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Fitness Friday #1: Setting up your home gym

Pierre Allard gives you tips on the essentials you'll need for working out at home

by Pierre Allard, translated by Dan Braverman @CanadiensMTL / canadiens.com

Many of us would like to be in better shape. Making small tweaks to daily habits or workouts can make all the difference. With new fitness and diet fads popping up on the regular, deciding which regimen is right for you can be confusing. Habs strength and conditioning coach Pierre Allard is here to help, offering up tips to help you reach your fitness goals. In his first "Fitness Fridays" blog post, the man responsible for Canadiens players' fitness lists some equipment you should get your hands on if you decide to start working out from home.

The main reasons people quit going to the gym are to reduce costs and avoid having to wait for machines. Before deciding if you want to work out at home, ask yourself if you have enough space to do it and if you'll actually be able to motivate yourself to work out on your own. If the answer to both questions is yes, then read on.

The first mistake a lot of people make is that they'll go out and buy $2,000 worth of equipment right off the bat. I think it's important to go step-by-step and do things progressively. Today, I'm going to highlight five basic items people should start with:

Free weights

Free weights, or dumbbells, can be found in most sporting goods stores. Start with weights of five, 10, 15, or 20 pounds. If that goes well, before buying a complete set up to 70 pounds - which can get costly - go with selective weights. You can buy a block weight that goes up to 50 pounds and you can add extensions that increase the weight up to 70 pounds. It doesn't take up a lot of space and it's easy to increase the load.

Kettlebells

The interesting thing about kettlebells is that there are a number of different exercises you can do with them. Today, I'm going to demonstrate how to do a kettlebell swing, but you can also do lunges, squats, and lots of other things. They're very practical. I would suggest starting with a 20-pound kettlebell and then gradually increasing the weight.

Medicine ball

A medicine ball is very versatile. You could start with one weighing anywhere from eight to 12 pounds; it doesn't have to be very heavy. The ones we use with the Canadiens players weigh 16 pounds, max. An easy exercise you can do with them [see photo, below] is to do push-ups with the ball under one hand. The goal is to create a left-right imbalance so the body gets used to uneven movements. You can do a ton of things with the ball, like push-ups, wall throws, or you can get some core work in by throwing the ball to a partner. I'll go into more detail on that in a separate blog post later on.

Resistance bands

These can also be found in any sporting goods store. What's interesting about resistance bands is that you can do all kinds of exercise with them. You can do pulls, push presses, etc. and they're very inexpensive. In the photos, I demonstrate how to do lunges combined with pulls. Increase the difficulty by increasing the tension.

Swiss ball (exercise ball)

In my opinion, the Swiss ball is one of the most important essentials to have in any gym because it allows you to work out several areas of your body. The exercise I'm demonstrating is a jack-knife. It's an exercise that requires a lot of stability and is really tough on the abdominal muscles. The Swiss ball is a great tool for the abs, but it also allows you to do other exercises. Bouncing the ball and the follow-through that comes with it could help even more with other routines.

These items are the basics I would suggest for starting a home workout regimen. Add in some outdoor running to your routine and you won't need more equipment than this to get in great shape on a budget. For a basic setup, we're talking about an investment of around $150. Getting in shape isn't supposed to be expensive; it should be affordable.


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