#NoGymNoProblem – Improvising Urban Workouts (With Pics)
The closing of gyms has threatened many fellas with the loss of hard-earned gains as well as being a major blow in losing the structure a solid gym routine gives our lives.
However, this time can be one where we flex new muscles, specifically, our creative muscle.
In the same way parkour or skateboarding taught us to look at our urban environments in new ways when we were younger, lockdown challenges us to be creative in finding new equipment and innovative techniques to stay in shape.
Such a way of viewing your environment and your physical self adds a new dynamism to our lives and will have long-term benefits after coronavirus and self-isolation has been and gone.
This piece focuses on urban workouts with no professional equipment, showing how you can improvise and maintain a solid routine.
Today, we focus on the upper body (chest, shoulders and triceps), yet we can utilise the same approach when working on other key areas.
To begin with we start with the classic chin-up/pull-up, a fantastic exercise to build as well as gauge your general strength.
As you can see from the pictures, these are a movement you can easily implement in an urban environement.
A solid tree-branch or scaffolding framework can act as a pull-up bar – however, remember to be very careful and check the integrity of anything you use to do pull-ups/chin-ups.
You must be SURE it is exceptionally solid and safe.
Pull-ups and chin-ups are an excellent exercise to do because they activate many core muscles groups, meaning you get more bang for your buck.
Chin-ups (with palms facing inwards) primarily work your biceps, lats (back), shoulders and forearms, while the slightly more demanding pull-ups (with palms facing outwards) work your biceps, lats, pecs (chest), shoulders and rhomboids (lower back).
Quite how many reps and sets you should do depends on your fitness level, however, bear in mind that a minimum of 10 repetitions (20 at competitive level) is demanded by the Navy SEALs to begin basic training.
Personally, I like to do 5 reps in 5 sets in each.
2: Dips (on Bench)
An exercise that’s much easier to implement is the dip using a bench.
A bench is a ubiquitous feature in the urban environment, so finding this piece of equipment should be no trouble.
The dip works the deltoids (shoulders), traps, pecs and lats, yet the bench dip really works the triceps (the muscle on the backside of your upper arm).
Like the pull-up/chin-up, this exercise hits many key spots in one, however, the purpose of the bench dip is to put extra pressure on your triceps, thereby growing bigger arms.
The movement is a very simple up-down motion in which you fully extend your arms as you go upwards, and hold them at a right-angle as you work the downward motion.
Be mindful to not let your ass touch the floor though, as this will take the pressure off the muscle groups and see you lose your progress.
Sets and reps again depend upon fitness level, yet 10 reps for 5 sets is a good range to work towards.
3: Dips (with Bars)
Another option for dips that works the same muscle groups, but puts an emphasis more on the pecs (chest) is the bar dip.
As you can see from the photo above, an easily accessible option comes in the form of bars to lock a bicycle upon.
Further still, as you may see from the picture above, while one option is to perform dips in the up-down motion, another is simply to hold your position, thereby really adding pressure on your shoulders, triceps and pecs.
When you practice this movement, try and have a slight forward lean to engage the pectoral muscles as much as possible.
This exercise is a classic callisthenics/acrobatics exercise and does more than just tone your body, it also helps in increasing your balance, flexibility and core strength.
4: Press-Up (with Variations)
The press-up. Perhaps this is the most famous of all bodyweight exercises, and for good reason.
This trusty technique can be utilised to build mass, create shape and as a signifier of general fitness, yet more importantly, the variations you can utilise for this old classic are endless.
One thing I’ve been doing a lot at this time is performing press-ups with a backpack full of books tied on my person – the added weight and reps in doing this mimics the classic bench press and is excellent in maintaining/building your chest shape.
The press-up is another compound exercise that gets your pecs, deltoids, abs and triceps all firing, so it’s a must include in your weekly chest, tri’s and shoulder routine.
Other variations you can perform include placing your hands in a diamond shape (with index fingers and thumbs touching) and placing them about level with your heart – doing push-ups in this way adds extra-pressure on your triceps and sees them grow stronger.
Alternatively, you can utilise the technique in the picture above and do a raised press-up.
A raised press-up puts extra weight on your shoulders and pecs so you can see extra-growth in those areas.
One final exercise to master is the headstand.
The headstand is so enjoyable as it works some core parts of the body, yet also has a natural playfulness about it that you wouldn’t otherwise get in a gym routine.
The muscular benefits of a headstand come not so much from the final position as getting into it and what you do after it.
I start by finding an even bit of ground and placing a t-shirt down to rest my head on.
I place my hands slightly before the t-shirt about shoulder width apart and place the top of my head onto the t-shirt.
The next step is key in that I jump my legs up in to the back of my arms.
Once resting in this position I can extend up into the full headstand – please remember to practice this on a soft surface and not concrete!
Once you’ve mastered this move you can experiment by opening your legs like a V (see below) or tucking them in or even doing bicycle kicks.
Practicing the headstand works a series of muscle groups including the shoulders and chest, but most importantly they really hit the core.
If you want to end by giving your shoulders one final blast, you can push out utilising your shoulder strength back to standing, or if you’re feeling more confident, even push into a handstand (as below).
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