As exercisers, we tend to over-complicate the task of getting fit. We feel like we need our Bowflex, the leg press machine in front of the TV, or an aerobics class. The truth of the matter is quite a bit simpler, though. Here’s the secret, as long as you stick to the basic principles of training, your methods don’t matter. I covered the principles of training a few weeks back.
Now, there’s really nothing keeping you from doing an effective resistance training session right in your living room. It’s just a matter of figuring out how to do it. Here are a few quick tips to get you fit without setting foot in a gym.
1. Make sure it’s hard. Anything you can do twenty repetitions of is a waste of your time for building strength. Crunches? Forget it. Try a reverse crunch where you curl up and pick your hips up off the floor. Or better, try an elbow plank. Figure out ways to overload yourself with additional weight for exercises like the squat, or move to single-limb variations. Also, increasing range of motion tends to cause plenty of overload for many of us.
2. Do it regularly. The best workout in the world is wasted if you don’t follow it up with more work. Your body doesn’t adapt well to single stimuli; it treats them as isolated traumatic events. If you run just once a month, your legs won’t feel it’s “worth it” to become running legs. Instead, you’ll just be sore for a while. Along the same lines, doing a little shorter workout more times a week is always better than one long mega workout. Think about running again: Do you think your body would adapt better to running 28 miles every-other weekend with no running in-between, or running 4 miles every other day?
3. Keep a record. You should be proud of the work you do. By logging what exercises you do each day, you can not only look back on these and smile at how tough you were, you can also make sure you’re getting tougher. By forcing yourself to do better than last time, you are progressing. Even if you only increase one exercise by one repetition each time, the improvement over a year’s time is astonishing.
4. Try something new. I’m not talking about going out and buying the latest craze in fitness DVDs. I’m talking about learning some new resistance exercises (YouTube is a pretty good resource) that don’t require machines or racks. Good examples are Pistol Squats or Side-Kick Push-ups.
5. Go short. Try to build workouts that will only take 15-20 minutes. This way you really eliminate the time excuse we tend to fall back on when exercising at home. Consider doing timed circuits where you attempt to complete a given number of sets in the fastest time, or doing “rounds for time” – trying to do more sets within a fixed time-frame.
By planning an interesting and quick session a few days a week, you should be able to see significant gains in your fitness in a very short time. IF you start to get bored, change the workout slightly, but take care not to totally alter it, or you risk losing ground.