As a fitness professional and nutrition coach, the events of the past two weeks have been life changing. Last Monday afternoon, March the 16th, my boss sent a group text to our team saying the gym would be closing that evening at least through the 29th. Immediately my mind began racing with the ramifications. The biggest for me personally were the impact on my family and friends, the well-being of my clients, the well-being of my company and co-workers, and the well-being of our nation.
The purpose for all my blog posts are to offer encouragement and this one is no exception. I’m going to share what I did this past week and suggest that you can do the same. My workouts were done with very minimal equipment and yet I was able to get in a great training effect each day. If you have more equipment at your home, then you’re only in a better position to get your training done.
Only God in heaven knows how long it will take for things to return to normal. I’m hoping for the best and yet I’m preparing to train at home for an extended period…just in case that reality comes to pass. You can get in good workouts at home. It just takes a mental shift. Once you get your first workout done, the next will be easier and your belief and confidence will build with each succeeding session.
My first suggestion is to stick to the same routine in terms of when you used to train as much as possible. If your schedule has changed due to recent events and it makes more sense to train at a different time, then book and commit to the new time…just like you did when you were still going to your gym.
My second suggestion is to go through the same preparation that you did at your gym. Given the limitations of your equipment, go through the same warm up process including listening to the same music if relevant…all with the intention of creating the same feel for your mind and body. Just pretend you’re starting a totally new routine and embrace the change rather than giving into the thought that training at home with limited equipment is going to suck.
The following is what I did starting Tuesday morning the 17th through Saturday morning the 21st. I had already completed the first two days of my training week starting on Sunday the 15th.
Tuesday: Calves and Cardio
I ordered a set of resistance bands on Monday evening however as of Tuesday morning, the only equipment I had was a set of 25 lbs kettlebells. How do you train calves with two kettlebells? Well, as a fitness professional, I am creative, I am driven, and I am a little crazy.
My apartment is on the first floor of a three-story building. The stairs going up to the upper floors are just outside my door and I simply used the bottom step for my calf raises. My goal was just to get in a solid training effect so I set a target of 10 sets of as many reps as I could, holding a kettlebell in one hand and holding onto the handrail with the other.
All total, I did 400-500 reps and my calves have seriously never been so sore in my life. As I wrote this post on the Saturday the 21st, my calves were still store. After calves, I decided to use the stairs for my cardio. Sticking with the kettlebell theme, I walked up three flights carrying a kettlebell in one hand and then down the other side switching hands. For the next round, I just did the opposite with my hands.
Being an over achiever, I walked the stairs for just over an hour. I figured the intensity was a bit lower than using the stair master or elliptical at the gym, and so I made up for it with more volume. It was a good start to my efforts at home under the circumstances.
Wednesday: Chest, Back, and Shoulders
My resistance bands were not due to arrive until Friday so I still only had two 25 lbs kettlebells. The workout was pretty simple. I used a small filing cabinet with a pillow on top for my “bench” and did high rep chest presses paired with rows. Like my calves the day before, the reps were really high because I was making up in volume what I couldn’t achieve with intensity and or heavier weights.
Next came standing overhead presses paired with pullovers again using my makeshift bench. In total, I did only four exercises and yet it was a great little workout as you can see from the screen shot from my Fitbit above.
Thursday: Core and Cardio
On Wednesday afternoon, I ran to Walmart to pick up an ab wheel and stability ball. And to my surprise, my resistance bands were waiting for me when I returned home. This put me in a much better position for my Thursday morning core routine. Given the lack of cardio equipment, I just doubled up and did four rounds of my normal core circuit. As you can see from the image above, my core routine is challenging from a cardio standpoint. To add a little extra intensity, I also integrated in some kettlebell swings just for fun.
The exercises are as follows done in one big circuit…repeated 4 times:
- Ab wheel roll outs – 20 reps
- Stability ball step offs – 20 reps
- Resistance band kneeling chops – 10 reps / side
- Resistance band reverse kneeling chops – 10 reps / side
- Stability ball jack knives – 20 reps
- Ab wheel roll outs – 20 reps
- Kettlebell swings – 20 reps
- Body saw with a foam roller – 20 reps
- Weighted floor crunch with both kettlebells – 40 reps
- Kettlebell swings – 20 reps
Friday: Legs and Arms
Of all the days, this was the one where I felt the most disadvantaged given the lack of equipment. When my boss gave us the word regarding closing earlier in the week, I immediately drove to the gym to get my trap bar. I don’t have any weights at home but I at least wanted my bar.
My challenge then Friday morning was how to add weight to my trap bar when I didn’t have any. As mentioned above, I am creative. I took my trap bar and strapped the kettlebells to each side with elastic knee wraps. The total weight was only 95 lbs however in line with the theme of the week, I made up for a lack of weight with lots of volume. I paired this with an exercise I actually used to do years ago and was grateful to be able to pull it out of my trainer toolbox.
If you take a stability ball combined with a resistance band set with ankle attachments, you can do two-leg or single-leg loaded stability ball leg curls. I used my two heaviest bands and it was actually quite hard.
The second pair of exercises were kettlebell squats paired with single-leg deadlifts holding the two kettlebells in the working hand. Again, the volume was high and the training effect solid. To finish up, I did standing kettlebell curls paired with lying kettlebell extensions using my stability ball.
Saturday is normally my day off where I will typically take a long walk at home before work. If the weather is agreeable, I will walk outside. If it’s cold or raining, I will utilize my apartment complex gym which has a couple of treadmills. Given the “virus”, our apartment gym is closed and I really didn’t feel like walking in the 42-degree weather.
So, for fun, I walked the same stairs I used back on Tuesday again with a kettlebell in tow. This morning however to spice things up, I did 15 kettlebell swings at the bottom of each round of stairs. This added effort kept me plenty warm and eliminated the issue of the cold weather. All total, I did a little more than 100 flights of stairs and approximately 450 kettlebell swings. I’ve never done anything like this before and I suspect my hamstrings will be a little extra sore, but it was fun and way better than just walking in the cold.
A Sample Routine for You
The following is a simple two-way split that you can do 2-4 days per week. Just alternate the two routines back and forth up to a total of 4 weekly sessions. I designed these routines with a minimalist strategy in that all you need is a resistance band set. With the vast number of exercise options and variations available depending on the equipment you have, you’re certainly welcome to substitute other like movements. My primary intent is to share a balanced and simple program you can follow until we can get back to our regular gyms.
Routine A: Chest, Back, Shoulders, and Core
1A Resistance band chest press: 2-3 sets of 8-12 reps
1B Resistance band back row: 2-3 sets of 8-12 reps
2A Resistance band chest fly: 2-3 sets of 12-15 reps
2B Resistance band reverse fly: 2-3 sets of 12-15 reps
3A Resistance band shoulder press: 2-3 sets of 8-12 reps
3B Resistance band lat pulldown: 2-3 sets of 8-12 reps
4A Resistance band lateral raise: 2-3 sets of 12-15 reps
4B Resistance band straight arm lat pulldown: 2-3 sets of 12-15 reps
5A Plank: 2-3 sets of up to 30 second holds
5B Resistance band Pallof press: 2-3 sets of 10 reps / side
Routine B: Legs, Arms, and Core
1A Resistance band squats: 2-3 sets of 12-15 reps
1B Resistance band leg curls: 2-3 sets of 12-15 reps
2A Walking lunges: 2-3 sets of 15-20 reps
2B Resistance band pull through: 2-3 sets of 15-20 reps
3A Resistance band drag biceps curl: 2-3 sets of 8-12 reps
3B Resistance band overhead triceps ext: 2-3 sets of 8-12 reps
4A Resistance band preacher curl: 2-3 sets of 12-15 reps
4B Resistance band triceps pushdown: 2-3 sets of 12-15 reps
5A Mountain climbers: 2-3 sets of 15-20 reps
5B Bird dog: 2-3 sets of 5-10 second holds per arm / leg x 3 for one complete set
Optional exercises based on ability and equipment:
Kettlebell front squat or Goblet squats
Stability ball Jack Knives or Kettlebell swings
Closing thoughts for my readers:
You can train at home and be successful. At the minimum, you can pick up a set of resistance bands for less than $25 bucks. The set I ordered from Amazon was as a little more at $40 but I think you will find a number of options from different retailers in this general price range. I purchased my kettlebells years ago and you can find them at a variety of retailers both local and online.
My ab wheel and stability ball are from Walmart at $12 and $15 respectively.
Again, this is just a simple temporary training solution. Hopefully we will be back in our regular gyms sooner than later. Maybe now more than ever, you have to make your training a priority because there are so many competing distractions in our homes. There’s no reason to not take care of yourself physically including your nutrition during the increasingly challenging times we’re living in.
You can do this…and I believe in you.
Best of luck in your journey.
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline”
2 Timothy 1:7