Get your bells on for Christmas

Russian Side-Twists

As we are entering winter and holiday season, my December column is about the best indoor/at home training equipment. Maintaining strength, fitness, and not least mental endurance for coming cold dark months, is of the highest importance.

First, a small personal plea: If you need training equipment, or Christmas presents in general, please consider buying from your local shops when possible. Most have a website or other means of communication, so you can order from them and get it delivered to your doorstep. Amazon made billions during the first lockdown and doesn’t need your hard earned euros. Your local shops do!

So please support local shops, and if that fails, look to national shops that deliver to West Cork. Your purchase will help make sure they will still be around after the lockdown, and the shorter delivery distance is most likely much better for the environment as well.

With that said, here is my list of the best home-training equipment for everyone, regardless of fitness level and experience, followed by a little guide for training with Dumbbells (other equipment will be featured on my Instagram and in coming columns next year).

The Wishlist:

1. Dumbbells (No 1. because they are easy to use and don’t require technique)

2. Rubberband (Resistance training with bodyweight – no technique)

3. Kettlebell (Correct technique required for certain exercises)

4. Fitness ladder (No technique)

5. Evil Wheel (No technique)

6. Push Up Bars/Handles (No technique)

7. A mat (No technique)

8. A Foam roller (No technique)

As you can see, the Kettlebell (KB) is the only item on the list, which requires technique. This is because some of the best KB drills can hurt your lower back if done improperly. So unless you already have experience with KB training, or someone in your household does, I will suggest you skip the KB and invest in Dumbbells (DB) instead. 

Dumbbells are great for strength training at home, as they require little to no technique if you stick to basic drills. They don’t take up much space to either train or store away afterwards. Here’s a list of easy DB exercises – remember to warm up shoulders, elbows and back beforehand.

1.Bicep curls (for biceps and core): Can be done standing or sitting. Grab the DB on the handle with palm facing upwards, relax and straighten your arm (knuckles facing down), bend your elbow and use your biceps to curl the DB upwards toward your shoulder. As you lower your hand/ DB again, keep the movement controlled. (Bonus info: Standing curls will challenge your balance more).

2.Shoulder press (shoulders and core): Can be done sitting and standing. Grab the DB and either keep your thumbs towards yourself or have your palms facing you. Lift DB to your shoulders and press them above your head until your arms are straight. Lower your DB to your shoulders again. Pressing and lowering should both be controlled movements.

3. Squats with DB (Legs and core): Grab one DB with both hands – or if lightweight a DB in each hand, bend elbows and keep DB at chest height. 

4. Stand up straight, with a little more than shoulder width between your feet, squat down – keeping your heels on the floor and back straight, core tight – and stand up again, holding your DB in the same position. 

5.Russian Side twists (Core – Abs): Lie down on a mat and grab the DB with both hands and hold it around chest/ stomach area. Sit up keeping the DB in position, with legs bend. Lower your upper body a little towards the floor, so you can feel your abs/ stomach muscles work to keep you from falling. Now turn/ twist your upperbody to the left, while keeping the DB in front of you – or even lower it a bit to the left towards the floor, turn/ twist the opposite direction to the right, again while keeping the DB in front or lower it towards the floor to the right side. 

6.Single Hand Bend Over Rows (Triceps and back): You need a low sofa/ bench or bed for this one. Put your left knee and left hand on the surface, right foot on the floor, DB in right hand (Arm hanging towards the floor). Keep core tight and straight and lift the DB towards your shoulder. Lower it again with control and purpose. 

7.Bonus info: If you are used to exercise, you can do this drill from standing with both hands. Just bend your knees a little and lean over a bit, while keeping your lower back straight. Lower DB towards the floor and lift up again to chest. Full control both directions.

8.Saxon Sidebends (Core, shoulders and arms): Stand up with shoulder width between your feet. Lift the DB with both hands, straight above your head. Bend a little by the hip to one side, like the grass in the wind, while keeping the DB above your head. When you can’t bend more, stand up straight again and then bend/sway to the other side. Engage your core throughout the exercise time.

9.Burpees (Full Body incl. Cardio): Incorporate the DB in your burpee routine, by picking it up after the push up (ground), jumping up with it and pressing it overhead at the top of the jump. Bring it back down and place quick before doing another push up. Pro-tip: The faster you do the burpees, the better cardio exercise.

Schedule Ideas:

For beginners: Choose 4-5 exercises to do 2-3 times a week. Remember about eight minutes for warm up – especially in the cold months, where muscles are at risk to pull when they are cold.

Intermediate/ experts: Up to six days a week – as many exercises as you like.

All the above exercises are great for a 10×3 beginners’ schedule. (10 repetitions/3 sets). For intermediate or experts, I recommend heavier DB or add as many reps/sets, as it suits your form, goal and time consumption.

Weight Tip: Your Dumbbells (DB) should be so light, that you can press them above your head with straight arms (one in each hand), but as heavy, as when doing 10 biceps curls, you should be pushing yourself on the last couple of repetitions. 

When you’re finished with an exercise, remember to put the DB down. Don’t drop them, as they will leave marks on your floor.

Before I leave you with a heartfelt Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year wish in these times with Covid-19, lockdown measures and so on, just a little note to say: If you find motivation hard to come by these days, or it’s hard to find a rhythm or stick with a schedule, do not worry. Just keep at it to the best of your ability right here and now. Doing something – however little – is always better than doing nothing and, as you probably already know, doing something versus nothing makes a huge difference in the mental game.

Focus on what you have done, rather than what you missed – it’ll bring you more positivity and resolve to continue than looking through negative glasses. 

So put on the ‘Yes’ hat, the sunglasses (because the sun always shine on the cool peeps) and bring the carrot rather than the stick; wish yourself and those around you a wonderful Christmas and a (hopefully) better New Year. Stay healthy, stay strong and stay positive!

Thank you for reading, see you in the New Year.

As always: Questions, comments and so on are welcome at or via Instagram:

Tania Presutti

Tania Presutti is a Danish freelance journalist and fitness professional who now resides in Clonakilty.

Next Post

‘Tis the season for traditions

Mon Dec 7 , 2020
Just in time for Christmas, ‘Pretty Interesting History’ has launched the latest in a series of whimsical visual anthologies of Irish women’s social history – ‘The Curious Lady’s Guide to Marriage’. The writer, designer and illustrator behind these humourous historical guides is Jenny Dempsey, a self-proclaimed history obsessive and talented […]