How to Build a Home Gym (Using Household Objects)

These LEGOs aren't six feet apart though.

So you’ve decided to build a home gym? That’s great! 

We’ve been helping people train from home for the past 12 years, and today we’ll share with you our top 16 ideas for building a gym in your garage (or apartment).

We’ve already covered how to stay in shape while staying inside, so today we’re tackling how to create your own home-gym space! 

Oh, and if you’re wondering what to do with all this home gym equipment, we have guides that will show you step by step.

Here’s what we’ll cover in our guide, How to Build a Home Gym:

As you might be able to tell, we’re going to start with things you might have around your house. We’ll level up all the way to a legit home gym setup that you could charge a membership fee for. 

5 Travel Workouts: The Ultimate Guide To Get In Shape While Traveling

This LEGO knows all about staying in shape while he travels.

Ever said, “I’d love to get in shape, but I travel too much?”

If so, this guide is for you!

Today we’re gonna teach you exactly how to get fit no matter what type of business trip you’re on.

We’ll cover:

It’s time to get you a specific action plan that you can take with you on your next trip.

This is the philosophy we teach to all of our 1-on-1 Online Coaching Clients. Many travel quite a bit, so having “worldwide accountability” and a specific plan for travel has been a game-changer for these Rebels.

Are you trying to learn a new exercise, lose weight, or build muscle, but find doing it on the road a challenge? Let us help you – click below to learn more.

What is the CICO (Calories In, Calories Out) Diet? How to Count Calories for Weight Loss

Yeah, it can be confusing when you don't understand CICO.

It’s time to learn about The CICO (“calories in, calories out”) Diet!

You probably have questions like

Steve, does CICO work? 

Will counting calories help me lose weight?

Okay, what the hell IS a calorie?

Well my friend, you’ve arrived at the right place!

I’ve been writing about this stuff for 12 years, and our team of coaches help their Online Coaching clients with all types of diets (including CICO). We are really flippin’ good at it!

Here’s what we’ll cover to answer the question: “What is CICO?”

It’s time to get started!

What Is the CICO Diet plan?

I guess this is kind of CICO, in a way

“CICO” stands for “Calories In, Calories Out.”

The CICO Diet is a weight-loss strategy where the participant tries to tip the balance of what they eat (calories in) against what they burn (calories out).

That’s pretty much it.

It doesn’t really matter what food you eat, because there are no restrictions on any specific food groups with CICO. 

It also doesn’t matter what exercise you do (if any).

As long as you get the equation right, and the calories you eat are lower than the calories you burn on a daily basis, you’re good to go.

Naturally, Barney would like CICO, because it doesn't forbid beer.

The CICO Diet is really simple and has helped quite a few people lose weight

This is likely why the CICO Diet has grown in popularity in the subreddit r/loseit

Is Losing Weight Really About Calories?

One way to lose weight is to be eaten, but I wouldn't recommend it.

Yes. Losing weight actually does come down to burning more calories than you consume.

It’s about as close to fact as we can get in nutrition science.[1]

As we address in our guide How to Lose Weight (The 5 Rules of Weight Loss), our bodies obey the Laws of Conservation of Energy and Thermodynamics: 

To lose weight, we need to burn more calories than we consume regularly. 

With this knowledge, it makes sense to design a diet specifically around this principle: match the calories you eat (in), with the calories you expend (out).

No other food rules need to apply:

As long as you meet your calorie goal, you can forget about the rules of any specific diet.

I can see why CICO might appeal to the Joker...

This appeals to me personally, because I’ve created my own guidelines for how to eat, and I don’t pledge allegiance to any particular dieting strategy.

Because I’m a mind-reader, I know your next question is likely…

Does Calorie Counting Work? (CICO and Weight Loss)

You can totally eat Dim Sum on CICO!

In principle, CICO works.

In practice, it becomes a little more complicated. 

Okay, fine, A LOT more complicated.

That’s because a lot of things influence “calories in.” 

Ditto for “calories out.”

Let’s break some of this down.

Here are some of the things that impact “Calories In:”

  • Appetite: how hungry we are is going to drastically affect how many calories we consume. Hormones, our body composition, and tastes and preferences will all impact our appetite.[2] 
  • Calories absorbed: the preparation of food will affect the bioavailability of calories. For example, cooking starches (like potatoes) generally increases the calories available.[3] Your own individual gut microbe can also influence the amount of energy extracted during digestion.[4] So will the macronutrient content of the food you eat.
  • Psychological considerations: your stress levels, sleep quality, and certain conditions like PCOS can all impact the regulation of hormones, which can influence your metabolism and appetite.[5]

Oh, and all of the above assumes we’re actually tracking calories accurately. Which pretty much nobody does. Ever. But I’ll get to that shortly. 

And remember, this is only half of the equation.

I'll be honest, I don't really know what's going on here...

Here are some of the things that impact “Calories Out:”

  • Energy burned while resting: your Basal Metabolic Rate is a count of how many calories you burn at rest and will be controlled by your age, weight, height, biological sex, muscle composition, etc. 
  • Energy burned through Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT): do you fidget a lot? That increases your NEAT, or the energy you burn doing stuff other than exercising. Think tapping your feet, twirling your hair, using your hands when speaking, etc. Even just an hour of this kind of movement can accumulate an extra 300 calories burned.[6]
  • Exercise: of course, how much you intentionally exercise will impact your calories out, although perhaps not as much as most people think (more on this later).

This is only scratching the surface on what determines “calories in, calories out.”[7]

The important thing to consider here is that none of the above invalidate the basic premise of an energy deficit being necessary for weight loss. 

These factors will just influence one end of the equation or the other. 

For example, let’s chat about protein and CICO:

  • Eating plenty of protein has been shown to help keep people feeling full and satiated.[8] So lots of protein can help folks lose weight, not because it changes the requirements for weight loss, but because it might allow them to get through the day less hungry (lowering their “calories in.”)
  • Adequate dietary protein can help with building and maintaining muscle.[9] The more muscle someone has, the more calories they’ll need to maintain it (raising their “calories out.”)[10]

Read our guide “How much protein should I eat?” for more on this subject.

To recap this section: from a biological perspective, eating fewer calories than you burn is 100% necessary for weight loss. 

But all sorts of things impact the amount of calories we eat and the amount of calories we expend. 

This is going to lead us to….

The Problem With CICO (Humans Are Bad Estimators)

Yeah, humans (or LEGOs) aren't good at estimating calories.

The majority of the problems people have with CICO is that it allows nutrient-deficient food to enter the diet, only limiting “how much.”

They’ll argue that people should be eating fruits and vegetables, lean protein, avoiding processed foods, and blah blah blah… 

We all know this. 

You don’t need someone else telling you to eat your veggies.

Eating veggies for health is a no-brainer.

This isn’t the problem with CICO. 

The problem with CICO is it’s really hard to estimate “calories in” and “calories out.”

Like, REALLY hard. We humans are TERRIBLE at it. 

Take “calories in” or how much we eat: people generally UNDERestimate how many calories they consume by about 30-40%.[11] Even dieticians, who are specifically trained in nutrition science, underestimated how much they eat.[12]

Millhouse is probably just realizing the issue with CICO

“That may be true Steve, but don’t worry about me. I read the label on everything I buy so I know exactly how many calories I’m eating.”

Well, are you aware that the FDA allows a 20% leeway on total calories identified on packages?[13] Meaning that 100 calorie drink of Orange Juice might actually be 120?

If you’re a food manufacturer, which way are you going to lean towards? Especially when you know people might scrutinize the calories of your nutrition label in an effort to lose weight.

This isn’t just paranoia: this study found that packaged snack food generally contains MORE calories in it than advertised.[14]

Yeah…and remember, this is only half of the equation. 

It’s about to get even worse.

People are also really bad at estimating “calories out.” 

When folks self-assess how many calories they burned by exercising, they’re generally WAY OFF, by as much as 50%![15]

Oh, and those fitness trackers we wear? They’ve been shown to be inaccurate, some by up to 90%![16]

That’s why we made this infographic on tracking “calories out”:

This infographic shows calorie discrepancies from fitness trackers compared to actual calories burned.

This is the main problem with CICO: we’re stuck with educated guesses for “calories in” and “calories out.”

So we underestimate the calories we eat by 40%. And then we overestimate how many calories we burn by 50%.

No WONDER we think our metabolism is broken if we can’t lose weight!

The truth is we’re unknowingly eating too much, and/or moving too little.

Ugh.

Heck, even how many calories you need a day (your baseline or Total Daily Energy Expenditure) is an estimate, something we acknowledge in our calorie calculator, which you can play with right here:

THE NERD FITNESS CALORIE CALCULATOR

Total Daily Energy Expenditure Calculator
Male/Female
Use age in years.
Use pounds (lbs). If using metric system, multiple kg times 2.2 for lbs.
Use inches. If using metric system, divide cm by 2.54 for total inches.
Your BMR is an estimate of the total calories burned a day, while in a state of rest.
For "Activity Level," veer toward the side of less active. Studies consistently show that people are not as active as they self-assess.
Your TDEE is an estimate of the total calories burned during a single day, when exercise is factored in.

 

In summary: balancing “calories in against calories out” is really all quite messy when you get right down to it.

Does that make all this hopeless?

Not even remotely.

But it does give us some context if you can’t seem to lose weight.

Tips for Sustainable Weight Loss (Next Steps)

If your meal plate looks like this, you're doing a lot of the heavy lifting for weight loss.

This post is not made to dissuade you from trying The CICO Diet.

I actually encourage everyone to track their food and calories for one week, because it’s often an eye-opening experience on how much they’re truly eating.

If possible, take a few days and use a cheap food scale instead of just eyeballing it. You’ll be shocked an actual portion sizes of some foods!

When it comes to sustainable weight loss, here at Nerd Fitness, we encourage two paths:

  • Make small tiny changes towards “real food” (like the Nerd Fitness Healthy Plate above).
  • Make small tiny changes towards a strength training practice.

Both of these strategies can dramatically – and positively – influence “calories in” and “calories out” respectively.  

In our Guide to Healthy Eating, we explain why every website tells you to eat vegetables (which we also tell you): vegetables are full of nutrients, contain lots of fiber to keep you full, and are generally low in calories.

These image shows some real food, critical if you're trying to lose body fat.

Eating lots of vegetables, or “real food,” will help you naturally lower “calories in.”

How about another example to think about? Here are 200 calories of a blueberry muffin:

Yeah, you don't even get the whole muffin.

Compare it to 200 calories of broccoli (Thanks to wiseGEEK):

A pic of 200 calories of broccoli

Which one do you think you’re likely to accidentally overeat for your calorie allotment?

Right.

For our other strategy, our Strength Training 101 series explains why growing strong is important for fat loss: 

Building muscle takes a lot of calories (and so does maintaining it).

In other words, a stronger version of yourself will require more calories:

Miss Piggy pulling bars apart in jail.

This will naturally raises your “calories out.”

The trick with it all is the “make small tiny changes” bit.

We’ve seen over and over that small steps (eating one new vegetable a week, a simple bodyweight workout) create momentum. Over time, these small changes are the keys to permanently getting healthy.

The entire Nerd Fitness Coaching program is based on this premise.

So what should you do now? Pick a small change and get going!

Here are some options for a healthy new habit:

The most important thing you can do now: start!

If you wanna win a race, you need to start it!

The exact “small tiny change” doesn’t matter so much, just pick one you feel comfortable with and get going! Once that habit becomes sustainable, pick a new one! And so on and so on…

We’ve seen it time and time again here that this is the true path towards success.

Boom!

Still here? Want some more guidance? An exact plan to follow on where to go next?

Alright, you got it, but only because you’ve been nice this whole time.

#1) Our 1-on-1 Online Coaching Program: a coaching program for busy people to help them make better food choices, stay accountable, and get healthier, permanently.

You can schedule a free call with our team so we can get to know you and see if our coaching program is right for you. Just click on the image below for more details:

Your NF Coach can help you lose weight and get healthy!

#2) If you want a roadmap for getting in shape, check out NF Journey. Our fun habit-building app will help you exercise and eat better, all while you build your very own superhero.

Interested?

Try your free trial right here:

#3) Join The Rebellion! We have a free email newsletter that we send out twice per week, full of tips and tricks to help you get healthy, get strong, and have fun doing so. 

I’ll also send you tons of free guides that you can use to start leveling up your life too:

Alright, I think that about does it for this article.

Now, your turn:

What are your thoughts on The CICO Diet?

Do you have a strategy for balancing “calories in” and “calories out”?

Think I’ve got it all totally wrong? 

Let me know in the comments!

-Steve

PS: Make sure you read the rest of our content on sustainable weight loss:

###

GIF Source: Millhouse, Barney Thumbs Up, Joker, A Beautiful Mind, Leo “duh,”

Photo Source: A Surprise Performance Appraisal, Against the Current, There is always a bigger fish, Dim Sum Trike, miam miam

How to Train if You Have an Injury (7 Steps)

There’s no gentle way to say this – training with injuries SUCKS!

The most important thing you can do now is to let yourself heal.

However, depending on your injury, there might be quite a few ways to stay active while also recovering.

We do this all the time in our Online Coaching Program. We’ll build workouts for clients who are dealing with pre-existing injuries, so they can make the most of their recovery time.

Today, we’ll share these same tips with you.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

REAL QUICK: If you’re worried about hurting yourself while lifting, I would encourage you to check out our guide, Strength Training 101: Everything You Need to Know. We cover all you need to begin a strength training practice, from equipment, starting weight recommendations, and proper form techniques to prevent injuries. You can grab it for free when you join the Rebellion below!

NOTE: I am not a doctor (in fact, I’m not even wearing pants right now). You should really seek medical attention for any injury you receive. 

The Ultimate Resistance Band Workout: How to Train With Exercise Bands

Today, we'll teach you everything you want to know about resistance bands.

Let’s start training with resistance bands!

Whether you got exercise bands in the mail from Amazon during quarantine, or they’ve been sitting in your closet since the 80s, you’ve finally decided it’s time to learn how to use the darn things. 

Either way, you’re in the right place! 

That’s because we specialize in home workouts. Our Coaches build custom training programs for whatever equipment you might have available (or even “no equipment”).

If you have a set of resistance bands, today we’ll show you how to put them to good use.

Here’s what we’ll cover in this guide:

It’s time to join the Resistance…

How to Find a Good Personal Trainer or Coach: 5 Mistakes to Avoid!

Two Legos about to workout together.

Before you fork out some cash for a personal trainer, read this guide!

It’ll help you spot the difference between a bad personal trainer and an AMAZING trainer. 

And trust us, having the right trainer can make ALL the difference in the world.

There’s nothing worse than spending 6+ months in a gym (and thousands of dollars) with a trainer, only to step on the scale and realize that you haven’t made any progress.

It’s the worst.

A bad personal trainer is the worst

I’ve worked with good trainers and bad trainers over the past 16 years, have worked with the same online personal trainer since 2014, and we have a team of 15 personal trainers on Team Nerd Fitness.

Long story short, we know our stuff, and we’ll give it to you straight.

Whether or not you want to check out our 1-on-1 Online Training Program, this guide is going to help you with all the details.

In this guide we’ll cover the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to personal trainers – both in-person and online:

Strength Training & Weight Training 101: Why You Need to Get Strong.

Lego woman minifigure lifting weights in a gym

Strength training will change your life.

If you want to lose weight, gain muscle, and/or just look and feel better, strength training will do just that.[1]

In this comprehensive series, we’re going to cover EVERYTHING you need to know about getting strong.

By the way, hi. I’m Staci Ardison, Senior Coach for Team NF, with a 455 pound deadlift, and strength training has changed my life.

You can see in these images how strength training transformed Staci.

Here’s that deadlift by the way (at a bodyweight of 150 lbs): 

A deadlift like so is a great way to strength train. Don't start with 400 pounds though!

I help men and women get strong with our 1-on-1 Online Coaching Program, and in addition to this strength series, I’d love for our team to help you get strong too:

In this introduction to Strength and Resistance Training, we’ll cover:

This is also quite a lot to absorb, so we’ve combined this article along with the rest of our strength articles into a “Strength Training 101: Everything You Need to Know” guide.

Grab it free when you join the Rebellion by putting your email in the box below.

Get Your First Pull-up Or Chin-up! 30-Day Pull up Progression Plan

After today's guide you'll be able to do a pull-up everywhere, like Steve does.Pull-ups are my favorite exercise of all time.

But what if you can’t do a pull-up yet?

The answer: read this ultimate guide on getting your first pullup ASAP!

Here's a gif of a pull-up in perfect form.

We have helped hundreds of Online Coaching Clients get their first pull-up, and we’ll cover our exact strategies below! 

As part of our Strength Training 101 series, we give you an exact plan to follow leading you to your very first full pull-up:

If you can already do a pull-up (woot!), you might want to check out our article on proper pull-up form, although we’ll cover a lot of the same material here.

Let’s do this thang.

How to Stop Stress Eating: 3 Uncommon Tools for Ending Emotional Eating

This LEGO looks worried, probably because he doesn't know what to eat.

All of us have plenty of stress in our lives.

After the last year we’ve had, your stress level may have quadrupled.

If you find yourself responding by “stress eating,” know that you are not alone.

One of the top issues faced by clients in our 1-on-1 Online Coaching Program is emotional or stress eating. After 2020 being all 2020 like (and 2021 having its own challenges), these episodes have only increased.

Today, we’re going to show you exactly how we address emotional eating with our clients, including when it’s – GASP – actually okay to stress eat. 

Here’s what we’ll cover in today’s guide:

How to Start Working Out (Consistently)

LEGO Rugby players in action.

So you’re having trouble working out consistently?

I get it. 

Life is busy and hectic. You probably wear multiple hats in your life.

Hopefully, one of them is a pirate hat:

Cartman from South Park as a pirate.

If you are having trouble exercising regularly, know that you aren’t alone. 

Not being able to work out consistently is one of the top issues facing our clients in Nerd Fitness Coaching. Luckily, there are some tips and tricks that help them, which we’ll share with you right now too. 

Here’s what we’ll cover today:

Let’s jump right in!

How to Portion Control (How to Lose Weight with Portion Control)

A LEGO holding some seafood, which looks like a big portion size.

It’s time to learn how to portion control!

There are all sorts of “tips” and “tricks” out there, but today we’re going to show you the best method.

What makes me so confident?

For many of our Online Coaching clients, we create portion control strategies for weight loss that don’t suck. Today, we’ll share them with you too!

Here’s what we’ll cover:

Let’s do this thang!

How Do Beginners Get Fit? (3 Ways to Start)

This photo shows a LEGO going on a walk

So you’ve decided you want to get fit?

Great!

Now what? There is SOOO much out there, it can be overwhelming.

You end up collecting information for weeks…but take zero action.

If this sounds like you, we understand. It’s frustrating! 

No worries though, you’re in the right place to kick it into gear. We’ve helped thousands of beginners get started (and reach their goals!) as part of our online coaching program

Today, I’ll share with you 3 different ways to get things going, that have been tested by nerds just like you. 

Here’s what we’ll cover:

Let’s jump right in.

7 Reasons You Hit a Workout or Weight Loss Plateau, And 5 Quick Fixes.

orth Cape with a steep cliff and a large flat plateau is in the Barents Sea.

So you’ve hit a workout or weight loss plateau the size of a…well, an actual plateau, eh?

Have no fear, our step-by-step guide will get you back on track! (Plus, the most badass Bruce Lee quote you’ll ever read).

Whether you’ve stalled in your weight loss journey, strength training, or some other fitness benchmark, today we’ll tell you exactly how to keep progressing by sharing with you the exact tools we use with our coaching clients.

Don’t lose morale. Together we got this!

We’ll cover:

I know how demoralizing plateaus can be, especially when it comes to strength training and weight loss – they can be a total momentum killer!

It’s actually why we built our newest app, Nerd Fitness Journey! It’s designed so when you wake up in the morning, you know the exact next step to help you reach your goals.

You can try it for free right here, so this plateau can be a thing of the past:

The 8 Best At-Home Workout Routines: The Ultimate Guide for Training Without a Gym

night scenery of wooden houses in the mountain in winter, illustration painting

So you want to start working out, but you don’t want to leave the house?

No problem! 

Our online coaches specialize in helping people get fit from home.

If you’re in a hurry, sign-up for our free weekly newsletter and we’ll send you PDFs of our “Work Out at Home” guides!

Let’s go over the 8 Best At-Home Workouts so you can start training today: no gym or equipment required!

Note: If you’re here because your gym is shut down due to the outbreak of Covid-19, check out our guide “How to Stay In Shape (While Staying Inside).”

15 Circuit Training Routines: Try These Fast Workouts Anywhere!

circuit training is awesome, even dinosaurs love it

This circuit training guide is gonna give you EVERYTHING you need to do your first kickass circuit training workout today.

I mean come on, it has dinosaurs in it.

These workouts are similar to the custom programs we build for our Online Coaching Clients who work out at home, on the road, and in outer space.

Okay, FINE we don’t have any clients in space (yet). But we do have clients in Antarctica, and multiple aerospace engineers. Close enough?

If you’re hoping circuit training will maximize your results in a minimum amount of time, one of the 15 circuits below will do the trick:

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