Apr 102012

The common image of strength training is a sweaty heavyweight lifting enormous barbells, but if you aren’t attracted to pumping iron, you don’t need to. You don’t need any iron at all in your home workout equipment. At minimum, you need your own body mass. More than that, a few pieces of plastic will help.

You own body has a large variety of weights in its limbs and joints that provide plenty of options for movement. Guided and repeated movements of simply your body can supply all the strength training you want. But to move your body with comfort and safety, you should buy a good workout mat. Padding makes most of the prone and seated activity a lot more comfortable. Shop for a mat that’s at least 3/8 inch thick. The thin yoga mats may be convenient to roll up and put under your arm for transport, but they are not thick enough to pad your body adequately.

There are many on-line sources for “body only” strength exercise routines. Make sure to evaluate the qualifications of the provider. There are many videos from physical therapists and certified physical trainers–you do not have to pay attention to just anyone. And though it hardly has to be stated, if what you’re doing burns, it’s fine, but if it hurts, stop! You can recognize the contrast between working muscles and damaging yourself.

Bodies, however, at least our own, can get boring, and boring means fewer workouts. So this is where simple resistance bands or tubes show up. These rainbow-colored bands add resistance between limbs, or can be attached to a door knob or a grip bar. They give variety and increase the strength needed to perform a movement. The bands gain in strength as the color gets darker. This means you can go a very long way in getting to your strength training objectives with only these light, very affordable, easily stored bands. Purchase them online or at any good sporting goods store. Hanging them on light plastic hooks can avoid tangles.

A fitness ball makes a last, inexpensive piece of home exercise equipment. Pick one that enables you sit on it with flat feet. What you do with just your body, you can intensify with these versatile balls. Think about push-ups. They are one thing with your feet planted firmly on the floor. With your feet on an unstable round surface, they are totally another. A fitness ball will challenge your balance and core stability–and they will increase.

A buying tip: get the ball with a pump, extra plugs (in case you damage one trying to re-inflate a flat ball) and the instruction booklet or DVD. Save yourself the frustration of not having them. A bicycle pump with a ball needle is not an equivalent.

“Pumping Plastic!” just doesn’t have the cachet carried by “pumping iron.” But it is just as effective, much less costly, and much less space-consuming than iron for your home exercise equipment. Eat your iron–don’t pump it.