You don’t need me to tell you that exercise is good for you. You know that. But did you know that one of the most important benefits of exercise is to build and retain muscle mass as you age? And that lifting weights is the best way to achieve it? Yeah, you probably did.
In fact, the UK government recommends that adults and older adults do two sessions of strength exercise (including all major muscle groups) every week.
I suspect most of you aren’t doing this. And who could blame you. Who has the motivation, the time, the current fitness/strength, or the equipment to do two full-body strength workouts a week?
Well, I’m going to let you in on a secret: You can get strong and build muscle even if you have no equipment, a low-level of fitness/strength, limited time, and low motivation.
(The method I’m going to outline is perfect for those of you who are working from home. But the same principles can be used by anyone, anywhere.)
First of all, let’s clear up the lack of equipment problem. In short, you don’t need any (and it may be better not to use equipment anyway). Your own body is plenty heavy enough to move around. And you can move it around in many different ways. You’ve got everything you need.
Right, now we need to address the fitness, time, and motivation conundrum. Here’s how.
Step 1: Decide on a bodyweight strength exercise that you want to do. For example:
Step 2: Identify an existing action that you reliably do several times a day during the working week. For example:
- Hanging up the phone
- Sending an email
- Getting up from your desk (this is my favourite)
- Turning on the kettle
- Going to the toilet
- Turning off the tap
Step 3: Whenever you do the existing action, do just one (yep, only 1) repetition of your chosen bodyweight exercise immediately afterwards.
Step 4: As soon as you have done the one exercise, immediately celebrate your success. For example:
- Clap your hands
- Say “yes!” out loud
- Think to yourself “well done”
- Do a little dance
- Do a victory stance
The existing action acts as the prompt (or reminder) to do your exercise. Doing just one repetition of the exercise makes it very easy, which means even on your worst day you can still do it. And the celebration makes you feel successful which wires this new habit into your brain, and makes it automatic.
If you follow these steps, after several days (or even less) you’ll do the one exercise without even thinking about it. It will just happen.
Now, at this point I’m sure you’re thinking, “Fine, but where’s one push up or squat going to get me?”
It will get you a long way…over time. Consider the following:
- Say you do one push up five times a day. That’s 25 push ups a (working) week, 1,150 pushups a (working) year. That’s probably a lot more than you’re doing now, and it will make a meaningful difference to your strength, body composition, and health.
- After a week or two you’ll probably start to do a few more while you’re down there. You’ll get stronger, and your technique will get better, which will make it easier, so you’ll be able to do more. You’ll feel successful which will make you want to do more. The new habit will grow. But on the days you just want to do one, do one and feel good about it.
- You don’t have to stick to one type of exercise. You can do a different exercise each day of the working week. Mondays could be push ups, Tuesdays squats, Wednesdays core, Thursdays lunges, and Fridays pull ups. Before you know it, most weeks you’ll be meeting, or exceeding, those strength training recommendations.
It really works. I know because this is exactly how I do my weekly strength training.
If you start today, imagine where you’ll be a year from now.