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- American Council on Exercise: Strength Training 101
- American Council on Exercise: New Study Puts the Crunch on Ineffective Ab Exercises
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Exercises to Tone the Body Without Going to a Gym
Strength training is a critical part of any comprehensive fitness plan. Pair that basic strength training -- eight to 12 reps does it -- with a smart diet and regular cardiovascular workouts, and the end result is a tight, toned body. Better yet, you can do that toning at home. All you need is a little floor space and some basic -- mostly optional -- equipment.
No Equipment Needed
If you can't or won't invest in any exercise equipment, you can still tone your entire body with strength-training exercises like pushups, bench dips -- done off a sturdy chair or bed -- squats, lunges and planks. If you're willing to blur the lines between strength training and cardio, some strenuous calisthenics exercises -- like burpees and squat jumps -- are intense enough to build muscular strength as well. Keep your workout efficient by aiming for exercises or exercise variations that you can only complete eight to 12 times with good form.
Free Weights and Rubber Bands
If your budget for workout equipment is restricted and storage space is equally limited, consider using elastic resistance bands or a few dumbbells for your workout. This simple equipment -- plus a weight bench if you're using dumbbells -- is all you need to do gym standards like lat pulldowns, chest presses, biceps curls, triceps extensions, squats and lunges. As long as you're using proper technique, you can work your way into more advanced exercises like twisting lunges, wood chops and Olympic lifts -- the latter are best done with the dumbbells.
Stability Ball Exercises
If you're ready to challenge your core even more, incorporate a stability ball into your home workout routine. Any exercise you do lying on a weight bench or the floor can be adapted to use on a stability ball, and a study sponsored by the American Council on Exercise showed stability ball crunches to be one of the most effective ab exercises. Better yet, a stability ball also opens the door to many additional body-weight exercises, including body-weight pullovers, rollups -- tucking your knees to your chest as you lie face-down across the ball -- and pikes.
Other Types of Home Equipment
Depending on your preferred style of training, several miscellaneous pieces of equipment may come in handy. Pullup bars are particularly handy for working your back muscles. If you're not ready to do full pullups yet, you can stand on a chair and push with your legs to give yourself an assist.
Suspension trainers -- which can be slung over an appropriately sturdy ceiling beam or, for a few models, mounted on top of a door -- help build core strength as you battle the trainer's inherent instability. If you're creative enough, you can do some variation of almost any conventional exercise on a suspension trainer.