The Ultimate Home Workout Guide

The Ultimate Home Workout Guide March 26, 2020Leave a comment

Being at home sucks.

Especially when your phone buzzes with another corona-related meme every five minutes.

But through the deluge of hand-washing, social distancing, and relentless WhatsApp messages, comes the problem of getting to the gym.

Training, staying on track, and making progress is now far more challenging than it ever has been.

Can you still train? Will you lose all that muscle you’ve built? What are the best bodyweight exercises? What equipment should you get?

Don’t worry, this Ultimate Home Workout Guide is going to answer all your training and toilet-paper related questions, so you can still stay on course and make giant leaps towards your health and fitness goals.

What About The Progress You’ve Already Made In The Gym?

Don’t stress, things will be fine. Just as muscle mass and strength take time to acquire, it takes time to lose them as well.

Even if you were to do nothing, it would you take approximately 4-6 weeks to lose any appreciable muscle mass.

And even if you do lose some of that hard-earned muscle, you’ll be able to regain it far quicker than it took to initially build it.

As for that strength you’ve developed, there may be some drop-off. But, just like building muscle, when you hit the gym again, you’ll soon be back to where you were pre-corona.

Similarly, you shouldn’t put back on all that weight you’ve lost, should you ensure your training and eating habits stay as close to their original state as before. Weight regain will only occur should you take yourself out of that energy deficit you’d created to shed a few pounds.

The main takeaway: even if you’re unable to train exactly as you were before, as long as you do something, you’ll be absolutely fine.

What Is That Something, However?!

It’s all very well continuing to train at home, but are you ensuring you’re training the right way.

Going from following a structured programme in the gym to then bounding around your living room performing a set of star jumps and following a plyometrics plan from your favourite fitness influencer is akin to taking a trip to Italy at this moment in time: stupid.

Do not ignore the same training principles you adhere to in the gym now you’re starting to train at home.

Get Strong & And Build Muscle

You’ll not only improve body composition but enrich your health far more with building strength and muscle than you will with cardio alone.

More muscle equates to a more defined physique, a better metabolic rate, more calories burned post-exercise, and generally your food being stored as muscle, as opposed to fat.

This is why continuing to build strength and muscle should still be your number one priority while training outside of the gym; not aimlessly skipping around your garden.

Progressive Overload

The main premise of your training programme should always centre around the principle of progressive overload – the concept of continually increasing the amount of stress placed on the body, allowing it to adapt along the way.

Progressive overload is simply ‘doing more over time’.

This means, as your training programme develops, you should always aim to lift heavier or, as we’ll discuss, manipulate and improve other training variables to continue improving.

Time Under Tension

Time under tension is the time spent carrying out muscular contractions as part of a strength training exercise. When the fibres of high-threshold motor units are subjected to high levels of tension, we increase muscle growth.

Aiming to just get ‘hot and sweaty’, therefore, isn’t going to be a good indicator of progress.

Increase the amount of time your muscles are under tension and you’ll be better set to make progress, no matter the location.

How To Structure Your Home Workout Session

Warming Up

The idea of warming up may want to make you smash your head against your kitchen table, but ignoring this aspect of training now you’re at home is a recipe for disaster.

Take your body through the appropriate warm-up, albeit a shortened version, and you’ll not only be less likely to injure yourself but allow your body to acquire the maximum rewards from your session.

Take your body through this process to maximise your new training programme:

  • Mobility Drills – Self-Myofascial Release, Dynamic Mobility, Corrective Mobility
  • Activation Drills – Appropriate Muscular Contractions
  • Movement Drills – Appropriate Warm Up Movement Patterns

The Main Session

One of the most efficient methods of applying the aforementioned training principles is to guide your body through the main movement patterns.

These are:

  • Upper Body Push
  • Upper Body Pull
  • Lower Body Knee Dominant
  • Lower Body Hip Dominant
  • Core
  • Carry

If you can hit each movement pattern while manipulating the volume, intensity, and frequency of each, you’ll be able to reap the rewards of training in the gym, at home.

While you shouldn’t fall into the trap of turning into a ‘circuit training guru’, It may be wise to pairing or group certain movements together given the lack of intensity, thereby increasing the amount of work you’re doing in a specified period of time.

Exercise Order

Just as you would in the gym, it’s better to prioritise your main compound lifts at the beginning.

This will not only allow you to maximise the amount of effort you put into these movements but put you in an increased state of fatigue for your accessory exercises which should come later.

How To Structure Your Home Workout Programme

Training Variables

There are a variety of training variables that should be taken into account when designing an appropriate programme and now you’re going to be training at home, focusing on maximising these factors is going to be crucial.

These main factors, for each muscle group per session, generally speaking, are:

Effort (Reps In Reserve) – How much effort you’re putting into each exercise, or specifically how many reps you have left ‘in the tank’ once the set has finished. When it comes to training at home – or specifically, if you’re using less weight – it’s going to be best to aim for as close to failure as possible for each exercise.

Reps – The number of repetitions you perform in each set. Aiming for anywhere between 6-20 repetitions for each set will initiate a ‘muscle growth’ or ‘hypertrophic’ response. The more reps you have per set, however, the closer you should push to failure.

Volume Per Session – This is the number of sets you complete per muscle group. Aiming for anywhere between 3-8 sets per muscle group per session is going to be most beneficial.

Frequency – This is the number of times you train each muscle group per week. Aiming for 2-3, maybe 4, times per week per muscle group is going to be most favourable while training at home.

An example, using the knee dominant pattern, may look like this:

Three different exercises have been slotted into the ‘knee dominant’ category – squat, lunge, and step-ups – thereby training that particular movement three times per week. Given there’s three sets per session and 20-24 reps per set, this equates to nine sets and over 60 reps per week.

You could, of course, include two knee dominant exercises per session – a squat and split squat in Session 1, for example – but you’d have to manipulate the sets and reps accordingly.

Changing The Variables

Depending on your ability level, equipment available, and time vacant (which in this case, will undoubtedly be framed as ‘a lot’) we can manipulate each variable to suit our needs.

As, for example, we may have limited equipment available, we may have to take a ‘press-up’ as close to failure as possible (fewer reps in reserve) to maximise a sufficient training effect. Similarly, as we don’t have sufficient ‘weight’ to increase with a ‘row’, for example, we may have to increase the number of times we train that muscle group per week.

Should we change one variable, however, this will mean something else will change with it.

Basic Programme – You’ll see from the infographic above that the ‘basic programme’ has somebody training each muscle group two times per week, with six sets per muscle group per session, with three reps in reserve per set.

Increased Frequency – You’ll see from the second infographic that an ‘increased frequency’ has somebody now training each muscle group three times per week. As a consequence, they’ll now lower the number of sets per muscle group per session to two and leave just two reps in reserve per set.

Less Intense – You’ll see from the last infographic that a ‘less intense’ programme has somebody still training each muscle group three times per week, but given they now have four reps left in reserve per set, they’ll be aiming to hit ten sets per muscle group per session.

Other Variables To Manipulate

While sets, reps, intensity, and volume are four of the most common training variables we can manipulate, there are a variety of other factors we can change during our training programme to ensure progress is still being made.

And while we may not have access to heavier loads to ensure progress, focusing on these factors is your next best port of call:

Tempo – This refers to the time taken to perform each exercise. While much slower doesn’t necessarily mean better, changing how long it takes you to perform each exercise is a method of improving week on week or even session on session.

Similarly, adding additional ‘pauses’ at the top or bottom of each exercise will manipulate the tempo.

Range Of Motion – This refers to the distance a muscle group can be taken through. An increased range of motion available, for example, will make the exercise harder.

Density – This refers to the amount of work you do in a specified amount of time. You could, therefore, increase the amount of work you do in a specified time or do the same amount of work in less time.

Point Of Ground Contact – This refers to the positioning of your body in relation to each exercise. Manipulating points of contact – for example, staggered feet, heels up, narrow stance for a squat and wide, narrow etc. for a press-up – will allow you to get your body into more challenging positions.

What Equipment Should I Get?

Providing everything hasn’t sold out online, there is a tonne of equipment available for you to purchase to ensure you’re able to continue training with the desired effect.

There are, what I like to call, ‘four tiers’ of equipment you should acquire, ranging from ‘absolutely necessary’ to ‘buy if you’re feeling adventurous’.

Tier 1 – Bodyweight

As an absolute minimum, you can create an effective bodyweight training routine, providing you adhere to the training variable guidelines stated above.  

Tier 2 – Resistance Bands, Dumbbells

Resistance bands and dumbbells are two of the simplest forms of equipment available that will ensure you ramp up progress.

Try and get 2/3 variations of each, if possible.

Tier 3 – Kettlebells, Suspension Trainer, Weighted Vest, Swiss Ball

The next tier will add a little spice to your training programme and allow for slightly more variety within your programme.

Kettlebells do require proper training, so it may be wise to only purchase these if you’ve had the correct guidance.

Tier 4 – Chin Up Bar, Dip Bar, Rings, Barbells

The final tier may be reserved for the advanced trainer.

Chin-ups and dips aren’t easy exercises to perform and you should only aim for these pieces of equipment should you have been taken through the correct technique for each exercise.

A Few Exercise Examples

Upper Body Push

Press-Ups

Banded Shoulder Press

Upper Body Pull

Face Pulls

Banded Row

Lower Body Knee Dominant

Split Squat

Step-Ups

Lower Body Hip Dominant

Hip Thrust

Banded Romanian Deadlift

Core

Plank Marches

Hollow Hold

Carry

Waiter Carry

Suitcase Carry

A Few Other Top Tips For Staying Sane At Home

Sleep

What better time to now get that sleep pattern in check? While the lure of a late-night Netflix binge may be tempting, with little to do there’s no excuse to not set a regular bed and wake up time.

Sufficient shut-eye will not only help keep us mentally focused and lean but will prevent screwed up hormones and increased risk of chronic illness.

Keep Connected

While we’re being told to be socially distant physically, that doesn’t mean we should be socially distant generally.

Thanks to the wonderful world of technology we’re able to now connect at the click of a button, and so reaching out to friends, family, and loved ones will ensure you not only keep your mental health in check but theirs too.

Stay connected so you’re not fighting this alone.

Set A Routine

You recently had a typical routine which included waking up, getting ready, travelling, working, going to the gym etc. so why ignore that?

Try and keep your routine as close to normal as possible. Wake up at the same time, eat the same meals at the same time, schedule your gym session at the same time etc.

Having a routine will bring a sense of control to an otherwise jagged day.

Avoid Trigger Foods

Definitely, 100%, absolutely don’t purchase those trigger foods you know cause you to overeat and leave them in the house.

If you’re going to be spending more time at home, boredom is going to hit and eating is often the first activity that’s going to happen.

The less opportunity you have to snack on calorific foods the less likely you are to eat them. Don’t buy them.

Protein First

Take-aways and ‘things on toast’ are going to be an easy choice but EVERY meal and snack you have should consist of some form of protein.

If you desperately want a piece of chocolate, make sure you have some form of protein FIRST – whether that’s a protein shake, few spoons of Greek yoghurt, or cucumber slices and cottage cheese.


This Article Was Too Long And I Didn’t Read It; Can You Summarise It Please

Just as muscle mass and strength take time to acquire, it takes time to lose them as well. Even if you were to do nothing, it would you take approximately 4-6 weeks to lose any appreciable muscle mass.

As for that strength you’ve built, there may be some drop-off. But, just like building muscle, when you hit the gym again, you’ll soon be back to where you were pre-corona.

The main takeaway: even if you’re unable to train exactly as you were before, as long as you do something you’ll be absolutely fine.

Do not ignore the same training principles you adhere to in the gym now you’re starting to train at home.

Get Strong & And Build Muscle, Follow The Principles Of Progressive Overload, And Maximise Time Under Tension

How To Structure Your Home Workout Session

Ensure you warm up following this protocol:

Mobility Drills – Self-Myofascial Release, Dynamic Mobility, Corrective Mobility; Activation Drills – Appropriate Muscular Contractions; Movement Drills – Appropriate Warm Up Movement Patterns

Complete your main session using the main movement patterns – Upper Body Push, Upper Body Pull, Lower Body Knee Dominant, Lower Body Hip Dominant, Core, Carry

How To Structure Your Home Workout Programme

Manipulate effort (reps in reserve), volume, intensity, and frequency to allow for ability level, equipment available, and time vacant.

What Equipment Should I Get?

Tier 1 – Bodyweight; Tier 2 – Resistance Bands, Dumbbells; Tier 3 – Kettlebells, Suspension Trainer, Weighted Vest, Swiss Ball; Tier 4 – Chin Up Bar, Dip Bar, Rings, Barbells

A Few Other Top Tips For Staying Sane At Home

Sleep, Keep Connected, Set A Routine, Avoid Trigger Foods, Protein First

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