How to Choose a Home Workout Program

Working out at home has some definite advantages. It’s much cheaper than a gym membership. There’s no time wasted with driving to the gym, changing, working out, changing again, then heading off to work. For parents, there’s no child minding costs either. But when it comes to figuring out how to choose a home workout program, there are a few factors you need to consider.

First, you need to look at the duration of the workouts. If each session is thirty to sixty minutes, you can easily do this first thing in the morning before you get ready for work, or in the evening after the kids are in bed. But don’t forget you will have kids around (if you’re a parent), so interruptions are inevitable. You save time on driving, but you will need to be flexible around family as well.

Second, you need to determine how much equipment you’ll need. Bodyweight programs like Beachbody Insanity?or TACFIT Commando need no equipment at all. Bodyweight Revolution workouts do have small pieces of equipment (like a TRX or low pull-up bar) required for some exercises, but can be modified. Resistance workouts like Prograde’s T30, GSP’s RUSHFIT, and John Barban’s Adonis Golden Ratio will at the very least need a set of dumbbells in various sizes (preferably with adjustable weights). If you’re not prepared to spend a little extra on the weights and an exercise ball, you won’t get what you need out of these workouts.

Full-blown bodybuilding workouts may well require things like a bench, pull-down machine, barbells, pull up bar, and a dip station (I love this one). Unless you’re prepared to put a lot of money into a home gym (be my guest), this type of workout may not be the best for home use.

Matts?are useful, but not 100% necessary, depending on how you feel about working out on your floor.

Third, you need to consider the space. I have yet to come across one of these programs that requires more than about a 4 x 6 foot space, which is usually covered nicely by one set of matts. If there’s more equipment involved obviously you’ll need to make room for that as well. However, the dimension of the space is only one factor. Other surprises may restrict what sort of routines you can do. For instance, a low ceiling may make overhead movements like dumbbell shoulder presses impossible. You can fix that by doing a seated shoulder press, but if the move is actually a squat and press (like you’d find in the Adonis program), you can’t do this move at all.

Similarly, if you live in an apartment, jumping movements may cause problems with the neighbours downstairs. If you need to do a lot of jumping movements, as you might in RUSHFIT or Insanity, you’ll probably need to do those workouts outside. No matter how delicately you might think you can move, those folks downstairs will not appreciate the noise.

Finally, with all of these considerations, you also need to consider what it is you’re trying to accomplish. Do you want to burn fat or build muscle? Do you want to get a beach shred, or get a powerful bodybuilder physique? These factors are all handled to one extent or another by all of these programs, but some are obviously better than others. Vince Del Monte’s 21 Day Fast Muscle Mass, for instance, gives you a plan for building huge muscle gains in three weeks, but may not be suitable for someone looking to drop four pants sizes, whereas John Barban’s Adonis Golden Ratio doesn’t have the focused intensity required to create an IBFF monster frame, but will work to shed a lot of body fat in a relatively short period of time.

And speaking of time, keep in mind that programs run for varying lengths. Some are only four weeks, while others are up to twelve weeks. TACFIT Commando runs for a year and a half if you do the entire program. This is important if you want to schedule your workouts to reach a certain goal by a certain time, so factor that into your calculations as well.

Here, for the record, are some of my favourites:

Workouts for Bodyweight Only

Bodyweight Burn (Adam Steer and Ryan Murdock): 12 weeks. 21 minutes per day. Minimal or no equipment (may need a stability ball, dip or chin up station). Designed specifically to burn fat and switch on metabolic burn. Includes jumping movements. PDF with reference videos.

Bodyweight Exercise Revolution (Adam Steer and Ryan Murdock): Includes 5 separate workouts (about 30 minutes each). 28 days per workout. Minimal or no equipment (may need a stability ball, dip or chin up station). Designed specifically to burn fat and switch on metabolic burn. Best all-round package for hitting every aspect of fitness, including endurance, muscle gain, and overall athleticism. Includes jumping movements. PDF with reference videos.

TACFIT Commando (Scott Sonnon): 84 days per “mission,” 3 missions per level, 3 levels in total (approx. 18 months in total workout time). Weekly cycle is 4 days (so you will work out on weekends). 30 minutes per workout. No equipment. Does include jumping movements. BEST overall mobility, endurance, flexibility and conditioning. Follow-along downloadable videos.

Beach Body Insanity (Shaun T): 2 months (4 weeks + rest week + 4 weeks). 6 days per week. 60 minutes per day. Does include an optional upper body weight-training circuit. VERY high intensity cardio circuits designed to alternate cardio with body resistance. Intelligently incorporates relaxation periods and stretching for a complete system. Lots of jumping movements. Follow-along DVD.

Home Workouts with Weights

TMS Metabolic Nightmare (Steve Baric): 4 weeks. 30 minutes per day. Three days per week (plus optional cardio days). Requires dumbbells. High intensity training intervals designed to boost testosterone and metabolism while building and maintaining muscle mass. PDF only.

Prograde T30 (B.J. Gaddour): 4 weeks. 30 minutes per day. Three days per week (plus optional cardio days). Requires dumbbells. High intensity training intervals designed to boost testosterone and metabolism while building and maintaining muscle mass. Includes additional target “sizzlers” for various body parts. Some jumps required for cardio program. Follow-along DVD.

RUSHFIT (Georges St. Pierre): 12 weeks. 30 minutes per day. Three days per week (plus optional cardio days). Requires dumbbells. High intensity training intervals designed to boost testosterone and metabolism while building and maintaining muscle mass. Includes lots of jumping. Also has a great stretching routine. Follow-along DVD.

Adonis Golden Ratio (John Barban): 12 weeks per level. 3 levels (option to repeat levels if goals aren’t met). Four days per week. 60 minutes per day. Functional and athletic weight training exercises designed to maximize fat loss or muscle building, depending on which of the three protocols you’re following. The theory behind the system is on body shaping to achieve the “golden ratio” between shoulder and waist measurements, so muscle building is highly targeted. Requires weights as well as other gym equipment, but exercises can be adapted do them at home (for example, a Pull Down and Press Down, normally done with a cable machine, can be replaced with a dumbbell Pull Over and Triceps Extension). No jumping required. PDF and reference video. Website membership included.