T Nation

No Gym, Bodyweight Training


I debated with posting this in the "Beginners" forum, but I'm not truly a beginner. Recently the only gym in my hometown shut down leaving me with the decision of whether or not to drive 35 miles to the next closest town (I live in the middle of nowhere). Having completed my college football career I deemed the gym no longer necessary for my fitness needs.

However, I have decided to attempt some form of exercise. Thus, I have taken to what might be called an "urban workout" or something along those lines. I've decided to use a 3-day split as follows.

Day 1: Superset-Pull-up variations to complete failure/push ups
Finish with short-intermediate sprints 25-100 yards
Day 2: Supetset-Dips to complete failure/BW Rows
Finish with short-intermediate sprints 25-100 yards
Day 3: Start with sprints 25-100 yards
Lower body plyo(Squat thrust, squat jumps, mountain climbers, lunge jumps, broad jumps)
Finish with hanging leg raises

I've been repeating this split twice through the week.
*When I say complete failure I mean that I might do pull ups as follows:
Pull up

Chin up

Neutral grip

So I match the superset exercise rep for rep so as not to completely exhaust my muscles in back to back days.
**I don't have set goals for reps. I perform strict reps until failure and use that as a judge of the quality of my exercise. I see no sense in cheating to get 10 pull ups if it was essentially a kip or whatever its called.

Ultimately my goal is to become stronger and leaner, I'm not naive enough to think that I might actually get bigger following this routine. I'm currently 23, 6'1'' and somewhere around 290lbs. By no means am I a "sloppy" 290 as my body fat % last time checked (last year) was 22%. I have plenty of muscle mass having 3 rep maxes in the bench 365lbs, squat 675lbs, and hang clean 315lbs. However, being 290lbs I'm not fully capable of performing "gymnastic-type" movements.

I'm basically looking for opinions on how I might improve my workout either by adding exercises/variations, using different splits, or if you think I should just suck it up and make the drive let me know.

My apologies for not having some posing picture, but that's not really my jam.


I think this looks great. I've experimented with a lot of home workout stuff myself. I find it especially good for getting leaner, as it much easier to work out with a high frequency. And you can gain upper body strength nicely with dips and pull-ups, but it isn't as effective for the lower body.

It seems like you maybe aren't doing enough hip dominant movements to balance all the knee-dominant plyometrics you are doing. One bodyweight exercise I really like for hitting the hamstrings and glutes is the single leg hip thrust for high reps. You could also see if you could figure out a way to do back extensions or glute ham raise. You could probably make some sort of simple apparatus for doing them yourself.

I'm no expert by any means, just thought I share my experiences.


When the gym shut down, what happened to all the equipment? Maybe a full rack might not be something you want, but a few 20 kg plates and a dip belt would be nice without needing much storage space.


I should have included a few things

  1. I've taken a liking to single leg hip thrusts over the past 6 months. Had been using them in the gym and made the transition to using a knee-high post in the woods.
  2. In reality the gym didn't exactly "shut down." I had been working out at my old high school and due to legal issues they would no longer allow me to lift there despite my high school coaches best efforts. So getting access to those 20kg plates wouldn't be an option.
  3. I dont have a dip belt but I've used chains a few times. They work nicely draped around my neck but exhaust the heck out of me during pull ups. Also, if you know of a good way to get rid of rust on chains that would be a great help.

Thanks for the feedback, its greatly appreciated.

I'm in the process of developing a thigh cushion to use for glute ham on parallel dip bars.


Get bands.

Pushups with resistant bands and a set of handles are a great alternative for those times you just can't get to the gym, not to mention face-pulls tri extension, band curls etc. Legs you could do pull-throughs or some sort of swing hybrid, while working up to skater squats and pistols....


Guess I'll pop my posting "cherry" with this one since this resonates with me. Recently, I too have been mulling over incorporating more bodyweight training into my workouts. I train at home (rack, barbells, chin and dip bars, dumbells, etc.) and for the last year and a half have been going pretty heavy with the big four lifts and a few accessories. I've made some decent gains but am just starting to hit a mental wall with the heavy lifting.

I've been contemplating a switch to various bodyweight exercises but, to be honest, I'm scared shitless of losing the strength that I've worked so hard to achieve. I don't know what advice to give you but I hope this thread generates some good ideas / experiences since I really don't know what way to go with this. As always, all the internet searching I've done has yielded 50% in favour, 50% against this type of training for strength.


Bummer about the plates. As for the rust, you'll hate me for this but an excellent method is to get a drum, fill it with some sand, soap and water. Put the chains in then roll/shake it around heaps.

Will be interested to see how the thigh cushion turns out. If I may make a suggestion from when I made mine, make sure it's a split pad design. It really helps...


Invest or make a heavy ass kettlebell. There's been plenty of talk about it's benefits for explosiveness and posterior chain muscles (hams and glutes included). You can also use it as a weight for pull-ups and dips. You can throw it, you can drag it with rope, swing it for conditioning and so on.

You could also do some heavier leg work by doing single leg squats (pistols or skater squats).


I don't think you would lose strength even if you switched for weeks but you would the mental groove or habit, though you get it and the weights all back quickly enough. So not too much to worry about, just my opinion


Wire brush and WD-40 for the chains.


I've recently started training mostly bodyweight exercises following the articles by Al Kavadlo and other Internet sources. Progressing from basic exercises to more difficult versions is a totally different type of satisfaction than adding weight to the bar, definitely recommended for a new experience! And pistol squats are sick! (I also felt compelled to pop my cherry on this topic!)


Thanks for the suggestions on cleaning a chain. Another suggestion I've received was dragging it behind a vehicle on a back road. I think I'll try that first and follow up with the others

I've been hesitant to use a kettlebell due to the fact that I've never had any experience with one. But, its definitely something I've been considering for quite some time.

And does anyone have advice on progressing into pistol squats? Do you use some form of support to maintain balance as a beginner?


I'd definitely second the kettlebell idea. And they aren't too technical, so long as you get that the swing has to be a hinge movement and not a squat. I think they are a lot less technical than many barbell lifts.

CMdad - I made the switch a year ago to bodyweight and kettlebells and more recently been getting back into barbell lifts. My bench has gone down slightly, I think mostly due to a lack of practice. Deadlift has gone up a little and squat is about the same. But I wasn't strong on the barbell lifts in the first place (275 bench, 405 deadlift, 315 squat).


Use exercises that stress multiple body parts for bodyweight exercises. For example 8 count body builders and jump squat push ups.
Don't be afraid to hit a body weight workout everyday or even twice a day. You'll be amazed at how quickly you can recover.


Actually I've been considering adding in an early morning workout that consisted mostly of 100-200 yard sprints. Its always a struggle to go workout without breakfast and a struggle to run with food in the gut. First world problems I'm afraid.


That's good to hear your lifts maintained well! What was your experience like with the switch in training types ie. what kind of changes did you have in body comp, hypertrophy etc.? Also, we're you doing high reps of the basic exercises (push-ups, pull-ups, dips etc.) or were you into the more advanced movements (handstand push-ups, flags etc.)?



The main change was that I got leaner. I think that is due to the fact that I was working out much more often, as it is so much more convenient with home workouts. I also feel like I gained a fair amount of back width due to the high number of pull-ups I was doing.

I stuck with the basic exercises, rather than the difficult progressions. I was 230lbs for most of it (though I've dropped down to 210lb now) and found it really hard to attempt any of them so didn't find it motivating.

At first my main exercises were: ring dips, ring push-ups, close grip push-ups pull-ups, inverted row, kettlebell row and kettlebell curl for upper body. Swings, snatches, turkish get-up and split squats for lower body.

Then I bought a weight vest and used that for press-ups and that works a lot better. I've also been doing band pull-aparts for the delts.

In terms of rep scheme it was pretty standard. 4+ sets of 5-15 reps for the most part.


Set up some rings. All I have room for is a set of rings from the rafter in the basement. There is no limit to what you can do with them that requires max strength. Ring Dips, Feet Elevated Inverted Rows, Feet Elevated Ring Push Ups, etc.


100% agree. Gymnasts have great physiques and they're strong as fuck.


Starting off simply use a shorter range of motion, set up a box (or chair/ bench if you have one) decend slowly, pause at the bottom then rock forward into your push back up to standing.
Once both legs are strong and you have decent balance find a lower platform i.e. An aerobics step set to max height. Continue reducing the height until you can go ass to calf free standing. At this point it will be difficult to keep your 'non-working' leg out straight so that you front foot isn't hitting the floor, for this reason I would include straight leg raises as an abs exercise in your routine as it will double in function as an assistance for pistols!