By Lyle Oliver
Even as the world continues to reopen, there are times when a home workout will be your best exercise option.
Unless you’ve spent thousands investing in a home gym, chances are that your home workout is going to look very different than it would in a commercial gym, with its multitude of machines, cables, dumbbells and other equipment to choose from. That said, working out at home means there are no people to distract you, you can play the music you want to hear or even watch a movie while you work out.
Here are three plans you can follow—but first, a review of the basics.
Working Out at Home
There are usually three types of resistance training that people do within the home: bodyweight, free weights and machines.
Bodyweight training is where you use the resistance provided by your own body weight. Common examples of bodyweight exercises are push-ups, dips, pull-ups and chin-ups.
The benefit of these movements is that there is no cost involved, and you can use variations of exercises to make them more challenging, based on your experience level and ability. You also are more likely to use the secondary stabilizer muscles—those that keep a certain body part stable during a particular motion—that may go unused during a machine workout.
A free weight is any exercise where the resistance is created by a freely moving object. It could mean a barbell, dumbbell, medicine ball or any other free-standing object. Some examples of exercises you could do with free weights include deadlifts, presses, rows or curls.
Like bodyweight exercises, free weights require you to stabilize the entire movement, which means relying on the stabilizer muscles. While there is a cost involved in equipping your home gym with free weights, a barbell or dumbbells, plates and a bench, such equipment generally provides plenty of options for designing a great workout.
Using a machine to exercise is when you are performing the movement on a fixed path. The weight is usually stabilized by the machine, so you don’t use the stabilizer muscles the way you do with bodyweight exercises and free weights. Some examples of machine exercises include leg extension, leg press and any other type of press or row performed on a machine.
A machine is generally the most expensive option if you’re considering adding one to your home. While these movements can be easier to learn than how to correctly perform movements with free weights, it can sometimes create an unnatural movement path that may be uncomfortable.
Regardless of which option you choose, the most important part is to focus on using correct form each time to avoid injury and not sacrificing your form in the interest of getting one more rep.
Sample Home Workouts
Ready to give a home workout a try? Consider trying out one of these sample home workouts.
This is a circuit exercise where you’ll go through the sequence of exercises repeatedly for the duration of the time you want to work out. If you’re just starting, you may want to only do this for 10 or 15 minutes. If you’re more advanced, you could extend the duration of the circuit for 20 or 30 minutes.
1. Air squats (Exercises legs, glutes and calves)
1. Push-ups (Exercises chest, triceps, shoulders and core)
1. Walking lunges (Exercises legs, glutes and calves)
Reps: 10 per leg
1. Dumbbell rows (Exercises lats and back; use a gallon container of milk if you don’t have a dumbbell)
Reps: 10 per arm
1. Plank (Exercises core and abs)
Time: 15–30 seconds depending on abilities
1. Jumping jacks (Exercises the core, calves and shoulders)
Time: 30 seconds
1. Push-ups (Exercises chest, triceps, shoulders and core)
1. Bodyweight squats with three-second pause at the bottom (Exercises legs, glutes and calves)
1. Dips (Exercises chest, shoulders and arms)
1. Single-leg calf raises (Exercises calves)
Reps: 10 per leg
1. Floor crunches (Exercises abs and core)
1. Burpees (Exercises the core, hamstrings, quads, calves, triceps and shoulders)
Time: 15 reps
Do five rounds of part A and three rounds of part B.
Push-ups (Exercises chest, triceps, shoulders and core)
Bodyweight squats (Exercises legs, glutes and calves)
Sit-ups (Exercises core and abs)
Rest 30 seconds before going onto the next round.
Superman back extension (Exercises back)
Two-count flutter kick (Exercises core, abs and hip flexors)
If you find that certain muscle groups are struggling to catch up, there are some things you can do to improve your strength in that area.
One great strategy is to focus on the eccentric part of the movement, the lowering part. For example, the eccentric part of a push-up is where you lower yourself to the ground. By increasing the time you’re in the eccentric movement, you can see faster muscle gains and actually lower your risk of injury. If there’s a muscle group you want to focus on improving, look for ways to add a tempo count to the eccentric part of any movement.
To support weight loss, add a cardio element to your workouts as well. If you don’t feel like going for a run, there are plenty of cardio workouts you can do from the comfort of your own living room. You can even make it a circuit workout to ensure you don’t get bored. Here are some moves you could try:
- High knees
- Lateral shuffles
- Speed skaters
- Jumping jacks
- Squat jumps
- Lunge jumps
- Box jumps onto a stable chair
- Mountain climbers
- Inchworm crawls
To get the most out of any workout, aim for moving for at least 30 minutes most days of the week.
Diet and Nutrition
You hear it all the time: abs are made in the kitchen, not the gym. It’s true, though.
Diet and nutrition are essential for maintaining a strong, healthy body and building muscle, whether you work out in a commercial gym or at home. It’s important to balance the three macronutrients — protein, carbs, and fat — for optimum performance, health and wellness, and recovery. Sleep is also a critical component for recovery.
Carbs sometimes get a bad rep, but the reality is that they’re the body’s preferred source of fuel. Your brain, muscles and cells all rely on carbs to function.
However, not all carbs are created equal. Simple carbs are those that are made of one or two sugar units. These cause your blood sugar to rapidly spike and then drop. It’s the crash you experience after you’ve consumed something sugary like candy or a cookie.
Complex carbs have an easier impact on the body’s blood glucose levels. Some examples of complex carbs are whole grains, rice, starchy vegetables and pasta.
Protein is essential for the brain, nervous system, blood, skin and hair. It also helps the body repair itself after you exercise. Resistance training can create microscopic tears in the muscles. When you consume protein, your body uses the amino acid from the protein to repair your muscles and help them grow stronger and bigger.
Fat is another one that’s gotten a bad rep over the years. However, more people are coming to understand that it’s not fat that’s the problem, but the type of fat you consume.
Fat provides more energy than carbs or protein, so it needs to be consumed in moderation to maintain a healthy weight. It’s also important to consume healthy fats, which are unsaturated fats.
Saturated fats come from meat and dairy sources and include butter, cheese and full-fat dairy products. These are best consumed in moderation. Unsaturated fats include plant-based oils, nuts, seeds, fatty seafood and avocado.
And that’s it! Working out from home doesn’t have to be overly complicated. You don’t need fancy equipment or even experience. All you need is yourself and the willpower to get started. You can start working out at home at any time, and then maximize your results by eating a well-balanced diet that combines all of the three essential macronutrients.