Updated: May 10
Here we are amidst the global Covid-19 crisis, isolated to our homes and left to modify our way of daily living. This comes with some pretty dramatic changes to our lifestyles and the way we typically go about doing the things we enjoy most.
Amongst many other changes, nearly everyone is now left to figure out ways to use what they have at their disposal to exercise from home. Now, given the fact that the internet and specifically social media is overwhelmingly flooded with every fitness based business or fitness figure giving their versions of how to exercise at home, I thought I would take a different approach and instead address the things you DO NOT want to do while now exercising in the comfort (or discomfort, depending how you look at it) of your home.
My facility manages hundreds of year round, in-person members. All of these individuals come with their own unique needs, injury histories and fitness/skill levels. We are able to intelligently manage their programming most effectively by using the appropriate tools at the right times. A needs analysis can be done and we don’t try to use a hammer to do the job or a wrench. With in-home workouts, things can be quite a bit different though and an increase in self-management is definitely necessary.
So, with most people searching for the best home workouts to keep them going, or more importantly in my opinion, still improving, , I want to touch on a few keys things that should allow you to make the best decisions for yourself, so that you do not just survive in these times, but actually come out better on the other side!
BASIC THINGS TO CONSIDER
When making a decision on how to organize your home workouts, there are a few things that hopefully should stand out as obvious:
Any injuries you were dealing with before, are likely still present, so select and swap exercises accordingly
If you were unable to safely perform an exercise before, there is no reason you should be including it now, just for the sake of doing what you have access to- there are many options
The program you decide to use, should be followed for AT LEAST 2-3 weeks, and made progressively harder. At no point in time was a lack of planning a superior idea, so why would we suddenly think it is a good plan now. At least some degree of thought must go into making good decisions, and it does not have to be complex
Know your physical limits
Just because something is good for someone else and they look good doing it, doesn’t mean it is right for you
I see people all over social media right now doing whatever comes across their screen. Hell, my entire clients base are being provided with workouts as well!
I get it, I really do, and I realize many people want to be connected right now and doing what their favourite fitness people are doing provides that. I think all of that is awesome, but I also like providing thought provoking education for people, I can’t help it!
The issue with following blindly is that you are your own individual with your own unique needs. This does not mean that every single person requires their own independent exercise program, because they certainly do not. What it does mean though, is that each person DOES need to understand where they are at and where they are going, as opposed to following along without any thought.
Let me give a basic example to hopefully explain this in a way that you can really relate to:
A workouts calls for a circuit with 4 exercise, and 1 of them is a push up for 15 reps/set. You can only do 6 good quality push ups, but you plow through with half reps and poor technique, since that is what the program calls for. Trust me, this 100% absolutely, no question in my mind, occurs.
Likewise, 15 reps is incredibly easy for you, but you follow the program exactly as listed
The problem here is not the program, but the application of the program to the person.. Knowing where you are at and scaling accordingly for yourself is really important for your long- term overall success. I realize home workouts may be short term, but the points I am making apply to ALL of your training and decision making.
In the example above, neither person would be training in an optimal or effective manner. One person is potentially doing more harm that good to their shoulders, and the other person is so under stimulated that they will not produce much of a training effect.
I want to make it clear that I feel any effort is awesome effort. If someone is doing their best to workout and be active, I am all for it. However, as an exercise science professional and veteran strength & conditioning coach, it is my responsibility to address the finer details and to inform people to the best of my ability!
WHAT TO CONSIDER BEFORE YOU START
Here are my overall recommendations to make absolutely any limited equipment home workout more effective. If even after considering everything in this article, you are still confused. reach out to a trusted source and have them help set you up. My recommendations are:
Select 10-12 total exercise variations if you are a beginner or 15-20 if you are advanced. use these exercises and their variations to develop your weekly plan- it does NOT have to be fancy.
Focus on full body workouts for the most part
As long as you are competent at performing the exercise, take each set to a muscular failure point, as opposed to pre-determined rep numbers (push ups for maximum quality reps for example is far more effective than 4 sets of 20 if 20 reps is not an appropriate stimulus for you)
Use whatever you can find around the house to provide the greatest stimulus (loaded back pack, furniture as props or for setting up exercises, squat while holding a pet, etc…be creative)
Know what exercises didn’t work for you before, and do not try to suddenly force feed them into your workouts now. There was a reason they were not right for you previously.
If you are not strong enough to do an exercise well, do not force it. Use alternative exercises when necessary and build up to it over time
Stick with the program. Once you complete a week of home workouts, make only small changes and push for improvements as opposed to flash or scattered variety (progressive overload is literally one of the biggest keys to training success). This can be in the form of more reps on a given exercise set or perhaps holding an isometric exercise such as a plank for a longer period of time.
If I had 500 people to write a program for, which I have done in my career in the past, the above rules would always reign true and guide my decisions. By understanding these points and taking just a few minutes before starting a training session, you can set yourself up for not only a safer and more stimulating session, but also one that you can build on effectively over time.
Remember, training at home is still call TRAINING, meaning that we are focusing on forward progress. When explained to anyone I work with in this way, they always jump on board and realize that although the random approach can provide a nice change of pace it is certainly not superior.
Although I don’t completely believe in the “failing to plan is planning to fail” mantra, I do think that when it comes to long-term success, a plan will always be superior to randomness.
Keep positive and don’t forget about the power of simplicity!