Saturday, 9 July 2011

No Gym? No problem.

Swings, clean and press with 16Kg
I have never set foot in a gym and I don’t see a gym as being necessary for me to get in the best shape possible. You would never see me in a pump or spin class, and it would be a cold day in hell before I try zumba. The only reason I might like to go to a gym would be so I could do max dead lifts and max squats, (bench, overhead press, curls etc. are less important to me).

The gyms I’m talking about here are the globo gyms, all machines, half the floor is cardio, 2kg kettlebells and posers as far as the eye can see. Crossfit is different, and I would love to join a crossfit gym but being a student, and not having one near me is a barrier.

Not being part of a gym is in no way detrimental to me; in fact it has been beneficial. I’ve saved hundreds of dollars, built up a pile of my own gear (which I use daily, without having to leave home) and I do complex, functional workouts instead of isolated lifts for muscles that are only for show, or an hour long spin class which breaks them down. Note: Exercising without a gym, need not mean working out on your own. Working out with a friend, or in a group can be beneficial to your performance and to the whole experience. Personal trainers are also an invaluable resource to guide and push you to the next level.

So how should one start working out without a gym? 

Bodyweight workouts are an excellent place to start (and to continue on with as a mainstay). Mark Sission has put together an excellent set of bodyweight exercises into a well rounded workout. Check out the primal blueprint fitness guide here and download it if you haven’t already. This is an excellent place to start and great for progressions but it is supplemented well with a few extras. Two great sources of ideas are Al Kavadlo and Mike Fitch, they each have great websites with loads of exercises and progressions which could be used at all levels. On a side note I suggest to anyone doing the primal blueprint fitness workouts to add in some dips since they are missing from the plan, Al Kavadlo has written on dips here and here.

Bodyweight workouts can get you amazingly strong and will give you superior control over your body. So with a pull up bar alone (plus maybe some rings and parallels) you can get in incredible shape and never need to lift a set of weights. There is even an elite level of bodyweight strength work exemplified by Al Kavadlo and the bar-barbarians. They practice moves such as human flags, front and back levers and various muscle ups.

Overhead press and bear hug squat with 40Kg
While bodyweight is sufficient for excellent fitness, a little variation can go a long way too. Sandbags and kettlebells are an excellent addition to a workout and extremely cost effective. Both build functional fitness, strength and conditioning (and a whole lot of grip strength). There are endless websites, dvds and books out on kettlebells, but my favourite is My Mad Methods (MMM), which I have previously written on. MMM is also a great source for sandbag exercises and workouts, so is Matt Palfrey from Sandbag fitness.

Not having a gym membership doesn’t mean that you can’t have a gym. Basements, garages, driveways and backyards can be your gym (for photos of some set ups check out My goal is to slowly collect and/or build a selection of different and unconventional training equipment such as kettlebells, sloshtubes, Indian clubs, etc. so that I can put together my own functional full body workouts which I can use while keeping the naturalmethod in mind (be strong to be useful). The founder of The Crucible Gym puts all these ideas together nicely with a strong philosophy and functional workouts.

I think I’ll end with the catch phase of the crucible. – “Reject the awful normal”


  1. Nice article - thanks for the shout out!

  2. Great article - and, like you, I only really consider heading back into the gym when I need to max out on the big lifts

  3. Thanks for the positive responces guys, I like to try get the word out on different sites I find. Even if they are already reasonably well known.