How To Improve Your Physique Without Lifting Weights
With so many different types of workout, it's difficult to know which method to choose. This article provides exercises and routines to improve your physique without lifting weights.
Image by Joe Shlabotnik
There are so many different types of workout available for men these days that it's often hard to determine which is best for you. This is made more difficult by so-called experts that claim their way is best and anything else simply won't work. The fact is that there isn't a one-type-fits-all workout per se. Different goals, body types, and motivation are all factors to be taken into consideration.
If you're anything like me, you want your workouts to be as simple as possible so that all of your energy and focus goes into the exercise. This is why I hate most modern gyms. There are distractions everywhere! The TV is playing, there are social conversations between groups of friends and not to mention that there are often a lot of attractive women, which means my concentration is not 100% on the task at hand.
Working Out From Home
Working out from home may not be for everyone, however the exercises I will explain later in the article can be done at home or in the gym.
Working out from home allows me to remove all distractions from my surroundings and my daily life so that I can focus completely on my workout.
The main reasons why I love working out at home are:
1. There is never any queue to use a machine
2. I can put the time it takes to travel to/from the gym to much better use
3. No distractions
4. I can pull my most hideous workout faces without the hot girl on the treadmill seeing me
5. I can do exercises I wouldn't feel comfortable doing in front of other people
Okay, so we've established reasons to work out at home (if you're comfortable doing this workout in the gym then it can be done there too) so now it's time to talk a little bit about the reasoning of the weight free workout.
Reasons For Weight Free and Conditioning Exercise
Having lifted weights for many years, I was very skeptical to try out conditioning and bodyweight exercises, but the more I thought about it, the more I realised that resistance is resistance. It doesn't matter if that resistance is your bodyweight, a barbell or a medicine ball. As long as I'm providing my muscles with the necessary resistance needed to improve strength, speed and flexibility, then I don't really care about what type of resistance I'm using.
Let me tell you now that after doing these exercises (and various others) for six months, I was stronger, fitter, and healthier than I ever was when I was pumping iron. I've included a couple of very basic sample routines towards the bottom of this article for people who don't need to go through the exercise moves and want to skip ahead.
I would describe the sample routines and exercises as low-tech and high intensity. It's similar to circuit training I did back in school, but that was nothing compared to this. Let's cover some exercises.
High Intensity Exercises
People often think that the further they run and the longer they run for, the better shape they're going to be in. This is true in principle, but it's not always the type of shape they're looking for. Lengthy cardio sessions will increase your aerobic capacity which means you can run longer and further, but your body will adjust to this type of exercise by reducing the muscle mass.
What we want is short, high intensity anaerobic workouts (unless you're running a marathon) to really get the heart pumping. This type of exercise burns fat while preserving your muscle mass.
Exercise 1 - Hill sprints
Remember when Rocky ran up those steps in Philly? Same principle. The process goes like so:
1. Start at the bottom of the hill
2. Sprint all the way to the top
3. Jog/walk down the hill
4. Rinse and repeat
If it sounds simple, that's because it is. Be warned though, this exercise can be soul destroying. I used to jog over to this giant 200-odd metre hill, which was maybe a 30 degree incline, and sprint up it for 30 minutes. By the time I was ready to jog home, my legs were like jelly and I was ready to puke. Simply, effective and minimum time needed for the workout. Hill sprinting also helps to develop lower body power in addition to anaerobic endurance.
Exercise 2 - Burpees
Remember those weird star jump into a push-up type things you used to do at school? They're called burpees and I guarantee that once you start doing them, Burpees will be the exercise you love to hate.
This exercise is, in my opinion, the best conditioning exercise available. You will rarely hear people bragging about the number of burpees they can do the way guys in the gym brag about their bench press figures. This is a very difficult exercise which a lot of people avoid by choosing alternative conditioning methods. Here's how to perform it.
1. Start in the squat position with hands on the ground.
2. Kick your feet back into the downward position of a push-up.
3. Push up with your arms, simultaneously thrusting your feet back into the squat position.
4. Explode into a jump.
5. As soon as you land, repeat and continue at a furious pace.
For those that didn't get that, here's a YouTube video:
Try performing 100 burpees as fast as you possibly can. It makes for a brief, but very effective conditioning workout.
Exercise 3 - Pull ups
How do you workout your back? Don't tell me you're knocking out a couple of sets on the lat pulldown and calling it a day?
This exercise works out your back, your arms, your shoulders and strengthens your core. It's an amazing bodyweight exercise which can be made more challenging through the addition of a weighted vest if you start to find yourself knocking out a lot of reps.
Pull ups are done from a bar with your palms facing away from you. If your palms are facing you, that's a chin up and is easier because you can pull with your biceps. Pull ups are a much more functional exercise because if you ever needed to climb up and over something, your grip would resemble a pull up. Ideally, you should combine the two for best possible results.
Also, you can wrap a towel over the pull up bar and do a modified chin up by holding the towel. This really blasts the forearms and grip.
Exercise 4 - Squats
You all know the exercise. Legs shoulder width apart, squat down sticking your bum out until your knees are about 90 degrees, back up and repeat. It's a great exercise for strengthening the leg muscles and is a staple in the routine of any serious gym go-er. If bodyweight squats are too easy and not challenging enough for you, then I'd recommend giving the Pistol a go. It's basically a one-legged squat. It will further strengthen your legs, while improving your stability and balance as well.
I remember a friend of mine who had big powerful legs, but he simply couldn't do a Pistol because his balance and supporting muscles wouldn't allow it.
Here's a video showing the Pistol technique:
Exercise 5 - Push ups
Another no brainer really. Push ups will strengthen your shoulders, chest, triceps and core. Aim to improve your maximum number of push ups each week. Once you reach 50 push ups in one set, you're ready to try the one armed push up. This is a much more difficult exercise which puts extra stress on the triceps and, to a lesser extent, the chest.
Exercise 6 - Skipping
Most boxers are in fantastic shape, and it's no wonder with the amount of anaerobic routines they go through. Skipping is a great exercise to get the heart pumping and the blood rushing.
Try doing double unders. Because you're jumping higher to spin the rope twice before you land, you get an even better workout!
Exercise 6 - Medicine ball slams
One of my absolute favourite exercises is the medicine ball slam. If you or your gym doesn't own a medicine ball, you can knock one together pretty cheap by following this tutorial. The slams go like so:
Take the medicine ball and hold it above your head
Slam it down into the ground as hard as you possibly can
Bend down and pick it up
Stand up and raise the ball over your head
This excellent conditioning exercise works the arms, shoulders and legs as well as improving your anaerobic conditioning.
Okay now we've got a few highly effective exercises, let's put them into a couple of sample routines.
Sample Workout Routines
I'm going to give you 2 sample workouts to try and see what you think.
This first workout is commonly referred to as No Excuses. It only takes ten minutes to complete so it can't be too bad. Can it?
2. Pull ups
4. Push ups
The workout begins with a 60 second interval of each exercise (Burpees then pull ups, then squats, then pushups). You then immediately perform the circuit again with 45 second intervals, then 30 seconds, and finally 15 seconds.
You must move from one exercise to the other without stopping. There are no rest periods between any of the circuits or exercises. If you get stuck on an exercise, rest brief and do your best to continue. If you can't perform anymore pull ups, hang from the bar for the remainder of the time rather than sitting out to rest.
The second workout is even more of a killer and you may want to make sure you can fully complete the first one before trying this one out.
1. Hill sprint
2. 10 Burpees at the top of the hill
3. Jog down the hill
4. 20 Medicine ball slams at the bottom of the hill
Repeat 8 times.
This exercise is very straightforward. Perform the circuit 8 times as fast as you possibly can. There should be no exercise between exercises or circuits. You can rest if you need to after the completion of the current circuit, but aim to complete the 8 circuits with minimal rest.
These exercises and very simple routines are not meant to replace your current workouts, but supplement them and shock the muscles by doing something a little different. I've had a great deal of success using these methods as part of my training and I'm sure you can too.
I'd love to hear your opinions and feedback on these exercises. Do you know of better routines that I can try? If you try these workouts let me know how you felt about them.
You should also check out munfitnessblog and The Fitness Black Book for regular fitness articles. Also, I wouldn't know about half of these exercises and routines if it weren't for the truly amazing and inspirational Ross Enamait.
Finally, subscribe to my RSS feed to get all the latest posts and then check out the following video, just because Ross is a complete badass fitness guru!