| | No Barbell? No Problem! How To Lift Weights from Home

Author / John

4 - 7 minute read

Hi guys,

I have been a fan of Johnnie WOD for along time now…but with gyms closing and me not having my own equipment…I am wondering if you all could recommend a good training program that I can do from home with just a kettlebell and not much else.  Hope you are well and thank you for any recs you might have.


UPDATE: On June 6th, 2020, The Free version of Third Monkey program was discontinued. To learn more about what Third Monkey has to offer, click here.


As if life didn’t throw enough barriers and constraints to your training regime before COVID-19. Now you have too much time, and that over-crowded gym is closed down for everyone holding all the heavy weights hostage. The days of wandering the rows of random equipment, jumping on the first open one you see, or camping out for the squat/curl rack, have been traded in for no equipment and even less of an idea of what to do for your workout. Even the parks are getting closed?! So now what?

Good news: it’s not the tools, but the STRESS that drives response from your workouts. When you train, the body doesn’t know the difference between your kettlebell the barbell, or any equipment your now-closed gym had. Your body only responds to the stress!

Burdening joints and tissues with weight is an epic way to create this  stress and drive a positive training response. Smart and buff meatheads figured this out a long time ago, hence the birth of all the sweet training equipment we have today.

Now we find ourselves in the absence of said equipment that we, up until this point, have taken for granted, so we need to return to our roots and remember one key truth: it’s not actually the equipment we are fighting against, but the forces they impose upon the body, and training is just how we position our body (set up) to take them on. 

We know that you can’t just lift the same weights for the same sets every day. The stresses you place on the body need to vary to allow your muscles to be tested at high, medium, and low rep ranges. Conventional equipment was an easy method of loading up; toss on some plates, get your mind right with Nickelback, and then go for it. In the absence of barbells and other traditional weight implements, one program emerges to rule them all: Third Monkey, our free online training program.

Third Monkey Movement

No, this is not some form of rebellion or uprising (yet). Movements in Third Monkey are intentionally selected for how we position and set up your upper and lower body to take on external loads and forces. The effectiveness of our movement selection comes from targeting the most common limitations we see in athletes, particularly in the feet and trunk.

Weightlifting shoes, weight belts, and other contraptions you’ve strapped yourself up with are examples of workarounds and shortcuts to get to loads you have not been working hard enough to obtain. Here’s the deal…

You are NOT your gym routine.

You are NOT how much weight you have on the barbell.

You are NOT the shoes you lift in.

You ARE the odd-object lifting Power Athletes of the world.

Stripping you of your shortcuts and barbell ego provides us the opportunity to load up your limitations and get an effective training stimulus without standard equipment or bodyweight only fitness. The key is movement selection. An example of a loaded movement targeting limitations is our Front Carry Split Squat w/ Active Foot. Not only are you stabilized with  an active foot on the front leg, but you’re also primed on your cinder blocks with the back leg, before finally being tasked with lowering down and stabilizing through your full range of motion. Weakness in the feet, inability to balance between quad and hamstring, bound-up back hip, and taxed trunk toppling over are all examples where we’ve seen athletes fail in executing this seemingly simple movement. 

Bodyweight training looks good on you when you look in the mirror, but doesn’t provide enough stress to attack performance limitations. Loading up with cinder blocks, or 60-120 lbs of concrete, while fighting for balance and alignment will turn limitations into strengths, – directly carrying over to the barbell when access is permitted.

Each training session on Third Monkey calls on 10-30 movements selected and arranged to target your limiting factors, to maximize progress with a minimal effective dose (plus cinder block pump sessions to close out each day just because).

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Third Monkey Forces

This program loads you up everyday. However, do not expect loads to mimic your perfectly balanced barbell rotating around as you catch Oly lifts, or the same CNS drain following a 400lb bar bending RM. Instead, think about how “different” or “awkward” the movements with these novel external loads feel. 

Like a penguin in the desert, this awkwardness is expected; we’re taking odd objects, using them to apply forces in weird and new positions, then asking you to move. The cinder block is an amazing tool for exhausting the grip because, well, there’s no easy way to grip it one handed. Hugging buckets half the weight of your sig-o puts you in a position to lose the perfect posture asked of you for squats and deadlifts. The loss is posture is our intention! Call upon your full-body to finish out a complete set, let alone a full training session. You will be asked to load up and move with intention. Afterall, this program’s training goal is to fight every day like you are the third monkey in line hoping to board Noah’s Ark…and it’s starting to rain.

Third Monkey also trains multiple planes of motion each day, often testing you with movements that combine planes of motion such as the Cinder Block Lunge w/ Twist.

Multi-planar movements are fantastic tools to maximize effectiveness of training with minimal load all while developing athleticism. There is A LOT of freedom of movement with a cinder block and a bucket, so expect some fun combinations of movements to keep you progressing your training throughout your full gym hiatus.

Empower Your Performance: Challenge Your Limits

View the limitation in equipment for training as the mental challenge you check off each day.

Ten push ups and a social post challenge will not equal the sweat equity you’ve invested under the bar. Bodyweight training doesn’t pull its weight and will never match the feeling you get from grinding out the last rep under load. 

It’s time we reintroduce stress at home (No, not the quarantine with your family). The stress of load and forces specifically arranged to build muscle, not merely maintain.

Learn how to build out your $50 gym with our equipment list linked in Related Articles below.

Ready, ready, it’s starting to rain, Geoff.

Related Articles

PODCAST: Power Athlete Radio 353 w/ Mike Caro – NCAA Cancels Spring Sports
BLOG: Third Monkey – At Home Programming by Luke Summers
BLOG: Power Coach: Process by Tex McQuilkin
SIPPING BREW: Episode 7 – Training w/ Injury by Power Athlete Crew

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John Welbourn is CEO of Power Athlete and Fuse Move. He is also creator of the online training phenomena, Johnnie WOD. He is a 9 year veteran of the NFL. John was drafted with the 97th pick in 1999 NFL Draft and went on to be a starter for the Philadelphia Eagles from 1999-2003, appearing in 3 NFC Championship games, and for starter for the Kansas City Chiefs from 2004-2007. In 2008, he played with the New England Patriots until an injury ended his season early with him retiring in 2009. Over the course of his career, John has started over 100 games and has 10 play-off appearances. He was a four year lettermen while playing football at the University of California at Berkeley. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in Rhetoric in 1998. John has worked with the MLB, NFL, NHL, Olympic athletes and Military. He travels the world lecturing on performance and nutrition for Power Athlete. You can catch up with John as his personal blog on training, food and life, Talk To Me Johnnie and at Power Athlete.


  1. COVID CHECKLIST Week 3 | on April 2, 2020 at 3:59 pm

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