Training Without A Gym

There have been times in the past when I was in as good shape as ever, and the only equipment I used was a jump rope and one pair of dumbbells. The option of having hundreds of different exercises at your immediate disposal is a wonderful luxury, but not a necessary one. Sometimes all you need is a little creativity to accomplish everything you want to. For some, it may even be a matter of preference.

Maybe you don’t have a gym near enough to be convenient, or maybe you just don’t like them. Some people detest the atmosphere. The loud noise, the meat market vibe, the sweaty grunting guy literally screaming for attention. There are a good many reasons to avoid the gym. Today I thought I could pass on a few methods that I’ve had success with and still use at times for the mental break that variety offers, and sometimes, maybe just like you, I just don’t want to go to the gym.

The easiest thing in the world for me to do, as a stay at home dad without setting foot in a gym or even breaking a serious sweat, is to put my 30 pound one year old in the backpack carrier. Next I put my dog Dug on his leash, and we walk. Will this get me in shape enough to win a marathon or play 90 minutes of soccer. Not on it’s own, no. Will it help to get me in great shape? You bet it will. My theory toward reaching any goal is doing something is always 100 percent better than doing nothing.

Weighted carries, which is exactly what carrying a child on your back is, are the most metabolically taxing of the five methods used when it come to moving a weight. In order of effectiveness, those five techniques are:

1. Weighted Carries
2. Squats
3. Hinge
4. Pull
5. Push

Getting off track a little bit for a moment, if you’ll notice, most programs do these five things in the reverse order and skip the most important one altogether. Lots of chest pressing, pulldowns, some deadlifting and squatting on leg day only-which is often skipped, but never weighted carries. Unless you’re carrying groceries, weighted carries are just not a part of many trainees programs. To be honest, it’s not something that has ever received much attention except in strength competitions where events like the farmer’s walk test the ability of the athlete to carry heavy loads for as long, and as far as they can.

Not nearly as challenging as the farmer’s walk, I am often lugging around a 30 pound boy for an hour of hiking around Toronto with my panting dog at my side. Seriously, if fat loss was my only goal then this would be all I would need to do. It’s not quite the same as steady state cardio due the extra weight and therefore the added strain on my ability to produce energy, so it would only be a matter of time until all the extra fat I had would be utilized as fuel.

Fat loss as your only goal however, is never a totally well thought out destination. You’re going to have lots of problems like the slowing of your metabolism as you progress. This post is about how to train without a gym and weighted carries are a good start, but I’m not suggesting you load up a backpack and walk around the city or town you live in every day, and you’ve done all you need to do. So how can we incorporate weighted carries into our overall fitness plan and still avoid using a gym? Easy, but we need to go shopping first.

You can get away with sprints and push ups of course, but I’m trying to help you construct a plan that will get you fit and strong, not just lean. A few basic pieces of equipment will be all you’ll need to give enough variety to achieve that goal. The two pieces I would recommend are a moderately heavy pair of kettlebells, and a jump rope. That is all you will need for this workout.

The kettlebells need to be heavy enough to use for those weighted carries I made such a big deal about, and of course other exercises such as front squats, step ups and everyone’s favorite, kettlebell swings-but not in this particular workout. The jump rope is obviously for skipping. If you have these two pieces of equipment and some space outside, preferable with some of it paved for skipping, then you’re ready to train.

Getting creative is always a huge advantage in the game of training, but I’ll give you a sample routine to get you started and you can make changes as you see fit. A routine that I use regularly is lift/sprint/lift/sprint, resting as little as possible. So start with something like a kettlebell front squat, or step ups onto a bench while holding the kettlebells at your sides and do as many reps as the weight of your kettlebells allow. Ideally they should be heavy enough to allow you to complete eight to ten repetitions on these exercises as we want them to be heavy enough to be challenging for what you knew was coming next, weighted carries.

After you’ve completed your last rep on either the front squat or step up, put the kettlebells down for a few seconds. Your forearms are likely burning and this is one of the reasons I suggested kettlebells over the more traditional dumbbells-their larger handles really test your forearm strength. Rest as little as possible and pick those kettlebells back up and start walking. Just walk for as long as you can stand the burning in your forearms.

Yes I’m well aware that a weighted carry is not a sprint, but I’m giving you a complete body routine that will tax your cardiovascular capabilities as well, so I’m modifying things a little to keep this minimal. Now you’ve walked those kettlebells until you can no longer take another step, so it’s time for your next exercise. After a very short rest, pick those kettlebells up one more time and start doing kettlebell deadlifts. Do as many reps as you can stand as by now your forearms are threatening to explode from gripping those kettlebells. When you put them down after your last rep it’s time to empty the tank of whatever remaining energy you can generate. Grab your jump rope and skip as fast as you can for as long as you can, which at this point won’t be long at all. Do several rounds of these exercises until you have to crawl home, and you’ve just had an incredible workout in 30 minutes or less!

You’ll improve at this as you do it more often, so just do your best at each exercise until you master the circuit. If you noticed the four exercises include the weighted carry, a squat, a hinge(deadlift) and it finishes off with a sprint. That means by just doing this simple circuit, you’ve done the top three most metabolically challenging exercises leaving only push and pull. If you’re up for it, you can do kettlebell front squat thrusts, which is a squat with a push press at the top of the squat, raising the kettlebells overhead. Secondly you can do an alternating deadlift/row after the weighted carry. One repetition of a deadlift followed by a bend at the waist row, and repeat until you can’t do any more.

Adding those modified exercises to the original four exercise circuit and you’ve done all five movements you can do with weights and finished with a sprint. You can still complete this exhausting workout in under half an hour, and believe me that when you’ve done it a few times and get the rhythm, you’ll never find a better full body routine. Not to mention you didn’t have to set foot in a gym, or pay the membership fee! Take that corporate gym shareholders! I hope you consider adding this routine to your day to get yourself a strong and lean body. Until next time then,

Happy Lifting.

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