of being able to train in your own backyard or at a park, you won’t be spending a dime.
- Bodyweight training is much easier on the joints than weight training, which is why I like to use bodyweight workouts as a deload.
- Following a weight training workout, bodyweight movements make for great finishing exercises. Using your own body as resistance will give you a pump like no other!
- Theres many different variations of each movement, which makes the possibilities for different workouts endless. Hard to get bored and burnt out training this way!
- An intense workout can be done in under 20 minutes and still be effective.
- While there are a lot of advanced calisthenic movements out there, many exercises are easy to learn even by the most novice of lifter.
A few sample bodyweight routines
Here are a few bodyweight workouts that are sure to have the muscles feeling full and pumped as well as getting the heart pumping blood. All it takes is a half hour to an hour of free time and your own body and you’re set!
During my last break from weights just a few weeks ago, I used this simple no nonsense routine. I had been having some joint pain and muscle tightness, and giving the weights a break for a couple weeks really did the trick in bringing me back to speed. I followed it Monday, Wednesday, and Friday giving myself a day off in between each workout to take full advantage of recovery. Rest 1 min between each set.
- Pullups– 50 reps in as few sets as possible
- Pushups– 50 reps in as few sets as possible
- Air squats-100 reps in as few sets as possible
- Handstand pushups– 3 sets to near failure
- Jack knives– 3 sets to near failure
Short, sweet, and intense. Having a rep goal on these exercises will help you push harder to get the workout done in as few sets as possible. And if you’ve never tried handstand pushups, they will add size to your delts like you wouldn’t believe! I always look my widest when I incorporate handstand pushups in my routine so even when I go back to weight training I like to keep them included.
Death by burpees
This one is a real burner! For this routine simple set a timer anywhere from 5 minutes to an hour and do burpees until you can’t move. Then next time set the timer again and try to beat your previous record. You don’t need any equipment or barely any space at all for this one.
I learned this one a while back when training with my buddy Charlie who trains in crossfit and boxing. Just pick one exercise and go back and forth with a workout partner(s) until one of you fails. With pushups and three people for instance, line up in pushup position. Person one will do one rep, person two will do one, and person three will do one. Back to the first person, they will do two reps this time, followed by person two and three doing two reps. Continue in this pattern adding one rep each round until two fail and one is the last man standing. This workout also makes a great finisher to an upper body workout! Try with squats, pull-ups, or burpees as well. Again, no equipment necessary.
Rhianna is no stranger to bodyweight movements either, using many different bodyweight movements in her group exercise classes she teaches at the gym. She sent me this video of her ab finisher she did the other day while I was at work so I felt it was appropriate to share it on an article about bodyweight training. While its not technically bodyweight only with the use of an exercise ball, its still a short and simple routine that is sure to have the core screaming.
These are only a few routines but when it comes to bodyweight training the possibilities of combinations are endless! Experimenting with bodyweight training is a great way to change things up and stay motivated all the while learning things about the body that you didn’t know it was capable of!
Progressing with bodyweight training
Just like any type of training, there will come a point where your body has adapted to the new challenge and you’ll need something more. This is the point I usually will just return to weight training, but for bodyweight training in the long term, there are certain steps that can be taken to keep progressing and getting stronger.
To progress on any of these routines, extra resistance can be added via a quality weight vest or dip belt. Remember, pushing hard to add weight weekly is what is going to keep bringing results! A training partner can also take the place of a weight vest or dip belt, by having them push or pull on shoulders while doing push-up and pull up variations, as well as climbing on your back/shoulders while doing the squat movements.
Or try advanced calisthenic variations such as pistol squats, single arm push-ups and pull-ups, and muscle ups. This is a real challenge that takes much strength, balance, and coordination but will definitely keep things fresh and are sure to impress onlookers. Check the video below for a demonstration of pistol squats from Rhianna.
A final option is to add reps weekly. This will still keep things moving along as well as keeping the body cut up.
If you have any other good bodyweight routines that you like post them in the comments section below! Thanks for reading.
And remember, check with a physician or qualified healthcare provider before embarking on any changes made to lifestyle, training, supplementation, or eating.