Improving Fitness From Home
Okay, this quarantine has been going on a lot longer than we all expected from the start and with many of us still stuck at home, it’s easy to lose the fitness motivation after so long. It’s definitely difficult to get back into the fitness regime if you’ve had a long break. Although “at home” training can be much more mundane than at the gym, there are still a plethora of strategies to improve your fitness, whatever your goals may be.
Define your Specific Goals
Every fitness program needs to start with goals in mind. Do you want to increase endurance, muscle size, or improve joint health? Is your main goal weight loss or maintenance? Or do you want to bulk up? It’s important to always have one or two goals to focus on when building a training program.
Find the Exercises You CAN Do
There are 4 basic movement patterns you’ll want to focus on when training equipment is limited or unavailable. These are push, pull, squat and hinge movements. The obvious “push” exercise to choose is a push up. For a “pull” you want to perform a pull up or bodyweight row (a door jamb pullup bar is a great tool). For squats you can do a squat or lunge. Two basic “hinge” exercises are single leg hip thrust or single leg deadlift.
Determine Your Metrics for Tracking
Being that weights, racks and machines are likely limited when training from home, your metrics for improvement will likely be different than if you had access to a gym. At a gym the obvious progressions are increases in weight and reps, however it’s not so obvious when training from home. Increasing repetitions can work, but once you get up to the 30+ range you’re doing more endurance type training than strength training.
Strategies to Increase Training Intensity:
Decrease Time Between Sets
An easy way to keep your reps per set down and intensity up (if you’re approaching that 30 rep mark) is to shorten your rest periods. Rather than doing a set and waiting until your heart rate slows and your muscles stop hurting, reduce your time between sets. Start at 90-120 seconds and decrease by 5 or 10 seconds per workout. This will increase workout intensity compared to resting as long as you want, which will make it difficult to complete the same amount of reps. This is best used in a straight-set system, not in a circuit. If you focus on decreasing rest periods during a circuit workout, it will become a cardio workout rather than a strength training session. Pick a single exercise, pushups for example, and do 4 sets while monitoring your rest in between. After completing all four sets, then move on to the next exercise.
Increase Set Volume
More sets equals more stimulus, it’s as simple as that. If you’re used to doing 3 sets of squats and aren’t progressing quickly, add more volume. Try 4 sets one week and see how you feel after the workout. Next week move up to 5 sets. This is an extremely effective way to increase workout stimulus without adding unnecessary fatigue.
Myo-reps are my personal favorite strategy for increasing workout intensity (after increasing volume). Basically: Perform a set of your exercise 1-2 reps shy of failure. Once you’ve completed your set, rest 15 seconds then perform one fourth of the reps you completed on your first set, rest 15 more seconds, and repeat until you can’t hit that one fourth number anymore. For example:
Main set: 20 reps, rest 15 seconds
Second set: 5 reps, rest 15 seconds
Third set: 5 reps, rest 15 seconds
Fourth set: 4 reps, rest.
Myo-reps shouldn’t be used for the majority of your workout, it’s best to use them as a finisher for each exercise. Use these for the last set of each of your exercises. If you normally do 4 sets of pushups, do 3 straight sets as per usual, then for the fourth set perform a myo-rep set instead.
Focus on Your Diet
Although for most people training is the more exciting part of fitness, nutrition is definitely the easier controlled variable during quarantine. It’s possible to improve workouts and progress, however it is still difficult and you likely aren’t spending as much time working out as before. Use this saved time to improve your diet. This is an extremely important part of your fitness and the benefits of learning how to stick to a well-rounded, whole foods based diet will definitely pay off, especially once gyms do open and you can optimize nutrition and training at the same time.
Intensity, intensity, intensity
The main focus of your training, just as important as your training technique, is your training intensity. When exercising at home, it’s easy to pass it off as a BS workout and only put in half the work, however you need to continue training hard if you want to progress. Sets of 30 pushups are definitely not as fun as sets of 10 on a bench press, but if you don’t want to fall backwards, you need to keep the intensity high. Try these techniques to increase your training intensity and you’ll get a great workout in a short amount of time. Get fit, stay fit, be lit.