Thursday, November 3, 2011

Gym-Free Training And Fitness Progress

Hi, Rick Wong here again, blogging to you from the Island Republic of Singapore.

As a Fitness Pro and strong advocate of gym-free fitness, I've always been asked this question:

" How do you help your clients make progress in their training or fitness without access to a gym ???"


Bodyweight Training On Parallel Bars
Ahh......interesting question, isn't it?

Well, first and foremost, the people who ask this question usually make a very basic assumption:

That progress in all training is largely dependent on INCREASING resistance ( i.e. in the form of poundage or weight ). That's why they assume that we need a GYM - where there is constant access to resistance in the form of selectorized weights, plates or dumbbells.

Well, they're only HALF-RIGHT - no doubt fitness progress can be achieved by adding resistance to a training program - but that's only ONE out of the many, many components or variables that can be manipulated to bring about fitness progress!

From an exercise science point of view, the various components that can be manipulated in a training program (besides resistance, of course) include :
  • Volume Of Work
  • Number Of Exercises
  • Type Of Exercises
  • Order/Sequence Of Exercises
  • Grouping of Exercises
  • Range Of Motion
  • Angle Of Movement
  • Base Of Stability
  • Tempo/Speed 
  • Rest Periods
  • Training Duration
  • Training Frequency
Let's look at each in turn:

1) Training Resistance

In a gym-free approach, body-weight is often used as a means of resistance in a training program. However, it is NOT the only form of resistance used.

In fact, to correct an oft-common misconception once and for all - gym-free does NOT necessarily mean equipment-free!

Besides body-weight, numerous portable resistance tools are often used in a gym-less approach to stimulate progress. These functional tools include: resistance tubings, exercise bands, medicine balls, kettlebells, sandbags, suspension trainers and many other fitness implements.

And all these tools can be resistance-adjusted to increase the overload or intensity on the Human Body to bring about continual fitness progress.

Gym-Free Training With A Kettlebell 

2) Volume Of Work

Fitness progress can also come about when we increase the volume of work placed on the body.

In a gymless approach, this includes increasing 
  • the number of repetitions in a given exercise ( eg. from 10 reps to 15 reps), 
  • the number of sets performed for that exercise ( eg. from 3 sets to 5 sets) or 
  • the distance moved while performing a certain exercise ( eg. from 100m to 200m in a run).
Thus, by gradually increasing the total volume of work done in any workout over a period of time, we can safely and effectively bring about progress in any fitness regime - with or without additional resistance.

3) Number Of Exercises

In a gymless approach, we often increase the number of exercises performed in a training program to ensure continual fitness progress for our clients.

For example, a client may start off with just 4 main exercises in his/her training program. With every 2 weeks, 1 new exercise may be added to the client's fitness program so that by the end of 8 weeks, the client would be performing up to 8 different exercises, as compared to the initial 4 at the beginning.

Such a strategy will also guarantee progression in a fitness program - regardless of the absence/presence of any external resistance.

4) Type Of Exercises

Changing the type of exercises performed over a course of time is also an effective means to elicit continuous progress in a client's training regime.

For instance, a client may be initially prescribed a basic Double-Leg Squat as a lower body exercise at the start of a fitness program. Over time, the movement may evolve to become a Single-Leg Squat, and finally to an explosive, plyometric move such as a Jump Squat.

Thus, by changing the type of the exercise - usually from an easy to a progressively more difficult one - we can continue to ensure progression in our fitness approach.

5) Order/Sequence Of Exercises

Exercise order or exercise sequence also plays a huge part in eliciting progress in a gym-free training regime.

Using the Principle of Confusion, exercise order and sequence can be constantly changed to "shock" the body into response and growth.

For instance, an exercise program that corresponds to the following order:

1) Push-Ups,
2) Incline Pull-Ups,
3) Lunges
4) Hanging Knee Raises

may be changed or "re-arranged'  to the following for the next workout :

1) Lunges,
2) Hanging Leg Raises
3) Incline Pull-Ups
4) Push-Ups

and so on and so forth...........

Thus, by simply changing the order of any given set of exercises we can continue to stimulate or "shock " the body into progress too.

6) Grouping Of Exercises

Fitness progress can also be further stimulated by the selective grouping of exercises used in a workout.

In most cases, exercises may be performed in the following ways: singly (single set), in pairs (superset), in 3's ( tri-set), or in 5's or more (circuit/giant set).

Each succeeding grouping of exercises effectively increases the intensity and difficulty level of the workout and is one of the common methods used in our gymless approach to bring continual progress to our clients.

7) Range Of Motion

Range of motion typically refers to the movement of any joint from a state of flexion to a state of extension.

By increasing the range of motion, we can effectively help to stimulate progression in a fitness program.

For instance, using the example of the Squat, a client may be led through a progression that involves Partial Squats (beginner) to Parallel Squats (intermediate) and finally to Deep Squats (advanced).

Again, with each succeeding increase in range of motion, more effort is required from the individual, which in turn, stimulates further development and progress.

8) Angle Of Movement

Exercises used in a gymless approach are often also progressively modified via their angle of movement to ensure continuous progress.

For instance, most exercises may be executed in a variety of angles or positions, from Flat (supine or prone) to Incline to Decline to Upright etc - to vary the amount of stress placed on the body as well as to increase the difficulty of any movement.

Using the Push-Up as an example, one can change the angle of movement (and hence, its difficulty) by starting off in an Incline Plane (easy) to a Flat Plane (moderate) and finally to a Decline Plane (hard).

9) Base Of Stability

Fitness progression and balance development can also be accelerated by altering the base of stability in any given program.

In a gym-free approach, portable and functional tools such as wobble boards, bosu balls, stability balls etc are often used to increase the difficulty level of any exercise and to bring about progression in the fitness programs.

Consider the following as a case study: By altering a simple 2-Legged exercise (such as a standing tubing shoulder press) into a 1-Legged one, or to one that is performed on an unstable surface (such as on a wobble board), we can effectively  help our clients progress in their fitness and balance development.

10) Tempo/Speed

Manipulating the tempo/speed at which an exercise is being executed also plays a part in fitness progression.

For instance, a movement may be intentionally accelerated, or deliberately decelerated, or even put in a static hold,  to challenge the body and to force it to adapt and progress.

11) Rest Periods

Rest periods between sets and exercises can also be manipulated to bring about fitness gains.

For instance, rest periods may be deliberately shortened to up the intensity of a workout session and to accelerate fitness progress.

12) Training Duration

Manipulating how long a workout session lasts - also plays a large part in determining fitness progression.

13) Training Frequency

How often one trains can also be adjusted accordingly to bring about the desired fitness progress or goals.



Using The Medicine Ball As A Gym-Free Workout Tool

So there you have it.

A whole long list of variables that are used in a GYM-FREE approach to stimulate progress and achievement in our fitness clients.

By now, it should be clear to all that resistance is just a small part of any exercise program.


What counts - more importantly - is the effective manipulation of all OTHER variables which all come together to make the gymless approach so effective, progressive and revolutionary.

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