Your Home Is Your Gym

Who doesn't hate going to the gym?

I personally know that even some of the most gung-ho fitness fans -- old and young alike -- drag when it comes to their daily trip to the gym.

Face it: It takes time to go to the gym, to work out and to take care of all the other necessary duties that accompany this endeavor.

But it doesn't have to be this way. When it comes to results, you may be even better off by not going to the gym -- if you play your cards right, that is.

It's a fact that many of those who go to the gym are not necessarily getting in shape. When many people work out on gym equipment, they exercise using the same movement pattern, and many times the same resistance, every time they work out.

I just observed this on my recent vacation. Individuals were just moving from machine to machine without sweating.

Many times, I was approached about why I was performing exercises using my own body resistance instead. And I gave the same answer over and over again: "I like to achieve results." And the best results that I can achieve are by using full, integrated movements with my own body weight.

Oh, did I forget to mention my body fat is 10 percent?

Your Body Weight Is Good for Something After All

Think for a moment about an athletic, lean body such as those possessed by ballerinas, modern dancers or fencers. How do they look? Toned, lean and in shape.

Many dancers will never use dumbells, barbells or machinery to hone their bodies. Still, they have great physiques and body control that many of us can only wish for. Not to mention their six-pack abs and the tight butt that many men like to see on women and many women like to see on men (I heard this through the grapevine from my clients).

The workout of these fit and toned individuals involves controlled muscle activations of their entire bodies while using gravity as resistance.

What else is it about these athletes' regimens that gets them in shape? The answer is that they jump, land, roll, fall, turn, crawl and change their speed while executing their movements.

From a scientific perspective, this approach allows them to develop their fast twitch muscle fibers and short twitch muscle fibers, all the while performing an intense cardio-strength interval workout. This approach has been proved to burn not just the most calories but the highest fat calories overall.

Starting a Home Workout

So what does all of this have to do with working out at home? Everything. Simply make your home environment your workout zone and start using your own body.

Start by using your stairs in the house for interval training, using a solid chair as a bench, and a low sturdy box as a step.

Use great music to get you going when the going gets tough. It doesn't matter what it is -- Mozart, hip-hop or house music. You need to like it.

Here is a sample workout program that you can do try out after an eight- to 10-minute warm-up:

Single leg step up on a chair: Place your right foot on a sturdy chair and lift yourself up. Lower yourself and repeat 20 times on the right followed by the left leg. Focus on your thighs and butt.

Walkouts: Bend your legs and place yourself into a squat position. Reach for the floor with your hands, and walk them forward until you are in a push-up position. Perform one push-up. Walk back with your hands into the squat position. Stand up and repeat again 15 times. Focus on your thighs, shoulders, triceps and chest.

Squat jumps: Sit back into a squat with your weight distributed on the heels. Jump into the air. Land softly by bending your legs. Repeat this motion 15 to 20 times. Focus on your thighs, abs and butt.

Triceps dips: Sit on the edge of a sturdy chair with your hands under your body on the seat. Extend your legs out in front of you so that your body weight is supported by your hands and your heels. Lower yourself and push back up again. Repeat 15 times, rest five seconds and repeat one more time. Focus on your triceps and shoulders.

Leg raises: Lie on the floor on your back. Place your hands flat below your butt and raise one shoulder slightly off the ground. Lift both of your legs until they are about a foot and a half above the floor, and slowly lower them just as far as possible without lifting up your lower back from the floor. Repeat 20 times, rest, and perform the exercise again. Focus on your abdominal region.

Over the step: Stand on a step or sturdy box -- or a chair, if you're feeling ambitious. Lower your left leg to the floor. Touch the floor and bring it back to the starting position. Repeat this with the right leg. Alternate between the right and the left leg in a speed that you feel comfortable with for one minute. The focus is your cardiovascular system.

This is a short, fully integrated program that should not take you longer more then 20 minutes. Build up to it. Start slowly. When you master the movements, speed them up to hit your fast twitch muscles, or slow them down to work your slow twitch muscles.

By changing the speed you will also be changing the resistance (it's basic physics -- think about acceleration in a car). Stick with it, and you'll be on your way to a lean, toned physique.

What Not to Do

What you should not do at home is following:

Don't start to exercise without warming up.

Don't jump just into any kind of program without proper movement preparations.

Don't eat right before your workout or right after.

Make sure you pay attention to the movements; don't just go through the motions. Feel your muscle working, and stay in control.

Don't forget make some space for yourself to feel comfortable moving around.

Don't cheat the movements just because nobody is around. Stick to your schedule and finish what you have planned to do.

The Best Bang for Your Buck

The best part of this is that you do not need to join a gym, buy equipment or waste time going to the gym. I don't know about you, but I like to be very efficient with my time. Exercise is important, but it doesn't have to take three hours just to get it done.

You can also save money by working out at home -- despite the fact that there is a wide range of mostly useless equipment out there for thousands of dollars.

A treadmill (which does not teach you how to use your body or give you a variety of integrated movements) costs between $1,500 and $7,000. Other gym equipment, such as a lat pull machine, costs more then $3,000.

If you need some motivation, you can purchase a home workout program DVD, which does not require any equipment but gives you ideas and a home workout that you can perform three to four times per week. And most DVDs don't cost more then $30.

Did I forget the issue of waiting in line? Or the cleanliness of the gym floor? Or the showers where 100,000 people have rinsed off? I believe I've said enough about this topic.

But whether at home or at a gym, the most important thing is to start doing something. Stay on track in no matter what you do -- even with your home workouts.

Stefan Aschan is the owner and founder of www.stefanaschan.com, which provides nutrition and exercise programs in New York City.

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