If you’re looking for excuses NOT to join a gym, I don’t blame you. Finding the perfect gym is like finding a good grocery store – most are overpriced, overcrowded, and don’t have exactly what you want anyway.
But do you even need a gym in the first place? Well, that depends on many things but mostly your goals. To some, the gym can be a home away from home – that’s cool, roll with it. For others, the stress of fighting the crowds to use equipment and paying through the nose is frustrating. Depending on your goals, you may have little or nothing to gain from joining a gym.
Losing Weight Without a Gym
Looking to lose weight? You don’t need a gym. Seriously, you don’t – you just need to eat right. If you’re still convinced you need to do cardio exercise to lose weight, there are hundreds of ways to accomplish this without a gym. Walking, sprinting, burpees, jumping jacks, plyometric workouts, and anything done in a circuit will get your heart rate going. Jogging to lose weight is a poor use of time. Consider sprinting in place of jogging for better results. Again, good for your heart but the real way to lose substantial amounts of weight in a healthy way is to eat right.
To stay fit, you’ll want to have a bit of muscle mass on you. Having muscle on you makes you burn calories at a greater rate…plus you’ll carry what fat you do have in a way that looks a lot better.
Getting Ripped Without a Gym
Looking to build muscle? Well that there’s a much better case for joining a gym. I’m just going to answer the original question this post poses as directly as I can – You CAN build appreciable muscle mass with bodyweight exercises alone. You can even build a downright impressive physique. BUT…if you’re looking to “get yoked” or get huge, at a certain point it will make more sense to hit the free weights instead. Big compound exercises like the squat and deadlift variations will do the trick.
If you want to get started and aren’t quite ready to join a gym, DO NOT discount bodyweight exercises. Just make sure you are performing them correctly to get the most out of them. Pick a couple of exercises (push-up, squat, pull-up) and learn to scale them up in difficulty as you get stronger.
Check out this guide on how to work up to your first pull-up. Get good enough at pull-ups and you’ll have a huge back without having ever stepped foot in a gym. Start adding weight to the exercise and you’re just as well off as doing barbell rows, though the two hit your back in different ways. Of course you’ll need a pull-up bar of some sort. The doorway ones are pretty cheap and reliable…you just need to have the right sized door for them.
To Never Need a Gym Again….
Pick up some basic equipment little by little and dedicate some space to it. Or just become a master of bodyweight exercises. As far as purchasing equipment goes, you can get a 300lb weight set for much less than a year’s worth of gym fees in most cases. I bought a power rack and a 300lb weight set off of Craigslist for less than I would spend on a gym membership in one year at most gyms.
If you only buy one piece of equipment, I’d make it a pull-up bar. It’s pretty easy to scale up chest exercises and to get big legs with high-volume work, but getting a big back with bodyweight alone is going to be difficult without a pull-up bar. Get your cardio kicks in more functional ways than the treadmill can offer. Combine pushups, pull-ups, bodyweight lunges and abdominal exercises into circuits to get your heart pumping.
If physically going to the gym is something you enjoy, by all means keep doing it. I must admit that I miss the giant mirrors on the walls for flexing in….but I’ll never wait for someone to finish with the squat rack ever again!