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Training Without Moving

We all dream of being able to build lean muscle mass without moving. While we’re happy to go to the gym day in and day out and to enjoy the challenge and the catharsis it brings; there will still always be days when we’d just rather not exert ourselves. Alternatively it may just be that we’ve run out of time or lack the space to exercise on one day, maybe we’re travelling by train somewhere or staying in a hotel room. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to train without moving, with no equipment, so that no one could even tell?

Well the good news it’s possible, and not because of those ridiculous ab belts that continuous electrocute you. Instead it’s thanks to some things called ‘static contraction’ and ‘isometric holds’ which not only require no actual movement, but are also advocated by the likes of Bruce Lee himself as one of the best ways to build functional strength.

Static contraction for Bruce generally involved cementing a steel chain to the floor then pulling on it for as long as he could with a lot of force (80% of your maximum is recommended to avoid getting a hernia) until failure. Then repeating. You see you’re actually putting in just as much effort as if you were doing bicep curls, just not getting anywhere as such… Alternatively you might push against a wall for a pec exercise or try and bend through a desk for your abs. While this doesn’t make use of the full length of the bicep it has been shown to be enough to stimulate growth and impressive strength gains.

An isometric hold is similar, in that you hold a position that’s hard to hold until failure making a test of endurance and often balance. An example might be doing the planche, or pushing your head gently against your hand to train the neck muscles.

So that’s how to train with no movement, but unless you happen to have a wall or a chain hanging around that you can use on the train or in the hotel room it won’t serve you as workout you can do anywhere. The trick then is to use your own body as the resistance. For example, tugging on your own wrist as you try and do a curl, or pushing both hands together in front of you to train your pecs. You can even do half a sit up and push against your knee (can also be done subtly sitting upright). Apart from the slow reddening of your face and disconcerting grunting coming from your direction no one need even know!

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