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With COVID-19 taking the globe by storm, "shelter in place" orders around the world, and a general closure of pretty much every gym on the planet, many people are wondering how they might get their fix and keep in shape during voluntary and involuntary quarantines and "social distancing". Personally, I invested in my own gym equipment years ago, because I don't like box gyms or large groups of people. However, since the onset of the virus, I've been focusing on bodyweight and minimal equipment work, just so I could help those of you who don't currently have access to your usual gyms and their equipment. As an added personal bonus, this may help me after the actual apocalypse when my gym equipment eventually becomes one with the earth again and I'm left to work with what's available.
You don't need fancy equipment to stay in shape. Personally, I tend to shift my workouts between calisthenics, barbells and dumbbells, and sandbags to get a wide range of stimuli in my workouts. I don't use machines, with the exception of a hamstring curl attachment on my power rack.
The most common gym equipment, aside from machines, is the humble barbell and the plates you'll load it with. It's hard to find an acceptable replacement if you're very partial to that setup, but you can definitely load your lifts with alternatives. Free options include rocks, tree limbs, loaded containers, slosh pipes, or anything heavy and controllable. I've used cinder blocks, rocks, chunks of concrete, and even my kid and girlfriend. If it has mass and you can lift it, it can stand in for a barbell, plate, or dumbbell. Probably don't use your child as a kettlebell though. It'd be a shame to toss a kid through a TV.
Brute Force Training* - They offer quality, affordable sandbag training options. I've used the kettlebells. They're exceptional and extremely durable, and they can be loaded up to 45 lbs with sand. Add lead shot for more weight if you like, though they're only rated up to 45 lbs for the kettlebells. They also make a line of other sandbags rated for a range of weights. If you're looking for a portable gym, these are great.
Titan Fitness - Affordable fitness equipment from sandbags to power racks and even some machines. They appear to be Rogue clones, but I've never had a problem with anything I've purchased from them. My plates and rack are all Titan. They're not as pretty as Rogue, and they don't have as many add-on options for their racks, but they function.
Sandbag weight shifts, so don't think you can do your normal program with your usual weight. Take it down a notch and enjoy a new level of training with shifting loads that recruit muscles you didn't even know you had.
Long before we invented barbells and weight machines, the most elite soldiers on the planet trained using themselves as their resistance. Even today, Special Forces use calisthenics as the foundation of their programs and you're required to be able to meet base fitness requirements to join most militaries using only your bodyweight. While much of the fitness world may look down on calisthenics, we don't really give a fuck what they have to say. We're looking for useful strength, not ripped abs for a modeling floor. Even if you do use external resistance, you need to be in command of your own body as much as possible in any situation where your muscles are actually being taxed. Add calisthenics to your workouts. Yesterday.
Here is a basic program designed for new BloodFire Operatives who have never worked out a day in their lives. There are scaling options both for easier and harder workouts, to give you ideas no matter your fitness level. The programs are (almost) entirely bodyweight. If the harder scales are too easy and you have access to such, add some weights. A weighted vest and a dip belt you can hang plates from are great additions to a calisthenic workout once you've mastered your own weight. I work out 4 days a week because I work extended hours the other 3, so I split core between Upper and Lower days. Feel free to split Upper - Lower - Core into separate days, as the full core workout will likely make a killer workout on its own in just one day, giving you 2 full days of rest every week if you work a typical five-day schedule. If you don't know how to do a specific exercise, YouTube has tutorials on all of them. If there's enough demand, I might even make videos available personally.
Repeat every workout for three rounds, minimum (unless you're recovering from an injury. I'm currently doing 2 round workouts to rehab several spinal herniations.)
Day 1: Legs/Core
- 10x Bulgarian Split Squats - Add resistance to make it harder. Lower reps if you can't do 10.
- 10x Pistol Squats - (Read above for scaling, use a support if you can't balance effectively on one leg. Minimize the support in each subsequent workout until you can balance on a single leg.)
- 20x Jumping Squats - Add resistance for difficulty, you may need to scale reps. Scale intensity of your jump to make it easier, or simply do bodyweight squats.
- 10x Walking Lunges - Add weight to scale up. I can't make these easier. Get good. If you're real good, make them switching lunges with a jump instead. Add weight to hate me.
- Calf Raises - All of them if you're doing them unweighted. 20 or so if they're weighted or you're exceptionally heavy.
- Core starts here-ish. Burpees are technically a whole body movement. But I hate them and I hate leg day, so I program them with leg day. If you only do one exercise at all, ever, it should be burpees, until you want to die.
- Burpees Until You Die - They suck. Embrace the Suck.
- 20x Sit-up-to-Stand (This works best if you have a bench with somewhere to hold your feet) Do a sit-up. Don't stop. Go until you're standing up straight. Lower yourself with control. Repeat until dead or 20 reps.
- 20x Abdominal Crunches - Add weight or reps to go harder. Limit reps to scale down.
- 20x Lying Leg Raises - Add reps to scale up, subtract reps to scale down.
- 40x Flutter Kicks - Just die. (Seriously, these suck)
- 10x Dragon Flag - Lie flat in front of an anchor point. Grab it. Like you're going to die if you let go. Tighten your legs. Tighten your abs. Tighten them more. Do a sit-up, except backwards, pulling your legs and core into line with your shoulders. To scale down, pull your legs up like you're sitting. To scale up, what the fuck even are you?
- Repeat 3 times.
- Hydrate more
- 1 gram of protein per pound of weight, eat some carbs to replace your glycogen stores.
- Eat your fucking veggies.
- Once this one gets comfortable-ish, add some glute bridges wherever you like. If you have the available equipment or materials to make the equipment, glute-ham raises are the god of the posterior chain.
- 10x Pull-Ups - You can't do 10. If you can, add weight. If you can't, use resistance bands to support them. And then do negative pull-ups.
- Sidebar, Negative Pull-Ups - A negative anything is the easier part of any exercise. A negative pull-up is slowing down the movement from the top of the movement to the bottom. To perform a negative pull-up, use a box or other platform, or jump, to the top of the pull-up movement. Lower yourself to the ground as slowly as possible. Repeat 10x.
- 10x Ring Rows/Australian Pull-Ups - If you have rings, use those. If you don't, find a low bar. Pull your chest to it. Increase body angle to make it easier, decrease angle to make it harder.
- 10x Chin-Ups - Scaling is the same as pull-ups
- 10x Ring/Bar Curls - Works just like the Ring Row/Australian Pull-Up, but focuses on the bicep instead of the lats.
- 10x Push-Ups - Body straight, nose to the concrete. (I don't care how fucking hot it is.) Scale up by elevating your feet and/or spreading your palms. Scale down by elevating your chest using a table, chair, bench, etc.
- 10x Shoulder Flyes - Use whatever you have available as resistance. Choose heavier resistance as time goes on and you progress.*
- 10x Lateral Raises - Same as the Shoulder Flyes.
- 10x Chest Flyes - You guessed it* *You can use rings if they're available, or rope if you're brave and don't mind friction burns.
- 20x Abdominal Crunches - Scale up by declining your body or adding weight. Scale down by repping out until you die.
- 20x Russian Twists - start with body weight, add resistance
- 20x V-Ups - Scale with more or less reps
- Dragon Flags - You'll learn to love them.
- 10x Hanging Leg Raises - Add an isometric hold at the end, as long as you can - until you're crying is preferable.
- Aftercare - Eat your veggies, hydrate, protein.
- The Apocalypse Does Not Rest
- Run as far as you can.
- Go home.
- Sprint as far as you can.
- Catch your breath.
- Go Home.
- Repeat twice.
- Go for a hike
- Bike ride with the kids
- Take a nice walk.
- Never stop moving.
A Note of Warning
I am by no means a professional. I don't compete, I've never been to school for exercise science, and I don't work in a gym. While I've done a good deal of research and experimentation to find what works for me, this is likely far from a "perfect" program. This is simply meant to show you that you can still get a workout in, even without access to a gym or the machines you may be used to. Feel free to tweak it to meet your unique needs and physiology. Most importantly - get out there and do The Work, no matter what the world may throw at you.