Whether you’re unable to make it into the gym, traveling for work, or strapped for cash and don’t have access to equipment, understanding how to incorporate varying bodyweight exercises is a great “default” resource for those choosing an active and healthy lifestyle.
Laying the groundwork for a bodyweight oriented program essentially leaves me with these general thoughts whenever someone asks me, “What can I do if I don’t have access to a gym?” There are literally an endless amount of exercises and combinations of exercises that you can perform once you choose to start the habit of exercising regularly.
Before I incorporate these items, I will have to ask this person, “What is your goal?” Often they reply with one of the following:
- Lose some pounds (Fat Loss)
- Gain strength
- Improve athletic performance
Since my mindset is centered around what is optimal, I will often default as well to the simplest and most direct route to that goal.
- If your goal is fat loss, you need to focus on what is entering your mouth, or your daily nutrition, along with the psychological reasons why you eat the way you do.
- If your goal is increased strength, utilizing an external load in various exercises may prove to be a faster and more optimal route.
- If your goal is athletic performance, the process will focus on recovery and enhancing rate of force production.
None of these goals imply that bodyweight exercises are the LONE method that will allow you to reach your goal in as fast a way as possible. This method can help assist you on your goal, but as always a multi-faceted approach will accelerate you to your destination.
If we can accept that even if your individual logistics are not optimal, the next step must be “acceptable” – in this case if you still choose to use a bodyweight exercise program approach, these movements will need to be varied enough to prevent an overuse of a singular movement pattern, along with not deviating from the path towards your goal (fat loss, athletic performance, etc).
Since fat loss can and should be mediated with a nutritional focus, and athletic performance is specific to the many variables depending on the sport, I’ll continue forward with the goal of increasing strength and “obtaining” bodyweight feats of strength – ranging from your first push-up, to your first pistol squat, all the way to your first triple clap push-up.
Building the Routine
As you construct an exercise program, begin with these variables in mind:
- Horizontal Pushing
- Horizontal Pulling
- Vertical Pulling
- Vertical Pushing
- Quad Dominant
- Hip Hinge
- Single Leg Quad
- Single Leg Hip Hinge
- Lateral and Multi-Planar Movements (Combination Movements)
Among these variables, there are also opportunities for plyometric type exercises to enhance the stretch shortening cycle and improve neural drive for improvements in jumping or eccentric absorption types of exercises.
So with these cards laid out, we can begin to make a program!
Step 2: Bodyweight Program
Step 3: Post-Workout Stretching
For the purposes of utilizing our bodyweight within the program, if you do not have a method of increasing work performed by utilizing an external load, another way to increase workload is to focus on capacity, or rather performing many exercises within a specific timeframe. Performing exercises in a density minded circuit, which can comprise up to 3, 4, or even 5 exercises is a useful approach when looking to enhance aerobic and even anaerobic capacity and output.
Keep in mind that this is one of many methods that can be used!
Step 1: Dynamic Warm-Up
A dynamic warm-up can and should be utilized prior to the bodyweight program for several reasons:
- It increases proprioceptive awareness to the muscles surrounding subsequent joints that may be “underactive” and provide a mobilization or inhibitory effect for the “overactive” muscles surrounding a joint.
- Improve neural drive to a movement pattern that can help increase performance during the actual exercise program.
- Providing a wide variety of exercises can help “maintain” movement patterns during times when that movement may not be “loaded” or focused on.
Step 2: Exercise Program
EDT Circuit A – Perform 3 times for designated time.
A1. Hip Hinge – Vertical Jump with Pause at Bottom
A2. Anti-Rotation – Side Plank
A3. Vertical Pushing – Yoga Push-Up (or Handstand Holds with Shrug)
A4. Single Leg Quad – Split Squat
A5. Vertical Pulling – Chin-Ups (if chin-up bar is available!)
EDT Circuit B – Perform 3 times for designated time.
B1. Quad Dominant – Bodyweight Squat to Bench or Chair with Pec Stretch (Hands Behind Head)
B2. Anti-Extension – Front Plank
B3. Horizontal Pulling – Prone Ts (or Suspended Rows if access to Suspension Straps)
B4. Single Leg Hip Hinge – Single Leg Deadlift with Inverted Reach
B5. Horizontal Pushing – Push-Up
Step 3: Post-Workout Stretching!
You probably already have a good grip on what this entails.
So with all of this in mind, hopefully you can begin to appreciate that if you apply the principles, you can still create an acceptable exercise program. This can give not only a training effect that will make you sweat and make your heart race, but also help improve specific physiological qualities as well.
With all of these variables laid out for you, two aspects that haven’t been mentioned include what the sets and reps will look like in the program, along with the manipulation of tempos, or how slow or fast these movements can and should be utilized in order to elicit proper technique along with a specific training effect if sought out.
If you’re interested in learning how to fully integrate these variables along with my thoughts on how I create bodyweight exercise programs for those without a gym, please check out my new online coaching group on Fitocracy, Bodyweight Training: Never Gymless.
Not only will you get access to top of the line exercise programming, but direct access to me and my knowledge base, along with a support group who are all aiming to get back into the swing of things!
Featured image courtesy of the U.S. Navy and used under a Creative Commons License.