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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

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Davide Alfonsi

Online Weight Loss And Exercise Specialist

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Last Updated on April 19, 2021

15 Static Stretches to Totally Enhance Your Workout Routine

15 Static Stretches to Totally Enhance Your Workout Routine

Stretching is one of those aspects of fitness that many people conveniently forget about. Perhaps you’re one of those who consider stretching nothing but a mere chore meant for ballerinas and gymnasts. While they are great for both, static stretches can offer a boost to any workout routine for people of all fitness levels.

Irrespective of your reasons for working out, be it for sports or personal fitness, one thing is certain: stretching can help you. Static stretches come with myriads of benefits, such as improvement in flexibility and reduction in muscle tightness, which ultimately allow you to go through your workout routines with greater efficiency.

For the purpose of this article, we’ll zero in on several great static stretches and take a look at the benefits and when they should be done.

Benefits of Static Stretches

Static stretches come with tons of benefits that can help you make the most of your workout routine. Some of them include:

Improved Flexibility

If you want to perform better, flexibility is of tremendous importance, irrespective of the specific workouts you do. Luckily enough, static stretches are all you need to get all the flexibility you desire.

Flexibility, also known as the range of motion (ROM) around a joint, has been shown by several studies to be improved by static stretching.[1]

Although the specific mechanism through which this occurs is still unclear, static stretches have been shown to greatly increase muscle and joint flexibility[2] and tissue length[3], which work in tandem to make your workout more effective.

Prevent Injuries

If you’re looking to push yourself to your training limits without coming down with injuries, then stretching will do you a great service. Research has shown time and again that performing the right stretches pre- and post-workout greatly helps with injury prevention.[4]

Think of it this way:

When you stretch, you literally push your joints and muscle fibers to their limit. This increases the stretch tolerance in these muscles and joints over time, and the increased tolerance allows you to perform more rigorous exercises without negatively impacting your body or risking an injury.

Increased Blood Flow to the Joints

Another benefit of stretching is increased blood flow – and by extension, nutrient supply – to the joints and muscles of the target areas. This, in turn, improves the performance of these muscles and joints due to the availability of more nutrients, improved oxygenation, and removal of metabolites.

For static stretching, though, the mechanism of action isn’t as straightforward. When stretching statically, blood flow (capillary oxygenation) temporarily reduces due to vascular compression.

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However, immediately after releasing the stretch, the blood flow to these areas nearly doubles the pre-stretching levels.[5]

Improvement in Recovery

If you’ve been working out for some time, then you’ve probably discovered that a rigorous workout session can leave you battling sore muscles for days.

Recovery essentially means getting rid of this soreness and returning your muscle fibers back to their tip-top condition.

Research has shown that practicing static stretches after your workout session helps to reduce muscle soreness. And while some may argue that this effect is minimal, the fact still remains that stretching does help shorten your recovery time.

Stretching allows tissues to be better hydrated after the induced tension is released, and this encourages reduced inflammation and faster repair of such tissues.

Other reasons why you really should incorporate stretching into your workout include:

  • Improved relaxation
  • Increased movement efficiency
  • Reduction in the risk of lower back pain
  • Reduction in muscle tension
  • Improvement in neuromuscular coordination
  • Improvement in balance and postural awareness
  • Relief from cramping

15 Static Stretches to Enhance Your Workouts

Here are some amazing exercises that will keep your body in tip-top condition and take your workout routine to the next level.

1. Neck Stretch

    While sitting tall or standing, place your right arm gently on the right side of your head, and place the other arm out to your side. Slowly pull your head towards your right shoulder until you can feel the stretch on the left side of your neck. Hold for about 30 seconds before releasing, and repeat for the opposite side.

    Many people tend to hold stress and tension in their neck and shoulders. If you find this is the case, this is one of the best static stretches to use for a muscle release in this area.

    2. Chest Stretch

      Stand upright, with your fingers interlocked behind your back, near your buttocks. While keeping your shoulder blades together and your back straight, push your arms up behind you until you feel the stretch in your chest. Hold for about 20-30 seconds before releasing.

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      3. Cross-Body Shoulder Stretch

      Shoulder Cross-Arm Stretch « CASS FITNESS

        Stand upright or sit up tall on a chair or mat, and extend one arm out in front to shoulder height. Grab the extended arm with your other arm, and pull it towards your chest while keeping the extended arm straight. Continue the pull until you feel the stretch in your shoulder. Hold for 30 seconds, and repeat for the other arm.

        4. Triceps Static Stretch

          Lift your arms overhead, with both arms slightly behind your head and bent at the elbow. Use your right hand to pull your left elbow until you feel a stretch in your triceps. Hold for about 30 seconds, and repeat for the other arm.

          Many know this stretch from gym class, but it really is one of the best static stretches for the arms.

          5. Biceps Stretch

          Arm Exercises | Seated Bent-Knee Biceps Stretch

            Sit on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. With your fingers pointing away from your body, place your two palms flat on the floor behind you. While your hands are steadily in place, slowly slide your butt downward toward your feet until you can feel the stretch in your biceps, shoulders, and chest. Hold for about 30 seconds before releasing.

            6. Wrist Stretch

            11 Best Tennis Elbow Exercises For Pain Free Mobility [PDF]

              While standing up straight or sitting tall, extend your right arm forward to shoulder height with your fingers pointing toward the ceiling. Grab your right fingers with your left hand, and pull your right hand to bend the wrist until you can feel the stretch. Hold this position for about 30 seconds, and repeat for the opposite arm.

              7. Side Stretch

                Stand straight with your feet hip-width apart. Take your right arm and reach over your head towards your left side while bending your side. Keep bending your side slowly until you can feel a stretch on your right side. Maintain this position for about 30 seconds, and repeat for the opposite side.

                The muscles down your side body are notoriously difficult to stretch out. This is one of the best static stretches to try on a consistent basis to get them loosened up.

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                8. Abdominal Static Stretch

                  Lie down on your stomach with your face towards the ground and your palms facing the floor as though you’re about to do a push up. While keeping your pelvis firmly on the floor, gently push your upper body up from the ground. This should make your feel some stretch in your abs. Maintain this position for about 30 seconds before releasing.

                  9. Reclined Spinal Twist

                  Supta Matsyendrasana - Supine Spinal Twist - Yogaasan
                    Lie down, with your arms extended to the sides and placed on the floor. While keeping the right leg straight, pull up your left knee towards your chest, tilt it toward your right side, and then drop it slowly over your extended right leg.

                    Keep your shoulder blades flat on the ground, and you should feel the stretch around your back. Hold for about 30 seconds and repeat for the opposite side.

                    10. Knees to Chest

                    Knee-to-chest exercise from Physical Therapists' Advice to Manage Pain at Home - The Active Times

                      Lie on the ground facing the ceiling, with your knees bent. Hold your shins, and pull your knees toward your chest. This should make you feel some stretch in your lower back. Hold for about 30 seconds before releasing. If you’re looking to loosen up your back muscles, this is one of the static stretches you can do daily.

                      11. Hip Flexor Static Stretch

                      How to Do the Standing Lunge Stretch

                        Stand upright in a standard lunge position, and place your two hands on your hips. Step out on your right foot into mini-lunge position, without your knee going beyond your right toe. Hold for about 30 seconds and repeat for the left side.

                        12. Figure 4 Stretch

                        How to Do a Figure 4 Stretch | Openfit

                          Sit tall on the ground with both knees bent and both feet on the floor. Lift your right leg and cross it over your left thigh, while your left knee remains bent. Pull both legs inwards toward your abdomen for a deep stretch of your glutes. Hold this position for about 30 seconds, and repeat with the other leg.

                          13. Standing Quad Stretch

                            Stand tall while maintaining a straight posture. With your left hand, grab a pole, wall, or anything durable for balance. With your right hand, grab your right foot and pull up your heels until they touch your buttocks.

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                            Keep your knees close together while doing this, push your hip forward, and you should feel the stretch in your quadriceps. Hold this position for about 30 seconds, and repeat for the other side. This is one of the best static stretches for the quads.

                            14. Hamstring Stretch

                              Sit on the floor with your right leg extended straight in front of you and your left leg bent. Reach forward with your right hand, and touch your right toes. This should cause a stretch in your right hamstring.

                              Hold this position for about 30 seconds, and repeat for the left leg. If you’re unable to reach your toes, try holding your shin instead, but seek to go further every time you perform the stretch until you can touch your toes.

                              15. Calf Stretch

                                Sit on the ground and extend your right foot straight in front of you. Gently pull your right toes backwards with your right hand. This should cause a noticeable stretch in your calf.

                                Hold this position for about 30 seconds and repeat for the left leg, if you’re unable to reach your toes, use a rope or towel to pull your toes inward.

                                Bonus: Stretch With a Resistance Band

                                Resistance bands offer a unique benefit from free weights and create tension throughout your movement. Get the free 30 Day Resistance Band Full Workout Challenge, and challenge yourself to stretch with a resistance band.

                                When Should You Do Static Stretches?

                                Static stretching is great when done correctly and at the right time. Over the years, research has shown that static stretching produces best results when done after working out or on rest days,[6] but not as a part of warm up routines before an explosive workout session.

                                This is because static stretches have a cool-down effect on each muscle group and are more effective when done after the muscles are already warm.

                                That doesn’t mean you must never ever perform static stretches before working out, but do it sparingly. Dynamic stretches, which involve more movement, are generally recommended for warming up as it helps the body prepare better for the work ahead.

                                The Bottom Line

                                Carving out the body of your dreams isn’t only about lifting weights and running. You need to keep your body “elastic” if you’re going to make the most of your training, and that’s the whole point of static stretches.

                                Starting today, be sure to incorporate these static stretching exercises into your routine, and in no time, you’ll find yourself recovering faster and performing better than ever before.

                                More Tips on Stretching

                                Featured photo credit: Alora Griffiths via unsplash.com

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