The Vikings… the Spartans… in Rome, there were the Legionnaires and gladiators… the Maori warriors of New Zealand… even warriors from the more successful African tribes. OK, so they certainly were never up to the standards of today’s elite bodybuilders (and there are factors involved there that need not be explained) but these were big, strong, powerful men who were capable of holding their own in any situation, and carried muscle-filled physiques that would cause jaws to drop, and enemies to seriously assess their chances.
So, is the gym absolutely necessary for creating a strong, impressive physique, and making muscular gains?
All the evidence says no.
Maybe you’re tired of the gym right now? Still waiting for the new year rush to die down, leaving the hardcore few to continue on their path towards aesthetical perfection?
Perhaps you just want a change of scenery? Looking for some fresh air for the mind and body?
Or maybe money is a little tight, and you’ve been forced to make cutbacks, so the gym membership has to go for now?
Whatever your reason for stepping out of the gym, have no fear, you can still keep up a full body training regime and make impressive gains. Use your imagination and mix things up to keep your body stimulated, but hey, embrace it, it’s exciting. Move outside of your comfort zone and try a few new things, what’s the worst that can happen?
Adding Sheer Pre-X to your pre-workout nutrition helps boost performance, whatever your chosen workout activity. This superb supplement from Sheer Strength Labs contains scientifically proven ingredients that will provide you with the energy, focus, and motivation to succeed, as well as increasing nitric oxide production for improved blood flow and huge pumps.
If you already have some training equipment at home, you have a great start. A simple dumbbell set can go a long way towards creating a good all-around workout plan, especially when it comes to hitting smaller body parts with isolation movements. Other basic pieces of equipment proving extremely handy are a pull-up bar and push up stands. But if you don’t have any of these things, never fear, with a little imagination you can turn the outside world into your own vast and diverse gym.
If you plan on spending a lot of your training time outdoors, it is only the elements that can cause you a problem. The key to keeping warm is layering your clothing. Lots of thin layers are far better at retaining body heat than one thick one. Start with a thin base layer and build from there. Microfleeces are excellent for keeping you warm while being lightweight and unrestrictive. Small raincoats are available that fold extremely small and can often be easily attached to a waistband or even fit into a pocket. Running shoes tick all the right boxes in the footwear department.
The most accessible weight you have to train with is your body. There are many ways to use your bodyweight to make gains in strength and muscle, in fact, it is these exercises that inspired the many staple lifts we know and love to perform in the gym. Bodyweight work also helps you get in tune with your body, as well as recruit the core and other stability factors, leading to improvements in posture, balance, and power transfer.
The only drawback of using your bodyweight is it is more difficult to alter the resistance, which can become an issue if you are either too light or heavy for your current ability level. If you find your bodyweight too much, you might be carrying a little excess weight, so this may need to be addressed. That said, there are ways of adjusting most exercises to make them easier. Increasing resistance can also be achieved to a certain extent, and just requires a little imagination and innovation.
For instance, you can add a weighted backpack, or a training partner to your shoulders. Altering hand position or stance can isolate target muscles more effectively and add variation to your workouts. Super slow negatives increase the time the muscles are under tension and can drastically increase difficulty. You can even slow down the concentric phase, as well as using pauses and techniques such as partial reps to go beyond failure. Cutting rest time to an absolute minimum boosts the intensity level of your workouts and places the muscles under greater strain. Now for some exercise ideas…
Starting with perhaps the toughest bodyweight exercise of them all, the pull-up is one of the best mass builders for the upper back. It also improves grip strength, places significant strain on the biceps, and works the entire core area. Many people use a very wide grip, believing a wide grip builds a bigger, wider back. This doesn’t actually make any sense. A narrow grip, either under or overhand, allows for the lats to stretch further at the bottom of the lift, as well as contracting to a far greater degree at the top, working the muscles through a much greater range of motion.
Another great bodyweight exercise for the upper back is the inverted row (pictured). This exercise hits the lats from a different angle and is especially useful for those struggling with pull-ups.
Intense training can lead to muscle tissue being broken down for conversion to fuel. This can be allayed by ingesting branched chain amino acids (BCAA’s) before and during exercise. Sheer BCAA contains the perfect balance of these three important amino acids, helping you hold onto every ounce of your hard earned gains.
Now on to another big bodyweight exercise, the push-up. Push-ups are great for adding strength and size to the pecs, as well as the frontal delts and triceps, with the core once again being heavily stimulated.
Push-up stands are a great tool, as they allow you to go slightly deeper into the lift while taking a lot of strain off of the wrists. Play around with hand positions to hit the chest from all angles. Raising your feet up will make the lift harder and target the upper pecs.
Handstand push-ups make a good substitution for heavy shoulder pressing in the gym, but you have to be extremely strong to pull them off.
A great exercise to follow push-ups is dips. These will finish off your triceps, and are best performed on parallel bars to avoid risking shoulder injuries.
Rope climbing is a brilliant all-around workout that especially targets the upper body and grip strength. Have a look in your local hardware store or shipyard for a decent piece of chunky rope, throw it over a branch, and you’re off.
In the gym, the squat is the supreme king of lower body development, and this doesn’t change when you step outside.
The problem with the squat is that most people’s body weight just isn’t heavy enough to promote any major muscle growth. You could bash out dozens of body weight squats without raising much of a sweat, right?
If your balance is good, throw a training partner on your shoulders and squat away. For the rest of you, try one-legged squats. The best way to perform these is on a bench or similar apparatus. This allows you to dangle your resting leg over the edge so that you can keep your lower back and hips in a safe position. Go slowly, this will feel strange at first. Make sure you keep your knee and foot aligned, and try to drop your bodyweight backwards while maintaining a flat back. One-legged squats are also great for improving balance.
The lunge is a great leg developer, and they’re an excellent exercise to follow squats and burn the legs out from all angles. There are also many great lunge variations, such as side lunges and deficit lunges allowing you to mix up leg day.
Another method of finishing the legs is carrying and dragging. If you have some large containers at your disposal, such as Jerry cans, you can fill them with water and walk until you can’t take any more. Similarly, you can make use of any heavy equipment you might have hanging around by tying a rope to it and dragging it. Use your imagination.
Let’s finish off with the core, the only body part predominantly trained using bodyweight techniques in the gym.
The good old ab crunch can be performed virtually anywhere, and is great at targeting the upper abdominals. Side crunches will work the obliques. Hanging leg raises are the king of lower ab development. Grab a bar or branch and get raising.
Finish off your core sessions with the plank (pictured). This isometric exercise blasts every muscle in the core area, including those deep, hidden muscles responsible for pulling the stomach flat. Keep your body perfectly in line, from your heels to the back of your head, hang in there, and feel the burn.
All of these exercises can be put together in a whole body circuit if you like. You can also incorporate them into a light jog.
Once you can rep all of these bodyweight exercises, seek out advanced techniques to send the difficulty rating soaring, just check this guy out.
Jonathan Warren is a national level physique competitor and personal trainer with multiple certifications including NASM, NCCPT, and IKFF. His specializations include mobility training and corrective exercise as well as contest preparation.
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