Picture yourself in Tahiti, lounging on a white-sand beach, or — a lesser fantasy — maybe you’re on a business trip or simply home for the holidays. Wherever you are, training in a gym may not be convenient. In addition, those who train at home may be looking for new exercises to enhance their limited repertoires.
In this article, we’ve compiled the best lifts that don’t require a gym. When performed as prescribed, these exercises will improvise a hardcore workout virtually anywhere. In fact, the exercises and techniques may prove so effective that you’ll want to purposely avoid the gym on occasion just to give your muscles an iron-free shock. Go ahead, there’s no weighting.
Your back can be a difficult area to train without gym equipment. However, if there’s a reasonably strong person with you, you can do the same latpumping exercise done by many competitive bodybuilders before stepping onstage: towel rows. Sitting with your knees bent and with the soles of your feet pressed against the soles of a partner, each person grabs a towel from opposite ends. As you pull the towel into your abdomen (approximating a seated row), the other person resists enough to provide a steady even movement. The roles are reversed for the next half of the rep, alternating back and forth. Aim for reps in the 15-20 range, reducing the resistance as you tire.
When training alone, the best back-training option is chins. A great place to find a sturdy overhead bar is a playground jungle gym. If you’re not strong enough to perform more than five reps, look for a slightly lower bar, such as a parallel bar. Hanging beneath it, do high-rep two-arm chins or low-rep one-arm chins.
For legs, we turn to two standard exercises: squats and lunges. When performing deep knee bends (without weights), squat until your butt touches your ankles. At the top, stop short before locking out. Get used to this movement, because you’re going to do this a lot. Aim for at least 50 reps; 100 is even better. Sound easy? It’s doubtful you’ll think so once you hit the century mark; if you reach it, keep going. During no-weight lunges, step up onto a chair, stretching forward with each rep. Again, aim for at least 50 reps per leg without resting.
No-weight calf raises can be done virtually anywhere. Stand barefoot with the balls of your feet on the edge of a step. Holding a rail for balance, rise up and down as far as possible on the balls of your feet. This exercise can also be performed on a flat surface, focusing on the contraction and relying on the strength of your feet and calves for balance. This can be done either standing or squatting. The latter method approximates seated calf raises and thus targets your soleus. Aim for at least 30 reps, squeezing hard during contractions. Another option is one-leg calf raises, performed by hooking one foot behind the opposite ankle and holding something sturdy for balance. By doubling the resistance of their two-leg brethren, one-leg calf raises require fewer reps.
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