Bangkok bodyweight workout

The truth is, you don’t need a gym membership and expensive, fancy equipment to be in great shape. Serious muscle, strength and fitness can be gained with nothing but yourself.

You’d be surprised how many people struggle to support and move their own body weight around effectively. By training with your own bodyweight you will find that you gain true functional fitness as well as improving your sporting performance.

Another great thing about training with your own bodyweight is that it can be done anywhere! If you’re on holiday, on a business trip or travelling you can still keep fit, healthy and strong with just some space and yourself.

Below is an example of an intermediate-level bodyweight circuit. To make it easier you can:

  • Decrease the amount of time or number of reps you perform
  • Increase the amount of rest time between exercises
  • Adjust your body position or the way the exercises are performed (detailed below)
  • Decrease the amount of different exercises done in the circuit (for example, 6 exercises rather than the full 10)

For a more advanced boyweight circuit you can:

  • Increase the amount of time or number of reps you perform
  • Decrease the amount of rest time between exercises
  • Adjust your body position or the way the exercises are performed (detailed below)
  • Increase the amount of different exercises done in the circuit

So here we go – a circuit of 10 different exercises, each performed non-stop for 45 seconds with 15 seconds rest between exercises. Once the circuit is done (all 10 exercises are complete), take a minute’s rest and the repeat the circuit 2 more times.

Station 1 – The Press-up

We’ll start with possibly the most well-know bodyweight exercise – the press up.

  • Easier: legs further apart, hands further apart, elevate hands on step or bench, knees on ground (box press up)
  • Harder: legs closer together or one in the air, elevate legs on step or bench, arms closer together, explode up and clap between reps
  • Remember: keep body straight – don’t sag or arch body, head in line with body, lower so chest is 4-6 inches from ground in downward phase

Station 2 – Lunges

We’ve worked the upper body, now a great bodyweight exercise for the lower body.

  • Easier: don’t lunge down as far, step up onto a raised level
  • Harder: go from the upwards phase of the lunge into a jump, and then change feet in mid-air
  • Remember: keep body straight on downwards phase, keep feet pointing forward

Station 3 – Bicycles

A great exercise that works your abs and obliques (muscles on the side of your torso)

  • Easier: sit ups or crunches
  • Harder: increase speed
  • Remember: keep elbows out to the side of your head and twist body

Station 4 – Step ups

I’m incorporating some CV work into your bodyweight workout with some step ups.

  • Easier: do one leg at a time, slow down movement
  • Harder: Jump up and down two feet at a time, speed up
  • Remember: keep head up, look straight ahead, neutral spine

Station 5 – Pull Ups

A hard exercise that is incredible for working your upper body. If you don’t like pull ups, persist until you can do them and you’ll receive great rewards.

Easier: chin ups with close grip; jump up to raised, top position and lower yourself slowly (called negatives); lie flat on the floor underneath a table, hold the table and pull your body up as far as is comfortable – easier than a pull up but still very effective;

Harder: stop for 3 seconds at the bottom, wider grip, one-armed, explode up into tricep push up (very advanced)

Remember: don’t be disheartened if you can’t do them, persist, try not to swing your legs for momentum

Station 6 – Bodyweight Squats

A fantastic compound exercise that primarily works the lower body. A little hard to master if you’ve never done them before but worth learning.

  • Easier: don’t go as deep
  • Harder: go deeper, explode into jump as you come up, can tuck legs when you jump
  • Remember: feet shoulder width apart, knees shouldn’t go in front of toes, weight through the heels not toes, don’t lean forward

Station 7 – Lower Back Extensions

We’ve already worked the abs on the front of the torso, so this exercise will work the lower back for balance

  • Easier: arms down by your side
  • Harder: arms straight out in front of you
  • Remember: perform slowly and in a controlled manner, avoid tipping head back

Station 8 – Burpees

The exercise that everyone hates. They’re hated because they’re hard, but they’re super effective for all-round fitness and toning.

  • Easier: half burpees – don’t stand up keeping hands on the floor and jump back and forth; mountain climber – keep hands on the floor with right leg bent and forward and left leg straight back, switch repeatedly (as if climbing)
  • Harder: add a press up at the bottom and/or a tuck jump at the top
  • Remember: keep good form, jump up straight, keep neutral spine

Station 9 – Tricep Dips

A good exercise to work the arms that can be done pretty much anywhere with a bench or raised level

  • Easier: Bring feet closer towards you
  • Harder: Move feet further away
  • Remember: keep elbows in, shoulders back, movement should just be in the arm, go down to about a 90 degree angle at the elbow

Station 10 – The Plank

isn’t just a ridiculous internet craze, it’s also a great way to firm up your core muscles. Get in position and hold for as long as you can.

  • Easier: Put your knees on the floor, spread feet apart
  • Harder: lift up one leg or arm off the ground, bring feet together
  • Remember: keep forearms on the floor, engage and tense your core throughout, keep body straight and head in alignment, don’t hold your breath

So you should do stations 1-10, have a minute’s rest and then repeat twice (3 times altogether). This should take about 30 minutes and if performed 3-4+ times a week it will keep you in good shape and your fitness levels up. Count the amount of reps you can do in the alloted time and record your results to see how much you’re improving and to give you a goal each time you do it.

This is a great all round body workout that can be done anywhere, even in a hotel room. However, if you have some equipment available you can vary the workout and make it harder. Here’s a few ideas:

  • Performing exercises on a swiss ball will make it harder and force you to use more muscles to stabilize and balance. For example, you can do a press up with your feet on a med ball or you can do the plank with your forearms on a swiss ball.
  • Hold dumbbells while performing squats, lunges or step ups to make the exercises harder.
  • Place a weight plate or medicine ball on your lap when performing tricep dips to make it harder.

As you can see, there are many ways to adjust body position, change technique or introduce weight to make these great bodyweight workouts harder or easier.

This is just one example of a good bodyweight circuit – there are hundreds of different exercises and variations, so don’t forget to push yourself hard and have fun!

Burpees - not a popular exercise, but very effective

Not enough time to work out? Time for Tabata Training!

One of the most common excuses I hear for not having enough time to work out is lack of time to train. What this usually really means is “I’m not motivated enough” or “I can’t be bothered”. Whilst it’s everyone’s personal decision whether to train or do exercise it’s better to be honest with yourself so that these barriers can be overcome by making workouts more fun, training with friends or by taking up a sport you enjoy, to name but a few ideas.

HOWEVER, if you want to keep super fit but genuinely do not have enough time to do a solid workout and you want to keep your fitness levels high and your body challenged, Tabata Training could be for you!

In a nutshell, Tabata is a super high-intensity circuit workout that lasts 4 minutes. Now, I imagine you’re thinking that 4 minutes doesn’t sound all that bad, but it’s 4 minutes of the highest intensity possible – 10.0 on the intensity scale. This maximum intensity is coupled with the 2:1 work:rest ratio, which makes it is an EXTREME workout. Please bear in mind that this was designed for Olympic athletes competing at the top level to shock their body so it’s not for the faint-hearted.

The circuit is broken down into:

20 seconds work (maximum 10.0 on 0-10 RPE intensity scale i.e. as many reps as possible, as fast as possible)

10 seconds rest

Repeat 7 times to make a complete 8 circuits (using one exercise or a mix of different exercises)… and there’s your complete Tabata workout that Dr Izumi Tabata himself would be proud of (yes, he invented it).

At the bottom of this post is the best example of Tabata I could find on YouTube, which uses the TRX training system.

Why should I do Tabata?

Now we should be clear that Tabata training is not for beginners. The Tabata Timer app on the iPhone has a rather daunting warning that I quite like:

Tabata training is very intensive training and can lead to loss of consciousness.

So not for everyone. It is a favourite amongst combat athletes, MMA fighters, Olympic lifters and sportsmen because it hits both your aerobic and anaerobic systems, which means it improves your sprinting/explosive movements as well as your CV endurance – perfect for sportsmen and sportswomen who compete at a high level!

Other benefits include the ‘kick-start’ it gives to your metabolism, which means you burn calories for hours afterwards as your body recovers from the high levels of intensity. It’s also, as mentioned before, great for those who don’t have much free time. Even if you work 12-hour days you could still squeeze one of these into a 15 minute break.

I feel that another big benefit is that because it is such a gruelling workout it prepares weight trainers for hardcore exercise in a way that not many other types of training can’t. It really pushes you physically and psychologically and that can only be good for getting yourself to go that little bit further, to get one more rep out.

What type of exercises should I use with Tabata?

A few things to bear in mind – big compound exercises should be used and not isolation exercises that work one muscle, like bicep curls. A few examples are:

  • Squat jumps
  • Burpees
  • Clean & jerks
  • Rows
  • Press ups
  • Deadlifts
  • Lunges
  • Pull ups
  • Kettlebell swings
  • Military shoulder press
  • Jumping jacks/star jumps

You should also be careful with the amount of weight used – after 3 or 4 sets of these you’ll be feeling it, so if you overestimate your weight you may not finish the 8 circuits or your form could be compromised which can be dangerous with movements such as deadlifts. So keep your ego in check when selecting weights at the beginning.

Last word – if you don’t work at 100% during the 20 seconds work phase and if you cheat and have more than 10 seconds rest then you’re not Tabata training. Simple as. That’s not to say that you’re workout won’t be effective because it will, but it will not be nearly as effective as Tabata performed properly.

If Tabata is a little beyond your fitness levels, a Tabata-style circuit workout with, for example, longer rest periods, can still be squeezed into a short time frame and will still be great.

Be careful, and enjoy!

Top 10 free iPhone health and fitness apps

There is an iPhone app for pretty much anything you can imagine, and this extends to the health and fitness industry. The way workouts and diets are structured can sometimes make it quite hard to record, monitor and regulate your exercise and results.

That might all sound quite daunting, but help is at hand – there are thousands of free apps out there that can enhance your workout, give you some ideas, help you keep track of your progress or perhaps just keep you amused on a boring train ride.

Click on the links to view my top 10 FREE i-Phone apps for your workouts:

Fast Food Calories

The first app is for those who find it hard to resist fast food and sugary snacks. This comprehensive list of the calorific intake of these foods should be enough to shock most people into resisting the temptation to buy two dozen Krispy Kreme doughnuts.

Ab Workouts

An awesome app for adding some variation to your ab and lower back workouts. Pages of exercises and ideas with easy to follow pics to help you lose that flab. Includes floor exercises, machine exercises and swiss and medicine ball exercises (see left).

Calorie Counter & Diet Tracker

Their HUGE database of the calorific value of different foods helps you keep track of how many calories you’ve consumed… and as we all (should) know, calories consumed < calories burnt = weight loss, making this an invaluable and useful app. Another similar and useful app is Dailyburn.

Tabata Timer

I love Tabata training, and have written a whole post on it here. The only thing that can make it a bit difficult is the timing of the short circuits, which must be kept at smooth and regular intervals to get the full benefit. In comes the Tabata Timer, a simple yet highly effective app for timing those super high-intensity mini-circuits.

BMI Calculator

The BMI scale has it’s flaws (see right) but it’s not a bad measure for your average person to see what category they fall into – underweight, normal, overweight or obese. This app tells you your BMI (Body Mass Index, or height/weight ratio) and tracks your progress on a chart which is a good way to gauge improvement.


Many people find running on a treadmill boring, uninspiring and repetitive. One benefit though is that treadmill runs are specific and measured with distance covered, height climbed (if incline is on) and calories burnt all recorded and measured. However, with iMapMyRun you can record a whole host of other information that 10 years ago had to be pretty much guessed. You do, of course, have to take your iPhone with you on your run, but many people already do this to listen to music. If you record a long run AND listen to music I’m not sure the battery life would be sufficient though!

Interval Timer

Interval circuits and routines are a great way to kick-start your metabolism and increase the intensities of your workouts. I also love the time saving element when compared to plodding along at a steady pace for hours. This great app allows you to structure your intervals, is very customizable and even allows you to listen to music at the same time.

Health Tips 1000

This app may be a little patronizing for your seasoned athlete, but these 1000 tips make a good little read and can be quite useful for someone who’s just getting into their health and fitness with some general tips and pointers.

Fitness Free HD

This one is actually only available for the iPad, but as a free app with over 700 different exercises it’s definitely worth a mention for anyone who wants to spice up their workouts or who feels stuck for new ideas.

Kettlebell Swing Timer

Kettlebells (see left) are an awesome piece of versatile equipment that are fun to use and strengthen the whole body, especially the core. Kettlebells are available in a few studios in Bangkok, including Total Body Training near Thong Lor, and I’ll write a piece on them soon. They’re also great for a home workout as they’re cheap and can be used in a small space. I’ve found this app great for timing my kettlebell exercises.

Nike Training Club

This is 11, but as one of them is an iPad app I’ll reward you with a few more. This app from Nike is billed as “giving you your own personal trainer”. I wouldn’t quite say that, but it has a whole host of instructional videos, 15, 30, 45 and 60 minute workouts and a reward system for your progress goals. It’s the kind of app that you’d normally be paying for so worth downloading. The only downside is that all the instructions feature females so it’s arguably more suitable for and targeted to the women market.

Fitness Pro

We’ve given you a load of great specific apps, so here’s another great all round app that has over 450 exercises with real photos – another great idea refresher to really challenge yourself and confuse your body into adapting!

5k Runner

We’re really spoiling you here with a 12th app that’s absolutely free. This app is designed to bring you from coach-dwelling sloth to 5k runner in 8 weeks with it’s beginners introduction to running. 5k is a great goal for someone who isn’t very active, or it can make a great mini-goal for someone who is building up to a 10k run or a half-marathon.

So that wraps up our 10 free apps for the iPhone that is actually 12 – please let us know if you have any other good free apps.

Have fun training!