I am no stranger to working out at home. Quite honestly, I encourage it so long as you use proper form.
During my days spent as a gym-rat, I went primarily to judge other people for motivation. Seeing other people at the gym pushed me to go for the extra mile, rep, etc. No one wants to look like a big pansy in such a public forum.
However, once I couldn’t get into my gym for free anymore (graduating from college means no more free gym access, what?) I turned to online alternatives. I figured there had to be something out there to motivate me. I also wanted to move beyond the treadmill.
Based on my experiences, I’ve ranked these various sites and programs from a beginner’s perspective and how useful they were to me when I was just starting out.
I think if I had found these sites and programs in the proper order I would have been able to utilize them to their best potential, but as such there was a lot of trial and error involved. C’est la vie.
Something else that I cannot stress enough is proper nutrition, pre- and post-workout. Proper supplementation is key if you are looking to seriously build muscle or blast fat.
I personally make a protein shake after strength training workouts. I’ve also recently dabbled in a beta alanine + citrulline malate combo to be able to worker harder and longer during my workouts while reducing muscle fatigue so I don’t wimp out during my last set.
Bodybuilding.com was the first website I came across when looking for workout ideas. At the time I was still delusional enough to think I knew anything about fitness and putting together a solid routine.
I expected neatly packaged, easy to follow plans. What I got was an onslaught of every possible exercise ever created paralleled by completely insane workout programs that I stood next to no chance of being able to do.
I floundered and was at a loss for where to begin, how to pair one exercise with another, and I swiftly went from motivated at-home fit-girl to couch potato.
Now that I know what I’m doing, this site is great for finding new exercises to add to my routine as well as learning proper form. As a beginner, it intimadated me into non-action.
I came across BodyRock.tv a couple of years ago after surfing YouTube for some workout inspiration. What I found was a super fit woman named Zuzana doing absolutely insane workouts.
I was intimidated a first, but the routines were easy to follow, pre-packaged, and rarely required equipment (which I had none of at the time).
The workouts ranged from HIIT to tabata to rep challenges. The site boasted fitness in under 12 minutes a day, but I found just because Zuzana could do the workouts in 12 minutes, did not mean I could.
While I don’t agree doing just one of BodyRock’s workouts per day will get you ripped, pairing them together could definitely get a person started toward that goal.
Unfortunately, BodyRock swiftly unraveled. Zuzana and her husband divorced and a new face to BodyRock was brought on board. Shortly after, the message changed from fitness to thinspo and vanity.
A sister site to BodyRock, the DailyHiit, was born, and, while the workouts are still free, they require an intense amount of expensive equipment; more often than not, if you don’t have the equipment, you aren’t going to be able to do the workout.
There is still raging debate amongst the hard core of BodyRock/DailyHiit and Zuzana fans, much of which detracts from the focus and goal of these sites. I found myself visiting their forums for the drama rather than the workouts, so I decided it was time to move on.
I had also stopped seeing results from such short workouts and I didn’t understand how to move beyond the plateau. However, I do still visit BodyRock’s archives for the mostly body-weight based workouts when I’m looking to up the intensity of or add on to my workout for the day.
Zuzana went on to develop her own brand with ZuzkaLight.com, which was also free to access at first, but now much of her content requires a membership.
A large chunk of her original workouts (74 in all) are still accessible at no cost, however, and much of it requires little to no equipment. She also gives great nutrition tips and provides healthy recipes for her followers. She also has plenty of routines for beginners.
Her workouts tend to be short (around 20 minutes) and HIIT-based. These routines are great for those who do not have a lot of time or are looking for a little something extra to tack on to their current workout regimen.
However, after awhile, as with BodyRock, I hit a plateau as her workout style was similar, albeit slightly longer. I moved on in search of something else to help me reach my fitness goals.
I got into the BeachBody program around the same time as the rest of the internet. It was ragingly popular (and stupid expensive), but it claimed to produce some impressive results. I decided to give it a shot and, after some searching, got my hands on a new copy for a killer deal.
Insanity was unlike any other workout regimen I had ever done. There were times I felt I was going to die – on my hands and knees, gasping for air, going to die – and that was just from the warm up.
After a couple of weeks my body got used to such long workouts (jumping from 12-20 minutes to 40-60 minutes was a gut-check). I also highly enjoyed the nutrition guide that came with it.
I didn’t follow it strictly as I have dietary restrictions that made it impossible to do so, but it gave me tons of ideas. I repeated the program 2.5X before I got bored and decided I wanted something else.
My primary beef with Insanity in retrospect is the lack of strength training. Almost every single workout contains the word cardio: Plyometric Cardio Circuit, Cardio Power and Resistance, Cardio Recovery, Pure Cardio, Cardio Abs; the list goes on.
I would sweat like crazy and get my heart rate up, but I wasn’t seeing the results I wanted. I felt fit, but I didn’t look it.
Of course I lost some weight, but it was nothing to write home about—my results were nothing like those I saw in the infomercials or on the web. At this point, I still didn’t understand how weight loss truly worked.
Insanity targets people like the woman I used to be: an individual looking to get in shape and utterly clueless as to how fitness actually works. Cardio all the time will not produce results for very long and will leave you stuck in the land of skinny-fat.
That being said, if you are at fitness level -300, Insanity can get you up to speed. It will definitely set you up for future success and get your body used to working out again.
Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed Insanity immensely and I think it’s a great program; I also think it needs to incorporate weights. P90X was a logical progression for me.
Like other BeachBody programs, P90X came with a workout calendar and a nutrition book with great recipe ideas and tips. The workouts are longer (all being about an hour or so), but I found myself enjoying them more.
My body transformation was dramatic: I shed 14 lbs, went from 26% body fat to 17-18%, dropped 2 dress sizes, and I felt phenomenal. I started the program completely incapable of pull ups, but that didn’t matter as there were modifications to get my through the workouts.
There was not a single exercise that I couldn’t do so long as a modified when needed. By the last few weeks of the program, I didn’t need to modify anymore.
This was another appeal of P90X to me—the recognition that not everyone is at the same fitness level and may need to adjust the movement.
Insanity tried to incorporate this to a degree by setting a timeframe rather than a repetition number to meet, but there were some segments I simply could not complete at first (this changed over time).
P90X may be more expensive than some other alternatives, but of these workout regimens and sites listed (all of which I have used at one time or another) I saw the best results with P90X, gained invaluable nutrition knowledge, and have kept off the weight for five months without any setbacks.
So What Do You Do Now?
I still frequent all of the above sites and I will fire up an old favorite routine of the BeachBody programs when I’m at a loss for a WOD; however, now I do a lot of crossfit.
I’ve created some crossfit workouts which you can access here. Many of them are geared toward beginners, others are a little more intense. I set them up this way because I remember what it was like feeling lost in a sea of options that were way above my fitness level.
They all also come with pre-workout or weight loss supplement suggestions for those who are unsure where to start.
Have any of you ever visited the above sites or tried the programs? What is your favorite site to check for workout ideas and inspiration?