Top 5 Ways to Do Strength Training Without Weights
Feb 15, 2019
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Are you fed up with training in the gym? Had enough of those same walls? Tired of smacking your shin on that same bench? Are those familiar faces starting to grind your gears?
Is the monotony beginning to dent your motivation?
Do you lack that drive you used to have right before gym time?
Are you sick of reading all of these questions now?…
Well, it might come as a surprise to you that the gym, as we know it, is a pretty modern invention. People have been strength training in some form for thousands of years without Smith machines, racks of dumbbells, cables, and dodgy gym music.
The first gyms and the word gymnasium can be traced back over 3000 years to Persia and then ancient Greece. These ancient gyms were mainly outdoors. Body weight exercises, such as press ups, pull ups, rope climbing, stone lifting, stone throwing, and wrestling were the training moves of the day. They may not have achieved perfectly rounded delts, huge upper pec development, or bulging brachialis muscles popping out of their arms. But they were strong in an all-around balanced and tough way that perhaps many modern gym-goers are not.
But, this isn’t a competition between modern technology and the warriors of ancient Greece. The bottom line is it’s good to mix things up, especially if you lack that oomph. Trying something different is a great way to motivate yourself and shock your body. You might also surprise yourself by what you can learn about your body, and gaining new skills when it comes to training without weights. Consider Sheer Strength Labs Pre-Workout Powder for a real, natural kick before the gym. It can help you grind out those all important last reps.
Here are five great ways that you can gain strength without using weights:
#1: Use Your Bodyweight
People have been using their bodyweight to train with and gain strength for millennia. With just the addition of a sturdy tree branch, and maybe a wall, you can train your entire body in this fashion. It’s a great way to get outside, get some fresh air, get a change of scenery, and soak up some sun.
Here is a sample workout that you can do virtually anywhere:
- Handstand press-ups (hardcore)
- Squats (ass to grass)
- Jump squats
- Calf raises
- Ab crunches and sit-ups
- Side twists and bends
- Leg raises
You could split these into circuits for upper body, core, and lower body. Or you could simply do one of these exercises until you can’t do a single set more. Also, consider ultra high rep sets to shock your body.
Still not sound hardcore enough? Not enough resistance for your liking?
Well, you can use variations and make these exercises as hard as you want. Use ultra slow, sadistic negatives, as well as concentric phases to supercharge the burn….. try doing one legged squats…. try doing ultra slow one legged squats! Try flexing hard while performing these exercises. Try pausing in the middle of the movement.
Adding bands is an excellent way to increase resistance. Resistance bands can be stuffed into your pocket. They weigh nothing, and can be used anywhere.
Just use your imagination. You don’t need huge weights to make these exercises burn. You could even try combining these exercises. How about a pull-up into a leg raise? A sit-up into a squat jump? Mix it up. You can learn a lot about your body, as well as your technique when doing super slow bodyweight exercises. Use the experience to fine tune that all important mind-muscle connection.
You can use your training partner as resistance for many exercises. The donkey calf raise (pictured) is excellent for burning out the calves. They were also a favourite of the Austrian Oak himself. Do squats with your partner on your shoulders.
If you have some rope or a towel, row back and forth with your partner. Simply face each other, grab an end each, bend forwards and row slowly, contracting the lats hard and providing resistance for each other.
Use your girlfriend for narrow grip bench press? Use your imagination!
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#2: Rope Climbing
Rope climbing is used by the military all over the world, and for a reason. It is a great whole body workout, gives you an iron grip, and it’s hard work! You can buy specialist climbing ropes, or you can get yourself a length of good quality decking rope, or similar and make your own. An inch and a half to two-inch rope should suffice. Splice a loop into the end (or find someone who knows how to) then throw the loop over a sturdy branch, poke the loose end through the loop and pull tight.
You can climb using only your arms (but this is seriously hard work for the grip). The most efficient way to climb is to clamp the rope between your lower legs and let your thighs do most of the work.
Pilates is a strength training and physical fitness discipline invented at the beginning of the 20th century by German-born, Joseph Pilates. It is an excellent system of movements and exercises often overlooked by weight trainers.
When performed correctly, Pilates can improve strength, balance, flexibility, and control, as well as the mind-muscle connection. Balance and flexibility are not to be sniffed at, you will be surprised by what advantages it can give you in the gym, especially on the big, whole body lifts. A strong and balanced core transfers power far more effectively, and can add serious weight to your squat and deadlift. Stiff and inflexible hamstrings are a common cause of technique issues and subsequent injuries in the gym. You should seek proper Pilates tuition, at least at first, to ensure you get the most out of your training. Give it a go, surprise yourself.
Yoga is another discipline that often gets sniffed at, but is an excellent way to improve strength, balance, posture, and flexibility. It is also a brilliant way to unwind, relax, and relieve tension. Yoga may date back as far as 10,000 years when it was practised in North India to improve both mental and physical wellbeing.
Like Pilates, you should seek proper tuition in yoga before practising on your own. The movements are designed to improve posture and flexibility, as well as less obvious functions, like digestion. As with Pilates, the flexibility you can gain from yoga, as well as core strength and balance, can add serious poundage to your big lifts. It can also decrease the risk of injury. In fact, many bodybuilders swear by yoga.
One of the most important aspects of yoga is relaxation. When it is practised properly, an almost meditative state is attained, and all stresses are forgotten. Stress is the bodybuilder and strength trainer’s worst enemy. Stress hormones, like cortisol, are heavily catabolic, having the exact opposite effects of testosterone. Stress loses gains!
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Most of them have seriously impressive physiques with bulging arms, ripped chests, and tiny waistlines. They are strong guys, and that’s because they train hard!
See how long you can hold yourself up on the rings, with your arms straight out to the sides. Have a go on the pommel horse and see how long you can launch your entire body around it.
Ok, so maybe don’t try those things just yet, but why not give gymnastics a go? There’s bound to be a class somewhere near you, so pop along and give it a try.
If you’re feeling fed up with the same old routine, and the same old lifts, why not take a break from the iron and switch it up a bit with alternative strength training ideas? You might find yourself a new hobby. You might just surprise yourself. Try something unconventional. Up your deadlift PB using yoga! Use your girlfriend as a barbell! Don’t forget to ask her first though, and then …. go for it!
Jonathan Warren is a national level physique competitor and personal trainer with multiple certifications including NASM, NCCPT, and IKFF. His specializations include mobility training and corrective exercise as well as contest preparation.
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