Training without the Gym

Jan 20, 2010
Training without the Gym

No matter where you are Clark has a solution for you.

In Home Circuit Training

When weight training really became accepted by the masses in the early 1980’s, Nautilus training was the "in thing." Arthur Jones developed a line of machines and protocol for using them that was, and still is, a very effective way of training.

The method that Jones proposed to the world was to start exercising with your larger muscle groups first and work your way back, set by set, to the smaller ones, doing one to two sets 8-12 reps per set. Viola-your done. If you were to sum up his overall theory in a few words, it would be less is more. If this sounds good to you…read on.

His years of research proved to him that the human body operates best as a whole. Therefore he felt that it should be trained and rested as a whole.

The purpose of the progression from larger to smaller muscles was fairly simple. Larger muscles tend to stimulate a direct effect on the bodies smaller ones. After training the legs, back, chest the smaller muscles like biceps and triceps wouldn’t require as much stimulus. This cuts the workout time, and the total amount of sets required.

Some major points of interest

In this article you will find a program that will do something similar to what Arthur Jones promised when he developed the Nautilus principles, give you a quick but effective workout.

If you are interested in a routine that can be done at home, will take twenty minutes or less with the promise of lean defined muscles then consider reading on.

We will help you develop an in home circuit type workout, with little or no weights, that you can complete in 20 minutes or less. This is not about squatting 400 pounds or benching for a personal best. The goal here is simple: to keep you at home and kick your butt.

For the "Basic Program"

Start with one set per exercise for 10 reps per set, once a week, do this for about 4-6 weeks. When you feel you are ready to move on add one set and an additional day of training. Also you can begin to add some additional resistance with your partners assistance. Rest sixty to ninety seconds between sets.

If you are more adventuresome and really want to pump up the volume try the "Advanced Program." This can be done by slowing your reps down to a snails pace. Count the negative (eccentric) and the positive (concentric) phase of each rep. The negative will last a total of 5 seconds, and the positive will be the same with no rest between. Your rest time will be about thirty seconds between sets, and you will do the circuit three times per week. It will be best if it is done every other day to provide the body enough rest between workouts.

Either way focus on the muscle that is being worked and at all costs avoid using momentum, this will only lessen the overall effect of the program.


Body Squats- Start by placing your feet shoulder width apart and your feet will be at a 30-degree angle outward. Put your hands on your hips or extend your arms straight directly in front of you. Slowly lower yourself until your gluts touch your calves. (If you can’t accomplish this range of motion go to the point where you feel as if your heels are lifting off the ground.) Then simply return to the start position. Have your partner provide resistance by pushing down on your shoulders during both the positive and negative portion of the movement.

Follow this set immediately with a set of half squats. This will be accomplished by simply limiting your range of motion to the point that you are half way to the full squat. This will ensure that the larger muscles of your quadriceps are pushed to punishing proportions.

Split Squats- Extend one leg in front of the other approximately the length of your walking stride and the other leg will be bent at the knee almost touching the floor. Now jump up and change leg positions using your arms to propel your body in the air as high as possible.

These will challenge the larger muscles of your quads, hamstrings and gluts to a new degree because the central nervous system will recruit and stimulate as many muscle cells as possible in the shortest period of time. This will enable you to exert force in the trained muscle group faster than traditional resistance training might. The advantage would manifest itself should you need to move suddenly for any unforeseen reason.


Prone Leg Curls- This would be a great time to have a partner. After you are positioned on the floor in the prone position have your partner place a towel around the front your ankles to provide resistance. At this point your partner will provide enough resistance for you to be able to finish 12-15 repetitions. This will take some communication. Be square to talk and let him or her know exactly how much resistance to provide. The goal is not to drag you across the front room by your ankles, but to mimic the resistance provided by machines in gyms. Try to keep spinal alignment by keeping your head facing the floor and keep your feet in a normal position. Similar to the 90-degree and that happens when you stand; most likely this will be the most comfortable and functionally correct angle. Doing this will place the majority of the emphasis on the hamstring muscles and less of your time will be spent worrying about if your feet are facing the right way.

Harrup Hamstrings- (Don’t ask why they are called harrup, maybe it was the guy’s name who invented them, but names aside these work!) You’ll need a broomstick and a partner here. Drop to your knees and remain upright while your partner holds the back of your ankles. Your partners job is to hold you steady so your feet don’t come off the floor. Grab the broomstick and hold it at arms length in front of you with one end on the floor and the other pointing to the ceiling. The purpose of the broomstick is to provide an object for self-spotting during this challenging exercise. Use it to the degree that you need it. With your partner holding your feet, (behind your ankles) firmly slowly lower your upper body towards the floor. The broomstick should keep you from falling face first into the carpet. At this point your hamstrings will kick in to hold you up. Most likely you will only go to the point that your upper body is at about ½ way to the floor. Now using your hamstrings (and as little of the broomstick as possible) raise your body back to the upright position. We recommend these to the more adventuresome trainees.


Pull Ups- If you don’t have a pull up bar anywhere in your home or garage might want to consider hanging one at some point. Reason being is that pull ups are one of those exercises where you get some serious "bang for your buck." You have biceps pumping, lats a liftin’ scapular adduction, and a variety of other muscles joing in to aid you in lifting your body weight. Many people have a hard time completing even a single rep, so here is a hint to help you out. Have your partner assist you lifting you to the up position. Now lower yourself as slowly as possible. Your muscles are stronger in the eccentric phase (lowering or lengthening of the muscle) movement. There is eventually a carry over in strength from the eccentric to concentric (lifting or shortening of the muscle). Some will drop faster than others, that is not the point. The point is to control yourself as best as you can until eventually you notice it is much less of an effort than when first attempted. Before you know it you will be doing traditional pull ups.

Towel Pulls-These are a staple for pumping up back stage at bodybuilding shows. This will be a partner-aided exercise as well. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart now bend knees to about a 15-20 degree angle while bending over at the waste. Keep a slight lordosis (inward curvature of spin) in your lower back area. This will ensure your back is in the safest possible position for this great movement. Your partner will do the same. The goal is to provide each other with enough resistance to feel that burn in your latissismus muscles that give you the v-taper look. Pulling back and forth extending the arms to full length and then pulling in your hands towards your sternum area will accomplish this. This is just below the large muscles of your chest and above your abdominal area. Be sure to communicate with your partner again telling them how much resistance is right for you. You will also be responsible for providing them with enough resistance to get a pump.


Push Ups- A military favorite! There is a reason there are thousands of service men and women performing these all over the globe. They work! Start by assuming the position, that would be face down prone to the floor. Now keeping perfect spinal alignment lower yourself to the floor. This is the point where many people want to cheat, please don’t. Keeping spinal alignment means that your head will always be in a neutral position, not dropping to the floor and not looking up. Pretend that you have a broomstick lying from head to toe along your body on resting on your back. It would be perfectly centered and touching the back of your head, going between the scapula, all the way down your body ending sitting on the back of your heels. Pulling your belly button into your abdominals will help you maintain this position by not allowing your spine to sag and put you into a compromising position.

Medicine Ball Throws- These have a similar effect as to the jump split squats described in the leg training. Lay on the floor looking up to the ceiling. Your partner will stand on a chair above your head holding a medicine ball. You can purchase various weights at almost any sporting goods store; you determine what is good for you. Please remember to keep safety in mind always. Extend your arms at full length above your body toward your partner. At this point they will drop the ball and your job is to catch it! After catching the weighted medicine ball allow your arms to lower under the weight to your chest. Now you will propel the ball into the air toward your awaiting partner who will continue this exchange. Another advantage to this type of movement is that the brain switches the muscles activity from eccentric to concentric at lightning speed. This will build tremendous speed of movement in the muscles worked.


Lateral Raises- While you are out purchasing your medicine ball be sure to pick up a few different size resistance bands. They come in handy for many different exercises, so it is a great investment in your small but effective home gym set up.

Grab one with a resistance that will allow you to do this exercise without compromising strict from. Strict form will look like this. Stand with feet shoulder width apart, the bands will be under the arch of your foot while you grasp the handles at the side of your body. Now lift simultaneously to each side with slightly bent elbows. Be sure to keep your elbows and hands on the same plane. Doing this will ensure that your maintain muscle integrity in the shoulder girdle. Your shoulder has the most ROM (range of motion) of any joint in your entire body. This means several things. One, it should be strengthened to help avoid any injuries, and two because it has such a large ROM the chance of injury, if trained wrong, is increased. Be sure each rep is done with attention to detail and you maintain a perfect posture while doing these. Head above shoulders shoulders above hips, hips above ankles. This is short form for perfect posture.

Bent Raises- Rear deltoids is an often neglected body part because it is not easily seen by the trainee due to the fact that it is located on the back side of your body, thus the name rear deltoids.

You will assume the position similar to that of the towel pulls. Feet shoulder width apart, bend your knees to about a 15-20 degree angle while bending slightly at the waist. The purpose for bending the knees is that it activates the stronger muscles of your gluteal area to help support the lower back while bent over. (Did you know the number one cause for lower back injuries in America is bending over at the waist with straight legs?) You will be standing on your resistance bands again, now "choke up" on the band. You will be grabbing at actually on the band not the handle. Pull up with slightly bent elbows while squeezing your scapula (shoulder blades) together. Keep your elbows slightly higher than your hands throughout the entire movement, this will put more emphasis on rear delts and limit the amount of triceps recruitment.


Overhead extensions- a normal bath towel will work great for this tremendous triceps trasher. Stand in an upright position with feet shoulder width apart. (FYI) The purpose for the shoulder width is simply a balance thing. Your partner will stand behind you to provide resistance again. Grasp the towel in your hands (hands will be about 2" apart) and your elbows are straight above your head. All movement will be done from the elbows down, be sure to keep upper arm stationary close to your ears. Now your partner will provide resistance by pulling down on towel. Again communication is vital to ensure that you get maximal tension. The great thing about partner exercises is that you will get true variable resistance. The resistance varies as you instruct him or her to provide more or less. No machine in the world can mimic this.

Diamond Push Ups- Again you will be assuming the push up position with a slight variation. Remember, you will be focusing on correct spinal alignment to maximize your efforts. Here is a quick note on that. The body will automatically go into defense or protection mode when exhaustion begins to set in. You will notice this during push-ups as your head begins to drop instead of your body lowering to the floor. It is as if your body is trying to allow your nose to touch before the chest to trick you into thinking you completed a perfect rep. Watch your partner as he or she begins to loose strength, you’ll notice what we are referring to.

Place your hands together on the floor so they are together, now form your index fingers and thumbs of both hands so you create a diamond. Slowly lower yourself (not dropping your head) so that your nose touches between the diamond. At the lowered position your body should still be a straight line, remember pulling in your belly button will help you not sacrifice form for the sake of completing a repetition.


Supinated Curls, Curls for the girls! Supinated are the palms up version of a curl. Again use your bands on these or your partner can provide variable resistance with a towel. The towel method can be used for triceps as well. Grab either your towel or resistance bands, as always feet are shoulder width apart for balance. Palms are up and curl up just past 90-degrees. Doing this keeps a full contraction on the biceps throughout the entire movement. Be sure not to rock or sway your body back and forth creating momentum. This can be eliminated by standing flat against a wall or placing on object on your head like a beanbag or something that will slip off if there is too much movement.

Prone Curls- This is relatively the same movement as supinated curls except that you will be turning your hands so the palms are facing down. This will focus more of the stimulus on the radial brachial is muscle that ties in to your forearm. Slight variations such as this change the exercise completely because of the fact that there is a different neurological response when different muscles are activated. Your entire workout can be altered by simply changing an angle, tempo of execution, size of the handle used or amount of weight lifted. (Be sure to make minor adjustments to your routine weekly by administering one of these variables.)


Standing Calf Raises- Go to a step or use a stable block of wood. Stand in an upright position and adjust feet to desired stance. You should perform this in three different stances, narrow, moderate, and wide. Again this will cause different muscles to fire ensuring that your calves are electrified in to new gains. Your partner can press down on your shoulder to provide resistance. Simply rise up on your toes and squeeze, squeeze hard, now lower getting a full stretch. Standing calf raises work the Gastrocnemius muscle of the calf (the bigger muscle that lies over the soleus). The Gastroc is comprised mainly of fast twitch muscle fiber therefore it responds best to multiple sets of less repetitions and high intensity. (Fast twitch- muscles that contract quickly that are used mainly in short duration. Example Sprints, weight lifting.)

The soleus is opposite it is trained during bent knee exercises (seated calf raise) and it is made up of mainly slow twitch fibers that respond to fewer, higher repetition sets.

(Slow twitch- fibers that contract slowly and are used in moderate-intensity endurance exercise such as long distance running.)


Surrender Sit Ups, You’ve finally come to the last body part. Everyone wants to get to the abs, the six-pack, washboard, and home of the happy trail. These are called surrender sit-ups because you will need to assume the position, at least the hands raised portion. Sit on the floor in the standard sit up position. Focus on keeping your feet flat on the floor, now raise your hands above your head and slowly lower yourself back. Go back to the point where you feel as if you are going to fall back. When you get to that point, use your hands (slightly) to help you back up. You’ll do this by only pushing them forward (in front of your body) to the point it keeps you from falling. Fight the urge to use momentum. Just slowly put your hands forward, you will feel control again, you will then simply go to the upright position and repeat. Do about 3 sets of 5 of these ab burners. Note: If you are doing this right five should be all you can really do.

Leg Raises- lay down flat on your back (it shouldn’t be hard after the last set). Now with your feet together raise your legs until your heels are about 6" off the floor. Keep your head flats on the floor, try to lift it. Hold this position for ads long as possible. To make this even more challenging place the palm of your hand under the lumbar region of your spine. (Lower back) Now press that area down until you feel your lower back pressing on your hand. (You could put a towel there in the place of your hand. Just be sure it is no thicker than your flat hand would be). Keeping pressure on your hand or towel raise and lower your legs while breathing normally. Doing this will help you gain control of the deep abdominal muscles called the transverse abdominus. This will create a natural "girdle’ effect pulling your lower abs in thus giving you the appearance of a smaller waist.

Okay, there you have it. Your own in home, personal circuit-training workout guaranteed to work if you do it. Future articles will help you break through plateaus and teach you how to stay motivated. For now you must decide you are going to complete this a minimum of 3x per week. Tell your wife and kids you need 30 minutes to yourself or they can help. The benefits of exercise will only make all areas of your life better, family included. The great thing about exercising at home will be the example you set for your family. Your kids will want to join in at some point and this will instill positive memories of fitness for them for years to come.

If you need motivation, like we all do, get your 3 favorite Men’s Fitness covers and put them up where they can be seen daily. You have our permission to replace the models face with yours (strictly for your motivational purposes only). Sounds silly but visualization is everything. Fifteen minutes prior to your workout time go to a quiet spot and get focused. Try playing some music that really gets your blood pumping. Play the theme music from your favorite Rocky soundtrack or another of your favorite movie soundtracks on training. The next twenty minutes is all about you. Remember, this will benefit all areas of your life so don’t feel bad for taking some quality time for yourself. Once your head is there turn up the music and go for it.

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