Stairs Chairs and Other AtHome Apparatus

You actually don't need to invest a penny to work out at home. Chances are, your home already is equipped with the basics that can be adapted easily for important exercises. Stairs, furniture, and even a blank wall are useful, particularly for lower-body work.

Frt Tip

As you would in a gym, jfort each exercise with 10 repetitions of each exercise (or on each side, for Jeg work). Try bo do two or three sett of each tworcise, resting for a minute between sets. Work up to T5 and then 20 neps per set

Frt Tip

As you would in a gym, jfort each exercise with 10 repetitions of each exercise (or on each side, for Jeg work). Try bo do two or three sett of each tworcise, resting for a minute between sets. Work up to T5 and then 20 neps per set

A straight chair can provide a change of position when you want to work your abdominals. Lie on a mat or a carpeted floor on your back and in front of a straight chair. Place your thighs at a right angle to your upper body and your calves on the seat of the chair. If you are short-legged, you might want to rest the soles of your feet against the front of the chair seat. From this extended Z-shape, you can effectively do abdominal crunches. You can do both straight lifts to work the rectus abdominus and twisting lifts (shoulder toward opposite knee) to work the obliques.

Exercise instructors often have participants line up at the ballet barre to work their hamstrings. The back of a chair can serve the same function. Stand behind it and hold on to the back of the chair for balance while you do hamstring curls with or without ankle weights. To strengthen your quadriceps and tone your inner thighs, again stand behind the chair. Hold on to the back, turn your feet out as far as is comfortable (ballet's second position, if that reference is a useful image), and with your weight centered, sink down in a plié, keeping your back straight and making sure your knees do not extend beyond your ankles. Come up again.

Another way to work the quadriceps is a partial sit. Standing in front of the chair with your feet pointing forward and shoulder-width apart, hold your hands out in front of you and slowly sit down-but don't really sit down. Just as your backside grazes the seat, come up again slowly and in control. You can use an armless chair or a solid, low stool (not a high barstool) for some of the upper-body exercises you would do on a bench at the gym. Sit straight with your feet flat on the floor, as if at the end of a weight bench, to do seated exercises with hand weights to work the biceps, triceps, deltoids, and upper back.

You can even use a plain wall to strengthen your quads. See the example of the wallsit in Chapter 8, "Iron-Free Resistance Training." Some exercise enthusiasts keep space available next to their wall-mounted telephones so they can do this effective exercise while chatting.

A staircase also can be an exercise tool. You can do laps on a flight of stairs, being careful to maintain your footing. This does not provide the constant climbing motion of a stairstepper, but alternating the ascent and the descent does work your leg muscles in different ways. Carry a set of weights if you want to increase the workload. Start with five to 10 minutes of going up and down the stairs. If you live in a highrise apartment building, all the better, because you can go up and down many stairs.

You also can use the bottom step as if it were a bench or a step in a gym. Stand two to three feet in front of the bottom step. Step one foot forward onto the bottom step and lunge, rising on the toes of your back foot and taking care not to move your front knee farther forward than your ankle. Repeat using the other gastrocnemius leg. To strengthen your gastrocnemius, the big calf muscle, stand with the front half of your feet on the bottom step and your heels hanging off the step. Rise onto your toes and then slowly allow your heels to drop below the level of the step (keeping your legs straight but without locking the knees). Change foot positions-feet parallel, toes in, heels in-to work the different parts of the calf muscles.

Fire Up Your Core

Fire Up Your Core

If you weaken the center of any freestanding structure it becomes unstable. Eventually, everyday wear-and-tear takes its toll, causing the structure to buckle under pressure. This is exactly what happens when the core muscles are weak – it compromises your body’s ability to support the frame properly. In recent years, there has been a lot of buzz about the importance of a strong core – and there is a valid reason for this. The core is where all of the powerful movements in the body originate – so it can essentially be thought of as your “center of power.”

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