So after You Have A Moral Responsibility To Be A Badass, I got a couple of emails pointing out that I didn’t say anything about how to actually start an exercise regime that would let you lift a pram up a Beaux-Arts staircase while conducting a running gun battle. I can only apologise. The fact is, lots of people better-qualified than me have come up with exercise plans that I’d suggest, and you should do one of them. What I will suggest is a few moves that should be the core of your plan. Instead of simply listing them in order of effectiveness, I’ve ranked them via a complicated formula that boils down to:
How Easy They Are To Do In Everyday Life x How Good They Are = Worthiness Of Inclusion
So have at it. And if you already know all this, bear with me: there’s a new post about Arnold Schwarzenegger and Mozart coming up later in the week.
Sometimes, when I’m sprinting up the escalator in Angel Islington tube station – the longest in the Western hemisphere, fact fans – I wonder how many of the people standing motionless on the right complain that they don’t have time to go to the gym. Unless you’ve done heavy squats this week, there’s no excuse not to walk/leap up every flight of stairs you need to ascend, especially if there’s a lift nearby. It burns fat, strengthens your legs, works your cardio, won’t make you too sore and gets you where you’re going anyway. Start doing it today.
Bodyweight Almost Anything
If you haven’t got a gym membership, that doesn’t mean you need to do biceps curls with tins of soup or anything equally ridiculous. If all you ever did was circuits of pressups, squats, lunges and planks then you’d be in better shape than, ooh, let’s say 50 percent of everyone.* Throw in a pullup bar – the Powerbar can be put up or down in seconds and will work on almost any doorframe with minimal damage – and you can work your pulling muscles as well. You don’t even need to leave your house. Just starting out? Do Chad Waterbury’s PLP programme – do one pressup, one lunge on each leg, and one pullup. Tomorrow, do two of everything. Carry on for two months until you’re doing 60 of everything, preferably with as few breaks as possible. Congratulations: you’re now stronger than most people who go to the gym.
If I somehow ended up in an Orwellian dictatorship that would only let me do one exercise, I’d do these. Carrying something heavy works basically every muscle in your body, definitely including your abs. Farmer’s walks are good and can be done with shopping, but I also like Zercher walks and fireman’s carries, both of which can be practised with a crate of beer, child (preferably your own) or romantic partner. And remember, go heavy: a good goal in the farmer’s walk is your own bodyweight split between two dumbbells for sets of 30m.
Running Quite Fast
I don’t like jogging all that much. Although it requires minimal kit and can be done in most places, it’s not as good for fat loss as most people think, terrible for muscle, and is not much fun if you live in an area where arseholes think that hooting out of cars is an acceptable way to spend an evening. If you’re going to run, at least run fast – assuming you can cover a decent distance, do some intervals where you speed up, or just some sprints. People seem to have a weird aversion to resting during runs, but doing half a dozen 400m sprints with 90 seconds of rest between them did my cardio, body composition and speed more good than any amount of 8-mile plods, back when I cared about running. These days I stick to hill sprints, but only do them if you promise not to hate me afterwards.
Squats and Deadlifts
If you go to the gym and aren’t horribly injured from something else, these should absolutely be the core of your programme – they release growth hormone, strengthen dozens of muscles and will help you lift a fridge or get off the toilet when you’re 80. Everyone in your gym is probably doing them wrong, so get a reliable source to teach you. I’d recommend Mark Rippetoe’s Starting Strength, although some personal trainers will be able to give you the hands-on version. Protip: look for someone who can squats at least 1.5x their own bodyweight – until the crease their hip makes goes below the line of their knee – and deadlifts double their bodyweight. These are pretty easy standards for most professionals to hit, so anyone else hasn’t practised it enough. If you don’t go to the gym but have a dumbbell, do Dan John’s Goblet squat, which is excellent and will teach you the movement better than most trainers as a bonus.
If you’re already doing most of the above, feel free to start doing concentration curls, Klokov presses, or whatever else you like. Until then, stick to the basics.
HOMEWORK: Add one of the above to your weekly regime. And help someone with a pram.
*This stat is made up.