But....having a few tools can get you a great body faster and make it more fun.
Over the years, I've tried all sorts of equipment - from the Total Gym XLS, Jillian Michaels 30 day Shred, Wii Fit, the Supreme 90 day challenge, and more. It's fun to try new things! They all added something to my routine - but over time, I have always come back to using my own body - plus a few essentials.
These are those essentials:
If you buy one piece of equipment and one piece only - it must be a pull up bar. You can get a good one for around $20 or even buy one used. They last forever, and they can be used in any doorway! Just be sure to get one that hangs over the door frame (like the picture above) not a tension rod (like a curtain rod). These babies can hold a lot of weight and are safe to use.
Why do you need this? Because doing a pull up is a basic human right. You have to be able to do at least ONE! Pull ups work your entire body, improve grip strength, and are impressive feats of strength! If you can do pull ups, then you are mad strong - and you deserve to be! Most women can not do a pull up and it is a great assessment tool because you can't do full sets of pull ups if you're not in good shape. It's something to work up to, and ironically, the only way to get good at doing pull ups - is to do pull ups!
So what if you can't do a pull up? Then do negative pull ups or invest in a solid resistance band.
This item will pull double duty for you. Not only will it help you build your muscles up to the level of doing a full pull up - but you can customize it. For example, putting your feet into the band and pulling it all the way down gives you the best assistance. Putting your knees into the band, gives you less. You can also double loop the band around the pull up bar for even more help. Get a quality 30-40 pound assist and you'll be able to make gains quickly.
You can use your resistance band to add "load" to your bodyweight exercises - very similar to the way you would use free weights. They can travel with you and take very little space. But if you have the space.....
Free weights are pretty awesome. Dumbbells are easy enough for anyone to use, and you can work out without a spotter. I do not use barbells because they are unruly if you workout on your own - you need squat racks, benches, and spotters to use them safely. I only use dumbbells, resistance bands, and my own weight.
Here's a look at my dumbbell rack:
smaller weights for a long time if you know to modify the exercises to get more work out of those weights (one leg vs two, slower movements, higher repetitions, etc) but eventually you'll want to add some bigger weights.
Because of that - I recommend you decide on a style of weight right away and keep consistent. In other words, prepare to buy a matching set. And you may want to get a rack right away. Weights can make dents in your floor, and they look unsightly strewn around. Having a place to put them, keeps it all in check - though I realize my rack looks a bit messy! A rack that holds up to 500lbs is more than enough for most people (not for big body builders - they require some gym equipment and barbells.) That's not us.
If you have extra money lying around, kettlebells are a really fun way to use weights. I own one little kettlebell. It's only 7 lbs so only my kids use it. I use my dumbbells like kettelbells but there really is a difference. Get a good set of heavier kettlebells - 10, 15, 20, 25 if you're going to make the leap.
One last piece of essential equipment - the Jump Rope.
jump rope is conditioning genius. It improves your athleticism and can help you lose weight (if that's your need.) It can travel with you, takes almost no space, provides variety, and it's fun. It's also super efficient. Just a few minutes of jumping rope burns as many calories as a full jogging workout.
The equipment mentioned above work wonders to speed up your results!
For 80% of my workouts, I use my own bodyweight. Why? Because it's the right equipment for the job! It preserves my joints, keeps me functionally fit, and it's free. But I have all of the equipment I mentioned and I do use it when I want to make faster gains.
When I workout with my own body - I follow the plan in Convict Conditioning. I don't know what to tell you - It just makes perfect sense and it's super cheap. I have never seen the book cost more than $10 and it's a steal! So much quality info inside! It's a fitness method for life. You can and will get stronger, but it will be slow-er. That's good news for your tendons and joints. It's good news for having a symmetric and functional body. But sometimes you want to spend a few weeks just building raw muscle.
7 weeks to 10 pounds of muscle.)
Fitness balls are fun, but not essential. Single exercise pieces (like GHR machines or roman chairs) are awesome but there are ways to do the work without the equipment. Big squat racks, lat pull down machines, and other big equipment is best left at the gym - and with dumbbells and pull up bars you can simulate all these moves with less wear and tear on your body.
I hope I have inspired you to get to work on improving your health and fitness. You really can do wonders with just your own bodyweight! If you want to add variety and change up your results, then the 3 pieces listed above will be the most useful additions.
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