How things can change quickly…
This time last week I was handicapping college basketball games and trying to decide which golfers I wanted to bet on to win the Masters. Now, we have no sports, while schools, bars, and restaurants are closing, and we’re facing the very real possibility of a nationwide lockdown within the next few days.
This pandemic is affecting all of us in one way or another. And for me and my clients, one of those ways is our workouts.
Gyms in other countries have already shut down and my gut tells me gyms in the U.S. aren’t far behind.
Now, I’m going to keep going to the gym as long as I can, (it may actually be one of the most sanitary places you can go, given the extra precautions) but we all still need to be prepared for what we’re going to do if and when the gyms shut down; for what could be quite a while.
If you don’t want to lose your gains or put on the Quarantine 15, at-home workouts are our only option.
But fret not – here are 7 ways to make your at-home workouts more challenging and effective, no matter what equipment you have…
Tempo is one of my favorite ways to make workouts more challenging, and is something I regularly use when creating programs for clients.
The most tissue damage during a lift occurs in the eccentric – or lowering portion of each rep. So one way to make your reps more challenging is by adding a 3-4 second tempo during the eccentric; meaning instead of lowering quickly, you lower yourself over 3-4 seconds.
This increases time under tension, which is one of the main factors in building muscle, by increasing muscle fiber activation, and taking stress off your joints.
2). Isometric Holds
Similar to tempo, isometric holds are simply extended periods of time spent in the contracted or stretch portion of a rep.
Like tempo, this can be applied to any exercise. Take a push-up for example: You lower yourself down, and instead of coming up right away, you hold at the bottom for 2 seconds. This emphasizes the stretch, or lengthened, portion of the movement and increases the tension on the fibers in your chest.
After that, you press up and then hold at the top for 2 seconds. This emphasizes the contracted, or shortened, muscle position and increases tension on the fibers in the triceps.
3) Partial Reps
I love using partial reps at the end of a set. Do as many full reps of an exercise as you can until you hit failure. But instead of stopping there, keep going with as much range of motion as you have left using partial reps. This allows you to continue to do more work, even when some of your muscle fibers are exhausted.
4) Drop Sets
If you do have weights or equipment at home, this is a great technique.
Start with a heavy weight and do as many reps as you can. Once you hit failure, instead of stopping, immediately drop the weight 20-30% and continue until you hit failure again.
5). Changing Angles
Exercises get easier or harder depending on the angle. Again, take push-ups as an example…
Put your feet up on a couch or chair, with your hands on the ground, and do as many decline push-ups as you can.
Once you hit failure, put your feet on the ground and do as many regular push-ups as you can.
Once you hit failure there, place your hands on a couch, chair, or wall, and do as many incline push-ups as you can.
You’re hitting failure each set, but each time you change angles, you’re making the push-ups easier, and thus allowing yourself to do more work each set.
Another progression would be going from a normal stance squat, to a split squat, to a rear foot elevated split squat: each time, you’re making the exercise harder.
Adding explosive movements to your workout will really up the intensity.
Think squat or box jumps, jump lunges, burpees, clap push-ups, and medicine ball throws.
7). Sprints and Carries
Sprints are a great way to challenge yourself without any equipment. All you need is a driveway, road, or hill and you can get an incredibly effective workout in less than 15 minutes. Simply sprint for 10-20 seconds, and rest for 2-3 minutes. Do that 5-6 times and you’re done.
Another good option, if you have dumbbells or hell, anything heavy, are weighted carries.
These are a great conditioning option as they will tax nearly every muscle in your body. The goal here isn’t to move as fast as possible, but rather, in a slow controlled manner, keeping your abs braced, chest up, glutes tight, spine neutral, and shoulders pulled back – to help you create maximum tension.
Walk for 30-40 yards, then rest 2 minutes. Do that 4-5 times at the end of your workout.
Working out at home isn’t ideal – believe me. I’m not looking forward to the possibility of not going to the gym for weeks. But we need to do our part, and wait for this to pass. However, that doesn’t mean we have to sacrifice our gains in the process.
Use these 7 methods to help you ramp up your at home workouts, and stay in shape until this pandemic is over – or the zombie apocalypse arrives. Whichever comes first.
And if you need at-home workouts to do while your gym is closed, grab my FREE 4-Week Bodyweight Blitz program I put together here.
Jorden is a cookie-loving former fat kid turned online fitness consultant; who lost over 80 pounds and has now helped over 600 of men and women get in better shape and improve their lives. You can find him on Instagram musing about fitness, life, and cookies. For coaching inquiries, you can contact Jorden here.