The benefits of strength training have been widely documented in the medical community, and millions of people rely on this daily habit to stay healthy inside and out.
Strength training isn’t just about getting bulging muscles and hitting the beach. It’s key to maintaining strong joints and bones, promoting healthy metabolism, and keeping off excess weight. Plus, it’s easy to track progress, which makes it an addictive activity (in a good way).
However, not everyone has access to a gym these days, and for many people, the weight room can be an intimidating space.
That’s why at-home bodyweight workouts are rising in popularity. You don’t need any equipment and can still achieve a complete strength-training experience with just a few simple techniques.
Today let’s explore a few of the key exercises you’ll need to build strength at home, offer some tips from the pros, and suggest a couple of helpful tools that will level-up your workouts.
Start With Stretching
Before you jump into any workout, you need to warm things up with a brief stretching routine to get your mind right and avoid injury.
Spend no less than five minutes stretching out your hamstrings, shoulders, lower back, neck, and any other areas where you may hold tension or experience tightness.
It’s even more important to stretch before an at-home strength routine since you’re probably coming right off the couch or sitting at a desk, so a warm-up is essential.
Here is a brief checklist of stretches you should hit before taking on any strength workout:
- Forward Fold: Bend over to the front, and touch your toes (or as far as you can go).
- Hands Over Head: Reach for the sky and extend your spine to stretch high.
- Back Bend: Loosen up the lower back by reaching to the wall behind you.
- Neck Stretches: Carefully roll your neck 360 degrees and gently pull on the top of your head to either side for a deeper stretch. Don’t use too much force.
- Quadriceps Stretch: Bring your heel up to your butt and grab the top of your foot with your hand. Press your hips forward to maximize this key stretch.
- Side Stretches: Go into a half-split and reach to either side to get a good stretch in the hamstring and the lower back. Make sure you give even effort on both sides.
- Seated Stretches: In a chair, you can twist your torso from side to side or stretch your shoulders by pulling either arm across your chest.
You probably already have an idea of how to stretch, and there are tons of Google Images available with free charts to jog your memory.
Also, don’t forget to do some dynamic stretching in addition to these static ones. Twist back and forth, swing your arms side to side, make tiny circles, and do some air punches and kicks.
You’ll want to increase that heart rate and lubricate those joints so you make the most of your strength routine. There are no hard rules, so freestyle and see what works best for you.
Pushups, Dips and Handstands
The pushup is the ultimate upper-body building exercise that can be done anywhere, anytime. Gravity is the best resistance, and people have built great physiques just using pushup variations and sticking to a solid routine.
You know the drill: Position yourself at a 45-degree angle with your toes and palms on the ground, lower yourself to the point where you’re completely horizontal, then push back up with accelerated force. That’s the perfect pushup!
It doesn’t matter whether you can bang out 100 in a row or you’re struggling to do your first one. You can quickly make progress on this exercise and notice real results fast.
Not everyone can perform a complete pushup, but there are many easier versions of this exercise to get you started.
If you are a total beginner and lack upper body strength, start on your knees and use whatever strength you have to gradually lower your chest to the ground. Get up and do it again.
Also make sure to do some tricep dips using a chair or stool, placing your hands on the edge of the seat and pushing your body weight up and down. This will build strength quickly and is easy to modify.
Eventually, you will be able to do bent-knee pushups with ease, then you can graduate to the standard pushups and work your way up from there.
Bring your arms close to your sides and practice close-grip pushups that blast your triceps and shoulders. Spread your arms wide to target the outer pectorals. You can even place your feet on a chair and do decline pushups to make things more difficult.
The final stage is the handstand pushup, which requires you to get inverted against a wall and let your shoulders do all the work. Have a partner ready to spot you at first!
Pushups and dips are best friends for at-home strength workouts, so get used to them.
Lunges and Squats
Our legs and glutes are critical for overall health and longevity, getting us from point A to point B all day long. Lunges and squats are your tickets to strong legs and can be done anywhere.
Since lunges are a more advanced movement, start with squats. Push your butt back and pretend like you’re sitting down on a chair while keeping your shins straight. Hold your arms forward to balance and perform sets of ten at your own pace to begin.
Once you get comfortable with the motion and find your rhythm, you can perform longer sets and get your heart rate up to break a sweat. Your bodyweight is more than enough to get a good workout, so see how many sets you can do on your own!
Lunges are bit tougher, and demand more of a workout on individual legs. Step one foot forward and bring your opposite knee to the ground, using your arms to balance at first. You won’t be able to do as many lunges as squats, so pace yourself.
Be sure to squeeze your glutes at the top of your lunges and squats and engage every part of the leg for maximum effect. After a few sets you should be feeling the burn big time!
If your bodyweight isn’t providing enough of a challenge, throw on a backpack loaded with books to make things tougher. This works with lunges and squats, but also pushups.
Abdominals and Lower Back Builders
Now that your upper and lower body are exhausted, it’s time to zero in on the abs, which you can isolate with movements like planks, situps and oblique exercises.
The classic abdominal movement is the situp, which you can accomplish by placing your feet under a cabinet or bedframe. Keep your hands behind your head and use your core muscles to bring your torso up to knee-level, then slowly lower yourself back down.
An easier variant of the situp is the crunch, which can be performed on the ground without and leverage with your feet. Just squeeze your abs to lift your head and neck off the floor and allow yourself to breathe deeply with each retraction.
Try out other ab-blaster movements like bicycles, butterflies and reverse crunches, which put more strain on your obliques, which run along the side of your abdominals and are sure to bring your heart rate up to the max.
Finally, be sure to include a few minutes of planks at the end of every workout, which only require you to hold a static position similar to a pushup, but with your forearms rested on the ground directly beneath your shoulders.
The best at-home workout routines always put heavy focus on the core, which will help you burn fat around those troublesome areas. Whether you’re doing a dance routine or martial-arts inspired video workout, you’re going to feel the heat in your midsection and watch the fat melt away.
Affordable, Low-Profile Equipment
You can make a lot of progress with no equipment whatsoever, but picking up a few simple items can help you level up your results fast, and you don’t need to spend a lot.
For less than $50, you can obtain pushup stands, resistance bands, a pull-up bar and even a lightweight kettlebell. These items can lead you to a slim, shredded physique if you find the right routines and stick to your diet.
Don’t think you need to invest in an entire home gym to see results. It’s all about getting equipment that you’ll actually use and making sure you stay committed.
When it comes to exercise, you can accomplish so much at home with just your bodyweight and the right techniques. This basic guide should set you in the right direction, but always be sure to push yourself to perform tougher movements and raise the intensity.
Before long, you’ll be well on your way to achieving your health and fitness goals!