As a beginner, getting started on strength training can be overwhelming, especially if you’d like to do it without joining a gym. The good news is strength training at home doesn’t need to take a lot of time or equipment, and can be easily added to your current cardio workouts.
Bodyweight strength training uses your own body as resistance and requires little to no equipment. The basic exercises that can be included in a bodyweight program are squats, pushups, pull-ups, planks and sit-ups. Variations of these exercises, such as lunges, chin-ups, and tricep/military push-ups can also be included to increase the intensity and to specifically target smaller muscle groups, such as biceps and triceps.
While bodyweight strength training is approachable for a beginner, by altering the intensity, range of motion, and variations of the basic exercises, you can continue to progress with bodyweight training for as long as you continue to strength train. These programs have the additional benefit of being extremely portable. You may need to seek out a bar for pull-ups (try your local park or playground) or have a band available to strength train the same muscles targeted by the pull-up, but beyond that, a basic bodyweight program is available to you at any time and in any place, making it extremely travel and schedule friendly.
Ready to get started? Start with a program that includes the basic bodyweight exercises: squats for your legs, push-ups for your chest and shoulders, pull ups (with a resistance band to assist you if needed), and sit-ups. If you do not have access to a chin-up bar, you can substitute another exercise for your back, such as the Superman or Contralateral described here.
Once you’ve chosen your strength training exercises, start with either a reps or time based approach. In a reps based approach, you set a goal to complete a specific number of reps and take as much time as you need to in order to complete the reps. In a time based approach, you give yourself a set amount of time for each exercise and complete as many reps as you are able to within that time period. Both approaches are great for new strength trainers. If you are using the reps approach, start with 10-20 reps of each exercise. For time, give yourself one to two minutes per station. Complete one set of each exercise (either for time or repetitions). If you have time, you can complete one or more additional circuits to increase the intensity, calorie burn, and benefits.
The benefits of adding strength training in to your home fitness routine are tremendous. By gaining muscle mass, you’ll improve your body composition and metabolic response, improve your function in daily and athletic activities, and reduce your risks of injury. As you become stronger, try adding in more reps or additional circuits and increasing the difficulty of the exercises, by adding inclines, different hand or foot positions, or resistance.
About the writer: Joli Guenther is a certified personal trainer, yoga instructor and clinical social worker practicing in and around Madison, Wisconsin. Learn more on the Meet Our Writers page.