Getting an effective cardio or strength training workout does not require a trip to the gym. With the right plan and guidance, you can start and maintain a fitness routine—and reap the vast health benefits of exercise—without leaving home.
Heather A. Milton, MS, RCEP, CSCS, and Rondel King, MS, CSCS, CES, exercise physiologists and sports health experts at NYU Langone’s Sports Performance Center, share workouts for improving cardiovascular endurance and building strength using minimal or no gym equipment.
“Strength is a perishable fitness quality. If you don’t use it, you lose it,” King says. “You may not have all the bars, bells, and whistles a gym provides, but there are a few routines that can help you keep up your strength and fitness right at home,” adds Milton.
High-Intensity Interval Training
High-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts combine periods of very intense exercise with periods of either complete rest or low-intensity recovery. Programming can focus on both cardio and strength. “Because HIIT is so physically demanding, workouts are generally short,” King says. “It’s a great option when you want a quick workout.”
Complete 3 to 4 rounds of 30 seconds of the following high-intensity exercises, resting 30 seconds between each one:
- bodyweight squats
- mountain climbers
- high knees
- jumping jacks
- lateral lunges
- side shuffles
There are various mobile timer apps you can download to help keep track of your intervals, such as 7 Minute Workout and Interval Timer—HIIT Workouts. “You can also use jump ropes, kettles, and dumbbells to enhance your HIIT program,” King says.
Cardiac Output Training
Cardiac output refers to the amount of blood the heart pumps in one minute. It is determined by how fast your heart beats and how much volume it pumps with each beat. Cardiac output training is easy to do at home because all you need to do is moderately intensive exercise for at least 30 minutes to keep your heart rate up. Most people should aim for heart rate ranges between 130 and 150 beats per minute, but the number varies on age, fitness level, and sex.
The following moves are ideal for increasing your heart rate:
- jogging or running in place
- jumping jacks
- jumping rope
Remember to keep breathing. “Moderate exercises like these are best suited to increasing your heart rate and breathing a bit, without making you feel like you’re short of breath,” explains King.
Power Endurance Training
Power endurance training improves the ability of your fast twitch muscle fibers to repeatedly perform explosive movements. Fast twitch muscle fibers generate a lot of force but are quick to fatigue. This is a more intense workout than cardiac output training.
When you first start this workout routine, complete 10 to 12 sets of one of the following exercises as explosively as possible for 6 to 8 seconds:
- jump squats
- jump lunges
- explosive push-ups
Rest for 90 seconds. Start to add 1 to 2 sets each week, doing up to 20 total sets, and start reducing rest time by 20 seconds each week. You can also start to actively rest between sets by doing jumping jacks, jogging slowly in place, or jumping rope.
If you experience fatigue, rest before moving on the next activity. “Always prioritize form and monitor your fatigue levels,” explains King. “If you are new to exercise, start on the lower end of the program and gradually increase days and intensity while reducing rest intervals. Your body adapts if you are consistent.”
Tempo refers to the rate at which repetitions are performed. Tempo lifting is slow and subjects your muscles to prolonged tension. Push-ups are a great exercise for tempo lifting.
Consider the following 2-2 tempo scheme:
- get into a plank position
- take two seconds to start the push-up, moving downward from the plank position
- take another two seconds to push back up to the starting position
Breathe throughout each repetition. Do not hold your breath. Complete 3 to 5 sets of 10 to 12 repetitions, resting for 40 to 60 seconds between sets.
In addition to push-ups, tempo lifting works well with rows, lunges, squats, and glute bridges. You can modify your tempo scheme for variety. For example, instead of doing a 2-2 tempo, you can complete a 6-1 tempo, where it takes you 6 seconds from top to bottom, and 1 seconds from bottom to top.
The Dynamic Effort Method
The dynamic effort method is a strategy where you move lighter loads at high speed. The aim is to perform a low number of repetitions in the shortest amount of time possible. Although typically used in powerlifting and deadlifts, you can apply the dynamic effort strategy to the following exercises:
Perform each repetition as fast as you safely can. Complete 6 to 8 sets of 4 to 6 repetitions, resting for 60 to 90 seconds between each set. Aim to increase your speed while still maintaining good form.
For more guidance on finding the best workout for you, please contact the Sports Performance Center at firstname.lastname@example.org.