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The Friday fun fitness five: Moves you can do at home

February 27, 2009

See how I added even more alliteration? I’m so awesome.

The title pretty much says it all. Not everyone can afford to go or wants to go to the gym. Or maybe you just don’t feel like going today, but would like to do a little something. Well, here are five moves you can do at home that are great exercise and easily modified for your personal strength/fitness level.

1. The Squat

People are irrationally intimidated by squatting, but the fact of the matter is that if you can get on and off the toilet by yourself, then you can squat. Worried about form? Read the stumptuous page on how to squat. However, if you can remember a) lead with your butt b) keep yourself fairly upright and c) keep your weight on your heel to midfoot then you can squat at home.

One of the easiest ways to start is with a chair/ottoman squat. Basically, you set up the chair behind you and squat so that your butt just grazes the chair, then slowly come back up and repeat until your legs are tired. As you get comfortable with the movement, you can lose the chair and do body weight squats.

2. Step ups

These are one of my favorites and are part of my strength training routine at the gym or at home. For my money, they are one of the essential exercises to do if you’d like to get up stairs a bit more easily. You can use stairs, chairs, a bench or a couch. You just want whatever object you’re using to be higher than a normal stair (if using stairs, I just use the second step from where I’m standing.) Start with whatever leg you want and step up – the important part is to keep your non-working leg out of the proceedings. Of course, if you need to touch down with both legs to gain your balance, do so, but try to focus exclusively on your working leg. Do a set, then switch sides.

Obviously, shirts are optional for this exercise

Obviously, shirts are optional for this exercise

I do these with a set of 15lb dumbbells for a bit of extra badassedness (as if I need it) but adding some weight can crank up the intensity of the movement. And varying your distance from the step can shift which muscles you’re using most – starting farther away from the bench emphasizes gluteousglutaeous..your butt muscles, starting closer will work your quads more intensely.

3. Push-ups

Thanks to the parade of horror that is so often PE class in this country, many people have terrible memories of push-ups. That’s a shame because they’re great for working your entire upper body as well as general core stability.

“That’s nice, attrice,” I hear you say. “but I can’t do a single push-up.”

Yeah, me neither. Not on the floor anyway. Thankfully, there are ways to get some of the same benefits for those of us not yet ready for GI Jane-style one-armed push-ups in the rain. The easiest of these is the wall push-up.

It's a deep burn. So deep.

It's a deep burn. So deep.

Basically, it’s exactly what it looks like. Stand a little bit back from the wall, put your hands on the wall at about shoulder-height and proceed to do push-ups. As you get stronger, just keep shrinking the angle between your body and the floor. Do push-ups on the kitchen counter or on the base of a sturdy couch.

4. Plank

Core strength, here we come. The plank is simply not given enough credit in most places, but it is a fantastic all-around exercise.
"Light as a feather. Stiff as a board."

Since I am both lazy and a thief, I’ll just let explain it to you.

1. Lie face down on mat resting on the forearms, palms flat on the floor.
2. Push off the floor, raising up onto toes and resting on the elbows.
3. Keep your back flat, in a straight line from head to heels.
4. Tilt your pelvis and contract your abdominals to prevent your rear end from sticking up in the air.
5. Hold for 20 to 60 seconds, lower and repeat for 3-5 reps.

Don’t worry about counting if you don’t want to. Just hold until you can’t hold it together anymore then feel that sweet sweet relief as you let yourself crash to the floor.

5. Superman

Lay face down on the floor, then slowly raise your legs and upper body off the floor.

Hold this position for about 20-40 seconds (or as long as you want) and slowly release. Repeat for several sets.



These moves can be mixed and matched for a personal home workout routine or you can do what I do and just throw them in at random times in your day. I am always doing push-ups on the kitchen counter when I cook for instance.

Now it should go without saying, – but this is the internet so if it can be said, it will be said – but I am not a doctor or even a trainer and if you have any doubts about your ability to do any of the above, then see a professional before you do them.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. February 27, 2009 2:13 pm

    I don’t know that I can do most of these ….yet, but the push up you have demonstrated here would be perfect for me. I’m hoping to adapt some of the others for my workout in a resistance pool.

    • February 28, 2009 2:30 am

      The wall push up is great, definitely.

      I’m not sure about how to adapt these specific moves to a resistance pool, but the pool itself is great for building muscle all on its own.

  2. meerkat permalink
    February 28, 2009 2:16 am

    Where’s the fun part?

    • February 28, 2009 2:33 am

      I have a lot of fun working these into my day to day life. YMMV, of course.

      Then again, I used to hang with people who liked nothing better than to sit in a basement for hours and hours rolling dice and pretending to be wizards and elves. So I guess fun is pretty subjective.

      • meerkat permalink
        February 28, 2009 7:50 pm

        Agreed. I’d rather play D&D. I did feel silly the time I played an elf but I think I’d feel sillier pretending to be Superman on the carpet.

        Sorry, that was a bit snarky. But I feel ridiculous doing any exercise-type activity. After all, if I were doing it right I wouldn’t be so fat, is what I expect anyone seeing me to think (and if no one is looking I have plenty of internalized venom). But even if I didn’t feel ridiculous, inducing muscle pain is not my idea of a leisure activity, particularly since I would have to chip away at time devoted to hobbies I actually enjoy in order to do it.

        • March 1, 2009 6:39 am

          I didn’t think that was snarky.

          My girlfriend has her D&D character name tattooed on her upper back so I understand how much she values the game and the good times she’s had during various ‘campaigns.’ I also know she is completely unable to explain to me why she loves it so much in a way that I can really get.

          There are some people who when I tell them that I’m determined to spend less time at the gym, nod understandingly because they get why this might be difficult. But, like D&D, it might be a love only truly understood by those who share it.

          Of course, in our society, love of exercise is seen as a morally superior position so that definitely changes the dynamic in terms of talking about it. Something I’ll have to think about more.

  3. March 3, 2010 11:47 am

    I can’t ever pass up on a good game of D&D but I tell you, I also can’t pass up on a good fitness day.
    To me both are great fun and not at all mutually exclusive. We do LARP (Live Action Roleplay) Which when you’re crossing plastic pipe and foam swords with each other is an awesome workout and a million miles of just plain fun for an elfish rogue!
    The best thing in the world is mixing your passions and your loves. If you love fitness and D&D make them a part of each other. Do squats, rolling your dice on the floor! If you’ve got a really close D&D group, you have an instant workout group 😉
    Just a suggestion!

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