Now is the time of year when you have to wait in line at your gym. If you're a genuine regular, you may be surprised by all the new faces you see among the usual gym rats.
It's no fun to have to go looking around for a pair of 30-pound dumbbells because some inconsiderate soul didn't have the manners to put back his or her weights.
If the seasonal crowding discomfits you, why not set up your own personal gym inside your home or apartment?
Dumbbells cost roughly a dollar a pound and can be kept neatly out of the way with a dumbbell rack. These racks can be found for under $25 at most big-box stores, along with dumbbells and weight plates.
One of the most valuable pieces of equipment you can own is a pull-up bar. These can also be found for less than $25. They install in a doorway with four inconspicuous screws on each side. The bar itself is almost unnoticeable and can be removed from its slots if desired. Before installing, be sure the threshold is made of wood that is sturdy enough to support your weight.
Install the pull-up bar high to allow room to lower your body as well as lift it up. If you are not able to lift your body weight in a pull-up, start training to accomplish this exercise by using a process called "negatives." This is a technique that creates rapid strength gains by doing only the eccentric part of an exercise (the easy part).
You don't start an eccentric pull-up from the floor. Instead, you use a step stool to grasp the bar in the "up" position, then slowly lower yourself. Eccentric movements can be done with almost any exercise. In an eccentric bench press, you would lie on a bench and have a spotter place a loaded bar into your upraised hands; you would then slowly lower it to your chest. Eccentric movements overload the muscles being used, and within a surprisingly short time of repetitive workouts, you will be able to perform the concentric (hard part of the exercise). A folding step stool that supports 250 pounds can be found for just under $10 at big-box stores or on Amazon.
Your workouts don't have to be confined to your gym or your home. If you work in a cubicle or have a desk with a privacy panel in front, you can build strength and muscularity in your quadriceps, at the front of the thighs, by doing leg extensions. Buy a pair of weight-adjustable ankle weights that start at 20 pounds each. Remove half of the small cast iron or steel weights in the pockets so that each ankle weight is only 10 pounds. With the weights around each ankle, sit up straight without leaning against the back of your chair. Lift each foot until the leg is straight, then slowly lower it. Do this 10 times on each leg for a beginning set, to be performed on alternate days. After five such workouts, add one of the iron bars back to each ankle weight. Continue until all the bars are replaced.
It's necessary to equalize a quad workout with a hamstring workout to stabilize the thigh. Work the hamstrings by wearing the ankle weights again adjusted to 10 pounds. Put one leg forward, then slowly pull it as far back as possible. Do the same with the other leg, adjusting the weight with another bar after every 10 alternate-day workouts.
By the time spring rolls around, you may have added five to 10 pounds of muscle to your physique and burned a fair quantity of stored fat.
One last piece of advice: When summer comes, buy a smaller bathing suit. You'll need one.