Help me build my bodyweight fitness routine
April 29, 2019 12:26 PM   Subscribe

I'm trying to lose weight, and I thought I'd return to my past exercise routine in order to assist that goal. What was I doing right/wrong, and what changes should I make?

Notes: I am of the opinion that weight loss goals are more achieved in the kitchen than the gym, so I'm doing this alongside a low-cal diet. I'm an early-30s cis male. I don't have a strict timeline for results (e.g. lose 20 lbs in two months). My knees aren't great.

My goals: -Improve muscle mass/tone. -Increase caloric expenditure somewhat. -Not have to go outside while doing all this.

The routine: Every morning for half an hour or so, I'd do a variety of exercises, with a couple minutes of intense jumping jacks in between each new exercise. The exercises would be a progression, usually from the book Convict Conditioning, so over the course of a few weeks I'd top out at one exercise and move onto a more-difficult one (e.g. knee pushups to standard plank pushups).

Pushups: 3 sets of 20
Squats: 3 sets of 40
Planks: 3 sets of 1 min
Leg raises: Not sure what the sets were

What I'm looking to change:
-Whereas before I was uninterested in using any equipment, I'm now more open to the idea of doing so, but I'm not looking for anything that takes up much space. A jump rope, kettlebell, or pull-up bar is okay; obtrusive dumbbells aren't as great, and huge dip bars aren't gonna do it for me. Don't want any equipment that needs to be permanently installed (e.g. rings).
-Cardio: I thought I'd be more deliberate about my cardio. In the past just jumping jacks was fine. I'm fine to stick with that if it's okay, but maybe jump rope would be better? I'd really prefer not having to go out and run or jump on an indoor bicycle.
-The actual exercises: Is the Convict Conditioning progression okay? Are there other core exercises that I'm missing?

Things I've tried: I've looked at the r/bodyweightfitness routine and it seems okay, but I was concerned that they require a good amount of equipment which I'm not interested in buying. Ideally this would be a routine that I could do in the morning with a yoga mat and maybe one or two other things that I could store in a basket by the door.
posted by miltthetank to Health & Fitness (7 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
I'd recommend varying your routine as much as possible for best results. A search using the term, "HIIT bodyweight," should give you lots of new things to try, and HIIT is one of the best ways to get results fast.
This couple has a search tool on their website where you can input type, time, difficulty level, target areas, and equipment if applicable, and you'll get a list of a ton of their no-nonsense, easy to follow, and free YouTube videos which fit your exact criteria for a home workout.
posted by OnefortheLast at 12:48 PM on April 29, 2019

What didn't you like about your previous routine? I'm more and more convinced that the specific details of a workout don't matter, as long as you have both intensity and consistency. You said you were doing it every day, so you had the consistency. If you felt out of breath regularly during your workout and felt tired at the end, then it was intense enough. If not, just add intensity. E.g., instead of squats, do jumps or split jumps. Once 20 pushups are easy, go to a more intense variation. If you had to pick only one additional piece of equipment, I'd go for the pull-up bar. Mix push-ups, pull-ups, ab exercise(s) of your choice, and squats or some variation, and you have a full body workout. And if you're going straight from one exercise to the next, you will be getting plenty of cardio without adding jumping jacks between them.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 1:02 PM on April 29, 2019 [2 favorites]

Your current routine is probably fine from a cardio POV but way too high rep/low intensity if your goal is to build muscle. You're not going to gain much muscle mass doing anything that you can do 120 reps of in a session; general target for muscle gain on bodyweight exercises is to go near-to-failure on an exercise that you can do like 8-12 reps of. So instead of doing 3 sets of 20 regular pushups you'd want to do something more like 3 sets of 10 of a more difficult pushup variant (weighed pushups, diamond pushups, whatever).
posted by phoenixy at 1:02 PM on April 29, 2019 [1 favorite]

general target for muscle gain on bodyweight exercises is to go near-to-failure on an exercise that you can do like 8-12 reps of.

Yes, but it seems the common wisdom is wrong.

Research "compared the effects of lifting relatively light weights lots of times versus lifting relatively heavy weights fewer times, and found that it makes very little difference to how much muscle and strength you gain."

For example, "24 subjects did 20-25 reps at loads of 30-50% of their maximal strength and 25 subjects did 8-12 reps at 75-90% of their max... The study found training to failure is more important than the load..."
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 1:43 PM on April 29, 2019 [1 favorite]

I have awful knees and split jumps are the WORST.

For cardio, try burpees instead of jumping jacks.
posted by jonathanhughes at 2:03 PM on April 29, 2019

The thing with >20 reps is that you end up slacking on form, and, the more reps you do poorly (and at all), the more opportunity there is for injury. My physio said you don’t want to do more than 3x20. You can progress in difficulty from there, this involves doing more challenging versions of things (like single leg vs double leg movements, or stuff that’s more gymnastic-y) or slowing things way down. It’s hard to know exactly by how much you’re increasing intensity that way - dumbbells are more straightforward in that regard - but you’d just keep making things harder once they got easier.
posted by cotton dress sock at 4:57 PM on April 29, 2019

I would definitely jump rope instead of jumping jacks. I feel like I could do jumping jacks forever but as soon as I start jumping rope I become a sweaty mess.

It depends what your goals are but I think a kettlebell is a good idea. I got to a point where bodyweight squats didn't do it for me and I needed to start to add weight. Plus there are heaps of other easy exercises that you can do with a kettle bell.
What about a resistance band?
posted by thereader at 12:20 PM on April 30, 2019

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