Gym memberships have their perks — numerous machines, gadgets, and fitness pros promising to shape and mold your body into its best form ever — but they also have their cons — high fees, for one. Add to that the number of machines you probably have no idea how to use, even after quite a few hours of study from your favorite corner treadmill, and no matter what, you still haven’t worked up the guts to go try one of them out. But, what if you could get a great workout from your own home without the fees or the slight feelings of apprehension? What if you could master some of the gizmos and gadgets that once looked somewhat foreign? To get you started, here are five inexpensive, but completely effective, items for building your own at-home gym.
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Think back to the long summer days of double dutch on the playground, and you’ll probably remember the coordination — or perhaps lack-there-of — that it took to get through an entire song. Jumping rope is a great cardio workout, increasing the heart rate quickly, and allowing you to decide the pace (and style — remember the Figure 8?). Fitness experts have likened the versatile, cheap, and travel-friendly fitness trend with that of jogging, stating that it torches calories but is actually easier on the knees. Not only does jumping rope up your heart rate, but it also tones your entire body, working to shape those long, lean legs while you jump and your arms, shoulders, and chest while you maneuver the rope. While you probably won’t want to jump rope for longer than a few minutes straight, there are ways to incorporate a few minute sets into a workout routine so that you are sure to reach your target heart rate between sets of other various exercises.
HOW TO PROPERLY JUMP ROPE:
1. Adjust the rope’s length by stepping on the rope and ensuring that the handles come up to the armpit, and no further.
2. Keeping your elbows tucked close to your side, use your wrists and forearms to turn the rope as you jump.
3. Jump approximately an inch to 2 inches off of the ground, just enough to slip the rope under your feet. Be sure to land on the balls of your feet (while wearing properly-fitting athletic shoes).
Aside from making a notable doorstop, the kettle bell can also be used to shape and tone every muscle of the body with a multitude of exercises available on the internet. From simple squats, lunges, and dead rows to a full body-shaping swing, this handled-weight packs a punch to an otherwise ordinary workout – almost literally. The fun of a kettle bell workout is the fact that the weight can quite easily be ‘thrown’ around, as shown here in the very popular kettle bell swing, in which your hips are used as the driving force to provide the momentum to swing the kettle bell forward and up. Because of the power that can be built with such movements, kettle bell workouts also provide for a cardio impact, rather than just strength training. For beginners, starting with a low weight and increasing reps (10-30 reps per exercise) as you go will help stave off injury.
Starting at only $5.97 for a 5lb weight on Amazon, you can’t beat the price of a workout.
If you’ve done any surfing on the web for abdominal exercises that will score you a 6 pack in no time, you most likely already know that simple crunches on the floor are not the exercise to get you there. But, working those same floor crunches on a stability ball has been found to be almost twice as effective, engaging all of the muscles of your core (including the transverse abdominal muscles responsible for that oh-so-flat tummy) as you try to maintain balance while performing the basic crunch movement.
Rather work the legs and butt? Try a wall squat by placing the ball between your lower back and the ball, step your feet forward a bit and slide your hips down into a sitting position, hold for a few seconds, and then rise. Not only can the stability ball be used for strength training various muscles of the body, but it also a great tool for stretching and improving balance.
4. Dumbbell Set
While the kettle bell can be used for almost all of your weight lifting needs, your muscle groups vary in size and therefore, if you’re interested in building strength and adding muscle to your frame, you will need to adjust the weight that you lift in order to meet those goals. For example, your legs are a much larger muscle group than your arms, therefore you will most likely squat holding larger weights than the weights you will use doing simple bicep curls for the arms. In that case, it is great to have a set of dumbbells that vary in weight to give you some options and room for growth. Dumbbells pull double duty — use the smaller ones during cardio workouts, like walking or training on a stability bike, to up the aerobic intensity or use larger weights to build muscle mass and tone. Buying a set of dumbbells ensures that all of your options are covered.
It’s all about working out stress and frustrations with this ball of weighted bliss, and what mom couldn’t use a little of that some days? The medicine ball is a weighted ball, varying in size depending on its weight, and is used in weight training to increase strength and power. This fun fitness-find can be tossed, twirled, thrown, lifted, rolled, or simply held. Whichever way works best for you, there is a way to help build your core muscles, and even shape your arms and legs. But if you have some pent up energy inside, this is the gadget to take it out on. The ever-popular Ball Slam is certain to help work out those frustrations — and your back muscles — as you hold the ball over your head and slam the ball down on the ground as hard as you can, grasping the ball again as it bounces back up. Not so stressed? Add the ball to basic exercises such as side to side oblique twists, or weighted sit ups with a friend. Grab a pal, lay down in the sit up position on opposite ends with your feet together and pass the ball between you as you both sit up together. Continue the sit up motion holding onto the ball, passing the ball to your partner at the top of each sit up.
Where to Start?
While Pinterest will inevitably be your go-to for at-home fitness routines, an easy way to get started is to set up your home gym like a circuit. Designate the number of minutes (cardio) and reps (strength training) you want to do at each station along with the corresponding exercise. Use a kitchen timer or your smartphone and get to work! For example, one circuit round: Jump Rope (2 min), Kettle Bell Squat (3x 12 reps), Stability Ball crunches (2 min), Dumbbell Bicep curls ( 3x 12 reps), Medicine Ball Slam (12 Reps). Continue the circuit a few times or change up the exercises in circuit 2 and 3 to work different muscles of the body.
Photo credits: Ashley Sisk