Regular exercise is one of the hallmarks of a healthy lifestyle, but sometimes real life gets in the way and we are not able to make it to the gym. Don’t let a lack of access to gym equipment stop you from staying in shape! Here are a few easy exercises to do at home.
Many gym workouts incorporate squats in some form, so why not do them at home too? There are many variations of this exercise to help increase the level of difficulty, but getting the basic squat form down first is imperative. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, and squat down until your knees reach a 90 degree angle. Make sure to “sit back” into the squat so that your knees do not move forward past your toes — like you are sitting into a chair. In fact, performing this exercise in front of a chair can help you perfect your form. Slowly sit back toward the chair, then, just before your bottom reaches the chair surface, push back up to return to standing.
When you master the basic squat and need a greater challenge, you can get creative. Perform squats on just a single leg, add weight with dumbbells (but not too much!), or use a softer surface, like a foam pad or BOSU ball, to make the exercise more difficult.
Similar to squats, lunges are a versatile exercise that hit a number of muscle groups in the legs. Standing with both feet together, step forward and bend the front knee to 90 degrees, then push back to standing. Once again, make sure to keep your knee from moving past your toes. This same exercise can also be performed by stepping out to the side or backward, then bending the knees into a lunge. Another way to progress: if you are on a hard floor, put a sock or towel underneath one foot, then use that foot to slide backward or sideways while bending the opposite knee into a lunge. Just make sure your stance foot is nice and solid!
Single leg RDL (Romanian deadlift)
Deadlifts are a great exercise for strengthening your hamstrings, hips, core, and lower back. They also don’t require any weights! My favorite way to do them is on one leg. Make sure you have plenty of room around you first, though (especially behind you!). Stand on one leg with your knee slightly bent, then hinge forward at your hip, keeping your lower back and opposite leg straight. Allow your arms to hang downward until you reach your knee or shin (or, if you prefer, a small step or coffee table in front of you), then squeeze your hamstrings and glutes and return to standing. This can be a hard exercise to master, so remember to activate your core and keep from rounding your lower back.
Calf raises are another easy exercise to do at home, and are great for individuals who like to incorporate running or other cardio into their normal exercise routine. Stand near a wall or table (so you can reach out to keep your balance) then push up onto your toes. Hold for a beat, then return to the ground. If you want an additional challenge, perform the exercise on one leg. Doing the exercise with your heels hanging off a small step can also make it more challenging.
Bridges are another great way to strengthen your glutes and hips, and can also be performed in a number of different ways. Start by lying on your back with your knees bent. Squeeze your glutes, and lift (or “bridge”) your hips off the ground, then hold for a few seconds before returning to your starting position. You can progress the exercise any way you see fit, but some easy progressions include holding the bridge for longer or using one leg while the other is lifted into the air (make sure your hips stay level!).
Side Lying Hip Abduction
The lateral hips are a very common area of weakness for most people, and side lying hip abduction (or side leg lifts) is an exercise we physical therapists prescribe regularly. Lie on your side with your bottom knee bent for balance. Keep the top knee straight and make sure your leg is in line with your torso — you should not be able to see your foot unless you look down. Keep your hips stacked on top of one another and your toes pointed horizontally (i.e. don’t rotate your foot upward), and lift your top leg up a few inches. Hold for a beat, then return to your starting position and repeat. This exercise should fatigue your lateral hip; if you feel the burn closer to the front of your hip, you likely need to move your top leg further backward.