By Helen Kash, CSCS, NASM-CPT

Stuck at Home? Follow these simple steps to make the most of your at-home strength training!

By now, you’ve probably seen plenty of gyms, coaches, and avid-gym goers alike posting their home workout routines, advertising home training, and you have probably been bombarded at least once by an old Facebook friend trying to sell you some fat burning coffee (newsflash, save your money).  It can be a little overwhelming to decide what program is best for YOU and how you can optimize your time training at home. Look no further — keep reading to learn how to spot a good home training program, how to create one for yourself, and how to have a better home training session! 

No gym equipment? No worries!

First of all, take inventory of the equipment you have at home as well as things you have around the house that could be used as weights.  Do you have dumbbells, bands, a chin-up bar, a bike, etc.? If not, there are plenty of ways to make makeshift exercise equipment with everyday household items. 

Here are some of the creative uses of household items that my virtual clients and I have come up with since starting at-home training over the past few weeks:

  • Dumbbells can be substituted with wine bottles, gallon bottles of juice, cans of soup, heavy boots, or any other heavy object you can hold in one hand! 
  • Backpacks, duffel bags, heavy suitcases, or bags of soil to hold while doing squats, good mornings, and other heavy weighted exercises 
  • Water jugs or milk gallons or other heavy bottles with handles work great for rows and other upper body exercises 
  • Hardwood floors + socks or a towel make a great substitution for a slideboard 
  • Stack some of those old textbooks you never opened in college for some low step-ups or to stand on during calf raises
  • Your pets will be happy to sit on your lap while doing glute bridges and hip thrusts! 

If you get bored of bodyweight exercises or need an additional challenge, using some objects you have around the house can be a great way to add difficulty in a creative and fun way!

“…but working out at home is boring and too easy!” 

Many of the concerns I’ve heard from clients about training at home are that they will lose all their progress since they can’t train at home in the same way they do at the gym.  This is –partially– true. Even a few weeks off won’t put you back entirely to square one. But, the longer you take off, the more strength, muscle mass, and endurance you can lose.  Programming your training sessions properly can help minimize that loss.

Incorporate a tempo: for example, we can use a 313 tempo while doing a squat.  Count to three on the lowering (eccentric) portion of the squat.  Pause for one second (isometric!) at the bottom of the squat. Then, count to three on the way up (this is the concentric portion).  This increases the amount of time your muscles have to work and are under tension during each rep, which is much more challenging than breezing through the set as fast as you can.  This is also a great way to fine-tune and solidify your positioning at each point in the exercise, which will make your movement even better once you can load it with heavier weight. 

Pair exercises that train similar muscle groups: let’s use our same squat example.  If you can’t do heavy back squats at home, I may have you do a set of goblet squats followed immediately by lunges.  Your quads should be feeling pretty fatigued as if you just did some heavy barbell squats! 

Perfect your movement: grab a PVC pipe or dowel rod (or bodyweight) and do a few sets of squats, RDL’s, or any other exercise you would do with a bar.  Bonus points if you do these with a slow tempo or pause at various points to solidify and feel the proper position. Use this time to remind yourself of important cues.  Even if you can’t train these movements with a weight on your back, this is a great way to perfect your movement with minimal-to-no weight so you will move even more efficiently once you can push it heavy. 

Stay consistent!

It can be easy to fall into a pattern of slacking off from your home training sessions when you’re stuck at home.  I mean, watching 6 hours of Netflix and eating ice cream can sound a lot more appealing than doing push ups in your living room.  But, this can make it even harder to get back into a routine of training to maintain your strength for when you can get back in the gym. 

If you already had scheduled times to go to the gym, stick to these times for your home sessions.  Viewing your home sessions with the same intent as your gym sessions will help you stay focused, maintain the same good habits you have formed, and still put maximal effort into your training.  Remember, the more effort you put into your home training sessions, the easier it will be once you can get back into the gym! 

Create a designated space that you can use as your workout area, and your workout area only.  Keep all of your equipment in this space, and try to minimize the distractions of a TV playing, your kids distracting you, alerts on your phone, or any other things that you might get sidetracked with.  Especially when you are stuck at home, creating a space that you can associate with exercising will help ensure you can carve out an hour a day where you can focus purely on your training. 

Find a buddy to keep you accountable — we are all in this together!  Reach out to a gym buddy who trains at the same time as you, and check in before and after your workout.  Better yet, do some virtual training sessions with a coach who knows what YOU need to keep your strength up and still meet your goals at home (remember, my team and I are always here and willing to help!). 

Obviously, nothing beats a good workout in a physical gym.  But, there will be times when it is out of your control to get to the gym, be it travel, work obligations, or a global pandemic.  What you CAN control is what you do in spite of those things — staying consistent, adapting your training to fit your current situation, and continually putting in hard work!

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