For thousands of years, the human race existed without fad diets and insane fitness machines, and people managed to maintain the physiques of the gods. Looking at the pictures in history books, you can see that typical human physiques have changed. Current body types are more overweight than at any previous time, but the crazy thing is, the idea of fitness is more popular now than ever. Health and well-being have plummeted, but the obsession with being fit and exercising has skyrocketed. So, what has changed?
Prioritizing. People think about exercising consistently, but they don’t make it a priority.
In my last post, I talked about how to be more consistent with exercise. I understand that you may not have access to a gym or have enough money to shell out for a personal trainer—let alone buy an online training program. The point is that you must make fitness a priority in order to follow through. When you do, you will find opportunities to exercise anywhere.
Remember those old photos of the young Arnold Schwarzenegger working out in flip-flops on old, beat-up weights? So what could possibly stop you?
Let’s get back to the days of fitness before technology. What workouts can you do at home or outdoors to maintain a solid physique? Here are my favorite equipment-free movements.
Evina’s Top-8 Equipment-Free Exercises
1) Dynamic warmups. Before any kind of workout, I do a warmup that involves more than one range of motion. The warmup gives my joints an increase in synovial fluid and also increases the blood flow to my muscles. It prepares my body so that I can perform the actual workout with less risk of injury.
For example, the inchworm exercise provides an excellent full-body dynamic warmup. It fires the hamstrings and glutes as well as opening up the shoulder girdle for mobility. From a pushup position, push your tailbone straight up to the ceiling as far as your range of motion will allow, at the same time taking small steps forward toward your hands, keeping your legs straight. Make sure to let your shoulders rotate as you push up your tailbone. The final position looks like an upside down V. From there, walk forward with your hands, again keeping your legs straight, and return to the pushup position. Repeat for five to 10 reps.
2) Bodyweight squats. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Stick out your bottom, and bend at the two pivot points, the knees and hips, keeping your back straight, with the weight distributed to your heels, as you squat. (The ankles should be of secondary concern.) Push up through your heels, returning to the starting position, and repeat.
A note about “shoulder width.” Most people will use a much wider stance, without realizing it; so take the time to determine your actual shoulder-to-shoulder measurement.
3) Walking lunges. These are an excellent way to maneuver around a park and also maintain your glute shape. Step forward with one foot, and make sure to step far enough in front of you that your weight is distributed equally on both feet. Drop the back knee as far as your flexibility will allow, and follow by driving up and forward with the front heel, bringing the back leg forward for the next step.
4) Side planks. These are among my favorite moves for engaging my obliques and lats. To perform a basic side plank, lie on your side, with your knees straight, and lift your upper body, supporting it with your lower elbow and forearm. Place your upper arm on your hip or straight at your side. Breathe out, and contract your abs. Raise your hips until they are aligned with your ankles and shoulders forming a straight line. Hold for 30 seconds.
Beginners can start with the modified side plank, in which you bend your knees, with your legs stacked behind you, and raise your body up from the knees rather than the feet. That gives you two points of contact, your elbow and forearm as well as your knees. When you have mastered those, you can graduate to the basic version and, eventually, to the advanced version, where you have a narrower point of contact: place your hand only on the floor directly below your shoulder and place both feet flat, with legs straight, as you raise up your hips.
5) Pushups. You can do regular pushups, from your feet, or the modified version, from your knees, depending on your fitness level. Position yourself facedown on the ground, with your hands directly under your shoulders at arm’s length, supporting your body. Bend your arms, lowering your body, and push up with your arms, supporting your bodyweight on your arms and the tops of your feet (for regular pushups). Then repeat. You may also like staggered pushups, in which one hand is positioned slightly above your shoulders and the other is slightly below them. That enables you to isolate your chest muscles even more.
6) Pull-ups. You do not need a gym to find a pull-up bar, as they are standard equipment in many public parks. To build a structural foundation for pull-ups, start with just hanging from the bar to familiar yourself with your bodyweight. Then try scapula engagement by getting your shoulder blades to touch. From there, progress to driving your elbows down and you learn the movement of pulling your body up. There are many great articles about how to progress your pushup. My favorite is by Meghan Callaway: drjohnrusin.com/female-pull-up-makeover/
7) Running sprints. I love sprints, especially if I want to make my legs feel gassed. They’re great for development. One note of caution: Don’t just jump in to sprints at 100 percent. Start with warmup sprints at 60 to 70 percent, and then gradually pick it up from there, hitting 100 percent on your last few attempts.
8) Stretching. After a killer workout in the park, make it a priority to stretch. Again, don’t exceed your body’s flexibility limits.
A final tip for your outdoor workouts: be sure to drink plenty of water—and don’t forget to enjoy yourself!