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No-Equipment Strength Training
Gyms may be expensive and inconvenient. Home exercise equipment is often bulky and, sooner or later, becomes a repository for coats, pants, dresses and anything else that requires a hanger. With the cost of checking luggage these days, packing your free weights is not exactly an option for workouts while traveling. However, you can get an effective workout with no exercise equipment using your body weight and items commonly found in the home or office. Body-weight exercises, also called calisthenics, are a convenient and cost-effective way to work out no matter where you are.
Made famous by Jack LaLanne, pushups are a fantastic way to work your chest and upper body. They effectively target the pectorals, shoulders and back. They can be modified to be done on the knees if you need an easier version to start, and you can control how far down you want to go. Alternatively, if you need something more challenging than a straight-leg pushup, you can cross one foot over the other, add a count of 1-2 at the bottom of the movement, or elevate your feet so that you’re in a decline position.
Lowering the Boom
Squats are the king of multitasking. When squatting, you're working quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteals and your core. If you feel unsteady with squats, put a chair behind you as a guide and also for safety. If you want to up the ante, you can do them on one leg, add in extra resistance by picking up anything, or add a count of 1-2 at the lowest point of the squat.
Calf raises are another lower-body exercise that requires no equipment. You can do them on the floor, or you can use a step to drop the heels lower and make the movement more difficult.
The Core Issue
The basic crunch is an effective core exercise that can be done anytime, anywhere. In its most basic form, you lie down on your back with your feet on the ground, cradle your head with your hands, keeping the elbows out, and lift up your torso rather than rounding forward. Difficulty can be added by raising your legs straight up and squeezing an object between your feet. Elbow planks and oblique twists are additional core exercises that require no equipment.
Working the biceps is easy with a little creativity. You can do basic biceps curls with just about anything – shampoo containers, cans of soup, or gallons of water or milk. Choose an item with a weight that is challenging but doable.
Tinkering With Triceps
Triceps dips are another basic exercise that can be modified in a number of ways. All you need is a chair or a flight of stairs. The easiest version can be done with bent knees. You can make it more challenging by straightening the legs, crossing the legs, or adding a count of 1-2 at the bottom of the exercise.
If you're a beginning exerciser, start with one to two sets of 10 to 12 repetitions for each exercise. For a more advanced workout, aim for 12 to 15 repetitions and two to three sets for each exercise. If you find you need more of a challenge, utilize the suggestions for increased difficulty or add more sets. Consult with your doctor prior to beginning any new exercise program.
Kelly N. Vance is an ACE-certified personal trainer and accomplished fitness and nutrition writer who has worked in and written about the fitness industry for 10 years. Her additional qualifications include a Bachelor of Arts in psychology, a minor in English and multiple fitness certifications.