With the new year rapidly approaching it is time to come up with your ‘New Year’s Resolution’. In America one of the most common resolutions is to get back in shape/lose x number of pounds by bathing suit season. Year after year the same cycle happens in the gym, the “resolution crew” clogs the workout stations for a few weeks to a month or two and then the regulars are left as the only occupants. From the perspective of the gym regulars it is a good thing to lose the extra crowd after having to deal with the inexperienced gym goers scattered around (usually just taking up space on the equipment people watching rather than working out) and no equipment to use. If you are a member of the resolution crew, you probably signed up for the gym and will end up paying fees that could be better used somewhere else. Instead of getting into something that costs your hard-earned money without using it to its full extent, try testing your commitment to your resolution in another way. Rather than trying to use equipment that could cause long term harm if not done properly, use what you have available to condition your body to succeed when you are sure that you are ready to commit to a fitness center. Using your body weight to burn off unwanted fat is not only cost effective, it is a time tested and approved method of getting in shape. Not only will home exercises save you money, you will not be able to justify not sticking to it due to making the trip to the gym. We have put together a list of exercises that can easily be done in or around your home so sticking to your resolution becomes that much easier mentally and financially. Before you begin your training, you should consult a physician to ensure you are not putting yourself at risk for permanent injury.
This exercise has been used by our nation’s elite military to keep troops fit for years for a reason, it works. When done correctly, the push-up strengthens the majority of your upper body and core. By simply changing the placement of your hands, you can target specific muscle groups and/or lighten the load to allow successful completion of the set. With this exercise you are using the very same fat you want to shed to help you do so, it is one of the few times those extra pounds work in your benefit. If you start with the standard push-up, a good number to go for is 3-4 sets of 10 reps. In other words, 10 push-ups (you start in the up position, once you go down then return to the start position you’ve done 1 push-up) equals 1 set. In between sets you can either take a break for a minute or two or do an exercise that targets another muscle group. A milestone that I used in the military to determine the need to add weight to my work out was my ability to do 3-4 sets of 50 with relative ease. Once I hit that mark, I felt confident that in order to increase strength and endurance, I would need to look to sources of resistance other than my body weight. One of the most important parts of using the push-up to get in shape is proper form. I have seen all types of what people like to call a ‘push-up’ and once they fix their form, the reps they can do always decreases initially, but the speed of progress increases substantially if they keep doing the exercise properly.
While the military has traditionally gone with the sit-up as an ab work out, crunches are much better for those new to exercise. With the traditional sit-up, people tend to try the path of least resistance when they get tired. Instead of using abs and hip-flexors to complete a rep, people tend to try and pull themselves up by the back of their head to get the extra reps in. As might be expected, this can do long term damage to the neck and cause the need for expensive surgery or lead to life long chronic pain. With crunches, it may seem like you need to do more to get the same effect, but for long term well-being, it is worth it. To start, try to do 3-4 sets of 20 reps at a slow to moderate pace. Use your abs to hold yourself up and control your movement back to the start position, speed does less for you than technique.
The Flutter Kick
Another military favorite core strengthener, the flutter kick is an exercise that can be very helpful in achieving your fitness goals. On a personal note, the was the first exercise I was made to do as a form of punishment in the military. It seems like an exercise to kill time, until it doesn’t. You will feel this exercise “suddenly” while doing it, one second it will seem like more of a rest and the next you may start to make some grunts that you did not know you could. This exercise was a favorite of mine in between sets of push-ups since it works out the muscles that you did not know you used to make push-ups easier until they are not as cooperative for set 2 or 3 and up.
Squats are a great exercise for toning up and perfecting form before the gym. Once you add weight to your squat workout at the gym you are putting yourself at risk for lifelong injuries if done improperly. In order to get the proper form down to complete this full body exercise, your body weight alone will suffice. Squats position your body in ways that allow you to rely less on your bones for additional support, so a sloppily done rep with added weight can have disastrous effects. With risk comes reward and the payoff for being able to successfully complete a squat workout injury free is tremendously beneficial. Doing squat workouts properly will quickly show signs of increased strength and endurance in most of your muscle groups.
These few exercises are far from all that is possible to accomplish with at home workouts, but they are enough to get you started in the right direction. Once you feel confident in doing high reps for multiple sets of these workouts, you should be sufficiently prepared to make a long-term commitment like joining a gym or at the very least getting some at home weights to go a little further before coming out of pocket. If you can muster up the discipline it takes to workout regularly in a place that you typically go to relax, you should be able to stick with gym workouts. Even if you end up falling off at the gym and quit going, you have a set of exercises that can do well to keep you at a relatively high level of fitness without leaving the comfort of your own home.