Weight loss – Exercise Programs To Lose Weight Without The Gym

dragon flag calisthenics melbourne

Posted On July 9, 2020

Weight loss is not as complicated as most people make it out to be. The premise of weight loss comes down to energy IN vs energy OUT. Energy is measured in calories (or joules).

Food has chemical energy in the form of macro-nutrients: carbohydrates, fats and protein. Therefore nutrition makes up the energy IN. Energy OUT is determined by your metabolism and physical activity. 

energy balance in and out

The case for exercise as the superior weight loss strategy

The problem with weight loss is that the kilos don’t stay off. For many people it’s incredibly difficult to sustainably reduce their weight and keep it where they want. Why is that? Well, weight is a multi-faceted concept that revolves around habits.

We have all sorts of bad habits when it comes to our health. We snack on chocolates late at night and find our zombie selves awake at 2am binging Netflix. Our exercise is irregular, and when we do exercise we spend most of the time on our phones.

For weight loss to be sustainable, habits need changing and the change needs to come from a place of positive reinforcement and not self-punishment. When you punish yourself, you begrudge the cause of your anguish and frustration. When you reward yourself, you begin to associate the reward with the cause.

back muscles

Positive reinforcement 

This is why exercise is often, at least from a psychological perspective, a better solution for weight loss than diet. Changing diet is negative reinforcement. By changing your diet you are in some capacity punishing yourself. Your diet is the way it is because you enjoy the foods you are eating, even if these are cravings that border on addiction. Changing this is hard and can often relapse due to social pressures and stress.

Exercise is positive reinforcement. Sure, you may get a negative pullback when you first start exercising. You might experience nausea and soreness. But your body will adapt in several weeks, and the results you start to get from exercise – the changes in strength, physique and fitness – these are strong driving factors for a sustained action.

Like food, exercise gives you a hit of dopamine – and having trained hard enough and frequently enough – this can become as addictive as chocolate and corn chips. It builds habit. 

group fitness class

Exercise for burning calories

Exercise comes in many different forms. Fitness for adults can be in the form of sports, outdoor activities, gymnastics and of course the traditional gym. In the last 20 years the rise of the gym culture has played a huge part in shaping the fitness landscape. A majority of adults opt to use the gym for a variety of reasons. 

Fitness for weight loss can be fundamentally broken into 3 types: continuous cardio, resistance training and HIIT.  

1. Continuous Training

Continuous training involves expending energy at a steady pace during activities such as running, swimming and cycling. This is what is traditionally referred to as ‘cardio’. 

2. Resistance Training

Resistance training is a form of strength training. It can involve weights exercises or body-weight strength exercises such as pull ups and push ups. 

3. HIIT Training

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is a form of cardio where the exercise intensity varies. It usually involves short bursts of vigorous activity intermixed with bouts of low intensity activity.  

1 arm push up

What Type of exercise is best for weight loss? 

Continuous training in recent years has been over shadowed by HIIT and resistance training for building lean physiques. A case can me made for HIIT, in that it arguably expends the most energy during training. 

However, one of the biggest determining factors in long lasting, sustainable weight loss is in fact an increase in metabolism. Metabolism is the collective expenditure of energy in your body. Due to our sedentary lifestyle, it’s important to keep our resting metabolism high so that we can burn energy in our sleep (quite literally)!

Different body tissues have different energy demands, muscle being one of the most demanding! It can therefore be argued that the more muscle you have, the higher your metabolism. Resistance training is the most effective way to build muscle mass. 

push up on parallel bars

Resistance Training for Weight Loss

Resistance training comes in a variety of different flavours. Perhaps most known is type of training done at the gym. This can be in the form of weightlifting and resistance machines. This type of training is good, and can definitely help you gain strength and lean muscle. It’s time tested, but it’s also stale, boring and quite frankly be a chore. Sub-optimal lifting technique is prone to injury and gyms and not for everyone.

Calisthenics is an alternative to the gym. Calisthenics is a body-weight training discipline that results in some of the leanest physiques.

bar brothers 6pack

Calisthenics Training – best way to lose weight

Calisthenics is a fantastic way to lose weight. The emphasis on compound body-weight exercises forces the engagement of more muscles. The higher rep ranges for body-weight exercises are also key to burning more calories.

Core finds itself at the centre of attention in calisthenics, where it belongs. Core is integrated into almost all calisthenics exercises. This provides another portal for burning energy in exercises that are predominantly upper or lower body. 

Many calisthenics exercises have longer time under tension than traditional weights. This increases the amount of calories burned due to the fact that the muscles need to generate force for a longer period of time. 

human flag street workout

Advantages of calisthenics for weight loss

Calisthenics is different from traditional lifting because it’s goal is fundamentally different. The focus is shifted away from aesthetics and strength – which come naturally as a result of the primary objective.

The main goal of calisthenics is to learn to master your own body. This manifests itself in strength, but also in balance, flexibility and various static and dynamic skills. This drive for self-mastery and the associated athleticism in the form of skills is what drives calisthenics practitioners day in and day out. It’s a kind of insatiable hunger. 

Learning skills such as handstands and muscle ups is not only super rewarding, but gives you a clear measurable goal. The amount of push ups, pull ups and leg lifts that go into these skills is completely worth it, and even the grind becomes super addictive. Once the fundamentals are taken care of, practising the skills themselves will yield all the strength and aesthetics you will ever want. 

In this way, calisthenics establishes an internal drive for greatness and a clear path for progression. This is why calisthenics practitioners become so invested in the movement. Calisthenics is more than just a way to stay fit, it’s a lifestyle. 

calisthenics ab training

Calisthenics Program for Weight Loss

The most effective calisthenics program for weight loss should include all the basic movement patterns in reasonably high volume. It is suggested that each set be done for 15-20+ reps. Legs should always be emphasised in weight loss programs as the legs are bigger muscles and consequently burn more calories.

Depending on your individual parameters, the workout may need adjustment. High impact exercises involve jumping and burn a great deal more calories. However, if you are very overweight, have previous injuries or are otherwise unfit to do these; it is highly suggested that you stick to the low impact variants. 

The following is a beginner calisthenics program for weight loss:  

free weightloss program

Written by Vic

Melbourne-based Personal Trainer, Calisthenics Athlete and the Founder of Street Workout St Kilda. Super passionate about bodyweight training and the art of movement.
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