It’s easy to get aerobic exercise at home: You can walk, run, climb stairs, jump rope, do jumping jacks and more.
But what about strength training? This is more of a challenge without a gym membership, however, you can still do basic muscle-building exercises at home even if you have little or no equipment.
The three major strength-building exercises are the squat, the dead lift, and the bench press. Of course, there are infinitely more exercises, but concentrating on these three covers nearly the entire body.
The squat is typically performed by using a barbell placed across the shoulders and “squatting” down as if about to sit in a chair, then coming back up. When performing a squat, it is important to keep your heels on the ground and your back straight. Of course, if you don’t have a barbell this can be a little tough! So here are a few alternatives:
Use anything around the house to add weight. You can use, for example, a box full of books on each shoulder (be sure the boxes are equal in weight) to add weight.
Use your children! Placing a child on your shoulders adds weight and is a great way to spend time with your kids.
Add a jump to your squat. If you can’t add weight, squat low then “explode” upward, launching yourself into the air to add additional impact. Warning: This will add additional strain on your joints.
The dead lift is performed by placing a barbell on the floor in front of you and lifting it by extending your knees and hips while keeping your feet flat on the floor and your back straight. Again, this can be difficult without a barbell, so try these alternatives:
Find things from around the house to lift. A cinder block or a basket filled with rocks will due.
Do it one-legged, with your arms above your head (sounds silly, I know). Using only one leg at a time puts more strain on one side of the body. Putting your arms above your head adds resistance by using gravity and leverage. Doing a deadlift this way will also improve your balance over time.
The bench press is probably the most popular strength-building exercise there is. A typical bench press is performed by laying on a bench and lifting then lowering a barbell above your chest. The obvious alternative to the bench press is the push-up.
Unfortunately, push ups may not provide enough resistance to meet your goals, so let’s look at ways of adding resistance to, and modifying, push-ups:
Have a partner sit on your back. This is another great way for involving your children or spouse in exercise.
Go deeper. Arrange some chairs so that your hands are on the chairs with your body between them. This will allow you to do a deeper push-up and get a better range of motion.
If you can’t find anyone to sit on you, look for household items. In this case, a cinder block or a box full of books isn’t practical. A better alternative is something in a sack (such as sand) that will be easier to balance.
Of course, there are more exercises than these three. For starters, there are many variations on these exercises that can be achieved by changing your grip or the angle at which you perform the exercise. Then, there are completely different exercises all together. Let’s go over some good at-home exercises that focus on building strength:
Sit-ups. Sit-ups can be done practically anywhere.
Roundhouse kicks. Roundhouse kicks are a great ab exercise.
Pull-ups and chin-ups. If you can’t find a place to hang from to perform these exercises, go to a near-by playground and use the monkey bars. Or, if you don’t mind spending a little money, you can install a chin-up bar (found at your local sporting goods store) in a doorway of your house. Add weight by strapping something to your ankles or tying it around your waist.
Plate-drags. If you have a solid (e.g. hardwood, tile, etc.) floor, put something heavy on it and push it around with your feet (for proper technique, Google for “plate drags exercise”).
Lunges. You can add weight to lunges the same way you do for squats.
It is possible, and even fun, to do strength building exercises with little or no equipment. Don’t let the expense of gym membership or home gym equipment prevent you from having the strength and physique you desire.