When the nights close in, we can all be tempted to hibernate. It’s too cold to go to the gym so we chose to go straight home and get cosy instead, we will save our exercise for the weekend, or maybe until next summer! If you are one of these people, or you simply just don’t like the gym, then all is not lost, it is still possible to do some effective strength training at home.
The routine in this blog post includes a strength session using bodyweight only and aimed at beginners. However for those that exercise regularly there are more advanced bodyweight exercises you can do at home to help improve your strength and I’ll include a routine in my next blog with more advanced moves.
For anyone that hasn’t done much strength training or doesn’t know where to start, then the routine below offers a great basis with 5 simple movements.
Strength training should be a part of every individuals weekly routine. It is crucial for both men and women, particularly those aged over 30 when sarcopenia (age related muscle loss) kicks in. There are huge health benefits to having increased muscle mass. These include; increased bone density, increased blood flow, increased metabolism (leading to increased fat burning), reduced blood pressure, stronger heart and that is only the physical benefits. There are also many intrinsic benefits of strength training such as a positive feeling of being strong, improved self-confidence, posture and general well-being.
At Northern bootcamp we actively promote the feeling of being “strong, fit and healthy”.
Strength training does not have to comprise of lifting heavy weights, although this is very effective, and recommended for people who exercise regularly. For those that have not lifted weights or do not have access to a gym, or simply don’t have the confidence to lift weights, then there are still effective exercises that that you can complete at home, with no equipment required.
This simple muscle building routine can be done anywhere and at any time. For complete beginners, I would recommend x2 sessions per week, along with x2 gentle cardio sessions, such as power walking or cycling and if possible one core or mobility class, such as Pilates or yoga. If that sounds far too much, then remember “anything is better than nothing” and complete this house circuit.
Spend 5 minutes mobilising all the major joints in your body. Start at the neck, moving your head in all directions, slowly and comfortably. Work your way down your body, including shoulders, hips, knees, ankles and wrists. Rotating limbs and moving the joints through all ranges of movement. Hold onto a chair to keep your balance and make sure you go slowly and carefully within a comfortable range for you.
I will list the exercises that are included in this basic session and I will then explain how to put these into a strength session at home.
- PRESS UP
Designed to hit upper body but will also work core. There are 3 options for this, each one more progressively difficult:
Wall Press Up -Feet 30cm from the wall. Rest hands on wall shoulder width apart. Keep body in a straight line (squeezing your bottom together can help to do this) and bend arms to move chest towards the wall. Slowly push away from the wall and straighten arms back to start position and repeat.
Box (chair) Press Up – Push a chair against a wall and kneeling down position knees about 50cm away from chair. With hands should width apart and arms straight, lean forward to rest your body weight on the chair. Keeping your back totally straight, lower your chest towards the chair in between your hands, bending at the elbow. Push away from the chair straightening arms back to start position and repeat.
Half Press Up – Lie flat on the floor, face down with your knees bent and feet in the air. Position hands underneath shoulders, with fingers pointing forward. Squeeze your bottom together to help keep your back straight and then slowly push your chest away from the floor straightening your arms. Your hips should be inline with your shoulders and feet and no bend at the hip. Slowly lower yourself back down until chest touches the floor and repeat.
The squat is a brilliant exercise that engages the majority of muscles in our legs. However, it does rely on a degree of hip, knee and ankle mobility to do this correctly. If you have restrictions in these areas then you may find it more difficult to complete the full range of movement, so try these variants
Chair squat – Start here, lower yourself slowly into a chair and stand back up without using your arms. If you can do this easily, try just touching your bottom briefly on the chair and standing straight back up. Repeat.
Assisted Squat – to help with balance and keep correct form, hold onto a table of chair. Stand up straight and keep shoulders back and chest forward. Slowly move your bottom out behind you, hinging at the hips, keep your chest forward and let your weight fall into your heels. In this position allow your bottom to sink down lower. If you can lower your bottom to become level with your knees this is great, if not go as far as you are comfortable. Use the chair or table as much or as little as you need to stand back up straight squeezing your bottom (glutes) as you do. Repeat.
Air squat – stand up straight, feet a little wider than shoulder width apart and toes pointing slightly outwards. Engage your core and keep chest forward. Hinge at the hips and to move your bottom backwards. You will naturally bend the knees as you sink lower into the squat. Keep all your weight in your heels. If you can get to 90 degrees, great, if not go as low as you can or revert to an assisted squat above. Stand back up straight and squeeze glutes as you come up.
- The Plank
Most people refer to this as a core exercise but from the diagram below you can see that it utilises far ore muscles than just core.
Lie flat on the floor, face down with elbows, directly below shoulders. Raise your body off the floor so that it resembles a plank, from your shoulders to your toes. Squeeze your glutes together and concentrate on pulling your belly button towards your spine. Try not to stick your bottom in the air or arch your back.
If this is too difficult, simply raise up in the same way but from your knees and not your toes.
- Tricep Dip
A great exercise to work the shoulders and the top of your arms, using your bodyweight as resistance. For some of you this may also require a little bit of leg work.
Push a chair with its back against a wall. Sit down on the chair. Put your hands by your side with your fingers over the edge of the chair facing forward. Move your bottom forward and off the chair, keeping your arms straight. With your bottom fairly close to the chair and your knees bent, lower your body towards the ground. Your elbows will bend in a direction toward the back of the chair. You should feel the muscles in back of your arms work hard as you lower your body. Go as near to possible as a 90 degree bend in the elbow and then push on your hands (use legs too if needed) to straighten your arms and lift your body back up. Repeat
If you need to you can come all the way up and sit on the chair to rest before repeating the movement.
If this feels easy, move your feet further away from the chair, straightening your legs.
- Reverse Lunge
There are several types of lunge, each focuses on a slightly different muscle group. The easiest one to start with is a reverse lunge.
Stand Up straight and engage your core. For the first time have a chair or table next to you in case you need help with balance. Take your right leg out behind you in one large step (make sure it is not directly in line with front foot, but slightly to the side). Keeping your shoulders back and your chest pointing forward, bend the back knee so that it starts falling towards the floor, your front knee will bend also. Aim to get the back knee as low to the floor as is comfortable for you. Be sure not to bend the front knee more than 90 degrees and if possible keep your front knee level with your ankle ( not forward of it). Pushing your weight into your front foot, bring your legs back together and stand up tall. Repeat taking your left leg backwards
If this movement feels uncomfortable at any point. Reduce your range of movement and simply don’t bend the knees as much and bring your back foot in a little closer. If it is still uncomfortable like all other exercises, you must STOP.
A Bodyweight Strength Session for beginners
Once you have practised the 5 exercises above and you are comfortable with each one, complete this beginner’s body weight routine:
Press Ups x 10
Squats x 10
Plank 10 second hold x 5
Tricep Dips x 10
Lunge x 10 (each leg)
Repeat the above routine 3 times. The next time you complete this try to do it 4 times.
Once it starts to get easier, try holding the position of full exertion for 2-3 seconds in each exercise.
If this becomes very comfortable move on to some more advanced body weight exercises, which are coming soon in my next blog.