Writing a daily account of my training and food is hopefully valuable, but there are likely many people who don't have the equipment, space, time or maybe ability to train identically; and truth be told the vast majority of people would not be training optimally were they to follow this plan. Below, I have pulled out ten movement patterns I believe are fundamental, and constitute an entire training plan on their own, providing load, frequency, intensity, duration and other variables, including the combination of movements, are suitably modulated.
Drag, pull and push a sled. I often get told these are prohibitively expensive or space consuming, so I have a couple of alternatives; fill a sack with weight and drag it by a rope over grass. Use a carpet tile to put weight plates on, and drag them. Drag or push your car on level ground. These are just a few thoughts. I've put a link below to a reasonably priced entry sled, and remember by clicking the images in this article, and entering TH5 at checkout, you save money!
There are MANY versions of the squat, but you can mimic most versions with any load; a barbell, kettlebells, dumbbells, a sandbag or many other options. For me, the sandbag is the most versatile, and can be cheaply filled and adjusted to suit! While nothing will beat the ability to load up heavy with a barbell, the sandbag is a good substitute, and has plenty of other uses too! Dumbbells and kettlebells are slightly more limited for squatting, but are incredibly worthwhile investments.
Okay, okay I hear you, you don't like running. I get it, I truly do! But here's my take - running is a very valuable training tool, but also an essential survival skill, one you don't know you need until it's too late. Run at least once per week, focus on running with great form, short repeats, up hills, on awkward terrain, and mixed in with other movements. You don't have to like it, but you definitely should be doing it. When I started running at 112kg (almost 250lbs), I used to reward myself with exercises I liked after going for a run to give me something to look forward to.
Hangs, swings, pulls and climbs.
There is nothing wrong with pull-ups, of any kind, just as there is nothing wrong with muscle-ups or bodyweight rows, but often people's field of view gets narrowed by gym machines, reps and sets, exercise instruction videos and social media. The truth is we should use more widths and angles of grip, more thicknesses of bar, ring and beam, more variation in swings and hangs, we should add weight and improvise. Just as with running, this is a fundamental tool for survival that we forget we need until we're faced with no alternative. You don't need kit for this, the crossbar on your local football pitch, a sturdy door frame or low hanging tree bow will do nicely. Climb trees and rocks. But if you do want something to mix up your pull, hang and climb training in the gym, check out these options below:
Muscle-ups - rings or bar
Pull-ups - rings, bar, neutral bars, spheres, grandfather grips, rope, beam, fingerboard, pegboard
Climbs - rope, tree, pegboard, lamp post, fence, rock
Swings - rope, rings, bars, trees
Ground to overhead
To me, the most obvious examples are the Olympic lifts - the snatch and the clean & jerk, however, across many sports we see objects of varying load hoisted overhead, either with the purpose of putting it there for sport, or to place it in a mechanically advantageous position to throw or strike with. Whether you hoist a traditional barbell or kettlebell, or whether it's a human you're lifting to safety, to take an object from the ground, and lift it overhead requires, and therefore develops, full-body strength and coordination, in addition to balance and, if done in certain fashions, cardiovascular and respiratory endurance and muscular endurance too. My suggestion would be to start with a basic power clean and push press with a barbell, and build from there.
Whether static, or with a running start, from 1 foot, or both, for vertical height, horizontal distance, or both, jumping is both a requirement of life, and also a powerful training tool. Higher reps can be used to elicit a cardiovascular response, or lower reps can be used to develop speed, power and elasticity, not to mention coordination and timing. To start with, jump onto a box. This acts as a platform to decelerate you on landing - which is where most of the danger lies. There is more value to landing with the legs straighter, than tucking the feet up towards the chest, at least for developing power and good hip function.
In all of its variations; forwards, backwards, sideways, and combinations. Use a slant board, or make an inclined surface from anything you have lying around. Do some with the heel grounded, some with it flat. Force the knee way over the toe on some, partway on others. As long as there is no pain, you're on the right track. Over time you can add weight. This doesn't have to be just in the gym, walk up a steep hill, backwards too! Use a flight of stairs, or a low ledge. I honestly believe a slant board is one of the most valuable investments anyone can make for their training.
Farmer's style with weight by the sides, in a rucksack or pack, with weight yoked over the upper back, or a baby-carry style at the stomach, we are carrying animals. Our ability to move objects is fundamental and shows no signs of becoming less so even as technology advances. You could argue it is a precursor for independence. Short of the simple mantra "don't outsource physical tasks to others or machines" we can make carries a part of training too. Start by moving your own luggage and shopping around, and build on this by carrying some heavy kettlebells, or a laden rucksack too. I use the one below for pack marches.
Downwards, as in dips, forwards as in bench press and push-ups, or upwards as in military press or handstand push-ups. Try to push at least 2 days per week. You don't need much kit, you can lie on the floor and press, or you can add weight to push-ups. Elevate the hands a little on push-up bars or low platforms to increase the range of motion. Press from behind the neck (unless you have pain here), in front of the neck, at the sides of the shoulders, and finish stacked overhead. Dip on bars, rings and flat surfaces. Add weight, increase the range of motion, and vary the reps, sets, and rest periods. My recommendation would be to invest in parallettes. These have wide-ranging utility and are relatively inexpensive.
Brace the core to resist movement. This could be a plank or side plank, a single-sided carry, or during a movement like a swing on rings or ropes. Learn to use the core to resist movement, and transmit forces throughout the body effectively and safely. It helps when you run, lift weights, or perform gymnastic exercises, and prevents injury and pain in the lower back especially.
Sounds pretty simple right? Well, it really is. Using just these movements, I've created a 5-day training plan below which will hopefully give you some ideas:
5 Min backward sled drag - warm-up
5x10 Step-Downs per leg from 2-5" platform as able
5 Rounds as Fast as Possible:
20 Goblet Squats
20 Box Jumps
30 Second plank Hold
5 Min backward uphill walk - warm-up
5 Min build running pace on the flat - warm-up
5 Min build hill running pace - warm-up
Run 250m uphill, slow recover back down
Maximum plank hold
10 Min swing/hang/play on tree or pull-up rig - warm-up
10 Floor Press
10 Bodyweight rows - rings or bar
10 Strict press
30 Secs per side, side plank
10 min sled pull/push switch every 25m - warm-up
20 Minute AMRAP:
50m Farmer's Carry
20 Sandbag Ground to overhead
5 Broad Jumps
5 Min HEAVY Sled drag. - warm-up
10 Low Box jumps - warm-up
5 Rounds as Fast as Possible:
20 Weighted Step-Ups
These workouts focus on different energy systems, different loading strategies, and different time domains, while incorporating the movement patterns suggested above. Movements such as the heavy sled, squats and presses could easily be periodised for progressive overload over a period of 3-5 weeks for best results.