Home workouts have become increasingly popular over recent years. To discover whether home workouts, or home fitness sessions, with or without equipment are as effective as the classic workout, and whether you can set up a mini-gym at home with a small or medium investment, read on below. You will also find 4 example workout plans, for men and women, designed with the most common aims in mind, such as losing weight or keeping fit.
Core training is equipment free and dates as far back as Ancient Greece, where the Spartans exercised daily in their settlements, doing exercises that simply exploited the weight of their body and the force of gravity, in their quest to achieve agility and strength.
Home workouts, even just for a few minutes a day, have really taken on, especially over lockdown. Many people, including the less sporty of us, have started exercising at home simply as a pastime and to relieve the inevitable stress of having to stay at home. On the other hand, fitness fans and athletes have made a virtue out of necessity, striving to keep fit while under the same roof.
Recent events have had a dramatic impact on our habits, and one of the major changes has been our approach to workouts. Beforehand, those of us who need, want or wish to keep active, saw the gym or outdoor sports as the main solution, but now that trend has changed. Obviously there are pros and cons to bear in mind, and we’ll look at these later in the article.
- Just how effective are home workouts?
- How to work out at home without equipment
- Setting up a mini-gym at home
- Types of training routines and examples of men’s and women’s training plans
- Nutrition advice
Home workouts can be adapted to any needs, from wanting to keep fit to simple muscle toning exercises. They can be taken up by athletes training for high level competitions, but also career professionals to relieve stress, or simply anyone else looking to improve their well-being and maintain a healthy and active lifestyle.
The human body is a complex, elaborate system, designed to perform actions and therefore to move around, and thus physical exercise, in the sense of healthy activity, can be seen as natural medicine with absolute benefits for our physical and mental health.
Everyone (or nearly everyone) can train at home. The main tool on which a training plan is based is the human body. So effective exercising at home is more than possible, even without any of the classic equipment you find in the gym. What exercises can you do at home? Exercises such as squats, push ups and the plank to name just a few. With a little more imagination, classic equipment can be replaced with household items to help you achieve more and make training less tedious, such as a chair, the stairs, a pack of water bottles or a backpack filled with books.
The essential aspect to consider before setting up a home gym is what do you want to get out of it? Guidance from a good sports trainer could be helpful in this case, to avoid the mistake of purchasing equipment that is not suited to your purpose.
Setting up a home gym can be relatively simple, without breaking the bank. You can start off with just a small investment, purchasing just the tools you need to set up a basic training routine suited to your needs. Starting off this way means you can then add to and diversify the equipment, to create an authentic small home fitness suite.
For example, a basic set to increase the versatility of exercises could be:
– a fitball;
– resistance bands;
– a medicine ball of a suitable weight.
A second step, to increase the variety of exercises, could be the addition of:
– a kettlebell;
– a balance board;
– a TRX suspension trainer.
A bigger investment, to further integrate your home gym would see the purchase of:
– weight training discs and bars for multi-joint exercises with overload;
– dumbbells, for specific work on target muscles;
– a cardio fitness machine, such as a fitness bike or rowing machine.
There are a vast range of training routines you can do at home: from free body to cardio fitness, not to mention Tabata, total body and the classic exercises for legs, abs and glutes or those for the upper body. In recent years, new philosophies and schools of though have constantly developed alongside ever-changing work protocols. The risk for the layperson is the belief that they can self-train, and thus come up against a host of problems with joints or muscles, or simply don’t achieve what they hoped to. We recommend the supervision of a good trainer when planning the workout routine that can then be practised independently and in the right way.
Here we’ll look at 4 real case studies, all very different from one another, which most readers can identify with at least in part:
– The athlete who can’t go to the gym, but needs to maintain his/her sport-specific fitness regime;
– The manager with a lot of responsibilities and little free time, but who is seeking mental and physical well-being and hopes to manage his/her stress levels.
– The man or woman who wants to get fit again, losing weight and toning up their muscles.
– The middle-aged man or woman, with high blood pressure and suffering from backache, who the doctor has asked to get fit.
Case 1: Andrea. Amateur boxer – 30 years old.
Andrea needs to keep up his athletic performance levels, but while the gyms are closed he doesn’t know when he can compete again. What’s more, he works full time in his home city and prefers a workout made up of both free body cardio fitness exercises and other strength exercises with weights, that he can complete in one hour at the most.
At home, he has set up a small gym in his garage with everything he needs: he has adjustable dumbbells, medicine balls, kettlebells, weights and other equipment for core training. On average he works out three times a week, combined with 2 outdoor running sessions. Let’s see an example of Andrea’s training session.
|Home workout example for Amateur Athletes, aimed at maintaining a sport-specific condition|
Warm-up: the session starts with a warm-up, consisting of 10’ skipping, alternating between 45” of work and 15” recovery intervals
Training: the central training phase involves Circuit Training made up of 6 exercises to stimulate both muscle strength and aerobic strength. The plan includes repetition of the circuit 6 times, with recovery of around 1’ between one circuit and the next
|Exercise 1: Flat bench presses with weights||30”|
|Exercise 2: Goblet squat with kettlebell||30”|
|Exercise 1: Burpees||30”|
|Exercise 1: Pull-ups||30”|
|Exercise 1: Floor presses with weights||30”|
|Exercise 1: Weighted plank (10 kg disc)||30”
Cool-down: in the last stage Andrea dedicates 15’ to specific sports training and around 10’ to stretching
Case 2: Paolo. Business manager – 45 years old
Paolo throws himself in to his work and has risen through the ranks, now recognised as a popular professional. This said, he has no time to go to the gym, but has a remote personal trainer who constantly updates his training routine. Given the little free time available and his highly competitive streak, he prefers short, high-intensity training sessions, thanks to which he can also challenge himself in a setting other than the work place. Since he has taken up physical exercise again, his work performance has also improved significantly in terms of concentration and stress management. Paolo doesn’t use equipment for his training sessions, other than a mat and a skipping rope.
Let’s see one of his equipment-free training routines:
|Example of home workout for the Manager/Company employee, aimed at mental and physical well-being|
Warm-up: the session starts with a warm up phase, consisting of 5’ jumping on the spot, coordination and joint mobility exercises.
Training: the central training phase consists of a series of exercises, one after the other, with the aim of completing them in the shortest time possible, maintaining optimal quality of movements. During the session, he has to focus on technique and maintain the ideal intensity to complete the workout as quickly as possible. This dual task enables him to forget about any work-related thoughts.
|Exercise 1: Burpees||Repeat 10 times|
|Exercise 2: Reverse crunch||Repeat 20 times|
|Exercise 3: Push ups||Repeat 40 times|
|Exercise 4: Alternating lunges||Repeat 60 times|
|Exercise 5: Crunch||Repeat 80 times|
|Exercise 6: Squat||Repeat 80 times|
|Exercise 7: Skipping||Repeat 100 times
Cool-down: the last phase lets Paolo dedicate 10’ to specific exercises to prevent backache and neck pain, as he spends so much time sitting in front of the computer.
Case 3: Rachele. Economics student – 23 years old
Rachele has never been sporty and needs a boost to do physical exercise. At the moment she needs to lose a few kilos and tone up her muscles. After various failed attempts, she has taken a path more suited to her personality, and is now followed online by a personal trainer during her training sessions. The online professional offers two advantages for her: the correction of any mistakes and above all the constant mental and motivational encouragement while she works out.
Rachele has a well-equipped gym at home, with a fitness bike, treadmill, and other equipment recommended to her by her personal trainer. Here’s an example of her training routine.
|Example of home workout for muscle toning and weight loss|
Warm-up: the session starts with 10’ of aerobic exercises, and in this case Rachele uses her fitness bike. Intensity is increased gradually, where the first few minutes serve to activate the legs, and then on to more intense activity.
Training: in the central phase she follows a routine made up of two steps: the first focuses on legs and glutes, and the second is dedicated to abs and arms.
|Exercise 1: Overload squats (50% of body weight)||4 sets of 8 repeats|
|Exercise 2: Walking lunges with overload (25% of body weight)||4 sets of 8 repeats|
|Exercise 3: hip thrusts (50% of body weight)||4 sets of 8 repeats|
|Exercise 4: TRX horizontal pull-ups||3 sets of 12 repeats|
|Exercise 5: Modified push-ups||3 sets of 12 repeats|
|Exercise 6: Reverse crunch on a fitball||3 sets of 15 repeats|
|Exercise 7: Weighted Russian twists on BOSU (weight in hands)||3 sets of 20 repeats
Cool-down: In the final phase Rachele dedicates 15’-20’ to cardio exercises (in this session she runs on the treadmill) to stimulate fat consumption after the strength training session, to then end with stretching exercises.
Example of home workout plan to get fit again
Case 4: Maria. Housewife – 55 years old
Maria was a sports enthusiast until she was 25, but after 3 pregnancies and the passing of time she has gained some weight, above all due to a poorly balanced diet. She also suffers from high blood pressure and incorrect posture, which means she constantly has backache and pains in her shoulders and neck. The doctor has recommended physical exercise 3 times a week. For this purpose she has got a rod and a resistance band, as well as using a chair and the stairs at home.
|Example of home workout for people with high blood pressure and who need to improve posture|
Warm-up: the session starts with 20’ of aerobic exercise. When she has time, Maria goes out for a brisk walk, otherwise she alternates 1 hour of work with 30 minutes rest, going up and down the stairs at home.
Training: in the central training phase, she does exercises aimed at preventing backache, alternating these with low-impact metabolic exercises for cardio fitness. She usually repeats these exercise routines 3-4 times, resting for 20”-30” between exercises and 1’ between routines.
|Exercise 1: Lower back stretch on all fours||Repeat 10 times|
|Exercise 2: Chair squat||Repeat 15 times|
|Exercise 3: Shoulder mobility with pole||Repeat 10 times|
|Exercise 4: Single leg step-ups up two steps||Repeat 5 times per leg|
|Exercise 5: Bird-dog||Repeat 5 times per side|
|Exercise 6: External shoulder rotators with resistance band||Repeat 15 times
Cool-down: in the final phase, Maria does muscle stretching in offloading exercises, above all for the posterior chain muscles
When talking about training, we mustn’t forget that diet is also an essential factor in our lifestyle. The saying “we are what we eat”, originally coined by the German philosopher Feuerbach in the mid 1800s, couldn’t be more appropriate now. Physical exercise alone, even if constant and intense, cannot, above all for those over 30 years of age, enable us to maintain a healthy and quality lifestyle.
In general, the main advice is to prefer fresh food over processed food, with few additions, avoiding above all the use and abuse of sugar and sauces. A healthy balanced breakfast is the best start to the day. Ideally you should concentrate the calories earlier on in the day, to then gradually reduce calorie intake in the evenings, opting for a light evening meal, which also helps you sleep. One last aspect not to underestimate is hydration, between meals you should aim at drinking between 2 and 3 litres of water a day.
Home workouts have their pros and cons, but the benefits potentially outweigh the downsides. Regardless of whether you work out in a gym, outdoors, or at home, you should always refer to a sector professional for guidance on what are the best options for you personally.