A woman stretching during a home workout

7 ways to make your workouts effective without going to the gym

Posted by for Workouts

You don’t need barbells or squat racks to get strong — here’s how to train well from home.  

When lockdown restrictions lifted, there was a mass exodus from our home workout spaces and into gyms, fitness classes and group exercise spaces. Holding a weight may have been exciting initially, but how many of us have stuck it out in the weights room over a year later? 

The truth is that many of us just aren’t gym-goers, and perhaps home workouts actually suit you better, particularly now that they’re a choice rather than law. 

But there’s still that niggling voice that says you can’t go back or that your progress will stall without heavy weights. That’s not true — there’s actually plenty of strength to be made from home. So here are some reminders from lockdown, from people who loved their home workouts and saw their fitness soar, so you can switch back to living room training without worry. 

How to enjoy home workouts a little bit more

Don’t replicate your gym training

Rather than thinking you have to adapt your gym training to suit home workouts, it might be best to see them as something entirely different – a whole new experience helping you build a different set of skills. 

Contorting your workouts can be a recipe for frustration – you probably won’t perform the same at home as you do in the gym, so maybe you shouldn’t try? Instead, drop the one rep max training and try something totally new: swap your weight lifting for something more functional, like Zuu, or your HIIT class for a heart rate rising dance workout

A woman meditating at home by her christmas tree
Doing low impact training can make home workouts feel more enjoyable

Be embarrassing

Train in your underwear, blast very uncool music out loud, sing and dance between sets… whatever it is that you usually don’t do in the gym, do it at home. 

Start with your favourite thing

If you’re feeling unmotivated, a great tip from strength coach James Lee is to just do something you love. “It’ll either spiral into a session or, in the worst-case scenario, you can walk away having done at least one thing you enjoyed,” he says. 

Whether that’s a certain exercise you know always makes you feel good, a video you like or a walk around the park, prioritise the fun things – the rest of it can be done later or not at all. 

Opt for low intensity

You might think that your home training needs to be super hard to make up for the lack of fancy kit or steps that come with a visit to the gym. Actually, opting for lower intensity movement might make it feel more manageable – particularly if you’re already stressed. Many people we spoke to said that switching HIIT and heavy strength training for more slow, stretchy workouts – like pilates or yoga – at home helped them avoid burnout. 

Move all day

Now is the time to shake up your routine. Instead, of seeing exercise as a structured hour in your day, see all forms of movement as important. A set of press-ups when you go to the toilet, some star jumps while the kettle boils or a walk around the block while logging into a virtual meeting are ways to keep your movement up without balancing on a yoga mat for 45 minutes. 

One friend told me that in the first lockdown they would move during the ad breaks while watching TV – three sets of squats, then 15 minutes rest, then three plank holds, and another rest. It might not yield the best fitness results, but they swore that “exercising all day works. It means if you’re feeling a bit lazy you can do a set, have a break and wait for the motivation to return, then go again.” 

Make the most of your kit

Most of us stocked up on something to get through home workouts in the first lockdown, from a simple yoga mat to a full-blown selection of weights. Since going back to the glistening lights of the gym, it’s easy to forget how useful this equipment that we spent our hard-earned money on really is. 

I, for one, have ankle weights that used to make lower body workouts feel confusingly hard, but that I have since turned my nose up at. I’ll be digging them out again.

Multitask

For Stylist’s Morgan Fargo, home workouts offer her more efficiency than the gym: “Last night, it got to 7pm and I wanted to put dinner in the oven, work out, have a bath and call my bestie. I did 30 minutes of pilates in my joggers with a sports bra on while the oven preheated and dinner started cooking, then ate immediately, hopped in the bath straight after and gabbed with my friend. If I had to travel to the gym I wouldn’t have been able to multitask in the same way.” 

If it’s the satisfaction level you’re craving, this is the way to go. What feels better than ticking all of your boxes while improving your fitness? 

Images: Getty 

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Chloe Gray

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).