Whether gym doors close for the night or for months due to unforeseen viruses, your health and physical fitness are more than a gym membership. As far as your fitness is concerned, you can build muscle, lose fat, and (or) get in amazing shape without leaving the comfort of your home.
There are multiple ways of staying fit without the gym, but first we have to start by asking “in what way do you want to be fit?” Do you want to build muscle to develop an aesthetic physique? Are you looking to improve your cardiovascular health? Do you want to burn fat to reveal the definition in your form, grow stronger, improve flexibility? Because these are all separate fitness goals there are different ways of approaching and achieving them, but they are all possible without a gym.
HOME WORKOUT: Building Muscle/ Strength
Regardless of whether you use a gym or not, the only option we have for forming new muscle mass and increasing strength is through resistance training. That doesn’t mean you have to use the conventional dumbbell or squat rack found in your average gym, but it does mean you’ll need some form of weight to stimulate progressive overload [progressive overload: method of training for the gradual increase of stress place on the musculoskeletal and nervous system].
Whether you prefer the gym or not, you gotta give it some credit; when it comes to equipment it’s got home sweet home beat. So to compensate for the fewer options, it’s important to focus on a majority of compound movements to build muscle at home. Compound movements (exercises recruiting more than one body part) and the development of a well rounded physique are a package deal. They are also key for the functional strength necessary for performing tasks of everyday life efficiently and without pain.
A great way to trigger muscle growth without the typical gym equipment is by changing the tempo (or speed) of each exercise. Adding weight to an exercise while slowing down the movement is going to torch your muscle and prepare them to grow between workouts.
Some great exercises for building muscle:
With your hands about shoulder width apart and your neck, back, and shoulders aligned, lower your body towards the ground until it’s parallel with the floor. Push- can be performed weighted with something like a book bag, and if using a tempo the lowering phase should be slow (2-3 seconds), a slight pause at the bottom (2 second), and an explosive push back to the starting position (1 second). So all in all the tempo would look something like this (2-2-1)
With a supinated grip, bring your collar bone and upper body up towards your hands. Again hold at the top (2-3 seconds) lower yourself down to the starting position slowly (2-3 seconds), and explode back to the top of the pull up bar quickly (1 second). You can do this weighted but I recommend being able to do at least more than 10 before using weights.
Lowering your upper body, bend your knees until legs are parallel or past parallel with the floor. The the quads are a powerhouse of a muscle, so if you want to get the most out of them for muscle growth, put those sucka’s to work with as much reasonable weight as you can carry in a book bag and slow the move down in the lowering phase to really feel the burn.
Good mornings are performed by leaning your torso forward and bringing your hips back, very similar to a deadlift but more emphasis on bringing your torso parallel with the floor. If you do choose to do this exercise weighted, be careful not to load a lot of weight on your back, as this can lead to injury if not done correctly.
Pretty self explanatory, however when you do them, try to find ways to make the exercise as difficult as possible. The calves can be a stubborn body part so performing raised righted or pushing against the top of a door frame will definitely help to build them up
Dips are an excellent tricep exercise used by many inside and outside the gym. As long as you can find an elevated, stable surface, you can probably do dips. You’ll want to achieve a 90 degree bend between your upper are and forearm, holding the contraction at the top and slowly lowering your body back to the starting position.
You could use body-weight exercises, incorporate weighted objects around your house for compound movements like squats, you could also invest in resistance tools like resistance bands, TRX straps, kettlebells, or even dumbbells (if you’re cool with shelling out the$). Regardless of the equipment you use make sure that it’s heavy enough to break down your muscle fibers to trigger adaptation/ muscle growth.
Lastly for this category I would recommend a structured program that utilizes the following variables; frequency, volume (sets x reps), intensity, rest. Find a program with a good training split that uses these variables for what you want to achieve (hypertrophy, strength, or both).
HOME WORKOUT: Aerobic/ Cardio Training
Cardiovascular fitness is much simpler to achieve outside of the gym, though there are more effective ways of achieving it than others. The most obvious choice for cardio outside the gym would be running/ jogging outdoors, but there are other activities such as biking, swimming, or rowing that are great alternatives. Like muscle building the goal of cardio fitness is to stimulate adaptation, though in this case we’re looking for markers like improved maximal oxygen uptake (VO2 max) improved lactate buffering, better performance time, etc.
I would suggest that whichever form of cardio you choose, give interval training a try. It has been found that performing high intensity aerobic intervals (ex. 15 seconds of intense cycling, 15 seconds of rest at a low intensity) produced greater reductions in body-weight, fat mass, fasting plasma insulin levels and a greater increase in VO2 peak compared to steady state exercise (1). Steady state exercise like a light jog or a casual bike ride is still useful, but if you want to experience greater results, you’ll likely have to push yourself to higher intensities found in interval training.
Research has found that training at high intensities (particularly cardio) creates some of the most significant decreases in fat mass among adolescents and adults (2).
So an example of an interval you could use is taking a run around your neighborhood, but with a slight twist;
2 minute warm up
(Just a comfortable walking pace)
3 minutes at a pace of 5/10 intensity
(A fairly quick pace that makes it slightly difficult to hold conversation)
1 minute of sprints at an 8-9/10 intensity
(A pace that gets your blood pumping and virtually impossible to hold conversation)
Repeat the last two intensities for 4 rounds
This video is a great example of an aerobic interval, again the beauty is in the options you have. Maybe you find running boring but prefer riding a bike, give a workout like this a try.
HOME WORKOUT: Burning Fat
Losing fat comes down to 2 factors; a negative energy balance (caloric deficit) and exercise, two things that can be achieved without a gym. Funny thing is that as far as exercise is concerned, you can accomplish this by incorporating the two categories I listed before (resistance and aerobic training). Studies have shown that utilizing both resistance and cardio training is effective at reducing fat and body mass while preserving lean muscle mass, protecting the body against the catabolic nature of just aerobic exercise (3). The goal is to fire up the energy pathways of the body to blow through the limited amount of consumed food from the deficit and use stored energy (glucose and fat) to power intense bouts of exercise, thus reducing fat mass.
This is why HIIT has become so popular in recent years. Even if you’re not familiar with this mouthful of a phrase (high intensity interval training), you’ve likely seen some form of it in your fitness journey. High inte can be done virtually anywhere and make for the ideal home workout.
The objective is to adjust the tweak the work to rest ratio by packing multiple exercises (usually of an explosive, aerobic nature) into a very short amount of time, creating a challenging, time-efficient, calorie-burning, engaging workout It is a great way to make things more interesting than running on a treadmill for an hour.
Just as it’s name implies, HIIT gives you the opportunity to go hard and burn some serious calories, but if you’re new to fitness be sure to pace yourself. Instead of 30 second intervals of nearly 100% effort, try 1-3 minute intervals at 80% and 1-3 minutes of lower intensity work.
This video posted by SELF is a great example of a HIIT workout you can do from home; literally no equipment required but still extremely challenging. And when I say challenging I do mean CHALLENGING. This workout is not for the faint of heart, so if you’re new to fitness you’ve been warned.
There are plenty more categories of fitness I could talk about, but the main point is that it is achievable without the gym. With a little research and a lot of dedication I am confident you will crush any fitness goal you have outside the gym. Feel free to let me know what your favorite home workout is and what your goals are in the comments! Until next time, BE WELL!