We’ve been stuck at home for a while now, and though things slowly are opening back up, you may not be ready to jump back into a gym full of sweaty, heavy breathing bodies.
You might have thought that when this all started it was a perfect opportunity to use some extra time to exercise more often. My guess is that it hasn’t turned out to be that easy. It actually requires more discipline to train at home than to go to the gym. At home it's easy to think, "I'll do it a little later," but most people get to the end of the day, realize they haven’t moved from the desk or couch, and now are too tired to do anything. Not to mention you don’t have your normal equipment and struggle to feel like your workouts are challenging or even worth it.
Does that mean you’re doomed to be out of shape forever? Absolutely not.
Bodyweight training is often scoffed at as too easy or ineffective, but it’s certainly possible to add muscle and lose fat with no traditional gym equipment if you make a few challenging tweaks.
Isometrics are exercising where the muscle is contracting without the joints moving. Think planks and carrying heavy stuff. You can use isometrics for traditional movements as well by incorporating a technique called overcoming isometrics. Just like it sounds, overcoming isometrics are a variety where you perform an isometric against an immovable object. At home that would look like trying to curl the countertop or deadlift the car. For this method a rep scheme of five 6-second holds with 10 seconds rest between reps works well to build strength and size.
Here are some examples:
Door Pec Squeeze
Door Leg Press
Door Glute-ham Press
Door Lateral Raise
Sprinting and walking
Walking has to be the most underrated form of exercise. Your carry your own body weight when you walk and is therefore considered a weight bearing activity. To add a nice boost, consider carrying a 10-pound backpack with you on your walks. I could fill the rest of this article with the benefits of walking, but some highlights include:
Increased cardiovascular and pulmonary (heart and lung) fitness
Reduced risk of heart disease and stroke
Improved management of conditions such as hypertension, high cholesterol, and diabetes
Reduced joint and muscular pain or stiffness and improved posture
Stronger bones and improved balance
Sprints are an awesome way to get in great conditioning and cardiovascular exercise and they don’t require any equipment. They will also help you grow muscle, improve power, and maintain strength.
If you’re worried about the safety of performing sprints there are a few ways to decrease your risk of injury.
As a rule of thumb, it’s best to avoid sprinting at 100 percent. Even Olympic level sprinters rarely train at 100 percent. Just like you rarely perform a 1 rep max, you don’t need to sprint all out for it to be effective.
Sprinting uphill keeps you from running at your max output and places your body in a more optimal running position. If your sprint technique isn’t perfected, you can use hills to help increase the forward lean in your torso and decrease hip extension. Both will decrease the risk of muscle pull and injury.
If you’re concerned about injuries, avoid starting your sprint from a dead start. Instead, gradually build up speed until your at about 90 percent for your desired distance.
Tempo & Fatigue
Taking advantage of tempo and muscle fatigue are a great way to improve the effectiveness and difficulty of bodyweight exercises.
To pre-fatigue your muscles for an exercise you can use a short isometric before performing your set. You can do this for any movement by holding the position of the exercise where the muscles are under the most tension for 10-30 seconds, and then performing reps to failure. For body weight squats hold the mid-range position for 10-60 seconds (your legs are strong so you may be able to hold the isometric longer), then do as many reps as you can. For push-ups hold near the bottom position for 10-30 seconds and then do as many reps as possible.
The easiest way to use tempo to increase the difficulty of an exercise is to slow down. Lower yourself through an exercise (eccentric) for 8-10 seconds, hold the bottom position (isometric) for 8-10 seconds, then lift through the movement (concentric) normally.