Strength-building exercises - without a gym?

Strength-building exercises - without a gym?

I'm combining TheJuggler's February Foray into Fun and Fitness - Exercise Challenge with Itsbab 's Fabulous February 28 Day Countdown (my goal, 5 lb lost by the end of the month) and I think it will really help me power on to achieve that. But I thought it might be helpful to others - as well as myself - if we shared our various ways of building in strength-building exercises? I don't have a gym membership, and many people may not have access to a gym, but I do follow a DVD programme put out by the YMCA (Y Plan Countdown, still available on Amazon) many years ago, I do Pilates, and occasionally yoga - all of which use the body's own weight to provide resistance. I also have some hand weights so I have recently started doing Leslie Sansone's Happy Walk with those....

What do others do and recommend?

(Edit: P.S. It would be helpful if you gave some indication of the age group and/or activity level your recommendation would be appropriate for)

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38 Replies

  • I have an hourly routine of floor exercises and yoga , in my home ,where I have created the floor space, to Tibetan mountain drum meditation,my body loves it,it's self discipline I'm really struggling With:)

  • Hi ary88 - and where did you learn the routine? Would it be suitable for all?

  • Hi,over 20 years ago, I came across a small book produced for Canadian air piolets,there about 24 movements from touching your toes to press ups,you start with 6 of each exercise,over weeks increase that number, the aim is to achieve a daily 15 min routine for life. I recently started yoga, despite carrying 5 stone with my background of Canadian,has helped me,

    l lost my partner, Danny after 21 lucky years last Feb 26,my serious problem since is self discipline, no aches yet or diabetes, but will if I don't exercise and carry on eating the wrong food, and large amounts of food for comfort:)

  • Hey, I remember that book!! It was published in the UK as a Penguin I think. I don't think I have it any more, but like you, I am trying now to maintain a habit of 15 mins minimum every day for life. I have good periods and less good ones (same with eating healthily!), and I definitely can tell after a few days during the less good ones that I need to get back to it, so that's a good motivator.

  • Sorry to hear about your loss. Well done it seems you have got this sorted! I have done Pilates ...It's not easy although looks it 😄.

    Happy Saturday xx

  • Happy Weekend to you too, whether, old fashion PT!, pilates, aerobics, Zumba, yoga, running, walking, swimming, at home or away, which takes such personal determination, as you say, it is NEVER easy, it all takes such sheer determination, I'm trying to change my mindset, from the excuses of not doing my workout, I need to improve in this respect, get good at it, for a better future, the alternative of not doing it, tragic, at any age. This weekend I'm working on my self motivation skills!! :)

  • I do a real mixture ☺ Like yourself, I use handweights alongside Lesley Sansome, and some yoga/Pilates, an afternoon dog walk if it's nice, and 15 minutes on an exercise bike in the evening. This last session is a recent development as I was getting too tired and too hungry if I cycled in the morning. It helps with the evening nibbling and also helps me sleep.

    I'm 55 and was very unfit at the start of this journey (summer 2015) and have built up from 10 minutes walking twice a day. I had a set back last summer and ended up with Hysterectomy at short notice (they found cancer but I only found out afterwards. How lucky am I? ☺) but am just about back to where I was ☺ My target is 300 minutes a week ☺

    Most of the exercises I have learnt at home, or chatting to friends who do yoga and Pilates. I recently started going to a yoga class, which confirms I am doing the moves correctly, but I wouldn't have had the confidence when I was bigger and unfit, which is sad 😕

    I have to confess to being slightly addicted to exercise!! Who would have guessed it?? Lol 😁😁😁

    Any suggestions for good, gentle and low impact, YouTube workouts are very welcome ☺

  • That is very impressive, Anna61, I don't think I manage that many minutes, but I do try to do around 20-30 mins at least five times a week. Plus walking to the shops etc in addition, which probably adds on another hour.

    I haven't really tried YouTube pilates. I gave one workout a go and it didn't really suit me. I have a copy of Lyn Robinson's Pilates DVD that she did for M&S which is excellent, as it starts gently and works up through three workouts to more advanced stuff. I have also got the APPI IAustralian Physiotherapy and Pilates Institute) DVD, recommended by my physio, which is also excellent. Again it starts gently, but with correct technique builds up to more challenging mat work.

    As I have had quite bad problems with pain in back, hips and legs in the last couple of years, I have learned that little and often is best for me, so I try to do at least 15 minutes a day focused exercise, and then add on up to half and hour power walking several times a week. This has really helped with my mobility, beginning weight loss and becoming pain free - such a relief!

    As my original post indicated though, I don't have that many tools in my box, as it were, for strengthening muscles over and above what I mentioned there and I am hoping someone will point me in the right direction, perhaps on YouTube, as you have suggested!

  • Thank you Dietbunny for the DVD recommendations ☺

    Happy exercising ☺

  • I am not an expert but I have tried lots of excercise classes I'm not disciplined enough to do it at home but I'm going to try it!

    Resistance bands are good I'm sure there will be videos on u tube. They are cheap to buy too..🤗.

    Good Luck


  • Grear tip thank you 😊

  • Well done ... Love Pilates x

  • I'm sixty-three and do the following three times a week. The little 'routine' takes about 20 mins in total but I go slowly. I use a kitchen chair, a stick - about a foot long , a yoga mat and 4kg hand weights.

    1. four dips on the chair with my legs outstretched.

    2. five toe stands using the stick on the right and five using the stick on the left - I can do this clasping my hands but I think I keep better posture with the stick. This is an example using a towel which you may want to begin with - I hold my toe stands for two seconds each:

    3. ten overhead presses with the weights.

    4. six modified situps:

    5. 30 second plank followed by a 10 second 'child's pose' (this stretch feels amazing after the sit ups and the plank)

    I repeat the above six times and then do a brisk five minute walk, a 5k run and a brisk ten minute walk. I have found the strength exercises have really helped with my running. I always have a rest day between exercising and I never exercise on the weekend. In total then for aerobic, strength and stretching I'm putting in about three hours and fifteen minutes per week.

  • It sounds like you have worked out a really good routine for yourself Mochta, with a good mix of sustained activity. I can't do the running as I have arthritic knees, but I do try, when out walking locally, to walk purposefully! I hesitate to use the phrase power walking, but I do my best!

  • Fabulous 🤗

  • I lift weights at home 15kgs for me but that's a bit much for some. I stick my music on, dance around and do reps in various ways with the weights. I love lifting, my aim is to sculpt my body as I lose weight to minimize any affects on my skin. So fingers crossed it seems to be helping so far x x

  • Wow Crimson85j - 15 kg sounds massive - I have only .25 kg wrist weights and 0.5 kg and 1 kg hand weights and I think I need to get more creative in how I use them. Do you have any favourite online classes/demos you can recommend (for those weaker than you!)?

  • I just do a range of movements. I used to love the machines in the gym but can no longer go. So I do different moves that mimic each machine. Bent over row is one of my faves as my back is a problem area.

  • Great post Dietbunny I love Pilates and yoga and try to do both once a week. I'm 40 but the age ranges from me probably up to 70/80 in the classes I go to (local leisure centre). I also do some physio/strength at home. My friend is a personal trainer and said the best strength exercises are 1 minute of squats, 1of lunges and 1 of plank. Then repeat another two times. Doesn't sound too bad but I can only do one set so far and the plank only for about 40 seconds! My aim is to get fit/strong enough to do the whole thing. Am trying out body conditioning Wednesday and also want to try ballet barre conditioning and body pump. Will feed back once I am brave enough...

  • That's interesting, what your friend recommends. I saw a physio who said she thought lunges were the best single exercise around, but unfortunately they play havoc with my knees (arthritis). Planks I am reasonable at, as Pilates has really strengthened my core, but squats? Perhaps I should give those more of a shot - you can combine them with bicep/tricep dips with weights too, can't you?

  • Yes Lunges are great but if they are hurting your knees it might be that your technique might be a little bit off. When I do them I tend to feel it mostly in my hips and glutes. Have a look in the mirror when you do them. If your head is moving forward rather than straight down you may be coming over your knee too much. I teach people to take a big backward step and have their standing leg right up against a wall. If the knee smacks the wall you are coming too far forward.

  • I have trouble with lunges too I have arthritis iny ankles and a dodgy knee. You can do various squats ..With weights and by changing your foot positions. Together, hip distance and slightly wider than hip distance. Sit back pushing your bottom out like your sitting on a chair 🤗

  • Hi, Both Pilates and Yoga are great for your core and for flexibility. Its true some of the best strength exercise are Squat and Lunges. But plank? not a strength exercise it is a great exercise for your core but as you are finding out most people cannot do them, and if you speak to a physio they love people doing them because they get a lot of business out of people injuring themselves doing it wrong. lol You will notice a real difference in doing body conditioning and body pump. These classes should be using weights and in the case of body pump going over exercises like squat, deadlift, shoulder press and bench press. They certainly are challenging classes but should be fun.

  • Interesting - my understanding was that doing the plank can help build strength in your core muscles and therefore is good for those needing to develop back stability (people like me!). According to the American Council on Exercise (ACE) “because the plank exercise requires minimal movement while contracting all layers of the abdominal fascia, it is an excellent way to strengthen the core, which, in turn, helps reduce low-back pain”. I have built up core strength doing Pilates, which has helped me increase the time I can stay in the front plank, to the extent that I totally flabbergasted the family at Christmas by out-lasting all of them (in their 20s, apart from DH)!

    I might look out a local body conditioning class @ PTKeith, as I do enjoy classes, but I don't want to be the oldest there by 40 years!

  • Okay. I think we are talking about two different types of Strength here. Strengthening the core is correct. However when we talk about the best exercise for Strength I would have to put the Deadlift, Bench press, pullup, pressup, power clean and press all as better exercises for that. My problem with the Plank is that yes it is a fine core exercise, but only when it is done correctly. I do a Abs class for up to 30 ladies of all ages and when we get down into doing a plank I would say that 75% of them are doing it wrong and are getting no Core benefit at all. I spend all my time walking round trying to get them into the correct position and as soon as I do most of the group that are slightly overweight cannot hold the proper plank as it is too intense and ends up causing them pain. So my point is that yes its a wonderful strengthening exercise but not for everybody. I tend to do the opposite arm and leg raise on all fours as most people can do this and it is still a very good core workout.

    It is good that you can duff up the youngsters at the plank. When I do my class I get into position and say "come on, don't let the old bloke at the front beat you" lol. I do have a group of very fit ladies that come to my classes and we do a run-through of different plank variations from side planks, flat plank where you drop down onto your elbows and back up to to flat hands and flat plank with single leg raises. We are just working on the most difficult one where you front plank into a handstand position with a dumbbell in each hand and keeping the upper body quiet alternate lifting the dumbbell up to your hip, all the while trying not to faceplant!!

    I would not worry about being oldest in class. I am ALWAYS the oldest person in my classes. I say things like come on bring your legs up like the Tiller girls, or lets move like Pans People and they have no idea what I am talking about!!

  • Thanks for the info PTKeith yes, I should point out I attended my friend's circuits class and she was very bossy on how to do the plank properly! Also for me I need core strength as well as general. Two children and a double hernia op totally negated any I previously had! Having said that before exercise I had no strength anywhere and I have been amazed what a difference regular exercise has made. Thanks for the info on classes too. I never would have even tried them previously.

  • I would love to go to a class where the instructor checked you were doing things properly. I went to one at my local council fitness centre and told the trainer at the beginning that I needed to build up my core due to 5 x abdominal surgery through the same scar has exacerbated exaggerated lumbar curve as tummy muscles offer little support, but he really wasn't interested. He just said do as much as you can then sit out, didn't check once my posture, so I didn't go back as I thought I could actually do more harm than good. Still just doing very basic excercises given by the physio after last surgery 11 years ago.

  • Oh that's a shame Fran. Our leisure centre is really good and all the instructors are very helpful. Ours run a rehab Pilates class - it might be worth seeing if there is anything similar in your area. I know some yoga centres also do specific injury related classes as well. Maybe try a different class and see if they are any better? Good luck.

  • I agree, I find instructors vary a lot ans it's worth trying a few different classes to see how you get on. It is so easy as you get older to injure yourself or get into bad postural habits and you have to be able to trust that they can see (and care) how much you are able to do, especially when you are new to a class. Hope you manage to find a good one :)

  • Thanks for that explanation PTKeith - what you are doing with your classes is all way more advanced than what I am used to in my Pilates workouts. (hough I have progressed on occasion to leg raises). And of course, I am overweight, which is why I am on this forum, and that certainly contributed to the damage I did to my shoulder with a side plank.

    I was lucky enough to be referred by my GP to the local physio service and thence to a four-week "Back stability class", which was actually Pilates, as recognisable by the APPI (Australian Physiotherapy and Pilates Institute) which was great, as the trainer (a physio) came round to us individually as you do and pointed out where we were going wrong/could improve our technique. Fantastic - so I am trying out a new Pilates class on Monday, but will feel a bit cheeky asking what the trainer's qualifications are. I do feel it's important that you know that your trainer is well qualified - I went to a yoga class once run by an enthusiast rather than a trained trainer and it was dreadful. (She was more interested in holding her own poses than walking round and checking over us or providing advice for those more/less advanced.)

  • You will love body pump ...Nobody watches you everybody is concentrating on their own work out ...Go for it! You won't regret it.

    Good Luck ...

  • Thank you for the encouragement Ewainwright I think it will be great and the fact that a couple of friends do it will help. I will keep you posted...

  • True, though I was more worried about collapsing on the floor rather than how I looked while doing it!

  • This is really interesting. I have just given up my gym membership as I was having problem booking onto the excercise classes - all seemed full by 7.09am with huge waiting lists. I was going to ... Mon Body Pump, Weds Spinning, Thurs Pilates, Friday Body Pump and CX works core and a swimming session about 45 mins once a week. My weight stayed the same and I tried to eat healthy. I have a stressful job and work 4 days a week. I have developed arthritis in my ankles and a bit of a dodgey right knee! If I was a horse they would shot me! I am 55.

    So my aim is to walk my dog for an hour a day. I have resistance bands so could do some strength work, I have a spinning bike and some weights.

    i hope to continue to excercise i enjoy it and it helps with my stress levels 😄 ... I have 4 weeks holiday booked .. 3 weeks in Bali/Sumba where my daughter lives.

    I will read all the posts and I will update you on my progress.

    ....Forgot to say I love food ...I am greedy! not so much junk food but veg and fruit ....

    Have a good weekend



  • Oooh Bali - how wonderful! I have one resistance band, in a drawer, where I had forgotten about it. Another thing to try - thank you for that thought! Any recommendations of YouTube (for beginners!) sessions would be welcome....

  • Ooh I haven't looked on you tube yet ...

  • Happy weekend to you too Ewainwright. I think regular dog walking makes a real difference as it was after our dog died that the weight slow crept up without me noticing. I had a sedentary job and didn't replace the walking with anything else for far too long.

  • Agh we had a Westie who died at 15 1/2 we now have a wire haired fox terrier who is a bundle of fun...

    Keeps me on my toes ...I too have a sedatory job at a desk most of the day .... I could walk up and down the stairs once an hour ... My new target 😄

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