Archive for Sunday, July 11, 2004

Private gym

Lose some weight in your wallet as well as your abs by bringing the gym home to you

July 11, 2004


Baby, it's hot outside, the roads are crowded, your butt's an embarrassment and "American Idol" is on.

Very fine whines; all excellent reasons not to go work out. And don't forget that joining a health club can cause immediate weight loss -- in your wallet.

OK, so don't go to the gym. Bring the gym to you.

Lots of people spend lots of money to do just that. Americans shelled out more than $4 billion on exercise equipment in 2002, up 11 percent from the year before, according to the National Sporting Goods Assn. That includes $2.5 billion for treadmills alone.

Clubs have advantages, of course: acres of expensive weight and cardio machines, the occasional swimming pool, a variety of fitness classes and professional instruction. And some people find the atmosphere of sweat and camaraderie quite motivating.

But for the price of a couple of months at a club, you can put together a no-frills home gym that covers all the required fitness bases: strength, cardio and flexibility. It takes up minimal space, tucking away in a closet or under a bed when you're done.

The best part: You can work out in your jammies, your undies or nothing at all -- except some decent fitness shoes. And nobody's checking out your butt except the cat.

Before you lay out any money for home equipment, it might be worth getting a limited membership at a health club; many offer free two-week passes to prospective members.

Then you can get an idea of the kind of activities you enjoy most and could stick to, and you could take advantage of professional instruction to learn proper technique and a workout strategy.

If you'd rather do it yourself, no problem. You can go one-on-one with the best instructors in the business through home video.

Getting started for $100 to $150

  • A step. This platform and four risers can turn the simple act of stepping up and down into a heckuva workout. It also can be used for strength-building power moves and stretching exercises, and makes a nifty bench for weight work. Cost: $45-$80
  • A ball. The round workout wonder, good for core conditioning, strength work and stretching. Also a great desk chair. Cost: $10-$25.
  • Home gyms are becoming a popular way for busy people to keep in

    Home gyms are becoming a popular way for busy people to keep in shape.

  • Dumbbells. One pair each of 3-5 pounds and 8-10 pounds. Use for upper body work -- chest, shoulders, back, biceps, triceps -- as well as squats and lunges. Cost: $8-$12
  • Tubes. One with light resistance and one with more. Get a door attachment for more versatility. Great for all-over strength work. Cost: $8-$12.
  • Jump rope. A cardio king, excellent for interval training. Use it to warm up for a few minutes before you begin your workout. Cost: $2-$10.
  • A sticky mat. Use for floor work outs, both strength and stretch. Cost: $10-$25.
  • Exercise videos. Borrow them from the library for free, rent them at the video store or buy 'em if you like 'em for about $20 each.

Bench press

Works chest, triceps, front shoulder

Lie back on the bench, a dumbbell in each hand and your feet on the floor. You might want to put a towel on the step for comfort. Your arm should be at a right angle, and upper arms should be level with the top of the step.

Extend both arms toward the ceiling. Hands should remain outside the shoulder line. Elbows should be soft --slightly bent -- at the top.

Return your arms to the starting position. Make sure your upper arms and elbows never drop below the top of the step.

Variation: Use a tube. Center it under the top riser and hold a handle in each hand while performing the same exercise.

Shoulder press

Works shoulders, triceps, back

Center the tube under a riser -- determine which one by testing the resistance: Is it challenging enough? Sit on the end of the step. Hold a handle in each hand, palms facing each other.

Extend arms overhead. As you extend, rotate your forearms so palms face forward.

Slowly lower to start position.

Tube squats

Works buttocks, thighs, calves, abs

Stand on your tube -- it should be under your arches. Your feet should be hip-distance apart, maybe a little more, toes slightly turned out.

Put a tube handle in each hand and pull it up to shoulder height.

Bend your knees as if you are about to sit in a chair: Put your weight into your heels and keep your head and chest lifted. Keep the tube handles next to your shoulders as you squat. Thighs should be parallel to the ground or above at your lowest point.

Slowly return to a stand.

Power lunges

Works buttocks, thighs, calves

Stand with feet hip distance apart, a dumbbell in each hand.

Step forward so the heel of your rear foot comes off the ground. Your front thigh should be parallel with the floor, and your rear calf should be parallel with the floor or slightly higher, but no lower than 90 degrees.

Alternate legs.

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