My Gym-Free Workout Campaign

My Sea Bag workout is my favorite gym-free excercise so far.

By Josh Rueff on May 20, 2013
I’ll be honest with you, trying to stay in shape without a gym membership is HARD. There’s no question about it. But a great gym-free workout is not impossible.

I’ve been working my way toward 3 fitness goals that are very important to me. I want to:

1. Bench press 300 lbs.

2. Hammer curl 100 lbs on each arm.

3. Work my fighting cardio up to UFC standards, that is, 3 rounds of all out fighting cardio, 5-minute each.

Those are just the first three goals, I’ll make more in the future. I chose bench mostly because I’ve always been weak in that area. As for curling – in jujitsu (I plan on competing as soon as I get into fighting shape), it doesn’t hurt to have anaconda-like arms for choking and other submissions. And fighting shape cardio is a necessity.

All 3 goals have to be accomplished in the most minimalist and natural way I know, which means weights are out of the question. All of my workouts are done at home or on my land, with none of the usual equipment you would find at the gym, like a bench press, free weights, or treadmills.

Gym free workouts are great because they (theoretically) allow me to get into better shape than I would at the gym, and the most vital aspect where simple finances are concerned is that it’s 100% free.  Cutting my gym expense added a nice extra piece of freedom in my budget, and I also learned that most home exercises are far more natural than lifting free weights.

For example, instead of targeting biceps for a day, then triceps the next, my full-body workouts usually target a full range of muscles, and most importantly, the muscles are worked together.

You don’t get muscle cohesion when you work out single muscle groups at a time.

My first two weeks of workout was a complete failure, which I consider a good thing – failure is experience.

Week#1: Fail

In the first week I got burnt out on push ups, sit ups, and the most generic home workouts. I just didn’t like it. It was repetitious and boring. I think another problem was that no one was watching. Yeah I know, dumb, but when I worked out at the gym I knew people could see me, which made me work out harder – there was somehow a sense of accountability, and certainly the preference of not wanting to look like a wuss.

Without that accountability (and vanity), I found it hard to focus on my workout. I worked out twice that week. My mind was not in the game – it just wasn’t disciplined in that area. Yet.

Week 2: Fail

Week 2 was similar, although I wouldn’t consider it an outright failure. I worked out 3 times that week, but the workouts were still lame; I was still getting my brain used to the foreign habit of working out at home.

Week #3: Success!

Finally, in week 3, I hit a breakthrough. This was largely because of the accountability of my friend Andy, who had just started working out at home too. We talked about getting around the disadvantage of not having weights, came up with new workouts, and encouraged each other to make and meet new goals.

Talking and brainstorming about home workouts led to research and new workouts that we found online, and some of them we made up ourselves.

At the beginning of week 4, I’m starting to see some great results! And I’m sore – very sore. That makes me happy.

One of the break through workouts I came up with is my sea bag routine.

My Sea Bag workout is my favorite gym-free excercise so far.

My Sea Bag workout is my favorite gym-free exercise so far.

In this picture you can see the sea bag I use – it’s full of books, shoes, and other things that weigh about 100 lbs total. I put the bag on and do pushups, pull ups, and I curl the bag to do burn outs at the end (I only do burn outs once or twice a week). It also doubles as a heavy bag, which will be great when I start training to meet my third goal!

I’m not sure if I can hit the first two goals yet, but I would be surprised if I’m not close – I plan on testing my new gym-free muscles on Friday. If I hit my fist two goals, I’ll start on the third, more cardio intensive goal. If not, I’ll just keep pushing until I complete them!

My Takeaways

1. 90% of gym-free workout success is mental. Once you discipline your mind, your good.

2. Accountability helps a LOT. Having someone to discuss workouts with is huge, even if you don’t actually workout together.

3. Sea bags are more versatile than I thought.


  1. Jason S. May 28, 2013 at 7:15 pm #

    “Sea bags are more versatile than I thought.” haha
    I recently gave up my gym membership for similar reasons. You are right…it is hard, but I am anxious to fine tune my work out while saving money and disciplining my mind.


  2. Tracy "Phlash" Gordin September 23, 2016 at 4:23 pm #

    Motivation is my main problem. I don’t know if it’s partially my meds to blame, my depression/cyclothalmic disorder, ADD, or my inability to sleep “normally”, or what. I didn’t have this rotten a motivation problem a year or two ago.
    Like you, I find it easier to get the lead out of my ass in an actual gym than in my little apartment’s livingroom. However, a gym membership is $40/month, and for me, that’s not much of a bargain. Also, I have to walk there and back, and that’s a bit of a problem.
    In any case, I have found a series of brutal home workouts on YouTube, by an outfit called HASfit. They will smoke you, and there’s not a muscle group left out in those training regimens. Many of them are 30 min. or less, and are still exhaustive.
    Anyhow, good luck with your training, man. Hope you nail all your target objectives.



    • Josh September 24, 2016 at 4:22 pm #

      Thanks Phlash, I appreciate it! I’ll check HASfit out, it sounds awesome.

      I can relate with you a lot on the motivation, sometimes I get hit with depression too, usually following a period where I’m not motivated by ANYTHING, which is straight up hell for me, because my drive revolves almost entirely around motivation and obsession.

      I wrote a book on motivation a while back to try to figure it out.

      Actually, if you subscribe to my newsletter you’ll get that ebook on motivation for free (I don’t advertise it because I just want it to be one of those above and beyond sorts of things, but in your case it makes sense to let you know (:).

      Beyond that, doing the things you love consistently, even if you don’t feel like it — that’s what cures lack of motivation best for me.

      Hope that helps!




  1. Start Here: About Living Apex | Frequently Asked Questions - The Minimalist Blog | Hobbies | Finance | Fitness | Health | Business - May 20, 2013

    […] 4. Maintain my fitness goals with no gym membership or weights: I know that’s vague, but benching 300 and curling 100 lbs on each arm are two goals I’m pretty sure I’ve accomplished (Judging by perceived strength – I’ll update this later) the 100% natural way, no gym, no weights. Read more about my gym-free campaign. […]

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