So you're in one of those down cycles where you just haven't been getting to the gym, and you know you don't really have excuses and... whatever. For whatever reason, you're just not up to it right now. No judgment going on in this thread.
But you don't want your body to entirely atrophy down to nothing, so you at least want to do some basic stuff now and then to keep your muscles awake and remind them what they're for, so that when you start back up again you're not in for such a shock. Also, you either don't have the money or the space for any real workout equipment.
So my idea is to try to compile a list of a good variety of simple, little-to-no-equipment-required body weight exercises. The kind of things you can literally go stand in the middle of your living room and do for a minute or two, and feel like you've done something. The objective is that, while these aren't going to set you up for powerlifting competitions, the exercise should still be as useful as possible - you should still be able to tire yourself out pretty well.
The case example would be something like pushups. No, doing a bunch of pushups aren't going to help you set a new personal record on bench press, but still, dropping down and doing a set up pushups every evening is a heck of a lot better than doing nothing at all, and will make that transition back to gym time a lot less painful. Other areas are a bit trickier, however. For example, how does one isolate and really work out the hamstrings, with just bodyweight?
So I'm going to start out by including the ones I've accumulated over the years. If anyone has an exercise that targets a muscle/muscle group I haven't accounted for, or an exercise that does the same thing as one I've suggested, but better (or if anything I've suggested is known to be unsafe, or ineffective or whatnot), let us know!The obvious ones:Chest:
Obviously there're a hundred different styles of pushups. Not much to be said here (or too
Personally (and I have no reason to believe my method is any better than just doing a bunch of regular pushups - I just like the variety), I like to have each set include wide grip, diamond, and then pike. So, for example, a set of 75 might consist of:
50 wide grip
10 pike(more on these later)
As I understand it: traditional grip targets pecs and triceps pretty evenly, wide grip focuses more on pecs, and diamonds focus more on triceps.Abs:
Situps/crunches/bicycles/leg raises/you name it.---------
Another no brainer. Shouldn't be too hard to get a good burn in your abs with, at most, a couch to stick your feet under.Quads:
Squats, pistol squats---------
Body weight squats are fine, obviously, but I find, quads being as strong as they are, the numbers tend to get out of hand pretty quickly if you're doing them regularly. Once you start getting into triple digits before you really feel like you've put any effort into it... Consider trying to work your way up to:
- Pistol Squats.
If you're anything like me (bad balance/flexibility), these look pretty intimidating. Ultimately, I found that it was less an issue of strength, and more an issue of... proprioception, I think would be the correct concept? Once my brain got comfortable with the motion, I have been able to do them ever since, even when I haven't worked out in ages and am flabby and weak. Previously, I spent so much strength trying to stay stable throughout the motion that I just couldn't do it, even if I could easily squat more than my body weight normally.
To train to do these, you can use a wall for balance (a pole is even better, so you don't have to worry about where to put that stupid other leg). Also, starting in the completely down position, and just worrying about the upward part, might make it easier to start with.
For me, at least, 20 of these on each leg does a heck of a lot more than 100 double leg squats.
(And despite my no-equipment prohibition, it's trivial easy to just hold any old heavy thing while doing these, to make them even harder.)Maybe no so obvious:Hamstring-------------
I thought this one was genius when I encountered it. For a long time, I thought there was just no way to isolate the hamstring using body weight only and no equipment. Well, this one, like situps, falls on the 'light' equipment requirement - you either need a couch or something (I use a radiator) to put your feet under, or a friend to hold them.Behold.
Obviously, the goal is to use as little of your arms to push yourself back up as possible.
It may not look like an exercise that could wear you out, but give it a try - I think you'll be in for a shock just how hard it is to not make heavy use of those arms.
Pike pushup/handstand pushups----------
Ok, it's pretty plain that you can get a darned good workout out of handstand pushups. But not everyone can do those, and not everyone who can has figured out the whole balance part yet (*raises hand*).
- So if you can do handstand pushups, great - this section is done for you.
- If you're like me, you have to use a wall to put your feet against. Okay!
- If you're not there yet, take a look at pike pushups
I love these stupid things. I do them anyway as part of my pushup regimen even though I do handstands separately. (Hm - I keep my feet together though. I suppose you could get your hands and feet a lot closer together with legs spread. Also, I lift my head 'up' and touch my nose to the ground.)
Calf raises are pretty easy to simulate at home. Maybe just plain old standing up on your toes over and over to start. Later, single legged.
- Doing them in a doorway, where you can press your hands up under the door jamb will allow you to essentially provide as much resistance as you want, although your arms may tire out before your calves do.
- Doing them with your heel hanging off of a step is great also.
If you're lucky enough to have a stairwell that ends under a door jamb, like me, then you can do single legged raises, off the bottom step, while pressing up against the frame.
This can wear out your arms pretty good as well, which might be an unwelcome drawback, but I promise you can destroy your calves about as well as you'd ever care to using this method.Biceps
Manual resistance curls----------
I've found that you can get a darned good workout doing manual resistance bicep curls. Yes, the pushing arm has to be strong enough to keep up, but you can really kill yourself doing these if you want, especially because, since you have full control over the level of resistance, reps are almost irrelevant - you can just regulate the resistance so that you're always at 99% of your capabilitiy through the entire exercise - as your bicep wears out, you just lower the resistance.
I don't have a good video for this, but, essentially, you just press the base of your palms together, with the arm you want to work having its palm facing upward, and start squeezing!
I'm sure it probably loses out to using a bench or a barbell or both, since you're probably not isolating the muscle as effectively, and you can't really just hammer away on really heavy weights, but you can absolutely burn yourself out this way.Triceps:
If you're out of shape like me, and want to be humbled, try doing this
for any real length of time.Pullups:
This one is borderline for me as to whether I should count it. The only way I really know how to do these at home, without buying one of those door frame bars (or relying on something not everyone will have, like good sturdy pipes in the basement), is to use a door itself.
- Make sure the door is sturdy enough to support your weight,
- Double or triple up a towel, and place it along the top of the door frame (makes it a lot easier on your fingers),
- Bend your knees to lift your feet out of the way,
- Have at it.
This obviously requires a sturdier door than average, which not everyone will have, and the motion isn't quite exactly
the same, but it's the best I got.
(Also, let me warn you: don't wear a belt while doing this, unless you want to scratch up your door!)Incomplete:
I just don't find any of the extensions you can do while lying face down on the floor to really do much past a certain point.
Deadlift requires something to lift, which is sort of against the spirit of the thread, as not everyone may have some smallish, heavy object lying around that is suitable.
Certainly not everyone has a peice of furniture that can function as something like a Roman Chair...
There doesn't seem to be an obvious solution here for me, but I once thought the same thing about hamstrings, so... any ideas?Rowing type exercise?
Final note: Ok, this became a lot wordier than I wanted it to. If it turns out to generate any significant discussion at all, I'll come back and tighten up the presentation a little bit / add in any recommendations from other posters.