Physical fitness should be free for everyone. Unfortunately, not everyone can afford the price of a gym membership. Short of checking Groupon or settling for Planet Fitness, the average monthly gym membership can cost around $55, while the average gym membership holder only gets to the gym twice a week. Even for people willing to shell out the dough, getting to the gym can be a workout in and of itself. You tell yourself all day that as soon as you get off work you’re heading straight to the gym, but when the time finally comes, your couch proves too enticing. If only there was a way to get back into shape without straying too far from the couch. Here are five workouts we can all do without an expensive gym membership, and with help from certified strength and conditioning specialist Rocky Snyder:
Forget the StairMaster. You’re probably within close proximity to a set of stairs right now. A proper staircase workout can be perfect for cardio and lower body strength training. Not to mention it’s a great way to burn off calories. According to CalorieLab, a person weighing 150 pounds can burn up to 510 calories by running up a set of stairs for a half hour. Stair exercises are especially effective as a high-intensity workout because they target every major muscle in your lower body including glutes, quads, hips, calves, and can even reach your core. Any trainer at your local gym will tell you about the perils of focusing solely on upper body workouts. Keep in mind that your legs are the base of your body and require as much attention as your pectoral muscles and biceps.
“Aside from climbing stairs in the traditional way we can change the foot position (neutral, turned in, turned out, or any combination therein) as well as the step width (narrow, neutral, or wide) and distance (one step, two steps or more),” Snyder told Medical Daily. “We can also change the direction in which the body faces (forward, sideways, or backwards) as well as the tempo in which a person climbs the stairs (slow, moderate, or fast).”
Burpees, or squat thrusts, are another high-intensity workout that can be done without ever leaving your apartment. This simple combination of a push-up and squat jump can be highly beneficial for building muscle, improving anaerobic conditioning, and burning calories when done properly. Begin by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart before lowering your body into a squatted position, and placing your hands on the floor between your knees. Straighten your legs backward so you’re in a proper push-up position, with your glutes tight and tummy tucked in. Following a push-up, bring your knees back to the original position in the squatted position. Finish off with a clean six-inch jump before repeating the exercise. Make sure your back is straight and not hunched over to avoid lower back and spine injuries.
“The same holds true for Burpees as with the stairs. We can have different hand positions (turned in, turned out, neutral, or other variations) as well as with (narrow, wide, or neutral). When the legs shoot back into a plank position they can be neutral, narrow, or wide. The placement of the legs can also change (to the left or right, rotated left or right, or any other variation).”
Now that we’ve touched on the proper push up position, let’s get into the correct way to do a plank. Many people associate planks with a strong core, but a good set of planks can also strengthen your shoulders, triceps, forearms, and glutes. Start off in a push-up position with your body in a straight line. Drop drown so that the weight of your upper body is resting on your forearms, which should be shoulder-width apart. Tighten your core and glutes so that your body is in perfect alignment from head to feet. Try not to have your butt sticking up or sagging down. Hold that position for 30 seconds to a minute. or however long your body will allow. One problem with planks is that remaining in one position for too long can become boring, which is why many people abandon this essential ab workout. Add a little variation by going from your forearms to a regular push up position, with your arms extended every 10 seconds.
“Our bodies are never completely still, so when performing planks, it would benefit us to create movement while holding ourselves off the ground. We can position ourselves on our hands or elbows and on our knees or toes. We can face down, sideways, or face up. In regards to movement, we can move an arm and/or a leg, or we can move our hips in different directions (up and down, side to side, rotate left and right).”
Even without a squat rack handy, strengthening your lower body is easy to accomplish from the comfort of your own home. Prisoner squats require minimal space, and are a good starting point before jumping into weighted squats. Keep your body straight as can be with your feet shoulder-width apart and your fingers interlaced behind your head. When getting down into the squat position, pretend there is a seat behind you that requires your back to remain straight. Keep your knees over your toes, and keep your body weight back by digging your heels into the ground. Remember, always keep your core tight and back straight.
“There are 27 different positions available to someone when they stand on both feet. We can have our feet parallel, turned inward, turned outward, or a combination of the above. We can also place our feet wide, neutral, or narrow. Also we can have one foot in front of the other. We can tweak the exercise also, with tempo as well as range of motion. We can choose slow, medium, or fast, and we can choose full or partial range of motion. We can also shift our weight around to further challenge the muscles to maintain balance and coordination.”
Combining core, lower body, and upper body muscle groups, mountain climbers are a perfect source of strength training and cardiovascular benefits in one plyometric exercise. Keys to a proper mountain climber include appropriate body alignment and explosiveness. Get back into the push up position with your glutes tight, back straight, and belly button in. Bring your right leg up with your knee reaching as high as you can. Next, switch from right leg to left leg while keeping your glutes tight. For a split second, while switching back and forth, both of your legs should be completely off the ground so that all of your weight rests on your upper body. As you become comfortable with the movement of your legs, increase your speed and explosiveness to raise your heart rate.
“With Burpees, the same can be done with mountain climbers. We can change our hand position and we can change the direction in which we move our legs. We can stay in place or we can move through space while performing routes and climbers. We can have our arms move back and forth, our legs move back and forth, or both arms and legs moving back and forth simultaneously.”