An Australian Personal Trainer’s favourite exercises for losing weight at home
Are you feeling a bit lost without the gym? Don’t worry, almost everything you can do in the weights room, you can find a way to do at home. When it comes to getting fit, at home or anywhere else, the three biggest influences are diet, sleep and exercise.
Basing my workouts around the below exercises, I managed to lose more than 20 kilograms of body fat in less than six months. While a healthy diet did have a role to play in my transformation, I would recommend all of the following exercises if you are looking to improve your fitness or general health. The best part, you can do them all at home!
This is usually one of the first exercises that we teach to children when trying to develop an understanding of exercise and fitness. Super safe, super simple, super low chance of injury – perfect for everyone.
Lying on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor, either outstretch your arms, or put your hands behind your head to begin the motion. When ready, lift your head, and the rest of your upper body, up towards your knees ‘crunching’ your abdominal region. Pause at the top and lower yourself back down to the mat slowly to complete one repetition. You can do this for a number of repetitions, or for a set period of time, it is completely up to you!
There are also so many variations of the crunch, and all of them are effective for developing core strength and fitness so check out the video below (0:05 – 0:37) to see how I do mine!
LYING LEG RAISES
Lying leg raises are basically the prerequisite exercise for V-Snaps, which is the ultimate exercise for a flat tummy, or cheese-grater abs (depending on your fitness goals). It is important to note that both of these exercises will be faced with difficulty by anyone with any form of back pain – please perform with caution and at your own risk.
Lie down on your back with your legs extended and put your hands either; behind your head, or next to your body with your palms flat on the floor. Raise your feet slightly off the ground to begin the motion and when you are ready, keeping your legs straight, bring your feet back towards your head. Your glutes should break contact with the floor as the lower half of your body becomes suspended above your upper body, before a slight pause and returning to the starting position. For an extra challenge, do not let your head or feet touch the ground at any point during the exercise!
Perform this exercise in repetitions or for a set period of time. Watch my demonstration video below (0:37-0:58) and get ready to feel the burn.
The intensified big sister of lying leg raises. V-snaps incorporate a larger amount of muscles than the leg raises (most of your upper body) as well as a larger range of motion for muscles in the upper-abdominal region. When trying to drop the extra layers Winter body fat before beach season, this is my go to ab exercise.
While lying down on your back, straighten your legs and extend your arms above your head, placing one hand on top of the other. To begin, lift your hands and feet slightly off the ground and while keeping your arms and legs straight, bring your hands and feet together in the middle of your body, like an opening and closing ‘V.’
To get the most out of this exercise, keep your head, hands, and feet off the ground for the duration of the set. When this gets too easy, try it with weights! I use makeshift ‘prison’ weights, usually in the form of large water containers or water bottles filled with sand as I’m still saving up for kettle bells… Again, this exercise isn’t for everyone, especially if you experience any form of back pain, so please be careful! Demonstration video: 0:59 – 1:44.
By no means is this one of my favourites but I had to include something to work your obliques, those pretty little muscles outside your upper abdomen. You can see the difficulty in which I perform this exercise, showing how little coordination I have and how often I practice it, but thats not the point!
Lying on your back, put your hands behind your head and your legs in the air with your knees making a right angle. Keeping your hands fixed to your head, fully extend one leg and bring your elbow, from the same side of the body, all the way up to your stationary knee, or as close as you can get to it. After your elbow reaches your knee, fully extend that leg and flex the other to again make a right angle. At the same time your legs are switching from extension to flexion, bring your other elbow up to the knee which is now above the body. Continuously switch your legs between these two positions and at the same time, meeting the knee of the flexed leg with its opposite elbow. It is easier to demonstrate than to explain so just watch the video and please, don’t judge my lack of coordination! Video: 1:45 – 2:06.
The ultimate core strength and endurance test. Planks incorporate all major muscle groups from head to toe and are fantastic for toning areas around the waistline.
Start by lying flat on your chest with your feet together. Put your forearms flat on the ground and join your hands before lifting your entire body into the air. Keeping your feet and forearms planted, bearning the load of your body, hold yourself in position against the force of gravity. As difficult as it may be, maintain good posture with a straight line from your feet to your shoulders, do not let your hips sag. See my attempts in the video below (2:07 – 2:49).
GENERAL UPPER BODY
Push ups, or press ups, are in my opinion, the single greatest bodyweight exercise that can be incorporated into your daily routine. Focusing largely on the chest, shoulders, and arms, this exercise incorporates all upper-body muscle groups and greatly improves your core strength and fitness.
Start by lying flat on your chest with your toes pressed against the ground. Set your hands a little wider than shoulder width apart and about in line with your chest (or wherever you find comfortable). Using your core strength, push through your hands to extend your arms and lift your body up so that only your hands and feet are touching the ground. Lower your body back down until your chest is almost touching the ground to complete a repetition. Repeat while avoiding any part of your body, other than your hands and feet, touching the ground.
If you want to make this a little more about your arms than your chest, you can bring your hands in a bit closer to your body to direct more of the load to your triceps. If you aren’t yet able to complete a few repetitions in a row though, don’t feel bad about dropping your knees to the ground if it means you get the job done. You will be amazed at how quickly you can build fitness, strength, and muscular definition from just one minute a day of good form push ups.
When training your arms, you will only ever be focusing on one of two muscle groups with each exercise, either your biceps or your triceps. Because we have already covered push ups, which absolutely dominate your triceps, I am only going to be touching on one set of exercises for your biceps, the cable curl.
This is just a bicep curl that has a resistance band substituted in for any regular weights you would find in a gym. The difference between the cables and the weights? Not a lot really, but with weights you can control the resistance level and the range of motion with a lot less difficulty so although the resistance bands might not be the first thing I pick up in the gym, they have been incredibly helpful during lockdown. Check out my resistance band bicep curls video below!
First things first, squats are the mother of all leg exercises. Incorporate this exercise into all leg routines to build leg strength and definition, as well as general fitness and for men, even an increase in your testosterone production.
Set your feet around shoulder-width apart and slowly lower your booty as if you were sitting down on a very low seat. When you can’t comfortably go down any lower, pause and hold the squat for half a second before slowly standing back up again. Repeat for a target number of repetitions, or a set period of time. Aim for working sets of at least ten repetitions, or 30 seconds straight, but if this is too difficult then make it a goal to work up to.
There are a so many ways to perform this exercise safely but it’s important to always remember to keep your back straight. You can learn to do this easily by keeping your shoulders back and creating an imaginary straight line that runs from your hips to your shoulders, as seen in the picture to the right. Demonstration Video: 0:05 – 1:02.
While definitely not my favourite, it’d be rude to leave lunges off a list of powerful compound leg exercises for all fitness goals.
Take a large step forward and plant your feet, this is the starting position. Lower your body towards the ground, making sure to bend your legs slowly. Before your back knee touches the floor, pause and rise back up to the starting position. That is one repetition, complete a set number and then change to the other leg. If you need help balancing, try it with your hands on your hips. Lunges can either be performed stationary, lunging either forwards or backwards, or in a walking motion, if your workout area is large enough. Video: 1:03 – 1:27.
One way to get seriously toned legs, fast, is by combining strength and explosive power movements into the one exercise. Similar to squats, box jumps are fantastic for all fitness goals and can be completed almost anywhere.
Just plant both feet on the ground and jump from a stationary position (with both feet still on the ground) to your strong platform, stand up, step down, and repeat. Feel the burn and every time push yourself a little further than the last. You will be amazed at how quickly your legs can develop the shape you are looking for. Video: 1:28 – 2:35.
A nice little booty popper to finish the circuit. With your back and arms flat on the floor and your feet planted firmly to make a sharp angle with your knees, extend your hips high up off the floor (in a thrusting motion) and squeeze your glutes at the end before lowering your butt back to the ground. Repeat for a number of repetitions or a set period of time. Video: 2:36 – 3:19.
The hardest part is getting started!
These are just a few examples of exercises that you can easily find the time and space to do at home. I know there are a few muscle groups that were not covered in detail so I am working on another post full of more fantastic exercises that you can do at home (watch this space).
Believe it or not, there is only one year between the videos above, and this big unit making his way out of the water at Barceloneta Beach below. I lost 28 kilograms using these exercises so I know they work, just be persistent and at the same time, be patient. Results take time to show and I know it can be difficult not to see them instantly but progress is progress, no matter how small.
The hardest part is getting started, don’t give up!
About the Author: Harrison has more than a decade of experience on, and off, the rugby field as a representative player, junior coach and part-time referee. His passion for rugby led him to the Australian Institute of Personal Trainers where he studied the human body, exercise and nutrition, before being registered as a health and fitness professional with Fitness Australia and Fitness First Australia. Although the career path has changed, his passion for health, fitness, and Rugby will always remain.