If you're just starting your first exercise program, it's understandable that you don't want to sign up for a gym membership or invest in special equipment, like weights, until you're sure you'll stick with it. Even if you do stick with it, you'll soon outgrow the light weights you'll start with and just have to buy new ones. You can do many exercises at home without weights at all. For some other exercises, you can innovate by using household items.
Work the pectoralis major in your chest, the anterior deltoids at the back of your shoulders and the triceps at the back of your arm with pushups. Start with knee pushups with knees and lower legs on the floor about hip-width apart. Place your hands on the floor a little more than shoulder-width apart with your fingers facing forward. Start with your arms extended but elbows soft. Inhale as you lower yourself as far down as you can go -- try to make it within a fist's width from the floor -- and always keep your head, back and pelvis in alignment. Exhale as you return to the starting position.
Strengthen your quadriceps at the fronts of your thighs, the hamstrings at the backs of your thighs, the gastronemius and soleus of the calves as well as the gluteus maximus in your buttocks with simple lunges. Inhale as you step forward until the thigh of your front leg is parallel to the floor, and your knee is bent at 90 degrees. Keep the ball of the back foot on the floor and either bend that knee or keep it straight. Maintain torso alignment as you exhale and push off the front foot, bringing it back next to the other leg. To start, hold onto the back of a stable chair for support.
Lie on your side to work the glutes and hip flexors and the adductor muscles of the inner thigh. Rest your head on your extended arm. Place the other hand in front of you on the floor.The hip facing up should be directly in line with the other or slightly ahead of it if you feel any back strain. For the glutes and flexors, place one extended leg on top of the other and lift the top leg as high as you can. For adductors, move the top leg slightly forward along the floor and lift the bottom leg as high as you can.
Tighten your abdominals. Whether you do them in a gym or at home, abdominal exercises don't require weights, even as you progress. Start with hollowing, which simply involves lying on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor and tilting your pelvis up about 10 degrees. You should feel a tightening in your middle. Progress to sliding your hands along the floor, close into your body, as you lift your shoulders, making sure to keep your neck straight.
Fill plastic milk gallons with water to make progressively heavier weights for the biceps at the fronts of your upper arms. Hold one jug in each hand or do one at a time. Keeping your wrists straight and your elbows tucked into your side, start with your arms extended but with the elbows slightly bent to maintain muscle tension. Exhale as you flex your elbows, bringing the jugs toward your shoulders. Squeeze the muscle at the top of the movement, and then exhale as you lower back to the starting position.
Grab two 15-ounce soup cans or two 5-pound bags of flour or sugar, whichever you can handle. Bend your elbows 90 degrees and bring your elbows out to your sides. Your elbows will be just slightly below your shoulders, and your palms will face in. Exhale as you extend your arms up, pressing the weight until your arms are straight, but don't lock your elbows. Return to the starting position. This works the deltoid muscles of the shoulder.
Hold a heavier 28-ounce or 32-ounce can or a five-pound bag of sugar or flour in both hands while lying on your back on the floor with your knees bent. Start with your arms extended above your chest. Keeping the arms extended as you exhale, move the bag over your face and back behind your head. Try to touch floor. Inhale as you return to the starting position. This exercise will work your latissimus dorsi.
Start in the same position as Step 3, still holding your bag of flour or sugar. This time, slowly lower the bag toward your forehead by bending your elbows. Keep your elbows pointing forward and exhale on the return. This will work your triceps.
- Universal Health Services: Exercising at Home
- Personal Fitness Training: Theory & Practice, Second Edition; Mary Yoke, MS
- If you are just starting out, try to do at least one set of eight to 10 repetitions. When you can do two sets easily, it's time to increase the weight.
- If knee pushups are too hard, try starting with pushups against a wall.
- If you keep at it, you will eventually need to graduate to weights in order to keep challenging your muscles.
- If you are new to exercise, do lifting exercises while lying on your back or in a chair with your back supported.
- Always stretch the muscles you worked either following the exercise or at the end of your workout.
- Never work the same muscles two days in a row.
- If any exercise causes pain while you are doing it, stop and consult a physician before continuing.
Nancy Cross is a certified paralegal who has worked as an employee benefits specialist and counseled employees on retirement preparation, including financial and estate planning. In addition to writing and editing, she runs a small business with her husband and is a certified personal trainer with the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA).