SOLO Fitness on the Cheap?

Dan Edge's picture
Submitted by Dan Edge on Wed, 2006-09-13 13:34

Craig and Others,

Here’s a challenge for you.  What kind of strength training would you recommend to one with a limited budget?  $50 / month is more than I want to spend right now for membership to the local gym, and I don't have room in my apartment for a bench, weights, etc.  Is it possible to build muscle mass using only calisthenics and free weights?  I have one pair of 25 lb free weights, an exercise bike, and plenty of hardwood floor space in the living room.

I'm 6' tall, 180 lbs, trim, and relatively fit.  I can do 40 proper push ups and 70 proper situps without stopping, though I usually only do 30/50 in a regular workout.  I do three sets, 15 reps of bicep curls with my 25 lb weights, and two sets, 30 reps of shoulder pulls with the same weights, about 4 times a week each.  I also get on the exercise bike for 15-20 minutes, 4 times a week.

What can I be doing better, until I get a gym membership?  Any recommendations for more intense calisthenics that can improve muscle mass with limited risk of injury?


--Dan Edge

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Just an idea: around these

Marnee's picture

Just an idea: around these parts almost every park has a training cicuit with pull up bars and other such things. I see people using them all the time. Generally these men and women are in excellent shape. Maybe there is a park near you with this type of equipment? I have considered using it myself but the embarrassingly feeble pullup I can almost do is too horrible to think about, in public Smiling.



Craig Ceely's picture

By the way, Luke: congratulations on the 10% body fat accomplishment. Way to go!

Dan, Dan, Dan...

Craig Ceely's picture

Dan! Are you trying to steal the thunder from my next SOLO Fitness post? Or are you trying to drum up interest in it? I just want to make sure I react in the appropriate manner.

The short answer is: yes, you can build respectable muscle and strength without a lot of equipment or expensive machines. You do have to be a bit creative, but you'll want to be a bit creative with a lifetime fitness program anyway, so that shouldn't be a problem.

That post will appear on Sunday, but meanwhile, I'll second Luke's recommendation for a mat and a chin-up bar. Eat a big breakfast, and I think you'll like what you find then.

Haven't seen any posts from

Duncan Bayne's picture

Haven't seen any posts from you in a while here Luke - good to see you again Smiling Congrats on your results too.

Power 90 or P90X

Luke Setzer's picture

You can order the video training system called Power 90 at and get excellent workouts in your living room for very little cost.  I encourage you to take supplements if you do not already.  Check the testimonials.  I got very good results from the program.

A more intense version of Power 90 called P90X might suit you better based on a second read of your post.  Download the fitness test from the aforementioned site to see if you qualify.  You will need a chin-up bar but they sell one that fits over the door frame.  A word of caution: I learned recently that my door frames will not handle the abuse of supporting my 200 pound body.  The one I had used for months finally cracked so now I use the resistance bands with higher repetitions instead.

I also recommend a good floor mat for the abdominal workouts and so forth.  The site sells a Manduka mat I like quite well.

You can read my story at if you like.  Others have gotten better results based on a more consistent effort and, arguably, better genes.  I still feel proud of my progress, though.

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