Friday, November 28, 2014

Workout at Home Effectively with the Right Tools

If you've ever dreaded the early morning wake-up to get to the gym or cringed at the thought of having to pound through rush hour at the end of the day to train, we've all been there.  Sometimes our schedules just don't allow for getting out to the gym, especially when you've got a family at home.

If a steady gym membership just isn't going to happen, there is still hope.  Yes, going to a gym full of like minded people is a great motivator and the group style workout program makes everyone seriously accountable for putting the work in.  There is no doubt that working along side someone else doing the same workout as you spurs you on to get it done faster.  So, can an at home workout be as effective?

The right tools make all the difference
The absolute number one characteristic you will need for success is motivation.  Even the most expensive home gym equipment shiny and polished and full of potential won't do you one bit of good if you don't use it consistently.  And by and large the cost of the equipment does not correlate to it's effectiveness contrary to most beliefs.  It's more important to have the right tools than the expensive ones.  But before we reveal what we think are the most effective tools for the at home workout, we've got to get you thinking about what will get you using them consistently.  The right tools to use at home we can help with, the motivation part is up to you.  Here's a few pointers I've learned in my 25+ years of having fitness as a central part of my life.

  • Recognize the Need - If you are in the military, law enforcement or fire department then fitness is an obvious lifetime pursuit.  If you are at a desk all day then devoting a portion of your day to exercise may very well be just as important.  Get out a piece of paper and write down your reasoning for wanting to workout at home.  If you can't do that right now, it might be best to go pursue something else and come back when you see the need.  It sounds a bit harsh but if you don't see the need for adding a fitness program to your daily routine, then it's tough to attach a commitment and see results.  Spend more than a few minutes thinking about why you want to get fit and write it down.  Keep that slip of paper.
  • Have a Goal - No matter what we do, to see it accomplished we have to have a goal.  You set short term goals all day long - preparing a meal, stopping to fuel up your car, completing tasks at work.  Imagine your day without goals and what the resultant accomplishments would be?  Impressive, right?  Nope.  The same goes for having a fitness goal.  Make the goals very, very specific and measurable.
  • Be Okay with Changing it Up - I've pursued a lot of different training programs and used a wide variety of equipment.   Some I've used, left and come back to and some I've left permanently.  One constant in all those years was that I found something of interest and wasn't afraid to dive in.  Very few people ever stick with one piece of equipment or one fitness endeavor their whole life.  Change things up to keep it interesting.  Sign up for a road race, trail race or get your bike out for a few weeks at a time.  It is true that variety can keep us from mastering a specific tool or movement but in the long run, variety may very well keep you engaged better than routine will.  And if you don't try new tools or fitness outlets, you might be missing out on something you can really enjoy.
Outfit your home gym with versatile tools that keep your interest
If your motivation is now peaked, that's a good thing.  As we said, without it, you won't get far.  So, if we've got you interested, let's talk about some of the most useful tools for at home workouts. Two single most important aspects of any equipment you put in your gym is it's versatility and effectiveness.

Single use equipment had better be stellar at what it does or very cost effective to earn a spot in your gym.  It's kinda like having the same thing for lunch every day for a month.  Sooner or later you're going to hate it and want something else.  If you decide to add the piece with the understanding that you won't use it everyday, then at least you are being honest with yourself.  We've got a few ideas to keep your interest level high that we will share below.

What are the most useful tools for at home workouts?  We've got six in mind that have earned their spot because of their versatility and effectiveness.   And, by and large, they are very reasonable;y priced.  To give yourself the best chance of success at an effective and enduring workout program at home you'll need both in every piece.
  • The Pull Up Bar - If the last time you set your eyes on one of these was in high school, it's time to add one to your home gym.  We had a gymnastics unit in high school [yep, I do remember that far back :) ] and it didn't grab my interest then but that's a different story now.  Easy to install and superb at building a strong upper body and core, the pull up bar is in every major gym in the country for a reason.  And it's not just for the basic pull up.  Once you've got the strength for a set of 10 or more strict pull ups it's time to start trying some more advanced pulling movements on this great tool.  And the pull up bar is also fantastic at building your core with movements like knees to elbows, toes to bar, L Sit holds, windshield wipers and more.  Versatility will keep your interest and will keep your fitness level progressing.
  • Kettlebells or Dumbbells - Without a doubt two the oldest and most effective strength training tools ever designed are the kettlebell and dumbbell.  For many, either of these tools are interchangeable which makes them a great choice.  And not only are they effective, but the number of ways that you can put them to use is virtually limitless.  We've put together an easy read on what size kettlebell is best for you that applies to dumbbells as well.  And if you need a few exercise ideas for inspiration, here's more than a handful of kettlebell exercises you can do at home.  Suffice it to say that with a little inspiration, you could use a kettlebell or dumbbell differently every time you step in the gym for a month.  That says a lot, especially when you are on a budget.
  • Gymnastics Rings - Hanging up in your basement or garage gym, gymnastics rings might be one of the most interesting and low cost tools out there.  For men and women alike, rings have an incredible amount of versatility for pulling or pushing movements like the pull-up, push up, ring row even muscle ups.  Their instability and nearly infinite scalability make them an overwhelming choice for the home gym.  And because of their wide range of difficulty in exercises from the beginning level Basic Support Position to the Straddle L you can continue to pursue mastery for years with a host of different exercises.  There are a handful of really exciting beginner level gymnastic rings exercises that you can do right out of the box.
  • Concept 2 Rowing Machine - Ok, we're breaking the rules with this one just a little because it is a single use piece of equipment but the reason we've got the Concept 2 Rower on the list is it's amazing effectiveness.  This rower is an incredibly well built piece of equipment that although you probably won't use every day, still earns a high spot on our list of at home workout equipment.  For those that can't get to the gym or get outside for an intense run or bike ride the indoor rower delivers a fantastic workout.
  • Medicine Ball - The medicine ball is also high on our list because of it's high versatility but also it's low impact style of training.  Especially effective for the beginner but also able to challenge the advanced level athlete, the medicine ball works itself easily into many bodyweight exercises such as the squat, overhead lunge, pushup and sit-up.  For those that don't want heavy steel plates and barbells in their home gym, the soft, quiet yet super tough medicine ball is a great choice.
  • Resistance Bands - Also a fantastic choice for the home gym, resistance bands are easily adaptable to multiple movements and provide a lower impact type resistance to your training.  Add them to movements like the squat or use them for shoulder pressing and wrapped around a pull up bar for pulling movements too.  We've got more than a few ideas for using resistance bands in your training here.
Yep.  Enough Said.
Here's a few more tools to throw in your bag of tricks to keep your interest levels high and your workouts consistent.
  1. Throw in a Monkey Wrench - write down seven exercises that get you out of the gym - 5K runs, 5 Mile Bike Rides, 20 Laps at the Pool, or Trail Hiking with a Heavy Pack - that kind of stuff.  Fold up the paper notes and toss them in a hat.  One day a week, grab one and do it.  No matter what.  Toss it back in the hat and add more as you think of them.
  2. Learn Something New - Maybe you've just bought that set of Gymnastics Rings with three or four exercises in mind.  Awesome.  To keep them a little more interesting look up a new exercise that you've never tried and put that in your training plan.  Ring Turn Outs are amazingly effective and not in the mainstream.
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