Home workouts: Tips for free, easy exercises to do outside the gym

Harley Pasternak leads a workout in Toronto on March 31, 2016. George Pimentel

You don’t need a gym membership to get in shape for spring and summer.

According to Google, searches for “home workouts” are actually on the rise across Canada. They’re highest in Alberta, Ontario and B.C. In fact, there are over 11 million videos on YouTube with “home workout” in the title.

So to help you out, we turned to one of the top fitness experts, trainer-to-the-stars Harley Pasternak for some advice on what’ll give you the biggest return.

Here are his four tips:

1. Use your environment

With the weather getting nicer, there’s a ton of free-to-use exercise “equipment” that people can take advantage of in their respective cities.

Public swimming pools are a great example — as are stairs and hills, Pasternak says.

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“If you’ve got a backpack, put some books in [it or] some water bottles,” he suggests. “I think that makes for great extra resistance when you go up stairs or when you walk. You can burn extra calories.”

You can also use park benches to tone up:

Home workouts to be weary of: While dips can be a good way to work triceps, Pasternak tries not to have his female clients do too many — he also steers them away from push-ups.

“It’s just not great posturally,” he explains. “It drags your shoulders forward.” This may cause upper back issues down the road.

2. Work your glutes and abs

Pasternak says to pick a different body part to focus on each time you work out.

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He recommends lunges and squats for the lower body. There are plenty of free 30-day challenges you can find online to keep you motivated.

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Planks, meanwhile, are one of his go-to exercises for tighter abs.

Here’s one of the most popular ab workout videos on YouTube:

Home workouts to be weary of: Sit-ups and crunches. Pasternak says they’re not worth your time.

Another one to avoid? Leg raises (that’s where you lie flat on the ground and raise your legs up in the air). This move can be really hard on your lower back and hip flexors, according to Pasternak.

3. Grab some hand weights

When it comes to effectively training the upper body, there aren’t a lot of things you can do without weights he says.

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The good news is that picking up a pair of hand or “free” weights online is relatively easy and cheap.

“You can get lucky sometimes [with] free shipping,” Pasternak says, “and you can also go on Craigslist and [find] garage sales.”

You don’t need a whole set, he adds. Start off with a pair and work your way up in weight as you get stronger.

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4. Push yourself to see progress

“I think progression is really important for your body to keep getting better and stronger,” Pasternak stresses.

So whether it’s adding more moves to your routine, increasing the weight you lift, reps you do or the distance you run or walk — you should keep challenging yourself.

One way some people monitor their progress is through personal fitness trackers. Pasternak is a spokesperson for Fitbit, which recently released two new models: the female-centric Fitbit Alta for the more fashion-conscious, and Fitbit Blaze, which offers on-screen workouts delivered by personal trainers.

For Pasternak, the biggest piece of advice is to just get started, one step at a time.

“Gauge how much you’re moving and then gradually add steps to it.”

Just be sure to read the instructions on how to properly use the tool, lest it interprets the steps you take and the calories you burn incorrectly.

WATCH: Pasternak’s advice on how to lose that pesky five pounds in five days.

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