The majority of the U.S. is overweight. While some don’t care that they’re part of that majority, others do and strive to make a difference. It always seems to be the same every year, too. Everyone’s New Year’s Resolution is to get back in shape. At first their drive is great, but after a few weeks pass, that fiery passion fades. Whether the reason is a hectic life, gym fees, or discouragement from fit gym members, the choice is yours. However, there are a few ways to keep the drive alive as long as THEY want it bad enough.
First off, and I know I’ll raise a few eye brows from some people, you DO NOT need a gym to get into shape. While it may have the equipment and machinery, it isn’t mandatory. Don’t get me wrong, I’m an avid gym member and go every chance I get. I’m not disrespecting anyone who uses the gym as a place to relieve stress or finish the day off with a good sweat. I’m saying you can use different approaches to achieve fitness goals opposed to hitting the gym.
So what can I do at home?
Calisthenics, or body weight exercises, are great for breaking a sweat without equipment. These never fail if you have a busy life with no time to even look at a gym door. Exercises include a variation of push-ups, crunches, leg lifts, dips, squats, and lunges. Modifications work well with these, too.
For push-ups, simply alternating hand placement will shift focus on different muscle groups. This ranges from wide and close grip, staggering (one under you and one in front), and moving your hands closer to your feet. If needed, you can perform these on your knees at first to build up strength and then move to your feet. Make sure you keep your back straight and elbows tight to your body. Doing this will put more emphasis on your chest and triceps.
Crunches and leg lifts are stables for abdominal exercises. You can even do them in bed as you’re getting ready to turn in for the day. Variations include bicycle crunches, leg lifts (feet together and separate), and Hello Dolly’s. This is where you keep your feet around 6 inches off the ground and spread your legs apart then close. Make sure you flex and stretch your abs when doing crunches and leg lifts as well as keeping your stomach flexed while doing Hello Dolly’s.
Dips are an exercise where you will need to find two chairs of equal seating height. As the name says, it’s pretty self explanatory. Keeping your hands and elbows close to your body, descend slowly until your arms are at about 90 degrees or you feel a descent stretch in your triceps. Then abruptly ascend. Be sure to squeeze your triceps on the way up to get a full contraction.
Squats are a universal exercise. They’re great for your legs as well as your abs and lower back. They may seem cut and dry, but there are ways to hit your legs at different angles.
A simple squat should be performed by keeping your back straight and head up, concentrating on muscle tension, and attention to pushing off of the heel. Doing all these prevent injury and will give great results. Descend as you would sit in a chair, then ascend pushing off of your heels, always keeping tension on your legs and squeezing at the peak of the movement. Be sure to keep your knees from passing over your toes on the descent.
Variations of this exercise are similar to that of the push-up. By staggering your feet together or apart and putting one in front of the other (lunge position) will target different muscle reaction.
Lunges are great for building overall leg strength and stretching as well. Keeping the same proper posture as squats, step forward flat on your foot until your back knee is almost touching the ground. Then stand up pushing off your heel using as little momentum as possible. Alternate your feet as you perform.
These exercises are staples in many routines. Good form is important when performing any exercise. Granted all these are body weight, but it’s good to practice good form to prevent injuries.
Contracting muscles is what will cause them to respond and grow. Not only in size, but more importantly in strength. This is why you should squeeze the muscle at the top of the movement. Doing so will push blood into them and aid in the healing process.
Above all else, be safe and keep your head up!