Exercising in your own lounge room is an excellent idea, for a host of reasons.
When most people think exercise, they think of an uncomfortable setting they have to travel to, at least the distance of lacing up your runners and going outside.
If you’re exercising at home, you have the advantage of total privacy and there won’t be anyone getting in the way, watching you in the mirror and using things when you want to use them.
The great advantage of going to a gym is twofold, although those advantages might seem mutually exclusive to the more dedicated. Firstly, a gym is a lot like an office. If you go to a dedicated space to perform a given task, there is a better chance of being able to focus and use the time efficiently. Exercise, like work, tends to be avoided without a helpful set of constraints.
Secondly, some people like to use exercise as the pretext for a social occasion. For those who don’t need the extra motivation, this is often exhausting and irritating.
A gym offers many forms of equipment, none of which are absolutely essential to being fit and healthy. With the advent of the internet, entire yoga programs are now available at home and you can set up your laptop or tablet and follow along.
The idea of morning and evening routines are interesting to touch on. Rather than simply performing some kind of exercise purely for fitness, exercise can be used to effectively switch on or switch off the mind, as well as the body.
I like to do a set of push-ups as soon as I get out of bed. It makes me feel as if I have made a full transition from asleep to awake within the space of a modest set. Once you’ve generated some momentum, it makes it easier to get from one activity to the next. As someone said, ‘If you win the morning, you win the day.’
I also like to perform some stretches to unwind right before I go to sleep. I’m particularly tight in my hips after decades of heavy squatting and deadlifting, so I address those areas specifically.
Nightly stretching has helped to both reduce pain and increase mobility. I think a lot of what we conceive of aging – feeling ‘old’, anyway – has to do with reduced function and an increase in pain. It’s amazing how much pain can be dissipated through an effective stretching regimen.
I also have a long spine and as a result of less than optimal posture, I find that my back begins to hurt after a long day of being vertical. Stretching the spine is a fabulous way to release tension and the fatigue comes with it. I find that stretching, culminating with stretching my back over a spinal bridge, helps me surrender myself to sleep.
The benefits of bodyweight training are manifold.
First and foremost, you’re literally without excuses. It doesn’t get more convenient than working out in your home without any equipment.
Body weight exercises, such as push-ups, are easily scalable to make for a more difficult or easier workout, depending on your fitness level or, let’s face it, your mood.
In the case of a push-up, you can do them on your knees, elevate your feet, elevate your hands, change the width of your grip, or add a clap in between if you’re feeling particularly saucy. Even changing the order of exercises after a week or two will have a significant impact on the intensity of the workouts and their impact on you.
Body weight exercises also develop core strength. Because you are utilizing your full body, you have to balance yourself in space as you perform the movement. For this reason, what is referred to as your core, which is the stabilizing muscle in your abdomen, is strongly engaged to keep you in position.
Not only does this develop your balance, but it also makes you stronger in a practical way. Strength developed in this manner is easily applied to a real world situation. And any exercise that develops core strength contributes to everything you do, whether it’s carrying kids, picking up groceries, getting in and out of the car, or lifting a heavy, awkward load.
And any exercise that develops core strength contributes to everything you do, whether it’s carrying kids, picking up groceries, getting in and out of the car, or lifting a heavy, awkward load.
It’s also easy to design a workout in which you can achieve both strength and cardio training, and kill all your birds with the one convenient stone. The simple combination of squat jumps with push-ups is a killer.
The legs are the largest muscle group in the body. Once you get working, the body needs oxygen and when you go down into a push-up position, the diaphragm contracts and makes it more difficult to fill the lungs. And hey presto! In the space of two movements and a transition, you’re working your shoulders, arms, chest, legs, lungs, and core.
The other thing about bodyweight exercise is that it requires compound movements. ‘Compound’ movements are movements that require the use of multiple joints at the one time. To go back to the push-up, you’re using wrists, elbows, shoulders, back; pretty much your entire upper body. It means more work, more
To go back to the push-up, you’re using wrists, elbows, shoulders, back; pretty much your entire upper body. It means more work, more stress, and burns more calories.
There’s a range of activities you can perform at home, as well as utilizing furniture to make things more interesting. A few examples are as follows:
That old stalwart can be used to do a number of things.
Lie at a right angle to the couch with your hips around a foot distance. Put your feet up with your knees bent and then lift your hips by pushing your feet down into the couch, forming a straight line from your shoulders down to your knees.
Incline and Decline push ups
A push up is essentially a plank that moves through a range of motion, courtesy of the shoulders and elbows. You can perform an incline push up by putting the hands on the couch, or a decline push up by elevating the feet.
Sit with your back to the couch and your hands on the cushion. Extend the elbows and lift the weight from the floor, straightening the elbows at the top before returning to the floor.
Single leg squat
Single leg squats, or pistols, are immensely demanding and great for developing the gluteus medius, the stabilizing muscle required for squatting and lunging.
Use the couch as a support for one hand as you perform the exercise. Shift all your weight to one leg, straightening the other out in front of you with the foot lifted away from the floor. Bend the knee of the working leg, descending until the hips are as low to the heel as you can manage. Then, drive through the heel and extend the knee to return to standing.
This is a very tough one, so modulate the amount of assistance you get from the couch with the supporting arm!
A winner for cardio. There is, of course, running flights, which is also fabulous for developing the calves. Try missing a step in order to increase the degree of glute activation.
Chairs are a great support for performing calf raises. Stand tall next to a chair and use one hand on the upright for balance. Push through the balls of the feet and extend the ankles all the way, raising the heels as high as possible. Slowly descend and repeat.
Timed wall sit
Sit against the wall with legs at a right angle and feet directly under the knees. Push through the heels and maintain the posture for time. Do repeated sets, timing the duration.
Lie flat on the bed, using the abs to raise the legs to 90 degrees. Then, slowly lower the legs back to the level of the bed.
It’s key to remember that fitness is a very specific quality. If you do a certain set of activities for a set number of reps over a set period of time, you will adapt to those exact parameters.
To that end, I’m going to provide you with a training blue print that you can perform every other day for a couple of weeks and, once you feel like a challenge or a change, you can simply alter number of reps or duration of sets and start working to time, rather than a certain set of repetitions.
You can even switch the order of the exercises and you’ll find your workout becomes immediately more demanding. Regular alterations will also yield greater results.
- 1 minute of squats
- 1 minute of star jumps
- 1 minute of rest.
Repeat for three rounds.
- 20 Push ups
- 15 Burpees
- 10 Single leg squats: 5 per leg (Don’t be embarrassed about using the couch to spot yourself for this one).
- 5 Sit ups
- 15 Push-ups
- 10 Burpees
- 4 Single-leg squats
- 20 sit-ups
- 10 Push-ups
- 5 Burpees
- 3 Single-leg squats
- 15 Sit-ups
- 5 Push-ups
- 20 Burpees
- 15 Single leg squats
- 19 Sit-ups
Rounds 5, 6 and 7:
Plank: hold the body in a straight line from ear to ankle, propped on the toes and the elbows. The arms should be bent at a right angle, with the elbows directly beneath the shoulders. 1 minute
Bulgarian split squat: Elevate the rear foot on the couch and focus on bending the rear leg, descending through the front. This is essentially a lunge with one foot elevated. 5 per leg.
Bridge: A plank with arms extended. One minute.
Mountain climbers: This is essentially a running motion bringing the knees towards the elbows while holding the body in the bridge position. Aim to work for one minute consistently, regardless of speed.
This workout will surprise you with its level of demand. The best thing is to be kind to yourself and rather than feel you have to reach a set number: just set a time and work through the reps, or set a number of reps and give it as long as you need. You can then increase your intensity as you see fit.
The second time through is always easier; becoming conversant with the exercises and their order is the first significant step in any progression.
Most of all – have fun!