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Last Updated on December 15, 2020

How to Exercise at Home When Gyms Are Closed

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How to Exercise at Home When Gyms Are Closed

Gyms are closed and our level of activity due to the quarantine has dropped dramatically. Most people who are concerned with their health (and waistline) are wondering how to exercise at home when gyms are closed, especially when they don’t have access to any facility, health classes, or personal trainers.

Whether you believe the current measures being taken to control the virus are overkill or spot on, I will tell you this: we’re all in for a significant change. Whether you take protocols to isolate yourself from crowded areas is your call, but if you decide to stay home from the gym, I want you to have the tools you need to succeed. The way I see it, the stronger and healthier you are, the better your body functions, whether you need to perform your best at work or ward off a virus.

The problem most people face though is the lack of direction and clear rules on how to maximize both the efficacy (how good the exercise you pick works) and the efficiency (how quickly you get it done) of their at-home training.

This article will offer you a solid foundation to bodyweight training and a few tips on different strategies you can implement to get some exceptionally effective workouts from your living room.

Training Philosophy for Exercise at Home

These are tough times. You know that. Less obvious is the much more positive flip side: The tough times offer you the ability to emerge smarter, more resilient, and yes, in better health and fitness.

It’s less about biceps and PRs and more about the link between mindset, health, fitness, and becoming a better person so you can best lead others and provide an example to them. It’s now all about maintaining a positive mindset and emerging triumphant from these troubled times.

A full set of weights, dumbbells, and on occasion, cables and machines are the ideal. But these aren’t ideal times. So here’s the good news: You can still build an incredible physique and prevent the loss of muscle even with a partial layoff and/or limited equipment when you exercise at home.

In the current coronavirus climate, some special considerations are required to help you not only make progress but to maximize health along the way. What follows are daily steps you should be taking, as well as tactical training tips to adjust workouts on the fly.

Daily Movement and Wellness Steps

Before doing any exercise at home, consider these steps to lower your stress levels and prepare your body to move.

Daily Meditation

Mediate for 3-10 minutes first thing each morning.

In times like the current pandemic, stress-relief practices are key to true health and fitness. Meditation has been proven time and time again to help people cope with stress, anxiety, and depression[1]. With so much uncertainty, starting a daily meditation practice will help you navigate the troubled waters ahead.

The most common reason people self-sabotage when it comes to fitness can be summed up in a single word: stress.

When you struggle with stress (and who doesn’t these days?), you will end up skipping workouts, gorging on junk food, drinking too much, and sleeping too little. All this undermines your ability to make progress and get stronger, leaner, and healthier.

The takeaway? Attack stress directly through meditation. You’ll be able to better handle the root reason many people struggle to make the progress they deserve.

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Try meditation on your own each morning before your day gets going and/or use an app like Headspace, which is currently offering free service during the coronavirus outbreak.

Cold Showers

Want an extra blast of positivity in the morning? Jump in a cold shower for 30 minutes.

The brutality of this practice has the power of taking every single thought you have in your head away. It’s cold…that’s all you can think about, but after 30 minutes you feel amazing. A cold shower has been proven to have amazing benefits like reducing stress, improving resilience and willpower, and increasing fat loss. Don’t just take my word: try it, and meditate just after you’ve done that!

Daily Walks

Aim for 10,000 steps per day.

If you’re able to be out and about, aim to get 10,000 steps per day. Walking serves as a great way to clear your head, manage stress, and keep fat gain to a minimum.

This may not sound like a big deal, but getting around 10,000 steps per day may burn as many as 500 calories. Taken over the week, that’s 3500 calories, or the same number of calories in a pound of fat.

Walk in the morning. Walk while doing meetings on the phone. Walk after meals. Walk while you listen to podcasts. Walking time doesn’t need to be dead time.

Bonus:

When you go for your walks, press your tongue against the roof of your mouth and breathe through your nose. Nasal breathing has a ton of benefits[2] including better oxygen extraction (which can lead to more energy), maintaining a balanced pH in your body through improved carbon dioxide breakdown, and decreased nerve activity in the sympathetic nervous system.

The sympathetic nervous system arouses the body (the fight or flight response). When this is chronically high due to periods of high stress, cortisol increases, which can suppress your immune system, increase fat gain, and decrease muscle gain. Long story short: Nasal breathing reduces stress and improves your health.[3]

Daily Warm-Up

Performing a simple warm-up daily is the key to restoring mobility, wiping out pain and dysfunction, and making pain-free progress in the gym and when you exercise at home. Think it’s too simple to be true? Think again.

Try this simple warm-up sequence daily:

1. Jumping Jacks (or jump rope) x100

2. Quadruped Fire Hydrant x8/side

3. Quadruped Hip Extension x8/side

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4. Bodyweight Squat x10

5. T-Push Up x5/side

6. Front Lunge x10/side

7. Groiner with T-Rotation x5/side

Benefits of Each Exercise

Jump Rope/Jumping Jacks

The goal with the first activity is to improve blood flow and increase body temperature. I prefer the jump-rope to improve coordination, footwork, and athleticism, but if you don’t know how to skip, you’ll be fine doing jumping jacks.

Quadruped Fire Hydrant

This exercise has been a staple in my warm-ups since Rehan Jalali (trainer of Stallone, Ben Affleck, Halle Berry and many others…and also my personal mentor) recommended them to me.

The quadruped position has reduced lumbar loads[4]. Basically, it relaxes your lower back muscles–a metaphorical “orgasm” for your spine after sitting all day–while simultaneously improving muscle activation in your thoracic extensors, lats, and obliques.

The fire hydrant provides a low-stress exercise to resist rotation through your spine while firing up your gluteus medius–an often neglected glute muscle essential to providing support to your hip, knee, and ankle.

Note: If your knees are diving in when landing, squatting or lunging, double up on these.

Quadruped Hip Extension

As mentioned, the quadruped position is absolute cash-money for core and glute activation without spinal stress. By adding a hip extension, you’ll wake up dormant glutes to fire up gluteal muscle fibers to support improved performance, better muscle gains, and potentially reduced back pain.

Assume the quad position with your spine neutral and actively pushing through the floor for the entire set. Don’t allow any movement through your lower back as you extend the hip, pause, and return to the starting position.

Bodyweight Squat

This drill grooves the squat pattern, aiding mobility through your hips, knees, and ankles. I recommend performing with a shoulder-width stance and no wider. Allow the knees to drift past the toes as long as your heels stay planted. This improves active dorsiflexion through your ankle, allowing better movement mechanics.

T-Push Up

The T-Push warms up your chest, shoulders, arms, and back while engaging the core to control rotation. Do you spend a lot of time sitting and hunched over? This exercise will help break up the stiffness in your upper back and shoulders. Stay slow and controlled, following your hand with your eyes on each push-up.

Front Lunge

Lunges prepare your body for sagittal plane (front and back) movements, loosening the hip, knee, and ankle. This improves both stability and mobility to improve performance and keep you injury-free.

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Groiner with T-Rotation

Bad hip mobility leads to back and knee issues[5], poor posture, and hinder your ability to stay healthy and athletic. Use the groiner to unlock your hips and add the t-rotation to improve thoracic mobility. Make sure you keep the front heel down on each “step” to minimize shear stress on the knee.

Progressing Exercises, Tips, and Tactics

Whatever routine you decide to do after you’ve done your warm-up to exercise at home, the key to maximizing the effectiveness of bodyweight or minimalist style workouts is to maximize the quality of every single repetition.

Your body doesn’t understand “weight” or reps; it only understands tension and time. Therefore, if you can create more tension in each rep, you can still create progressive tension overload[6], which is the key to building strength and muscle.

Hint: This is also one reason gymnasts get so jacked using only bodyweight: They learn to create maximum tension with their bodyweight.

Here’s how you can experience some of the same benefits:

1. Focus

Put simply, eliminate distractions. Turn off the news. Put down the phone. Be focused on what you’re doing. Don’t overcomplicate this. When you train, you train. Nothing else.

2. Squeeze and Flex Everything

Here’s a trick: stand up and flex your right fist as hard as you can. Notice how you feel the tension in your hand, forearm, shoulder, and entire upper body? This is known as irradiation. By focusing on creating as much tension as you can, you teach your body to activate nearby muscle fibers.

When you do squats, focus on gripping the floor with your feet.

When you do push-ups, squeeze your abs, quads, glutes, and imagine “squeezing” your chest together on each rep.

Take this principle and apply it to each exercise you do.

3. Manipulate the Range of Motion and Body Angle

Let’s use a push-up as an example. To make push-ups easier, elevate your hands on a bench, counter-top, or against a wall. To make push-ups more difficult, elevate your feet. The higher the angle (with your hands on the ground), the more of your bodyweight you support.

Also, you can increase the range of motion by elevating your hands on books, push up handles, or something similar. If you’re able to do inverted rows in a squat rack, on rings, or a TRX, the same thought process applies.

With any of the exercises you perform from the floor, consider altering your body angle as a simple method to make an exercise harder or easier.

4. Minimize Bounce and Momentum

The best way to “feel” a muscle and make any exercise harder is to slow down your tempo. When you go slow, you keep muscles under more tension[7], which increases metabolic stress, a necessary component of muscle growth.

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You should also add pauses at the bottom of your reps, like the bottom of a squat, lunge, or push-up. Adding pauses and actively contracting your muscles in those positions serves as both an active stretch and allows the dissipation of stored energy in your ligaments[8]. This forces your muscles to do all the work.

Push up example: Lower your body in 3-5 seconds and pause at the bottom of the push-up. At the bottom, “squeeze” your hands like you’re trying to make your chesticles touch each other.

5. Vary Your Leverage

I covered this a bit above as it pertains to push-ups, but it’s worth repeating. Changing the leverage to an exercise increases (or decreases) tension to make it easier or tougher.

Here’s an example with the hanging leg raise and fully extend your legs; it’s a brutal exercise! However, if you partially bend your legs, it gets easier. Finally, if you keep your knees fully bent, it gets even easier. This is a sample way to vary leverage to increase or decrease the difficulty of an exercise.

6. Vary Your Stability

By reducing your base of support and stability, you can increase the demands of an exercise. Let me give you some workable examples:

Lunges

A lunge has more stability than a pistol squat or a skater squat. In both pistol squats and skater squats, you only have one foot on the ground versus two; therefore, each limb must work harder to contract and to stabilize.

Push-ups

A push up with two hands on the ground is simple and straightforward. Here’s how you can take a simple push up and change the stability:

  • Lift one foot
  • Lift one hand (single-arm push-up)
Rows

An inverted row, if you have the equipment, is an incredible exercise. You can vary its intensity just like a push up:

  • Row your body with one hand
  • Perform a row, but lift your foot off the ground

These adjustments sound small, but they make a world of difference. By changing any of these factors, you can dramatically alter how hard a body part is working at any given time.

Customizing Your Workout

With the information above, you can customize any workout you read or see online based on the equipment that you have at your disposal to exercise at home. My goal with sharing the information above is to help you become self-sufficient when working with little equipment and capable of adjusting on the fly to challenge your body and continue to make progress with the gym.

Exercise, especially these days, is not just a way to look better and be healthier, but also a tool to minimize our thoughts and focus on something positive and energizing.

The above-mentioned style of training has an almost meditative effect on the brain and can truly reset your mood and daily attitude, on top of improving your muscle tone, fat-loss and physical performance. Make it a daily practice to move in a smart way, and you will even be able to improve the way you look, feel, and perform during this quarantine period.

More Tips on Exercising at Home

Featured photo credit: Samantha Gades via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Davide Alfonsi

Online Weight Loss And Exercise Specialist

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Last Updated on October 4, 2021

5 Best Exercises for Weight Loss at Home

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5 Best Exercises for Weight Loss at Home

With the lines of work and home becoming increasingly blurry, it’s no wonder why we struggle to find the time to prioritize our health. Particularly with weight loss, it’s often difficult to manage the ever-present constraints around work, children, time to exercise, and the feeling of exhaustion at the end of the day.

Taking the effects of stress and the rise of remote work and work-from-home situations, we need to be far more tactical in our weight loss pursuits. Quite often, these exercises for weight loss at home aren’t even fitness-related.

Firstly, let’s look at a standard day in the life of a busy professional or parent to really understand the battlefield in which we need to operate.

We all have 24 hours in a day to work with. Knowing how we spend that 24 hours is crucial when learning where time will be best spent for our weight loss journey. Setting unrealistic expectations can be a quick way to end up back at square one.

  • Sleep: 8 hours (parents, if you’re lucky)
  • Work: 8 hours (sometimes more)
  • Children: 2 to 4 hours (includes pickups, drop-offs, and play)
  • Meal Preparation: 1 hour (at a minimum)
  • Household Activities: 1 to 2 hours (because someone’s got to do it, right?)
  • Total: 20 to 22 hours

Taking into account that switching between tasks takes time and cognitive space, we can start to understand why people just want to sit and scroll through social media at the end of a day. We also haven’t factored in the work commute if you have to report to the office.

Just realized you now have minimal time to yourself? This might start to explain why you struggle to gain momentum in your weight loss journey. Let’s work out how to take back the initiative:

  • Automate – Are there any tasks you can automate? If you’re fortunate enough to be gainfully employed, maybe it’s time to hire a cleaner or have ready-made meals delivered to your door. It doesn’t have to happen every night, but removing the decision of “what’s for dinner?” can be a great way to reduce stress and free up brain space and time.
  • Optimize – If you’re time-poor with kids, it’s time to optimize your activities. Turn screen time into playtime outdoors, and get them to join in on your activities. If your children are old enough, it might be time to start offering pocket money for chores and meal preparation. This strategy helped me stay fit as a single parent. By getting out and active with my son, I doubled my return on investment by staying fit and enhancing my relationship.
  • Eliminate – We’re only human. Sometimes, we simply have too much on our plate due to our high expectations. Take a look through your daily tasks and work out what can be removed.

Now, go through this exercise yourself. What potential spare time do you have to work with? If the answer is none, you might want to keep reading.

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Exercise Selection: It’s Not All About the Burn

No equipment? No problem.

So, we’re finally tracking the elements that matter. It’s time to start leveraging exercise to accelerate our weight loss journey. Alongside focusing on individual exercises that help with weight loss at home or caloric expenditure, we’re going to focus on another method to help keep you consistent and accountable for the long term: interest.

Interest has been linked as one of the key motivating factors to maintain consistency towards a goal. By choosing a form of exercise that your body and mind can enjoy, your chances of weight loss success are far greater.

Here’re the 5 best exercises for weight loss at home:

1. Low-Intensity Interval Training (LIIT)

Maybe the body isn’t what it used to be, and intense forms of training simply just aren’t safe anymore. Also considering the body’s response to stress, it might be in our very best interest to choose low-intensity activities that we can repeat daily.

Mobility and movement flows have risen in popularity in recent years. This form of exercise focuses on restoring range of motion (ROM), improving stability, and returning people to activity. Some exercise options include:

  • Quadruped Rocks
  • Frog Stretch
  • Hip Prying
  • Scapula Push-ups
  • Hindu push-ups

Below is a 10minute warm-up flow that shows you how to put all of this together:

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2. Yoga

Yoga is another perfect example of LIIT methodology that can be advanced as your ability improves. Focusing on mobility, stability, and range of movement using only your body weight, it’s a perfect entry-level activity for those that may have lost their way on their weight loss journey.

3. Calisthenics

Strength training at home can be difficult when you lack equipment or experience. An obvious path to building strength at home is calisthenics. Starting with just the following basic bodyweight movements:

You can begin your journey with no equipment and build to quite an advanced level. Here are five movements you can look to master over time are:

Depending on your ability, choose movements that allow you to progress safely over time. There is also gymnastics-based training you can move towards if your body is ready for a more demanding form of training.

4. Aerobic Exercise

Another underrepresented form of exercise, aerobic exercise is often overlooked for its sexier counterparts like strength and HIIT. With the prevalence of obesity nearly tripling between 1975 and 2016 and the major cause in adults being cardiovascular disease, it makes sense to focus on activities that improve cardiovascular or heart health.

Another benefit is that it can be as simple as getting your steps in, going for a swim, or going for an easy ride or run. Phil Maffetone pioneered the Maximum Aerobic Function (MAF) Method that almost anyone can adopt regardless of fitness level and experience.[1]

Here’s a 30-minute session of aerobic exercises you can try:

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5. High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

High-intensity interval training is a great way to elevate the heart rate and get the endorphins flowing. It can also be super time-effective, giving you a great bang for your buck. Try sequencing some of the movements and exercises above together with minimal rest to keep your heart rate elevated. Be sure to select movements that suit your current level of fitness and ability.

Here’s a HIIT workout that takes little time and is suited for any level:

Chipper 60

Complete all reps of every exercise for time. Exercises can be done in any order and repetitions to complete the workout.

If you can’t do jump squats, regress to normal squats, and don’t be afraid to change the leg raises to a 60-second plank if you need to. Finish up with some light stretching or foam rolling.

What Also Matters: Sleep, Stress, and Stimulants

Sleep, stress, and stimulants, also known as the hamster wheel of death. Tracking these elements gives us the power to finally stop relying on our ever-depleted stores of discipline and motivation to get the job done. It will also highlight the self-destructive habits that sabotage your weight loss journey.

Simply put, stress affects stimulants, sleep affects stress, and the vicious cycle continues.

Sleep

Are you getting enough sleep? It’s well documented that sleep is an important factor in weight loss and recovery.

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“Restricted sleep and poor sleep quality may lead to metabolic disorders, weight gain, and an increased risk of obesity and other chronic health conditions.”[2]

Start this journey by tracking how much sleep you’re getting. Certain wearables can also track the amount of movement and time you spend awake or in lighter sleep cycles. Getting enough time in REM or deep sleep is critical for weight loss.

Stress

We don’t need to be fancy. A simple daily measurement out of ten indicates how much stress we think we are under. Using this number, we can observe the effects that sleep, stimulants, and exercise have on our stress levels, allowing us to deploy the right strategy for our weight loss goals.

Stimulants

Stimulants can be classified as anything we put in our mouths. Tracking calories, alcohol, and caffeine is a great way to observe, predict, and avoid trends or at-risk periods of overeating and destructive behaviors. Tracking this is aligned with how well we sleep, and our stress response gives us enough information to start forming better weight loss habits.

Work to identify the trigger, observe the response, and then look to adjust.

Final Thoughts

Whether you’re fighting fit or returning to activity, the best exercises for weight loss at home are the ones that you can do day in day out that you enjoy. Think of exercise for weight loss as we do for compound interest. Consistently and regularly making deposits may not show immediately, but with time, they give you the momentum you need to reach your goals.

Featured photo credit: Olivia Bauso via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] PhilMaffetone: Maximum Aerobic Function
[2] SleepFoundation.org: Why is sleep so important to weight loss?

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