At the moment, my workouts consist almost exclusively of body weight training (in addition I do yoga and running.) With four kids and a full time job, I do not have the time or opportunity to go to the gym, and I can’t say that I miss it. I have become a big fan of body weight training; I can get both my heart rate going and my muscles aching in a short period of time. There are always new challenges (my next goal is the forefinger push-up) and I can cram the workout in whenever I get 15 minutes.
Another big advantage of body weight training is that for beginners, the risk of injury is relatively small compared to weight training.
One drawback of body weight training is that it's easy to become comfortable and do the same exercises over and over again. As with most things in life, when you’re comfortable with something, you stop making progress and it’s time to switch it up or stop doing it.
So here are three examples of simple and inexpensive pieces of equipment you can use to improve and vary your body weight training.
The removable chin up bar
This is my go-to piece of equipment for a number of reasons. In my profession I sit hunched over a computer for long periods of the day (as I'm sure many of you can relate to) and even if I try to stand as much as possible or sit in a good position, my neck, shoulders and upper back still takes a lot of heat.
The chin up bar is the perfect way to train those muscles and make sure you have strong shoulders and upper back so you won't need to go to the masseuse or chiropractor as often. And although you primarily train your upper back, shoulders and core muscles, you can vary your workout to get most of your upper body involved.
Vary your grip and distance on the bars to involve different muscles. Lift up your legs or stick them straight out to get your core muscles acting. And use different tempo or pause your movement to alternate the resistance.
With the bar, it is also easy to involve a muscle that is fairly difficult to focus on in body weight training - the bicep.
The chin-/pull-up can be quite a hard exercise, especially if you never done it before. If you have trouble doing more than one, or even any at all, don't be too discouraged. Instead do as many you can in good form then stand on the ground and jump up to the top position, then lower yourself down slowly. This way you will soon be strong enough to complete a full set of chin-/pull-ups.
The sky's the limit with these. You can find all the guides or instructional videos you need on the internet or you can make up your own exercises. My four-year-old seems to find a new way to use them every time.
With the suspension strap you can train almost every part of your body. But where it really shines is the training of the core muscles which are involved in every movement.
It’s also a great way to train your balance and flexibility to add to your body control. And it’s really easy to change the resistance - the level of difficulty increases as the angle of your body increases.
Note: Unless you know what you are doing, only use one set of suspension straps, so that you always have some part of your body grounded.
Even though these are weights, they...
- improve your body weight training by using them as push-up bars, to do dips or handstands.
- add weight to your traditional bodyweight exercises such as squats, lunges or deadlifts
Bonus: Yoga mat
A yoga mat will make your workouts more comfortable and possibly help you avoid injuries. And of course, using your mat for yoga complements your workout sessions!
What equipment not to buy
Steer away from buying equipment/exercise-machines that isolate a single movement, this is usually stuff you see on TV like a Shake Weight. They will only help you become really good at that exercise but they won’t make you fitter or stronger in general. You want your at-home equipment to be versatile and have the ability to workout multiple parts of your body.
Martin is from the south of Sweden. He used to train, eat and sleep floorball, playing at the highest level. Now he is a beginner yogi, a comeback runner, a food lover and a father of four (including triplets).
Main Photo Credit: Sacura/shutterstock.com; Second Photo Credit: Progressman/shutterstock.com; Third Photo Credit: Satyrenko/shutterstock.com; Fourth Photo Credit: LanaSweet/shutterstock.com