So you can probably guess what my New Year's resolution is going to be...
December 29, 2011 12:29 PM   Subscribe

I have two 25-lb. dumbbells and typical living room furniture. I need to workout - strength building, not cardio, for this question. Difficulty level: I can't make much noise, because my two-year-old will be asleep in the next room.

I need to start working out again, but it seems the only time I have is in the evening, when little man is asleep. I'd like to do three nights a week of strength training, so that I can vary up the workout each evening and focus on different areas.

I've seen stuff like 'combat fitness', with things like handstand push-ups, but I don't have the ability to do that sort of thing right out of the gate. Given that we have a smaller house, I don't want to have to get a Bowflex or something, either. So looking for workouts for different areas of the body using only living room furniture and two 25-lb. dumbbells.

FWIW, I'll be getting cardio three other nights of the week by jogging around the neighborhood. Assume that I'm somewhat stoic and will keep the mid-rep grunting to a minimum.
posted by po822000 to Health & Fitness (11 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
If all you have is two 25-lb dumbbells, you will very quickly go beyond what strength they will help you attain, regardless of your sex or size.

If you must do this at home and you cannot purchase any other equipment, you should look into bodyweight training methods. Some people recommend Building the Gymnastic Body and others like Convict Conditioning. I would read both, as there are exercises in the former you will be unable to do without rings or bars. The exercises are progressive, meaning it doesn't matter whether or not you can even do a standard push-up to start. Good luck.
posted by a_girl_irl at 12:42 PM on December 29, 2011

These types of things are all over the internet. Here's ones I have checked out:

The Spartacus Workout
(check out the rest of men's health website for more workout plans)

Upper Body Strength
More from Runner's World

Body Weight Exercises
posted by I am the Walrus at 12:48 PM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

A couch with a bunch of crap on it (for extra weight) makes a pretty okay benchpress dealy. If it's a low-bottom couch, stack some books under the legs, such that losing your grip doesn't mean squishing your skull.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:56 PM on December 29, 2011

Start really, really small. Yes, you can work yourself up to whatever superpowers you like, if you have the time and commitment, but for now, focus on some fairly silent exercises just to get you back into the habit. Pick just a couple, get a feeling for what you like doing. Pushups are very quiet, as are bodyweight squats (well, quiet unless you're like me and your knees sound like gunfire when they bend). Pushups also have the advantage of having some easier settings--starting on knees rather than toes, for instance, to build up some strength before you go for the real thing.

One of those door-hanging chin up bars can be quiet, or can be to test something like that out before the young'un hits the hay.

I know everyone hates crunches nowadays, but they're also quiet (and I love them for their effect on my posture).

The dumbbells will certainly help your arms, although as the commenter said above, it's easy to work past what they can offer you (if you can't spend much, you could also get a sturdy bag with a good handle and load it with books, as I am finding out now).
posted by mittens at 1:02 PM on December 29, 2011

posted by chazlarson at 1:06 PM on December 29, 2011

Turkish get-ups are quiet and effective. No weight as a starter, barbell once you get more fit. Pushups and crunches will round things out.
posted by DaveP at 1:07 PM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

There are three basic strength moves: pushing and pulling with your upper body, and extending your legs. Pushing is pretty easy: Pushups and pushup variations. So are legs: Squats and squat variations, such as putting your rear leg on a chair and putting most of your weight on the front leg. Pulling is more complicated: you either need to pull up something heavy from the ground (25 lb dumbells won't do), or pull yourself up into the air. If there's nothing in your house you can use, you can get a pull-up bar- cheap one if there's a doorframe you can screw it into, or for $40 or so you can get one to hang over a doorframe.

Check out Beast Skills. The exercises are hard, sometimes ridiculously so (clapping handstand pushup, anyone?), but he explains how you can build up into them.

And I know this is outside the specs of your question, but: If you are willing to invest a few hundred dollars, you can also get an adjustable dumbell set, which will give you way more options. Not cheap, but a bargain compared to $50/month gym fees. Also, is there a playground nearby that you could get out to? The monkey bars will give you a place to do pullups and similar, and make it easier to do pushup variations and a few hundred other things.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 1:09 PM on December 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

Craigslist is the place for cheap weights. Maybe your city is different, but exercise equipment is by far the bulk of the sports for sale listings. LOTS of Bowflexes and also lots of free weights from people who stopped using them or got better ones.
posted by TheRedArmy at 2:43 PM on December 29, 2011

I've just borrowed You Are Your Own Gym from the library and have found it to contain a number of exceptional exercises to help with building strength. All of the movements are progressive, meaning you start with an easier form of the exercise and move onto more difficult ones.

I just read the reddit r/fitness body-weight training FAQ today and found it to contain a lot of useful information as well.
posted by talkingmuffin at 4:33 PM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Get a chin-up bar (or find monkey bars), and dumbbells that are adjustable. Bodyweight is plenty for the rest.

High resistance, low rep, careful form and control. If you can't do something at first, do half the motion and stop-or-assist. Keep doing it till you can do all of it a few times, then add weight to make it harder.
posted by ead at 8:03 AM on December 30, 2011

Convict Conditioning will build you up from nothing to handstand push-ups through a tiered program. There are 6 big moves, hitting most of your body, and there are 10 tiers.

You can get the gist on this YouTube channel:

P.S. I'm up to 2 sets of 15 handstand push-ups from not being able to do a headstand in March.
posted by jander03 at 8:51 AM on December 30, 2011

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