Getting fit isn’t necessarily about getting a gym membership with all the frills or even hiring a personal trainer. Most exercises for toning your muscle groups (and even cardio workouts) can be done within the comfort of your own home with naught but your own body weight for resistance.
The thing I like most about working out at home is no travel time. Even though I live less than a mile away from my gym it feels like it takes so much time to travel there and back. Right away you can tell that I do indeed go to the gym even though I’m telling you to workout from home.
To confess, I go two days a week to the gym because I am in love with the interval workout on the rowing machine and I don’t want to have to worry about maintaining a large piece of gym equipment in my own home. Honestly, to keep the warranty on those things you have to do a lot of maintenance!
The other three days of the week, (I only formally work out on weekdays because I usually end up being pretty active on the weekends anyway), I work out completely at home. To redeem myself, I should tell you that I feel like the workouts I do at home are more important and do more for my overall fitness than my little twice weekly rowing machine routine.
Besides my workout clothes (which are sometimes just my pyjamas when I’m working out at home), the only pieces of workout equipment I use for my home fitness routine are dumbells, resistance bands and a pilates ball. Both of these items are inexpensive, effective, and don’t take up much room.
If you have the space and are willing to invest in your health and weight loss regime, I’d also highly recommend a rowing machine as the one major piece of fitness equipment you should own – check out our recommended best rowing machines here.
We’ll talk about what you can do with this equipment in a little bit, but first I want to cover the principle I think is most important for weight loss.
The Crux for Losing Weight
The single most important thing you’ll need to do to lose weight (whether you be a gym goer or home doer) is consume fewer calories than you burn. It’s a very simple principle of mathematics—when you subtract a larger number (i.e, the amount of calories you burn) from a smaller number (i.e., the amount of calories you consume) you end up with a negative number (i.e, weight loss).
You want to eat healthy now and forever more to lose the weight and maintain your weight loss, but there isn’t a specific weight loss diet I’d recommend to you per se. Here are just a few quick principles you can follow that will help you keep the calories in check as you start building your own home weight loss routine.
1. Eat five to six small meals a day. The best way to think about this is three small but regular meals with decent snacks between them. Eating smaller meals shrinks your stomach a little bit and therefore helps you to feel full faster. Also, eating frequently throughout the day will keep you from becoming overly hungry and ready to eat anything in sight.
2. Incorporate fat burning fruits and vegetables into meals and snacks wherever possible. These are usually low in calories and fat but also contain fiber which helps keep you feeling satisfied. Check out our fat burning foods list for some healthy ideas.
3. As a general rule, choose lean meat such as chicken or turkey breast over fattier meats like beef. Beef is still good to have—as with any meat it’s a great source of protein and it also provides iron, a nutrient that women especially are prone to be deficient in. Also, you can choose leaner cuts of beef and buy only grass-fed varieties to minimize the amount of fat. See our recommended fat burning foods here.
4. Cut out empty calories. Most importantly, don’t drink your calories. I would move all sodas (and most other beverages) to the “treat” category and indulge in them only once in a while. Keep in mind that black coffee contains only a very small amount of calories, but many of the things people put in it (cream, sugar, etc.) can add a substantial amount of calories. Also, limit snacks comprised mostly of crackers and other such refined carbs. Choose a handful of nuts with some fruit or veggies, or a whole grain piece of toast instead. There are also some great fat burning drinks to help out here.
Anything you do with free weights or weight machines can be done with resistance bands. Sometimes it takes a little creativity, but you can usually find the exact exercise you need in a quick internet search.
Be sure to work your muscle groups in pairs of opposites—that is, if you work one muscle, be sure to work the other muscle opposite to it. For example, if you work your biceps you should also make sure you target your triceps in either this or a future workout.
The reason for this is that opposing muscles usually have to work together to move the part of the body they’re connected to. So, you’ll want to keep each opposing muscle group balanced.
Here are some arm workouts you can do with resistance bands:
1. Bicep curls—stand on the center of your band with two feet (make sure each arm has equal band length), each hand gripping one end of the band. Start with your hands down by your thighs and curl (bend your elbows) your forearms up as high as you can comfortably go. Do several of these reps. You can count them or set a timer and go until they burn.
2. Tricep curls—You can do this one arm at a time or both. It mostly depends on the intensity of your resistance bands. Be careful to keep this move comfortable on your elbows and wrists don’t hyperextend anything in the name of a harder workout. Again, standing on the center of your band with an end in each hand, bring your hands behind your head to the base of your neck. Pull your forearms straight up above your head. Be careful not to move any other part of your arm besides your forearm. Count your reps or set a timer.
3. Rows—wrap your band securely around a stationary object, like the foot of a heavy chair for example. You can stand or sit to stay at a good level with the object your band is wrapped around. Pull the band towards your chest using just your arms (make sure your back doesn’t rock forward or backward). You can vary your grip try it with your hands parallel the ground, then change it up to try it with your hands perpendicular to the ground.
4. Shoulder lifts—standing on the center of your band with an end in each hand, with your hands by your thighs (fisted palms facing your thighs) pull up toward your chest until your upper arm is about parallel to the floor.
Again, there are many more exercises you can do with resistance bands in your own home. These are the ones I like to do best. Don’t forget to do the old-fashioned pushup. This exercise works many muscle groups in your arms, back, and abs. Also, you can target certain areas more specifically by changing how closely or far apart you place your hands in front of you.
You can do a lot with the resistance bands to work your legs—in fact, you can do most machine/free weight workouts with them once you attach one end to an ankle and the other to a door frame or stable wall mount.
I do less with resistance bands to work my legs. I like to do squats, pilates (mostly this is a lot of leg lifting), and thigh presses with the pilates ball.
Be careful not to let your knees go past your toes when you squat. Otherwise, you may hurt your knees and target the wrong muscles. One other thing: keep your back straight. If squats start to get too easy, add some resistance with your resistance bands.
Again, stand on the center of the bend (feet shoulder width apart for the squat) bring each end of the band up by your shoulders and hold them steady as you squat. You will feel the resistance of the band as you squat up.
I use a 24-inch pilates ball and place it between my legs (while sitting on the floor). Then, I squeeze that ball as hard as I comfortably can. It’s as good as a thigh master, except better because there are a lot of other things you can do with the ball too. I use a timer on this exercise instead of counting reps, because I usually do more reps than I want to count.
Bring out that pilates ball again. Doing sit ups on a pilates ball is a great way to get the most out of this move. You can also increase the amount of resistance you feel by how much of your body (specifically, your back) is sitting on the ball. If you have less of your back resting on the ball your sit ups will be harder, if you have more, your sit ups will be a little easier.
Do sit ups on the front, back (with your stomach on the ball and then lift your shoulders up by arching your back), and each side. You can also do a modified plank move with the ball to target your abs. Rest your forearms on the ball, straighten your legs out behind you and balance your weight between your arms and your toes. You should feel the burn in your lower abs.
Working out from home does not mean inferior workouts. On the contrary, it can often mean better workouts and make you more willing to try new things—which lead to greater strength and tone. Working out from home is a great option for people on a budget, a tight schedule, or who simply don’t like the gym atmosphere.
Check out 8 more exercises for a flat belly you can do at home.