Sometimes we want to train, but for one reason or another we can’t make it to the gym. Maybe the gym is closed, maybe you’re snowed in, maybe your car broke down, or perhaps you’re confined to house arrest like my man Galileo.
At any rate, there’s no need to worry, as no matter what your current level of fitness, there are still some things that you can do to get in a good workout. The trick is to find exercises that are challenging enough to stay in your preferred rep range. Finding challenging exercises is not an easy task if you’re an advanced lifter and you don’t have any equipment.
Advanced lifters don’t want to crank out 100 bodyweight squats, 50 push ups, 100 glute bridges, and a 3 minute front plank. Sure it’s a hard workout but it won’t do much for improving or even maintaining muscular strength, as these ranges work more on muscular endurance. While beginners may do fine with bodyweight squats, push ups, glute bridges, and planks, advanced folks need more challenging exercises.
My Preferred Home Workout
If I need to train at home and don’t have any equipment, I like to perform single leg squats, single leg hip thrusts, between chair push ups, and table rows. Maybe I’ll bust out 3 x 10 for the single leg squats, single leg hip thrusts, and table inverted rows, and 3 x 20 for the between chair push ups.
Since I’m pretty tall, I find single leg squats (the way I do them in this video) to be quite challenging. For me it’s one of the most challenging knee dominant exercises. I don’t believe there’s any more challenging bodyweight hip dominant exercise than the feet and torso elevated single leg hip thrust. I hate doing sets of 30-40 push ups, and I find that if I use more ROM and do them in between benches my pecs get worked harder and I can only do sets of 20 reps. Table inverted rows are really the only upper body pull you can do at home with no special equipment.
The point is that nobody should ever rely on stupid excuses for not staying fit. There is plenty of stuff that we can all do at home to maintain our fitness. Here’s a great quote:
No citizen has a right to be an amateur in the matter of physical training…what a disgrace it is for a man to grow old without ever seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable. – Socrates (469 – 399 BC)
Once again great stuff! I really like the inverted row off you dinner table! I must use that next time I have company over =)
Yep; you can bust out some rows while others are eating 🙂
Now you’re in my world! I’m addicted to bodyweight. I don’t care what anybody says about the rather aggressive shin angle of the airborne lunge (and the fact that it has a smaller ROM than the pistol), it hammers the glutes! And table inverted rows are the bomb! There is something about them that hits the upper back in a slightly different way than the conventional inverted rows. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that the thumbs don’t come into play as much ?
Dale, it’s the width – requires more transverse abduction which uses more rear delt, etc.
If you can get some heavy duty bands, you can do a lot of stuff, especially for the back.
Hope you saw the cricket world cup, Brett!
I did not see the cricket world cup – but I did meet with a very smart physio for a pro cricket team in Australia who came and visited me yesterday. Does that count?
Squeeze a book under the open end of a door, you can do some awkward pull ups. Probably wouldn’t work you Bret, cauz you are tall.
Not sure what you guys mean by door pullups. Your body is facing the door and you “slide up”?
haha, slide up that’s exactly what I mean
The door pullups were instructive for me as they made me aware as to how much I was using my legs to drive myself upwards. When I then went to a conventional pullup bar, so as to check my leg movement, I found that the movement was very subtle.
Take-home: the door pullup eliminates even subtle body english and is therefore quite challenging.
This has nothing to do with your topic, but I thought you might get a kick out of this track and field video:
Poly – you’re right. I freakin’ love it. How did she do that? Amazing! Thanks bud.
This wasn’t some high school meet. Her competitors were scholarship athletes at big state schools.
For me the best part is the look on her face around 1:57 (after the race). Running like that took heart She definitely reached inside and emptied everything out, that last 200.
Thanks man…glad Polytroll can still amuse you. Keep up the great work on all fronts.
I was blown away! She must have had some serious adrenaline flowing through her acting like nitrous boosts!
I do squats with my girlfriend on my back. It’s a great workout.
The fatter she gets, the stronger I become.
Just like Milo of Crotona!!! Only the progressive overload came from a cow, not a human!
On a serious note:
Bret, what is your view on bench dips? Some say they damage the shoulder and I’d like to hear your opinion on this. Thank you!
I think that bench dips are pretty dangerous and possibly not worth the risk. If you’re going to do them, do them sparingly and you’ll probably be okay.
I do the hip thrusters currently, but I do the bilateral version as the unilateral version causes a twinge of pain behind the knees. I believe it’s the biceps femoris attachment. The problem is, the bilateral version is not terribly challenging. Any suggestions ? Should I introduce some direct hamstring work ?
Bret could probably give you a better answer, but with that twinge behind the knee, it very well be as simple as adjusting the distance between the two benches (i.e. either moving your feet a little closer or further away from your body). Try playing around with that.
Thanks so much for the input. Makes sense and I’ll play around with the angles. I suspect that it’s a fairly dramatic transition, from bilateral to unilateral, and that lessening the angle may provide for a smoother transition.
Thanks for the assist. Pulling the coffee table in no more than a couple of inches did the trick. No pain behind the knee!
Good call Ben! Thanks bud. Yeah you can pull the coffee table in, and you can also push through the foot (place the foot on the corner of the table) rather than the heel.
how about trying 1 handed pushups instead of the between chair pushups? for me 1 handers are one of my favourite moves for the core
How did you progress to one-handers ?
when i was younger i wanted to get stronger but had no access to equipment and no training experience, but did press ups every night or every second night i got to the point where i could get 70 press ups and decided to try one-handers, initially i could only do a couple but stuck with it till i was at the point where i could get 20 with good form on each arm. long story short i did a shit load of press ups then just threw myself in the deep end and gave them a go
Hehe, that’ll work. I recently progressed from one-arm pushups (with diminishing assistance from other arm) to the sort of half-assed one-arm pushups you see on youtube. Hey, at least I’m in youtube-compliance!
Yeah one-handers are good, but they hammer the elbow joint. For some this may be problematic. Definitely good to do from time to time.
Ido Portal has two challenging variations of the SLS you were doing:
And of course one can always do some gymnastic type stuff at home to train maximum strength.
btw, what’s your opinion on handstand pushups?
Awesome! Never even heard of this Ido guy. Loved the music on the vids 🙂
I can tell you that I do one-armed pushups sparingly as for me, one-arm + volume = recipe for tendonitis.
Also, I recall that Dr. Stuart McGill found incredibly high compressive forces on the spine in the one-armed pushup.
For me it will remain a demonstration of strength rather than a go-to horizontal push exercise.
I don’t know if you still reply to your old posts, but Google landed me here. You wrote: “I don’t believe there’s any more challenging bodyweight hip dominant exercise than the feet and torso elevated single leg hip thrust.”
How about de natural glute ham raise? Don’t you use that? If so, why not?
Jeroen, I don’t always reply to old posts but I try. Anyway the natural glute ham raise is not a hip dominant exercise – it’s a knee dominant exercise. I need to write an article on this.
It works the hell out of the hamstrings as knee flexors but it doesn’t require much hip extension torque at the hips so it doesn’t work the hammies as hip extensors or the glutes. – BC
Thanks for the reply Bret. I would be interested in an article about the natural (glute) ham raise. Your articles are always very educational.
Maybe a suggestion for another article: maximizing the glutes in deadlifting. Maybe you could show what stances and body position to use to maximize glute involvement. I think you once mentioned your back bothered you in deadlifting until you learned to effectively use the glutes?
Hi Bret! I have a quick question…do these exercises fall under the category of making your butt bigger but NOT making your legs bigger? hope that makes sense. thanks!