Updated: Oct 9, 2020
So...for one reason or another, you have decided that now is the time to take charge of your health but...you don't have a home gym and going to a big box chain just isn't in the cards in the near future.
Could be COVID...could be you're self conscious about your body and abilities...could be that you don't have a gym in your part of town. Whatever the reason is, there is a way to get to your goals without a home gym and I'm going to lay some info on ya right now 'bout it!
Body-weight training is a stellar way to "tone up" aka increase your muscle mass (muscle burns more calories at rest than fat does) however, it also can be very difficult to navigate if you are a newbie. Basically, you're not strong enough to move your own body-weight for certain exercises (which is totally ok). For things like push ups, squats, sit-ups or pull-ups - work on training the eccentric or negative portion of the movement to build strength in the interim. What does that mean? That means working the muscle in the lowering part of the movement. For push ups it would be a slow lower down until your chest meets the floor and resetting to the top position however you need to . It could be pushing back up or coming to your knees first to come back up. Squats is a slow lower towards the ground or chair (if you have knee issues), sit-ups is from the "up" position, a slow lower to the ground until your shoulder blades touch (preferably without your feet anchored so we don't leverage the movement with our quads) and last, pull-ups. The goal here would be to get to the bar with your chest (by jumping, with a chair, using a band, etc.), then slowly lower until both arms are fully extended.
But say you have some weights at home already like dumbbells or kettle-bells that you'd like to use for your workouts but they're either too light or too heavy for what you want to use them for and it's not that you don't have a home gym, but you don't want one either. One way to make the best use out of those lighter weights it to double up on the weights for the exercise so you are holding two in the same hand or double time the reps of the movement to really get in there and fatigue the muscle. To make the best use of the heavier weights you can split the weight by holding one weight with both hands or instead of doing say, for example, bicep curls with both arms at the same time - with a heavier weight, try doing the exercise with one arm at a time. This let's you focus your energy into that muscle so that you can eventually work up to full weight with both arms.
Another common piece of equipment for at home workouts is resistance bands. They are great, not only because they don't take up much space and are super portable but because they work your muscles in both the eccentric and concentric (think push/pull) just like these compound movements do (push-ups, squats, sit-ups, pull-ups). Resistance bands are also very easy to scale - more slack makes it easier, less slack in the band makes the exercise more difficult.
So if you are thinking about getting started, think about these options I mentioned above. If you are looking to really make some progress, each time you have your workout record you should your metrics for each exercise - how long the workout took you, the weights you used for how many reps and maybe even how you felt going into the workout and leaving it. This information is not only helpful to minimize injury from over-training but also keep your body challenged so you can continue to work towards your goals.