QUESTION #1: “Hi Dr. Neal, I am a 60-year- old male with a goal to get into excellent shape for walking, hiking, and backpacking. I have good aerobic fitness and strong legs from these activities and would like to improve my core strength, back, and top half of my body. Can you recommend a simple, at-home workout or home exercises for that? I have a set of light dumb bells and a rowing machine; I do not really want to use more elaborate equipment. The New York Times has the 8-, 9-, and 12-minute workouts – are those good?”
QUESTION #2: “Lately I struggle with not getting enough activity. I have job where I sit all day and I’ve been working a lot. And it’s been really hot where I live so walking outside isn’t very feasible for me. I do walk in the house when I have time.”
DR. NEAL: I actually received these two similar questions via email, and both were sent within a few days of each other. Thank you, listeners for your questions.
When I was interviewed on the Brian Copeland show a while back, I mentioned that I was irritated about how the fitness and nutrition industries have been slow to catch up on the convenience side of things.
Food manufacturers, online retailers like Amazon, and even meal delivery services are way ahead of the game.
But the health food and fitness industries haven’t caught up.
Remove Potential Barriers
Think about it — Amazon has “1-Click Ordering” as an option now.
As if ordering from Amazon wasn’t easy enough, they somehow found a way to make it even easier by allowing you to place an order by clicking a button once instead of the oh-so-difficult 2 times we had to do before. They’ve just removed a potential barrier! Instead of having you click 2 buttons, like “Add Item to Cart” and “Complete Purchase,” they’ve removed that unnecessary step to have you “add item to cart” and allow you to purchase the item this very second.
Plus, by providing us with this shortcut, you won’t then take that moment to second-guess why you’re buying this product that you may not really need.
As usual, I digress, and will stop crying.
Our Health Behaviors
What does this all have to with free at home exercises?
When it comes to our health behaviors, we need to think like Amazon. We need to make things super convenient and remove any potential barriers.
Luckily, the fitness industry is catching up. Well-designed at-home fitness programs are becoming more common and affordable.
I applaud you for acknowledging that a gym may not be the most convenient for you. But you’re willing to find something that is: an at-home exercise program that doesn’t require any equipment.
Best Home Exercises
So, what exercises would I recommend specifically in this case?
1. Squats and Lunges
To make the most efficient use of your time and energy, the focus should be on compound movements as opposed to isolation-type exercises. In other words, focus on working those larger muscle groups like the legs, chest, back, and shoulders. For example, perform squats and lunges to work out your legs.
Now here’s where it can get really fun and creative – when I say squats and lunges, we forget that there are many variations of each of these moves. Depending on where you place your feet and how your toes are pointed, you can perform squats and lunges that work your leg muscles in all sorts of ways. Not only that, but you can add weight, too.
No dumbbells you say? Pick up a soup can or a water bottle and hold them in each hand while you do these moves.
I don’t recommend doing these using anything carbonated — think about it for a second and you’ll understand why.
So squats and lunges help work the legs. Next…
Before you roll your eyes because everyone keeps recommending you perform push-ups all the time, let me explain. Push-ups work the chest, shoulders, and triceps all at once. This is what makes them a compound movement.
Plus, like squats and lunges, they can be performed a number of different ways. You can use the wall as a support if they’re too difficult to perform on the floor. Another option is to perform them on your knees (instead of on your toes in the plank position).
As you become more advanced, you can vary the angle of push-ups so that you perform them with your legs up on a chair (decline push-ups) or switch it up so that your hands are propped on a chair (incline push-ups).
You can also vary the width of your hands to work the inner, middle, and outer portions of the chest. You’ll find that anytime you mess with the angle or width of your hands, it will engage your shoulders and triceps differently, too. This is what makes push-ups such a great all-in-one exercise.
3. Back Exercises
We’ve covered the legs and chest, and the corresponding supporting muscles. The back is a bit trickier without a pull-up or chin-up bar. However, with a little creativity, we can still engage the back muscles.
Using those same soup cans or water bottles, you can perform one or two-arm rows. If you happen to have resistance bands, or even a big sturdy towel, you wrap one of those around something in your home that’s bolted in like a decorative post. You use the resistance band or towel to pull the upper portion of your body closer to it. Your feet should be close to the decorative post or whatever you’ve decided to wrap the towel around and they should stay planted — at the beginning of the move, you’re leaning backwards. Then using the muscles in your back, biceps, and forearms, you pull yourself forward.
Best Home Exercises: Conclusion
As far as structured programs go, brief 6-,9-, and 12-minute programs you find from reputable online sources are great. There are lots of different credible versions of those types of workouts online. So, once you’ve tried one program, you can mix up your routine every so often and try a different one.
There you have it…4 foundational moves that you can do with no gym equipment at-home right now.
Again, add variation by changing the position of your feet or hands. You can increase the number of repetitions and sets or add weight by using larger soup cans and heavier water bottles.
And hey, if you buy the right kind of soup, you’ve got a perfect snack after your workout and some water to rehydrate you!