I love working out at the gym (except when it’s totally packed). But you don’t have to go to the gym to have a great workout. You may not like the gym. It might not be cost effective for you. Whatever your reasons for not training at the gym, here’s how you can build strength and totally transform your body at home.
The key to improving your physique is adding muscle and subtracting body fat. Eating the right amount of food to support this goal is the driver of fat loss. Resistance training will help you pack on muscle. In the gym that resistance is usually the barbells, dumbbells and various implements. If you have that equipment in your home, That works, too.
If you don’t have that stuff, don’t worry, you can build a great body using just your bodyweight for resistance. You can adjust exercises so you’re sufficiently challenged. You have to keep pushing yourself in order to keep seeing results.
I like to structure bodyweight training for my clients to hit the total body 2-3 times a week. After a quick warm up to get them ready to go, they do 1-2 lower body exercises, 1-2 upper body exercises, and finish with 1-2 ab exercises. You don’t have to spend hours at a time in order to make progress.
Lower Body Exercises
Air Squats These work all the muscles in your lower body. Stand with your feet about shoulder width apart. You can go a little wider or narrow until you find a groove that’s most comfortable. Breathe in. Lower your hips until your thighs are parallel to the ground. Push through your heels to drive yourself back up. Exhale. You can fold your arms across like in the video. You can also have them at your sides as you start and descend, then raise them as you come back up. If you want a less advanced version of the squat, try Box Squats (you can use a chair). If you want to step up the challenge, try Split squats.
You can’t go wrong including some sort of lunges in your training. Like split squats, you train each leg independently. You build strength and balance simultaneously. To do Reverse Lunges (you can do them without using weights) start with your feet about shoulder width apart. It’s basically a squat but working one leg at a time. Keep most of your weight on the leg you’re working. The other leg will slide back as your working leg bends. The thigh of your working leg should reach about parallel to the floor before you push through that heel to drive yourself back to the starting position. The knee of the back leg should come close to just touching the floor. You can alternate legs on each repetition or you can do all the reps for one leg, then all the reps for the other. Again, breathe in just before your go down, breathe out as you come up.
Lunges are a variation where you step forward with your working leg, rather than just descending. This lead leg will support most of your weight. Breathe in on the way down, out on the way up. Another option for you are Lateral Lunges which work your legs a little differently. There’s more emphasis on the inner thigh muscles than in other types of lunges. You step to the side and bend the knee of the working leg while trying to keep the lagging leg mostly straight. You may need to point your toes out a little bit. Breathe in on the descent, out on the ascent.
Want a nice backside? Include Glute Bridges and you’ll definitely notice a change for the better. You can scale these to make them easier or more difficult. Using both legs is easier than the single-leg versions. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your heels on the ground. Push through your heels to drive your hips towards the ceiling. Keep your your core nice and tight (as if you were bracing for a punch to the stomach). Squeeze your cheeks hard at the top of the movement for a second or two and lower your hips back down. Breathe in on the way down, out on the way up. As you develop your strength you can scale up to the more advanced versions.
An awesome way to train your balance and hamstrings is doing Single-leg Romanian Deadlifts. I warn you, these are definitely not easy. You can use a wall for balance until you get the hang of it. The key to this exercise is to think of it as shifting your hips back, not as you bending at the waist. If you’re just starting out you can try sliding your off leg back rather than raising it in the air. You’ll feel a good stretch in the hamstrings of your working leg.
Upper Body Exercises
Push Ups work all your upper body muscles involved in pushing (arms, shoulders, and chest). If you can do them regular, cool. If not, you can work on the bent-knee version. Keep your core tight the whole time. Your hands should be slightly wider than shoulder width apart. Lower yourself by bending your elbows, push yourself back up. Try to keep your back in a straight line the whole time. Breathe in on the way down, out as you drive back up. You don’t need to keep your elbows tucked tightly against your sides, but you don’t want them totally flared out wide like you’re doing a chicken dance either. Find a comfortable elbow position somewhere in between. You can make them harder by doing them with your feet elevated. You can also adjust the width of your hand placement.
It’s tough to work on upper body pulling exercises without a pull-up bar. You can find a pretty inexpensive version that wedges in a door frame. Pull-ups and Chin-ups are a tremendous way to build a strong back and powerful arms. Grab the bar and use your back muscles to raise your body towards the bar. Visualizing yourself pulling with your elbows rather than with your hands helps ensure you’re targeting your back. If you can’t do a pull-up/chin-up yet, that’s okay. Jump up to the bar so you’re at the top position of a pull-up. Then lower yourself down by extending your arms as slowly as you can. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions. Training the lowering part of the exercise will build the strength you’ll need to do the pulling part over time.
To do crunches start by lying on your back. You can have your knees bent and your heels on the floor or you you can bend your knees and keep your feet elevated, it’s up to you. You can have your hands behind your head or crossed in front of you (again, your choice). You want to flex with your abs to raise your upper body, not use your hands to pull your neck.
Bicycle Crunches work your abs as well as the obliques, which run along your sides. Similar starting position as crunches. You raise your upper body and twist at the top. Instead of trying to bring your right elbow to your left knee, think about bringing your right shoulder towards it. This will help prevent you from pulling on your neck with your hands.
Planks You get into a push up position, only you rest on your forearms. Keep your upper arm perpendicular to the ground. You want to try to keep your body in a straight line (no shooting your butt in the air or letting your hips sag down). It’s a core exercise, but you should think of basically your whole body flexing. These are really challenging and they develop amazing core strength. Rather than do these for repetitions, do them for time. Hold yourself in the plank position as long as you can, with good form. When your form starts to go, you’re done. You’ll build up over time.
Side Planks This time you rest on one forearm. Keep your upper arm perpendicular to the ground. Make sure you keep your body in a straight line. Again, flex your entire body. Do this for time also.
These obviously aren’t all the exercises you can do for a home workout, but they’re more than enough to get you started on the road to an impressive body.
You can start with 1-3 sets of each exercise. When it comes to repetitions, start with a few and build your way up. If you’ve never trained before even 5 reps can be a challenge. If you’re consistent you will quickly improve the number of reps you can do. Remember you want to use good form for each repetition. The point isn’t to do x-number of repetitions, it’s to get stronger. Poor quality reps don’t get you stronger.
You can train bodyweight pretty frequently if you want to. I suggest starting with 2-3 times per week. If you’re untrained it won’t take much to start seeing improvements. As you gain strength and familiarity, you can increase the number of workouts per week if you want.