I perform dozens of consults every year. The most important question that I ask is: What has held you back from exercise in the past? I have heard a ton of different excuses, but the ones that come up the most often are lack of money, time and equipment. What if I told you that you didn’t need to spend a cent on a gym membership or purchase any equipment at all? All you need to do is give up 3 hours of a 168 hour week by performing 3 one hour training sessions. You will burn a ton of fat and build muscle simultaneously. There is no good reason to train any longer than 45 to 60 minutes at a time. Study after study has shown that peak testosterone levels in men and women are reached at approximately 30 minutes into a session and begin to decline at the 45 minute mark. Testosterone is the primary muscle building hormone. So take advantage of that small window and get what you need done before you reach the point of diminishing returns at the 45 minute mark.
My generation grew up with bodyweight training. Gym classes in public school consisted of moving our bodies through space. Running, jumping, kicking, hurdling, climbing, skipping and throwing. Some of the best workouts I ever had were in elementary school with my Grade 5 gym teacher. He was a hard ass. I never left a single gym class without being winded and out of breath.
In order to make bodyweight training effective, you need to find exercises that recruit the maximum amount of muscle. Squats, lunges, planks, chin ups and push ups are the way to go. All these exercises work your muscles and more than one joint which means more muscle gets worked in less time and your heart has to work that much harder to get the work done. The lunge featured below works the hamstrings, quadriceps and glutes.
The classic push up exercise works the chest, shoulders, triceps and the upper back (to a lesser extent) at both the shoulder and elbow joints.
Try pairing these exercises using only bodyweight as resistance by performing them in sequence (back to back) for a total of 3 times each and I promise that you will be extremely fatigued and your muscles will get a great pump.
If you are not convinced, look no further than olympic gymnasts to see how effective bodyweight training can be. Their bodies are under the constant tension of their own bodyweight. They manipulate angles and levers to increase tension on the muscles to make their training more challenging. They don’t accomplish this through weights and machines. And I’ve never seen a gymnast who didn’t have a significant amount of muscle tissue on their frames.
Over the years we have been conditioned into believing that training has to be more complicated than it needs to be. Whether it is a fancy new fat burning gadget on an infomercial or a shiny new nautilus machine in a commercial gym, we assume this must be the way to go. Anything that looks that good must render results, right? Wrong. They cause more injuries, burn less calories, build little muscle and are generally a waste of time. You are sitting down and the weight is already balanced for you. So all you have to do is push or pull. Balancing your own bodyweight or the force of an object placed upon you is the foundation for strength and muscle growth. You will get better results performing 8 properly executed push ups than you ever will in a seated chest press machine. And you will burn more fat and build more muscle in less time.
One of the first questions I get asked before I start working with a new client is whether or not they need to buy a treadmill, cross trainer or a recumbent bike. My answer is “No”. There is nothing wrong with using one, but you can save thousands of dollars and get the same fat burning, heart strengthening results by performing a bodyweight routine such as the one below, called a Tabata Routine. It is short and intense, but extremely effective. By the time you are done you will be lying on the floor gasping for air. This is a great way to end your workout. Your calorie burn over the next couple of hours will sky rocket.
1. 20 Jumping Jacks
2. Rest for 10 seconds
3. Repeat for 8 cycles in total.