Can you really build strength working out at home?

Yes. There is nothing magical about going to a gym. You can do calisthenics in a tiny room (so having a dedicated workout space isn’t an issue) and there are endless free resources online (so having money isn’t an issue) with various plans that will take you from no activity to a very high level of fitness. If you need specific equipment to get the muscle development you need, you’ll learn about that very quickly as you study, and then you can decide if you need to join a gym or buy some equipment.

I suggest getting some exercise at home, and only join a gym when you hit a point where you don’t feel you’re making any progress (or if you discover that you need the motivation of going to a gym to get you to exercise). I learned a lot from a writer named Mark Lauren, from his book You Are Your Own Gym, but there are many other trainers out there.

I think that working out at home has a lot of advantages. I don’t get embarrassed by having to display my saggy old-guy body in front of fit younger folks, I can take a shower afterward & change clothes without having to pack a gym bag and toiletries & drive somewhere. My house smells better than most gyms I’ve visited. It’s basically free. I have some sweatpants & shorts that I got at a discount store. No need to worry about looking out of style if no one can see you!

If you like online communities, I had good luck years ago comparing notes with other folks working out at home on a site called Fitocracy. They try to make fitness workouts be like a game, where you earn points. I think the site is still around.

I’ve disliked gyms since I was a kid, since I was the one in gym class who was always chosen last, and I’m also cheap, so the couple of times I’ve joined a gym as an adult, I’ve soon realized; hey, I can be doing push-ups at home, why am I paying to do it here?

Here’s a photo of my shoulders & back after working out at home for about six months (photo taken in the spring of 2015). Certainly not bulked up or ripped, but not bad for a guy in his mid-50s doing a few workout sessions a week.

Boredom and Awareness

I responded to this comment: “I feel like I need to try something different every day. I get bored easily when I do the same things all the time. How do I overcome this?

Pay attention to one boring thing each day. If possible, pay attention to the same thing each day.

Really pay attention.

Watch every single aspect of what you’re doing. Say you’re washing your cup and bowl after breakfast. Don’t try to pretend that washing your bowl is the most important thing you can do, or that washing your bowl has great meaning. Just pay attention to it. Look at the shape of the bowl and the cup. Someone had to design every single aspect of each of them. They may be beautiful in and of themselves, but perhaps their beauty has escaped you before, or you once noticed that they are beautiful (say: when you were purchasing them), but you’ve forgotten to notice lately. The water & the scrubbing pad or washcloth have temperature and texture. You are breathing. There is so much to be aware of during the two minutes it takes to do this one chore. The chore is part of your life, and your life is valuable, so this small space in the morning also has some value. By paying attention to it, you’re becoming aware of the value.

Maybe you will not see a change right away, but I can pretty much guarantee you that if you pay close attention to this one chore every day, your perceptions will change. Over years, you might even change, perhaps a lot, by learning to see the value in this one small span of time in your day.

What are 5 exercises I can do using the stairs in my house?

  1. Stretches.
    1. Example: Keep one foot flat on floor leg straight, put other foot on second or third step and slowly lean forward.
    2. Example: Keep one foot flat on the floor. Put the other foot on the second or third step, and slowly bend your knee. This will give the heel of the lower foot a gentle stretch. 
    3. Example: Stand on edge of bottom step on the ball of one foot: let your heel gradually lower until you have a good stretch in your tendon. Alternate feet.
  2. Heel lifts, with or without additional weight. Similar to 1.3 above, but you alternately lower and raise your heel, standing on your toes. Hang onto the railing to maintain balance.
  3. Jumps: Hop, both feet together, onto the bottom step. Hop back down. Do 3 sets of 12. Gradually build up to hopping onto higher and higher steps. You will probably want to hang onto the railing to maintain balance.
  4. Use the stairs as aides to change the angle on your push-ups. You can start with your feet on the floor, and your hands on one of the higher steps. As you build your strength, you can work down the steps, and eventually end up with your hands on the floor, and your feet on the steps. You then gradually move your feet to higher steps, which changes the muscles that you engage during your push-ups.
  5. Seated dips. Sit on the bottom step and put your palms flat on the second step. Push down, straightening your arms. Lower yourself slowly until you’re about to sit on the step again, then repeat. Build up gradually.