In the previous article, “Workout Advice – Working Out on a Budget (Part One)” we provided information on ways to incorporate cardiovascular fitness into your daily routine, without the need for a gym membership or expensive home fitness equipment. We continue the series with creative ways to build muscular strength and endurance using common household materials, body weight and gravity.
Muscular Strength and Development on a Budget
Weight training is not limited to dumbbells, barbells or selectorized equipment. The use of standard fitness equipment makes it easier to train the muscles but there are other ways to get the same results. Essentially, muscles adapt and change when you challenge them beyond their comfort zone. This is done by adding some type of resistance to the muscle(s) that force them to work (added weight, force from another object, resistance against another object).
Technology and innovation has made our lives easier by making manual labor a thing of the past. Much of the heavy lifting, pushing and pulling that was a part of our daily lives (i.e. chopping wood, shoveling snow, lifting bails of hay) is now done by large machines with a fraction of the human effort. Weight training became a way to simulate these movements in a controlled environment to get the same muscular results.
If you are on a limited budget there are a variety of ways to get the muscular challenge you need using your own body weight or simple items you may already have in your home.
Use Your Own Body Weight. Gravity challenges the muscles of your body 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 365 days out of the year. When we are lying down we use very little effort. When we are standing upright (with our arms relaxed and in good posture) we use a little bit more effort but you wouldn’t necessarily consider it work. As we change the angle of our body in relation to the ground (i.e. plank position, bending forward at the hip) or move our arms and legs away from the midline, our muscles are challenged differently because of gravity.
A good example of this would be high school gym class. Back in the day there were no weights in gym class but the physical fitness exercises were extremely challenging. Below is a list of body weight exercises for a full body workout.
- Push-Ups (chest, triceps and shoulders)
- Chin-Ups/Pull-Ups (back, biceps and shoulders)
- Squats/Wall Squats (quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes)
- Lunges (quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes)
- Calf Raises (gastrocnemius, soleus and tibialis anterior)
- Plank (abdominals, lower back, shoulders)
- Superman (erector spinae, glutes and posterior deltoid
Go to a Park or Playground. Young kids challenge their bodies and learn proper movement through “play”. Many of us may remember hanging from the monkey bars, swinging on the swing set, playing hopscotch, climbing the ropes and climbing up and down the slide. You may also remember being exhausted and sweaty afterwards as you walk back into class. The park or playground is a great place for adults to challenge their bodies, too!
The equipment found in a park or playground are great alternatives to what you would find at the gym. Chin-ups and pull-ups can be hard to do if you don’t have a bar to hold onto in your home or back yard. There are several options to choose from in the playground. They also offer a wide variety of anchor points if you do any type of suspension training (i.e. TRX or Equalizer Trainer).
If you don’t have a suspension training device, you can also use the swing set as a way to complete suspension exercises (i.e. hands on the swing seat, feet on the swing seat, one hand grabbing one seat). The trick is to make sure the distance between the seat and the ground is no more than eight (8) inches. This may require a step underneath the swing to place your hands on or to lie on if your feet are positioned on the seat (i.e. suspended push-ups, suspended plank hold, suspended bridge).
Make Your Own Dumbbells and Barbells. If body weight exercises are not enough of a challenge or you are more comfortable with traditional weight training exercises you can simply make your own dumbbells and barbells from common household items.
Weighted Dumbbells: The reason why people like using dumbbells is because they are easy to hold onto and they come in sets of two (one for each hand). To create your own set of weighted dumbbells use handled jugs of Tide detergent (or any other brand). The great thing about these jugs is they have comfortable handles and you can see the level of contents inside the jug (through a clear section of the bottle). Fill the jugs with water or sand to a weight that is suitable for you. It is recommended that you create a light, medium and heavy set of weights to be more efficient with your workouts.
Light Hand Weights: A quick and easy way to add light weights to your upper body workout (i.e. shoulders, biceps and triceps) is to look in your cupboard for cans of soup, stewed tomatoes or pasta sauce. If you have two cans of the same item you have matching hand weights!
Weighted Barbell: To create a weighted barbell you simply use two of the weighted dumbbells (listed above) and use a broom handle to create the bar attachment. Typically, a broom handle will fit in the Tide detergent jug handles. Use duct tape to create stoppers on each end of the bar to stop the jugs from falling off the bar.
Access Resistance Training Videos Online. The internet offers powerful resistance training options if you know what websites to search for and review. Below are a list of websites that offer free fitness and exercise videos to provide options to try and add into your weight training routine.
- ACE Fitness (YouTube Channel)
- www.streamfit.com (21 day trial membership; $9.99 to $19.00/month membership)
Getting Fit is Realistic on a Budget
By being creative and resourceful you can have everything you need to get a quality total body workout (cardio and strength) for as little as ten dollars. It will require carefully juggling your schedule, dedicating the time and space to your workouts and a long term plan but it is possible and incredibly beneficial in the end. Also, be sure to practice proper technique and safety with all of your workouts. Your workouts and progress are only as good as the health of your body (which relies heavily on your rest and recovery between workouts).
Stay tuned for more workout advice articles focused on effective training in the home.