A word that gets thrown around a lot at the moment when it comes to working out is ‘functional’. What is ‘functional’? Well essentially, this term refers to the idea that some types of exercises provide real-world and usable strength, whereas others do not.
One of the exercises often called functional is the deadlift because it involves squatting down to pick something heavy up off of the ground using all the muscles in the leg in unison as well as muscles in the back. We pick things up off the floor all the time in real life and every moment is compound in this sense – meaning that we use all the muscles together rather than in an isolated fashion.
An exercise that isn’t functional is the bicep curl. Or at least that’s how the story goes.
Except that’s not quite true in reality. Because in the wild, how often would you actually be required to pick up a perfectly cylindrical bar with perfect technique from standing? Never.
The only times we’d have lifted things in the wild it would have been the carcass of our prey or a boulder we intended to use. The rest of the time our muscles were used for running and climbing and fighting.
And guess what? We never used correct technique. We’d have grabbed things off the ground at an angle and landed awkwardly. And we’d always have gotten back up.
What’s more is that we’d never have done the precise same movement more than once. Every time we picked up something, we’d have been at a different angle and the item would have been differently shaped.
And this is why training outdoors with bodyweight is the perfect solution.
How to Keep Challenging Your Body
As soon as you move a press up from indoors to outdoors it becomes more difficult. Suddenly you’re training on uneven terrain and one hand will be slightly higher than the other. At the same time, you’ll be training in the cold and your lungs will be working harder to supply oxygen.
The same goes double for doing a pull up from a tree branch. Every branch is a different width, meaning you have to use different amounts of grip strength and one hand will always be higher than the other.
You can make this tougher too by lifting logs and doing other non-bodyweight exercises.
But to start with, your usual bodyweight routine moved outdoors is more than enough. And this alone will be enough to start building up a lot more toughness and resilience in your muscles, as well as much more useable strength and power.
And once you start doing this enough, you’ll find that you quickly become much hardier and everyday tasks stat to feel a lot easier and less challenging.
Sure, it won’t feel very nice at first and you’ll get muddy and cold. But that’s the point! It’s time to stop being domesticated and to get a little wild!
Bodyweight training has a great number of advantages. This is a way to work out that will allow you to increase your ‘strength to weight ratio’ thereby becoming more agile, more acrobatic and more powerful. You’ll be fast like a coiled spring and strong in a functional way that equates to real-world usefulness.
But there’s no such thing as a perfect training modality. And one of the biggest complaints you’ll often hear from people who use bodyweight training is that they don’t like it because it’s ‘boring’. Doing press ups can get old fast and unfortunately just isn’t quite so challenging or exciting as lifting 100K over your head. It doesn’t turn heads in quite the same way and the progress can often feel a lot less rewarding.
But that’s why it’s such a good thing that you can use bodyweight training as part of a more fun or interesting activity or even sport. Let’s take a look at some of the great ways you can incorporate bodyweight training into your routine without it feeling like a dull workout. Here are some great examples…
Rock Climbing (Bouldering)
Rock climbing is one of the most fantastic bodyweight workouts there is and it’s incredibly fun and rewarding whether you’re going to do it seriously or just as a fun hobby. Rock climbing involves using your forearms and grip strength in order to cling to the tiny cracks in the rocks and this can quickly build you Popeye-like proportions. From there, you’ll then be using your lats and your biceps to pull yourself up the wall and scale it like Spider-Man. Better yet, you’ll also be holding yourself in position for long periods of time using your legs alone. This quickly builds a lot more quadriceps and hamstring strength so that you’ll be getting a truly full body workout.
Bouldering is a great way to get started with this. Bouldering effectively means that you’re climbing smaller rocks that present a challenge for how to get to the top. There’s no rope and you use a crash mat – so you can turn up at a climbing center and just get started!
Other Forms of Climbing
Don’t have a climbing center near you? Not sure you fancy the idea of climbing up the nearby cliffs? A great alternative is something called ‘traversing’ which is essentially sideways rock climbing. Here you never get that high up and as a result you don’t need a rope. As long as you have some kind of natural cliff or wall you can try it yourself!
Or how about climbing a tree?
Hand balancing is a lost art that is highly rewarding and challenging. Being able to go from a pike position to a handstand requires a ton of muscle power and control, as well as balance. When you pull it off though, you’ll have a party trick that’s far more impressive than lifting 100KG and that you can actually do at a party!
When it comes to building muscle, losing fat and getting into shape, the biggest problem for most people is simply sticking to their training goals. This is called ‘adherence’ in the industry and simply means your ability to stick at a training program long enough to see the results that you need.
Even a poorly designed workout can help you to build muscle and get results if you stick at it. And it is much better to perform a bad workout for a long period of time than it is to perform the best workout possible for a day and then give up.
But this is something a lot of people don’t really consider when they plan to get into shape. Too often they will come up with routines that involve training for an hour each session, five times a week. If you’re already feeling too tired to be particularly active, if you’re already stressed with work… trying to fit in five hours of exercise a week is a huge ask. This is particularly true when you consider that you’re probably going to have to travel to the gym as well, get washed, change clothes… etc.
This is where a bodyweight workout can come in so handy. And this is especially true if you use a workout that hits the entire body in a single session, only takes 10 minutes and can be done anywhere. Use this workout first thing in the morning before work and before you go in the shower. Train in your boxers so as to not create more washing. Now you have a routine that really is just ten minutes and that no one should have any problem sticking with.
What does that workout look like? Here it is:
Three Exercises to Rule Them All
This workout is made up of three exercises that together will train the entire body while also providing some cardio benefit.
Those three exercises are:
Perform each exercise to failure and then move straight onto the next exercise when you finish without break. You can rest after the jumping squats for one minute before starting the routine again and going for 3 sets. It should take around 10-15 minutes.
This routine hits all the major muscles in the body because it mimics a more involved split that bodybuilders use called PPL (Push, Pull, Leg). Pull ups hit the lats, the biceps and the abs. Push ups train the pecs, the triceps and the shoulders. And jumping squats hit the entire lower body and provide the cardio.
Now this workout isn’t going to be enough to help you build massive muscles overnight. It can burn fat and it can tone your muscles and harden them. But in order for you to really train you need to use heavier weights performed more slowly and for longer.
So use this as a tool to start your new training regime and to get into the habit. Likewise, use it whenever you can’t fit a full routine in.