In the spirit of writing shit that you guys think is the antithesis of my training methodology (i.e. Jack LaLanne), I've decided to answer the 10 or so questions about gymless training I've received all in one. First, I do not recommend that you conduct all of your training in or out of the gym. There's plenty of opportunity to do both, irrespective of where you live. As such, I suggest that you try to incorporate some of both into your training. For those who are training in gyms, these are great methods to utilize on deload days (the D-block days in Exercises in Extremity), times you're on the road or otherwise estranged from the gym, or any other reason your ass isn't in the gym pushing massive amounts of weight. For those who don't have access to a gym, or who can't afford one, here's a way to get some serious shit accomplished until you can get to a place where you can lift some iron.
There's basically two ways you can go with gymless training:
- bodyweight workouts
- improvised equipment.
Both have their place, though the improvised equipment will likely bring better results, both in terms of strength and size, than will bodyweight shit. If you hit the bodyweight shit hard enough, though, and your diet's tight, you can get pretty fucking impressive results.
For instance, Herschell Walker is a massive advocate, and pretty much the world's greatest example, of what bodyweight training alone can do for you. Walker claimed to have achieved the majority of his physique by bodyweight training alone (though I distinctly recall reading somewhere that he was forced to start lifting weights upon entering the NFL), that consisted primarily of pushups, pullups, dips, and sprints. Walker claims to have done 2,000 pushups, 3,000 situps, and 1,500 pullups six times a week, without fail, for the entirety of his career, with a mixed bag of other shit thrown in on top for good measure. This type of training is also utilized by gymnasts, who achieve fairly impressive physiques, outstanding body control, and decent strength, and they also insist that consistency is king.
If you want to mix this style of training in with your weight routine, I recommend it on D-block days, wherein I typically keep my rep ranges in the 300-500s, as I'd rather not burn myself out for the heavy lifting with a bunch of dips and pullups.
In the past, I would occasionally train in a similar fashion, especially when watching Rocky 3 or 4 with a buddy of mine. He and I would typically utilize a standard deck of playing cards, assigning different variations of standard bodyweight exercises like pullups and pushups to each suit. Thus, for instance, a Jack of Diamonds would be 11 diamond pushups. We made queens =12, kings =13, and aces=14, and would make the other suits all sorts of crazy nonsense, ranging from Dive-Bombers (or if you're a douche like Matt Furey, Hindu Press-ups) to handstand pushups, finger pushups, one arm pushups, and clapping pushups, and then make the black cards variations on the situp theme, including flutterkicks, scissors, and 6 inches, usually for time or fourcounts rather than straight reps. That was an enjoyable way to waste a Saturday afternoon when there wasn't shit to do and it was raining outside.
Whatever you do, don't buy that Perfect Pushup bullshit. Instead, save your money for a home gym or a gym membership, or if you're really feeling crazy, invest in a TRX suspension system and swing around your garage like a mucking monkey. The TRX is fun to use, is awesome for traveling, and gives you the opportunity to do some ring training every now and again.
For other ideas about bodyweight training, consult sources like Ross Enamait, Pavel Tsatsouline, or any number of bodyweight training books in the Golden Age of Iron Men site, which has a bunch of awesome books on handbalancing. Just promise to use that knowledge for good rather than evil- i.e., C&P hooligans will fucking hunt you down and stab you if we see a pic of you doing random handstands in public places.
Anyone but this broad is getting stabbed for public handstands.
Actually, she's getting stabbed, too. No public handstands.
If you want to go the other route, there's plenty of sources from which you can draw. Oldtime strongmen, like the ones chronicled in the Golden Age of Strong Men site, utilized all sorts of unconventional equipment like kegs and sandbags, and there's some good training material on that site. If you're going to look elsewhere, I recommend Dinosaur Training by Brooks Kubik, or you can peruse the works of Evan-Esh and others. If you want ideas on how to actually construct the equipment (sanbags, etc.) read Dino training, Rock, Iron, Steel, by Steve Justa, or just about any strongman site on the internet. The google machine is your friend. I personally used an Army surplus duffel bag filled with 150 lbs of sand and ducktaped all to fucking hell when I mad my own 'bag. Irrespective of the source (even Justa), this shit is manly, and will put hair on your chest- if it worked for pre-gear strongmen, it'll work for you.
Some suggested exercises:
Clean and Press: The clean will end up being more of a continental than a clean, but let's not quibble, shall we? For those of you who are unaware, the continental is the method by which lifters from continental Europe (primarily the Germans) shouldered a weight. Being Germans, they did it in the most painful manner possible, which was essentially to yank the weight up onto their belt and then roll the fucking thing up onto their chest, whereupon they would press it. In any event, with either a sandbag, log, or keg, clean and press it with the same general set and rep scheme as you'd use for regular Clean and Press. A word of caution, however- you won't be handling the same kind of weights, and your hands will be the first thing to give out.
If you use a duffel bag, don't use the fucking handles. It defeats the entire purpose, and you'll look like this douche.
Clean and Carry: Just like you'd think. You clean and either shoulder or bearhug the keg or bag and carry it for distance. Alternatively, you can carry it up stairs, though I do not recommend that with kegs, for obvious, tibia-shattering, reasons.
Don't let this Aussie broad be more of a man than you.
Clean, Press, and Squat: Clean and press the thing to your back, then squat for reps. When you're done, just dump it, and jump way the fuck out of the way if you're using a keg.
Only a Crossfitter or certain shit-talkers on Irongarmx would bother squatting 80 lbs.
Other unconventional out-of-gym things with which to train:
- Weighted wheelbarrow
- Truck tires
One summer in high school, I worked at a nursery (plants, not babies, you fucking jackasses), and I discovered a little-used alcove in the lumber section. I liberated some 4x6" lumber and cinder blocks and built a bench, using the blocks as plates. I had a pretty good time sneaking in there and getting in quick 20 minute lifts, mostly doing bench, overhead presses, and curls. If you have lumber handy, it's worth trying, though I highly recommend the use of leather work gloves while lifting, as the horrifyingly large splinter factor is alarmingly high with that shit.
There you have it. As it's still weight lifting, there's not a hell of a lot you should do to complicate it. Don't overthink it, for fuck's sake, just do it. For those of you who are looking for a more Cirque du Soleil/gymnast look with the corresponding body control, I have no fucking idea why you're reading this blog, but stick with the former style of exercise.
Should you wish for a bore rugged psyique, and a fuckload more strength, I recommend a mixture of the two types, with an emphasis on the latter style.
For the rest of you, it's something to consider on those days you don't feel like hitting the iron, but feel like doing something.
Give em hell, boys.