Getting started with a home exercise program – and sticking with it!
In mid-summer of 2020, many of us arrived at our gyms only to find the doors locked and a notification that the gym would once again be closed until further notice because of yet another spike in COVID-19 cases. For some of us, this would be the beginning of a lockdown lasting a good eight months. In order to retain the health benefits—not to mention the toned bodies—we had acquired from years of regular workouts, we knew that our only option would be a home exercise program.
Why exercise at home?
In addition to the series of recurring lockdowns and closures that left many of us without a gym, there are many other reasons to work out at home. Based on 16 of the most popular chains, the price of a gym membership in the United States in 2021 will run from $159 per year for a low-end plan all the way to a whopping $948 per year for a high-end plan. Not everyone has that kind of disposable income! What’s more, in today’s increasingly fast-paced world with a multitude of obligations at home and at work, not everyone has time to visit a gym three or more times a week spending an hour or more each time (not to mention the time it takes to get there, change clothes, shower, etc.). The gym is also among the top 10 places where the risk of COVID-19 contagion is at its highest, with a large number of people in a confined space breathing heavily and sharing equipment (and let’s face it: working out while wearing a mask is no one’s idea of fun).
Luckily, thanks to the internet, today we have other options, and home exercise programs have enjoyed a surge in popularity with many people cancelling their gym memberships altogether.
The importance of exercising the entire body
When exercising, women tend to focus most of their attention on their abdomen, buttocks and legs. This is partly out of a desire to emulate the shapely behinds that are currently in fashion on Instagram and other social media. But this trend also stems from a fear of getting “too big.” However, a woman’s physiology and hormonal makeup are not conducive to big, bulky muscles. Men, on the other hand, tend to focus on their shoulders, arms and chest, the so-called “glam muscles” that garner a lot of attention on the beach. However, lower-body exercises can actually induce growth in all the muscles of the body by stimulating the production of human growth hormone (HGH).
Focusing exclusively on certain parts of the body to the exclusion of others can actually lead to serious problems, including an unbalanced appearance, declined athletic performance, fewer calories burned, a sore back, injuries, decreased range of motion and loss of balance. This does not mean, however, that it’s necessary or even desirable to exercise every part of the body in every workout. The goal is to work each muscle group at least twice a week with a minimum of one day of recovery before working that same muscle group again. This is why many fitness buffs split their workouts into upper and lower body (“arm day” and “leg day”) or “push/pull” routines.
Besides working the entire body, a comprehensive home exercise program should address the four pillars of fitness, which are strength, endurance (“cardio”), flexibility and balance. Below, you’ll find some examples of exercises for different parts of the body.
The main muscle groups of the upper body include the chest (“pecs”), back (“lats”), shoulders, upper arms (biceps and triceps) and forearms. The exercises below require little or no equipment. With a chin-up/pull-up bar, a set of resistance bands and some inexpensive dumbbells, you can put together a highly effective workout.
- Shoulder press
- Chair dips (triceps dips)
- Forearm curls
The major muscle groups of the lower body include the buttocks (“glutes”), upper leg (quadriceps and hamstrings) and the calves. Most of the exercises that work the glutes also involve the muscles of the upper leg. These types of combination exercises are especially effective because they involve movements similar to the ones you perform in everyday tasks such as picking up heavy objects from the floor using your legs, rather than your back. Like the upper body exercises, these can be performed with just your own body weight or with minimal equipment.
- Calf raises
These days, we’re constantly hearing about the importance of a strong core, and there are plenty of exercises beyond the traditional sit-ups and crunches to help you develop one. The muscles of the core include the abdominals (“abs”), obliques and lower back. The exercises below are generally performed using nothing more than your own body weight.
- Shoulder taps
- Side planks
- Leg lifts
The importance of consistency
Besides the appeal of sculpted muscles (regardless of one’s body type), regular exercise offers a whole host of other benefits, including improved sleep, an increased sex drive, natural antidepressant effects, a boost in energy and the ability to prevent or manage obesity, diabetes and heart disease. However, it’s vitally important to stick with it.
The things we do on a regular basis will have a more substantial impact on us than the things we only do occasionally. This applies equally to good habits and bad habits. For example, a regular home exercise program will generate much better results than crushing the occasional weekend workout will. On the other hand, when we exercise consistently, it won’t be the end of the world if we occasionally miss a workout.
There are numerous reasons why people abandon their fitness routines, including injuries, boredom and a perceived lack of time. Fortunately, at Shape Shifters, members have access to classes led by a certified personal trainer, who can ensure proper form, helping prevent injuries. With programs focusing on strength, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and boxing, each featuring more than 20 different videos with new ones added periodically, there’s enough variety to keep anyone motivated and engaged. Best of all, whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned athlete, you’ll be able to enjoy full-body workouts in the comfort of your own home, at your own convenience, in as little as 30 minutes. So what are you waiting for? Sign up for a free one-month trial today!