Losing weight, toning your muscles and getting stronger aren’t just achieved in the gym. The good news is that there are plenty of exercises you can perform and workouts you can create from the comfort and convenience of your own home. Performing exercise at home can also help you build your confidence, motivation and fitness levels before committing to a gym membership later down the track.
Whatever your goal is, the vital ingredient for success is consistency. A basic exercise or program performed consistently is far more effective than a ‘fancy’ one performed sporadically. Our advice is to start with some small, achievable goals, striving towards these goals consistently, rather than aiming too high and falling short. In my experience as a fitness coach at Melbourne Girls Grammar School, the most ambitious long-term goals I’ve seen achieved started off as a little trickle of consistent effort, rather than all guns a’ blazing from the get-go.
Start small – develop the continuity – and build it up from there.
Building a good foundation
When you’re just getting started, the internet can sometimes be more of an enemy than a friend. Overcomplicated, overwhelming information and varying opinions can make it difficult to decipher what’s important and what’s not. Therefore, we want to provide some simple, convenient and effective exercises you can start doing immediately. No equipment, no cost and easy to perform.
Many beginner workouts on the internet focus on strenuous, cardio-based, fast-paced workouts without focusing on technique or quality of movement. While these workouts are great for intermediate and advanced exercisers, they aren’t optimal for those just starting out. Think long term – building a good foundation of strength and movement proficiency should be your priority.
You’ll notice that the exercises we recommend are strength-based. Completing strength exercises helps us build lean muscle, which tones the body and increases our metabolism, leading to fat loss. We don’t want our body to be a fuel-efficient Prius, we want it to be a fuel-guzzling V8, soaking up calories and energy even when we’re idling! Strength training can help us upgrade our body to a Ferrari-like-calorie-munching machine.
We have chosen 6 exercises that target all muscle groups of the body, giving you a full body workout.
Squats are a great lower body exercise which utilise multiple joints (ankle, knee & hip), targeting the thighs (quads), hamstrings and butt. Remember, it’s OK if your knees travel past your toes, otherwise, you’ll lose your balance and fall backward!
Push-ups are an incredibly effective exercise, targeting the back of the arms (triceps), chest and core muscles. Although performing push-ups on your toes can be very difficult, they are far more effective than performing them on your knees. Our recommended strategy is to perform an incline push up, with your hands elevated on a bench, table or other stable, flat surface in your home.
Bridging is another effective exercise which focuses on activating, strengthening and toning the butt (glutes). Activation of the glutes is vitally important for general athleticism, reducing the chances of lower back pain and other injuries long term, as well as being another staple in an exercise program.
The deadbug is the best exercise for helping us activate our deep core muscles. Our deep core muscles serve as the foundation and stability in all other movements we perform. As its name suggests, a deadbug has you lying on your back with knees and hips at 90°, lower back and shoulder blades flat against the floor and arms straight towards the ceiling.
The lunge is an incredibly functional and specific exercise which is somewhat of a replica of many of the day to day movements we perform – walking, going up stairs, kneeling down on one knee, among many others. Similar to the squat, it targets mainly the thighs (quads), hamstrings and glutes, but requires greater stability and balance, placing a greater reliance on our core and hip stability muscles.
Bodyweight Towel Row
So far, we have covered off all major muscle groups except the front of the arms (biceps) and upper back muscles. The bodyweight towel row is great for targeting these areas, helping to improve your posture and upper body stability. Wrap a towel around something stable at your house, gripping each end and pulling yourself up.
How many, how much and how often?
We recommend performing these exercises three times per week to start, ensuring that you give yourself a days’ rest between each workout.
Perform three sets of 10 – 15 repetitions for each exercise, with 30 – 60 seconds rest between each set. As you approach the end of the set (the last few reps) you should start to feel a bit of a burn in your muscles.
After performing this workout consistently for 3 – 4 weeks, you should notice your strength levels increasing and may even notice some small changes to your body. It’s important to remember that our body is an adaptation machine, it loves to evolve and in order to keep growing, we need to continue adapting and progressing the exercises that we do.
There are several changes we can make to exercises to ensure that they keep challenging us. Remember, if you’re starting to find it easy, your body is not getting forced to grow and your progress will start to plateau. Here are some ways you can make exercises more challenging and keep your muscles on their toes!
Change the reps, sets or rest periods
This is probably the simplest, quickest way of increasing the difficulty of an exercise. It involves increasing the number of reps and sets or reducing the amount of rest time between each set. This will challenge our body beyond its current capacity and test our muscles’ endurance.
Perhaps try doing 15 reps instead of 12, or 4 sets instead of 2 and cut your rest time down to 30 seconds instead of 45? You’ll probably find your muscles burning and heart rate rising more than before as more lactic acid is created (a good thing!) and more blood is required to supply your muscles with oxygen to fuel their movement.
Adding weight or extra resistance to your exercises can increase the difficulty of each rep, loading our muscles to a greater extent and further improving our strength levels. Resistance bands are an easy, cheap first purchase and can be added to almost every exercise to increase their difficulty. Another option could be to purchase some weights; however, your first step could be to find something weighing several kilograms in your house and adding it to an exercise.
When performing push-ups or the body-weight towel row, you can also change your hand placement and body position to increase the difficulty of the movement. For an incline push up, this might be placing your hands on a lower surface, or for a body-weight towel row, it could be planting your feet closer to the point of towel attachment so that your body is facing more towards the roof.
Changing the exercises
After 6-8 weeks of performing the fundamental movements we have outlined, it is important to start varying the exercises you perform. Our website is ever growing, and new resources will continue to be posted, giving you plenty of ideas for new exercises you can start performing from home.
Weight loss, muscle toning, and strength building require a sustained effort over time and plenty of patience. Remember, above all, consistency is key.