Get A Carved Body With This 15-Minute No-Equipment Workout Craze From 1904

Who needs a Craigslist gym or any kind of gym at all? They certainly didn’t have the list of Craig back in 1904 when Danish fitness master J.P. Müller invented his 15-minute workout called “My System.” It requires no equipment at all, took Europe by storm, and is still effective to this day, reports Slate.

His system is all about activating your “core” muscles, deep muscles that lie close to the spine. Through trunk circles, arm and leg swings crunches and more, Müller created an easy and low-impact workout that gets results and can be done anywhere, for free.

You can download the whole book as a free PDF from The exercises begin on page 64.

Here’s a Slate video of a totally ripped physician in his 60’s demonstrating the exercises, which he has done his whole adult life:

Kafka’s Calisthenics [Slate]


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  1. hotdogsunrise says:

    You don’t need this article from Slate (where it originated) for a great free workout. There are so many moves that will provide fitness gains without needing any equipment: planks, squats, wall squats, lunges, push-ups, a variety of core exercises. With one piece of equipment, you can get even more variety. For instance, if you buy a resistance band, you can use that for almost every exercise. It’s amazing how you can modify using little or no equipment and get a great workout.

    • LadyTL says:

      Alot of those exercises though aren’t really low impact while his mostly are.

      • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

        And low impact is what a lot of overweight individuals need, since the fat adds strain to their legs.

      • hotdogsunrise says:

        I don’t know if we would use the term “low impact” the same way. Impact refers to the stress one puts on their joints. For example, running in place is high impact, while marching in place is low impact.

        Further, if a push-up is too much, there are so many ways to modify. Table top position, on your knees, moving up to on your toe. A squat can be as difficult as you need by lowering your body down to the position that works for you. That’s what’s great about a lot of these moves. You can tailor them to your own needs.

    • Clyde Barrow says:

      Resistance bands are awesome. Even the lead instructor on my P90X for the core workout DVD stated the same thing. Of the four folks on the video, only one guy was using resistance bands and they work great.

      • hotdogsunrise says:

        Ahh, Tony Horton. How I love and hate you at the same time. Sometimes it’s better to do those workouts on cues only, ya know?

        But yes, exactly. Resistance bands can be used of almost every strength exercise. And they’re pretty cheap and easy to store/transport.

    • Me - now with more humidity says:

      And some people do. I hate resistance bands, but do like bodyweight workout.

  2. Hungry Dog says:

    OK, whats the catch? Do I need to buy a healthfood processor or a dumbell that wiggles in my face. Who do I throw my money at and how can I leave this unused in a corner of my house, to occasionally look at and say “I’ll start tomorrow.”

  3. obits3 says:

    Hmm… I don’t usually say anything, but this seems a little close to taking Slate’s story, considering that the guy in the video is the State author’s Dad….

  4. Bunnies Attack! says:

    I dunno if I’d call it “ripped” per se… it looks like he could really use a sandwich.

  5. LadyTL says:

    I’ve actually started doing this and it is a surprisingly good workout.

  6. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    Will this make fat people thin, or just keep thin people thin?

    • Ed says:

      No amount of exercise will make fat people thin. You have to modify your diet. Getting rid of soft drinks, processed and enriched white flour, junk food, fast food, fruit drinks, too much diary, too much red meat, etc.

      That *and* exercise will work wonders. I lost 60lbs in 6 months that way (not with this exercise routine, but I am downloading it to try it out as I *HATE* the bowflex machine. I have to put a gun to my own head to get me to use that thing.

      • JulesNoctambule says:

        I know quite a few people who eat all the foods you mentioned and yet they’re very thin. I also know quite a few people who eat nothing but the ‘right’ foods and work out a lot, yet are considered overweight — one is even an accomplished trapeze artist. Funny how that works!

        • Kibit says:

          Its amazing how that works. Its also quite frustrating.

          I try to remember that we are all different and what works for some may not work for others.

          • Ed says:

            No, we are not all different. Ignoring people that do have a physical issue that causes their body to not work normally, Cushing’s Syndrome for example, or being on a medication that has a side effect that prevents the body from performing normal functions, we are remarkably similar.

            You should check out the book “Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It” that was just released a month or so ago. It goes into a lot of detail about this.

        • AstroPig7 says:

          That’s very true. I’m thin and healthy, and I eat Chipotle and Potbelly once a week, Red Robin a couple of times every month, plenty of grape juice and milk, a weekly frappuccino, etc. However, I also keep these foods in moderation, I eat plenty of healthy foods on the side, I drink mostly water (with a few cans of soda every week), and I exercise regularly. I know plenty of people are stricter about their diet, yet can’t shed weight to save their lives.

        • MB17 says:

          “I also know quite a few people who eat nothing but the ‘right’ foods and work out a lot yet are considered overweight “

          Pssssst… they don’t do everything they claim.

          • ShariC says:

            That isn’t true, and it’s that sort of attitude (which is a projection of your prejudice rather than a reflection of reality). It’s about calories, not nutritional density of the food. You can eat oatmeal, lean protein, whole grains, fruit and vegetables and easily (EASILY) still overeat. The whole idea that obesity only springs from incredibly bad habits helps keep people fat. The stereotypes impeded education about the real roots of the problem – too many calories from any type of food increases energy storage. You can be thin and lazy and eat junk food. You can be fat and eat healthy food and exercise.

            Statements like yours do a disservice to everyone in that they are prejudicial, accuse people unfairly (you don’t even know the other commenter’s acquaintances) of lying, and in no way educate. Your only interest is in labeling.

          • SolidSquid says:

            Few possibilities:
            The two groups are eating the right amount to sustain their weights, but not to gain or lose
            The thinner group is eating those things, but not in the same quantities
            Overweight group is losing weight, just slowly enough that they haven’t noticed
            Overweight group isn’t maintaining their reduced diet long term (eg, doing it for a month then giving up)

            Not saying any of this to be critical of them (I could do with losing a bit of weight myself), but it’s easy to fall into these traps and end up not managing to lose weight

      • duncanblackthorne says:

        The real problem is that 99% of everyone is not willing to do what you’re suggesting, and worse: they don’t want to know what they’re eating, how much, what’s in it, or how bad it is for them, they just want things that taste good; they also don’t want to do anything remotely unpleasant (like exercise). The exception are people who have an actual long-term motivation to do these things, and most people don’t. To make matters worse, we live in a world where the desire for instant gratification is the norm, so if you can’t lose 50 pounds and have six-pack abs in a month or so, people give up claiming it’s impossible; trying to convince most people to take the next year or so watching what they eat and exercising consistently, is essentially impossible. The real first step towards the norm being true health and fitness is not healthy diet and regular exercise, it’s a paradigm shift away from instant gratification and indulgence and towards a mindset of health and fitness being the normal lifestyle; you can’t treat this as something temporary and expect everything to be fine.

  7. A.Mercer says:

    Man, by that last illustration in the figure, he is doing one hell of a break dancing routine.

  8. Moosehawk says:

    The 2nd and 4th pictures look like a break dancing instructions.

    • redskull says:

      That’s exactly what I thought when I first saw the thumbnail. Then I saw it said “1904,” not “1984.”

  9. Kibit says:

    I’m always looking for new low impact ideas. I have a foot injury and walking and running are out of the equation for now.

    I will definitely check out the Slate article.

  10. denros says:

    And here’s a dude that’s *actually* ripped, going into his 50s.

    I know which workouts I go with. Just sayin…

    • Oranges w/ Cheese says:

      I’m sorry but that guy looks disgusting.

    • hotdogsunrise says:

      I know it is possible, but I have a hard time believing that guy has not done steroids to get bulked up like that. His pecs are bigger than my boobs!

      • denros says:

        If you look on that site, he actually addresses that comment (apparently he gets it a lot) quite humorously – i think some gnomes may have been involved.

        in any case, the short answer is that by following strict form and not using overly heavy weights you avoid injury, and by eating a clean diet and being consistent you gain muscle without gaining fat. Keep in mind, he’s been lifting consistently for the past 30-40 years- you can SLOWLY and healthily gain that much muscle without steroids. roids are a shortcut I can live without, personally.

      • obits3 says:

        He’s not on steroids, he’s just been working out for MANY years. You can only add a small amount of muscle every day, but if you do it for 26 years, then you will be reasonably ripped. Check out his growth over time:

        If this was over a year or so, I would say steroids, but over 26 years, it seems reasonable.

    • Clyde Barrow says:

      Cool site. See that guy who is 61 yrs old named Colin from Limoges, France? He’s fricking ripped!

    • Moosehawk says:

      That’s weird, I actually just bought my own dumbbell set and started working out 2 weeks ago by following this guy’s workouts. Seems pretty legit

  11. El Matarife says:

    I’m sorry, but who in their right mind things this guy is “totally ripped”? He is skinny, that’s it.

    • Ed says:

      No. There is a difference in skinny and this guy. He definitely has muscle tone that the ordinary person does not. Quibble over the term “ripped” if you like, but this guy is definitely in shape.

      • livingthedreamrtw says:

        Ripped for a 60 year old with sagging skin is a different format of what younger people would consider ripped.

    • Clyde Barrow says:

      This guy is what American’s USED to look like 50 yrs ago. Now we’re so used to seeing “fat” people everywhere we go, this guy looks unique.

  12. obits3 says:

    “Here’s a Slate video of totally ripped physician…”

    I don’t think ripped means what you think it means…. LOL

    • The_IT_Crone says:

      Uh… yes that word means exactly what they thought it did. Just because it has other “slang” meanings doesn’t mean it’s incorrect.

  13. Warren - aka The Piddler on the Roof says:

    Also known as the Iggy Pop workout.

  14. acarr260 says:

    Wow, I really didn’t need to see Skeletor there doing the workout.
    Some things cannot be unseen…

  15. theblackdog says:

    Hmmm, I see the book is available for kindle, I wonder if it will work on my kindle for android app.

    • CamilleR says:

      The Kindle version is unreadable gibberish, a problem I’ve had with just about every Kindle book I’ve downloaded from I don’t know why I even try to get Kindle books from them.

  16. ellemdee says:

    Didn’t realize the graphic for the 4th move was a top view and not a side view at first. And I was getting all excited about a new “spin on your head” workout craze.

  17. summeroflove says:

    Forget the guy above, the guys doing the exercises in the book are fantastic! Doing a plank in a speedo and loafers (p. 74)? Awesome!

  18. SalParadise says:

    Be careful with these exercise!

    One of them (EXERCISE No. 4 Slow Trunk-Twisting with Sideways- Bending) wants you to bend your torso and twist. This is absolutely the worst thing you can do to your back. Right up there with crunches (also tied for number one), which also put a tremendous strain on your lower back.

    Bending is fine. Twisting, no problem. But put them together and you are putting way too much stress on your back. To be fair to Müller, he doesn’t recommend bending and twisting until the Third and Forth degrees of this exercise. Do you back a favor, and avoid these completely.

    • MaliBoo Radley says:

      Go figure. Bending while twisting is essential to several yoga poses, all of which are fantastic for both spine and other joints.