The exercises described herein are bona-fide strength-gaining, muscle building exercises, all of which require no equipment and can be performed virtually anywhere at any time. You could do them all at once, which would require your setting up a routine that you would faithfully adhere to, or you could spread them out throughout the work day, as I do. If you choose to spread out your exercises, be sure to do all of the exercises for one group of muscles at a time. For example, when I get to work and am waiting for my computer to load, I go through all of the chest exercises.
I once lifted weights five mornings a week for twelve straight years. One morning I just wasn’t inspired go through my routine, and ended up stopping altogether. For the next four years I got absolutely no exercise whatsoever, and then one day I took a hard look at myself and wasn’t too happy with what I saw. All my weight had traveled south and consolidated around my waist. My arms, shoulders, and chest had become flabby and had shrunk considerably in size. I decided it was time to get back into shape and to rebuild the physique I had once been proud of. With a Herculean effort I renewed my morning workouts, and within three months I was just about back to where I once was. The problem was that the enthusiasm of previous years just wasn’t there and it took every ounce of resolve I had to get through the routines. The workouts also began leaving me feeling fatigued. I kept up my morning routine for six months until, finally, I felt the need to give it a rest.
Well, I wasn’t about to give up all that I had worked so hard for, so I decided to make a study of alternative forms of exercise that would be as close as possible to the effectiveness of weight lifting. I scoured the Internet picking up ideas from a great number of sources. I experimented with various exercises, integrating those exercises I found to be effective into a routine I was developing. Armed with my knowledge of body building, I was able to identify the most effective exercises, and I was also able to develop exercises of my own. In fact, about thirty of the exercises found in this program I created myself. The end result is that I have put together the most efficient and effective weightless workout routine I possibly could. The best part is, I no longer have to get up in the wee hours of the morning to do a workout. I just integrate my exercises into my work day at the office, leaving me with free time and a lot more energy throughout the day.
In developing my program, I adhered to the following guidelines:
- I would either adopt or develop only the best of the best. There are only so many hours in a day and no one has the time to waste on exercises that don’t produce maximum results.
- The main focus of the exercises would be geared towards building muscle – exercises that challenge muscles to the max and force them into growth. As much as possible, I have duplicated the movements of weight-lifting. I don’t have much use for exercises that “tone”, which, I’ve concluded, is a code word for next to useless.
- The exercises would require no equipment and could be performed while either standing, sitting, or utilizing a wall, allowing me to exercise virtually anywhere at anytime. This makes the program ideal for people who can't get to a gym or cart weights around; people who travel, students, military personel. You can take Zen-in-the-Art with you on vacations.
Keeping all of the above in mind, I set about carefully analyzing each muscle group – neck, shoulders, chest, back, arms, forearms, abdomen, and legs – and came up with series of exercises for each muscle group that would cover the full range of movement and target the muscles in each group from an effective range of angles, resulting in full development. After having spent months developing, adding to, and refining my program, I am now satisfied that it is the most comprehensive and effective weightless bodybuilding program that exists, and it has certainly turned out to be much more effective than anything I could have hoped for!
Absolutely! I know that these exercises really work for for the simple reason that any significant form of resistance applied to muscles will cause them to strengthen and grow, and I have proven to myself just how effective these exercises truly are.
I had approached all of this with the hopes that I would be able to maintain, to a lesser degree, a size and musculature that would be produced by lifting weights. To my great astonishment, these exercises have actually improved my physique! My muscles feel hard and pumped, as though I had been lifting weights. My arms are as big as ever and rock hard, my shoulders have become more defined, and my back has actually broadened. I've also discovered a very different kind of concentration involved in Self-Resistance exercise - a sort of mind and body becoming one.
Isometric – Pushing against an unmovable object. When performing isometric exercises, you should not rush into them and immediately start pushing as hard as you can. You should feel your way into them, concentrating on the muscles they are building, working your hands into just the right grip, gradually increasing resistance until you are at maximum effort, and then holding the exercise for 10 seconds. Holding the exercise for any longer than 10 seconds has no further effect. When you feel ready to push an isometric to maximum effort, first take in a deep breath and then push, releasing your air in a slow, steady rush as you hold the isometric.
Isotonic – Involving movement for a given number of repetitions. For these exercises, you will be using either your body weight or self-resistance - pitting one limb against the other, with one limb acting as a moveable resistance to the other limb. Because you have to let up with the resistance limb to allow the other limb to move, the onus is on you to make it as difficult on yourself as possible. You have to really focus on these exercises and feel each repetition all the way through, feeling the muscles being worked, imagining yourself to be moving an almost impossible amount of weight. Concentrate. Again, take in a deep breath of air at the start of a repetition, and then release the air while performing the repetition.
Stretch - Isolating and contracting muscles. When performing these exercises, stretch with every fiber of your being. Feel what the benefit of a good stretch to the max does for your muscles, as well as for your sense of well-being.
I can't overemphasize the importance of proper breathing, not only for the exercises, but in your daily life, as well. Breathing is, literally, the breath of life, and deep breathing will keep you healthy and will aid in curing what ails you. Deep breathing is a key factor in building muscle. Have you ever been engrossed in doing something and then you suddenly take in a deep breath of air? That's your body telling you thay you've got to get some air circulating. So, pay attention to the proper breathing technique as described above. Also, the first exercise described in this program is a deep breathing exercise, and this is the one exercise you should do everyday - a couple of times a day, if you want to. When you walk, walk at a quick gait. Get the blood circulating and get the lungs forcefully pulling in air. Breathe deeply!
Because of the intense nature of these exercises - forcing your muscles to work at maximum performance - each exercise needs to be performed only once in a day with a day's rest in between. In fact, a day's rest in between the same exercises is crucial. There is a very definite physiological reason for not doing the same exercises every day. When you perform an intense exercise, you are actually breaking down muscle cells. Afterwards, blood begins rushing into your muscles, carrying nutrients and rebuilding those muscle cells, making them bigger and stronger than they were before. This is why nutrition is so important when following a fitness program. This process generally takes 48 hours to complete itself. In truth, it is during this period of recovery that your muscles actually grow in size and strength. By doing the same intense exercises daily, you are not allowing your muscles sufficient time to recover and you will soon wear out, not to mention not making much in the way of gains.
I do the upper body exercises on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and then the leg exercises on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. One set of ten repetitions is all that is needed for the self-resistance exercises. For the body weight exercises, do one set of as many repetitions as you feel you can handle. The deep breathing and stretching exercises can be done daily if you choose to do so. If the mood strikes, it certainly won’t hurt to do some or all of the stretching exercises a couple more times in a day. You can pick and choose. I find myself doing most of the stretching exercises a few times a day, simply because I feel an urge to do so.
SETS - You can do sets if you choose to. In otherwords, do an exercise once and then repeat it. This applies to the isotonic exercises only. You could select a few choice exercises and do a second set of each one. For example, if upper arm development is of primary interest to you, you might want to do a second set of TR-6 and BI-2 (in the Arms category). If you do this, then perform the related isometrics only at the end the second set. Performing isometrics more than once or holding them for longer than 10 seconds has no further effect.
Consistency is the key. By integrating these exercises into your daily routine and performing them faithfully week after week, and month after month, your muscles will dramatically strengthen and grow!
Zen is the Oriental philosophy, or more accurately, the state of being, of total control. It is the ability to perform tasks effortlessly. For example, a Zen Archer can place an arrow in its mark without conciously attempting to do so. The physical task of drawing the bow, aiming, and letting fly the arrow becomes irrelevant as the Zen master, the arrow, and the target become as one. Anyone who shoots a good game of pool knows this heightened state of being. In this same manner, performing these exercises becomes as much an exercise in mind control as it does a physical activity. As you do these exercises more and more, you will develop an inner memory of how these exercises should feel when performed to maximum effectiveness. Rather than consciously applying pressure with the resistance limb, you will be able to virtually let it go limp, thinking of it as a 'dead weight', and it will virtually take on a life of its own, becoming an object almost impossible to lift. You will also find that your ability to focus will become more and more acute, and thinking your muscles into further growth will become as much a part of the exercises as the physical aspects of the exercises, themselves. Because you are using your own body to develop your own body, the whole routine becomes as much an exercise in meditation as it is an exercise in building muscle.
If this aspect of Zen and how it relates to exercise interests you, there is an on-going, informative discussion in The Forum.
If you have come across my site and are inspired to adopt my routine, I wish you well and hope these exercises are just what you were looking for. As in any exercise program, you will begin to see results within the first two weeks, and then it generally takes about three months before you begin to see a real transformation. If you have always wanted to build yourself up but never got around to it because of time constraints or a lack of desire to "pump iron", or a hesitation at investing in expensive equipment, then this routine may suit you to a tee. I can say with confidence that these exercises will, over a period of time, add inches to your arms, chest, shoulders, and legs.
Best of luck!
Copyrighted Illustrations by Shenandoah.
- The exercises described in the links below were selected or created to be performed anywhere at any time, such as in an office setting. For additional exercises, see the Additional Exercises and Routines page.
- There are a lot of exercises contained in this site. Don't feel that you must do all of them in order to benefit. You can pick and choose. Again, see the Additional Exercises and Routines page.
Click on the link below to view the personal training logs of those who are recording their progress:
Click on the image below for a review of the best book on bodyweight exercise ever written.
Zen in the Art of Self-Resistance