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The Desert Island Workout

08/26/2016 10:37am ET | Updated December 6, 2017
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What would you do if you were dropped on an island, relatively rich with natural food sources and fresh water but short on a fancy gym? How would you keep yourself sharp and in shape?

What would be your own version of a Desert Island Workout?

Well, fitness expert and bodyweight training specialist Danny Kavadlo has given this some thought.

The Problem with Abundance

Many of us live in an age of abundance. We're used to, and expect convenience. While that's great on one level, it can also make us lazy.

"Too much stuff ends up weighing you down. People can get distracted from what matters most." explains Kavadlo.

"Less is often more in fitness. You don't need many exercises to hit the whole body hard. Other than the floor, something to hang from and some sort of weighted resistance -- which can be your own body -- you don't need any equipment to get a world class workout."

Simple Not Easy
Just the floor and something to hang from? Sounds simple you say. Where is the fancy equipment, the shiny new machines. Well, none of that exists on our island. None of it needs to exist off our island either.

"I enjoy the simplicity and minimalism of bodyweight training as well as the endless progressions and challenges that are open to you with your own bodyweight." -- Danny Kavadlo

The Kavadlo message might sound simple and stripped down but do not confuse that with meaning it's easy. Your body can be the only weight you'll ever need to get in and stay in amazing condition. Our island will demand that you get creative and push the limits of what you think your body can do.

Information Overload and The Avoidance of Doubt
The benefit of being on our island, aside from the amazing views and fresh food direct from source, will be that our choices will be pared down.

Not having barbells, dumbbells machines and kettlebells means we rule out exercises that utilize them. Or maybe we pick up an odd shaped rock instead. We can't run on a treadmill but we can run sprints on the sand and swim in the ocean. We can't do presses with a dumbbell but we can do presses with a rock or pushups with our own weight.

The lack of internet connectivity means we don't obsess over finding the perfect workout. We just get on and do what we can. We do what feels good, what makes us strong, what makes us better. We forget the rest.

We have no "experts" whispering in both ears, telling us conflicting information.

We avoid doubt. We avoid decision fatigue. Our choices are stripped down to the basics and guess what, the basics work. The basics have lasted the test of time.

The Desert Island Routine
So what would our workout look like in this far off land, devoid of distraction?
Enter Danny Kavadlo again to share some ideas:

1) Squat
"Squatting is wired into our DNA. Watch toddlers move around, they constantly move into the squat position. Make sure you incorporate regular squats into your day to keep those legs strong."

2) Push Up
"This basic move can be endlessly progressed. Start from where you are now. Maybe starting from your knees on the sand, then move to full push ups. Maybe if you're here for long enough you'll progress to one arm push ups!"

3) Pull Up
"Find a tree, pull yourself up. Can't do that? Start with hanging, move to negative pull ups and then work into full pull ups".

There are plenty of trees to hang from on our island so no excuse not to get those pull ups in!

4) Sand Sprints
Simple, basic but effective. There's something primal about sprinting on sand. We also get the benefit of a great view of the ocean in between sprint repeats as we catch our breath.

5) Hanging from a Bar (Tree)
"Hang on for as long as you can and build up the time you can hang gradually."

2016-08-26-1472204168-3669179-2.TREE.JPG

Hanging has its own benefits (increased grip strength, decompressing the spine, muscular synergy) so should be included as well as the pull ups. Hangs also feel pretty good to finish off a workout.

"Using full body tension on each of these exercises will ensure we hit every single part of our body," explains Kavadlo.

No Excuses
There you have it. A workout routine that will serve us well on our desert island for as long as we need to be there. It's also non-island proof for when we return to civilization.

Simple but effective. Time efficient but hitting our whole body hard so we are strong and healthy enough to go collect the firewood for night time while listening to the lapping waves coming in. Island life doesn't sound all bad.


Where to find out more about Danny Kavadlo:

Danny Kavadlo is a New York City based trainer, writer, presenter and bodyweight training specialist. He works with people around the world to improve their strength, health and vitality. He can be reached at his blog. His latest book, Street Workout (co-authored with his brother Al) is available here.

Carl is a writer. He writes short books full of big ideas. He is also the proud owner of Frictionless Living which is focused on helping readers find and live their own version of a simpler, good life.