Exercising at home
If you have always wanted to try and get fitter and healthier but never managed to find the time, now is the perfect time to start! We have more reason than ever to want to be fit and healthy to give us the best possible opportunity to fight any disease or virus that comes our way. During the summer months, the days are longer and the idea of waking up a little earlier to exercise doesn’t feel quite so unpleasant and warmer weather means we can get outside if we don’t have a lot of space indoors.
I am often asked “what equipment should I buy to exercise at home” My response is always the same… none!
All too often expensive exercise equipment ends up gathering dust in the corners of people homes. The reality is the only thing you need to begin with is you!
Body weight exercises
This is the perfect place the start, you don’t need a lot of room, and you don’t need anything but yourself.
6 great bodyweight exercises for your legs you can do at home.
Our legs are made up of the largest muscle groups in our body.
This is a great exercise to build strong legs and glutes. The main muscles engaged in this exercise are the quads, glutes, and core.
Tips: When squatting, stand with feet either hip- or shoulder-width apart, then drive the hips back as if you were going to sit down on a seat behind you. As the hips drive back, allow the knees to bend until you reach your desired depth. It’s important to keep the shins vertical at the bottom of the squat to keep the knees from passing the toes. When your knees begin to shift forward, that is your end range.
If you have a bit more energy and would like to increase the intensity of the squat try the jump squat. It will really fire up your cardiovascular system to burn more calories and fat.
Tips: Simply drive the hips back as you would for the squat, then add an explosive jump straight up, landing softly and quietly. Your landing position should look exactly like your starting position.
This is a variation of the squat and will recruit more of the hip and groin muscle groups like the adductors, as well as still engaging quads and glutes.
Tips: Stand with your feet wider than shoulder-width apart, with toes turned out slightly (like a sumo wrestler or ballerina if you prefer!). While maintaining upright posture, allow the hips to drop down toward the heels, and the knees to drive out. It’s still important to keep the knees behind the toes and the shins vertical at the bottom of your squat. To stand up, push the heels down and out, and push your hips forward to a fully extended position.
Lunges still engage the quads and glutes but will also recruit your hamstrings and the stabiliser muscles in your hips. Lunges can be performed forward or reverse.
Tips: From a standing position, step one leg backwards (or forwards for a forward lunge) and bend both knees to a 90° angle. Make sure the shin on your front leg is vertical, and as with the squat, the knee is not passing the toe. Be aware of your posture; your torso should be straight and vertical. When you’re ready to switch legs, drive the heal of the front foot down into the ground and stand up to your original position.
Very similar to the above, the side lunge will also engage your abductors in your hip as well as targeting the quads and glutes slightly differently.
Tips: From a standing position, step one leg out to the side and imagine sitting into a squat on this leg, while the stationary leg straightens into full extension at the bottom of your lunge. Return to your original position and switch sides.
This specifically targets the glutes, hamstrings, and lower back. If you are finding squatting difficult (people with knee injuries may not be able to perform these moves) this can be an alternative.
Tips: Start by lying down on the floor on your back with a bent knee position, and your feet flat on the ground about shoulder-width apart. Push the heels down into the ground while raising the hips off the ground. At the top, squeeze the glutes and keep the abdominals tight to prevent arching in the lower back. Make sure the shins are vertical, then lower your hips back down to their original position.
Bodyweight exercises for the upper body
This exercise will primarily engage the triceps (of which there are three) Located in the upper back of the arm. Like all muscles, they weaken as we get older and are key in our upper body strength when it comes to simple movements like pushing ourselves out of chairs!
Tips: Sit on the floor with your knees bent, feet on the floor, hands on the floor behind you with your fingers pointing towards your body. To begin lift the hips off the floor. Slowly and gently bend your elbows and lower your body close to the floor keeping your abdominal muscles tight. (This exercise can also be performed with a chair but I did promise you that you could do all these exercises without any equipment whatsoever!)
You don’t need to be able to do a full push up to get the benefits. A modified push up on your knees will engage all the upper body muscles including the chest, back, shoulders biceps and triceps and help to strengthen your core.
Tips: Begin on your hands and knees. Position your hands directly below your shoulders just outside of your body. Step your knees back so that there is a straight line from your knees to your head. You shins can stay on the ground if you can’t stay on your knees (whatever is most comfortable) Keep your core engaged as you slowly lower your chest to the floor hinging from the elbows keeping your back straight.
Great for engaging your back muscles, glutes and hamstrings.
Tips: Lie with your chest down on the floor, reach your arms straight out in front of you (as if you were Superman in mid-flight) squeeze your glutes and lower back and raise your arms, legs, and the top of your chest off the floor. Hold and then slowly return to the ground.
There are many exercises to engage the abdominal muscles. My favourites to get started are:
Until you have built strength in your abs you may find when performing a full sit up that your hip flexors take over and this can cause back pain. The crunch keeps the focus on the abdominals.
Tips: lie on your back, bend your knees and put your feet flat on the floor. Clasp your hands loosely behind your head. Relax your back against the floor. Now, slowly curl your shoulders up from the floor to a 30-degree angle (approximately). Make sure you don’t pull up on your neck. Hold for a second and then lower.
Great for beginners this exercise ensures you maintain good form by stabilising your spine and preventing you from flexing your lower back.
Tips: Lie on your back with your arms at your sides. Lift your legs off the ground and bend your knees so they create a 90-degree angle. Then, extend your right leg forward until it’s a few inches from the floor while extending your left arm straight behind you. Bring them back to starting position and repeat with the opposite arm and leg.
This exercise targets the obliques as well as the other abs, stabiliser muscles in your back and the hip flexors.
Tips: Sit with your knees bent and your feet on the floor. Keeping your back straight lean back to a 45 degree angle to create a V shape between your torso and thighs. Clasp your hands together in front of you (as if praying) and use your abdominals to twist to the right, then back to centre, and then to the left. To make the exercise slightly more challenging raise your feet an inch from the floor.
How many times should I repeat each exercise and how often?
That is going to depend greatly on your fitness level. Beginners should aim for 2 sets of 12 reps for each exercise working up to 3 sets and 20 reps. It’s important you listen to your body. As you perform each exercise focus on the muscles you should be engaging. If you are feeling it somewhere you shouldn’t be, that could me that your posture isn’t quite right. This can happen easily when we get tired, so in this instance, stop. This is especially important if you feel any pain or discomfort in your back.
As you get stronger, one of my favourite ways to perform exercises is to use a Tabata approach. Instead of counting reps you work out for a period of time. Traditionally this is 20 seconds of exercise followed by a 10 second rest, repeated 8 times. You then take 1-2 minutes of rest before moving to the next exercise and completing 8 rounds of 20 second intervals. Using a stop clock and working to a set amount of time has many benefits.
- You will find you work at a higher intensity therefore burning more fat and calories
- You will see benefits to both your stamina and energy through short burst of high intensity exercise increasing your aerobic capacity
- It’s efficient, you can achieve a lot in a short space of time
- It helps to keep you focussed, so you don’t get distracted and take longer breaks between exercises (or maybe that’s just me!)