Slideshow Pictures: Exercise and Fitness -- The No-Gym Home Workout
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Get Fit at Home
Think you need sweaty machines at the gym to get fit? Save your money. Your own body weight and gravity can do the job, says Pete McCall, MS, of the American Council on Exercise: "Standing core exercises like wood chops are particularly effective." So, chop, chop! This exercise leads off WebMD's No-Gym Workout -- 15 challenging moves to help both men and women get in great shape.
The whole upper body gets a muscle-ripping workout here, including the abs. Start with feet hip-width apart, hips and knees slightly bent. Attach a band overhead and grab it over the shoulder, trunk angled toward the band. Pull down to the opposite hip, rotating slightly. Slowly return. If you have a medical condition, be sure to check with your doctor before this or any new fitness program.
Standing Tubing Row
This deceptively simple move hits all the muscles used in a pull-up, as well as all your core muscles. Grasp the handles with straight arms and tubing taut. Pull the handles towards you and lean back a little. Focus on bringing your shoulder blades back and together. Pause and slowly straighten arms back to the starting position without bending forward.
Circuit Train to Burn Fat
Want to burn fat quickly? Rapid-fire circuits turn strength moves into calorie-torching, cardio work. "If your goal is weight loss, use light weights and low reps," says McCall. A circuit may include push-ups, pull-ups, and crunches followed by a two-minute run around the room. Repeat or alternate with a different circuit of biceps curls, dips, and shoulder presses to target smaller muscles.
Pull-ups work arm and back muscles, giving you great bang for your buck. Turn palms away to work more back muscles; or have the palms face you to target the biceps. Grasp the chin-up bar and cross your legs to keep the lower body stable. Slowly pull your body up, bending your elbows, until your chin is level with the bar. Pause, then slowly return to your starting position. Repeat.
Wide Grip Push-up
A wide grip makes the chest muscles work a little harder. Place your hands outside the shoulders. McCall says it's important to engage your core, thigh, and gluteal muscles to get the most out of this or any push-up. As you lift he says: "Think about gripping the ground with your hands to engage the large muscles of the pectoralis major."
This challenging push-up can kick your shoulder strength up a couple notches. Get into a standard push-up: hands a little wider than shoulder-width apart, fingers facing forward, elbows slightly bent, and eyes on the floor. Then place feet behind you on a sturdy chair or bench. Keep your body in a straight line, engage the abs, bend your elbows, and lower your chest towards the floor. Push back to starting position.
Jump Train for Power
Pro athletes train with jumping jacks and other explosive moves to increase muscle power. It helps basketball players jump higher and tennis players get to the ball faster. Jump training is also called plyometrics, and it's not for beginners or for those with orthopedic issues. But if you have good strength and balance, it can ramp up your game. Try adding plyometric moves to your workout once or twice a week.
Shift your hips back and down until your heels start to lift off the floor. Pause briefly and explode up, swinging the arms overhead as you straighten your legs. Create a straight line from toes to fingers, with your back flat. Land softly on the mid-foot and sink back into a squat to help absorb the impact. Before adding jump moves, people who are sedentary or injured should check with a doctor.
Try this advanced move on grass or another soft surface. Sink into a lunge position with left leg forward, right leg back, and both knees bent to 90 degrees. Swing your arms behind you for greater power as you explosively jump up, using arms to assist as needed. Keep your back straight, eyes facing forward, and engage the abs. Switch legs in the air and land softly, returning to the lunge position. Rest after each set.
How to Lose the Gut
Dozens of crunches, on their own, are not likely to help you lose the gut. What does work is a full-body exercise routine that builds lean muscle all over. Since muscle burns calories even at rest, having more muscle helps to melt fat all over, including the belly. The best plan is regular cardio (aerobic) exercise, resistance training, and a healthy, calorie-controlled diet.
Split Squat With Biceps Curl
Rest your right foot on a chair well behind you, with your weight on your bent left leg. It's heads up, eyes forward, weights at your side -- and very important -- keep the front knee directly over the ankle. Now, slowly lower your hips by bending the front knee. Push back up and pull the weights up towards shoulders, but don't twist the arms as you lift. Perform all reps and switch legs.
One-legged Hamstring Blaster
Strong hamstrings help you blow past fellow runners on hills. To challenge these muscles, lie with knees bent at a 90-degree angle and both heels on a chair or stair. Cross one ankle over the opposite thigh just above the knee. Now raise your hips as high as you can and keep your back straight -- do not arch. Pause at the top and slowly lower hips back to the ground and repeat. Switch legs.
This simple move tones the backs of the arms, a problem zone for many women. Sit on the edge of a step or chair, palms on each side, and knees bent to 90-degrees. Now, scoot your hips forward, off the step, until your hands are supporting your weight. Slowly lower your body, keeping your back very close to the step. Bend the elbows until you upper arms are parallel to the floor. Slowly push back up and repeat.
Double Chair Dip
To really challenge triceps, position two chairs facing each other. Sit on the edge of one, palms on each side of your hips. Straighten your legs and prop up your heels on the opposite chair. Scoot down until you're supporting your weight on your hands. Slowly lower your body by bending your elbows until upper arms are parallel to the floor -- and keep your back close to the chair behind you. Slowly push back up and repeat.
Lose the Love Handles
Fatty areas that circle the waistline are a common concern. Unfortunately, twisting side-to-side does very little to whittle your waist, according to Mark Nutting, CSCS. Slimming down all over helps melt overlying fat, then working the obliques can add tone. "You need to work against resistance in order to create a change," says Nutting. Your best bets: planks and wood chops along with a healthy diet.
This isometric move strengthens all the core muscles, helping to tone the mid-section. Lie on your stomach, elbows close to your sides and directly under your shoulders, palms down. Engage the abs and slowly lift your torso off the floor, maintaining a stiff torso and legs. Avoid sagging at the low back or hiking up your hips. Continue to breathe while holding this position for 15 seconds or more.
Try this advanced move only after mastering the traditional plank. Support your weight with chest and forearms on top of a fitness ball. Keep legs straight and toes on the floor and contract the abdominals to help stay balanced. Shift your weight to your left leg as you bend your right knee and bring it up to meet the ball; slowly return it to starting position and repeat. Switch legs.
Two-Legged Hamstring Curl
A slightly easier hamstring challenge uses two legs. Lie on the floor with heels and ankles on a fitness ball. Dig your heels into the ball and raise your hips as high as you can, while keeping your back straight -- do not arch. Now bend your knees to a 90-degree angle and roll the ball toward you. Pause at the top and slowly lower hips back to the ground and repeat.
Ball Plank With Shoulder Extension
Ready to work every muscle in your body? This move comes close, with a special challenge for the core. Put your chest, stomach, and hands (with weights) on a fitness ball, legs straight to the floor. Slowly raise one arm behind you, toward the ceiling. Contract your abs to keep from rolling off the ball, but don't forget to breathe. Pause, slowly return your hand to the ball, and repeat with the other arm.
Protection for the Low Back
If you have low back pain, warm up by gently stretching your hips before working out, says McCall: "Tight hip flexors pull on the lower spine." Kneel down on one knee with the foot trailing behind you. Keep your legs parallel to each other, hands on the bent knee, and let your hips sink forward to the floor, keeping upper body straight. Don't lean forward. Hold for 30 seconds and switch legs.
Advice for Desk Jockeys
Sitting with poor posture for hours a day increases your risk of low back pain. And shoulder pain is rampant among people who keep their heads and torsos jutted forward all day long, peering into a computer. At your desk, set a timer to go off every hour to remind you to check that your ear, shoulder, and hip are aligned. When working out, hip stretches and tubing rows can help counteract the aches and pains of desk work.
How Many Reps Are Right for You?
For strength and power, aim for three sets of six reps. For general muscle growth and toning, try three sets of 6-12 reps. If you're a runner striving for muscle endurance, plan on 2-3 sets of 12 or more reps with 30-second rest periods. Always exercise caution, and if something doesn't feel right, check with a fitness expert. Depending on your health and physical condition, some exercises may not be recommended.