It’s no secret I am a CrossFit junkie. It’s my exercise of choice, my mojo, & my reason to get up at 4:30 each morning. I’ve written plenty of posts describing how awesome it is. But I get that it’s not for everyone. Some of you like going to the gym to do your own thing. Some of you like to workout at home, play sports, do yoga, walk, run or do Zumba. Whatever your exercise of choice is, strength training should be a part of it.
What Do I Mean by Strength Training
Strength training is a way of increasing muscular strength & size by gradually increasing the ability to resist force. One’s body, free weights, or machines may be used to impose greater resistance to stimulate muscle growth as it responds to increased demand.
What are the Benefits of Strength Training?
Increased physical work capacity-simply stated if you are stronger you will be able to do more physical work. Who doesn’t want to carry in all the groceries in one trip while going up several flights of stairs? The bottom line is the stronger you are the easier it is to do everyday activities like pick up the laundry basket and carry it up the stairs without throwing your back out.
Increases bone density– I know everyone freaks out about calcium when they hear that my family doesn’t drink milk, but the fact remains that strength training & weight-bearing exercises increase bone density a lot better than just drinking some milk. (source)
Prevents muscle wasting- in addition to bone loss over the years, we lose muscle mass with age.
Improve posture-not only will balance & coordination improve, but you will see benefits in posture as your muscle balance out and flexibility improves.
Increases energy levels & improves mood-endorphins are considered “natural pain killers” which will make you feel great. They get released with exercise and help you to sleep better and put you in a better mood. Don’t you always feel better when the workout is done?
Confidence– there is just something to be said about having muscle definition & feeling strong. Your confidence can’t help but increase when you feel better, look better, and are able to pick up some heavy stuff 🙂 Being able to deadlift over 230 lbs. is pretty cool too!
Aesthetic changes-yup, I saved the best for last. If you want to make actual physical changes in your body, you have to strength train. I wrote an entire post how I trained for a half marathon hoping to get back in shape from having my daughter. If you look at my before and after pictures here, you will see that I do not look any different at all. But if you scroll down you will see before and after pictures from when I added paleo & CrossFit into my routine. I think you can see the difference in my smile too.
What do you do if you don’t have gym membership, can’t afford a strength coach (personal trainer), or just don’t know what to do? Keep it simple with basic fundamental exercises and basic functional equipment.
STOCK YOUR HOME EXERCISE STUDIO
DVD’s-Even though I am not a big fan of Shakeology, I will say that I really like the Beachbody workouts. There are so many different levels that accommodate beginners to advanced exercisers. I still have my set of P90X DVD’s from when my daughter was a baby. I dust those bad boys off in the summer when I am off for the summer & don’t feel like driving 25 minutes to my CrossFit box.
Functional equipment-these are tools that allow for total body movement that builds strength, balance, coordination, & flexibility that will translate into increases in our day-to-day activities. Having functional strength means that I am strong not only in the gym doing a back squat, but I am strong enough to help my husband move our brand new washer & dryer down our stairs….with a torn ACL. (I utilized the shoulder press & deadlift to help me FYI.)
The good news is that functional equipment is not only a better & more efficient way of exercising, it’s also cheaper too. When I bought my (floor model) treadmill when I was training for Boston in 2011, we paid around $1200. Keep that figure in mind as I tell you what’s in my home exercise studio now & about how much it all cost. Also the amount of square footage needed to house functional equipment is minimal. My treadmill takes up almost the entire office in my basement. Finally with functional equipment there are no moving parts to maintain. Take it from someone who runs the fitness center in my school. It’s very expensive to have our cardio equipment serviced; it takes up a huge portion of our wellness budget. I’ve already decided that when the equipment breaks I am not paying to have it repaired. It’s getting donated and more functional equipment and rowers will be bought instead.
Medicine Balls– are versatile, portable, relatively inexpensive, & come in many weights & sizes. Some absorb load (the kind we use in my school & in CrossFit) and some bounce pretty high. Some have handles and some don’t. Which ball you pick depends on what exercise you’re doing, what your preference is, and if you need to be concerned with middle schoolers gunning the ball at their friend’s face for fun 😉
Medicine ball training helps to increase strength, power, muscular endurance, & flexibility.
Here is a great video with lots of exercises
I was lucky enough to get a 14lb medicine ball from Rep Fitness to test out.
The first thing I noticed right away was the quality. The logo is stitched on and not just printed on the ball like every wall ball I’ve seen before. It really stands out! The stitching looked much more durable than the med balls at my school. This ball retails for $74 and is so soft! Coming from someone who has taken a med ball in the face while doing wall balls on occasion, trust me you want soft med balls! Not only are the Rep Fitness balls quality, but they are all color coded to by weight to make them easier to identify. If you only have 1 or 2 balls for your home this is NBD. But when you have 25 balls for an entire class it makes it difficult to figure out the weight when they are not color coded. Check out this video to see a close up of what the med balls look like.
Another great thing about Rep Fitness is that a lot of their equipment has free shipping which is a huge savings.
Jump Rope– You can get a jump rope for less than $10 and get a great workout. I happen to have a speed rope from Rx Jump Ropes because I use it for double unders. This more expensive rope was still only around $45.
Power Slides-ok so I may be dating myself but back in the day I used to teach slide aerobics. It was a great class and the only real way to get in some lateral (side-to-side) training. You were sore in places you never knew could be sore after one of my classes. Now that’s I’ve been doing PT for my repaired ACL, I’ve been using these again. Talk about adding intensity & variety to a workout while utilizing different muscles! These things are cheap too. You can get 8 furniture movers at Home Depot for $9 or you can get actual Gold’s Gym Power Slides for $11. Here is an awesome Youtube video of a Gold’s Gym Master Gliding Class. Now don’t get me wrong, I love me some CrossFit, but I kinda wanna take one of these classes. When I’m cleared for lateral movement of course! (6 mos. post-op)
Parallettes– Brent made our pair from PVC pipe that we bought from a hardware store for around $20. If you are not as handy or motivated to make your own, they can be bought online for about $90. Aside from L sits, push-ups, & triceps dips there are a lot of exercises you can do. Check out this video for more ideas.
Fitness Rope– whether used for climbing or battling, fitness ropes add a fun spin to traditional exercises and are quite versatile. My favorite is to use them as battling ropes. It’s a great way to get out frustrations, get your heart rate up, and work every single muscle in your body. Don’t worry if you can’t climb a rope just yet, there are so many progression exercises you can do. Check out this video for more exercises. Battling ropes start at $37 on Rep Fitness.
Kettlebells/dumbbells– the nice thing about kettlebells & dumbbells is that you can get away with just one if you are willing to work one side at a time. Which ones you have I feel is more a personal preference because most exercises can be done with either. Having a small variety of each would be optimal but not necessary. Ketlebells start at $41 and go up to $127 on Rep Fitness. Check out this video for exercise ideas.
Plyo Boxes-just like with the paralletes , you can make your own plyo box for around $25 or buy one of those cool 3-in-1 plyo boxes from Rep Fitness for $70 (12”16” 18”) or #120 (20”24”30”). I would get the one for $120 because 20-24” is typically the box height used for women in Crossfit and 24-30” is the box height used for men. Check out this video for more workout ideas.
Pull-up Bar– for about $30 you make a pull-up bar out of pipe and attach it to the rafters of your garage like we did. Or if you want to “Pimp My Swing Set” you can get some 6’ long metal bars and turn your expensive swing set that your kids no longer play with into something from American Ninja Warrior. With some minor adjustments, we added years of use to something that would probably have been taken down within the next few years. Like how we made a pull up bar for each member of the family.
Here is a cool video of some variations on the pull-up. I’ll most likely never be able to do any of these, but let’s just say the video didn’t hurt my eyes 😉
So with the prices I estimated for each item, if I were to add up how much money I spent on outfitting my garage gym it would be around $300. Now compare that to the $1200 I spent on my treadmill that is only used for walking, running or as a toy for my kids. You can see that you do not need a huge financial investment to get a nice variety of equipment that will give you endless opportunity to train.
What pieces of equipment do you have in your home studio? Let me know in the comments.
Yours in Health,
Disclosure Policy: I received the medicine ball to test out & review from Rep Fitness. All opinions in this post are my own, as always.