Ever thought you’d see the day your kitchen is your gym floor and your phone screen is your PT? Me neither.
14 weeks in, and the gym seems like a distant memory. The days of squat racks, a full selection of weights and a free standing pull up bar seem like the stuff of dreams. For a 24-year-old personal trainer and professional dancer like me, it all came as a huge shock.
Adapting my gym routine to the home environment has tested my workout creating abilities. The dusting off of my home equipment came as a surprise as I said goodbye to my 'normal' routine based around a whole gym of weights. I’ve been through my fair share of exercises, trying to discover what works for my body. I definitely had my moments when I was using jars of marmalade as dumbbells and a keyboard stand as a barbell.
Yet after some time, I've found this shift a welcome change to my routine that I was too stubborn to alter. Previously, my dedication to hypertrophy training in the weights area meant I was reluctant to switch the squat rack for HIIT or a high rep alternative. But now having changed my focus to strength endurance and adding some cardio, I've achieved goals I wasn't reaching before.
What exercises have You been working on?
With the doors to gyms locked, the bodyweight squat, press-up and burpee became the basis of my workouts. Since then, finding alternatives has become a necessity for keeping my sessions interesting. To continue to make progress, the muscle fibres need to keep recruiting. Here are some alternative exercises that I've found are doing that.
Bulgarian Split SquatThe Bulgarian Split Squat focuses on the posterior lower-body muscles. It differs from a standard squat as it moves the weight placement backwards. The split squat focusses on glutes and hamstrings, as well as quads.
To perform the Bulgarian split squat:
- Stand on one leg
- Rest the other on a platform behind you at knee height (in your home this can be a bed, chair, sofa, bench, stool)
- Hold something in both hands and/or put a full rucksack on your front or back to add weight
- Perform the squat until the front leg creates a 90-degree angle, keeping the knees in line with the toes
- Recover to standing
With a bench, barbell, dumbbell or machine forming the basis of most chest exercises, a good chest workout been difficult to achieve at home. The lack of bodyweight chest options has led me to search for many ways to alter a press-up, helping me to keep motivated and create progression.
Possible alternatives include:
Change the hand position to work other muscles as well as the chest (diamond, wide, close)
- Incline Press-up: raise the upper body (putting on hands onto a sofa or chair etc)
-Decline Press-up: raise the feet (again, at home this can be a sofa or chair)
-Using unstable objects to put your hands on (balls, cushions)
-Putting a heavy pan lid or hardback book on your back to add weight
These options test balance and stability, keeping your chest workouts challenging.
The COVID-19 Classic Burpee - Modified
The burpee has become everyone’s best friend over this pandemic. It has taken centre stage in many online workouts to get a full-body, brutal sweat on. The burpee is one of the most versatile exercises out there. It works legs, glutes, core, shoulders, arms and chest - no surprises why it's featuring! After a few weeks of the standard burpee, it’s fair to say I got tired of it. Let’s talk about changing it up.
-The chest to floor burpee (working your chest, arms and shoulders)
-Adding a two-footed climber when you reach the plank position: jumping your feet to your hand and back again into a plank (working your abs, legs, and shoulders).
Adding a two-footed climber when you reach the plank position: jumping your feet to our hands and back again into a plank (working your abs, legs and shoulders)
- Changing the jump: a tuck jump, star jump or touching opposite hand to foot (making a transverse rotation in the abs)
At one point, I even found myself adding a forwards and backwards roll in between the burpee. I must have had a few coffees before that one.
The burpee will always bring a moment of dread when you realise it's up next in a workout. But it really is the top dog of bodyweight exercises. Although it brings all the sweat and all the soreness the next day, its benefits are worth every rep.
Single Leg Romanian Deadlift (RDL)
The deadlift. The compound movement forming the basis of many strength-based workout plans. But how do you achieve the same effect without barbells, bumper plates or a deadlift platform?
The answer is the Single Leg RDL. This alternative works the core and balance as it's performed on one leg. It also focusses on each hamstring individually, creating more recruitment in each leg. So, although the weight's dropped as you hold two cans of beans or dumbbells in your hands, it is a great alternative.
To perform the Single Leg RDL:
- Stand on one leg, straight but not locked
- Rest the other leg on the floor behind you to get your balance
- Hold something heavy in the opposite hand to the standing leg (e.g. left hand, right leg)
- Hinge your body forward like a pendulum lowering the weight down to the floor with your hips level at all times (aim for a straight line from your head to your ankle, parallel to the floor)
- Return to the original standing position, squeezing the glutes at the end of the movement
As well as modifying the exercises, there are also a couple of ways you can keep your compound movements interesting too.
Tempo/Speed: you can progress or change any movement by altering how fast it is done. Try slowing the movement down, performing the concentric (shortening) contraction over 4 seconds, hold for 2 seconds and extend back for 1 second. You can also go as fast as possible in each rep for a set amount of time. Or, a mix of both!
Half Reps: here you perform half of the movement and recover, before performing the full movement. For example, in a squat, one complete rep would consist of lowering halfway, recovering, then executing the full squat.
There we have it. A few options to keep your workouts progressing. If you are looking for an educational way to occupy your time, I would thoroughly recommend Premier Global NASM’s Level 3 personal training qualification .
Studying with Premier Global NASM through lockdown has helped me progress my knowledge and remain feeling productive whilst stuck indoors. I am also studying the Pre and Postnatal course to enable me to become a specialist in my field. You can complete all the studying through their online platform and still get to speak to their fantastic coaches. And still get the help, if required, from their fantastic Master Tutors
Author – Amber Walton