Do workout videos work?
Once upon a time, working out at home was reserved for the Richard Simmons, Jane Fonda, leotard, thong, leg warmers, aerobics, aerobics, and more aerobics era. But with the explosion of Beachbody and other late night infomercials (are there other infomercials?) most of us have grown to accept a visual of more muscular looking individuals using dumbbells on our home workout screens. This new era of workout videos provides instant access to some of the top trainers of the industry today: Jillian Michaels, Kelly Coffey-Meyer, Jackie Warner, Cathe Friedrich, Chalene Johnson and so many more. The convenience of working out at home can be an amazing thing for the motivated individual, or the person who enjoys the “feel” of being in a class setting (minus worrying that one might be judged by classmates – gasp!! “can you believe she’s wearing those pink pajama pants?!”).
With the (over)abundance of workout vids, we might easily assume that ripped, superfit types (as seen on the videos) are also in great supply. If you are one of the growing number of at-home exercisers (like me), you may be – in fact – wondering when your ripped-ness will arrive. Or, perhaps you’re glumly thinking that you’re the only person on the planet who works your butt off with these annoyingly-ripped-freaks-of-nature, yet still look like you gave birth last week. Grrrr…How is it possible to work your buns off, yet still not be able to fit said buns into those skinny jeans? To collect bucket-loads of sweat from doing 30-Day Shred (for 120 days!), yet have no semblance of becoming “shredded” any time soon?
Whenever you can safely do so, increase weight.
This is typically because, as consumers, we tend to equate sweating with results. Moving nonstop during your workout, doing endless reps, or cardio moves between every lift will surely provide the sweat. Unfortunately, the amount of sweat that you leave behind has little to do with the reshaping of your body. As great as it feels, your body will eventually adapt to ANY workout that you do repeatedly, and you’ll stop seeing results. So should you toss your hopes of getting fit at home and run to the nearest gym? Not necessarily. It’s always great to work with what you’ve got (and I, for one, am not willing to shew my pink PJs just yet).
Here are five ways to make any DVD worth while:
Make any DVD work harder by simply picking up a heavier weight. Even if you only have one or two DVDs to work with, increasing the amount of weight that you’re lifting is a quick plateau prevention/fix. Just because the people on the screen are using five – eight pounds doesn’t mean that you need to. Pick a weight that challenges you (ie. you can’t do MORE than two reps beyond the amount you’re supposed to be doing) and will bring you the results you’re after. Even if you come up a few reps shorter than “the crew,” you’re all good. Most home workout DVDs have far too many reps for the desired results. For strength gains, lift as heavy as you can for up to seven reps, for muscle building and definition lift for eight to 12 reps, and for endurance (cardio) perform 12+ reps (or as directed by the DVD). For best results, alternate all three rep ranges using weight appropriate for each range.
Train like a pro. Jot down exercises, weights, sets, & reps.
In order to have greatest success with the previous tip, be certain to take a moment to bring a pen and pad with you to the workout area. Jot down the exercises done in the vid, and how much weight you used. Whenever you discover that you could’ve kept going, put an asterisk or other symbol (like an up arrow) to let you know to go up in weight next time. ALWAYS lift heavier if you can safely do so. You’re not doing yourself any favors by using the same weight amounts for months at a time, no matter how much sweating is going down. Also keep track of how many reps you did, so that you can adjust the next time around. If you were able to do 12 pounds for 15 reps, then you know that you’ll need to go heavier if aiming for eight to ten reps next time around. Keeping a journal of your workouts (exercises, reps, sets, and rests) is key to a successful workout, whether at home or the gym.
It’s perfectly acceptable to press pause if the DVD is moving too fast (this will become incredibly relevant when increasing poundage for lifts). When doing circuit type workout vids (a weight move followed by a cardio move – or weighted moves with no rest between sets), it becomes ridiculously hard to lift heavy enough weights. This may tempt us to believe that we can’t go heavier, but this is far from the truth. While I would typically recommend doing a workout via a professional as written the first few times around, this becomes much less relevant the 88th time the video is done. It’s OK to stray from the pro at this point, and pause the dang thing, so that you can get some serious muscle involvement happening. Base your “rest” periods on the amount of weight and reps that you’re doing — just as you would in the gym — using the rep ranges discussed above. The goal of endurance needs very little rest (30 seconds or less) between exercises, muscle building requires slightly longer (30-60 seconds), and strength requires the longest (60-90 seconds). If the crew is doing 15 reps and you’ve chosen to do only six, then consider the “extra” time that they are pumping out reps as part of your rest period.
Moving too fast for you to lift heavy? Pause the dang thing!
Re-purpose “strength” DVDs
As mentioned earlier, most DVDs suggest dumbbells that are far too light, have too many reps, and not enough rest to be considered a true “strength” workout. No problem. Why not change the way that you view your vids and accept the faster paced workouts for what they truly are…cardio! Most so-called strength videos on the market are really just a glorified HIIT workout. So why not treat them as such. Metabolic cardio and HIIT are all the rage these days anyway, so using your old circuit workouts for cardio helps you to cash in on this trend. This also works well as an alternative for the person who can only make it to the gym a couple times per week. Plan your lifting days for when you have access to heavier equipment at the gym, and your cardio (via video) on the days that you can’t make it.
Swap out moves (or equipment)
Could you use a ball for pushups? Sub jackknives for crunches? Allow your mind to wander..
Let’s face it. Doing the same moves day in and day out for three years isn’t gonna “shape and tone” anything no matter how many times your DVD coach has told you so. Just as we get comfortable when we know what move is coming next on the DVD (or what words for that matter!) so do our bodies. And let’s just say that changes don’t happen when you’re comfortable…well, not good changes anyway. Now that you’ve been taking notes on your workouts (ahem?) you can use that same notebook to plot out ways to shake things up. Again, I don’t typically recommend taking a program written by someone who creates them for a living, and adding your own perceived “improvements.” However, if you know at exactly which pitch of the background song that a particular exercise will start…you stopped seeing results from that move many moons ago. There are safe swaps that can be done to most moves so that you are keeping with the general theme of the program’s intent. For example, you can sub the move for a variation of that same move: plie’ squat for regular, step ups or rear/side lunges in lieu of front lunges, hammer curls instead of traditional, etc..
You could also swap out equipment used in the vid, for equipment that you own but rarely use. I can’t count the amount of messages I’ve received from women asking if it’s “OK” to use hubby’s Bowflex, Nautilus, Smith machine, etc down in the basement…umm, YES! Don’t be scared to put someone else’s dust-collecting equipment to use – I did and it changed my life! The Gold’s Gym setup that I currently use in “Kiki’s Cave” is also formerly-known-as “Father’s Day Gift/clothes dryer” lol. Work with what you have. Teen son have an iron gym? Hubby have an old bench and rack? Score! Have some crazy as-seen-on-TV gadget that you just couldn’t pass up? Use. it. Variety is the spice of life, and just may help you get excited about working out to your old DVDs again. Sub out the old-is-new-again equipment for similar body-part movements. Bench press during pushups. Use a rowing apparatus (lat pull-down, rowing machine?) for bent over rows…or better yet, do pull-ups! Grab a Frisbee or gliding disc and do sliding lunges in place of regular. Use your Kettlebell in place of dumbbells, or sub Kettlebell swings (or sandbag cleans – see vid below) for another cardio move for circuit vids.
Take inventory of items you’d love to use, but never do, and allow your mind to wander. The possibilities are endless.
Not everyone can afford the time or finances that a full time gym commitment requires. Workout videos provide a convenient alternative for busy moms, housewives, or students that simply can’t make it to the gym regularly (or at all). With new formats popping up daily — whether via DVDs, downloads, or free sources like YouTube and Fitness Blender — you can make this growing trend work in your favor (and keep getting results!) with a few simple tweaks.
Do you workout with videos? What are your tricks for keeping the results flowing?
images: Supertrooper, Naypong, Digitalart, Marin, & Kristin Nadorn,
Kiki’s home gym
Seven years ago my youngest daughter, Olivia, came into the world. With a 4-year old toddler and a newborn to care for, getting to the gym became too challenging and I seemed to miss more sessions than I would make each week. After discovering a few home workouts, I bought some dumbbells and a step to get started. With no dedicated space, I stored everything behind a couch in our family room, but my home gym was born!
Finding time to get to the gym to train isn’t always easy especially when dealing with day-to-day responsibilities like work and family. Additionally, when you take into account travel to and from the gym, the crowds and waiting for equipment once there, not to mention hygienic concerns, it makes you wonder why everyone isn’t setting up a home gym.
Having equipment at home offers a gym alternative, allowing you to train effectively and efficiently as your schedule permits. To help you get started, I put together a list of equipment that I consider essential along with some nice-to-haves that you can add over time.
Dumbbells You’ll want to have both a lighter set and a heavier set to start. The lighter set will be good for overhead exercises like shoulder press. The heavier set of dumbbells will be used for lower body exercises such as squats, deadlifts and lunges. Since you may quickly progress beyond two sets of dumbbells, another option is to buy adjustable dumbbells, which can range from 5 to more than 100 pounds, eliminating the need for multiple dumbbells.
Resistance bands Resistance bands offer resistance throughout both the concentric and eccentric movement of an exercise, unlike free weights, when performing some exercises. While you won’t be able to perform a max lift with bands, they are great for getting a pump by keeping constant tension on the muscle throughout each rep. Additionally, they are a great option to take with you when traveling. Consider buying two or three bands of varying resistance.
Bench or step While you can perform chest presses, flys and such on the floor instead of a bench, you’ll want a bench/step for other exercises such as Bulgarian split squats, box squats, leg presses, dips, seated presses, etc. When selecting a bench, look for a flat bench offering an incline option to add even more variety to your sessions.
The above list is what I’d consider the essentials for your home gym, especially if you are a beginner. If you are more advanced, move the Olympic bar & plates up to the must have list as well. In addition to the many bodyweight exercises that can be performed at home, you’ll add several dozen more with these options. If you are cost conscious be sure to check out Craigslist.org where you’ll find many of these items. A used dumbbell works just as well as a new one!
As my passion for training grew, I slowly added more equipment to my training arsenal and even managed to wrangle a dedicated room for my gym, which I lovingly referred to as a sardine can because it was so tiny. Just recently, I convinced my husband to give up half of our garage space and that is where I train currently. When you are ready to add to your training tool box, below is a list of other equipment you might consider, in my order of importance.
Olympic barbell & plates If you’re short on space, opt for a 5 or 6 foot length rather than the traditional 7 foot version. All of my bars are 6 foot or smaller. As for plates, start off with a set of 100-150 pounds of varying weights, adding additional plates as you progress. This equipment can also be easily stored under a bed, if needed.
Squat/press or power/half rack As your lifts increase you’ll have trouble getting the barbell safely into position for squats and presses. A rack will assist with this, offering safety options if you train alone. If you won’t have a dedicated space, consider a squat stand that can be put away when not in use.
Pull up bar Power and half racks will likely offer a pull up option. However, if you don’t purchase a rack, consider an over-the-door pull up option. You can use your bands for assistance with the pull up bar until you are able to do them on your own or perform negatives by standing on your bench or a chair.
photo credit: .v1ctor Casale. via photopin cc
Kettlebells Again, look to Craigslist as these can be very pricey. Many exercises performed with kettlebells can also be performed with dumbbells. However, exercises, such as the swing, an excellent exercise for the posterior chain, may be better suited for kettlebells.
Suspension Trainer Suspension training systems are super versatile and are a great option for home and for travel. They offer exercises for all major muscle groups and rely on your own body weight for resistance. You will not only develop strength with a suspension trainer, but can improve core stability, flexibility and balance as well.
Lastly, consider buying items that will provide additional comfort to your session such as weight training gloves, barbell pads, yoga mat, etc.
My work-in-progress garage gym
Whether, like me, getting to the gym isn’t an option for you or you simply prefer the comfort of your own home, the items above will take you pretty far. Always consider the amount of space you’ll have to work with, not only for the equipment, but for you to perform the exercises. Start small and add additional equipment over time. With the money you’ll save on your membership, you will pay for your home gym several times over. However, if you prefer the gym vibe, cool, but still consider having a few options at home for when it’s raining, it’s pouring…or life just isn’t cooperating.
Now that my girls are a bit older I could eek out some time for the gym if I really wanted to, but I have everything I need right down stairs. To be further inspired, check out our Pinterest board, showcasing home gyms, and our shop. Already have a home gym? What equipment is at the top of your must-have list? Drop us a note and link to a pic in the comments. We’d love to see your set up!