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Thread: How to Improve Your Physique Without Lifting Weights

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    How to Improve Your Physique Without Lifting Weights

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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?

    1. Burpees
    2. Pull ups
    3. Squats
    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.

    Last edited by Ulf; Wednesday, September 3rd, 2008 at 11:27 PM. Reason: Forgot something.

  2. #2
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    Eek! I got tired just reading this.
    I work out too, (except times like now, when I have a cold as it`s unhealthy to do so) but I use weights for my arms, shoulders and back (and archery helps give good shoulder, back and arm muscle too)
    and since the weather here is chancy, I use my house stairs and run up and down them a set number of times, this is for cardio and to sculpt my legs and..ahem..behind...
    I also have leg exercises to do on the floor and waist trimming exercises which are culled from dancing.
    I already knew that the muscles quickly grow accustomed to repetitive workouts so try to vary each set of exercises as much as I can, and often introduce something new, but if I do that then I also leave out something, since I have a set amount of time to commit to exercise.
    Also, my work is labour intensive and can be a workout in itself, if I`m working particularly hard one day then I lessen the other exercises.
    Hey, I am middle aged after all

    But as I mentioned, I`d caution anyone with cold about exercising, apparently it can cause more harm than good. (sorry if that is off topic)

    Good article.

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    Going to the gym is fun though. Need to get out of the house in this increasingly isolated world.

    When I'm at home I just got a dumbell that was a good weight for curling (25 pounds for me). So I curl with that and also do tricep extensions and such. And then a lighter ten pound weight for wings or whatever other small exercises.

    Basically with those two little weigths you can do most exercises. Though you can also find stuff like books or whatever to use for weight if you don't have them.

    Like with push-ups. You can put your feet on the couch or bed and hands on the floor to go deeper. You can put a back pack on with books to add weight. It's actually better than a bench press. You can even curl a back pack with books in it if you have to (or find a pull up bar).

    It's all pretty simple. You don't need a work out machine or whatever. Though it is a lot more fun and better to have variety. Which would include working out in different places and using machines sometimes and not other times.

    Like sometimes I'll bench press. Sometimes use this machine at the gym that is similar to a bench press. Sometimes just do a lot of push ups or sometimes do push ups with a back pack on. The variety is better for you I think. Of course I'm lazy and go a lot of days without working out too...

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