It might seem like a simple question with a simple answer – yes. However, working out at home is seldom so simple. Most health experts will explain the vast benefits of working out in a gym, as opposed to at home. And for the most part, they’re absolutely right. However, there are some people that really do prefer to workout from home, and there’s nothing wrong with doing so. You can get the same aerobic and strength training results without using high tech gym equipment, but there are some risks that you have to consider before setting up your home gym, or beginning your first workout.
It’s fine to say that you should use the gym for your exercise sessions. Unfortunately, most people aren’t exercising at all, let alone making the commute to the gym several times a week. According to a five-year American Time Use Survey published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, only about 5% of people in the United States participate in some form of vigorous exercise on any given day. One of the factors contributing to this statistic could be the “gym mantra,” or the feeling that a good workout can only occur at the gym.
Why Work Out at Home?
In a nation with an ever-increasing collective waistline, more and more people in the United States are obese. According to the New York Times, the 2011 obesity rate in the U.S. is 34%, although this percentage has plateaued over the past five years. Many people feel uncomfortable with their bodies, and are not confident working out among others. For morbidly obese people, working out at the gym can inspire nightmares of critical stares and locker room snickering. Psychologically, even the slightest feeling of discomfort during a gym workout can destroy diet confidence, causing you to spiral into a binge relapse.
For people that are not yet confident working out with other people, working out at home is one of the few options they have. But, the higher your BMI, the higher risk you take when working out alone. Not only can equipment malfunction and cause an injury, you can accidentally overwork yourself during an exercise – and there might not be anyone close by to help you in an emergency. In addition, there is also the risk that you might not be performing an exercise correctly – which can also cause an injury, or reduce the effectiveness of your workout.
Of course, hiring an at-home personal trainer can reduce the risk of an injury while still allowing you to workout at home. In addition, exercise equipment is designed to make it very difficult for you to perform an exercise correctly, and is manufactured to keep you safe during your workout. It might be worthwhile to Google “elliptical reviews 2011” for current and safe home exercise equipment.
How to Get the Most Out of your Home Workout
Listen to Some Upbeat Music: When you workout at home, you can choose your own music, without having to use headphones. And this is a great benefit, as a Brook and Jackson report described by StraightDope.com revealed that an hour of headphone use increases bacteria in your ear by 100 to 700 times normal levels. Choose music that you enjoy and that gets your blood pumping. Some of my favorite home workout music is “A State of Trance” by Armin Van Buuren. This radio show comes out once a week, and keeps my workout music fresh.
Emulate Outdoor Activities: A study performed by Peter Krustup at the University of Copenhagen found that, after 12 weeks, participants in a one-hour soccer practice every week burned more fat and added more muscle than a control group that jogged for the same amount of time. The study found that the people that participated in the soccer practice did not experience the “jogger’s boredom” that set in after the first 20 minutes of exercise, and were motivated by exercising with others. While it might be difficult for you to play soccer at home, you can emulate this activity by designing a comprehensive and varied exercise session to reduce boredom:
- Begin with a short warm up, like marching in place with a jump rope at your side. Gradually transition into hopping in place, before finally beginning some side swings to prepare for the remainder of the workout.
- Start doing some footwork exercises like the Forward-Straddle, Skier, Bell, and Side-Straddle. These exercises will help you transition from your warm up to your core workout.
- During your core workout, change the exercise you perform every 20 to 30 seconds to keep things fresh and keep your body guessing. You might begin with some crosses, then switch to sideways jumps, before returning to jogging in place. You can also add in other exercises like double unders and marching in place. Whatever you include in your core workout, keep changing exercises to add variety to your session.
- Cool down with some light jumping or marching. A good cool down session should last about five minutes. Don’t skip this part of the workout – going from intense physical activity to nothing can cause injuries and increase the amount of rest your body needs between workouts.
The key here is not in fancy equipment or complicated exercises, but in variety. By keeping your exercises varied, you can avoid all of the problems that plague those that simply hop on an exercise bike 20 minutes a day.
Use an Elliptical Machine Properly: If you decide to invest in an elliptical machine, focus more on SPM data than anything else (but don’t forget to periodically check your heart rate for optimal results and safety). Your SPM (or Strides Per Minute) should stay between 140 and 160 for the most effective cardiovascular workout. On the other hand, if you’re more interested in toning your thighs, pay very close attention to your feet. You should be pushing with your heels if you’re working to tone your hamstrings or buttocks. By pushing with your toes, you’ll work more on toning your quads.
When you use proper equipment and take the time to prepare a safe workout environment, working out at home can be a solid alternative to the gym, especially for those that don’t have time for the commute, or are not yet confident enough to workout with others.
Workout Without Weights – ‘macho’ enough?
The first time you walk into a gym, it becomes that you have a long way to go in being perceived as particularly ‘macho’ or even close with your wiry arms. Of course, you might not have been the only one because I’ve also been there.
Well, it wouldn’t matter if you’re John Mayer with that silky smooth guitar picking and strumming style and stunning voice of his… but I’m sure that he won’t be reading this blog between his busy touring schedule or indulging in flings with some of Hollywood’s big names.
But I digress…
So what should you do if you’re not macho yet, and aren’t sure of dealing with weights yet?
Try a workout without weights, yessirree…
Any questions? I’m sure there are…
Reasons why you should Workout without Weights
Well, the first question you might ask is why in the world one would want to try a workout without weights, as it is the best way to gain strength and muscle. But very simply, there are several reasons why you might want to do so…
For one, if you are tired of paying for your gym membership in these times or even weight-phobic, especially as a beginner. Maybe you don’t have the time to head out to the gym or even don’t have the money either… which also rules out the idea of a home gym.
So, no matter what your reason might be, things work out for the best. And if you wonder why I’ve conveniently thrown this cliche in and are on the verge of asking me to validate this statement with something concrete. And so, here goes…
Firstly, the golden age of bodybuilding is over, and unless you are planning to repeat Arnie’s success (which is hardly likely!), you don’t need a costly gym membership or even a home gym to get “toned.”
Secondly, it’s FREE… how about that? Need I say more…
Thirdly, you’ll be using weights but of a different kind – your body and the force of gravity, which your body will not be able to differentiate from normal weights that are used.
Now, with that out of the way, you might wonder where to begin in this mirage of exercises with or without equipment, so without further ado, let’s look at some exercises that you can try as a part of a workout or even if the above doesn’t apply to you, use these exercises as a warm-up before you begin your routine with weights.
Exercises to try without Weight
While you read the list of exercises at this link, you’ll be surprised how often they have come up in conversation, even if you’re not a fitness junkie. Of course, if you’re captivated with the art of building muscle and want to get going without using weights, then you can check this link for the best techniques and exercises that will help you build muscle over a period of time.
And yes, it’s “macho” enough… macho enough to help you move on to the next level, especially if you’re a beginner.
Hot Bikram Yoga
Bikram Chowdhury, who is popularly known as the McYoga guy, is the creator of Hot Bikram Yoga which has come under the scrutiny and criticism of many due to the aggressive steps taken to protect this routine that he has been responsible for putting together.
Like most Bengalis from the State of West Bengal in India, he comes across as an opinionated, strong-willed, forceful, and ego-maniacal personality that you’ll find when you watch or read his interviews with various publications and TV channels late, thanks to the controversy that has been stirred.
But that is just one part of the story, where people try to judge another’s desire to deal with and protect his life’s work realistically, rather than from a super-spiritual and idealistic point-of-view.
And this is in regards to his 26 asanas that he has copyrighted (while suing people who have used his work illegally to make profits) as a part of his teaching of ‘hatha yoga’, which is just one element of the Yoga Sutras as written by Patanjali around 2nd Century BCE. Incidentally, people don’t like this approach of his because they believe that yoga is free, has existed and been taught that way down through the ages.
Now almost any jackass you meet on the street will also tell you that yoga is good for you, and helps stay in good health through the rigor that is involved in practicing such a discipline.
But there’s more than meets the eye here. Here’s why:
Suppose you have studied esoteric philosophy (Hinduism). In that case, you’ll know that there is a distinct connection between one’s mind and the body, and in attaining equilibrium between the two through Yoga, one can attain ‘Moksha’, known as ‘liberation’ from the suffering and limitation of worldly existence. And this is where Raja Yoga (plainly known as ‘Yoga’ today) has achieved prominence in society today.
Although Bikram Yoga (in terms of the ‘asanas’) is very similar to, and is derived from Raja Yoga, yet to the yoga purists in its present form, it only serves as a basic function of promoting good health, and does necessarily achieve the final objective of Raja Yoga, that is to achieve perfection in concentration of the mind or otherwise known as ‘dhyana’.
Why Bikram Chowdhury has insisted on copyrighting his life’s work is because the order of these asanas have been arranged in a particular sequence that have a unique positive impact on one’s health which isn’t the case if they are practiced in a different order.
Another important difference is that, this form of yoga is performed in a room with a temperature at 105 degrees Fahrenheit which helps one’s muscles to loosen up, especially for those with arthritis or experiencing stiffness.
Here’s an interesting interview with Bikram Chowdhury taken by CBS News in June 2005, which will give you the entire picture.
Ironically, this aggressive marketing and copyrighting stance wasn’t a part of his strategy when he came to the U.S at first. One of his students (Shirley Maclaine) insisted that he should take money or else people will not value what he teaches. And since then, he has not looked back in terms of franchising his form of yoga.
Judging from the popularity of his franchise which has expanded to about 600-700 centers in all parts of the world, it looks like the people have embraced his form of yoga as it delivers results. Bikram Chowdhury (love him or hate him) is at the forefront of yoga, and will be known as ‘Yoga’s bad boy’ for years to come.
Barbell Weights and the Golden Age of Bodybuilding
Yes, if you have watched “Pumping Iron”, you’d certainly know who Lou was alright… and you’d also realize the amount of effort that goes into getting a body as chiseled as theirs.
It’s not easy, to say the least… and it takes hours and hours of punishing your body almost every other day if you want to excel at that level. And if there’s anything that’s true of these strong men of our time, it’s been more than just acquainted with barbell weights.
Why Barbell Weights?
Of course, there are several other types of training equipment that can help you build muscle but they all have to bow down to the king of them all – the barbell weights! No matter how many types of dumbbells or kettlebell weights you use or even machines, you’ll find that the barbell helps you build strength like no other.
Yes, if your objective is to “man up”, then the barbell is the way to go… Here begins a new era! Barbell weights and the golden age of bodybuilding.
Perhaps the reason for this is that the more weight you work out with, the easier it becomes to convert fat into muscle and keep it that way. It is the very reason why most instructors will ensure that you do graduate to using barbell weights as soon as you show progress with dumbbells and cardio.
Most of all, it’s mainly to work out with barbell weights as opposed to any other weight training equipment, which is why you’ll see beginners trying their luck with barbells when they should be focusing on the basics first.
What I mean to say that it is a good idea to get into a workout routine for a few months until you take on difficult weight training routines such as that of using different weights with a barbell.
The only disadvantage that you might experience with using barbell weights is the risk of injury just in case proper form is not maintained or God forbid, someone actually drops it without the assistance of a spotter.
If you have been working out for sometime, and now wish to try barbell workouts at home, then here are a couple of workouts that you can try.
The Barbell – Sample Workouts
Sample Workout #1: Considered to be a simple workout for the reason that only one set of 12 to 15 reps are required to finish each exercise. You rest for about 45 seconds and then move on to the next one. Finally, remember to train your body with these exercises three times a week while remembering to have a rest day in between.
So, here are the list of exercises:
#2: Incline Push-up
#3: Bent Over Row
#4: Reverse Curl
#5: Press Crunch
The next sample workout is for 2 sets of 12 to 15 reps for each exercise. You also have to rest for 45 seconds between each set, and do this three times a week with one day of rest after each workout session.
Here are the exercises:
#1: Barbell Squat
#2: Triceps dip
#3: Decline push-up
#4: Biceps curl
#5: Single-arm row
#6: Seated reverse crunch
And if you really want to know more about barbell exercises, you will be able find information at this link.
And if you bought into the rivalry between Lou Ferrigno and Arnold Schwarzenegger, think again! It was all a set up…
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