You don’t need to go to the gym to get the many physical and mental health benefits of exercise. Follow these three simple steps to make the most of your at-home strength training workouts.
Gyms may be closed for a lot of the UK right now, but that doesn’t mean your fitness journey needs to stop for the foreseeable future. While the picture of home workouts (burpees and star jumps) is quite uninspiring to those who usually like lifting, the mental health benefits associated with working out means that you shouldn’t just give up on your exercise routine because you don’t have access to a squat rack.
In fact, you can still take effective steps towards gaining strength and endurance from home. And learning to resistance train from the comfort of your living room is a great way for beginners to make most of weight training.
The Strong Women Training Club can help with that, too, our membership programme that offers exercise plans, technique videos, and expert advice for those who want to make the most of their workouts, both at home and in the gym.
Short of that, though, there are three simple steps that act as a fool-proof guide to working out from your living room.
If we aren’t getting to the gym or doing our morning commutes to the office, we’re essentially moving from our beds, to our makeshift desks, and back to bed. That lack of muscle movement can result in tight 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 backside 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.”
Kayode 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.
Another great move for the posterior chain is a “superman”:
- Lie 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.
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 (such as 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 increase the effectiveness.
You may also like
What’s the difference between strength and resistance training?
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 Women Training Club is the place to head. You’ll receive two effective video workouts per week, plus a whole bank of how-to exercise tutorials to ensure your exercising with proper form. Plus, you’ll have access to exclusive articles filled with useful advice from experts.
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 dynamic exercises we began with – 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 trainer 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 (delayed onset muscle soreness) 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.
Chloe Gray is the senior writer for stylist.co.uk's fitness brand Strong Women. When she's not writing or lifting weights, she's most likely found practicing handstands, sipping a gin and tonic or eating peanut butter straight out of the jar (not all at the same time).