Build Your Own Gymless Workout
A STEP BY STEP GUIDE
I’m pretty confident that the workout creation process is one of the most intimidating pieces of the fitness puzzle for beginners. You can snag ideas via popular websites, sure, but that doesn’t mean you’ll understand the terms. Fitness professionals tend to assume that the general public understands the intricacies of programming, but that’s rarely the case.
More importantly, they want you to believe that all programming has to be complex. The honest truth is that it doesn’t, especially when you’re just starting out. Simple workouts are usually awesome workouts. The hard part, as weird as it sounds, is getting to the point where you can create simple workouts.
Hopefully, after you’re done reading this, you’ll be at least one step closer. This step by step guide is short, to the point, and absolutely skims over and/or omits several important aspects of programming. Don’t worry about that. You can learn that stuff later if you’re so inclined.
For now, just focus on the big bits and pieces of workout creation. That’s the stuff that really matters.
STEP 1: CHOOSE YOUR FOCUS
Are you using this workout to crank your heart rate up, or to build on your strength foundation? In other words, are you interested in strength or conditioning? Of course, you don’t have to choose one – you can incorporate both. But it helps to have a focus until you get the hang of the process.
Choose more difficult exercise variations. Two keys to a good gymless strength session: Challenging movements and lower repetitions. If you’re past using the pushup in its most basic form to build strength, for example, then progress it to the pause pushup.
If you choose strength, you’ll probably want to use alternating sets or a simple set/rest scheme. Do a set, then rest, then do another set, and so on. If you want to spice it up, you can use alternating sets. Pair one push and one pull exercise together. Perform exercise A, take a short rest, perform exercise B, and repeat. Then move on to the next pair.
Choose easier exercise variations. Two keys to a good gymless conditioning session: Lots of movement and/or higher repetitions. You don’t need both, but they do work well together. And by higher repetitions I don’t mean sets of 50 – shoot for 10-20. Better yet, use time – think 40 to 60 second sets.
If you choose conditioning, start by using supersets. Pair two exercises together, knock out one set of each exercise with no rest between them, then take your rest and repeat. If you want to up the intensity, use circuits. Perform every exercise in the workout with no rest between movements. Take a rest when you complete the entire circuit, then repeat.
STEP 2: CHOOSE 2 PUSHING AND 2 PULLING EXERCISES
Start by breaking exercises down into two categories: Push and pull. Pushing exercises require the most effort from muscles on the front of the body, while pulling exercises target the muscles on the back of the body. That’s simplifying it, but it’s a good rule of thumb.
I tend to choose an even amount of pushing and pulling movements because I’m a big fan of balance. This is a reasonable strategy for most people, but far from the only way to set up a workout. If you’re weak in a particular area, you might want to place more emphasis there.
You can mix and match your exercises to create a full body workout, or choose all upper or all lower body movements to create targeted workouts that you can rotate between. I’d rather not choose a side here. My advice: Try both and decide which you like better.
STEP 3: CHOOSE 1 PLANK EXERCISE
Admittedly, the plank isn’t always the best option, but it’s rarely a bad one. Don’t limit yourself to the “classic” plank on your forearms. You can use plank variations from the pushup position, too. A few fun options: Spider Planks, Plank Jacks, and Lateral Plank Walks.
If you happen to have access to equipment like bands or kettlebells, you might want to consider replacing the plank with a twist. Twisting is something that people seem to forget about, even though we do it on a daily basis. Use exercises like Band Backhands and Band Low High Twists.
STEP 4: CHOOSE 1 HEART RATE UP EXERCISE
A “heart rate up” exercise is any exercise that’s good at ramping up your heart rate. In other words, any exercise that gets you moving. Jumps and hops are great options here. Think squat jumps, lunge jumps, side to side hops – all that good stuff. If you’re not in a jumping mood, you can choose exercises that make you cover distance: Shuffles, Bear Crawls, and Walkouts.
This “heart rate up” exercise is at the end of the workout because it’s probably going to finish you. It’s also usually a less skilled exercise. That means there’s a bigger margin of error when it comes to your technique.
STEP 5: ENJOY YOUR WORKOUT
After you’re done, pat yourself on the back. Not just for doing the workout, but also for creating it. You just rocked a workout that’s all yours. Plus, you can use the same framework to design future workouts for months – years, probably – to come. You know the saying about the guy and the fish and teaching him a skill for life? This is exactly the same thing. Well, almost…but you know what I mean.
DISCLAIMER: THIS OVERSIMPLIFIES THE PROCESS
This simple approach may not work well for you if you’re at the intermediate or advanced level. I’m sorry. Please understand that this step-by-step process is oversimplified. It’s designed to help beginners learn a basic method for creating challenging and effective workouts.