THE BLOG
06/19/2014 12:05 pm ET Updated Aug 19, 2014

Gym-Less, Not Hope-Less

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Let's face it. Today's economic times are tough, and although working with a personal trainer can help ensure you reap the fruits of your exercise labor, it's not always in the budget. Gym membership prices vary, and if you're trying to squeeze a nickel out of a penny, even the least expensive membership might be out of your financial reach. Worry ye not! Gym-less does not have to mean hopeless for your workouts. There are plenty of ways to challenge your body, get into shape, and improve fitness without stepping foot into a gym or touching any weights.

How is this possible?

The answer is easy. Bodyweight training.

With bodyweight training, you use gravity and your body's own weight as exercise tools. According to NYC-based personal trainer Justin Cabana, the benefits of bodyweight training are vast. "First off, it can be done anywhere," says Justin. This eliminates the common excuse I often hear from people who claim to not have the time. If you have 15 minutes and some free space, then you have all you need to get in an effective workout. "Secondly, bodyweight exercises are excellent for the versatility of benefits they provide. I use them with my clients for fat loss, strength gains, core stability, and athletic performance." Depending on the exercises you choose to do and how you sequence them, many fitness goals can be accomplished.

In New York City's Upper East Side, the most commonly desired goals I hear from my clients are to tone up and lose weight. In this case I often prescribe a series of bodyweight exercises that work the same muscle groups back to back, limiting the rest time in-between. The constant stimulation of the same muscle group under a higher repetition range encourages a more defined look, and the limited rest time means they are working through an elevated heart rate. This is going to promote fat loss.

In addition, I also like to assign bodyweight exercises for my weight loss clients due to the simple fact that the more muscles you are firing at once, the more calories you are burning during exercise. For example, bench press is great for muscle development in the chest but not as many muscles are as active as when doing a push up. During a push up, your core is going to work much harder along with the stabilizing muscles in your hips.

A basic upper body toning series using only your bodyweight would look like this:

1. 10 - 15 push ups
2. 10 - 15 dips
3. 10 - 15 burpees
4. 10 - 15 pull ups

Go through this mini-circuit without taking any breaks between exercises and repeat it three times. You can rest for 60 - 90 seconds after you have completed the last exercise. This is guaranteed to fire up the muscles in your shoulders, arms, and chest. The minimization of rest time also makes this an effective cardio workout. If you are already in pretty good shape this might not serve as a sufficient workout alone. However, for workout rookies and veteran couch potatoes, this is a great start in order to simultaneously build strength, tone, and improve endurance without the use of equipment.

Another benefit of bodyweight training is that it is appropriate for anyone at any fitness level. It can be used as functional training for people looking to execute daily tasks more easily or, it can be extremely complex to increase the performance of an athlete. "You can easily progress or regress the exercises to safely challenge clients of all fitness levels," Justin tells us. "I have my older clients doing seated squats, coming up and down off of a box. This obviously wouldn't be sufficient for the athletes I train. I challenge them by having them do something like single leg squats or squat jumps."

Notice the difference in complexity. Sitting up and down on a box simulates getting up and down out of a chair, which is very practical and functional for someone much older or very deconditioned. An athlete or high performing gym rat would need to do something much more challenging like supporting the load of their body in a single leg squat. Either way, no weights necessary here other than your own caboose.

Both versatile and efficient, bodyweight training is a great workout resource. It is time friendly and can be executed in most open spaces. It is financially palatable due to the fact that you don't need a gym membership. Also it's a great weight loss method of training, as every muscle in your body will be working during most of the exercises. And not to beat a dead horse but remember, the more muscles you work at once the more calories you are burning!

For those of us who carry a few extra pounds, as you improve the ability to move your own body, you will start to notice daily tasks becoming easier! No more huffing and puffing walking up the stairs. Gentleman, you can fling that heavy door open for the pretty lady with ease!

Getting started is simple! Carve out an extra 15 to 30 minutes each morning before your day begins in order to exercise. I find this is a great way to develop a routine. It will be difficult to do consistently at first but habits aren't created over night. If you're not a morning person and the above recommendation is absolutely out of the question, look ahead in your calendar and find a 30 - 45 minute window of availability to squeeze in some exercise. Write it down in your calendar!

As a young lad I have been told more than once that a failure to plan is a plan to fail. Be more proactive over your health and make it happen!

Click the following link for an instructional video introducing some basic bodyweight exercises led by Justin Cabana: http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=M7zHhOrq_Xo