Not having a gym membership is not an excuse for being anything less than awesome. It doesn't matter if you haven't got access to elliptical machines, 150-pound dumbbells or a bench press -- you can get a fantastic strength-building workout in the comfort of your own home without any equipment at all. The key is calisthenics, or body-weight exercises. If you think body-weight exercises are just for beginners and far too simple to get any real results, think again. You've just met your new nemesis -- calisthenic strength workouts.
Pullups might be an exercise you've only seen guys do, but girls can be just as great at these too. Completing your first body-weight pullup is mentally rewarding. Strength coach Charles Poliquin says you should be able to go from zero to 12 pullups in just 11 weeks by following a progressive program. Ask a partner to help you reach the pullup bar by lifting you up from your ankles or waist to get started.
Lower Body Moves
In the gym, you'd probably do a few sets on the leg press, a couple on the leg curl and hit up a few more on the inner and outer thigh machines. If you're feeling a little adventurous, a few squats or deadlifts might make it into the session, but generally most people stick to machines. However, there are some awesome body-weight exercises that will challenge you like no other, such as pistol squats, says powerlifter and strength coach Nia Shanks. A pistol squat involves squatting down as low as you can and standing back up again. Sounds easy, right? But the hard part is you have to do it one one leg. These are seriously tough, but brutally effective. Before trying pistols though, practice forward and reverse lunges, split squats, glute bridge raises and even body-weight jumps.
Pushups and Core
Like pullups, performing a full pushup may seem miles out of your reach. Don't despair though as everyone has to start somewhere. Master pushups on your knees, then go to negatives, in which you lower yourself as slowly as possible and finally progress to full pushups. Within weeks you'll be a pushup Jedi. As for core training, you probably do most of your core exercises like crunches and situps as calisthenics anyway, but for an added twist try hanging leg raises with bent or straight knees.
The possibilities for programming calisthenic strength exercises are endless. When training for strength though, you need to keep your reps low and intensity high. Four to five sets of three to eight tough reps is perfect. When an exercise becomes so easy that you're breaking double figures on the reps, find a more challenging variation. For example, pushups could be changed to pushups with your feet elevated or a narrow grip, lunges to jump lunges and situps to straight leg situps. If you want to burn fat too, consider circuit training in which you perform exercises back to back with no rest in between to elevate your metabolism and increase calorie burn.
Mike Samuels started writing for his own fitness website and local publications in 2008. He graduated from Peter Symonds College in the UK with A Levels in law, business and sports science, and is a fully qualified personal trainer, sports massage therapist and corrective exercise specialist with accreditations from Premier Global International.