I remember it like it was yesterday. Mr. Johnson was my carpentry class teacher in high school. He stood a little above six feet and weighed around 210 pounds. He wasn’t bodybuilder big, but he was definitely jacked: lean, muscular, and strong as an ox.
He would perform random feats of strength during class such as balancing on his hands while holding a full plank, walking on his hands, and stopping to pump out some handstand pushups, and even busting out sets of 1-arm pushups.
I was in his class just around the time I had discovered strength training. I was amazed at Mr. Johnson’s strength, muscularity, and leanness, and I just had to find out his secret. When I asked him, he smiled and said, “bodyweight training.” On top of that, he also informed me that he had never set foot in a gym.
Just how the hell was that possible?
No Gym? No Problem
Just because you don’t have access to a gym doesn’t mean you can’t build a badass body. Whether the economy has you pinching pennies, your closest gym is 45 minutes away, or you’re just strapped for time, this program will get you the results you’re looking for.
Who is This Program For?
- Those who can’t afford a gym membership
- Those whose nearest gym is too far away
- Those who are very limited on time
- Those who have been lifting but are bored and want to try something new
- Trainees who want to give their bodies a break from the wear and tear of the weights
- High school athletes who want to train but have no equipment or no car
- Regular gym goers who want to strip some body fat for the beach
This program offers you an at-home or on-the-road option for increasing strength, muscle mass, anaerobic conditioning, and fat loss without a gym. Although more advanced lifters shouldn’t shy away, this program is better suited for those who have less than one dedicated year of training.
While training with bodyweight is great—just ask Mr. Johnson—there are a few items I’d like to touch on about this program. First, you will get great results, but we have to be realistic, too. Will you get stronger? Hell yeah. Will you get as strong as a powerlifter? Absolutely not.
Your strength gains will be classified more as “relative strength” versus “maximum strength.” Relative strength is how strong you are in relation to your bodyweight and is very important in most athletics and sports such as mixed martial arts and wrestling.
This program will also induce hypertrophy (muscle growth). You can pack on a substantial amount of muscle mass from bodyweight training alone (though beginners and intermediate trainees will obviously have more potential for growth).
However, there is a point at which the body will need more external resistance stimulus to continue to grow. To solve this problem, I’ve outlined how to progressively overload the exercises to get the full benefit.
Progressive Overload: The Key to Muscle and Strength
Dr. Mel Siff perfectly summed up the principle behind progressive overload when he said, “…strength and all other components of fitness increase if training becomes more demanding”.
Although increasing the number of reps and the length of timed sets on this program will take address this principle at first, there comes a point where the load needs to be increased.
For most exercises (squats, jumps, pushes, pulls, core exercises, and all variations), a weighted vest will provide the next step of progression. You can purchase these items online from companies such as Perform Better or Power Systems.
For the MacGyver In Us All
A more cost-effective approach is to make your own weight vest. It’s really quite simple: take a heavy-duty backpack and load it up with sand or pea gravel.
I recommend putting the sand in a heavy-duty garbage bag, sealing it, and then placing it in another bag. Once the load is double-bagged and sealed, place it in the backpack. You can use multiple bags to increase or decrease the weight of your vest as necessary. The backpack can be worn on the back or front of the body since each will create its own unique physical demand.
Another method for increasing load on some exercises (like squats) is holding a heavy object. Objects can include (but aren’t limited to) large rocks, sandbags, sand, or lead-filled PVC pipe and cement bags.
Get creative here! Look for heavy objects around your house. Depending on the object, it can be held in a “goblet” or “Zercher” position. (If you have any of these items they can also be used in the “Odd Object Clean & Press” for “Workout A. Exercise: B1”).
Sandbag being held in a Zercher position
Get Creative – Load up with heavy objects around your house/garden
Hip thrusters and glute bridges can be made more difficult by switching to one-leg variations of each. Simply perform the movement with one leg held off the floor with the thigh parallel to the working leg.
The No-Gym Warrior Workout Program
Perform each workout once per week with at least one day of rest between each. Pairings (A1, A2, etc.) are supersets and should be performed without rest. Rest intervals are one minute unless otherwise noted.
|A. Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat||4||10-20 (each leg)|
|B1. Jackknife Pushup
B1. Odd Object Clean & Press
|B2. Glute Bridge (with feet elevated)||3||10-20|
|C2. Prone Cobra||3||30 seconds – 1 minute hold|
|D. Burpees||3-10 rounds (with 30 secs rest)||30 seconds|
|A1. Prisoner Squat Jump||4||8-20|
|A2. Towel Iso Scarecrows||3||45-90 seconds(hold 15-30 seconds each position)|
|B1. Explosive Crossover Pushup (with pause)||4||8-20|
|B2. Hip Thrusters||4||10-20|
|C1. Close-Grip Pushup
|C2. Hand Walk Outs||3||8-15(all the way out and back in is 1 rep)|
|D. Hill Sprints
D. Tuck Jumps
|8-12 (walk down hill for rest)3-8 rounds (with 30 secs rest)||Sprint up large hill (50-100 yards)
|A1. Split Squat Jumps||4||8-12|
|A2. Prisoner Squats (with pause)||4||15-20|
|B1. Plyometric Pushup (with pause)||3||8-20|
|B2. Decline Pushup
B2. Bench Dips
|C2. Squat to Y-Stand||3||10-15|
|D1. Reverse Crunches||3||10-15|
|D2. 3-Point Plank||4||45s-1 minute(alternate feet)|
A Few Notes
Rep Ranges – Rep ranges and time ranges are fairly broad. Start at your current fitness level. Continue to progress by increasing your reps or time on sets over time.
Pause Sets – On the “with pause” sets, simply pause for five seconds in the down position.
Dips – Perform bench dips only if you have healthy shoulders. If you feel any pain or discomfort in your shoulders while doing these then stop.
Pullups – Most everyone has somewhere to perform pullups. A couple places to look are your garage or low tree limbs. If all else fails, you can pick up a pullup bar at your local sporting goods store for twenty bucks.
Pull Ups Outside Rule!
Wrapping It Up
You don’t need a fancy air-conditioned gym to get results. All you need is your body and a few simple items. One of the main advantages of this program is that you can perform it almost anywhere: outside, in your home or garage, traveling, or at the park.
And, to make things as easy as possible for you, I’m going to leave you with pictures that demonstrate the exercises mentioned above.
So no more excuses! Forget about the gym and get to work building that badass body!
Discuss, comment or ask a question
If you have a comment, question or would like to discuss anything raised in this article, please do so in the following discussion thread on the Wannabebig Forums – The No-Gym Warrior Workout Program discussion thread.
Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat
Cross Over Push Up (with Pause)
Close Grip Pushups
Hand Walk Outs
Split Squat Jumps
Prisoner Squat (with pause)
Towel Iso Scarecrows
Squat to Y-Stand
3-Point Plank (3PP)
Written by Chase Karnes, BS, NSCA-CPT, CSCS
About Chase Karnes
Chase Karnes graduated from Murray State University with a degree in Exercise Science. He is a NSCA certified personal trainer and strength coach located in Western Kentucky.
Through Argonauts Fitness, Chase has worked in the exercise and nutrition arena for half a decade. He has hands-on experience working with strength and physique athletes along with athletic and general populations. Chase is also a competitive athlete himself competing in NPC Bodybuilding, Powerlifting (1330 Raw Total), and NAS Strongman competitions. He has worked or consulted with clients from over 6 states.