This time last year, I was having a fitness crisis. (A bit melodramatic, but still.) I hated the gym. I grew weary of fitness classes, team sports, and endurance challenges. In short, I started to despise keeping in shape. Succumbing to inertia wasn’t an option, so I needed a resolution, and fast. What I found was the magical world of calisthenics, a focus on body weight exercises that allow you to workout whenever and wherever you please. The only x-factor was motivation, and I had all the motivation I needed in loathing the gym.

I posted several articles about the physical and mental transition, which you can revisit here:
New Year’s Anti-Resolution
Reclaiming My Workout, A Home-Based Guide
Screw the Scale, Rethinking Health and Fitness

For the past year, I stuck to a rigid workout routine that focused on the core upper body movements. It took a few months to iron out the kinks, but I eventually settled into the following order, going from greatest exertion to least:

5 pull ups (vertical pull)
10 push ups (horizontal push)
10 squats (legs)
10 military presses (vertical push)
10 curls (elbow flex)
10 dips (elbow extension)

Equipment: pull up bar, chair for dips, weighted bar, resistance bands.

I perform every exercise back-to-back as one big superset, three per session. I can complete the entire workout in 20 minutes (5-min per set with 2-min breaks in between). I do three session per week (M-W-F). I drink plenty of water during and recover with some protein, usually a hard-boiled egg.

A year later, it’s time for the verdict.

Much to my surprise, I am in the best overall shape I have experienced since high school (perhaps even better since I am more balanced in the approach). I actually have pecs, traps, and biceps now, which surprised the hell out of me. I made small adjustments as needed, like switching out bands or using different forms for different muscle groups. But other than that, I stuck to this basic routine and saw significant results.

I plan to continue this routine for the foreseeable future. It’s very satisfying and easy to maintain. What I find most appealing is the ease in which it can be scheduled and modified. Sometimes I knock it out during lunch. Sometimes I challenge myself with new forms or increased reps. I can do it in a hotel room. It’s the most malleable workout I have ever used. And did I mention the distinct lack of other people? Yes, I have found my happy place.

As a parting note, none of this matters if you don’t adhere to proper nutrition (emphasis on nutrition, not diet). If you don’t eat right, then concentrate on that first. 90% of health is what you put into your body. Once you lock that down, then you can focus on the fitness.