Going to a gym is a great way to gain access to lots of equipment that can give you an almost inexhaustible variety of exercises for building muscle and burning calories. They also tend to be fairly expensive to join, and many people are uncomfortable working out around others. Fortunately, with a little ingenuity there are a lot of exercises that anyone can do at home with minimal equipment by using their body as the resistance that is usually offered by weights or cables on gym equipment.
The last article talked about exercises like pull-ups and sit-ups that you can do at home to work your core and upper body. This article is going to introduce a number of exercises that you can do at home to work out the muscles in your legs, and some that are good for your core as well.
Exercises You can do Without doing Anything
Some exercises that you can do, even while doing other things, involve changing the way that you bear yourself while doing other tasks. Using a standing desk requires you to use muscles in your legs and core – muscles that usually aren’t doing anything at all – to support you and hold you upright.
This kind of exercise isn’t going to burn too many calories or build too much muscle, but it can be a good way to tone these muscles to increase their capacity for doing higher-impact exercises. Some people also find that these very passive exercises contribute to better posture and flexibility during other activities.
For a while many people were replacing their chairs with medicine balls for a similar sort of workout, but recent studies have shown that the difficulties sometimes caused by this method outweigh any potential benefits.
Running, walking and jogging are also natural ways to burn calories and build muscle, especially if you do so on uneven terrain. This can be casually worked into a day by parking further from your destination or not using a vehicle for short trips, though many people also find walking, running, or jogging to be good ways to relieve stress or just enjoy the outdoors or their community. While any speed you take will tone muscle and burn calories, the faster you move the more calories will be consumed.
Biking for Fitness
Biking is also a great way to move, either for practical purposes or solely for exercise or enjoyment. The muscles in your legs, mainly the backs of the upper legs, get a work out by working the pedals and your core works to keep you balanced on the bike.
Biking on flat terrain won’t build as much muscle as biking up-hill, but it can burn a lot more calories. A good bike workout may contain both hills and flat stretches. How and where you plan to bike can also influence the price of a bike, if you don’t already have one.
Racing bikes and mountain bikes can both tend to be more expensive than bikes meant for simply getting from one place to another on fairly flat land. Mountain bikes or racing bikes do have the benefit of having gears, however, which allow you to adjust your own resistance. While these are meant to be used to reduce the amount of work that needs to be done to get from point A to point B over changing landscapes, they can be used to get an up-hill workout while staying on a flat road.
Squats, Lunges and Raises
There are a few lower-body exercises that you can do without any equipment, and even without going outside, though these tend to be better at building muscle than burning calories.
Another simple exercise works the muscles in the backs of the lower legs, making it a great compliment to biking. Calf-raises – Stand with feet flat and rise onto the toes, then simply repeat. Unfortunately, this is another exercise that isn’t going to be a big consumer of calories, but it is going to build muscles used in other exercises.
The “squat” – Begin with feet a little more than shoulder-width apart, arms straight out and back straight. Bend the knees to around ninety degrees until the upper legs are parallel to the floor, and then straighten back to the starting position — is a simple exercise that works a large number of leg muscles in the upper and lower legs, as well as some muscles in the core and lower back that are involved in maintaining balance and posture. Possibly one of the best things about the squat is that it doesn’t take up a lot of space or time. I’ve often found that it can be fit in while waiting for a call in the office, waiting for water to boil, or any other time when you happen to have even a minute or two of free-time.
Similar to the squat but slightly more advanced, is the lunge – A standard squat but stepping out with one leg as you go down, then returning to the starting position and stepping out and down with the alternate leg. This exercise works the same basic muscle groups, but also incorporates a good stretch. If done regularly the squat-thrust is a solid exercise that increases flexibility and builds muscle, though it can also be incorporated as a quick warm-up between other lower body exercises like biking, running or walking.
The squat-thrust – Starting from the starting position of a push-up, hop onto the feet, rise to standing, and repeat. – is a faster paced exercise that burns more calories and involves a few more muscles. By throwing in a push-up in the mix you get an exercise called a “burpee,” which incorporates some of the same upper body exercises that are involved in a standard push-up.
For those who are particularly motivated or particularly strapped for time, there are a lot of exercises like the burpee that can serve as work-outs for the entire body. Work-outs of this kind tend to be particularly good at both burning calories and building muscle. Exercises like this will be the topic of the next article.