There are gyms. And there are gyms.
At one end of the spectrum, you have the high-end boutique gyms. You know the ones – where the beautiful people go, with fancy cardio equipment, and luxurious pyramids of warm eucalyptus towels. At the other end of the spectrum, you have the basement conversion gyms with dim lighting, a deflated bouncy ball in the corner and the faint smell of old socks.
Rental apartment building gyms often fall somewhere in the middle. And for good reason: unstaffed and unsupervised workout spaces have to be equipped conservatively; anything that has the potential to cause injury if improperly used needs to be reserved for gyms that are staffed.
But that’s not to say that interesting and challenging workouts can’t be created using what you have right in your apartment building! A good workout program for general fitness includes a combination of cardio and resistance training. It’s important to regularly mix up your routine, so that your body continues to be challenged as your fitness improves. Fortunately, this can be achieved if you are armed with a little knowledge and some basic gym equipment.
The following exercises assume that you are medically cleared for exercise (if you are unsure of this, check with your doctor) and that you have some basic knowledge of gym equipment. If you are brand-new to working out or have mobility issues, you should not workout without supervision. Get in touch with a reputable personal training company and invest in your health with a couple of months of training with a qualified personal trainer to get started.
Let’s start with something you find in most gyms: dumbbells. You will likely find a basic dumbbell stack with weights ranging from 5lbs to 35lbs in your rental building’s gym. Most people think of using dumbbells to directly load upper body muscle groups and joints, however there’s a lot more you can do beyond bicep curls and overhead presses.
The renegade row increases strength in the back, shoulders, triceps, and biceps. This two-in-one exercise also actively engages the core throughout the range of motion – helping you get abs of steel in no time!
How to Guide:
- Place two dumbbells on the floor about shoulder-width apart. Start in a high plank position with your hands on the weights.
- Pull one weight up towards the side of your body while balancing on your other hand and feet. Don’t let your hips rock. Hold for one second at the top and return the weight slowly to the start position.
- Repeat on the other side. Be sure to bring the weight all the way to your ribs and squeeze your shoulder blades together at the top.
Tip: If you aren’t able to hold good form (ie a straight line from your shoulders to your ankles) in a high plank position for 60 seconds, then do these from your knees until your core strength improves.
Dumbbell Reverse Chops
Reverse chops can be performed using cables or free weights. This exercise will translate into powerful everyday strength!
How to Guide:
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and place a dumbbell just outside your left ankle.
- Stand up, brace your core, then in one movement squat down and twist to grab the dumbbell with your right hand.
- Lift the dumbbell up past your right shoulder as you simultaneously rotate your torso to the right.
- Reverse the movement to return the dumbbell to its starting position.
- Complete 8-12 reps and then switch to do the opposite side.
Tip: Keep your core engaged throughout and remember to bend at the knees as you reach and twist!
This exercise marry’s a popular upper body exercise (overhead press) and a popular lower body exercise (squat) to give you the best bang for your buck and resulting in a total body exercise.
How to Guide:
- Hold a dumbbell vertically next to your chest, with both hands cupping the dumbbell head.
- Push your hips back and lower your body into a squat until your upper thighs are parallel to the floor (your elbows should brush the insides of your knees). Pause.
- Push up through your heels and straighten your knees to standing. At the same time, press the weight up over your head.
- Slowly lower the dumbbell back to the starting position at chest height. Repeat 8-12 reps X 3.
RE-PURPOSING CARDIO EQUIPMENT
Rowers and treadmills can be very effectively re-purposed for core and upper body work. But keep in mind, these machines tend to be the most popular, so choose to do these exercises when the gym is less busy and there is no line.
Elevator Lunge on the Rower
Bored of free standing lunges? Elevator lunges may be the next challenge for you! Rowers are light and easy to move for this exercise – just ensure you put it back afterwards.
How to Guide:
- Stand facing away from the rower with your right foot on the seat, feet hip-width apart.
- Slowly slide your right foot back and lower into a lunge until your front thigh is parallel to the floor, bending your standing right knee to lower even further.
- Slowly stand up, using your weight on your standing left foot to return to starting position.
- Repeat for 10-15 reps, then switch sides.
Tip: Do not go deeper than your balance and hip stability allows, and avoid leaning forward.
Pikes/Knee Tuck on the Rower
This exercise is great for boosting core strength and strengthening the back and shoulder muscles.
How to Guide:
- Get into a high plank position with your feet on the seat of the rower and hands on the floor, close to the rower.
- Slowly raise your hips up in the air until your body forms an upside-down V.
- Slowly lower back to starting position.
- Alternatively, bring your knees into your chest in a tuck position, then slowly and with control push back into a plank position.
Tip: If your gym doesn’t have a rower, you can do pikes and knee tucks on the treadmill. With the treadmill off and your palms on the floor and feet on the belt, hike your hips to pull the feet toward you (the belt will move with you) until your hips and legs are in the pike position as above.
In the second part of this two-part series, we will continue looking at some creative ways that basic cardio equipment can be re-purposed for strength-training exercises, as well as what you can do with cables, mats, the walls and even your own body weight. Stay tuned!
Brought to you by: Integrated Fitness
Did you know? Hollyburn is continuously developing relationships with corporate partners, like Integrated Fitness, to provide value-added services and discounts that are exclusive to residents. Check out all the deals here.
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