Weightless Workout - Strength Training Without Equipment
By David McCormick
Resistance training, also known as strength training, does not require a gym membership. It does not even require an expensive home gym. In this article, you will discover the secret of isometric training and its effectiveness for muscle growth.
Weightless Strength Training:
Still requires a warm-up, with stretching afterwards.
Still requires protein to increase musculature.
Can be more effective than lifting weights, because you can "max out"
Is safer than lifting weights, and can be done without equipment of any kind.
Requires just a bit of experimentation to determine proper position.
Consult your physician regarding chronic problems before starting.
Before and After
Just like lifting weights, you should always warm up before isometrics. This means a light jog or other low-impact activity that will raise your heart rate and raise your core temperature by a few degrees. This should last at least 5 minutes, preferably 10 or more. After this, you should do joint rotations. This is not a stretch, it is preparing the joint for work by encouraging blood flow. Then, do the resistance training. At the end, stretch all of the joints you have worked that day. Studies have shown that stretching before strength training actually reduces the muscle's capacity, and does not prevent injury as was previously thought. Stretching after the work out will protect the joint and prevent cramping.
Anyone who has done a little research into muscle growth knows that what triggers muscle growth and strength gains is overload of the muscle. If you can do 20 reps with 20 lbs, you're exhausting the muscle, not overloading it. If you pile on 100 lbs, and can only do 3 reps, this is ideal for lifting weights in a gym. But it is still not the maximum overload possible. Your goal for the most efficient workout is to flex with all your might during a partial rep (the range of motion where you can exert the most power).
You can't really accomplish maximum overload at all using conventional weights. For one thing, you'd need a spotter to hand you the weights when you're in the optimum range, and you'd have to instantly get a perfect grip on them. Furthermore, what weight do you use? You can't be sure how much stronger you've gotten since your last workout, if you put too little, you're not maxing out, and if you put too much you'll drop it and risk muscle injury.
The answer is easier than you think. Get into the optimal range, then press (or push or pull) on something immovable. You can exert your absolute maximum force, and there's no danger. That's Isometrics: Intense muscle contraction at an ideal muscle length without moving - because the muscle is acting against an equal force. About 10 seconds of maximum force is the most that anyone can sustain, so try to aim for 3 sets of 10 seconds for each exercise.
Your muscles aren't made to exert the same amount of force throughout their range of motion. You have a weak range and a strong range. The ideal length for isometric exercises is at the muscle length where you can exert the most force. It is different for each muscle, and varies a bit person to person. For this reason, you may have to experiment a bit by varying the positions I recommend below until you feel the most force.
How do I perform weightless exercises?
Let's start with the chest muscles, called the pectoralis (major and minor). Using standard equipment in the gym, you would normally use a barbell bench press or a dumbell flies. To convert this into an isometric exercise, you may think that you can just do the same action against a wall, since the wall is immovable. But that's not true, because it's really your legs that are pressing your hands into the wall, not your chest. (Try it!) This would only work if you were in a narrow hallway, with one wall against your back, and your palms flat against the opposite wall. That way you'd be pressing with your chest. However, unless you're 9 feet tall, most hallways will be too wide for you. There are two practical ways to do the isometric chest exercise: sqeezing an object (one that won't be easily crushed) between your palms, or pressing your palms together (since one side of your chest should be about the same strength as the other, each arm should provide exactly the right amou!
nt of resistance for the other arm).
For most people, the ideal muscle length for the pectoralis is nearly fully contracted. If you were doing a standard dumbell flye or a bench-press, that's the top of the action, with the weight almost fully pressed away above your chest. So, when trying to crush a wooden box between your palms, or pressing your palms together, your arms should be nearly fully extended. You should have a small bend in the elbows, and your wrists, elbows and shoulders should be level. Do not drop your elbows, or you won't be able to exert yourself as much, and you risk hurting your elbow joint. Concentrate on flexing your chest as much as possible for 10 seconds, exhaling slowly as you do. Then relax, and move on to your upper arms.
Once you understand the chest exercise, the biceps and triceps should be pretty obvious. With palms together, press your writs together as in the chest exercise, but this time with one hand facing up and the other down. The hand facing up will be flexing the biceps, attempting to pull towards your chest. The palm facing down will attempt to push away, flexing the triceps. Apply as much pressure as you can for 10 seconds, wrist to wrist (not into your palm or fingers, because that relies on your wrist strength, which will limit the development of your biceps and triceps). Then switch hands, and work the complementary muscle on the other arm.
The ideal length for the biceps is just more than half-way flexed. Make a "L" with your arm, then flex it a little more. For the triceps, the ideal length with the arm at almost full extension. This means that, for me, when I work my left biceps, my right arm has to cross my chest. Unlike the chest exercise, both elbows should be pointing towards the floor.
What about the shoulders or deltoids? For this one you will need a doorway, and if you're short, you'll also need a stool. Simply stand with spine straight and legs flexed, and press your palms into the top of the door frame for 10 seconds.
The biggest back muscle is the latissimus darsi, otherwise known as the "lats". Still standing in the doorway with your hands above your head from the previous exercise, press your elbows into the sides of the door frame. The ideal length of the lats is almost a full extension, so technically, the narrower the door the better. A linen closet usually has a smaller door, so if you have one, use it.
If you've tried these exercises and feel the principles, you should be able to make up weightless exercises for any muscle in your body. I personally cannot figure out an isometric ab exercise without using special equipment, so if you can invent one, please write me to tell me about it. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The best part about the Weightless Workout is that it is so safe. If you ever feel pain or discomfort you can stop immediately and not risk dropping a heavy weight on yourself. You can just stop, and you should. Even the weakest elderly people can do isometric exercises because your own muscles define how much work you do. However, as with any other activity, there is a risk of injury, so consult your physician, especially if you suspect that your muscles are stronger than your joints or bones. Persons with osteoporosis can actually cause bone fractures because their muscles exert more force than their brittle bones can take.
About the Author
David "Mr. Weightless" McCormick is the founder of Weightless Products.