One of the most appealing benefits of HIIT is the fact that you can do it anywhere with a limited amount of space and your own body weight. If you have a small space you'd like to dedicate to your home gym, here are some tips for accomplishing this in a cost-friendly manner.
Building a home gym can be a daunting yet very fun adventure. When the wheels in my brain started scheming our home gym, I imagined the super swanky "home gyms" from reality TV. As glorious as it would be, I knew a couple of things: there was no way we were making that kind of investment, and there was also no way I could convince the husband to fully convert his man cave to a fitness facility. Something that helped convince him: I built a fully functional home gym in our garage, complete with a spin bike and gym flooring, for less than $400.
Pick a cardio option that you know you'll enjoy and do often. For this one, the investment can range from a free run around your neighborhood to a $3,000 treadmill. Evaluate your budget and determine how much you'd like to dedicate to your cardio investment.
Some options: a fitness jump rope (fantastic for intervals), treadmill, indoor rower, spin bike, or plyometric blocks.
Burpees, butt kicks, high knees, jumping lunges, squat jumps, jogging in place, and basketball throws will get your heart rate up quickly while providing cardiovascular and fitness benefits. There are low-impact versions too, if you're trying to minimize joint pounding. The key is to create height and level dynamics without impact. Try reaching for the floor, bending your knees into a deep squat and standing up quickly, reaching your arms up toward the ceiling and coming onto your tip toes. Repeat quickly — you'll be surprised at how fast it can elevate your heart rate.
Your only expense is the cost of the jump rope (around $10) and you can get a killer Rocky-style cardio workout at home. My favorite method is to do intervals (of course) with 15 seconds on, 15 seconds rest, for 20 minutes. It looks easy on paper, but you will be drenched in sweat! The short intervals make the session fly by, and you can also get fancy with cross country feet, double unders, or high knees as you jump rope.
If you have a nearby track or safe spot in your neighborhood to run or walk briskly, this is one of the most effective types of freebie cardio. To add in strength blitzes, you can stop every couple of minutes to do some push-ups, tricep dips, walking lunges, burpees, or a plank. No one will think you're weird … just awesome.
Every home gym needs at least one solid form of strength equipment. Bodyweight strength exercises are fantastic for building lean muscle, but you can only challenge yourself to a certain point. You always want to impose additional challenges to your body during your fitness activities, and after the bodyweight movements become too easy, you have two options: increase the amount of repetitions, or increase the intensity through a more challenging option (example: push-ups on your toes instead of your knees) or additional resistance from an external source.
These are a great low-cost option and are ideal for travel and smaller spaces, as they're light and don't take up much room. You can also purchase a door attachment to affix to a closed door for pushing and pulling movements, such as chest presses and rows.
The classic never dies. While they're on the relatively expensive side, a dumbbell set can be a worthwhile investment. If you don't want to commit to an entire set, try picking up two pairs of dumbbells: a light set for smaller muscle groups (including triceps and shoulders) and a heavy set for the larger muscle groups (for example, bent-over rows and weighted squats). When these weights become too easy, many second-hand equipment stores will enable you to get a trade-in credit toward your next set(s).
These are the most expensive option, but make a fantastic multipurpose strength component. Kettlebells have a unique center of gravity, which forces you to stabilize your core while you're working with them. Of course, invest in kettlebells once you have experience with a certified coach and you're looking to change things up from dumbbells.
Don't skimp on strength training. I like to say that cardio will help to "shrink" your body, but weight training is going to have the most impact on shape and muscle density. Endeavor to create a balance of strength, cardio, core, flexibility, and balance training.
FLEXIBILITY & EXTRAS
I like to say "It Hurts So Good" (OK, and sing the song) while I foam roll, as it can get a little intense. I've seen grown men cry while foam rolling.
This isn't necessary — a towel works just as well — but is nice for at-home yoga practices and stretching. There are options ranging from $10 to $100+, so find one that works for you and your lifestyle. If you practice yoga regularly (or would like to), a more expensive mat can be worth the investment, but if you're going to use it for stretching and at-home exercises, a less expensive option is a recommended starting point.
This is my secret weapon for chiseled arms, and let's be real, I can't even do a ton of chin-ups. When I was first learning how to do these, I'd place a sturdy chair underneath the chin-up bar. I'd stand on the chair, get into position, and lift one leg off the chair as I performed the movements. This way, it was more of an assisted pull-up and I didn't have to go from zero to straight pull-up power without working my way up. Pull-ups and chin-ups are a fantastic way to work your lat muscles and biceps, plus they can double as a core workout. I'll hang from the pull-up bar and do leg raises, bent knee tucks, and windshield wipers (bent knees, rotating my legs side to side). They're about $20 and easy to install in any doorway.
These are wonderful for at-home yoga practice if you're just starting to work on your flexibility. A little tip: I recommend taking a couple of studio classes if you're just getting started with yoga. Just like strength training, it's helpful to get form cues and tips from a pro before venturing out on your own.
This excerpt has been reprinted with the permission of Demos Health Publishers from Gina Harney's new book, HIIT It!: The Fitnessista's Get More From Less Workout and Diet Plan to Lose Weight and Feel Great Fast (Demos Health, January 2015).