As a freelancer, working from home is part of my day to day routine. The same goes for training. My tiny apartment is home, but also the office and the gym. Now imagine the level of difficulty trying to stay productive when my office faces the bed (I love naps) and my gym faces the television (Another season of Supernatural? Bring it…).
They say the key to productivity is having the right mindset. With freelancers, they say to not spend all day in your pajamas and get dressed like you were actually heading to an office. As for a home gym, I say to not only get dressed, but have the right tools. I once was training a client online and asked her to bring out any equipment she had at home. After disappearing from the monitor for a few minutes, she returned triumphantly with a Shake Weight. I couldn’t help but laugh, but mostly because it was all too familiar—as I was using a kitchen stool for box jumps at the time. Having the proper tools at home can be highly motivational and for most, can even replace a gym membership altogether. Here are my favorite tools to be the most productive from home.
Good for: Cardio, performance art with Shia LeBeouf
There was one afternoon where I was doing burpees in my living room and heard my downstairs neighbor tapping on the ceiling. I couldn’t tell if they were annoyed by all the jumping or the crazy drum n’ bass I happened to be blasting at the time. We’ll never know. But when I take my jumping outside or down in the garage, a jump rope is an excellent tool to get cardio in without having to travel the distance. I prefer the jump rope over going for a run, because I have much better technique jumping over running, which saves me from the high impact that running causes to my knees and shins. In the end, I burn more calories.
Pull Up Bar
Good for: Upper body; core
Since I no longer belong to a gym, it became increasingly hard for me to find somewhere to do pull ups. I have to travel a bit to find outdoor pull up bars and sometimes have to wait in line behind grunting shirtless dudes to even just get a few in. It took a great deal of research to find one that would fit in a door in my rental apartment, but once I found one that would work it has helped balance out my upper body strength dramatically and brings focus back to my core.
Good for: Flexibility training; recovery
No home should be without one. Just like a fire detector can save a life, so can a foam roller. Really, it is that important. The intensity of training needs to be constantly undone, and having a foam roller to work out all the major kinks just before bed or while watching a hefty amount of Veep on HBOGO helps reduce soreness and increases flexibility before the next session, much like how Tony Hale always knows what to bring Julia Louis-Dreyfus after a day of burning political bridges.
Good for: Stabilization training, muscle activation
Athletes need to train with instability to learn how to activate multiple muscles simultaneously in order to gain control over stabilization. A suspension strap is a simple way to create an unstable and controlled environment and also take traditional moves like a push up or hamstring curl to the next level. Don’t want to drop a ton of money on a TRX system? Try the more basic version that still gets the job done from the people over at MostFit, which is just as easy to use over a door or tree branch.
A pair of Dumbbells or Kettlebell
Good for: Strength training
I really do love bodyweight exercises like nobody’s business. They are the most effective exercises for building strength and muscle endurance, but if you are in the hypertrophy and maximum strength phases of training, adding resistance will help muscle growth and add the load needed to achieve the right results. Medium weight dumbbells are generally great additions to your basic bodyweight exercises (like a pushup + a row) and a kettlebell workout can burn up to 1000 calories in just one session (I can think of a dozen iron puns right now, but I will save you the eye roll.)
Runners up and honorable mentions:
- Resistance bands: The cheapest and most portable tool to bring with on vacation and still get a great resistance workout in. Also my go-to workout tool on recovery days when working on prehab/PT.
- Stability ball: Another tool that can morph simple exercises into complex ones, however, hard to store in small spaces.
- Kitchen step stool: Ok, NOT recommended as a tool, but gets a mention since I really did use it for jumping on. Then I got smart and took my jumps outside on park benches. I should know better, since one of my biggest fears is ending up in a #fitnessfail montage on Ellen.
Wondering how to use all of these together for a complete workout? Stay tuned next week for a home workout post!