How I’m Working Out: Body Weight Exercises

I’m bored. More specifically bored of the gym. Too lazy to drive back-and-forth. Bored of watching the same people do the same workouts they always do. Bored of watching the same trainers train their clients like they always do. Bored of doing my same workouts and taking the same supplements. So I decided to switch things up and ditch the gym completely for a spell.

If it works for them, it'll work for you.
If it works for them, it’ll work for you.

Getting out of my gym routine was actually an easy thing to do. I had grown tired of my workouts which could be described as a mix of athletic and bodybuilding exercises and lifts. I’m not an athlete anymore and I’ve never wanted to be a bodybuilder, so I decided I wanted to go in a simpler direction. After running the Chicago Marathon last fall, I still have yet to rediscover my desire to run consistently, so that was out, as well was any lengthy work with my kettlebell just because I didn’t feel like repeating the same cycle I had done earlier in the year (although I was pleased with the results).

All of this led me to my current work out.

  • Pull Ups: 10 sets
  • Push Ups: 10 sets

And that’s it. I wanted minimalist and that’s exactly what I created. Really, the only reason I chose the two exercises is because I’m awful at pull ups (or chin ups, I was bad at both) and I thought doing 100 push ups every day was a worthy fitness goal (not exactly the 1,500 push ups Herschel Walker pumps out a day but a start). That’s the thing about this workout, two exercises, ten sets each, of as many reps you want/are able to do, every day of the week. Working out every day is probably contrary to what you’ve heard, been taught, practiced since the beginning of time, but I think this works well. Think of it this way, doing this workout is akin to practicing every day. Recently, I had the opportunity to reread some of works of Pavel Tsatsouline¬†who compared these exercises to skills. The best way to refine a skill set, Pavel reasoned, was to practice said skill as often as possible. Which is why I’ve decided to do this workout every day. I want to push myself out of the comfort zone that I have gotten into, and eliminating “recovery” days is one way to start. Most of the time, I’ll stick to a routine for four to six weeks, but I think I’ll stay with this one until I tire of it.

The great thing is that the workout, as minimal as it is, is still very diverse. There are five different variations of pull ups I do, all based on different grip positions. You can also change your leg position to give you more or less leverage, which can make a seemingly easy exercise considerably more difficult. Push ups can also be modified by hand positioning to incline, decline and diamond push ups, which all challenge you in different ways. Recently, I added ten sets of planks to the workout as well. Starting at thirty seconds, I’ll continue to add more time to them. Who knows, maybe next week I’ll add body weight squats or kettlebell swings. The idea is to keep the workout fresh, but also efficient. Overall, it’s a workout that can be done in your house, with minimal equipment, in a short amount of time (by no means though do you have to speed through it).

So does it work? I think so. I’ve felt the improvement, as pull ups aren’t the challenge that they used to be and I’m not even phased by push ups anymore. I’ve felt my grip strength, an often overlooked aspect of strength, improve dramatically. I still work up a good sweat and am pleased by the simplicity of it all, which is really the key here. All I need is my pull up bar and some floor space. If you don’t want to spend the $20 on a pull up bar (cheapskate) then take it outdoors and do the work out at a playground on some monkey bars, or anywhere else you have a sturdy bar overhead. Really, there is no excuse to not be working out regularly and this is a good start if you need to get back into the swing of things. If 10 sets is too much, lower it to five and work your way up. If you’re pressed for time, split up the ten throughout the day. The important thing is to complete the ten sets in the day, not necessarily at one time. The workout isn’t without it’s drawbacks, there is not concentration on the lower body (but that too can be added at your leisure), but the main benefit is that it will challenge you and give you a strong base that you can take back to your gym whenever you feel like going back.

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A certified personal trainer and graduate of Northwestern University (M.A. in Sport Adminstration), Steve is resident fitness expert and music snob of JustAGuy. In addition to fitness and music, Steve also enjoys sports. Feel free to trash talk him at

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