I’ve started a local Toronto fitness group on Facebook. It’s a resource to help friends find other people to work out with in parks, etc. I may end up writing some stuff for it over the next little while.
Super Basic Workout Things
This is by no means meant to be a comprehensive or even well thought out guide. There are many places across the internet where you can find that sort of stuff. The scenario I’m envisioning this being helpful for is the following:
You want to do basic personal bodyweight workouts. Maybe in a park or sweating in your living room/hallway.
Don’t laugh, I did it for a year or longer when I couldn’t afford a gym membership. Yes, I felt embarrassed to be working out in public. No, nobody else cared. Thing is, free fitness is something I care a lot about. I adamantly believe that having access to an active lifestyle should come with a cost barrier. Humans are incredibly resourceful, but there’s no reason why you need to pay a monthly fee or lift heavy metal things in order to get your heart racing and blood pumping. I mean, sex is 100% valid exercise. Especially when you don’t have air conditioning. It’s basically build your own hot yoga. Anyway, I digress. There’s infinite information out there, a lot of it conflicting. As far as I’m concerned the most effective exercise is the kind you enjoy. If you like it, you’ll keep at it. That’s far more long term than crash dieting or short term challenges. I don’t believe there’s one type that’s better than others. Let’s lay down some stuff.
If you’re starting out, simple full body workouts can be very effective.
Many heavy lifters do split programs. Perhaps upper/lower days. It’s where the whole “skipping leg day” meme comes from. At the beginning I’d be surprised if you knew enough exercises to fill two different rotating programs. What we’re gonna focus on instead is basic push/pull stuff.
What’s The Deal with Push/Pull?
Thanks Jerry. In true ELI5 fashion: A lot of exercises are either pushing exercises or pulling exercises. Bench Press, for instance, would be a push exercise. Horizontal Row would be a pull exercise. Combine the two and you’ve worked out your chest and back. The idea being that you want to try and balance your muscles. It’s both an aesthetic and functional thing. There are also different types of push/pull. The aforementioned Bench Press and Horizontal Row are, you guessed it, horizontal push/pull. Pull Ups/Shoulder Press would be a vertical push/pull. Combine that stuff and you can have a nice balance to your workout. A great way of hitting both together is “Super Setting”. It’s basically just coupling together similar exercises. So in this case you’d do a set of Bench Press, followed by your set of Horizontal Row, then back to Bench Press. Lather, rinse, repeat.
Let’s talk numbers.
There’s also a lot of conflicting information out there about numbers. Honestly, I’d suggest sampling different combinations to see what works for you. As a starting point, 3×8 tends to be an easily achievable number that can yield results. YMMV. This also varies by exercise. If you’re doing very heavy deadlifts, maybe 8 would be too many. Bodyweight squats might be quite easy for you, so 12-20 reps could make a lot more sense. Do what feels natural to you. A good basic indication is if you feel like you could do more, maybe you could. Keep in mind that each round will get progressively harder.
Warm up first.
The rule of thumb is to do dynamic stretching beforehand and static stretching afterwards. An easy delineation is that dynamic stretches typically involve movement of some variety, while static stretches often require you to hold a stretch. If you’re starting cold, you want to nudge your body towards work rather than turning it to 100 immediately. Once the muscles are humming, you can get a lot of benefit out of holding longer stretches. This article does a better job of explaining it, while giving some good basic stretches at the end.
Let’s put it all together.
I’m gonna use Westmoreland Avenue Parkette as an idea of somewhere perfect for this. It has high quality, sturdy equipment, it’s relatively shaded and doesn’t get a ton of use. Time for a basic workout (after so much preamble? What is this? A Mommy Blog?):
5 minute dynamic warm up:
2×10 Walking Lunge with a Twist
2×10 Star Jumps
2×10 Bodyweight Squats
2×20 Mountain Climbers
2×10 Forward Leg Swings (each leg)
2×10 Side Leg Swings (each leg)
3×8 Pull Up variant
If you can’t do a pull up (most people can’t), try using a resistance band. Or start with negatives. Stand on a box or jump into position and focus on slowly lowering yourself down. If this is too hard, try using a bar that’s lower to the ground. Begin in a crouch position and try to pull yourself up and closer to the bar.
3×8 Dips variant
Westmoreland Avenue Parkette has parallel bars, which are fantastic. If you can do dips on those, go you! If not, try tricep dips on the bench. Start with your legs at right angles to the ground. To increase the difficulty, progressively walk your feet out.
3×8 Bodyweight Squat variant
Your butt is a big ol’ muscle, so if these reps are too low you can increase them without too much worry. Protect your knees – Always remember to keep your knees behind your toes. If basic squats are too easy, try doing squat jumps. If these are too easy, increase the numbers. If these are too easy try doing one leg step ups on the bench. If you’re doing step ups, try to go slowly rather than just jumping straight up.
3×8 Lunge variant
Static lunges (staying in your lunge pose and dipping down) are great. Alternatively you can step into position then lower yourself (try to keep these as distinct movements to maintain form). You can do plyometrics (jumping up and down) on the same leg or even alternate between legs. As always, if these are too easy you can up the reps a bunch.
3×8 Push Ups
We all know these, right? If it’s too hard to do a push up from your toes, do them from your knees. The basic push up has your elbows grazing your ribs. You can also widen your arms to work your chest more. Westmoreland has horizontal bars which can be great for decreasing the strain. You can try a less flat angle to ease yourself into it. Once these are too easy, you can start working on your one handed push ups (protip: Start these against a flat vertical surface).
3×8 Horizontal Row
If you’re really starting out you can stand up next to the parallel bars. To increase the difficulty, increase the angle. The more horizontal your body is, the harder it’ll be.
Cool Down Stretches:
(30 second static holds)
Quads – Stand up with your right hand balanced against the wall. Grab the top of your left foot with your left arm and pull your heel towards your butt. Repeat on the right.
Figure Four – Lie on your back with your left leg crossed over your right knee. Reach through the gap and grab the back of your leg with each hand. Slowly pull towards you while gently pressing your left elbow into your left leg. You should feel a nice glute/hip opening. Repeat on the right.
Chest – Place your left palm on a wall to your left side outstretched horizontally. Turn your body to the right while keeping that arm securely planted. Repeat on the right.
Tricep – You all did this in P.E. Right? Raise your left hand, bend it to pat your back. Grab your left elbow with your right hand and gradually apply pressure. Repeat on the right.
Cat/Camel – Time to get sexy. Plant yourself on all fours with a relatively flat back. Keeping your knees and hands in place, alternate between rounding out your back (camel) and arching it (cat). I’d hold each for about five seconds for a total of 30 seconds.
Lower Back – Lie on your back with your arms outstretched (like a big “T”). Bend your knees and lower them both to one side. Turn your head to the opposite side. For a greater stretch, straighten your top leg, then bottom leg for even more. Be gentle with yourself here. Pushing it too hard could result in overstretching.
Did that take a while? It sure took a while to write. The good part is that the workout should only take around 30-40 minutes. Get out there and have fun!