As a brief introduction about me, aside from being an MPH student, I am an exercise physiologist and personal trainer. When I am not correcting peoples’ form and working in cardiac rehab, I spend my spare time backpacking, lifting weights, and reading economics books.
Let’s say that you were a prepper. I say “were” because, for the point of this article, The Big Event has already happened, and now you’re not so much prepping as you are surviving. You stockpiled food, medicine, water, and ammunition. You read all the books. You built a secret retreat. Now there’s not much for you to do but to wait the whole thing out.
Unfortunately, you’re going to have to do all of this sitting out while stuck between the same ol’ four walls for yet another day, and slowly, day by day, as your activity levels drop to a bare minimum while you’re cooped up, you begin to grow weaker. You begin to grow slower, and your energy levels begin to plummet as well.
Before The BIG Event, you were in reasonably good shape. You could run a few miles with no problem and spent a couple of evenings per week at the gym. However, during this survival situation, going to the gym is out of the question.
Sure, for the beginning of any survival scenario, you’re probably not going to be worried about your level of conditioning too much. You’re gonna focus on surviving. However, if this scenario begins to stretch out for any extended period of time, maintaining a high level of physical fitness suddenly becomes a much bigger issue. So, what can you do when you’re stuck in the same one-story cabin for who knows how long?
Well, here are four exercises that can be done with minimal space, next to no equipment, and that will strengthen your entire body:
Did I really even need to say this one? It’s probably the first one that came to mind for most of you. This is for good reason though. Push-ups are one of the best body-weight exercises out there.
By doing these, we’re not only targeting our chest, we’re also hitting the triceps, anterior shoulder, core, and spinal erectors as well. Good ol’ push-ups will not only help to build up your upper body strength (which tends to be the first thing that people lose over time), but they also do an excellent job of strengthening the core.
Why is this important?
If you want to be able to push a car, throw a wicked right hook, or shut a door closed on an intruder, you’re going to need a strong chest and powerful triceps.
What if you can’t do a normal push-up?
That’s no problem. Every exercise out there can be adjusted for intensity. If a normal push-up is too tough, start off by doing push-ups off of a wall. As you progress, start at the bottom of a stairwell and do push-ups off of the third or fourth step, or which ever step is comfortable.
Eventually, you’ll get strong enough to do normal push-ups.
Are knee push-ups an option? Absolutely. You could do them, but just be aware that you have to keep a straight line from your shoulders to your knees if you want to target the right muscles. Don’t point your butt toward the ceiling or get into a cobra-about-to-strike looking posture; none of that stuff is helpful.
Your body needs to come up as a unit. If you’re having trouble with this, I highly recommend just starting off with some wall push-ups and slowly progressing yourself.
- Dead Bugs
Where did the name “dead bugs” come from? Well, it is named that because, for this exercise, you’re going to start off laying on your back on the floor with all fours in the air. It’s gonna look like you were giving a horsey-back ride to your kid when you suddenly froze, got turned over on your back, and then got stuck like that.
From this position, you’re going to SLOWLY lower your left arm and RIGHT leg until they are parallel to the floor. Raise them back up to starting position, and then repeat the process for the opposite arm and leg.
Lastly, you’re going to want to focus on keeping your lower back pushed into the floor throughout the movement on this one as well. This drastically increases the number of muscle fibers recruited through the core. Your back is going to want to arch so that it can cheat. Don’t let it.
Why do I recommend dead bugs?
Did you know that your core musculature tightens up before you ever even begin to do a bicep curl? Did you know that doing a pull-up requires massive amounts of core strength? Guess what you need to chop wood, carry heavy stuff, or throw a rock.
Yep. You guessed it– a strong core.
The core is literally the foundation to just about every movement you can possibly make. Without a strong one, your movements are going to be weak and inefficient.
On top of this, the core muscles also play a vital part in the protection of the spine. Take a moment to imagine what it would be like attempting to survive by yourself with a tweaked-out back.
It stinks, doesn’t it?
And that’s yet another reason that a strong core is essential to survival.
Therefore, I recommend dead bugs. They’re a fantastic core-conditioning exercise that you’re going to predominantly feel in your abs.
Don’t be fooled by how silly these things sound or look. They can be pretty brutal when done properly.
- Bodyweight squats
You never know how much you use something, until you hurt it.
If you’ve ever twisted your knee, you know what I mean. All of a sudden you come face to face with the reality that you use your legs WAY more than you thought you did.
Need to run away from a mob/angry creature/bad guy? You need your legs. Need to stand at the stove to cook a meal? You need your legs. Need to haul heavy equipment, push a car, jump to safety, and much, much more? You need your legs.
So, why not build them to be strong? Stronger legs mean that you can run faster, jump farther, hike longer, and carry heavier loads. In a survival situation, this could mean your life!
How can we work out the entire musculature of the legs, targeting our quads, hammies, and glutes? The answer is bodyweight squats.
All you’ve got to do for this one is to sit down on an imaginary toilet, and then shoot right back up, as if the seat was cold!
Things you’re going to want to keep in mind on this one are to keep your back flat throughout the movement, slightly point your toes out, and put your feet just outside of your shoulders. I cross my arms, too. No cheating with your hands!
Sounds easy enough, right?
Hit 15+ reps, and then let me know how you feel.
You’re going to need a door or a post that’s not going to move, for this one.
Let’s say you chose the door. You’re going to place your feet so that you’re straddling the door on both sides, with your feet just a little beyond the door knobs.
Each hand is now going to grab onto one of the door knobs. From here, you’re going to sit down on that imaginary toilet again, using your legs to support your weight.
While keeping a firm grip on the door knobs, straighten out your arms so that you are now kind of hanging there by your hands. Now, pull yourself back to the door.
Once you get into the rhythm of it, it’s going to feel a bit like you’re a pole dancer, but this is going to be one of the best back and arm exercises that you can do with little to no equipment.
If this is the case, just know that the closer you can slide your feet to the hinges, the harder these are going to be. Just make sure to maintain the squat pose while doing this one.
Let-me-ins target the lats (the V-shape of your back), your biceps, posterior shoulder, and really blast your grip as well. Pulling is one of the six basic human movements, and you’re going to need to have these muscles well conditioned if you intend to survive.
Without strong lats and grip, you’re going to have a hard time hanging anything by a rope, climbing a tree, or pulling your wife up from a cliff for that matter.
Seriously, if you got the chance to do that, she’d think you were the bomb-diggedy.
Okay, I’ve got the exercises. Now how should I make my workout?
Ahh, I thought you’d never ask.
Here are the two options I would suggest.
Personally, I like circuit workouts the best, and they would be the best option for staying in good shape.
To do a circuit workout, do one set of push-ups, and then do one set of bodyweight squats. Rest 60 seconds, and then repeat the process. Rest another 60 seconds, and then do a set of dead bugs, followed by a set of let-me-ins. Rest another 60 seconds, and then do another set of dead bugs, and let-me-ins.
You get the picture.
If this is too hard or too easy of a workout for you, there are always ways to adjust the intensity. Change the number of repetitions you do, increase the intensity of the exercise, or add another round to your circuit.
Here’s the workout I would do:
Circuit A: Push-ups 1 x 30 Circuit A: Dead Bugs 1 x 5 Rest 60 seconds, and repeat two more times
Circuit B: Bodyweight squats 1 x 15 Circuit B: Let-me-ins 1 x 30 Rest 60 seconds, and repeat Circuit B two times
With working out, there are a few basics you’re going to want to understand.
Rule #1: If it hurts, don’t do it.
This sounds like common sense, but you’d be surprised. Exercise may make your muscles a tad tender, but if you end up with any kind of pain (there’s a difference), you need to find out what’s going on and switch things around.
Rule #2: Do what you can do.
Don’t go out there trying to impress people. That just leads to your getting hurt. Be wise with how you program your workout. If you can only do ten repetitions before your form starts to break down, then by all means, stick with ten reps.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither are strong muscles. Take your time with this. It isn’t a race. Progressing slowly is the key to preventing injuries.
Rule #3: Rest.
When it comes to resistance training, I typically recommend resting a day between workouts. Give your muscles time to recover. This is when they become strong. Also, if you’re new to working out, don’t feel that you’ve got to do this workout four times a week.
This goes back to Rule #2: Do what you can do. Starting off, I’d say going through the workout two or three times per week is fine.
Rest in between sets as well. For this type of workout, I say 15 seconds between exercises while you’re in the middle of a circuit, and 60-90 seconds at the end of a circuit. However, once again, remember Rule #2.
Staying in good physical condition is essential to surviving during a disaster scenario, especially if you’re going to be holed up for any length of time. With these four exercises, you’ll help to further guarantee that your body stays in peak shape while cooped up, plus you’ll further increase your chances of being able to pull somebody off a cliff, Dark Knight style, and you KNOW you wanna do that.