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I'd like to start doing workouts with the goal of becoming stronger, building endurance, and being more fit in general.(Also, I don't currently need to worry about losing weight, 5'6" 125 lbs.) Why these goals? To feel better about myself and for the lady ;)... I'm not really into getting "big" - I'd rather the physical exercise I do give me strength I could use day-to-day.

Unfortunately, the biggest challenge I have is my lack of knowledge, followed by a lack of equipment. It isn't very practical for me to go to the gym (it is too far away for me to actually do it consistently)

What exercises should I be doing at home to become stronger and build endurance?
Also, what stretching exercises should I be doing to avoid injuries?

So far, I've pretty much just been doing sporadic push-ups, sit-ups, jumping jacks - I'm trying to come up with a routine I can do 5 days a week. The only equipment I have at the moment are a set of 10lb. dumbbells

(Just to point out how little I know - I just learned what "squats" are, so please explain everything as well as possible) Maybe not necessarily how to do the exercises, I can look that up, but make sure I understand what muscles certain exercises should help me with and any other little tips I probably wouldn't know.

  • And I want to get better at tennis without going to the tennis court. If you want to get stronger you are going to need to lift heavy things most likely in the gym. – pufferfish Dec 19 '14 at 18:28
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    @TimothyPuffer I would advise you to set up a room (or, outside against a garage or something) where you are able to practice vs yourself by hitting the ball against a wall. Obviously, it won't be as good as going to the tennis court, but its better than not practicing at all... Just trying to make the best of my circumstances. – DoubleDouble Dec 19 '14 at 18:32
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Hi DoubleDouble,

There's this general myth (usually by people who spend countless hours at the gym) that one needs to visit a gym in order to exercise effectively.

While going to the gym is a good idea, it's not a must. It works effectively for some people and not for others. Many people have gotten stronger without stepping into a gym. It seems that it wouldn't work for you; so, no need going to the gym.

First, none of your current exercises (apart from push up) listed above will provide you the strength you desire; they'll help you burn fat and probably tone up your body, which isn't your goal. Your 10-pound dumbbells won't either (I'm presuming you're an adult male).

What Do You Need?

I'll put what you need into 3 categories:

  • Body-weight exercises
  • Strength Training
  • Intense cardio

Body-weight Exercises

These are exercises that traditionally rely on your body's weight and not on external weights. Most of these exercises have the added advantage of not requiring much equipment. Also, these exercises can be performed multiple times daily without over-training the muscles. The key to getting strong with bodyweight exercises is increasing the repetitions and/or finding ways to make them more challenging. While there are many of them, you want to start with

  • Push ups: In my opinion, you can't be fit without being able to perform at least 30 repetitions in one session. Also, this exercise is very convenient as you can perform it anywhere and without any equipment. (BTW, it's one of the fitness requirements in the military :)) If you can knock out 30 everyday (and increase the repetition as you get stronger), you'll begin to feel stronger/fit. While there are variations of this exercise, starting with the basic shoulder-width push up is recommended.
  • Pull ups (or chin ups): You'll need an equipment for this; here's a simple equipment that you can place on most door frames
    Pull up bar
    You're basically lifting your body weight. You can't perform this exercise with good form periodically without becoming stronger. Just start with a single repetition and increase the repetitions as you become stronger.
  • Dips:
    Dip machine
    An equipment is recommended for this exercise; you can also use any makeshift equipment such as opposing counter tops. Lastly, it can be performed on a chair; however, it won't be as effective as an equipment that allows you to lift your entire body off the ground.
  • Other exercises such as burpees, crunches, lunges, and bodyweight squats will make your body more fit; you'll feel more agile and quick. There are more bodyweight exercises and you can mix and match as you desire.

Strength Training

While body weight exercises will make you stronger and fitter than you've ever been, at some point, you'll feel there's a cap to your strength. For example, while you might be able to lift yourself, you might find out you aren't strong enough to lift another adult. Also, most bodyweight exercises will give you a toned, lean, muscular and more defined version of yourself.

If you want the ripped outlook (bigger biceps, triceps, chests, legs, etc) along with the strength of Superman, you'll have to upgrade to Strength Training. Yup, weightlifting.

Again, you don't need to visit the gym for this; however, you'll need to make a home gym. All you need is a small space and some equipment (if you have an uncluttered garage, that would be perfect; if not, if you can carve out some 20ft X 20ft space, that should work as well).

For strength, you would want to perform at least these 4 exercises:

  • Deadlifts with an Olympic barbell
  • Back Squats with an Olympic barbell
  • Bench Press with an Olympic barbell
  • Overhead Press with an Olympic barbell

For routines to follow, I will suggest you check out these two programs:

If you follow either of those programs properly, you will grow stronger and fitter.

Those programs don't come with much equipment. Usually, all you need include:

  • One Olympic-size barbell
  • A bench for bench pressing
  • One lifting rack (for squats and overhead press); there are variations based on price and efficiency.
  • Weights (discs); this is probably the only equipment that you might periodically need to purchase (as you grow stronger, you'll need discs with higher weights)

Cardio

Cardio isn't needed to get stronger; however, it's highly recommended. Sprinting, running, biking, skipping, etc. are examples of exercises that can keep you fit and increase your endurance. Except for perhaps a treadmill or stationary bike, these don't require equipment. You can also forgo those equipment and run/bike outside.

Also worth noting is that as you're consistent with these exercises, you'll grow stronger. None of these will happen overnight. But when they do, you'll be glad you started them.

Now, head over to Simply Shredded and get some motivation for getting strong :).

Good luck!

  • I'm surprised you omitted dumbbells / kettlebells from your answer. In the context of a home gym dumbbells take up less space, are exponentially cheaper, and can be used in apartments much more freely. Additionally, while I'm all for barbell routines and strength training (it is what I do), I feel like you mischaracterized it as a way to get huge when the primary focus is on building strength. – Moses Dec 24 '14 at 5:04
  • Yeah, I realized that I omitted dumbbells and kettlebells. Personally, I wouldn't start with dumbbells for strength purposes; however, I reasoned that the OP will naturally obtain dumbbells as his training progresses. By huge, I meant as compared to bodyweight training. The OP indicated he isn't interested in bulking up. I'm pretty sure I skipped a few more exercises too. Thanks for noticing that :). – Kneel-Before-ZOD Dec 24 '14 at 5:14
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Ok, day-to-day strength. What you want, or rather, what you want to avoid, is the kind of exercise some people do to look strong, i.e. workout arms, abs and chest. There's nothing wrong with strong arms, but strong arms don't do much good without a good back.

No matter what workout you do, even if it's rather light, I'd recommend not doing it two days in a row, so either split your workout or do it 3.5 days/week. What you could do is alternate between stamina and strength, i.e. run mondays, workout strength tuesdays, and so on.

Here's a workout for strength, without gym equipment:

  • Squats/squats with a heavy backpack/pistol squats (one leg, google it): Legs, ass and hips
  • Pullups/weighted pullups, there's almost always something you can grab to do pullups: Biceps and upper back
  • Pushups/pushups with something on your back: Triceps and chest.
  • Planks, either just planks or include side planks: Lower back, abs
  • Press, find something heavy (15+kg) and lift it above your head: shoulders and triceps

Do these five for 3 sets of 10 or 5 sets of 5 (it's important to not do too many reps if you're looking for strength) or for as long as you can, every other day and you will get stronger. It's absolutely not necessary to have access to a gym to get stronger. You can easily get better results with this if you are consistent focused and a bit creative in challenging yourself, than someone who goes to the gym 2 times a week and mostly dicks around.

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