Some At-Home Workout Options When You Can't Make it to the Gym

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Master sergeant participates in push-up contest.
Master Sgt. Paul Martin, 403rd Wing Inspector General Office, takes part in the 403rd Wing Human Resources Development Council push-up contest at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, March 8, 2014. (Tech. Sgt. Ryan Labadens/U.S. Air Force photo)

March is the month that most people who were hell-bent on starting a fitness routine at the start of the year typically fall off the wagon. If you even made it to March, you have beaten the odds of New Year's resolution-makers succeeding in their fitness goals.

After January, the word "resolution" seems to have dropped from our lips and is all but forgotten. But do not fear. I am here to help you not waste the gym membership payment that you locked in.

The thing is, this is completely natural. Read my "Five Psychological Phases of Fitness" article for more information. In a nutshell, after a few months of exuberance about your fitness plan (Phase 1), many things can happen. For instance, maybe you were:

  • Bored with the same routine

  • Stricken with an illness

  • Injured due to overuse or improper technique

  • Subject to a schedule change

  • Starting to doubt yourself and your abilities (Phase 2)

Regardless of the reason, you no longer are exercising, and that has to change. Below are some simple ideas to do at home if you cannot make it to the gym, as well as a fun circuit program that will get you through a full-body workout in the shortest amount of time.

Break up your workout week into two types of workouts -- cardio and resistance/calisthenics training.

Cardio ideas

You can do cardio workouts such as walking, jogging, biking, swimming and rowing on any day, and it only takes 20-30 minutes to receive a good cardiovascular benefit. Keep your heart rate at about 50%-65% of your maximum. A good way to determine maximum heart rate is the theoretical formula of:

220 - age = max heart rate

If you do this 3-4 days a week, you will burn enough calories to lose weight (and inches) as long as you are not getting too carried away with your eating habits. See my "Lean Down Plan" article for more ideas on what to eat and when.

The best thing about this part of your workout is that you can do your cardio exercise around your neighborhood, on a treadmill at home or at the gym if you choose. So on days when time is short, get your cardio done or make those the 1-2 days of rest you should give yourself every week.

Calisthenics and weight machines

The abdominal routines and lower-back exercises are the easiest to do and take the least amount of time (usually 5-10 minutes). Here is a quick abdominal/lower-back routine you can do at your home or between sets at the gym:

Crunches 25

Reverse crunches 25

Double crunches 25

Left crunches 25

Right crunches 25

Bicycle crunches 25

See the "Rest with Crunches" article for pictures and more information on fitting abs workouts into your program.

Here is a full body-weight circuit routine that can be used (with machines or dumbbells/free weights) to get you back in the gym again: 

Do this weight routine 2-3 times a week.

  • Bench press 15, 10* reps

  • Pulldowns 15, 10* reps

  • Squats or leg press 10-15 reps

  • Leg curls 10-15 reps

  • Rest with abs (do 50 reps of the crunch exercises above)

  • Military press (shoulder press): 15, 10*

  • Biceps curls 15, 10

  • Triceps extensions 10-15 reps

  • Plus an exercise of choice. Pick a machine and do two sets of 15 reps on it.

Repeat above again if you have the time and energy.

(*Complete this set with heavier weight on the first set; immediately drop the weight a few pounds and perform the second number of reps without rest)

On days you cannot get to the gym to lift weights, give this superset a shot. Add a dumbbell investment of $20-$30 to supplement your home workout fully:

  • Push-ups 0-20

  • Crunches 20

  • Wide push-ups 10-20

  • Reverse crunches 20

  • Bench dips 10-20

  • Double crunches 20

  • Squats 20

  • Lunges 10-20/leg

  • Biceps curls 20

  • Triceps extension 20

  • Military press 20

For the lightweight shoulder workout, read "The Best Shoulder Workout" article.

I hope these ideas help you rebuild your determination to get back to exercising.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you're looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to stew@stewsmith.com.

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