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How to Exercise at Home

For those looking to increase muscle mass and/or tone, attaining a harder, more sculpted physique and greater overall strength, it is important to exercise both upper-body and lower body muscle groups. While access to a full range of exercise equipment is the ideal method for strength training, it is possible to increase muscular strength and definition with no/almost no equipment.

The following is a breakdown of the various upper body muscle groups and several workouts that will improve the strength and definition of each, with and without simple and inexpensive workout equipment such as dumbbells and barbells:

Neck

The two main muscles that comprise your neck are the upper Trapezius and the Levator Scapulae. An effective way to exercise your neck with minimal risk of injury is the isometric neck exercise.

Isometric Neck Exercise:

Primary Muscle Worked: Trapezius
Secondary Muscles: Levator Scapulae

1) Stand or sit straight up in a neutral position.
2) Place your left hand on the left side of your head, with your palm covering your temple and your fingers above your ear.
3) Steadily apply pressure to the side of your head with your arm while resisting any movement of your head, using your neck muscles.
4) Hold this position long enough to feel a healthy burn in your neck muscles, but no longer – you don’t want to strain them.

Repeat with your right side, using the same technique. To work the front of your neck:

1) Place the fingers of both hands on your forehead
2) Attempt to tilt your head down, towards your chest, while resisting the motion with your hands.

To work the rear of the neck:

1) Place both hands on the back of your head and clasp your fingers.
2) Attempt to tilt the head back while resisting the motion with your hands.

Isometric Neck Crunches:

Primary Muscle Worked: Trapezius
Secondary Muscles: Levator Scapulae

This exercise is similar to the Isometric Neck Exercise in terms of hand placement and form. However, rather than simply applying constant pressure to the head with your hands and resisting it with your neck, you will perform repeated movements against the resistance applied by the hand.

1) Start in a neutral position (as in the previous exercise).
2) Then, slowly tilt your head in the appropriate direction, while resisting (but not preventing completely) the motion with your hands. For the sides of your neck, slowly tilt your head to the side as though trying to touch your ear to your shoulder.
3) Pause for two seconds, and then slowly return to the neutral position.

Your neck muscles should be contracted and resisting pressure from your hand constantly. Employ the same motion for the front and back of the neck; for the front of the neck, attempt to touch your chin to your chest. For the back, attempt to look straight up at the ceiling.

Perform enough reps to feel a strong but healthy burn in each quadrant of the neck.

Shoulders

Your shoulders consist of your anterior, lateral, and posterior deltoids.

With Dumbbells:

Shoulder Press:

Primary Muscle Worked: Lateral Deltoid
Secondary Muscles: Anterior Deltoid, Trapezius (lower and middle)

The shoulder press is a great beginner to expert exercise, and may be performed with or without a spotter.

1) Seated vertically, hold dumbbells out from your sides at a 90 degree angle.
2) Next, push dumbbells up into the air until your arms are pointed straight above your head and your elbows are nearly locked.
3) Return slowly to start position in a controlled manner.
4) Perform as many reps as you want.

Dumbbell Lateral Raise (Dumbbell Fly):

Primary Muscle Worked: Anterior Deltoid

Secondary Muscles: Lateral Deltoid,

1) Stand with your back straight, slightly bent at the hips. Your knees should be slightly bent. Let your arms hang at your sides with your elbows slightly bent.

2) Slowly raise the dumbbells out to your sides, keeping your arms locked, until your elbows are level with your shoulders.

3) Slowly return to the start position.

4) Perform as many reps as you want.

Without Weights:

While it is easier to work the shoulders with weights, it is possible to exercise the deltoids without equipment:

Vertical Pushups:

Primary Muscle Worked: Anterior Deltoid

Secondary Muscles: Lateral Deltoid

While not all of us may possess the balance required for a handstand, it is still more difficult to remain upright while performing vertical pushups. To overcome this obstacle, you can use a wall as a stabilizer. (Note: you may want to take off your shoes).

1) With your back to the wall, place your hands on the floor, approximately shoulder width apart, about two and half feet from the wall.
2) Next, attain a handstand position, by walking your feet up the wall backwards if necessary. You should now be in a handstand position with your toes touching the wall to maintain balance.
3) Slowly lower yourself in a controlled manner until your head is roughly 6 inches from the floor.
4) Push yourself back up to the starting position.

To avoid injury, it may be a good idea to limit repetitions to a point at which you aren’t too fatigued to control your descent.

Back

Your upper back is composed of several major muscles: the Trapezius (traps), Deltoids (delts), Rhomboids, and the Latissimus Dorsi (lats). The trapezius are the large muscles that run from the base of your skull down the center of your back, and also directly behind your collarbone. The lats are the large muscles running from below your shoulder blade to your pelvis. These muscles are the largest, most noticeable ones in your back, so exercising them is an effective way to improve your overall physique. The following are some exercises to work the back, and secondarily, your biceps:

Without Weights:

Pullup Variations

This tried and true exercise is a simple yet highly effective way to strengthen your lats, primarily, but will also work some secondary muscles – the Rhomboids, Levator Scapulae (of the neck), the posterior Deltoids, middle Trapezius, and the sternal and minor Pectoral muscles of the chest.

There are a number of variations of the pullup that target the affected muscles to different degrees:

Traditional Pullup:

Primary Muscle Worked: Latissimus Dorsi
Secondary Muscles: Deltoid (Posterior)
Rhomboids
Levator Scapulae
Trapezius (lower, middle)
Pectoralis Major (sternal)
Pectoralis Minor
Biceps
Triceps

Stand facing the bar, and grip it with your hands at roughly shoulder width apart, facing away from you (overhand grip). Pull yourself up until your chest is nearly touching the bar and your chin is above it. Slowly and smoothly return to the starting position. Focus on working your lats, rather than relying solely on your biceps, by initiating the pull by contracting your shoulder blades. Try to avoid arching your back or swinging to gain momentum; hang straight up and down for best effect.

Wide Grip Pullup:

This variation on the pullup focuses more intensely on your lats, reducing assistance from your biceps. It is done with much the same technique as the Traditional Pullup, the only difference being the distance between your hands. Grip the bar (overhand grip) with your hands roughly twice your shoulder width apart. To focus on activating your back muscles, concentrate on pulling your elbows to your sides as you pull up, bringing your sternum almost to the bar and your chin just above it. Again, try to avoid swinging for momentum, and hang straight up and down.

Close Grip Pullup:

Grip the bar 6-8 inches apart. Focus on contracting your lats in order to pull yourself up until your chest nearly touches the bar, and your chin is just above it.

Inverted Grip Pullups:

Most of the above pullup variants can be performed with an inverted grip, meaning with your wrists and palms facing you. Utilize the same pullup techniques as listed above. Employing an inverted grip will emphasize your Biceps, as well as your lats and other back muscles. Note: Attempting Wide Grip Pullups with an inverted grip may place excessive strain on the wrists.

These are only some of the simple yet effective exercises available that will enable you to improve your physique while avoiding the cost of a gym memebership. Dedication and adherence to a workout regimen incorporating these exercises is sure to yield positive and noticeable results within days to weeks.