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Yes, You Can Build Mega Strength by Working Out At Home
No gym? No problem. Your home is a fitness playground, offering you everything you need for a legit workout that builds strength, burns calories and make you seriously sweat.
Gyms are convenient, but just because you can’t get to one right now doesn’t mean you can’t still work out. The truth is, at-home workouts are just as effective as those you do at your favorite club. You just need to create a plan that maximizes what you can do in the space you have, with the equipment (or lack thereof) at your disposal. “At home, there’s a wealth of workout opportunity in minimal spaces using non-traditional fitness equipment,” says Andia Winslow, a certified fitness instructor, pro athlete and founder of The Fit Cycle, a viral video series promoting workouts in unconventional urban locales. “This is a game of finding alternatives. Creativity and resourcefulness count.”
Like any routine, you’re going to have to commit when sweating in your living room, says Nicholette Martin, M.D., a physiatrist, health counselor and author of Love What You Eat: Choosing Foods That Will Change Your Life. Consider it a health priority: “The more you move, the better you feel,” says Dr. Martin. “People sleep better. They tend to eat better and eat less and therefore gain less weight, which is a challenge when you’re stuck at home. Also, physical exercise causes the release of endorphins which can decrease anxiety and help us to relax.”
Why Strength Training?
Either cardio or strength training will yield that endorphin release. Strength training has additional health perks, including curtailing symptoms of depression and reducing your risks of heart disease and stroke, according to recent research. It’s also essential for building stronger bones as you get older. “Resistance training stimulates bone growth and decreases the risk of osteopenia and osteoporosis,” says Dr. Martin.
To be effective, consistency is key, says Winslow. Aim for at least twice-weekly strength sessions and focus on precision, not volume. “It’s not just about doing as many pushups, pull-ups, squats, and dips in as little time as possible,” she says. “The focus needs to be on recruiting the proper muscles to prevent faulty movement patterns and injuries.”
Make Your Muscles Work For You
Not all strength moves are created equal. Winslow recommends dynamic, total-body exercises that use more than one large muscle group simultaneously. “If the entire body is engaged through several planes of motion, more work is achieved in less time,” she says.
The routine here, created by Winslow, features strength-building moves either using your own body weight or working with things you can find at home. There are 11 moves listed, but each workout should include just five of them. (You can mix and match different moves each time, so you never get bored.) Aim for a combo of upper and lower body moves, as well as ab exercises, and do 3-4 sets of 12-15 reps unless otherwise noted.
Good for: Quads
How to: Stand with your back against wall and feet shoulder-width apart, about a foot away from the wall. Keeping chest open and shoulders back, slide down the wall, lowering into a squat until hamstrings are parallel to the floor; knees should be over ankles. Hold for 30-60 seconds, rest for the same amount of time, then repeat.
Good for: Shoulders
How to: Stand tall with feet hip-width apart and arms fully extended in front of body; arms should be parallel to ground. Tuck pelvis, tighten core and press hands together as you spell out the alphabet in medium-sized capital letters.
Good for: Chest
How to: Grip the edge of a table with arms fully extended. Lean into the table so that your body creates a straight, diagonal line from head to heels, with arms straight. Inhale, bend arms and lower your chest to the table; pause for one count. Exhale, and push chest back up until arms are fully extended to return to start.
Elevated Split Squat
Good for: Glutes
How to: Stand with your back to a bed or stable chair. Extend left leg back, placing the top of the left foot on bed or chair. Bend right knee, lowering into a lunge until right thigh is parallel to the floor (left knee will hover above floor). Keep your torso upright. Rise up again. After desired number of reps, switch legs.
Desk Chair Biceps Curls
Good for: Biceps
How to: Stand tall with feet hip-width apart, core engaged, hips tucked under shoulders. Grasp the sides of a chair or stool with both hands; palms facing in. Bend elbows and raise the chair in the air until forearms are vertical. Slowly lower back to start and then repeat.
Soup Can Fly
Good for: Deltoids
How to: Stand tall with feet hip-width apart, abs tight and a soup can in each hand. Rest arms in front of thighs; palms facing inward. Simultaneously raise arms out to the sides until they are parallel to floor. Slowly lower arms back to start and repeat.
Fruit Bowl Press
Good for: Shoulders
How to: Standing with feet hip-width apart, hold a fruit bowl securely in your hands in front of your chest at shoulder height (elbows are bent). Press bowl straight overhead by fully extending arms. Inhale, bend your elbows and control the descent of the bowl back down to shoulder height. Repeat. Tip: For a harder workout, add more fruit!
Potato Sack Deadlifts
Good for: Hamstrings and glutes
How to: Stand with slightly bent knees, feet shoulder-width apart. Hold a potato sack (or any bunch of vegetables in a bag) in front of your body with arms fully extended. Maintaining a straight back, hinge at hips and lower sack of potatoes down to floor. Pause, then squeeze your glutes to lift sack back up and return to standing, arms remaining fully extended.
Good for: Core
How to: Stand with feet hip-width apart. Extend left arm overhead as you extend right leg back behind the body. Keeping the left leg straight and stable, on a strong exhale, contract your abs, curve your spine into a “C” shape and simultaneously bend left arm and right leg in towards the center of body, aiming for elbow and knee to touch. Hold for one count. Return back to start, switch sides and then repeat motion with right arm and left leg.
Isometric Upper Body Presses
Good for: Chest/arms
How to: Stand with feet hip-width apart, arms bent and palms together in front of chest in a “prayer” pose. Keeping shoulders level, press hands together as hard as you can. Hold for 30-60 seconds, relax and then repeat.
Isometric Lower Body Squeezes
Good for: Glutes
How to: Stand with feet hip-width apart. Keeping legs straight, raise your right leg behind your body, driving your right heel towards the ceiling while squeezing your right glute to keep your leg in the air. Hold for 30-60 seconds and then repeat with opposite leg.