One of the big problems with going to the gym is … going to the gym. It means changing into gym clothes, getting in the car and driving there, often finding all the benches occupied so you have to wait around to get one for bench presses, and other assorted time wasters. You’d much rather be getting a good workout at home—if you could.
Surprise! You can get a great gym-style workout at home, without spending thousands on a space-hogging treadmill or other exercise equipment. All you need is a little ingenuity to create your own home gym. It will be more Rocky style than sleek chrome, but it’ll get the job done—and isn’t that what a workout is about?
Start with a few inexpensive “machines” that can be easily built and won’t take up much space. Here’s how to make a “treadmill” that fits into a grocery bag. You’ll need 12 feet of strong bungee cord (available at most outdoor stores), duct tape, a pair of pantyhose, a tennis ball and a sturdy belt.
Tie a 6-inch-wide loop at each end of the bungee cord with double knots; secure the knots by wrapping duct tape around them. Put one pantyhose leg inside the other and cut the legs off about halfway up. Slip the tennis ball into the toe. Measure and mark the middle of the bungee cord and tie the pantyhose to it so there’s only one free inch of hose between the ball and cord. Slip the belt through the loops at each end of the cord, then fasten the belt around your waist, with the loops in back. Open your front door, stick the ball through and close and lock the door so it doesn’t accidentally open. Turn around and begin walking or running. The resistance of the cord will hold you in place, and as an added benefit, also work your abs. Wear supportive shoes.
Next, make a weight-adjustable pull-up bar that will strengthen your entire upper body. Buy an installable bar from a sporting goods shop ($20-$30) and screw it to the upper threshold of your bathroom door, where it will be the least noticeable.
There are two ways to perform this exercise if you’re not yet strong enough to do regular pull-ups. One: Use a stepladder to help with strength-building “negatives.” Step on the ladder, grab the bar in the “up” position, then lower yourself slowly. “Slowly” is the key word. Two: Create a weight-adjusted pull-up with 12 feet of bungee cord. Tie 10-inch loops at each end and secure the knots with a wrapping of duct tape. Place the exact middle of the cord over the bar and tie it in place with a double knot. Put your feet into the loops, grab the bar and do reps of 10-12 pull-ups. The cord will assist so that you’re not lifting your entire body weight. Make the pull-ups even easier by shortening the cord with more knots at the top of the bar. As you get stronger, untie knots to make the exercise more difficult.
For a total core workout, you only need a small-size exercise ball or beach ball and a flat mover’s dolly (about $8 at hardware stores). Place your feet and shins on the dolly, stretch out and “walk” with your hands across a room, keeping your body straight (this exercise is pictured above). Don’t bend your knees or allow your back to sag. You can make the work less difficult by putting the dolly under your knees, or even easier by putting it under your hips. Remember that the core is essential for balance, so work on your core’s balance by placing the ball on top of the dolly, putting your feet on top of the ball and hand-walking across the room. If it’s too hard to keep your body straight, again, do it with the ball under your knees or hips. While this exercise mostly works your core, it will also train your upper back, shoulder and arm muscles.