The world has paused for the first time ever in our lifetime and none of us really knows what day it is.
With what looks like a long road to normality, and gyms and fitness centres likely to stay closed for the foreseeable future, we’re in a place with little choice when it comes to our fitness and wellbeing other than the dreaded home workout. Of course, the main issue for a lot of people at home right now is: what can I actually do at home with little or no equipment?
Squat till You Drop
Literally. Bodyweight squats or ‘air squats’ are hugely underrated. This compound exercise works your whole body. Doing three to five sets of 15 to 20 air squats, depending on your ability, can have a seriously good results for your legs and bums. As well as the shoulder-width stance air squat, you can do different variations of air squats to specifically target certain areas of your lower body:
Wide-stance Squats – Targeting Glutes and Quads
Taking a wider-stance not only activates the quads like narrower air squat, but it also allows greater posterior displacement of the hips which thereby activates the glutes to a greater degree when you reach good depth. Wider-stance squats also put less stress on the knees for anyone who has any joint concerns.
Bulgarian Split Squat – Targeting Glutes and Core (for stability)
For this, get into a lunge position and place your back foot onto a knee-high chair/couch/coffee table and lower down slowly as if you were lunging. I’d aim for 3 sets of 8-10 reps to start you off. This exercise is a real pain in the butt – pun intended! But no pain no gain; sculpt your bum and strengthen your tum.
Single Leg-Squat – Targeting Hips, Quads, Glutes, Hamstrings & Calves
The single leg-squat isn’t as easy as it may sound; it requires strength and balance in both your legs and your core. For this exercise, stretch one leg out in front of you, or bend one leg resting your foot above the knee of the leg that is holding you up, and slowly squat down. If this is too challenging, start by squatting down onto a chair and then pushing up once you’ve made contact with the seat (make sure it’s a hard chair e.g. plastic/wooden; a soft chair, such as a couch, will make it harder to get back up!)
Add weight to your squat for an extra challenge. If you don’t have weights at home, substitute with household items, such as tins of beans, water bottles, or bags of rice/pasta! Just make sure you either hold one item in the centre of your body, i.e. in front of your chest, or you have equal weight on each side, i.e. equal size and weighted tins per side.
Workout Suggestion: Volume
- 1 minute on 1 minute off for 6 rounds (total time 12 minutes)
- Squat continually for 1 minute (traditional or wide stance air squat)
- Rest 1 minute*
- Repeat 6 times
*Add an extra challenge: In your ‘rest’ minute, sit at the bottom, i.e. in a low squat position so your bum rests on your calves. It’ll burn, but try and push through it.
Lunge in Lockdown
Lunges are another great way to activate your lower body, as well as improve balance, core strength and stability. You can do different variations, such as the walking lunge, the reverse (on the spot) lunge, the forward (on the spot) lunge, or jumping lunges. Add weights either side of your body using household items, or use one item and hold it above your head.
Workout Suggestion: Strength
- 4 x10 reps (per leg) of reverse squats (add weight if possible)
Death by Burpees
Oh the detested, painful enemy: the Burpee. If you want to burn calories and improve fitness, this dreaded movement should definitely be on the list for your home workout. You can make the burpees even more challenging by adding simple variations, such as making your jump at the top a maximum height: this can be achieved by choosing a target on a wall which you should aim to touch at the top of every jump. Or you could aim to do as many burpees in a certain timeframe; aim to do a number of burpees as quick as possible – such as, timing how long 100 burpees takes you; or you could jump over an object (this could be a mop or a broom) between each burpee.
If you’re new to burpees, you could start by removing the jump at the top and the push up element at the bottom – also known as a ‘sprawl’. Just get down and back up again to start with to build strength and endurance. Aim for 3 sets of 10 to get you going.
Workout Suggestion: EMOM – Every Minute of the Minute
- Do 10 burpees every minute for 10 Minutes (10 minutes total time)
- Use the remaining time of each minute to rest and prepare for your next 10 burpees
(Push) Up your Game
Push ups are a great way to improve upper body strength, tone your arms and chest, and tighten your core. If you’re new to push ups, start on your knees and built up strength before moving to your toes. I’d start with 3 sets of 8-10 reps.
For a more challenging variations, try releasing your hands from the floor after each rep (hand release press ups) or, for an even more advanced movement, try clapping mid-air between reps.
Workout Suggestion: 5 Rounds
- 15 push ups (these can be scaled to your ability, i.e. if you need to be on your knees for the whole time, that’s okay! Alternatively, if you’re really struggling, drop your reps to 10)
- Go straight into 60 seconds max effort of burpees – i.e. do as many burpees as you can in 60 seconds
- Rest 2 minutes between each round and record how many burpees you achieve in total
‘Tri’ Something New
Dips are a great way to tone up your triceps, an area that is particularly challenging for us girls! Use a knee-high bench or chair to rest your hands on and lower your bum towards the floor. The straighter your legs, the harder this will be. Aim for 3 sets of 8-15 – if it’s too easy, slow your reps down and really focus on isolating the muscle.
Narrow grip push ups are another great exercise to work your triceps. Again, if you’re struggling start on your knees before moving to toes.
Strengthen your Core
Core exercises are defiantly on the agenda for a home workout as there are so many variations you can do without any equipment. Here are some great options:
- Plank: This can be a traditional plank where you lean your weight on your hands or your forearms (ensuring you keep your bum down and your back straight); a side plank on each side; or you can introduce movement into the plank, such as alternating moving one arm straight out in front of you or tapping your opposing shoulder with alternating hands. A good starting point would be 3 sets of 30 seconds, increasing this time as your core gets stronger.
- Mountain Climbers: Hold the plank position with your hands flat on the floor but this time alternate bringing your knees to your chest. You could do 3 sets of 50 reps.
- Crunches/Sit Ups: Both are great, so start with whatever is easier. I’d start with 15-25 reps for 3 sets.
Workout Suggestion: 5 Rounds (15 minutes total)
- 30 second plank
- 30 second rest
- 30 second mountain climbers
- 30 second rest
- 30 second burpees (switch to jumping lunges or squats if burpees are too challenging)
- 30 second rest
- The above counts as 1 round
Run, Run, as Fast as You Can
Finally, the last, but perhaps most obvious thing to do during lockdown, is go for a run. Set a target to work towards, whether that’s running 5km in a certain time, or setting a distance you want to work towards. Be sure to stretch before and after to avoid ‘heavy’ legs the next day.
Additionally, if you want to increase your speed and/or add more intensity to your workouts, incorporate small stints of runs into your routines, such as 5 rounds of short, 50m sprints with 50m walking rest; this could be up and down your driveway or in the garden.
Workout Suggestion: 4 Rounds
- 50m run
- 20 jumping lunges
- 20 burpees
- 20 bodyweight squats
- 50m run
- 2 minute rest before next round
These are just a few ideas to stay active during lockdown but there are plenty more. You can join the suggested workouts or mix them up! The important thing is to have fun; make working out an activity you enjoy and look forward to. The world’s a scary place right now, so we need to do what we can to add as much positivity to our days as we are able, and what better way than staying healthy and active at home.
Photographs provided by Josie Penfold.