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How to Create Your Own Free Home Workout Plan & Exercise Routine

By Ann Olson

free exerciseExercise programs and personal trainers have two things in common: They’re good for getting you in shape and for zapping your wallet. If you’re strapped for cash, gym memberships aren’t necessarily better either. Even nationwide chain gyms charge monthly fees that can quickly add up, especially if you’re working out with your partner or family.

Luckily, you can work out without a gym membership and utilize at home exercises without equipment to get in shape. Use your creativity and the items you already have at home to get a good workout. Furthermore, use free exercise programs online to personalize a unique workout program according to your interests, abilities, and what you have on hand.

Step 1: Choose Your Strength-Training Program

The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) recommends combining strength training with aerobic activity to improve your health. But, unfortunately, most people forget the strength training part of this equation. Although it’s not necessary to lose weight, strength training is still important, as it offers many health-related benefits, such as strengthening your bones, lowering your risk for illness, and helping maintain muscle mass.

If you don’t have a dumbbell or barbell set at home, you can still reap the benefits of strength training from bodyweight exercise programs. By doing bodyweight exercises you utilize your own weight for strengthening.

To round out your fitness program, add two to three sessions of strength training exercises to your workout. There are several excellent routines to choose from:

BodyRock.tv

Led by fitness guru Zuzana Light, BodyRock.tv hosts a series of bodyweight exercise routines that work your core, legs, buns, and arms in interval sessions. Each week, a new exercise routine is uploaded to the company’s website and Facebook page, allowing people immediate access to the workouts.

Other than your own body weight, Zuzana uses an interval timer, a dip bar, a pull-up bar, and, occasionally, a weighted ball or gym bag. Substitute a chair for a dip bar and skip the pull-up bar, and you’re good to go. These workouts are not easy, but Zuzana does show viewers beginner-friendly ways to perform her challenging workouts.

Sandbag Fitness

Developed by fitness expert Josh Henkin, Sandbag Fitness combines common weightlifting moves into an interval-style workout that strengthens the muscles while raising the heart rate, implementing a good fat-burning component. Weights are replaced with a weighted sandbag, which allows for more flexibility.

Sandbag Fitness workouts typically combine two or more exercises, such as combining a deadlift with a squat and an overhead press. While this makes the workout more difficult, it helps target more muscle groups, meaning you’ll get a better burn.

Stew Smith’s 20 Minute Circuit Workout

Want to train like a Navy SEAL? Former Navy SEAL and fitness author Stew Smith combines interval training with bodyweight and cardio exercises as a challenging way to build muscle while blasting away fat. The goal of these exercises is to build endurance and functional strength, which may help you become better at doing other tasks, such as lifting heavy boxes or lengthening your running distance.

There are a total of 13 exercises with no rest in between, so if you’re a beginner, you may want to start with an easier program. This program is not for the faint of heart.

bodyweight exercising

Step 2: Choose Your Cardio Program

To obtain better heart health – and a multitude of other benefits – add at least three 30-minute sessions of cardiovascular exercise to your workout program every week. Often, you do not need equipment or much direction to get an effective cardio workout, which means you can start right now!

Here are three free and easy ways to fit cardio exercise into your workout routine:

Walking
If you’re really new to working out, ease yourself in by walking 30 minutes at least three times per week. Walking is also easy on the joints, so if you suffer from arthritis or bad knees, walking is an ideal choice.

To truly make this an effective cardio workout, walk fast enough so that your heart rate and breathing increase. Once you get in this habit, you may want to try speed walking, which is not only a great cardio workout, but will strengthen and tone your lower body and abs.

Running or Jogging
If your joints can handle it, consider running or jogging. If you’ve never run before, try a running program such as the Couch-to-5K plan to get started.

Expert opinions differ on whether high-tech running shoes are essential to engage in this type of activity. Some maintain that running shoes decrease your foot’s sensitivity, thereby making it harder to find your natural running rhythm (which can result in injury), while others maintain that running shoes are necessary to cushion your joints against impact and reduce stress-related joint ailments.

Playing Sports and Dancing
Physical activities such as playing basketball, dancing, or even jumping rope are excellent ways to get your heart pumping. If you are a parent, this may be a great to way get your kids to exercise. Aim for at least 30 minute of continuous physical activity several times a week to improve your cardiovascular health.

Choose the exercise you like best – or, if you hate repetition, mix it up – but make sure to stick with it! It takes time to develop a fitness habit, so you’ll need to force yourself to workout for the first month or so.

basketball is great for cardio workouts

Step 3: Locate Free Gym Equipment

Once you’ve picked out your programs, you need the right gym equipment. Use these free objects for strength building and toning:

Speedbag’s Online Timer
Although this is best suited for interval routines, Speedbag’s Online Timer can also time entire workouts. Users can customize the sounds to warn them in advance when an interval is ending or when it’s time to switch rounds.

A Gym Bag
This is your free alternative to barbell training. Here’s the ingenious part: By filling it with a weighted item, such as sand or old clothing, you can alter the weight of the bag. Reduce weight by removing items, and increase weight by adding items. Note that this can also replace the sandbag needed for the Sandbag Fitness workouts. If you don’t already have a gym bag at home, substitute it with a backpack.

A Sturdy Chair
Buying your own dip machine isn’t a cheap option, but you can substitute it with a sturdy chair. Choose a four-legged chair that allows you to grip the sides easily and firmly. Office chairs are particularly bad for dips, so opt for something like a kitchen table chair instead.

exercise at home

Step 4: Set Your Schedule

Here’s how to design your workout plan for optimal exercise and health performance:

1. Strength Train Two to Three Times a Week
Engage in strength training on non-consecutive days, as your muscles need time to rest in between workouts. Schedule them preferably after a carbohydrate-rich meal for improved performance.

2. Do Some Form of Cardiovascular Activity at Least Three Times a Week
Again, schedule these on non-consecutive days to allow your body to rest. Make sure to do a minimum of 30 minutes per week.

3. Try to Stay Active Even When You’re Not Working Out
Consider substituting sedentary activities with active ones. Trade TV watching for a nice bike ride, or climb the stairs at work instead of using the elevator. This raises your non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT), which helps prevent or control weight gain.

4. Schedule Water Breaks
If you’re sweating more (and you should be), you’re losing more water and need to up your intake. Water breaks don’t have to be during your workout, but you should always have water on hand, and immediately hydrate following your routine.

Depending on your current consumption and daily habits, you could set an alarm to remind you to drink at least two extra glasses of water per day. Adequate water consumption will help you stay hydrated and healthy; also, it helps to drink water before you feel thirsty.
hydration is important

Final Word

As a personal trainer once told me, “Stop making excuses and start making time.” It isn’t easy to become active if you’re naturally sedentary, but don’t let excuses prevent you from staying fit. Don’t have the money? Use these tips to get in shape without killing your budget. Don’t have time? If you have the time to watch TV or browse the Internet, you definitely have time to exercise. It might even be a good idea to cancel your cable TV!

Make exercise a priority in your life, as it’s the best way to stay healthy and be happy. However, if you have a preexisting condition that could deteriorate with strenuous activity, don’t forget to speak with your health care provider before starting any exercise program.

Do you have any suggestions for working out at home? What other exercises can you do without joining a gym?

(photo credit: Shutterstock)

Ann Olson
Ann Olson is a health writer and full-time frugalista currently living in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Saving money is her passion, and she'll cut any corner in the pursuit of becoming passively wealthy. She's also a diet expert and amateur bodybuilder who credits her active lifestyle for keeping her healthy and happy.

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  • http://artofcheap.blogspot.com/2009/12/free-gym-passes.html Marc

    I love all of these ideas. Gym memberships can get so expensive and making time to go to the gym can be nearly impossible sometimes. All of your recommendations sound great. Personally, I enjoy a mix of Pilates, Yoga, jogging outdoors, swimming at a community pool, and free weights I keep in my car.

    • Ann Olson

      Thanks Marc! I like yoga too, it’s great for reducing stress.

  • Pearl Ramirez

    I’m planning to make my own workout plan with these routines I found (from ExerciseAholics), until I found this post that really gives me an idea on how to do it right. Thank you for sharing these tips, it really means a lot to me.

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