Best home workouts: 3 steps to strength train away from the gym

Posted by for Strong Women

Gym closures don’t mean that you have to go without the physical and mental boost of exercise. Here’s how to structure your at-home workout to get the most from it. 

Lockdown means no gymming, but it doesn’t mean your fitness journey needs to stop entirely for the foreseeable future. With the mental health benefits associated with working out, we wouldn’t recommend anyone gives up their exercise routine. Yet the picture of home workouts (burpees, star jumps and Jane Fonda-esque pulses) is quite uninspiring to those who usually like lifting. 

If you know what you’re doing, an at home workout can improve strength, performance and endurance – and can actually be an enjoyable break from working from home. Here’s how:

Activation

If we aren’t getting to the gym or doing our morning and evening commutes, we’re essentially moving from bed, to our working from home desks, and back to bed. That lack of muscle movement can result in tight and lazy muscles, so you need to make sure that all the muscles are properly switched on before jumping into your workout. 

Tim Kayode, from stretch clinic Flexology, recommends doing activation moves rather than static stretches before jumping into a workout. “Activation work is important to make sure we’re looking after our posterior chain, so the muscles in the back side of our bodies, which often get short and tight.”

The most essential part of our body to activate is our glutes: “They’re the most important place to keep mobile because we use them for everything,” says Kayode. “But we sit on them for such long periods of time nowadays. Also, our glutes and hips connect the upper half to the lower half of our body, so if they’re off that’s going to stimulate other parts of the body to go wrong too.” 

He recommends beginning with a glute bridge: lying on your back, place your feet on the ground around a palm’s length from your bum. Lift your hips off the floor, keeping your chin and ribs tucked as you do so, then place back down. Repeat that until you feel your glutes are warmed up. 

Glute bridges

Another great move for the posterior chain is a “superman”: lying on your stomach with your arms stretched out by your head. Lift the opposite arm and leg off the floor, holding for a couple of seconds and squeezing the back and glutes. Work up towards lifting both arms and legs off the floor at once. 

Resistance training

Yes, you can still build up strength at home. Maybe you won’t be able to deadlift 70kg from your living room, but working on bodyweight moves will build strength. “You build your muscles through using resistance, which can come from your own body weight, from free weights (like dumbbells), or from using machines,” explains Emma Obayuvana. 

Exercises that use resistance include press ups, pull ups, bodyweight squats and lunges. Buying some resistance bands will do exactly what they say on the tin: add in more resistance to your workout to up the effectiveness.   

If the idea of giving up weights doesn’t appeal, you can always use household items as stand-in dumbbells. While that probably won’t be adding up to your normal lifting amount, doing low weight, high rep workouts for a few weeks won’t stall your progress. In fact, a study from 2016 proves that as long as the frequency of the workout adds up to the same amount, it doesn’t matter whether you train high or low reps when it comes to gaining muscle mass and strength.

If you’re in need of a proper workout plan, then our Strong in 10 workouts on Strong Women’s instagram page are designed to be effective, quick and use minimal equipment. We also stream live workouts every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 1pm that will make you stronger using just bodyweight. 

Stretching

We don’t mean to sound like your PE teacher, but the best way to end any workout is with a stretch. This is where the static stretches, rather than the dynamic exercises we did to begin, are best, because the muscles are loosened up and have blood flowing to them. 

Working on your flexibility when you’re prepped and primed to do so will also benefit your strength goals: “Stretching increases your range of movement, which in turn allows you to load your muscles with more weight as they lengthen,” says Strong Women ambassador Tess Glynne-Jones. “When you’re working out, you’ll find you’re able to move heavier weights, which means that eventually muscle gains will be on their way. Think performance, health and aesthetic progress.”

While they won’t get rid of DOMS immediately, getting in the swing of stretching post-workout will ease pain in the long run by encouraging a better blood flow to the muscles. 

Follow @StrongWomenUK on Instagram for the latest workouts, delicious recipes and motivation from your favourite fitness experts. 

Images: Getty

Sign up for our essential edit of what to buy, see, read and do, and also receive our 11-page Ultimate Guide To Making Your Home Feel Bigger.

Share this article