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Last Updated on December 15, 2020

How to Exercise at Home When Gyms Are Closed

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 January 19, 2021

Steady State vs Interval Training: Are You Exercising Towards Your Goal?

Steady State vs Interval Training: Are You Exercising Towards Your Goal?

No matter if you are a professional athlete, fitness enthusiast or just an occasional gym goer, you couldn’t have been spared the dilemma between the two most popular and effective types of training – steady state training and HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training).

With a great number of available fitness advice that provide information favoring one or the other type of training, it seems like we are none the wiser when it comes to choosing between SST and HIIT.

While steady state training involves steady, longer lasting cardio exercises that burn a lot of calories, fast intervals of high intensity workouts followed by quick resting provide faster results when it comes to burning calories, fat and improving overall aerobic capacity.

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Steady state training is something you have probably been doing most of your life. Whether you are jogging, swimming, dancing, running on a treadmill, or cycling, steady state involves performing any type of cardio activity at a challenging, but steady pace, for over 20 minutes, using up to 70% of your capacity.

HIIT training involves short and powerful intervals of intense activity, followed by a quick rest, with sessions lasting no longer than 20 minutes. With HIIT training you are ideally performing at 90-100 of you maximum capacity. HIIT training can be performed indoors, on a treadmill, using weights, or outdoors by running or cycling.

Rather than trying to convince you to opt for one or the other type of workout, this article is aimed at providing analysis of both types in order to give you as much information so that you can chose what fits your specific needs best. As each person has different adaptability to each type of exercise, and not everyone has the same fitness goals, the explanation of the two types of training will, hopefully help everyone decide for themselves.

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HIIT can be done in 20 minutes or less while SST takes a longer time!

SST and HIIT require different time to perform. According to Douglas W. Stoddard MD, M Sp Med, Dip Sport Med, while steady state training requires more than 20 minutes, with high intensity interval training, you will be done in 20 minutes or less. This is the reason why many busy people opt for HIIT more frequently, as they need fast results with as little time as possible.

HIIT burns stored carbohydrates while SST only burns stored fat!

As far as the type of fat being burned during a workout, SST and HIIT, again, have significant differences. Being an aerobic training, steady state training needs oxygen and runs on stored fat. HIIT, on the other hand is anaerobic, meaning the activity intervals don’t require oxygen only. HIIT is powered by stored carbohydrates. However, as the 1994 study shows, high-intensity interval training has slight advantage to steady state training when it comes to burning fat.[1] This could be due to the ‘EPOC’, or ‘Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption’ effect of high intensity workout, that powers up metabolism even days after working out.

It’s a DRAW on Building Muscle!

Preserving muscle and loosing fat is one of the most important concern for anyone who works out. As the 2009 study suggest, longer cardio sessions of endurance training affect muscle loss.[2]

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On the other hand, a 2006 study shows no significant difference between intense interval training and endurance training when it comes to muscle gain: “Training-induced increases in muscle buffering capacity and glycogen content were also similar between groups.”[3] Even though the promoters of each type of training would argue that the training they support is more effective for muscle sustainability, it seems that the differences are not significant.

It’s a Win for Steady state training on Improving Endurance level!

When it comes to improving endurance level, it seems that steady state training has significant advantage over HIIT. According to health and fitness expert Pete McCall, “Exercising below the ventilatory threshold for an extended period of time puts less physical stress on the cardiorespiratory system and can be an effective way to prepare for an endurance event.”[4]

They Both Do A Good Job On boosting overall metabolism rate!

When comparing a number of important health markers such as blood pressure, overall metabolism rate and VO2 max (a maximum amount of oxygen a body can process) for both type of training, the results indicate that both HIIT and steady state training show similar but significant improvements.

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A 2015 study that analyzed the effects of high intensity training vs. moderate intensity training on cardiometabolic health shows similar improvements for both types of training, with MIT showing greater improvement in overall cardiovascular fitness as it showed greater improvement in VO2peak.[5]

Newbies Alert! Beginners are advised to start off with steady state training!

As far as the likelihood of you sticking with the workout of your choice is concerned, it is highly dependent upon your general fitness. For beginners it is much more advisable to start off with steady state training until they reach cardiovascular system and endurance levels for a more challenging HIIT workout. Although HIIT workout is more likely to keep you motivated, only trained athletes and experienced fitness enthusiasts are able to cope with the high intensity and exhaustion of HIIT.

The Bottom Line on Choosing The “Best” Workout For Yourself..

Finally, both HIIT and SST provide great health and fitness benefits, and you won’t make a mistake choosing one over the other. Ultimately, your choice should depend on your body condition and personal preferences. However, let’s not forget that a balanced approach to fitness is always the healthiest and most effective one, and it also includes healthy and balanced diet as the most important fitness and health factor.

Featured photo credit: Pixabay via pixabay.com

Reference

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