Best Workout Equipment at Home; For When You Simply Can’t Make it to the Gym

The intention is there. We all aim to go to the gym 3-5x/week. Sometimes, between long work hours, commuting, bringing the kids to soccer games, or finishing your degree, there isn’t enough time in a day to make it to the gym, work out, and drive home.

Let’s cover the best workout equipment at home. Whether you keep the equipment in a spare room, the garage or keep it in the closet for easy storage, there are definitely numerous items you can have at home for those days you simply can’t make it to the gym!

Resistance Bands – The Variations are Endless

I am a huge fan of resistance bands. They are one of the most affordable pieces of equipment to have at home. On top of this, there are SO many variations of exercises you can perform, both upper and lower body.

Another amazing benefit to having resistance bands at home is that you completely control how difficult an exercise is. Most sets of bands come in different resistance levels. Depending on how you are feeling you can decide if you would rather do a higher resistance exercise with lower repetitions (6-8) or a lower resistance with more repetitions (12-15).

The bands are small, extremely easy to store and provide a great workout.

Kettlebells/Dumbbells – Strength Training at Home

Thought you could only perform strength training while at the gym? Think again!!kettlebell- at home

The great thing about kettlebells and dumbbells is that you can buy adjustable ones, where you can change the weight depending on the exercise. This is a huge space saver for at home.

You can now perform all of those exercises that you would normally perform at the gym at home.

Punching Bag – Get Rid of Frustrations; Build Your Upper Body

punching bag at homeLooking for cardio mixed with a killer upper body workout? A punching bag is one of the best investments for you. Using a punching bag will help you to strengthen your core, improve your coordination, increase aerobic endurance and so much more.

Luckily punching bags for at home use are also affordable, and easy to store in a closet or spare room (although it is not as compact as kettlebells/dumbbells of course!)

Jump Rope – Jump into a Leaner You

This piece of equipment is a no-brainer. Jump rope is a spectacular cardiovascular exercise that is guaranteed to leave you with your heart racing and sweat dripping! This piece of equipment is so affordable and again, is easy to store when you are done with the activity.

Wrapping up

As we have mentioned, sometimes it can be challenging getting to the actual gym. Fortunately, there are numerous pieces of equipment that we can invest in to have on hand at home for those days. Please feel free to leave a comment and mention what equipment you have and what exercises you enjoy performing at home.

 

 

 

 

Best Cardio Workouts to Lose Weight- Move it to Lose it!

Cardio- some people dread it and some people yearn for the endorphin rush that follows it. It’s simple, cardio is such an important aspect when it comes to staying healthy. We are training every other muscle on our body to be in the best shape we can get it into when we go to the gym. We cannot leave the most important muscle out; our heart.

In addition to training our heart, cardio is a necessity to leaning out or losing weight. I want to talk about the best cardio workouts to lose weight on a day to day basis. You can change it up daily or do the same thing for a few weeks. It’s up to you!

Jumping Rope

jump rope- cardioThis method of cardio is one you see in all the famous movies of people prepping for competitions and fights. Why, you ask? Simple, because it works! It burns a ton of calories, increases agility, is extremely cost-efficient and will leave you dripping in sweat. Just pick up a jump rope and start skipping over it.

This cardio exercise is one you can perform pretty much anywhere!

Swimming

Swimming is another spectacular cardio exercise. You have to use all 4 of your extremities to keep you afloat; meaning you’re working even harder than when simply jogging. It is a complete and total full body workout and one that it is guaranteed to increase your heart rate.

swimming- cardio

There are numerous variations/strokes of swimming and this can serve as a great benefit to you. This will help you avoid boredom and allows you to switch up what type of stroke you are performing each time you get in the water. You can tread water for part of the workout, swim to one side of the pool, tread water, and swim back. Another option is to simply swim laps. Get creative and find what keeps you motivated and engaged to complete the workout.

Running

running-cardioThis cardio exercise can be incorporated almost anywhere as well. This can be in the gym on a treadmill, or in your local park/neighborhood. Running at a challenging pace will absolutely have you glistening in sweat by the end of the workout. You can set mileage goals each time you set out on a run (reaching 2 miles etc), or even time goals (running a 7.5 minute mile instead of an 8 minute mile).

You can make this more challenging with finding a path that has more hills to run and adding in exercises in the middle, if you easily get bored like I do. Simply add in some jump squats once you reach each quarter of a mile.

HIIT

HIIT stands for ‘High Intensity Interval Training.’ You can really get creative with this type of cardio and you can do it in almost any setting. You combine short, high intensity intervals with active recovery periods. It keeps you engaged and working extremely hard.

There has been numerous research studies conducted proving that 15-20 minute HIIT workouts can actually be more beneficial and yield more results in weight loss than long, same paced exercises (example: running for 1 hour at the same pace).

Examples of HIIT would be sprinting as fast as possible for 30 seconds, then resting for 90 seconds, then repeating 9 more times. Another would be swimming a lap in the pool as fast as you can and then treading water lightly for 90 seconds or so, etc.

The Stairclimber – The Ultimate Leg Burner

One of my personal favorites. You can feel the burn the second you start climbing. Since you are engaging your legs more by lifting them higher and fully pushing through them, it is building/maintaining lean leg muscle slightly more than jogging and walking alone.

stair climbing

This exercise is fun and beneficial to perform at different intensities. As mentioned above, you can perform a HIIT workout while on the stairclimber.

How to do it: perform 30-45 seconds of high intensity climbing at a rate that is challenging for you, followed by a 90-second active recovery (not completely stopped off of stairclimber but rather climbing at a steady pace).

Cardio Cool Down

At the end of all cardio workouts it is important to perform a 2-5 minute cool down to allow your heart rate to come back to normal. You will also want to stretch from head to toe to prevent all those muscles from cramping up as they recover.

Thanks for taking the time to read through some of the best cardio workouts to lose weight. Please feel free to comment and let me know what cardio exercises you like performing, and which ones you aren’t the biggest fan of.
Have a great day!
Olivia

 

 

 

 

Tight Back Muscle Relief- What I Use and What I Recommend

I have had chronic lower back pain for a couple of years now. This pain had developed prior to starting weightlifting and exercising. I knew I had to figure out a way to keep the pain at bay so I could keep training. Continue reading below to see what I use for tight back muscle relief.

TENS Unit – Pulsating your Pain Away

I had first heard about this from a few friends in the gym that had been talking about it. TENS unit stands for ‘Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation’. The unit works by sending small, very low voltage, electrical currents to the specific area that you place the electrodes on. TENS units are also important for stimulating your body to release endorphins, the body’s natural pain killer.

I place them on my back and can increase the setting to a comfortable one. Each TENS unit has different programming on it, but what I’ve found is that most treatments can go for as little as 5 minutes and as much as 1 hr, if that is what you choose.

Each time I use my TENS, I usually do about 15-20 minutes in each area that I am trying to relieve pain (lower back, upper back, shoulder etc). There is always great relief after using the TENS. It is small, affordable and extremely easy to use. The pads that connect to the electrode are replaceable when they are no longer sticking. I also enjoy that I do not have to replace batteries as this one is recharged with a charger. I would highly recommend this to anyone that suffers from a tight back.

Make sure to read the detailed instructions that come with your device for your safety (:

** Added benefit- this TENS unit is also great for other parts of your body besides your back (calves, biceps, shoulders etc.)

Inversion Table – Hanging by your Ankles (On Purpose)

My fiance and I just recently purchased an inversion table as I my career involves me standing an extreme amount. I was thinking that along with standing placing pressure and making my back more uncomfortable that gravity itself was also pushing down on my vertebrae. And boy was I right! I have noticed a huge difference from using this bad boy. Huge relief. The set up itself was somewhat a pain; thankfully my fiance is super handy. After that, I have found that the inversion table has really helped with the tightness in my back.

You basically hang from your ankles, not all the way upside down because that would be extremely uncomfortable, but at about a 60 degree angle. There are three different settings on the particular one that we have, one that does not put you back that far, on in the middle and one that puts you back the furthest. I started with the middle one and worked my way up to the one that has you hanging the most upside down.

It definitely takes some adjusting, as I have not hung upside down since I was a child on a playground. However, I followed the instructions that mentioned only hanging for about 3-4 minutes and not starting at the lowest setting when first starting out, and I have quickly adjusted. I do it daily, sometimes twice a day and really have noted that my back muscle is less sore.

The downside, it is rather large and slightly awkward to store. In my opinion, the benefits highly outweigh this downfall. We simply store it in our spare room.

Foam Roller/Tennis Balls

As my back pain started to increase when I was nearing the end of college, I began foam rolling before and after my workouts to help loosen my lower back and leg muscles. Foam rolling and use of tennis ball rolling against a wall or on the floor serves to provide as myofascial relief, or relieving some tightness and pressure from fascia becoming too tight/restrictive around muscle.

Fascia is a type of connective tissue found in various parts of the body, especially around muscle. When we foam roll or use a tennis ball, we are helping in breaking down this excess tissue that is causing us discomfort. I personally have felt a great deal of relief after both foam rolling and tennis ball rolling. You can definitely feel where you have more built up tissue/knots as those areas are uncomfortable to roll over and you can feel them slightly move as you roll!
This method of tight muscle back relief is also extremely affordable, not time-consuming and easy to store.

**Added benefit, similar to the TENS unit, you can use this method for other tight muscles as well, not just your back (chest, deltoids, hamstrings, quads, etc)

Massage – The Ultimate Relaxation

massageThis one basically speaks for itself. Who doesn’t love getting a massage? It helps increase blood flow, loosens knots and that built up fascia, and aids in relaxation.

Something that we all are guilty of, is not taking enough time to get massages. I personally find this difficult as I work 12hr shifts as a nurse. We all need to ensure that we are setting aside time as massages provide so many amazing benefits.

The only downfall besides maybe not always having the time, is that massages can get somewhat expensive. Luckily there are programs that if you sign up for monthly massages you can save large amounts of money.

Closing Thoughts

Knowing your body is key when you are an active person. When you are in pain, or even the slightest bit of discomfort, know that it is time to resort to some self-help tools before things get worse. Listed above are the products that I currently use and that I find very beneficial. Let me know what you use, what works for you and what doesn’t work so well. Thanks!

 

 

 

Female Gym Motivation- Keeping Yourself in it to Win it

Do you ever find it challenging to get yourself to go to the gym? Do you find yourself losing track of you’re goals? Do you sometimes think “If I miss today it’s no big deal, I’ll just go next week!” Let’s talk about how to completely dismiss these thoughts and keep ourselves motivated. Time to dive into female gym motivation.

Setting Goals

Even though it can be challenging, it is so important that we stay on track to meet our long term goals.

First things first, we need to put a realistic time frame on our goals. Don’t go telling people that you are going to be able to increase you’re squatting weight by 80lbs in 2 weeks- you’d be setting yourself up for failure. Devise goals that are realistic and can be accomplished within the said time frame.

Break the long term goal into multiple shorter term goals that you can check off when accomplished. For example, if my overall goal was to be able to lose 30 pounds in 6 months, I could set some short term goals of losing 5 pounds/month. I could even go further and set a goal of each week I only need to lose 1.25 pounds! This is much more encouraging and motivating than setting a goal of losing 15 pounds/month which can be somewhat unrealistic for long term, lasting results.

Keeping A Journal

What better way to keep track of you’re triumphs than in a notebook?! If you’re anything like me, then you love being able to check of a box next to a goal or task.

Speaking of writing our goals, it is also important to keep track of each workout and how much weight/time you were able to complete on each exercise. Let’s say that last month you were able to barbell bench press 85lbs on the flat bench, and this week when you are training flat bench you are able to bench 95lbs. That’s a huge accomplishment that deserves recognition! This easily could have not been acknowledged if we did not write down the weight from the month before.

checklist
This also helps you stay organized to know what exercises you performed, how many reps, and how much weight you were able to complete it with.

Music, Music, and More Music

When we think of going to the gym, what are the essentials that we bring with us? Water, gym clothes, a lifting belt, straps, and headphones!! They are crucial to a great lift, well at least for me (and 95% of the gym goers at every gym I’ve been to). We all have that music that gives us a little extra kick in our step.

Whether it’s the beat that is just palpable, the rhythm you can’t help to move with, or the motivating words that resonate with you, we all have the genre of music that gets us into ‘gym mode’. I personally love electronic music, or rap music when I am lifting. More often than not, when I have an amazing day in the gym, I attribute some of the days success from the music I was listening to.

Find a genre that works for you, and download some music to help get you into the gym today!

Social Media- in Moderation

Sometimes, researching others that have similar goals to yours can serve as a source of motivation. For example, let’s say I wanted to eventually be able to compete in Crossfit competitions; I could look online to see if I could find information about what you have to do to qualify to enter the competition.

Seeing what the athletes look like, the shape they are in and the workouts they are performing then drives me to do similar so I can accomplish what they are- make sense??

We all stumble upon fitness models/pros that are in amazing shape and sometimes watch their short videos to use as a source of motivation. This is an amazing way to get yourself to try different exercises and just feel overall inspired by what they are doing. Be careful that you do not begin to obsess about one particular person/exercise/competition. It is important in the fitness world to try to keep everything balanced when possible- it is easy to get ‘sucked into’ a sector of the fitness world and become completely inundated with it (speaking from experience here hehe).

Take bits and pieces from every fitness professional, swimsuit competition, and powerlifting competition you see and you’ll be sure to feel motivated and level headed.

Take Breaks

Wait, what? This is a post about motivation?!

Yes.. Take a break when you need it, whether you need it mentally or physically. If you’re stressed at work, have 13 things to worry about with you’re family life and barely have enough time to eat, take a break from the gym until you can manage it. If you’re body is hurting and not recovering as it usually does, o

r something just does not feel right, rest for a few days. Get a massage, or maybe even see you’re chiropractor.

You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how revitalized you feel on you’re first day back in the gym after a small hiatus. You will feel refreshed and newly motivated.

Final Thoughts

We all go through a day, or even a week here and there that we do not want to go to the gym. And that is okay! As long as you get back on track as soon as you are ready and follow these easy steps to stay motivated.

 

 

Leg Workouts for Women – Feel Better, Look Better

Who hasn’t dreamed of a more defined lower body? Who has seen the results they would be ecstatic to have but were unable to achieve them because they were at a standstill on what workouts would yield results? Let’s start out with leg workouts for women. We’ll cover different methods to achieve the lower body you’ve been waiting for with easy to follow, fool proof steps.

Circuit Training – Be Ready for the Burn!

woman performing circuit

We have all seen someone performing a circuit; whether it was in high school gym class or training in the gym. Why do we see it so often? Easy- because of the countless benefits, especially when it comes to defining your lower body.

Circuit training is an amazing way to sculpt your hamstrings, quadriceps, glutes and calves. Circuit training has countless benefits while in the gym:

  • Increases heart rate
  • Improves blood flow
  • Increases perspiration
  • Increases flexibility
  • Keeps you engaged
  • Great for beginners and pros
  • As challenging as you make it
  • Fast paced

The list goes on and on and on!!

 

Let’s talk about how to build the best circuit for legs. We want it to include:

  • A body weight exercise
  • A jumping exercise
  • A weighted exercise

It’s time to talk about what each of these exactly means; so here goes!

Body weight exercise– an exercise where you only use your own body weight to perform it. Examples include lunges, squats, single leg squats, leg kick backs, calf raises (have your toes on a flat weight plate with your heels hanging off) and much more. These exercises encompass basically anything that contracts your muscles without using weight.

Jumping exercises include anything where you are in a bent knee formation (lunges, squats, etc) and you jump out of it so your feet come off of the ground. You can either land in the same position or a different one- or on a completely different surface- like a bench. These are similar to some body weight exercises but you add in an explosion from the bottom to really intensify and maximize the contraction of your muscles.

When you add in an object that you are holding- dumbbells, barbell, kettle bell, or even gallons of milk at home, you are now performing a weighted exercise. There are numerous variations to this type of exercise as well, weighted squats/lunges/bench step-ups/deadlifts etc.

You will begin to notice that many exercises are repeated in each type of exercise- that is the fun part! There are variations to each and everything we perform.

Building Your Own Circuit

To build the perfect circuit takes a little creativity and you are the one that calls the shots! You will take an exercise from each group listed above(body weight, jumping, weighted) and place them together- in total you will have three exercises.

The next step is to gather the equipment needed for all exercises and place it in an area that will allow you to move from on exercise to the next easily. If I chose body weight squats, bench/box jumps and weighted lunges, I would need to gather all equipment and put in a place so I was not walking all over the gym, or my house to gather supplies mid-workout.

Equipment needed:

Body weight squats- beautiful! Just me!

Bench/box jumps- I need the bench/box I will be jumping on

Weighted lunges- let’s say I am in the gym performing this circuit; I will need to grab the barbell/kettlebell/dumbbells I plan to use

kettlebell


The goal of a circuit is to be able to perform 10-12 repetitions of each exercise and then move into the next exercise- so make sure you are not grabbing the heaviest weight when starting out. The goal is to use heavy enough weight to feel a burn and start to sweat, but not to the point that you can barely get to 8 repetitions.
After gathering appropriate equipment I am set to rock and roll. I can now start my circuit and perform 10-12 reps of each exercise and take a brief break at the end of all 3. I will aim to run through the circuit of 3 exercises, a total of 3 times. Then I am done with the circuit!

Squatting – A Necessity for Stronger, More Toned Legs

Squatting, and all of its numerous variations is crucial to obtaining stronger, more defined legs. Weight lifting is essential to growing and then maintaining lean muscle mass.

First we will cover the appropriate technique and form for squatting. If you have never squatted before, please make sure to practice this numerous times with your body weight. When you feel like you have the form correct and that you are ready to move onto weighed squats, ensure that you have a knowledgeable person to spot you for your safety.


The first step to squatting is standing with your legs slightly wider than shoulder width apart, toes facing forward or slightly outward. Next, you lower your bottom half until your hamstrings and glutes are parallel with the floor. The entire time you should make sure that your torso and upper half do not fold in half to meet the top of your legs; they should remain upright with your shoulders back. A great weight to practice squat form without weight is to use your arms as a counter balance so you do not feel as though you are going to tip backwards while squatting (holding your arms out straight in front of you while performing the exercise).

After reaching parallel, it is time to squeeze all muscles in your legs, and contract your abdominal muscles to push upwards and stand up. Make sure that you are not locking out your knees (completely straightening your legs) at the top of the exercise.

Congrats! You have just completed 1 repetition.

Once you move onto weighted squats, you will follow the same exact form. If you are using dumbbells the best way to hold them when you are starting out is simply by your sides.

When you are using a barbbell, it is important to make sure you have centered yourself under the bar so that when you lift it you are not tipping to one side. There are usually markings on the barbbell to help you ensure that you are in the middle.

Practice Makes Perfect


Try to not allow your legs to go below parallel as you can begin to hurt your joints if you begin to go too low. A great way to practice getting your legs to the correct point is to look in the mirror and stop yourself when you see your legs at parallel. Another method is to find a bench that only allows your legs to go until they are parallel. When using the bench method do not sit down while practicing, but rather just have your bottom touch the bench and that will be your key that you are low enough and that it is time to move your body upwards.

As you practice squatting more, you will not even need to look in the mirror or use a bench for depth as your muscles begin to remember and feel when they are at the correct place throughout a squat.

Increasing Your Squat Weight

We previously mentioned that squatting is key to stronger, more chiseled legs. This includes increasing your weight when possible to make your legs stronger. The best approach to this is to find a weight that you are comfortable performing roughly 8 reps with. Once you are able to comfortably complete these reps with a that weight, it is time to increase the weight by 10 pounds- always ensure that you have someone available to spot you for your safety when increasing your weight.

If at this weight you can still complete 8 reps; move up again 5-10 pounds. The goal is that it will be difficult at the higher weight so that you are only able to complete 4-6 reps. Once you are at the appropriate weight where you can complete about 6 reps, aim to complete 4 sets. After a few weeks of heavy squatting 1x/week at this weight, you will be able to complete more than the 6 reps.

You are then at the point where you want to add more weight again. As you continue to do this every couple of weeks-months, you will undoubtedly gain more muscle mass and therefore, leaner legs.

Exercises that Focus on Glutes – C’mon Who Doesn’t Want a Bigger Booty?

Exercises that focus on engaging your glutes and upper legs are a hot topic right now. Who wouldn’t want to see that part of their body become stronger and more rounded/shapely?!

In addition to circuit training and squatting weekly, we must think about those exercises that solely target our booty!

We want to think of exercises that when you perform them you will only feel the burn, or mostly, in your booty. Exercises like this include sumo squats, light weight straight leg deadlifts, good mornings (here you use a light barbell on your back and keep your legs straight, with a slight bend, and bend at the waist until your upper half is parallel with the floor) and much more.

These exercises can often be done in a circuit formation of 10-12 reps and completing about 3 sets total. By the end you are sure to have your muscles burning and the sweat dripping.

Wrapping Things Up

Using any variation of the exercises listed above will help you move closer to your lower body goals. The key is consistency. Don’t give up if you are feeling like an exercise is challenging! Continue to work at it and I assure you that it will get easier with time.

About Olivia

Welcome to Lower Body Workouts for Women!

HOW I GOT INTO THE FITNESS WORLD

In high school I was an avid athlete, playing volleyball and running track throughout my 4 years. I am a competitive person and love accomplishing goals, especially in the sports world. As I entered my senior year, I soon realized that I needed to find a way to stay active, busy and fit once school ended. I joined a local gym where there was a large intimidation factor. I had never been in one before; there were so many large machines that I had never seen and some people looked like they walked out of a bodybuilding magazine! The first piece of gym equipment that looked familiar was the cardio machines; bikes, ellipticals, rowing machines etc. I walked towards an elliptical and spent an hour pedaling. I was dripping in sweat by the end!

As time went on and after countless days of doing cardio, my comfort level increased in the gym. I began to take notice of those around me lifting weights and becoming stronger/lifting heavier weights every time I saw them. I knew that I wanted to give weight lifting a try; especially given my competitive nature and drive to see results in the gym. In order to do so I enlisted in a personal trainer to help me achieve some of my fitness goals.

Things were going smoothly. I was sweating with every session with my personal trainer and feeling great. Most importantly, I felt motivated. However, I did notice that we were not doing the weightlifting exercises I was so interested in; I loved sweating and doing circuits of plyometrics, but I wanted to become even more sculpted and STRONG. My trainer had mentioned that I would not sweat as much if I did weight lifting and advised me to avoid it.

I DID SOMETHING OUT OF MY COMFORT ZONE

I began to venture into the weightlifting side of the gym on my own. In order to obtain information, I would ask those around me for advice on exercises for certain muscles, how to properly and safely perform them and their diet to stay as physically fit as possible. I gained so much knowledge; over SO much time.

SCULPTING YOUR BODY MADE EASY

I want to make weight training/circuits, specifically lower body exercises, easier for those that are in the same position as I once was. It was difficult for me to obtain information in one specific place. I had to research numerous websites, magazines and ask countless people for their input on exercises. That time spent researching and obtaining information could have been used actually performing exercises.

THE GOAL OF LOWER BODY WORKOUTS FOR WOMEN

Here at Lower Body Workouts for Women, the goal is to provide simple, unique exercises that yield results. I am dedicated to helping other women achieve their fitness goals, in a faster timeline than they would have simply asking others at the gym.

If you have any questions at all, please feel free to contact me or leave a comment below. I will get back to you as soon as possible!

Let’s make your fitness dream a reality.

Warmest regards,

Olivia

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