Faced with recent economic hardships and increasing student loan debt I recently made the decision to cancel my gym membership and save myself a whopping $20 a month. Yes, times are really that tight. Now, in addition to being broke I am also very passionate about health and fitness. Prior to cancelling my membership I went to the gym 5-6 times a week so I was left with a large void to fill.
In the past I have done video programs like Jillian Michael’s 30 Day Shred and Shaun T’s Insanity and while I liked them it can become a bit monotonous and I wanted to get a more varied home workout. As I previously mentioned, purchasing any sort of cardio equipment or home gym, even used, is out of my price range.
Research completed by the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) in May of 2013 found that 58.5 million Americans make use of fitness and health clubs. Given that the U.S. population in July of 2013 was over 316 million, this leaves 257.5 million people unaccounted for. So do none of these people workout? I think it is safe to assume that many of them do, and I would be willing to bet the farm that many of them workout from the comfort of their own homes.
I have compiled a list of exercises that can be performed from the comfort of your home that fit a variety of personalities and interests. What I love about exercising at home is the ability to break up the workout for when it is convenient for me. Rather than allotting 2 hours for the gym (plus travel and preparation), I can fit in 20-30 minute chunks throughout my day.
While sitting on my butt in front of the TV one day I remembered a story my father told me of how his older brother, a soldier, would make him do calisthenics during commercial breaks. Inspired by this I began researching military workouts that primarily utilize your body weight alone. Above I mentioned the Insanity videos which use solely body weight exercises, some of which you will see here. My gripe with Insanity is that it is too easy to compromise your form for speed, and after completing the 2 months I had mild knee pain that prevented me from running. Also maybe I’m just secretly lazy and get frustrated when I can’t keep up with Shaun T.
In the video below Mike Whitfield demonstrates a variety of body weight exercises that work every muscle group. Between Part 1 and Part 2 of his body weight videos, Mike shows us a whopping 210 of the "best" exercises. While all these moves have their benefits, it can be a daunting task to choose which ones to perform. I don't know about you but if I attempted all 210 I'd be on my way to the hospital. Here are the most commonly agreed upon effective body weight exercises:
- Push Ups (chest, shoulders, tripceps)
- Lunges (glutes, hamstrings, quads, calves and core to a lesser extent)
- Squats (glutes, hamstrings, quads)
- Planks (core, shoulders, total body)
- Burpees (total body)
The beauty about these exercises is that they are easily modified to become more or less difficult to suit your needs and ability.
While yoga may seem like a passive form of exercise, many poses are very effective at engaging your muscles and increasing your heart rate. Two of my favorite yoginis are Tara Stiles and Kathryn Budig, both of whom have YouTube accounts and frequently post routines. I also recently unearthed my copy of Tara’s Slim, Calm, Sexy Yoga that I had purchased a few years ago during a yoga craze. Tara gives descriptions and pictures of each pose, as well as flows designed for different symptoms.
The wonderful thing about yoga is that it can be done literally anywhere. A yoga mat is nice to have to increase comfort, however even that is not truly necessary! If you are serious about pursuing yoga I would recommend getting a mat, yoga blocks, and a strap, all of which can be found quite inexpensively.
Benefits of Yoga
- Increases flexibility and strength
- Improves circulation
- Decreases stress
- Improve quality of sleep
- Increase libido
- Confidence boosting
Popular Types of Yoga
26 basic poses
Focuses on alignment
Rapid movement linked breathes
Performed in a 105 degree room
Focuses on breathing
Aims to perfect each pose
Good for weight loss and increasing stamina
Good for building strength and weight loss
For me Pilates falls somewhere in between yoga and strength training. A common misconception is that Pilates is too "gentle" of a practice, rendering it ineffective. Many men also seem reluctant to try Pilates, possibly for the same reason, however it offers great benefits to both men and women! Pilates typically does not elevate your heart rate greatly, and while you are engaging your muscles they are not being worked as hard as if you did calisthenics or weight training. The benefits of Pilates are similar to those of yoga; focusing on breathing, improving spinal alignment and balance, increased flexibility, and general toning.
For years I was not interested in Pilates because I saw it as a thing of the past. Just the word Pilates conjured images of Jane Fonda, leg warmers, and 80s hair-dos. Honestly, it seemed like a "mom" workout. Then I saw the light when I discovered Blogilates by Cassey Ho. Cassey has a series of videos called POP Pilates in which she sets her exercises to contemporary music. Cassey's upbeat personality and increased tempo brings a nice rejuvenation to traditional Pilates. The best part is that Cassey offers a huge selection of free videos online, as well as printable workouts and meal plans!
Purchasing home gyms is not an option for many people due to monetary and space restrictions, however there are items you can buy (or make!) for very little that add a lot to your workouts.
One of my favorite and most versatile fitness tools is the Swiss ball. Like many people I avoided using a balance ball for the simple reason that I had no idea how/why to incorporate it into my workout. After some research and experimentation, I found that the Swiss ball is a great way to work your entire body. Simple moves like push ups, planks, and crunches become more difficult and effective when performed balancing on a ball.
I love hula hooping. Most of us remember hula hoops from our childhood, but did you know they are also a great aerobic exercise? Weighted, collapsible hoops are available for purchase on the internet, however if you want to save a few bucks and have a custom hoop Jason Strauss has a wonderful tutorial to make your own. If you are a beginner I would recommend making your first hoop on the large side (my first one went up to my chin!) and wrapping it with duct tape rather than electrical to provide extra grip. Hooping is easier with a larger, heavier hoop because it spins slower, so starting with a large diameter, 160 PSI hoop is recommended. As you progress you can being making smaller, lighter, faster hoops that are better suited to hoop dance and tricks.
Just because you don't have access to a gym does not mean you have to sacrifice your health and wellness! By working out at home you can save time and money all while sweating like a maniac in the privacy of your house.The possibilities are endless!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2014 Victoria Anne
Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on February 19, 2015:
Great tips. I also mention home workouts in my pi-yo hubs, too. Mainly I've been doing them, since it's too cold for me to walk to the gym this winter. But I do home workouts before and after my routines at the gym, too.
Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on March 08, 2014:
Home workouts are most convenient and natural your ideas are very useful.
Liam Hallam from Nottingham UK on January 18, 2014:
Yes- it's definitely something to laugh to oneself, in the same way as watching some of them attempt a form of 'running' technique. Though I do know of a few with excellent running form
I've seen trx systems for less than 50 dollars on eBay and second hand genuine trx's for even less so its possible to pick up a bargain.
Victoria Anne (author) from Las Vegas on January 18, 2014:
@CyclingFitness thanks for reading! I haven't tried TRX but I have heard it's a great workout and I definitely look forward to trying it at some point. I wanted to keep these ideas to free or under $50 or so, so TRX is a little out of that price range but I'm sure its worth it :)
Also I can't help but giggle when I see body builders try to fail miserably at anything that isn't "traditional" lifting.
Liam Hallam from Nottingham UK on January 17, 2014:
Some interesting principles which could help people.
One of the best things for strength training at home is a TRX suspension training kit. They're awesome for developing functional strength and simply fix to a wall or doorframe or outside fence post as required. It's amazing how hard a workout you can get with just suspended bodyweight type exercises and i've even seen some big lifters reduced to looking like gym newbies due to the stress it puts on your whole body.