RBR reader Sam wrote, “In last week’s column Anti-Aging: Spring, Summer and Fall Resistance Training you stress the importance of resistance training for longevity and to address muscle atrophy. I don’t belong to a gym and I don’t want to buy a lot of equipment. What should I have to work out at home?”
Sam, you can do all of the important exercises just using things you have around the house. Here are some principles:
- Body weight exercises are better because you are strengthening both the primary muscles and the stabilizing muscles and you’re also helping to maintain strong bones..
- Multi-joint exercises such as push-ups are more effective and make better use of your time than isolated muscle exercises like biceps curls and triceps extensions.
- Absolute weight in pounds or kilograms doesn’t matter. Use things heavy enough that they make you work.
- Adjust your repetitions to the stuff you use and increase the reps as you get fitter. If you can do 10 reps with a certain thing that’s fine, gradually build to 15 reps. If you can do 15 reps then build to 20 reps.
- As you get fitter add more household goods to your load.
In these photos Coach Dan Kehlenbach is starting to do wall squats. He’s holding a couple of cloth bags of bags of dried beans, rice and other foods. He’s using a fitness ball as a roller to support his back; however, if you have a soccer ball, basketball, etc. it’ll work fine. He’s holding a small ball between his knees to keep his legs in the proper position. You could also use a folded towel.
In these photos Coach Kehlenbach is doing step-ups wearing a loaded back pack. You don’t need a separate step unit any set of stairs will do. Instead of stepping up and down you could climb the stairs wearing your backpack. And you could make it a habit to carry things upstairs instead of taking an elevator, etc.
For your upper body push-ups are better than the bench press. In addition to working your chest and arm muscles, push-ups work your core muscles by holding your body in a straight line just like doing planks. If regular push-ups are too hard then put your hands on a bench so less weight is on your chest and arms. If regular push-ups are too easy then put your feet on the bench to increase the load on your upper body. Or wear a loaded backpack.
In these photos Coach Kehlenbach is strengthening his rhomboids, the muscles in the upper back that help to hold the head up. He’s using a commercial resistance band; however, inner tubes work just as well. For more or less resistance use a heavier or lighter tube.
I have a small bag to carry cycling gear in when I’m driving to meet a friend. In these photos I’m doing the single arm row to strengthen my upper back. My gear bag has rocks in it. I’m stabilizing my upper body with the chair so my back isn’t working.
In an isometric exercise you hold the muscles at a constant tension instead of contracting and releasing, e.g., in the different planks.
In these photos Coach Kehlenbach is doing the overhead press for his shoulder muscles. He’s using dumbbells but you could use small gear bags like I’m doing for single arm rowing.
- 5 Simple Exercises to Keep Cyclists Injury Free
- 6 Muscle Strengthening Exercises to Prevent Cramps
- How to Do Strength Training Correctly
- Anti-Aging: Core Strength in 1 Hour a Week
- Ask the Coach: Strength Training for Older Roadies
- Anti-Aging: 4 Reasons Why Year-Round Strength Training Is Good for You
My eBook Anti-Aging: 12 Ways You Can Slow the Aging Process describes in detail different strength training programs depending on your goal(s): 1) increase endurance, 2) address atrophy and increase power, 3) improve for hard riding, 4) build stronger bones. I include 30 illustrated exercises for lower, upper and core, which require very little special equipment. I explain how to combine resistance exercise with endurance and intensity training, which varies by season. My 108-page eBook Anti-Aging: 12 Ways You Can Slow the Aging Process is $14.99.
My eBook Cycling Past 50, 60 and Beyond: Fit For Life explains resistance circuit training, doing a series of resistance exercises briskly so you are simultaneously doing a cardio workout. I give you almost 40 different exercises to choose among to strengthen your legs, chest, back, shoulders and core. The 40-page Cycling Past 50, 60 and Beyond: Fit For Life is just $4.99.
My 108-page three-book bundle Cycling Past 50, 60 and Beyond includes:
- Cycling Past 50, 60 and Beyond: Fit for Life – 40 pages
- Cycling Past 50, 60 and Beyond: Peak Fitness – 41 pages
- Cycling Past 50, 60 and Beyond: Training with Intensity – 27-pages
The bundle is $13.50 – 10% off list price for each eBook.
Coach John Hughes earned coaching certifications from USA Cycling and the National Strength and Conditioning Association. John’s cycling career includes course records in the Boston-Montreal-Boston 1200-km randonnée and the Furnace Creek 508, a Race Across AMerica (RAAM) qualifier. He has ridden solo RAAM twice and is a 5-time finisher of the 1200-km Paris-Brest-Paris. He has written over 40 eBooks and eArticles on cycling training and nutrition, available in RBR’s eBookstore at Coach John Hughes. Click to read John’s full bio.
Tina M. says
I like Coach John’s recommendations and would like to add on. As someone who works out at home and has studied home gym design, I would recommend the following items to get started:
A mat. If you don’t have flooring suitable for dripping on, scuffing, or laying on, a quality gym mat (not a yoga mat) might be in order.
A mirror. If you haven’t strength trained enough to know you are doing movements properly, a mirror will be helpful. Sometimes what feels right, isn’t. A mirror will allow you to see what 90-degrees is, or parallel to the floor, and help you learn what proper feels like over time, without looking. The mirror should be big enough, or low enough to see your body, and ideally, your view should be unobstructed.
A small set of dumbbells ranging in weight, or a set of adjustable weights. The smallest weight should be the lightest weight you’d need for an isolated movement. For example, a triceps kickback requires a relatively light load compared to compound movements or a weighted squat, for example.
A set of bands. As mentioned in John’s article, bands are a great tool to exercise with. I like mine for back exercises in particular, where the band is secured to a door frame So keep that in mind – you will need something secure to fasten the band to. I have a pull up bar mounted securely in a door frame that I loop my bands through, but there are other ways to do this. In one of Coach John’s photos, it looks like he is using a wall-mounted device to secure his band to.
An exercise step platform. As Coach John pointed out, stairs work just as well, but if you don’t have stairs, or yours don’t allow enough room for certain movements (like mine), this is a good investment. A longer bench (with risers), somewhere in the neighborhood of 43″ can double as a flat workout bench when you need to lie down. I use mine for chest presses and the like, or I lie on the ground. A 16″ step bench (with risers) is a good option if you are limited on space. It’s wide enough to do step ups and the like, and won’t take up much storage or floor space.
A couple of “really nice to have”s…
YouTube – and thus – a TV or device that will allow you to access YouTube. You have to do your research here and find reputable, quality channels that provide safe and effective strength workouts – and there are A LOT of these high-quality channels that are free. Find the channel(s) that suit your needs and subscribe.
An alternative to YouTube is a strength training DVD. I invested in workout DVDs such as P90X and Body Beast (and many more, to be honest), years ago and still use them. After many years of using DVD’s like these, I create my own strength training workouts and do them at a speed that I think is appropriate based on my goals. A lot of the DVDs I’ve used really emphasize going fast and giving yourself little recovery between movements, which I don’t always agree with. If your focus is on strength training for longevity and maintaining or growing muscle, the most important thing is to begin strength training and do it consistently over time. Going fast has its benefits, but might not be necessary for your goals.
Yoga. Yoga is an amazing addition to any workout program. It is many things, depending on the workout that’s prescribed: It’s calming, strengthening, improves flexibility, teaches us proper breathing, helps us sleep, the list goes on and on. It is always beneficial in some way. I recommend one of Yoga with Adriene’s 30-day programs to get started. The programs are free and begin with a nice easy session, building slowly as they go.
I hope you find these suggestions helpful!!
John Hughes says
Thanks again for the excellent suggestions. Would it be okay to run then as a column in the newsletter starting
RBR reader Tina added these excellent suggestions to Coach Hughes column on a free home gym
If it’s okay please let me know by email
Coach John Hughes says
Tina, excellent suggestions. I was trying to keep the column relatively short & simple. John