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Published on April 27, 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

Celebrity Coach, Author and Mindfulness expert

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Last Updated on August 4, 2020

8 Benefits of a Minimalist Lifestyle That Get You to Live With Less

8 Benefits of a Minimalist Lifestyle That Get You to Live With Less

Minimalism is a way to put a stop to the gluttony of the world around us. It’s the opposite of every advertisement we see plastered on the radio and TV. We live in a society that prides itself on the accumulation of stuff; we eat up consumerism, material possessions, clutter, debt, distractions and noise.

What we don’t seem to have is any meaning left in our world.

By adopting a minimalist lifestyle, you can throw out what you don’t need in order to focus on what you do need.

I know first hand how little we actually need to survive. I was fortunate enough to live in a van for four months while traveling throughout Australia. This experience taught me valuable lessons about what really matters and how little we really need all this stuff we surround ourselves with.

Less is more.

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Living a minimalist lifestyle is reducing.There are a few obvious benefits of minimalism such as less cleaning and stress, a more organized household and more money to be found, but there are also a few deep, life-changing benefits.

What we don’t usually realize is that when we reduce, we reduce a lot more than just stuff.

Consider just some of the benefits of living with fewer possessions:

1. Create Room for What’s Important

When we purge our junk drawers and closets we create space and peace. We lose that claustrophobic feeling and we can actually breathe again. Create the room to fill up our lives with meaning instead of stuff.

2. More Freedom

The accumulation of stuff is like an anchor, it ties us down. We are always terrified of losing all our ‘stuff’. Let it go and you will experience a freedom like never before: a freedom from greed, debt, obsession and overworking.

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3. Focus on Health and Hobbies

When you spend less time at Home Depot trying unsuccessfully to keep up with the Joneses, you create an opening to do the things you love, things that you never seem to have time for.

Everyone is always saying they don’t have enough time, but how many people really stop and look at what they are spending their time doing?

You could be enjoying a day with your kids, hitting up the gym, practicing yoga, reading a good book or traveling. Whatever it is that you love you could be doing, but instead you are stuck at Sears shopping for more stuff.

4. Less Focus on Material Possessions

All the stuff we surround ourselves with is merely a distraction, we are filling a void. Money can’t buy happiness, but it can buy comfort. After the initial comfort is satisfied, that’s where our obsession with money should end.

We are bombarded by the media presenting promises of happiness through materialistic measures. It’s no wonder we struggle everyday. Resist those urges. It’s an empty path, it won’t make you happy.

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It’s hard not to get roped into the consumerism trap. I need constant reminders that it’s a false sense of happiness. I enjoy stuff, but I also recognize that I don’t need it.

5. More Peace of Mind

When we cling onto material possessions we create stress because we are always afraid of losing these things. By simplifying your life you can lose your attachment to these things and ultimately create a calm, peaceful mind.

The less things you have to worry about, the more peace you have, and it’s as simple as that.

6. More Happiness

When de-cluttering your life, happiness naturally comes because you gravitate towards the things that matter most. You see clearly the false promises in all the clutter, it’s like a broken shield against life’s true essence.

You will also find happiness in being more efficient, you will find concentration by having refocused your priorities, you will find joy by enjoying slowing down.

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7. Less Fear of Failure

When you look at Buddhist monks, they have no fear, and they have no fear because they don’t have anything to lose.

In whatever you wish to pursue doing you can excel, if you aren’t plagued with the fear of losing all your worldly possessions. Obviously you need to take the appropriate steps to put a roof over your head, but also know that you have little to fear except fear itself.

8. More Confidence

The entire minimalist lifestyle promotes individuality and self reliance. This will make you more confident in your pursuit of happiness.

What’s Next? Go Minimalism.

If you’re ready to start living a minimalist lifestyle, these articles can help you to kickstart:

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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