The Mini Office Gym

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So you like the idea of microbreaks and microworkouts, and you’ve got some pretty hard office workouts going, but you want to bump it up a bit more with some weights and other toys? Well, with a bit of equipment, you can add some additional exercises and with this stuff, you’re actually on your way to some fairly complete workouts.

  • Pull-up bar. After years of rock climbing, I can do these on a door jamb, but it’s better to get a bar that goes in a doorway and then you can do sets of pull-ups or just hang and stretch. This might be a hard sell in many workplaces. I have one that bolts into the door, but you’ll need permission for that. But there is a totally non-destructive chin-up bar that you can get now which is a little pricier, but can go pretty much anywhere. Also, a friend has one that does require bolting into the door but allows you to do a wider variety of exercises, including one that’s sort of like rows.
  • Adjustable Dumbells. Now we’re getting serious. I have a set that adjusts in five-pound increments from 5 to 45 pounds per dumbell. You can get add-ons that take it up to 60 pounds per dumbell. This opens up many possibilities
    • curls.
    • military press.
    • shoulder flys.
    • bent-over rows.
    • one-legged squats with weights.

    Adjustable dumbells really bring your micro-workout to the next level. There are several brands (Nautilus, Golds, Bowflex), but Powerblock is the best. Every other brand is set up so that if the dumbells are not in a stand and you pick them up, the plates that are not being used fall all over. PowerBlocks are square and will stay put even in the trunk of your car. Finally, Powerblocks have the simplest, most robust adjustment mechanism (just a pin that fits in a hole) so they’re virtually indestructible.

    Powerblocks do not seem as common as the other brands, so you may have to shop around. All I can say is I’ve tested every brand I could find (about five brands) and they are far superior in my opinion, so it’s worth it to hold out for Powerblocks even if they are a bit hard to find. Unfortunately, because they weigh 45 pounds each for the basic model and you need to order them by the pair, it is prohibitively expensive to buy them by mail unless price is no object (in which case, feel free to send money to my Paypal account).

  • Stability Ball. You can get these big inflatable balls everywhere from Amazon.com to your local Target. Some are tougher than others, but they all work. This opens up a lot of possibilities for enhanced versions of other exercises. Front planks done on a stability ball, for example, bring more muscles into play as you fight to keep balance. If you have PowerBlocks, you can also use the ball to do bench press. Pushups done with your feet on the ball are harder too.
  • Therabands. Therabands are those long flat strips of rubber that you can hold under foot and use for shoulder flys, curls, and many other exercises. They’re one of the least conspicuous workout tools you can add to your office gym.

Of course, if you have the misfortune to have Formal Fridays or certain days when heaving Powerblocks around just won’t do, you can always try the quiet office exercises on the next page.

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