To achieve a higher level of health, performance and overall fitness all you need is 10-30 minutes, and something that you can never go anywhere without…your
This is evident when you look at one of the most badass, physically fit populations known to man, the US military.
When we think about the members of the US military it is hard not to envision a strong, lean and resilient individual who can run for miles, bang out 100+ push ups and pull their chest to a bar 20+ times…without a kip!
And when you look at the traditional training methods of the US military you will find a large majority of the exercises built around calisthenics. Calisthenics is defined by dictionary.com as “gymnastic exercises designed to develop physical health and vigor, usually performed with little or no special apparatus.”
Basically, calisthenics is bodyweight training.
With this in mind, and to show my gratitude for everything that I am able to do as a result of the ultimate sacrifices that too many of our veterans have made, I wanted to provide you with a brief discussion on the benefits of bodyweight training and how you can easily incorporate it into your training to experience the awesome results.
Why Use Body Weight Training?
- It is always accessible
I guess there really isn’t much to explain with this one, but it is likely the biggest benefit of bodyweight training.
You don’t have to go anywhere, invest in anything or wait for someone taking there sweet time in a squat rack trying to blow up their biceps while you actually want to get some real work done.
All you need is a little space and a general understanding of how to move without killing yourself…which leads me to…
2. It is a great way to learn / solidify movements
The very first thing you have to control before you can add resistance to any movement is your bodyweight.
When we put a bar on our shoulders, dumbbells in our hands or strap some other crazy implement to our body, we challenge our capacity to move efficiently to a greater degree.
While this challenge is necessary for continuing progress, if you do this before you have mastered your bodyweight you are likely setting yourself of for future problems and injury.
You can use bodyweight with numerous different approaches to continue progress and solidify a quality movement before you even need to think about adding external resistance…which is the next benefit!
3. You can make it harder without external resistance
With bodyweight training you have less forces going through your joint as a result of a lower external load.
When you use implements such as barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, etc. we typically fall into the thought process that the best/only way to progress is to add more weight.
I have many times fallen victim to this thought process (and sometimes still do).
The problem is that constantly pushing/pulling more and more weight will inevitably result in cranky joints, and possibly overuse injuries.
With bodyweight training, because there is no added external load, you have to manipulate other factors that will lead to an increase in intensity.
These methods include slowing down the movement, speeding up the movement, doing 1.5 reps, performing single leg or single arm vs. double leg or double arm movements, increasing reps, decreasing rest between sets and more.
We can definitely use these same methods with loaded exercises, but again, many times we focus on adding resistance than taking a look at these other factors.
4. You feel athletic
The most athletic movements are those that manipulate your bodyweight.
Sprinting, jumping and cutting are some of the most athletic movements you can perform and they all are centered around manipulating your body.
And feeling athletic is AWESOME!
How Can You Incorporate Body Weight Training?
There are many ways you can utilize body weight training to fit your training program, schedule, goals, etc.
While you can incorporate them into an existing resistance training program as we do a TOP Fitness and as I do with my online clients, I wanted to give you a program and exercises you can complete with your bodyweight alone.
The routines are ordered by intensity, starting with the least intense first.
Standard Full Body Session
1a. Plank Holds 3×20-30s
1b. Squats 3×10-12
1c. Push Ups 3xAMGRAP (can elevate your hands depending on level of difficulty)
1d. Side Plank Holds 3×15-20s/side
1e. Reverse Lunge 3×8/side
1f. Chin Up Holds 3xAs long as possible
2) EDT Session or Beat Your Time Session
There are two ways you can complete this one. One being set the clock for 10-20 minutes and complete as many rounds as possible of the following. The second is to assign a certain number of sets (say 3-5) and go through the following exercises for that many sets trying to complete them as fast as you can keeping good form. Record your time and try to beat it next time.
1a. T Plank Switches x8/side
1b. Squats x15
1c. Push Ups x8-10 (can elevate your hands or feet depending on level of difficulty)
1d. Mountain Climbers x20/side
1e. Walking Lunge x8/side
1f. Chin Ups or Eccentric Only Chin Ups x3-6
3) Power Session
1a. Plank Row 3×8/side
1b. 40 yard Sprint 3x 1 Sprint
2a. Side Plank March 3×8/side
2b. Squat Jumps 3×6
2c. Explosive Push Up 3×6 (as quick as possible, hands can leave the ground)
3a. Mountain Climber 3×20/side
3b. Split Squat Jump 3×6/side
3c. Chin Ups (pull up as quickly as possible) 3×3-6
3d. Continuous Lateral Bounds 3×6/side
All of these sessions will target strength, conditioning and will help you build muscle and burn fat.
And when performed quickly, you can complete them in 10-30 minutes no problem.
Of course these are just three types of sessions you can perform with your body weight, and according to your current level of conditioning and overall fitness you can taylor the session.
Lastly, if you do have some equipment such as bands and/or a TRX suspension system you can include many more exercises that will target some more of the pulling patterns that are essential for health, performance and looking damn good.
Just the other day I completed a full body, high intensity session of 20 bodyweight squats, 20 feet elevated TRX rows and 20 feet elevated push ups for 5 rounds. It took me 9 minutes and 35 seconds and I was smoked and feeling good.
The Wrap Up
Having a program that is the most specific for your needs and goals is the optimal approach, but the templates above are a good start. If you want more help developing a program that takes into account your schedule, equipment, current level of fitness and goals just go HERE.
Besides nutrition, supplementation and how to become the strongest, leanest most badass version of yourself, the most common topic I am asked about is at home training.
Many of the athletes we work with at TAW are, just like anyone else, extremely busy. This makes it difficult for them to come in and train more than 2-3 times per week.
And for my online athletes, they are in the same boat…making it to the gym more than 2-3 times per week can get tricky when you have a job, a significant other, a newborn baby and your favorite TV waiting for you on Netflix.
***I can’t wait for April for Season 8 by the way!!
Fortunately, most athletes ask about what they can do while at home, and I am always happy to help. So I find myself discussing, designing and implementing at home programs quite regularly.
While it would be nice (and easier on my end) to design an at home program where the athlete has access to a full arsenal of training equipment, it is usually not the case.
More often than not an athlete may have a stability ball, a pair of dumbbells and a bench (if lucky).
Although I can make a killer program for them with just these few basic pieces of equipment, I always ask them if they are willing to acquire a few low cost pieces of training equipment that have a huge return on investment.
Most of the time they take out their smart phone, open up their amazon account and are ready to throw down the digital paper…and I am happy as hell because I know I can then design them an even better program.
So with that, I wanted to provide you a list of my favorite at home training equipment.
The following list has been compiled with the thought of getting your biggest “return on investment” and therefore takes into account the price you pay and the value you get.
Foam Roller / Tiger Tail
Since many of the athletes who are inquiring about an at home program train 2-3 times per week at TOP, another training facility or classic big box gym, the days that they are looking to add at home should exploit recovery.
This doesn’t mean that they can not train at a high intensity at home, but they should focus on getting their body ready to train hard during their main training days.
For this reason I always suggest a foam roller, tiger tail or other piece of equipment that will help address soft tissue quality.
I really like the tiger tail as you can throw it in a gear bag and take it anywhere, or use it while you are chilling out at night with the wife (or other significant other.), kids and the families favorite fur ball.
2) Various Resistance Bands
Resistance bands are an amazing tool, not only for overloading movements and adding resistance in a “classic fashion” (think adding a resistance band to a squat), but they can also be used to add resistance to target different, and often more specific, directions of force.
Mini bands can be used to help engage hip musculature by placing them around the knees/ankles during exercises such as glute bridges, side lying clams, lateral band walks, squats, etc.
Power bands are great to overload exercises utilizing accommodating resistance (the resistance gets harder in the phase of the movement where you are stronger) such as squats, split squats, push ups, rows, etc.
Power bands can also be used to challenge accelerative and declarative forces to a greater degree and more specific direction of force during exercises such as forward lunges, reverse lunges, lateral lunges, etc.
Lastly, power bands can be used to assist in movements that have not yet been solidified and strengthened to a sufficient degree. These can be every exercise mentioned above by using the band to help, or assist the movement rather than resist it.
3) Pull Up Bar
The pull up bar is a classic, and today you can pick them up for cheap and throw it up in a door jam at home and have a great piece of equipment.
Not only would you be able to work on the obvious (your pull up…or other vertical pulling variation), but you would also have a nice anchor point to attach bands for various exercises.
And if you have the power bands you can also use them with the pull up bar with the bands to for a little assistance if you cannot hit a pull up/chin up.
I would argue that the pull up is the single most challenging upper body exercise there is, and is the upper body exercise that provides the most bang for your training buck.
Working towards achieving your first solid pull up, or increasing your strength with your pull up is one of the best ways to further progress your results, transform your body and enhance your performance.
4) Adjustable Dumbbell
You can attack this one with a couple different options.
First, you can go the classic adjustable dumbbells where you can add or subtract weight by putting more metal plates on the dumbbell handles.
Or, if you are more of a space (and time) saving individual you can look into something such as the power blocks.
Either option is a good one…it all depends on your preference and whether or not you want to be able to throw traditional steel.
5) TRX Suspension System
I guess it doesn’t have to be a TRX, but any suspension system would work…I just prefer TRX for it is the most user friendly system I have come across.
The great thing about the TRX is that you can use it pretty much anywhere, as long as you have a door or other point to anchor it from.
And the number of exercises you can complete on the TRX are pretty much endless. Not only does it provide you with the ability to complete numerous exercises, but it also provides a stability challenge that is not easily reproducible with other pieces of equipment.
So for the price (around $200 brand new), the TRX is another piece of equipment that can transform an at home program (and a program performed at a facility or on the road).
6) Half Rack w/ Bench
Ok, time to pull out some of the big guns.
The only problem with the big guns is that they will cost you a little more money than the previous pieces of equipment…but they are worth it!
I know it was forever ago, but my parents decided to make a semi large investment when I was a freshman in high school.
We went to our local bulk discount store (Sams Club) and my dad told me we were going to pick up part of my Christmas gift.
We walked over to the training equipment and he told me that it was time to get some real weights…I had been using a Bowflex, which was awesome at the time, but my dad was always partial to free weights so out went the Bowflex and in came the half rack.
At the time we picked up the half rack, 350 pounds of olympic weight, a bench with leg extension and curl attachment and an olympic barbell for just under $400…It was a steal!
This isn’t the same rack from my childhood, but this is what we use at TAW…the wall mount rack from RogueFitness.com
If you can get your hands on a set up like this, it is an absolute game changer when it comes to at home training. Essentially, you will have everything you need to continue to progress for a long, long time.
7) Assault Bike
Easily one of the most effective ways to condition, the Assault Bike is absolutely the best piece of “cario equipment” you can pick up for home use.
It is relatively compact and is a full body attack as you use both the pedals and handles.
And compared to other bikes, treadmill, ellipitcals, etc. it is relatively cheap, durable and if it does break there are not too many parts to work through.
It is an absolute beast when it comes to conditioning and super easy to use.
There is no resistance to set, no speed to set and is all dependent on how hard you want to work. The faster you go, the more resistance as the wind resistance created by the fan is the central component to the bike.
Not only is the fan a great way to provide resistance, but the breeze it creates is HHYYUUUUGEEE when your heart is about to explode and you are spewing sweat from every gland in your body.
So forget about the gigantic, ridiculously expensive treadmills, ellipticals and bikes and opt for the basic, ass kicking Assault Bike…we also get this at RogueFitness.com
Pick and Choose…You Can’t Go Wrong
So there is my list of the best equipment for your at home gym.
Depending on your fitness level and finances available, start at the top of the list and work your way down.
Even if you start with just the foam roller, you can do a lot of great training with your cheapest and most readily available resource…your body. All you need is some creativity and a progressive program (if you want some help with this just shoot me an email … firstname.lastname@example.org)
If you have any other equipment that you like (or hate) leave them in the comments to help everyone out…and send this along to those who can use it!