When I was a sophomore or junior in high school some times I would come home from school and work out all afternoon at home. This was before I learned the overload principle, which is the idea that to build muscle, you have to work a muscle out beyond it’s normal operating capacity. The other part of this principle is that is doesn’t really benefit the muscle to go way beyond this point, since this is the point at which strength is built.
Since I liked to read, I figured out work outs that I could do while reading. I would do wall sits where I sat with my thighs at 90 degrees on an imaginary chair with my back straight against a wall. I’d relax for the first and last paragraphs on each page and then work for the other parts of the page.
Another workout I did while reading was leg lifts. This is a drill I learned in wrestling practice. I’d lay on my back on the floor and then lift my legs six inches off the ground, straight, and hold them there. I think I alternated pages for this one. I have a line in one of my poems about this, “The night I did leg lifts for three hours – before I learned to be smart about my work outs.”
I’d also do pushups, then read between the sets. One night I came home and decided to see if I could do 1000 pushups. Now I know that people in the Guiness Book of World Records can do pushups for hours on end, but I never really got beyond being able to do about 80 in a set. I would usually do three sets of as many as possible and call that a work out. This night I just decided to keep on doing sets until I got to 1000. I had to keep track on a piece of paper.
I did a set about every fifteen minutes all afternoon and through the evening. I got fewer and fewer done with each set, but I just kept doing more sets until I got all 1000 pushups done. I was pretty sore the next day but not really a whole lot more sore than when I had just done three or five sets of pushups.
I was pretty consistent about using pushups and situps as a strength program most of the time I trained in Judo. I might have been one of the few Judo Olympians that didn’t really lift weights regularly. I felt like the calisthenics did a better job of strength building for me. Also I cut weight so hard already that I was afraid to gain weight from lifting. But I never once in my career came out of a match thinking that someone was stronger than me unless they were in a bigger weight division.