My Favorite Cheap Fitness Items for an Amazing Workout

For a lot of people, constantly chasing the next workout equipment fad turns into an obstacle instead of a solution. It makes exercise seem like a luxury instead of an essential part of your life. Fewer than 25% of people in the U.S. do cardio and strength training every week.

State-of-the-art exercise equipment can be awesome for burning calories, but you don’t need it to enjoy an amazing workout. Here are my favorite fitness items for any budget.

1. Jump Ropes (Weighted and Regular)

A trusty jump rope can quickly become your best friend for working out on the go. This inexpensive piece of gear has the power to strengthen your glutes, core muscles, legs, shoulders and arms. It gives you a full-body workout with huge cardio benefits.

The speed is entirely up to you. You can take it slow as a warmup to other exercises. When you’re doing upper body strength training, tossing in jumps is a great way to increase your heart rate for maximum fat burning.

Weighted ropes help you exercise your arms even more. On the other hand, lightweight jump ropes are easier to handle for side-to-side and backward jumps. Both types often cost under $10.

2. Battle Ropes

These thick ropes are a lot of fun for getting rid of stress, and they give you a bigger workout than you may think. Battle ropes are huge cords that you move up and down while performing other exercises.

If you want to save even more money, you can go the do-it-yourself route with these bad girls. Walk into the hardware store and ask for 50 feet of 1.5- or 2-inch manila rope or nylon cord. Wrap duct tape around the ends.

For your workout, head to your backyard and wrap the rope around a tree so you have two equal lengths. From there, you’re ready to do unilateral waves, bilateral waves and reversing circles.

3. Wearable Weights

Ankle weights and wrist weights can increase the burn from easy exercises. You can do leg lifts with ankle weights to strengthen your calf muscles and see better results.

For many people, wearable weights are more comfortable than gripping free weights, and they’re safer than swinging a kettlebell around. Using 1- to 3-pound weights can increase your calorie-burning significantly.

If you’re going for a relaxing walk, you can increase the heart benefits by strapping on some arm or leg weights. You shouldn’t use ankle weights for jogging or speed walking, though.

4. Resistance Bands

Another great way to do strength training without investing a lot of money is with a set of resistance bands. These elastic bands come in different pull strengths and sizes. The list of possible exercises is pretty huge:

  • Front and side taps
  • Leg lifts and thigh lifts
  • Squats
  • Lateral leg stretches
  • Triceps stretches
  • Biceps curls
  • Shoulder raises
  • Abdominal crisscrosses with foot band

It doesn’t cost much to have a range of resistance bands for exercises focused on building muscle. They can help you improve your balance and keep your body flexible.

The truth is that cheap fitness gear can give you a workout that's just as intense and effective. Plus, it requires less space and is fast and easy to use.

4 Everyday Chores That Work Your Core

Whether you’re a parent and primary caretaker of your home, a busy professional or a carefree singleton in the prime of his or her life, you may struggle to find time for a legitimate workout, much less develop an exercise routine. If this is the case, fret not, as you can still work that core and achieve a physique of which you can be proud. How? You may wonder. Simply by doing what you do — maintaining your home and the other things you own.

The household chores you do every day — and even those you do infrequently, such as painting or dusting the fans — works your core just as effectively as an abs day at the gym. So, which chores are more effective than others? The answers may surprise you.

Vacuuming

Vacuuming doesn’t just bust the dust — it also busts the gut. In all seriousness though, pushing a vacuum around works the triceps and extends the lateral muscles, especially if you use an older model. The chore is extra effective if you go all out and move around furniture while you’re at it.

You can make the most of this daily or weekly chore by treating vacuuming as you would any other workout and using proper “gym technique.” Squat when plugging in and unplugging the appliance, push with your legs when moving furniture and hold your abs tight as you sweep away.

Raking Leaves

If you’ve ever raked leaves or mowed grass before, you know just how effective of a “workout” this chore is. Like vacuuming, raking works the arms and abdominal muscles. It also works the legs, back and buttock muscles as well. Raking, all around, is a great workout.

You can get extra points by bagging the leaves and hauling the load to the curb. However, be smart in your technique and seek help from a spouse, neighbor, child or friend. Claiming to have thrown out your back hauling leaves is slightly more embarrassing than saying you threw it out on leg day.

Painting

Painting just doesn’t just work your core; it works your whole body. Painting requires you to squat, stretch, press and rotate parts of your body in ways you don’t rotate them in everyday life. It’s because of its impressive benefits that Mr. Miyagi used fence painting as a form of discipline for Daniel LaRusso in The Karate Kid. If a paint project ever presents itself, no matter how small, volunteer yourself to lend a helping hand.

Power Washing

Like leaf raking, if you’ve ever power washed anything, you know just how effective it is as a workout. Power washing forces you to control a hose that has a steady 2,400 PSI of water pulsing through it. Moreover, it requires overhead lifting, rotational movement and squatting, all of which work not just your abs but also, your whole body.

To make the most of your power washing endeavors, plan to spend a whole day doing it. This is not necessary to reap the most benefits but to ensure you don’t strain any muscles in the process (that’s how effective power washing is).

You don’t need a gym membership or even hours of free time to work your core. All you need is the motivation to do what you already do, and that is to maintain your home and property.

How To Tell if You’re Doing an Exercise Incorrectly

Have you ever tried a new workout and ended up in pain for a few days with a pulled muscle or some other type of unexpected injury? Don’t worry, I’ve been there, too. It can be fun to try new workouts (hello, AcroYoga!) but if you don’t take extra care to ensure you’re performing the exercises properly, you can easily hurt your body.

To help you avoid injuries in the future, here are my top tips for recognizing when you’re doing an exercise incorrectly. (You’re welcome).

You Experience Pain

You know the old saying, “Pain is gain”? Well … that isn’t always the case. It’s normal to feel some physical discomfort when you exercise, but you shouldn’t feel pain. The minute your body sends pain signals your way is the minute you need to stop what you’re doing and analyze your form.

When I mention pain, I mean during the exercise itself, not afterward. Unfortunately, it’s almost impossible to avoid the muscle pain that inevitably develops after a good workout. But if you’re doing squats and your knees are screaming at you, there’s no reason to be a tough guy or gal and keep punishing them. Pushing through intense pain can cause long-lasting damage to your joints and soft tissues.

So the next time you feel like your shoulder is going to burst out of its socket while you’re doing lateral arm raises, stop what you’re doing. Your body is trying to tell you it can’t complete that motion right now. You might try other exercises that target the shoulder muscles or simply give your shoulders a break until they feel better.

You Feel Sore for Days After a Workout

Some muscle soreness is normal after a good workout and can be an indication that your workouts are delivering results. But if you’re sore for days after your sweat session, you’re probably working too hard and taxing your body too much.

Muscle soreness happens as a result of tearing your muscles down. The muscles then repair themselves (which is why getting sufficient rest after a workout is important). Don’t worry, the muscle tear-down process is normal and is the primary way to get stronger, more defined muscles.

While some muscle damage from a workout is normal and even desirable, you don’t want to tear your muscles down too much. If you’re feeling sore for days at a time after your workouts, you’re most likely tearing your muscles down more than you should. Try to cut back a little on your workout intensity until the soreness becomes less pronounced and long-lasting.

You’re Dreading Your Workout Sessions

Working out should feel good (even though it pushes your body outside of its comfort zone). Exercise releases endorphins and increases oxygen delivery to your body’s various tissues. Though it’s normal to feel a little bit lazy when your scheduled workout rolls around, it’s not normal to dread your workout sessions.

If you’re feeling anxious about working out, you’re probably pushing yourself too hard. At the end of a good workout, you should feel energized and accomplished, not exhausted and depressed. To bring the fun back into your workouts, go gentle on your body and don’t push it too hard. You can also make your sweat sessions more fun by inviting a friend to work out with you.

Make Your Workouts Enjoyable

You can’t enjoy a workout if you’re doing the exercises wrong, trust me. If you leave the gym feeling like you’ve just been beaten up, you’re most likely doing at least one of your exercises with improper form or too much intensity. Listen to your body and learn how to recognize the common indications that you’re doing an exercise wrong. Then stop the exercise or take the time to learn how to get your form right before you continue.