minimalist home workout tips
July 28, 2008 12:34 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for a single book on exercises I can do at home without any extra equipment that will help me build some muscle mass and definition while (hopefully) losing weight.

I'm 40+, 6'6, 225 lbs and an ectomorph. I'd like to gain some upper body muscle mass and definition without using any weight machines. Dumbells would be ok, but I don't have room for a weight bench.

I'm familiar with Shovelglove but would prefer something in book form that emphasizes a wider variety of exercises, and is geared at the absolute n00b.

A pull-up bar also falls within the range of minimal equipment purchases, although honestly I can't even do one pull up right now.
posted by mecran01 to Health & Fitness (24 answers total) 94 users marked this as a favorite
100 push ups plus the couch to 5K plan should keep you busy for a while.
posted by COD at 12:49 PM on July 28, 2008 [3 favorites]

A few things:

(1) To truly build muscle mass, your body requires a calorie excess. To lose weight, your body requires a calorie deficit. Building muscle mass and losing weight are two incompatible things.

(2) To truly gain muscle mass, you need to do a lot of weight bearing exercises. To get the most bang for your buck, you need to do the big heavy weights.

(3) Caveats, aside, I think you should check out something like CrossFit.
posted by unexpected at 12:53 PM on July 28, 2008 [2 favorites]

Take a look at Simplefit which is a minimalist, home-version of Crossfit. Also, I've heard good things about Never Gymless.
posted by Durin's Bane at 1:11 PM on July 28, 2008 [2 favorites]

I've been doing the "As Seen on TV" P90X routine for two months and feel like I'm in the best shape of my life. I use some dumbbells, a pull-up bar, and some floor space. But if you can't do a single pull-up, there's no use getting a pull-up bar. The program encourages you to modify with resistance bands.

I like because it's a no brainer - I don't have to think about what to do. I pop in the DVD and follow the instructions and exercises.

If you do purchase it, I suggest you get it off eBay. That way you'll avoid all the upselling that's goes on. The company does the hard sell to get you to buy extra stuff.
posted by spoons at 1:18 PM on July 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

"core performance" - uses only an exercise ball

'p90x' - uses a pull-up bar and a chair

both have a variety of exercises - both can seem gimmicky - and both are things i've looked at but haven't yet tried.
posted by maulik at 1:20 PM on July 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

but I don't have room for a weight bench.

Keeping this basic and essential information in mind, here is something to consider:

From an economist's standpoint, your returns on several weeks or months of bodyweight exercise are going to be fairly poor. You will likely see marginal gains in size and definition in your anterior and lateral deltoids, and in your triceps. You may even see some growth in your chest.

Gains in other key areas ("key" as far as aesthetics, well-balanced muscularity, joint health, injury prevention, etc) such as the upper back/pulling muscles, posterior chain and quads, and core will be poor, if you make any at all.

The lack of major compound exercises with heavy weight will correlate to a lack of natural growth hormones in the body. Strength gains and growth are a form of adaptation - if you do things the body can already handle, it has no reason to adapt.

Now, keeping that in mind, a rusty barbell, independent bench, weight stands, and old ass weights can be had for a steal via Craigslist. You can lean them up against the wall inside a tiny coat closet.

Make it so!
posted by crunch buttsteak at 1:24 PM on July 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

I've had the FitDeck recommended to me, and it looks like it might meet your requirements; a deck of cards, each card has an exercise (pushups) and 3 levels of recommended reps (5, 10, 30). The "suits" are different targeted areas, so you could stick to upper- and whole- body cards if you wanted. What's today's workout? Deal 5 cards. The randomness and variety seems like they would keep things fresh.
posted by bartleby at 1:24 PM on July 28, 2008

Seconding Never Gymless.

Ross is a beast, with a number of excellent books out. The guy puts together excellent workouts.

I think this would offer quite a bit more variety than 100 pushups and Couch to 5k. It would also be better for strength work/putting on muscle mass.
posted by HighTechUnderpants at 1:51 PM on July 28, 2008

Thanks for the excellent suggestions so far--I genuinely appreciate it. Even learning the term "bodyweight exercises" and being reminded of the term "isometric" has opened some google doors for me that were previously closed. I'm pretty excited!
posted by mecran01 at 2:13 PM on July 28, 2008

posted by Sassyfras at 2:14 PM on July 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

If you can't do many chin-ups to start with, position your bar a bit lower (or use some kind of a stool) and cheat your reps by helping with one leg at a time. Chin-ups are great for your back.
posted by bonobothegreat at 2:14 PM on July 28, 2008

bonobothegreat> If you can't do many chin-ups to start with, position your bar a bit lower (or use some kind of a stool) and cheat your reps by helping with one leg at a time. Chin-ups are great for your back.

Alternately, if you have a friend to do the workouts with, you can take turns holding each other's ankles while doing chin-ups. As you do the chin-ups, bend your legs so your thighs are perpendicular to the ground and your calves and parallel to it. Then, if your spotter holds your ankles and provides a slight amount of lift, you can do more reps than you could alone.
posted by UrineSoakedRube at 2:27 PM on July 28, 2008

Check out Ross Enamait's Never Gymless. Sure, the website's cheesy, but the information is solid and the man himself is a serious monster. You will get functionally strong and very fit.

FitDeck is great, Never Gymless is simply more comprehensive and will provide a little more sophisticated programming options once you're at that level. I know 100 Push-ups is The Thing Of The Week right now, but honestly, being able to do 100 push-ups does not mean you have comprehensive, functional upper-body strength. It means you've gotten a little stronger and have trained your central nervous system to do lots of push-ups.

Also, if you want to build muscle mass, running is really not the way to do it. Look at top runners--long-distance like people who run 5Ks, 10Ks, etc. They can run, but they are not heavy on the muscle mass. Something to consider.
posted by schroedinger at 2:37 PM on July 28, 2008 [6 favorites]

I second p90x. It has a wealth of body weight exercises that will kick your body in gear.
posted by aeighty at 3:42 PM on July 28, 2008

I guess I can't read today - sorry for mentioning Shovelglove when you already did.
posted by Sassyfras at 3:48 PM on July 28, 2008

The Marine Corps website has a pdf version of the daily 16 exercise routine and a Fitness Training Guide in doc format. The exercises do not require any equipment.
posted by calumet43 at 4:06 PM on July 28, 2008 [6 favorites]

That is a solid post schroedinger!
posted by P.o.B. at 4:17 PM on July 28, 2008

I recommend Body for Life; there are exercise in there for machines as well as dumb/barbells. If you get bored, just print out exercises from websites. As for equipment, look for dumb/barbell bars that let you add weight to them; don't get those plastic covered weights in fixed weights as they aren't very scalable. I would invest in a bench as that will give you a LOT more options and options are good because doing the same workout endlessly can leave you bored and then stuck in a rut.
posted by kenzi23 at 6:56 PM on July 28, 2008

2nding Ross Enamait's Never Gymless. The ultimate home workout book. Also check out his website for info on homemade equipment. And don't feel shy about emailing the guy with your questions. He's notorious for answering all emails.
posted by keith0718 at 4:27 AM on July 29, 2008

Check out the Men's Health Best: Weight-Free Workout , it's not expensive, and packed full of good info.
posted by jerryg99 at 7:45 AM on July 29, 2008

Another option is YRG. Most people have lost weight on it, but others are able to build muscle mass.

It's basically yoga and calisthenics, so no equipment.
posted by wrnealis at 9:32 AM on July 29, 2008

I thought of some more stuff. I've been on a bodyweight kick recently, but uncommon bodyweight exercises-one legged squats, handstand pushups, are some websites I like to use, that you might find useful. Bonus: free!

DragonDoor Bodyweight Articles
posted by HighTechUnderpants at 11:28 AM on July 29, 2008

This is an awesome thread. There is no way, however, that I'm doing one of these!
posted by mecran01 at 3:01 PM on July 29, 2008

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