My home workout dilemma
Updated: Apr 24, 2020
Lockdown has presented a physical challenge. I no longer have access to my preferred workout methods. I'm a pretty motivated individual but I have to admit that I struggled first with motivation, then with just doing any half arsed stuff that entered my head. I decided to set myself a challenge:
Create an effective workout to meet my normal goals and come out of lockdown in better shape than I started
Without the equipment that is readily available in the gym or being able to go out on more difficult bike rides, it has been tricky to find the right workout.
In the ideal world, each workout has a specific goal, is only long enough to get the job done and has enough variety to keep me motivated. The problem now is maintaining focus and creating enough intensity and variation to feel I had a good work out and make sure it was effective.
Equipment and type of workout
Fortunately, I have some kettlebells, a suspension trainer, bands and slam balls amongst other things, which would be great if I wanted to create a great circuit or HIIT workout, but I don’t. This is not down to laziness or not liking that style of training, I have a pretty serious heart condition (ARVC-actually ALVC in my particular case) and my aerobic activity intensity has to be a fairly well controlled to avoid problems (sudden death). Technically cycling and heavy weight training should also be avoided, but I have found these much easier to control, and the benefit in terms of my quality of life is sufficient to mitigate the risk.
After spending some time playing around with the equipment I have, the simplicity and dexterity of a kettlebell and resistance band make them my go to choices. There is plenty of variety, easy set up and easy transition between exercises. This means that I can now add intensity by reducing rest periods between sets and exercises, and in doing so complete more exercises in the same time frame.
Tempo of reps is another thing to change. Depending on the exercise I now perform a slow concentric phase (lifting/pulling/pushing) and even slower on the eccentric phase (return), so my tempo will normally be 3050 (3 seconds to lift, 0 secs hold, 5 secs return, 0 secs hold/rest). Occasionally I will utilise an explosive concentric phase, but this will depend on the type of exercise and particular set up. Some exercises (kettlebell cleans or swings etc.) only lend themselves to explosive movements, and others can be done equally well either way. Go with what you feel works well to target the muscle you are focusing on.
Target muscle focus
Despite making the adjustments to tempo and rest periods, it is still difficult to achieve enough intensity without a lot of weight. Higher weights are particularly good at recruiting the necessary muscle fibres with the right stimulus (force) leading to strength and muscle gains. What we can do however, is encourage similar development by the means of fatigue and ‘pumping’ of the muscle which is usually associated with the ‘burn’ sensation. Really focus on how the target muscle is working, squeezing on each contraction.
Even with all these adjustments it can be difficult to work the muscle hard enough.
Normally I would work in a rep range of between 6 and 12, now I do whatever it takes (within reason), to reach near failure and work through the discomfort of muscle burn. Usually 15-25 reps will suffice but exceptions might be press ups or squats.
Whole body workouts are very effective for people who have limited training experience or those looking for a more metabolic effect from training. I struggle to get enough enjoyment out of these types of workouts because I like to train 6 days out of 7 so full body each day starts to feel like a chore to me, repeating many of the exercises too frequently.
Normally I would do Push/Pull/Lift/ Push/Lift/Push+Pull/Rest. This gives a good balance of training volume over the week, maintain high intensity for each exercise and having adequate recovery between workouts.
Home workouts with limited resistance will be less taxing for the body and require less recovery time. I now just alternate Upper body/ Lower body split with a rest on the 7th day (Upper/Lower/Upper/Lower/Upper/Lower/Rest).
To get an effective workout using less resistance than optimal, you need to manipulate all available training variables to illicit a similar effect.
· Less rest
· Slower tempo
· Target muscle focus
· Higher reps
· More frequent training of the same muscle groups (Upper/Lower Split)