With wages stagnating, expenses eating up more and more disposable income and free time increasingly becoming a luxury, taking care of your body has become increasingly difficult.
Walk into a fitness store and you will find exercise equipment that will set you back hundreds if not thousands of dollars.
Walk into a gym and you will be deluged with sales pitches from the staff offering overpriced monthly memberships and training sessions. There is also the fact that you will have to drive to the gym; if you don’t happen to live nearby, driving to and from the gym to get a workout in will definitely begin to feel like a chore after a while.
The good news, however, is that you can get put together a solid workout routine without having to rely on access to a gym or pricey equipment. If you’re goal is simply to build muscle, increase stamina, reduce stress, keep your heart and lungs strong, reduce the risk of acquiring a great many diseases, and of course, look good naked, then read on.
There is really no excuse to purchase a costly treadmill. Walking, jogging or running outside will get the job done. You can mix things up by utilizing different terrains such as running up and down a hill or stairs. This will help build power, prevent injury, and ensure that some of the weaker muscles don’t lag due to repetitiveness.
It’s not necessary to work your way up to being a marathon runner (unless that is one of your goals) to keep your cardiovascular system healthy. Your best move is to employ high-intensity interval training (HIIT) in your exercise regimen. A HIIT program is one where you perform a short interval of high-intensity exercise followed by a short interval of low-intensity exercise. You alternate between the high-intensity and low-intensity intervals until exhausted. Typical sessions last 10 – 30 minutes, though it’s best to begin with a shorter duration if you’ve mostly lived a sedentary life and are just starting out.
Going for a run outside is great when it’s summer time, but what happens when winter rolls in?
You can still perform cardio exercise at home. There are a variety of ways to get the heart rate up:
- Jumping jack – great full-body exercise for getting the heart rate up.
- Burpee – in addition to being an exhausting cardio exercise, it also builds strength by working your arms, chest, legs and abs.
- Jump rope – affordable and portable exercise that’s great for burning calories, increasing bone density and building agility.
- Squat thrust – similar to the burpee minus the jump at the end; great for beginners who can’t perform a well-executed burpee yet.
- Step up – an intense exercise that not only burns calories but develops your lower body and improves your balance and coordination.
In order to really get in shape you should not neglect resistance training. Resistance training helps build muscle size and strength and increases bone density.
The best way to begin is to start with body weight exercises:
- Push-up – a tried-and-true exercise for getting in shape. Pushups work the chest, triceps, shoulders and abs. There are many variations you can do once you learn the basic version in order to increase the difficulty or target different muscles.
- Body squat – a great way to begin building muscle and strength in the lower body, body squats work your quads, hamstrings, glutes and spinal erectors.
- Pull-up – this is a tough exercise to execute properly at first, but it’s great for building the upper back, lats, biceps and abs.
- Dip – another tough exercise but well worth mastering; works the chest, front shoulders and triceps.
- Leg Raise – works the abs, obliques and hip flexors.
To perform pull-ups and dips effectively you should invest some money in a power rack (they look like this). For a relatively small one time investment, you can do all the pull-ups, chin-ups, dips, knee raises and push ups you want.
The next step is to purchase a few sets of dumbbells. Don’t bother shopping around for the fanciest ones – check if someone is looking to get rid of their own set (people usually quit their New Year’s resolution of getting fit around the end of February and may put their unused equipment up for sale online). Browse garage sales and flea markets as well – there is absolutely no need to spend any more money than you need to in order to get fit.
You can perform a variety of exercises using dumbbells:
- Chest press – great alternative to the pushup; works the chest, front shoulders and triceps
- Shoulder press – works all three shoulder heads, but mainly the front and side
- Lateral raise – works mainly the side shoulder head
- Skull crusher – works the triceps
- Alternated bicep curl – works the biceps
- Row – works the upper back, lats and biceps
- Reverse fly – works the rear shoulders and traps
- Goblet squat – works the quads
- Lying leg curl – works the hamstrings
- Toe raise – works the calves
Some Other Fun Things
- Ab wheel – these things are very affordable and will make your abs scream. Your lats, triceps, shoulders and hips also get a good workout. An underrated exercise.
- Keg Load – doing this strongman-type exercise will help build a powerful lower back.
- Farmer’s walks and waiter’s walks – you rarely see people doing these at the gym. Farmer’s walks work the abs, forearms and upper back. They also help develop grip strength and do a number on your legs and posterior chain. Waiter’s walks build core and shoulder strength.
- Tearing a deck of cards in half – this is a lot harder than it seems and can be a good party trick. For those people not interested in hitting large numbers on the three main compound lifts (bench press, squat and deadlift), why not try something unique like learning to bend steel? Visit Gripboard.
- Human Flag – as mentioned earlier, body weight exercises are a great place to start, but you can take things to an insane level if you want to. The human flag is a very difficult exercise, not to mention eye-catching. Other challenging body weight exercises include pistol squats, one-armed pull-ups, handstand push-ups and the planche.
- Solitary Fitness by Charles Bronson – I’m mentioning this book because it’s an informative and fun read and because it reinforces this article’s theme on simplicity and frugality when it comes to fitness. Bronson is one of Britain’s most famous criminals, having served most of his life in prison since 1974 (including over two decades in solitary confinement). During his time behind bars he has devised a very personalized and obsessive training regimen, utilizing only his body and any odd objects he has in his possession. Unlike all those other garden variety fitness books, this one covers an exercise for enlarging the penis (apparently all you need is a towel, but it’s safe to say that you shouldn’t try this one without consulting a professional).