One of the great things about losing weight is that it gives the world a chance to see those great muscles you have underneath. One of the great things about gaining lean muscle is that it is going to take more fuel to make those muscles go. More fuel means your body will burn more fat, making those beautiful lean muscles more visible. This is the glorious world of working out and the results that come from living in this world can be yours using little to no equipment. And you would never have to leave your home!
Somehow, working out at home has gotten a bad rep over the years. When people think of those who work out from home, they think of lazy, unmotivated people who are looking for a miracle fitness device that will give them the results they want with little to no effort. In some cases, these people may be right. There are dozens of infomercials out there touting products that promise to get you in shape in less and less time, with less and less effort. While most of these products can be useful tools to burning fat and gaining lean muscle, they won't do it alone. They need you to use them. If you have a treadmill, or ab-blaster, or thigh-master, or anything else that promises dominion over some area of your body, it can work. But it needs you to make it work.
So that is the first step to losing weight and gaining lean muscle at home - you have to actually want to do it. You can't just want the end result. You can't just want a great body; you have to be willing to work to make it happen. For some of you, that means putting down that bag of potato chips. Unfortunately, diet is a major part of weight loss. You can work out all you want, but you won't get the results you want unless you couple that workout regimen with a diet that has you eating healthy and taking in fewer calories than you are burning. It takes will power. More importantly, it takes a change in lifestyle. This can be hard for some of you to handle, but it is the first and most important part of losing weight and adding muscle. You have to change.
Now that you've changed, the next step is taking action. Pick that whatever-you-bought and use it. If you haven't purchased anything, then it might be time to do so. Below you will find some specific workouts you can do and some overall concepts that will help direct how you work out to make sure you are doing all you can do to burn fat and add lean muscle.
Or jog, if that makes you feel better about what is happening. The idea is to get off your butt and get active. Running is one of the best aerobic exercises you can do to help burn fat. If running hurts your knees or your joints, try riding your bike. If riding a bike hurts your back, try swimming. If you don't have a pool, then go for a brisk walk. What you want is to elevate your heart rate and put your body into a mode where it is requiring more energy than it would at rest. This will help to dig into those fat stores for energy, and burn it up as fuel. Any aerobic exercise will do here. Aerobic exercises are defined as prolonged activity at a relatively low intensity.
Metcons, or metabolic conditioning are designed to improve your body's use of energy. They will improve how your muscles use the fuel they are given during an activity as well as improve how your body stores energy for use when you work hard. Metcons are fun because they don't require a ton of time and you will feel like you just had your butt handed to you. One good example of a metcon is called interval training. Try sprinting as fast as you can for thirty seconds and then walking for ninety seconds. Then repeat the process again. If you are in the pool, swim as hard as you can for one lap, then as easy as you can for the next two laps. This will teach your body to store energy for those bursts and make it more efficient when you aren't asking it to explode like that. The idea is to follow any period of extreme exertion with a period of near-rest. A good rule of thumb is to triple your exertion period for your rest period. Repeat this for thirty minutes for a killer workout.
Another good metcon is known as a Tabata. Popular in Crossfit workouts, the Tabata is a timed workout that consists, usually of eight rounds where you work for twenty seconds and then rest for ten seconds until your eight rounds are completed. This is usually done for four workouts in succession. The whole thing takes less than a half hour but feels like you just worked out for two hours when you are done.
Body weight exercises are a great way to use what you have to build good lean muscle. Hopefully, you are seeing some results from doing the first two things on this list. Now it's time to focus on building that lean muscle. Don't worry, you will still be shedding fat and losing weight while you are building muscle, that is one of the beautiful things about working out.
The easiest body-weight exercises are push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups, air squats, lunges and calf raises. These can be done without any weight at all (though you will need a pull-up bar for the pull-ups). I would also recommend getting a stability ball or an Abmat for the sit-ups. They will support your lower back and give you a better range of motion.
Think about what we have already talked about. If you do any of these body weight exercises slowly, you will build lean muscle and you will stay in an aerobic state. If you amp up your cycle time and move through them for speed, you will be doing more of a metcon style workout. This will also build lean muscle, but you will sweat a lot more and it will really make you feel like you're doing work. You can try a Tabata with push-ups, sit-ups, squats and pull-ups if you like. Do as many as you can of each exercise for twenty seconds, then rest for ten. Or you can do those same four exercises and do 100 of each of them. That's a Crossfit WOD (Workout of the Day) called “Angie.” The idea here is to step up some of the things you are already doing by focusing on specific muscles. By targeting a single muscle group with a movement, you are working on building lean muscle in that area.
You can also use isometrics with these exercises to build lean muscle. Isometrics are when you hold a single position with a muscle flexed for an extended period of time. For squats, you would hold yourself at the bottom of your squat for as long as you can. For a push-up, you would go half way down and then hold it until your muscles fail. This will add strength to these muscles as well.
Body weight exercises are great, but using weights will really help to advance your workouts and push you past plateaus in your training. I would really recommend some simple weights that are versatile and can be used for a ton of different exercises. Kettlebells and medicine balls are really versatile and easy to store weights that will add a ton of new workouts to what you can do at home. There are dozens of workouts that you can do using just these two things.
Kettlebells are great for weighting squats and lunges. You can also do kettlebell swings, deadlifts, Turkish get ups, single-arm cleans, shoulder presses, curls, bent over rows, or you can use the kettlebell as a platform for one or both of your hands while doing push-ups. You can see examples of all of these online. Make sure to note the form and focus on proper technique in any weighted lift you try. The uses of kettlebells are virtually limitless and they are great things to have in even the most modest home gym.
Med balls can be used for Wall Ball Shots, a staple of many Crossfit workouts, as well as for med ball cleans, med ball runs (the awkwardness is part of the challenge), or for weighting leg lifts, sit-ups or even pull-ups (hold it between your knees). You can also use the med ball to raise your hands or your feet while doing push-ups.
If you have a little more space and a lot more money, you can purchase an Olympic bar and some steel weights or bumper plates. These will allow you to do most of the Olympic lifts as well as much of the weighted exercises mentioned above, but with more weight than is possible with med balls or kettlebells. The advantage to lifting heavier is to mix up your workouts and to build more muscle faster (remember that wonderful cycle of building muscle and burning fat?).
Remember that variety is the spice of life. Not only will changing your workouts keep you from getting bored, but it will also keep your body from getting comfortable. Nothing stunts weight loss and muscle development in the body like being comfortable. Go to the Crossfit website, or visit the site of a local Crossfit affiliate for some ideas of workouts. The possibilities are almost endless. There are certainly enough out there to keep you and your body from getting bored. It's also good to become a part of the Crossfit community. If you are doing the WODs that are posted on their site, you can post your times in comments section of each workout. This is a great way to see where you stand against hundreds of people just like you all over the country. Feeling like a part of something bigger is a great way to stay motivated and keep with it. Remember that the first and most important part of losing weight and gaining muscle is deciding that you want to and sticking with it. Being a part of that community can help you do just that.
Finally, remember to focus on your technique with all weighted movements. Film yourself lifting if you have to and find videos of proper form. It will save you a ton of trouble in the long run.