The top reasons people give for not exercising are: (1) gyms are too expensive, and (2) gym workouts take too much time. Luckily, every exercise gym-goers are able to perform, you're also able to perform in the comfort of your own home. If you're on a serious budget, or are too overcommitted to realistically make it to the gym, start here. You can accomplish 60% of what beginning gym-goers accomplish with your own body. Considering the time and money you save, that's quite a bit.
Even if you went to the gym, what weights would you pick up? A 20 pound dumbbell? A 100 pound barbell (if you're feeling ambitious)? The average American woman weighs 166 pounds. The average American man weighs 196 pounds. You are your own barbell.
Skip the corporate gym sales pitch. Skip sharing sweaty equipment with gym rats altogether. And best of all: Skip the extra 30 minutes driving to the gym and back every day. Money and time are no longer valid excuses for not working out. Start here. Start now.
Ditch the "Maintenance" Mindset
You need to push yourself to exhaustion. Challenge your body. Don't use a "home workout" as an excuse not to work as hard. Prove all those gym rats wrong by out-working them and packing on more muscle and strength than they do with all their weights.
It's easy to go into a home workout thinking, "I just want to maintain my current level of health." Forget that. That mindset won't keep you healthy. It will just slow down your progressive deterioration into weakness. You must have the mindset: "I want this workout to make me better." If you don't, you'll just give up when it gets hard. You won't push yourself through the nausea and burning sensation of muscle fatigue. You won't become fit at all.
If your goal is body maintenance, just follow some Pilates videos on YouTube. But if you want to actually transform your body, you have to chase intensity. You have to sweat. You have to push your muscles to the point where they are shaking.
How To Achieve Intensity With Bodyweight
Workout intensity is necessary for building muscle strength and size. Intensity is perceived exertion — the more time you spend doing things that feel really hard, the more intense your workout is. At home, the hardest challenge is to make your workout intense. At the gym, people achieve intensity in two ways: (1) overloading their muscles with lots of weight, and (2) isolating each muscle with precision through the use of machines. But when you're using your bodyweight, it can be hard to figure out a way to overload a single muscle and work it to exhaustion. It can also be hard to build strength without the ability to add 5 pounds at a time each week. But we'll keep these tactics in our back pocket for when we reach the Advanced Workouts below:
- Standard: Perform each repetition of the exercise at a pace that feels natural to you. Don't try to go slow, fast, or do anything special with the rep. Just perform the movement as if you were being filmed and graded on the movement.
- Modified: Perform the exercise in a way that makes the workout easier.
- For example, modified pushups are performed with your knees on the ground, compared to the Standard pushing which is performed with your knees off the ground.
- Quatro (4x4x4): Take four seconds on the "downward" part of the rep. Hold the "bottom" of the rep for four seconds. Then, take four seconds to reach the top of the rep.
- Let's use a pushup as an example. Imagine doing a very slow pushup. Now, imagine that very slow pace was calculated — 4 seconds down ("One, two, three, four"), 4 seconds pause ("One, two, three, four"), 4 seconds up ("One, two, three, four").
- Kipping: Throw all form out the window. Use momentum — cheat if you have to. Do whatever you need to do to "complete" the movement over and over again.
- Weighted: You can increase the intensity of the Standard, Modified, Quatro, and Kipping forms by adding weight. The best way to do this is to use a weighted vest (which you can get on Amazon for about $30 — click here).
Prepare yourself. Protect your future self from injury. Limber up. Unless you have an established routine that feels good, just follow along with this video before every workout (please just laugh along with Tony Horton — the guy's hilarious):
If you're just starting out with fitness, follow Beginner Workout #1 for seven days in a row. Once you've completed that week-long protocol, you can move on to Beginner Workout #2. Two things:
1. Don't Be Embarrassed About Using Workout Videos
Following along with workout videos can feel so tacky. It can make you feel like Richard Simmons in short shorts — the kind of thing that's memed and mocked on the internet. I get it. I really do. If someone sees you at the gym, it's cool, but if someone saw you following along to one of these workout videos, you'd be embarrassed.
Don't be embarrassed. Working out just is tacky. All these videos are made by weird people, but the things they’re teaching you really work. They start you on a path that results in better health, a better body, and a better quality of life.
You might feel dumb when you're following along with a workout video and someone walks in on you. I do every single time. I don't really know why. But once you start sweating and pushing yourself, you realize why these fitness models like Tony Horton (warmup guy above) act so silly and peppy: Because once you’re tired, you’ll take whatever weird bump you can get just to fake some energy until you’ve completed your workout.
Push through the embarrassment and the weirdness. It's a moment of decision for you: Feel dumb now and look better later — or feel comfortable now and never change? Just press through it. I get that it can feel weird. But it's just part of the deal.
2. Don't Feel Discouraged That You're A Beginner
Most people at the gym never get in shape because their routines are full of advanced techniques that they don't understand. Using "Beginner" training protocol will actually get you in better shape than most people who let their ego force them to use "Advanced" protocol. Forget the labels. Even the most advanced weight lifter will be able to challenge themselves with the most basic routine. Growing muscle is about mindset and intense effort, not flashy fitness techniques.
3. Feel Free To Substitute Exercises
If a video requires you to perform a movement that is too difficult for you, feel free to do one of several things:
- Substitute the movement with a modified version that is easier to perform.
- Keep performing the previous movement until the video moves on to the next movement.
- Jog in place at a pace that keeps your heart rate elevated.
Any of these substitutions are acceptable if you run into a movement that feels either too complicated or risks injury.
4. Pick One Of The Videos
Skim through each of the videos below, and decide which one feels easier to you. I recommend the first and second videos, which are a bit easier, for those who are very overweight and need a lower-impact bodyweight workout. I recommend the second video for those who are comfortable completing either the first or second Beginner Workout #1 videos.
5. Walk After Each Workout
It's not enough to simply complete a workout video. After you complete the video, aim to complete 30-60 minutes of brisk walking — outside, on a treadmill, around your apartment building, etc. Just throw on a podcast or an Audible book and keep walking. This will burn anywhere from 200-500 extra calories (depending on your bodyweight and length of time walking) that will help you to lose fat even faster.
BEGINNER WORKOUT #1 (10-15 Minutes):
BEGINNER WORKOUT #2 (45 Minutes):
1. Push For Six Days Per Week. The following workouts can be used for a 3-day routine, but if you can double down and turn it into a 6x-per-week routine, you'll double your results. If any of the terms I'm using below are confusing, read the introduction to the Beginner's Gym Workout, where I cover some basic terminology.
2. Even Advanced Lifters Warm Up. Perform the Tony Horton warmup video above before you begin the bodyweight workout. By warming up, you'll actually have more focus and strength during your workout.
3. How To Rest Between Rounds. Complete each exercise in the round with only a 10-second break between each exercise. Rest for 2 minutes between each Round. If you can't complete a round, simply take a 10-second break and continue the repetitions until you complete the required amount. Record how much time it takes you to complete each full workout. To increase intensity, decrease rest time between rounds to 1 minute.
4. Methods For Completing The Rounds.
- Wolf: Round 1, Round 2, Round 3
- Warrior: Round 1, Round 2, Round 3, Round 2, Round 1
- Wolverine: Round 1, Round 2, Round 3, Round 1, Round 2, Round 3
5. Do Abs Every Day. ... Do it (see Ab section below). The Ab workout is not a substitute for a bodyweight workout. It should always be completed after you complete either your Push, Pull, or Legs day.
6. How To Watch The Videos.
- Watch all the videos before your workout. You don't have to watch every second of every video — just skim through them in order to get the gist of how to properly perform the movements in the TheoFit program.
- Don't pay attention to the rest times or rep numbers they tell you in the videos. They are merely for reference so that you know how to perform the exercises. Follow the routine I outline below.
PUSH DAY (Day 1) — Chest, Shoulders, Triceps
- 20 Standard Push-Ups
- 20 Wide-Grip Push-Ups
- 20 Diamond Push-Ups
- 20 Standard Push-Ups
- 15 Clapping Push-Ups
- 15 Pike Push-Ups (Advanced: Wall Assisted Handstand Push-Up)
- 15 Tricep Extensions (or Dips Between Chairs)
- 15 Clapping Push-Ups
- 10 Hands Off Push-Ups
- 10 Archer Push-Ups
- 10 Hindu Push-Ups
- 10 Hands Off Push-Ups
PULL DAY (Day 2) — Back, Biceps, Deltoids
Round 1 (Video #1):
- 20 Back Widows
- 20 Full Body Drags
- 20 Reverse Supermans
Round 2 (Video #2, Towel Required):
- 15 Back Extensions
- 15 Back Hyperextensions
- 15 Pulse Rows
- 15 Supermans
- 15 Reachers
Round 3 (Video #3, Door and Sturdy Table/Desk Required):
- 10 Door Pulls
- 10 Table Pulls
- 10 Pull-Forwards (If you don't have a smooth floor, you can do this on a large bed or lawn).
LEG DAY (Day 3) — Quadriceps, Hamstrings, Groin, and Calves
Round 1 (Video #1):
- 20 Squats
- 20 Explosive Lunges (10 Each Side)
- 20 Quick Hamstring Lunges (10 Each Side)
- 20 Lateral Lunges (10 Each Side)
- 20 Single-Leg Hip Thrusters (10 Each Side)
- 10 Squats
- **Skip the Knee Get-Ups
Round 2 (Video #2):
- 15 Split Squats
- 30 Pile Squat Pulses
- 15 Switch Lunges
- 15 Straight Legged Hip Raise
- 15 Stiff Calf Jumps
Round 3 (Video #3):
- 10 Jump Squats
- 10 Squats
- 30-Second Holding Squat
- 60-Second Wall Sit
- 10 Squat In & Out
Follow this video below for 5 minutes. For increased intensity, repeat this video twice. The exercises are as follows:
- 10 Roll-Ups
- 10 Plank-Crunches
- 12 Side Plank Crunches
- 10 Leg Ups
- 10 Butterflies
- 15 Six-Inch Scissors
- 12 Supermans
- 8 Single Leg Plank Crunches
- 10 Flutter Leg Lifts
After every workout, complete either 60 minutes of low intensity brisk-walking (explained in the Elliot Hulse video below), or 3 sets of Tabata exercise, explained below (12 minutes total). If you're pressed for time, Tabata is obviously the better option. If you need time to decompress from a heavy workout, low intensity brisk-walking is an equally effective way to burn calories while catching your breath.
Low-Intensity Steady State Cardio (LISS)
High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), A.K.A. Tabata
Tabata: A 4-minute exercise following this specific structure. A :20 second period of maximum exertion, followed by a :10 second rest period. Repeat 8 times without any breaks except for the 10 second rest periods. Repeat 8 times, which lasts exactly 4 minutes.
You can repeat the same exercise twice for 3 sets of Tabata, or alternate between high-knees and burpees. You can also improvise other difficult stationary exercises to perform as Tabata exercises, such as a plank or kettlebell exercise.
Equipment To Make Home Workouts More Effective (If You Have A Small Budget)
First, I need to appeal to those who want to get the absolute most out of their bodyweight workout. If your reason for not exercising is time, but not money — even if you have a little money scraped together — I need to recommend a few very lightweight purchases that will enable you to accomplish 150% of what the average person can accomplish with the same bodyweight workout.
If time is your main issue, and you're able to invest a little bit of money in your home workout equipment, I highly recommend picking up these items. Don't worry — I'm not going to ask you to purchase any weights. You can store all of this stuff in the corner of a small closet, and break it out for an intense 30-minute session once a day (workouts below).
I bring my TRX cables with me every single time I travel. Honestly, even if you don't have a budget, I'd sell your old xbox games or ask grandma for early Christmas money, because these things are like having a full gym that you can fit right in your fanny pack. And, if you can only afford one product, this is far and above the most bang for your buck will get out of any piece of fitness equipment.
If you can get TRX cables, you'll get results most people are never able to get with bodyweight exercises.
This dip bar transforms all the sketchy workarounds of a home bodyweight workout into something gym-worthy. If you can accomplish 60% of what you could at the gym with a home workout, this portable dip bar will turn that into 90%.
1. Just Finish The Workout.
The most important thing you can do is to move through each workout as quickly as you can. That doesn't mean do sloppy reps and sacrifice good form (you'll get injured). Just get in this mindset: "My only goal today is to finish every exercise, every set, every rep. The faster I work, the faster I'll be done."
2. Don't Get Hung Up On Strength Gains/Losses
It's really easy to get discouraged when you go to the gym and you're weaker than last time. It's okay. It happens to everybody. You have really good days and really bad days. You can't make your best days in the gym the bar for enjoying the process. If you're at the gym pushing yourself through the workout, you're getting stronger. Trust the process. Trust the workout. Trust your body. Push yourself, but don't let vanity become the metric by which you measure your fitness progress. Real progress is measured by your consistency.
3. Make Sure You're Consistent In Your Diet
Remember: You won't see any of the results you work so hard for if all your muscle is covered in a layer of fat (no matter how thin). Don't just become better at exercising. Gain something that you can show off. The only way that's going to happen is if you dial in your diet, which you can do by reading the Diet and Discipline articles in the CORE SERIES.
4. Don't Do This Alone
Join dozens of other people doing this exact same workout routine, and get free workout and diet tips, motivation, submit podcast questions, and get private coaching if you need it at the TheoFit Membership.
Now, GO. Do it. Start today.
You have no excuse. You know exactly what to do. The only other things to consider are diet and, if you are deeply committed to avoiding a gym, the bodyweight version of this fitness regemin.