You don’t have to have a gym membership to get a solid weight-lifting workout. You don’t even need fancy equipment. Even without a weight bench, you can develop your strength and build lean muscle mass by doing simple, effective moves in the privacy of your own home. The key is to use small equipment if you have it and get creative with body-only moves to make the most of what you have.
Free weights such as dumbbells, kettlebells and resistance bands are excellent additions to your home workout area. You can use these pieces to challenge every major -- and minor -- muscle group in your body. Because they aren’t tied to large machines or bulky pieces of equipment, you can tuck them under furniture or in closets to keep them out of sight until you want to use them. And because they are available at large retail stores, you can find them easily and build a personalized home weight station.
To work your lower body with home weights, focus on building your quads, hamstrings and calves. During your lower-body sessions, do at least one move that targets each muscle group and one that works several of them at one time. Effective moves include squats, deadlifts, lunges and calf raises. You can also do stepups by holding dumbbells and walking up flights of stairs in your house if you have them. If you don’t have any free weights at all, you can still do squats, lunges and calf raises to get a muscle-building burn.
Your upper body has five muscle groups that need your attention: your biceps, triceps, shoulders, chest and back. Without using a weight bench, you can target each of them with free weights or body-only exercises. Do bicep curls, standing shoulder presses, triceps kickbacks, bent-over dumbbell rows and lying dumbbell bench presses on the floor. You can also do triceps dips and a variety of pushups using no equipment at all.
Your core is made up of your abs, hips, glutes and lower back, and it’s the one area most critical to injury-prevention and stability. For your core workouts, focus on working the upper and lower abs as well as the obliques through planks, standing side bends and any number of crunches. Do glute bridges with dumbbells to strengthen both your rear and your hips, and engage your lower back by doing supermans.
Specifics and Considerations
During your upper- and lower-body workouts, doing three sets with 10 to 12 reps with a medium-to-heavy weight is a good standard. Avoid training the same muscle groups on consecutive days and allow at least 48 hours for the muscles to recover and rebuild. When working out at home, be mindful of your safety and never lift more weight than you can safely handle. Consider letting a friend or family member know your training plans and approximately what times you’ll be lifting. Also, consult with your physician before starting a new training plan to ensure your health and safety.
After graduating from the University of Kansas with a bachelor's degree in sports information, Jill Lee served for 10 years as a magazine editor for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA). Also a published author, Lee now works as a professional writer and editor focusing on fitness, sports and careers.