So you’re probably wondering what makes me such an expert on this subject, so let me address that first. I have never been the strongest, biggest, or fastest of my peers. Sure I played sports growing up (hockey, soccer, baseball, golf) but I was never the best on the team. That being said I do take good care of my body and I have interviewed several personal trainers, and read up on this subject a ton. So the following is what I have gleaned from these sources over the years, and my personal secrets to success.
Ok, so let's start with the basics, in school, we are taught the food pyramid and they tell us what and how to eat. Eating healthy is a big factor for being healthy, and the food pyramid may not be the healthiest diet, but that is another subject for a later post.
For now, let's focus on calories in and calories out. Our bodies are constantly burning calories or using up the food we eat to keep our bodies warm and to keep our bodies alive. One thing they don’t teach you in school is that the more muscle you have, the more calories your body burn even when you’re not doing anything. This means that if you can gain muscle, it’s almost a cheat code to be able to burn calories even while you sleep.
So today we will focus on some of the products that I personally use to complement my at-home workouts. Also, I will include links to some of my sources.
1. Pull-up bar
I know what a lot of you are thinking: “I can't do a pull up” well that’s fine. There are so many other exercises that you can do with a pull-up bar, that will help you build strength, and one day you can work up to doing several sets of pull-ups.
The pull-up bar I have is the same one that I have had all through college, so its probably 10 years old by now and I know the technology has improved a lot since then because I recently bought my parents a pull-up bar for Christmas.
As far as my favorite exercises that you can try even if you can't do a full pull up yet includes:
1. Hanging from the bar for as long as you can
- It’s harder than it sounds, but this will build forearms/grip strength, shoulders, and back.
- Also for anyone with back pain like me (or shoulder pain), my pull-up bar has dramatically improved my posture and eliminated my back pain.
- Here is Joe Rogan going more in-depth on hanging: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KfOoRJIN1V8
2. Leg lifts
- Also harder than it sounds, a great exercise to build a strong core, and work on the lower back.
3. Knee raises
- An easier alternative to keeping your legs straight while doing leg lifts. Also great to burn out your core when you can't do any more leg lifts.
For those of you who think regular pull-ups are too easy, here are some things to try:
1. Weighted vest
- My roommate has this one: This vest is nice because you can add or subtract weights pretty easily.
2. Wide grip pull-ups
- My pull-up bar has three different grips: close, wide, and perpendicular. By far the hardest is the wide-grip pull-ups.
3. Mix it up
- Try to do as many as you can on wide grip palms away from you, then as many as you can wide grip, palms towards you. Then as many close-grip palms away, then close grip palms towards you, etc.
- This is a great way to build the smaller muscles and improve your grip strength.
4. Pull-ups with legs straight out in front of you
- This is a very difficult exercise and works the core as well as most of your upper body. Try to keep your legs at 90 degrees, it helps me to look at the ceiling above me.
2. Yoga mat
Again you are probably feeling a certain type of way by this suggestion, so allow me to explain. Stretching is extremely important to staying mobile throughout your life. Also, it prevents injuries and improves flexibility as well as countless other proven benefits. So having a Yoga mat regardless if you actually do yoga on it or just stretch will help serve as a reminder to stretch, as it has done for me over the years.
That being said, Yoga itself has been around for thousands of years and originated in India. If you have never tried it for yourself, don’t knock it until you do. I still remember going to my first hot yoga class a few years back, before we walked in I was making jokes about how easy this will be for me. 1 hour later, I was drenched in sweat, could barely walk, had a newly found respect for yogis, and felt an incredible rush of endorphins.
Some of my favorite uses for my yoga mat are as follows:
1. Sit-ups/exercises on the floor
- Lying on the floor can hurt, especially if you have wood floors like I do. That’s why I chose an extra-thick yoga mat for extra cushion.
2. Yoga sessions from YouTube
- There are countless local Yoga studios and even more yoga videos on YouTube for free. Here is one that I have enjoyed: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GLy2rYHwUqY
- Usually, I will just stream these videos on my TV through the YouTube app on my Xbox.
3. Foam roller
- There are even yoga mats out there that specialize in doubling as a foam roller, but you can simply roll up your yoga mat, and it has a similar effect.
- The purpose of a foam roller is to help get the lactic acid out of your muscles, this will help them grow faster, and hurt less.
3. Water Bottle
This is probably something you already have a whole collection of, and that’s great, especially because water is vital to good health, and proper body functionality. Something you might not know is how much water you should be drinking per day.
In general, you should drink between 1/2oz-1oz of water per pound of body weight per day. For example, if someone weighed 150 lbs they should drink between 75-150 ounces per day. That breaks down to about 1/2gallon-1gallon of water per day, which sounds like a lot, and chances are, you like myself have struggled to drink the recommended amount of water.
That’s why the water bottle that I am recommending has a built-in hydration reminder, so every 2 hours it will remind you that its time to hydrate. This may sound annoying, because who wants to be nagged by their water bottle all the time? But the point is to build the habit of hydration. I have had my WaveiQ bottle now for about 3 months, and I’ve already developed the habit of choosing water over soda, juice, tea, or coffee.
Some of the main reasons that I choose water are:
1. Hydration boosts muscle performance
- That’s right when you’re dehydrated, you won’t be able to run as fast, lift as much, or push yourself to grow as fast. Google it.
2. Water has 0 Calories
- Yep, I can sip on water all day 100% guilt-free and since we are focused on calories in calories out, cutting out sugary drinks will help you get the beach body of your dreams.
3. Boosts oral hygiene
- If you swirl the water in your mouth every so often, it will help disturb and remove the bacteria that can cause cavities, gingivitis, and bad breath.
- Conversely, if you are sipping on sugary drinks all day, that sugar is going to help the bacteria multiply all day, leading to bad breath, cavities, and gum disease. Ask your dentist if you don’t believe me.
This is something that you can keep and use forever, especially if you get an all-metal set. Obviously, weight training is an important part of any workout routine. The reason that it made to the list is that it makes such a big difference when you are trying to get your workout in at home. I have had one set of 40lbs dumbbells since I was in high school and bought a second set sometime in college so I can have up to two 40lb weights.
The weights I have are pretty standard weight plate sets, but my parents recently bought a set that allows you to quickly change the amount of weight per dumbbell. This is nice if you are following a certain set of exercises where you need a variety of weights for different exercises. For me, I like to do compound exercises that work on several muscle groups at the same time, as well as a lot of bodyweight exercises, and cardio. Here is the one my parents use and here is what I have at home.
The choice is yours, but either way, you go make sure you get an all-metal set (meaning the bar itself and the end caps are made of sturdy metal, not plastic or aluminum)
Some of my favorite uses for my dumbbells are:
1. Arnold Press
- This is a compound exercise that activates your entire scapula belt of muscles. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Z15_WdXmVw
- When I do these, I like to lower the weight all the way down, adding a curl to the Arnold press, making better use of my time.
2. Lunges & Squats
- Pushups are another crucial ingredient to working out at home, but if you’re like me, they put a lot of pressure on my wrists. So I have found that if I put my dumbbells on the ground I can grip them instead of putting my palms on the ground, reducing pressure on my wrists, and allowing me to go deeper into the pushup.
- There are tons of variations of pushups, the three most important in my opinion are incline, decline, and regular. That’s because each works a separate section of the chest: upper, middle, and lower.
Again something that you probably already have, and if that is the case, lace 'em up, grab your 4 legged running companion, and go walk/jog/run a couple of miles. Getting your daily steps in is vital for proper health and good posture. Most of us sit all day at work, during our commutes, while we eat, and when we relax. So it is important to keep those legs active so that your muscles don’t atrophy and they keep you mobile late into your 90s.
My grandma is 99 years old at the time of this writing, and although slow she still walks around the house, and up and down stairs under her own power. (Sometimes to our dismay, like when she left our Airbnb and took a stroll around downtown Seattle at 2 am until the cops found her and brought her back) The point is that she walked/hiked every day of her life well into her 80s that is how she is still mobile.
Running is something I myself am trying to get more into, and it helps that my dog Amber holds me accountable to take her out every day. We may not be the fastest or be ready for a marathon, but the important thing is just doing it. That’s why I would highly recommend some quality running shoes. I have had my Nike’s for well over 2 years now and they have served me well.
Some of our favorite places to go running/walking are:
1. The College tracks right down the street
- You may not live walking distance to a high school or college track, but no matter where you live, there should be a track nearby you can visit.
- If there’s not a track near you, most cities have walking or biking trails that you should be able to find online pretty easily.
2. Strolling through the neighborhood
- Maybe you already have your favorite route picked out, for us we recently found a new route through the neighborhood that is 1.1miles. I know this because I have mapped it on google maps. You can drop a pin, then request directions, then change “my location” to choose on a map, and choose another spot in the neighborhood. When I mapped our route, I had to drop several pins because we do a large loop that starts and ends in the same spot.
3. The local lake or dog park
- We live about 20 minutes from a nice lake, so sometimes we will drive there and stroll around the lake enjoying nature.
- Since my dog is a way faster runner than I am and she seems to never run out of energy I take her to the dog park as often as I can to let her run off her energy.
Ok, so now you have a guide and tools to help you achieve your goals.
It’s time to get started. The beach body you’ve always dreamed of is closer than you think. Just get your body moving, put some music on, or whatever it helps you to get started and most of all have fun while doing, in a few weeks you will start seeing the results.