Words by Marques Harper
It’s a new year, and you know what that means? For the next month or two, gyms will be packed with people starting new fitness routines. If you’re a gym regular, you know how frustrating it can be when you’re attempting to get in a good workout and all of the weight machines and cardio equipment are occupied right when you need to hit it hard.
Don’t worry. You still can do an intense workout in your home or by going outside until the new year gym crowd dies down. Personal trainers say the trick to succeeding with an outdoor or home workout is to add variety, functional exercises and high intensity interval training to the mix by using your body weight, stamina and basic dumbbells.
“At-home workouts can be just the kickstart your body needs without the hassle of equipment wait lines,” says Cody Butler, owner of Heat Boot Camp (www.heatbootcamp.com) who has trained celebrities and politicians. “You don’t need fancy equipment or machines to achieve heart-pounding resistance training workouts. A good workout isn’t defined by how many hours one spends in the gym or how sore you become, but rather the efficiency.”
He says the toughest part of a home workout is having discipline and finding a creative way to avoid repeating the same exercises day after day.
For a creative home workout, Butler says you simply need a deck of playing cards and 30 to 45 minutes of your favorite jock jams. Here’s how it works:
- Choose four general exercises and one high intensity exercise. For example, push-ups, squat jumps or sit-ups for your general exercises and 2 minutes of jumping for a high intensity exercise.
- Assign each exercise to a suit in the card deck, say, push-ups equal hearts, squat jumps equal clubs and so on.
- Each card value of two to nine represents the number of reps for each exercise.
- Face cards (Jacks, Queens, Kings) represent 10 reps while Ace cards represent your high intensity exercise no matter the suit.
- Remove the jokers before shuffling your deck and then place them back into the deck at one-third and two-third of the deck to represent your rest breaks.
- Then get to work. Press play on the tunes and start flipping cards.
Go high intensity
Another workout option is sticking to high intensity interval training, or HIIT, which may help you burn calories and build lean muscle. Remember HIIT is a series of alternate short bursts of very high intensity with short periods of recovery or low intensity.
Personal trainer Mike O’Hara, owner of Bigger Faster Stronger Training (www.biggerfasterstrongertraining.com), says high intensity interval training will keep your heart rate up and get your body shredded for beach season. So skip the gym crowds and O’Hara’s least favorite fitness equipment: weight machines.
“[Weight machines] are very basic,” O’Hara says, “and, typically, only target one primary mover (muscle) is being worked. Functional training consists of many movements in one, firing multiple muscle groups at a time, further elevating your heart rate, and all in all, giving you much more bang for your buck from your workout.”
Another recommendation O’Hara gives for a good workout away from the hustle and bustle of the gym is to do a series of sprints, a high intensity interval exercise that will push your body to its maximum capacity for a short period of time. After the intense burst, take a break to recover before sprinting again.
Other types of high intensity interval training exercises include mountain climbers, lunge jumps and broad jumps.
O’Hara says, “Anything that can be done in a controlled manner that will push your heart and body to its limit for 15 to 60 seconds with a recovery time of one to three minutes will work wonders for your mind, body and soul.”
If you’re running short on time, you still can get your workout in with a series of supersets, a form of strength training in which you move from one exercise to another with no rest. You can try opposing muscle group supersets (an upper body exercise with a lower body exercise) or same muscle group supersets (say, you work your quadriceps after doing squats).
Examples of exercises O’Hara recommends doing as supersets are: lunges with dumbbell curls (do the curls as you stand up from the lunge) and then a shoulder press (after the curl). Bring the weights down to your sides before you lunge again and then repeat the exercises. Try doing two or three sets of 15 to 20 steps.
Other viable exercise pairings, he says, are lateral walking sumo squats with dumbbell front shoulder raises for three sets or try a few sets of pushups and oblique knee-ins to help strengthen your chest and core.