You may have been a regular at your local gym. Maybe you’re on the high school basketball team. Or maybe your only form of exercise was walking back and forth from your desk to the coffee machine. Well, the gym’s closed, school’s canceled, and everyone’s working from home. Get your Netflix binge over and done with. Here’s how to stay in (or get in) shape when you’re stuck at home.
There are two main types of exercise: cardio and strength training. Cardio is great if you just want to sweat and burn a few calories, but if you want to see actual, physical changes to your body, strength training is what will get the job done. For a full breakdown of why this is the case, check out this article over at bodybuilding.com. It’s aimed at women but the same applies to men.
Stick to the Basics
Exercise doesn’t have to be complicated. You don’t have to do your favorite insta influencer’s super-awesome 19-move ab plan. Most people don’t have a fully functional home gym, but you can work all the major muscle groups with 3 basic bodyweight movements: push-ups, pull-ups, and squats. Push-ups work your chest, triceps, shoulders, and core. Pull-ups will hit your back and biceps. Finish it off with squats for your legs and you’ve just performed a full-body workout.
This is a simple and effective routine that anyone can do at home. You can use it to build muscle and strength or perform it in a circuit for a cardio effect. Think of this as a foundation on which you can add to or modify. We’ll give you some examples below. Do these three nonconsecutive days per week.
Three exercises, three sets of each, ten reps per set.
Position your hands on the floor shoulder-width apart, or slightly wider. Extend your legs and hold yourself off the floor so that only your hands and toes are touching. Keep your core engaged so that your body is in a straight line from your heels to your head throughout the movement. Bend your elbows and lower your body toward the ground. Your elbows should be at about a 45-degree angle to your body. Lower until your nose almost touches the floor, then push to return to the starting position.
You’ll need something sturdy enough to support your weight for pull-ups. Some at-home ideas include backyard swingset/playgrounds, exposed rafters or 2x4s, garage door opener tracks (if they’re supported strongly enough) you can get creative here. If you can’t find anything, consider a door-mounted pull-up bar. They’re safe, they work, and they don’t damage your home!
Grab the bar with an overhand grip just wider than shoulder-width. Pull your body up until the bar almost touches your chest. Control the movement when lowering back to the starting position, do not just let your body fall.
Position your feet just wider than shoulder-width, toes pointed slightly out. Bend at the knees and ankles while driving your hips back. Your knees should open just slightly. Squat down until your thighs are parallel with the floor. Keep your chest up, shoulders back, and lower back straight (don’t round or arch). Press with your heels to straighten your body and return to the starting position.
Modify as Needed
If fat-loss is your goal, perform each exercise in a circuit. Do ten push-ups, ten pull-ups, and ten squats with as little rest in between each set as possible. That’s one circuit, now repeat two more times. Want more? You can repeat the circuit as many times as you want!
For a muscle-building effect, perform each exercise and set in order, resting one to two minutes between each set. Do ten push-ups, rest, ten more, rest, ten more. Then move on and repeat the process with pull-ups and then squats. Once the routine becomes easy, add more weight with a weighted vest. Now you have the ability to add more and more weight to these exercises and apply the principle of progressive overload, the central concept behind building muscle, which forces your muscles to adapt and grow bigger and stronger. You can find more info as well as product reviews on weighted vests at SportsandTrainingEssentials.com.
If you want to hit your abs harder, try holding your legs up parallel to the ground during pull-ups. Or simply hang in the pull-up position and perform leg raises – lift your legs up to parallel, then return to hanging position. These are much more effective than any crunch or sit-up.
For more bicep work, switch to an underhand, closer grip pull-up.
Triceps – move your hands in closer to each other during push-ups.
Hamstrings – try lunges instead of squats.
Shoulders – Assume push-up starting position. Rotate your hands inward about 30 degrees. Bend at the waist and move your hips straight up toward the ceiling so that your body forms a triangle with the ground, from your hands, up to your butt at the top, and down to your feet. Keep your head in line with your arms. This is your starting position. Lower with your arms until your forehead almost touches the ground. Your elbows should flare out. Return to starting position.
These are just a few examples of how you can modify these basic movements to suit your specific needs.
Tips for Beginners
If you’re new to working out, you may not be able to do more than a few push-ups, or even one! Pull-ups are probably even more difficult. First of all, that’s ok! Everyone starts somewhere. Do as many push-ups as you can with proper form, then put your knees on the ground. Bring your feet up behind you and finish off the set. For pull-ups, place a chair or stool under the bar and use one foot for assistance. Just try not to rely on that foot too heavily – you want your upper body doing most of the work.