I like to think that in home training was once my “thing”. I loved it because it forced me to be creative and work with what I had. You would be surprised by how many pieces of furniture can act as makeshift gym equipment. Sometimes all you need is a sturdy desk, or chair, and a backpack to get a great workout (see videos below). We always made sure that whatever we used was safe and sturdy, and matched the client’s physical capability. I do a lot less in home training now but I’ll go over some of the tricks of the trade in this blog post, along with some videos. Hopefully it will give you greater success than Mr. Potato Head!
Home Equipment and Exercises
Having gym equipment is great and all but sometimes it just isn’t feasible due to spacing and finances. But if you look around, you will probably find that you have more equipment than you originally thought. Save yourself some money and check out the list of equipment you already have, and the exercises you can do on them. Videos below as well!
- Couch / Sturdy Chair (Bench): Box squats, Bulgarian split squats, Hip Thrust, Reverse Hypers.
- Chair (Seated Bench) : Seated exercise (Shoulder press, curls, rows).
- Sturdy Desk / Table (Bench): Incline Push up, Feet-elevated push up, Triceps extension, Step ups.
- Small Bathroom Towel / Paper Plates ( Val Slides): Lunges (reverse and lateral), Hamstring Curls, Body Saw, Push ups.
- Backpack (weight vest): A very easy way to load up an exercise especially if you don’t have many weights. Put some books in there and you now have yourself a weight vest. You can do push ups, squats, lunges, chin up, Bulgarians split squat, and more!
- Small Step: Can be used to add greater range of motion to exercises such as lunges, squats, deadlifts, and Bulgarians. This puts more emphasis on the posterior chain ( glutes and hams) which is an area where many people lack strength. These are more advanced so make sure you master the basic movement first.
- Stairs: Running stairs or doing step-ups on the spot.
- Rafter / Beam ( Chin up bar): Chin up, pull ups, core exercises.
- Duffel bag (Dumbbells/ Barbell): A duffel bag, or sandbag, can be used as a makeshift barbell. You can do barbell exercises such as front squats, back squats, RDLs, push press, bent over row, bicep curls, pressing variations and more.
The short length version of the video above can be found here on Facebook if you don want to listen to me speak 🙂
Setting Up The Actual Workout
How you set up a workout depends on many factors. Many questions need to be asked such as: How many times will I workout in a week? What is my main goal with training? Am I looking to lose fat? Get stronger? Both? How much time can I commit to a workout? What equipment do I have?
This list can keep going. But let’s say you’re like most people: You’re tight on time and you’re looking to tone up and get stronger while committing yourself to 2-3 workouts a week. If this is you then you might want to focus on strength circuits. These circuits focus on compound movements that train multiple muscle groups at once. Single joint exercises are great too but if you’re tight on time and looking for a more efficient “fat burning” workout then compound exercises are the way to go. Efficiency is the key here. You want to make sure you pick a weight where you can maintain form for the set amount of reps or time. You can alternate between an upper body and lower body exercise or a push and pull exercise. For example:
A1. Squats (bodyweight or weighted)
A2. Push ups (can be done on a incline or on the wall with push up handles)
A3. Dumbbell Rows
A4. Slow Mountain Climber
These 4 exercises would be done consecutively. You can do them for time, reps, or a combination of both. Stay away from very light dumbbells if you are capable of lifting more. Some fitness regimens, DVDs, and magazines tell you that you will get toned with 2 lb. dumbbells but, no. Your body will plateau if you don’t progressive overload! You can read more about progressive overload and why you wont get bulky here! Do 2-3 sets of the exercises before moving on to your next set of exercises. This is just 1 very small example of a workout you can do. Again, it depends on your current goals, injury history, and fitness level. Everyone is very different! Regardless of what you do, consistency in your workouts and nutrition will be the difference between seeing results and staying the same!
BONUS: Home Equipment I would recommend
I would highly recommend items 1-3 as it will you give the most variety without spending too much. The other items are great to have but it’s not the end of the world, especially if you’re just starting off. It’s better to start off small and commit yourself to training before spending a fortune on equipment and realizing it’s not for you.
The TRX give’s you so many different exercises to play with. It’s very helpful if you’re new to fitness, have joint injuries, or problems with balance. The only downfall of course is the price. If money isn’t an issue then definitely invest in a TRX. It comes with a door anchor and it can also be attached to the ceiling. You can also bring it with you when you travel!
There are many different options here depending on your current strength level, budget, and available space, You can get some power blocks which are adjustable so it saves you space but they are also a bit pricier,. Or you can get regular dumbbells from a fitness store or Kijiji. It depends on you. Either way, dumbbells are essential.
3. Resistance Bands:
It’s like buying a cable machine for one percent of the price. They come with a variety of different tensions so that you can do a variety of exercises with them. The bands with greater tension can also be used as a makeshift TRX. All my clients that have bought resistance bands have been very happy with their purchase.
Having a bench gives you many different options and makes things much easier. You can use furniture or the floor for a makeshift bench in the meantime. Of course, spacing can be an issue when purchasing a bench.
A cheap and spacious form of cardio. If you’re ok with spending $1400 then I would highly recommend an AirDyne Pro.
6. Mini bands (hip/ glute work):
Great for hip activation work especially if you’re sitting down all day. Bands are also great for building the glutes, which is apparently very in right now.
7. Mat (s):
Cushion for the knees and back if kneeling or lying down.
Barbell exercises are great but can be a bit more advanced. Master the movements with dumbbells and body weight first. If you are planning on doing hip thrusts regularly then a barbell might be a good idea. A pair of bumper plates would be good too for hip thrusts as it elevates the bar. See below.
9. Bumper Plates:
These rubber plates are similar to the ones you see in the Olympics. The can be dropped with less damage to the floor and they are all at a certain height which makes barbell lifts a lot easier (i.e. hip thrust, rows, deadlifts etc, ), especially when first learning.
10. Swiss ball –
Great for proper core exercises and not circus tricks.
11. Foam Roller/ Lacrosse Balls:
Self-myofascial release when you can’t get to a massage therapist. It can be done before a workout or on your days off.
You can always find a way to stay fit and active, and you can always find an excuse not to. You don’t need a fancy gym or gym equipment when you’re first starting off. Just focus on moving and getting active first! Start slowly with your workouts and then go from there.
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