Exercises You Can Do at Home During the COVID Pandemic
Whether you’re worried about going back to the gym or there simply isn’t capacity to visit, you can still get your sufficient dose of exercise right in your own home. From running to push-ups, there are plenty of bodyweight exercises you can get your teeth stuck into that will get your blood pumping and make you feel fitter and healthier. You can also incorporate dumbbell, kettle bell or barbell weights to these routines for more intensity if you have them available. When working out any body part, make sure you’re engaging the area you’re supposed to be working. If you’re not engaging the intended body parts then you’re doing the movement wrong, which could lead to injury.
Always seek help from a fitness professional to ensure that you have the correct form before attempting a movement or exercise. Check with your doctor before taking on a vigorous fitness regime to ensure that it is safe to do so.
The classic push-up is easily one of the best and most well-known workouts that you can do anywhere. The main target for this exercise is your chest, although you’ll also feel it in your back, shoulders, and triceps. If you’re new to push-ups, you can start with your knees on the floor until your strength builds up and you get comfortable with them. Whichever variation of push up you do, they all follow the same steps, just with their own spin. With all push-ups, your arms start off fully extended with the palms of your hands on the floor. With your body as straight as possible, you have to use your toes and hands to hold your body off the floor. Using only your arms, you then lower yourself to the ground – as low as you can get – then push back up so that your arms are straight again. Whichever variation or combination of variations you choose, we would recommend aiming to hit 4 sets of 10 of each exercise or, if you want to mix them up, try to aim for 4 sets total of each exercise and do them in a circuit with no more than 2 minutes rest between rounds (10 standard push-ups – 10 diamond push-ups – 10 decline push-ups – 10 incline push-ups – rest – repeat).
The variations for push-ups include:
- Standard push-up: the most basic of them all, assume the push-up position with your hands shoulder width apart. This mainly targets your chest, triceps, and shoulders.
- Diamond push-up: with this version, you place your hands together with your index finger and thumb creating a triangle/diamond shape. You’ll feel this one in your triceps mostly but also in your chest.
- Incline push-up: the same steps as the original but with your feet at a lower level. This can be achieved by placing your hands on a chair rather than the floor. It will be your lower chest and triceps that will feel this one the most. This is also a very easy variation so we would recommend saving these until the end of your workout once the harder exercises are out of the way.
- Decline push-up: this is the opposite of the above as your feet will be at a higher level this time. Put your feet on a chair with your hands on the floor. This will target your shoulders and upper chest
There are plenty more types of push-ups but you should master these before you move on to other options. If you feel that your strength has increased and the basic ones are too easy for you, you can move onto more complex push-ups such as; the Spiderman push-up, clap push-ups, and one-arm push-ups to name a few.
Your core muscles are the most important muscle group in your body. They protect your vital organs and also keep your body upright which is why they an important target for a workout routine. Your core also contributes to a lot of the rest of your body’s strength, so the stronger your core, the stronger you’ll feel on a whole. All of the below exercises target your core muscles – abs or lower back – so repeat them 5 times for 10 reps for a full core strengthening session. Again, you could also do a core blasting circuit with these exercises or add them into your own personal HIIT regime.
- Crunches: with your back flat on the floor and knees bent to form a 90° angle, use your abs to bend your torso to bring your chest towards your knees then back down again.
- Leg raises: lay with your back flat on the floor, body straight and arms either side of you to anchor yourself. Keeping your legs straight, bend from your hips so that your feet are in the air and then bring them back down.
- Dead bug: lay face up on the floor with your arms straight above your shoulders. To start, bring your knees directly over your hips and bend at the knee so that your calf forms a 90° angle with your thigh. Next, simultaneously lower your left arm above your head while straightening your right leg and lowering it towards the floor. Pause, return to the starting position, and then repeat on the opposite side. Both sides equal 1 rep for this exercise.
- Bird dog: think of this as an upside-down dead bug. Start in a tabletop position with your shoulders over your wrists and hips over your knees. Engage your core while simultaneously lifting your right arm and left leg. Your foot should be flexed as you kick back, and your palm should face in towards your body. Pause for one second when your arm and leg are at the same height as your torso, and then bring your elbow and knee to touch underneath the body. Repeat on the other side for one rep, and do five reps for one set.
Start off with these exercises until you get confident enough to move onto more complex variations. Adding these into your workout regime is essential to feeling stronger and improving your endurance.
When picturing a back workout, you’re probably envisioning an array of equipment that you’d need to use – but this isn’t the case; you can actually do various effective back exercises right in your own home. Working your back prevents back pain by strengthening the muscles that surround your spine and lumbar region, making it less likely for you to strain it from everyday activities. A strong back will also make you appear bigger and broader, adding to your overall physical stature. With the below exercises, be sure to include as many as you can to your schedule for maximum benefit. In the absence of equipment, we’ve switched out suspension straps and pull up bars for 2 bed sheets. It is near impossible to correctly target your back with the full range of motion needed without having any extra items, so we’ve come up with something that everyone should have handy in the home. Get the bed sheets and tie a knot in the end of both, then hang them over a door and pull the door closed. The bed sheets should be pulling the door shut rather trying to pull it open. If you’re on the wrong side you could damage your door and injure yourself. Personally, we think that the back is less of a circuit or HIIT-targeted muscle group due to the high weight needed for size and strength increase, but feel free to use these exercises for a routine if they work for you. Everyone is different and only you can know what really works for your body, so we’ll leave that judgement to you.
- Bodyweight lateral pull downs (assisted pull-ups): sit down on the floor with your legs straight and feet flat against the door (or knees bent at a 90° angle and toes against the door for assistance). With your bed sheets over the door, wrap each sheet around your hands at the same length so that your arms are evenly and fully stretched when you’re sat on the floor. For 1 rep, pull yourself up using only your upper body as far as you can go (aiming for your chin to reach the same height as your hands) then gently bring yourself back down towards the ground. So that the load isn’t eased throughout the set, don’t allow yourself to rest on the floor – ensure that you pull yourself back up before your buttocks touches the floor.
- Inverted bodyweight rows: either using the bed sheets again or a sturdy table, you want to suspend yourself so that your back is parallel to the floor but not touching it and your body straight so only your feet are on the floor. Using only your upper body, pull yourself towards to table/door so that your chest reaches your hands then gently release back down for 1 rep.
- Straight arm pull down: facing away from the door, straighten your arms out in front of you while holding the sheet with a fair amount of tension in it. Focussing on only using your back and shoulders while keeping your body and arms straight and tense, lower yourself forward so that your arms are now above your head. Using only your lateral muscles, pull your arms back down in front of you which will return you to a stand up position. 1 range of motion equals 1 rep.
- Face pulls: facing the door again with the bed sheet in hand, stand leaning slightly back in a bicep flex position with your hands either side of your head. Keeping your body straight, allow yourself to fall backwards, until your arms are straight then pull yourself back up while rotating your shoulders to end in the bicep flex position. This is 1 rep.
Legs & Bums
No one should ever miss a leg day, otherwise your body shape would be out of proportion with a built up torso and small legs. Luckily, legs are very easy to workout using only bodyweight, so there’s no excuse to miss it when you can do it anywhere! These exercises work as well alone as they do in a circuit so feel free to use them as you wish. We aim for 6 sets of 10 reps with these movements as your legs can handle bodyweight the most out of your muscle groups.
- Squats: ol’ reliable, the squat is a go-to for any leg work out. Start standing with your posture correct and legs shoulder width apart with toes pointed slightly outwards. Keeping your back straight, lower your bum to the floor by bending your knees until your thighs are parallel to the floor then push yourself back up to complete 1 rep.
- Calf raises: start by standing on a step with your feet slightly raised so that you are balancing on the ball of your foot. Bend your ankles so that you’re on your tip-toes then slowly go back down and repeat.
- Lunges: these can either be done while stepping or on the spot. Start stood up then place 1 foot in front of the other at 1 and a half steps apart. With your weight on your front foot, lower yourself until your back knee nearly touches the floor then bring yourself back up and feet back together. Repeat with the other foot to complete 1 rep.
- Step up: you can use a sturdy box or the stairs inside your home. Start at the bottom and take a step up so that you are standing with both feet on the box or step. Then step back down and repeat with the opposite leg leading. This will be 1 rep. If you want to make it harder, try stepping to a higher step or on a bigger box.
Your arms are a key part of your strength arsenal and as such should be a key target of your workout schedule. Your triceps and biceps both add to your overall pull and push strength so singling them out and building them will assist with building your chest and back in the long run. Because there are limited movements for isolating the arm muscles, we would recommend doing reps of 12 for as many sets as you can do to sufficiently work the muscles.
- Inverted bodyweight bicep curls: using the table or bed sheets again for this one, you’ll want to get into the row position. In the same way you would do a bicep curl by only bending your elbow, bring your hands toward your shoulders as far as you can and then slowly release then repeat.
- Bicep curls with objects: locate an object in your home that’s not too heavy to curl but not light enough to be too easy (you’ll want to feel a burn by the time you’re halfway through the set). While holding it with your arm to your side and straight, bring your hand towards your shoulder by only bending at your elbow. Lower your arm again to finish the rep, then repeat.
- Tricep dips: sit on your sofa with your hands at the edge next to your legs. Hold your body up with your arms so that you are hovering over the floor just in front of the sofa. While bent at the hips, straighten your legs out in front of you so that your body is creating a 90°angle. Lower your body using only your triceps and then bring yourself back up for 1 rep then repeat.
- Skull crusher: start in a low plank position with your body straight and forearms flat on the floor. Putting pressure on your hands and only using your triceps, straighten your arms to lift your body higher up. Then slowly go back down to your elbows to complete the rep. These can be challenging so see how many you can do in 1 set then complete as many sets with the amount of reps you can manage.
If you’re adding arms to your workout routine, we find that bicep exercises compliment a back workout, especially when done at the end of the routine as they will also aid in your back movements. This is the same with triceps and chest as they help your chest with pushing motions.
Essential for your overall health and wellbeing, cardio workouts should be in everyone’s fitness plan. They get your heart racing, blood pumping, and body working in ways that weight training alone can’t do. Cardiovascular workouts are also key to weight loss thanks to their high calorie and fat burning benefits. There are a few forms of cardio exercise so choose the one that’s best for you.
- Running: probably the most accessible and effective form of cardio. Running, jogging, and intermittent sprinting are a favourite among the stamina-boosting exercises. It is also beneficial for building your leg muscles, especially if done on an inclined hill.
- Cycling: another good one for your legs, cycling is enjoyable and can fit in anyone’s schedule. Swap your commute in a car for a bike ride to and from work.
- Walking: going for a hike or a long stroll might not seem like a workout but, if done at a brisk pace and at a far enough distance, it can actually become a fat burner without feeling as intense as the usual ones.
Create Your Routine
No one knows your body better than you, so instead of us building a routine that may or may not work, we think it’s best to leave that to you once you’ve tried each exercise. Start off exercising at least 3 days out of the week and try to aim for 5 days a week once your body has acclimatised to a regular routine. The aim is to hit every body part once a week and to fatigue it as much as possible. An example of a weekly routine you can use as a jumping off point for your own is below.
|Week 1||Chest & Triceps|
Push-ups (4 x 10)
Decline push-ups (3 x 10)
Diamond push-ups (4 x 8)
Skull crushers (4 x 10)
Tricep dips (4 x 10)
20 minute jog
|Back & Biceps|
Bed sheet lateral pull downs (4 x 12)
Bed sheet rows (5 x 12)
Straight arm pull downs (4 x 10)
Face pulls (4 x 12)
Bed sheet curls (5 x 10)
Curls with object (10 reps til fatigue)
20 minute jog
|Legs & Core|
Squats (5 x 12)
Lunges (5 x 10)
Calf raises (5 x 15)
Crunches (4 x 12)
Leg raises (4 x 10)
Dead bug (5 x 12)
Bird dog (5 x 12)
Step ups (until fatigue)
Fitness starts in the kitchen
Every workout and health regime start in the kitchen, no matter what you’re trying to achieve. Rather than fad diets and short-lived changes to your eating, you should think of it as a lifestyle change; diets are temporary and not sustainable in the long-term. The simplest form of “diet” is to eat healthy foods that are nutrient-rich and balanced with a limit on your calorie, saturated fat, and sugar intake. As long as you’re getting the nutrients you require and you’re not over indulging in junk food then that is all that matters. The worst thing you can do is ban foods as you’ll want them more, so allow yourself a treat every now and then. A good tip is to season your food with spices rather than sauces as sauces contain a lot of additives and calories that could be harming your diet. Mix your new permanent changes to your eating pattern with your workout routine for a personalised health plan that will be better than any gym.
Always consult with a nutritionist or doctor before making significant changes to your eating habits.