The Perfect Home Gym, Even if You Have No Space
Guest Post by Philip Penrose, CPT, LMT, CST
Not that you are a statistic, but if you were there would be a one in eight chance that you joined a gym this week. Or that you’re planning on joining one soon. And if you were a statistic there is only a 20 percent chance that you would use that membership consistently or even be going to the gym at all by the end of February.
These statistics, as reported by the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association, are so consistent that most fitness chains base their business models off of that expectation.
But if you already know a public gym isn’t your cup of joe how can you get fit without ever leaving home?
Unless you already have a home gym or studio the first task is to dedicate an area for exercise. Don’t stop reading, it’s easier than it sounds and requires less space than you might expect.
Ideally you’ll be able to choose a place without foot traffic, and the more privacy the better. But coopting a normally busy space during its non-busy time is better than putting the treadmill and free weights in the dark damp basement and telling yourself you will go down there regularly. (I don’t have national statistics on that one, but my clients are living proof that it doesn’t work.)
I work with my clients in every location from private health clubs or small home/apartment/office gyms to their living rooms or (weather permitting) back yards or neighborhood parks. I’m a big believer that movement that can be practiced anywhere is more effective in creating fitness and quality of life than exercises confined to only one controlled physical setting.
**Remember that warming up the muscles before any strenuous exercise is key to avoiding injury and any exercise can put you at risk for injury if improperly performed. This information is intended only to suggest how you can use your space, not to recommend any particular exercise or fitness program.
What your body needs is specific to you. Working with a professional, even for one session and a custom program design, can make a big difference to your sticktoitiveness and your results.
If you have no space that is only for exercise.
Let’s say you have access to a hallway when no one else is in it, but that’s about it. Clean out some room in a nearby closet or a pretty chest where you can keep a few accessories – a sticky yoga mat, a padded mat, a pull up bar (bonus if the pull up bar fits over the door to the closet) and resistance bands and/or dumbbells are all you need to get started.
Get your heartrate up: If you have space to jump rope that’s great, although most hallways won’t accommodate swinging a rope. But you can run in place, shadow box, or learn the series of poses that yogis call “sun salutations” and perform that flow quickly and smoothly several times to get your heart pounding. If you have room and want to up the ante, look for an “agility ladder” you can place on the floor and run few fast agility drills to increase both coordination and heartrate.
Build strength, stamina, and core: A “circuit” or “grind” series with free weights or resistance bands takes very little space and can be mixed up regularly to keep you challenged. Planks and pushups on a mat or against the wall target a wide range of muscle groups. Keep them interesting and effective with modifications like side plank or changing the position of your hands from wide to narrow placement. A pull up bar, even if you begin by only hanging from it, provides essential “time under tension” needed to see improvements.
Increase mobility and balance: This is actually the easiest to achieve since it requires the least amount of space and equipment. For balance it can be as simple as standing on one foot. Modify the difficulty by extending the other foot out in front of the body, add a full or partial squat, reach behind you and pull your foot gently upward while still balanced on the other foot. The possibilities are nearly endless. For mobility I usually focus on hips and shoulders. Hanging from your pull up bar will improve mobility in the shoulders, and you can free up the hips by holding a squat position. The ultimate in building mobility and balance, of course, are yoga poses – you can find inspiration and instruction on line or attend a few classes to get you started.
If you have a room you can call your own.
If you can lay claim to at least 40-50 square feet you have about the equivalent of a prison cell. That will give you the option of adding equipment such as a treadmill or stationary bike and a weight set to all of the options above. If you’re using heavy weights, install good rubber flooring over at least a portion of the space. You might also consider setting up a monitor so that you have access to instructional videos from YouTube or a DVD. A free-standing ballet barre might be the perfect addition if you want to expand your balance and flexibility routines.
If you have plenty of space to spare.
It’s easy go crazy with equipment when you have the option of designing a complete home gym. Don’t underestimate how flexible and motivating a big open space can be. Not making equipment purchases on day one saves you on equipment you’ll never use and leaves room to expand when you learn more about your fitness preferences and what you’ll get the most out of. Also consider non-machine fitness equipment like a heavy bag for kick boxing or wooden gymnastic rings. And open floor space can be used for a wide range of effective programs, from body weight drills to kettle bell swings.
Don’t do this alone.
Any fitness program is more likely to be successful when you have a buddy. If you have someone in your family who will enjoy your workouts with you, or a friend or neighbor who will join you in your home gym, even two people working out together doesn’t require a huge amount of space.
The greatest success factor, and the one most overlooked, is fun. A program that is fun, in a space that’s pleasant and convenient, is a program you’re more likely to stick to. That that’s the program that gets results. Every time.
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About Philip Penrose, CPT, LMT, CST
Philip Penrose is a Movement Therapist and Licensed Bodyworker as well as a Personal Trainer in St. Louis.
Working with people at home or work, he customizes “no-fuss” goal-specific systems designed to build physical energy and mental focus while decreasing stress, tension, and even chronic pain. His approach blends body-weight exercise, kickboxing, yoga, functional neurology, and massage with a lot of fun and incremental challenges to improve fitness, function, and quality of life. He writes about health, wellness, and lifestyle here.