No-Weights Workout

by Michael on August 7, 2009 · 0 comments

Not recommended at high tide. (Photo by Joe Shlabotnik)

Not recommended at high tide. (Photo by Joe Shlabotnik)

As I’ve said before, the critical factors to success in a workout plan are commitment and intensity. You need both before you’ll really see results. Most guys can build intensity when they do go work out, but the challenge is really making the commitment, and maintaining it.

Getting in the groove of a workout program — even a simple workout — can be challenging if you’re busy with work or school. You might not have time to get to the gym today, or be on the road somewhere with few or no gym facilities. (And hotels that charge upwards of $20 a day for the little box they call a gym should be avoided.)

So it’s important that you have some exercises you can do without a gym, without weights, just about anywhere. Here are some simple bodyweight moves that will keep you burning fat and gaining muscle wherever you are.

The Push-up

Push-ups are the most obvious and the most versatile upper-body move you can make:

  • Chest, arms and shoulders are all engaged.
  • You can vary your position to work muscles differently: hands closer or wider apart, feet on the floor or raised on a chair, or even handstand pushups to hit the shoulders.
  • Good pushup form, with your abs engaged, also helps strengthen your core.

Proper form is very simple: body straight, abs tight, and neck straight. Begin with your arms fully extended, then lower yourself with your elbows close until your nose touches the floor. Repeat. In case you’re not getting it, here’s a demonstration courtesy of YouTube:


As the push-up is to the upper body, the squat is to the lower body. Your thighs and glutes (that’s the butt, buddy) will definitely feel a series of deep squats.

Proper form is key here too. Make sure to tighten your abs and keep the natural curve of your back. Three tips that will help you find the proper form:

  • Keep your chin up. This will help keep your back properly aligned.
  • Put your weight on your heels.
  • Squat down as if you’re sitting in a chair that is just out of reach behind you.

Most people don’t squat down far enough. A good idea is to put a chair behind you and squat all the way down until your rump touches the seat of the chair. You can go down as far as you can, as long as your knees stay behind your toes. And when you come up, come up all the way and thrust your hips forward.


If you can only do one bodyweight exercise, the burpee is it. I guarantee that you’ll not only feel it, but by the time you’ve done 20 of these you’ll feel downright gassed as well.

A burpee is basically a squat-thrust (remember those from gym class?) with an added push-up in the middle and a vertical jump at the end:

  1. Begin in a squat position with your hands on the ground in front of you.
  2. Thrust your legs back behind you — note that you’re now in push-up position.
  3. Do a push-up and then pull your legs back into the squat position.
  4. Now jump explosively into the air, with your hands up.
  5. When you land, go back into the squat position and start your next rep.

So simple, so deadly.

Walking Lunges

Another excellent lower-body exercise is the walking lunge. It’s also a good exercise if you aren’t comfortable with squats — the form is simple:

  1. Step forward with your right leg as far as you can.
  2. Lower your left knee until it touches the floor.
  3. Come up, and now step forward with your left leg.

Keep your back straight and your hands at your sides: you should never rest them on your knee. A few 100-foot walks like this should have you feeling an awesome burn.

Bear Crawls

The bear crawl is a great movement for your whole body, including your core. And again, the movement is simple in theory:

  1. Go down on all fours: hands and feet. Your butt should be in the air.
  2. Crawl forward with your right hand and left leg.
  3. Crawl forward with your left hand and right leg.

This is actually a more challenging move than it seems: we’re not used to synchronizing our hands and feet like that. But you will probably rapidly get the hang of it.


Pull-ups are an incredibly simple, incredibly effective bodyweight exercise. Unfortunately, unlike the others you won’t have a suitable bar for pull-ups everywhere. But if you’re near a park with a playground you can perform pull-ups on some of the equipment there. Running trails also will frequently have a pull-up bar installed on the route. And if you want to be able to do a complete bodyweight circuit at home, you can buy an easy-to-install pull-up bar so that you can include this great move in your routine.

The pull-up is a very natural move, and you can use either an underhand or overhand grip as you see fit. Come up until the top of your chest is level with the bar, then lower all the way to a dead hang. Pull-ups are hard when you haven’t done them much, but like push-ups you’ll find yourself able to do more and more reps as time goes by.

I think that’s plenty for a good, rounded workout that will leave you as sore and sweaty as if you were using a rack of weights at the gym.

You might have noticed I left out ab exercises. That’s because I’m working on a post featuring a variety of incredible core-strengthening moves you can do at the gym or at home. It’s coming very soon.

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