Author: Maria Fischer • Fact checked by: Tara D. Thies • Jan. 5, 2021
This past year, at home workout sessions have taken on new levels of popularity, thanks to stay-at-home orders and thousands of gyms closing due to the pandemic.
The COVID-19 pandemic forced many people to switch up how — and more specifically, where — they work out. In an effort to control the spread of the coronavirus, gyms and fitness studios across the country closed for varying lengths of time. Some gyms eventually reopened, while others are still closed months later.
Unable to go to the gym or attend workout classes, many people started working out at home. But when you’re used to a set gym routine, working out with a personal trainer or the structure of an instructor-led exercise class, it can be difficult to figure out how to work out at home. The lack of equipment can also make it tough to set up a gym environment at home that fits your needs. Despite these challenges, keeping fit remained a priority for people, so they found ways to make at home workouts work for them.
Many people found there were numerous benefits of working out at home: For people with expensive gym memberships, the cost of working out at home is significantly less. There’s also the convenience factor of working out in your own home. If you work out at a gym that’s away from your house or apartment complex, you have to travel to get there. This involves packing a bag, filling up your water bottle, getting fully dressed (and in the winter, bundled up), commuting there, parking, going to the locker room, storing your belongings, etc. Getting ready and traveling to the gym increases the total time commitment of working out. It takes much less time to throw on your sneakers and head to your living room.
In the COVID-age, another major perk of working out at home is the fact that there aren’t as many people around. Fewer people are there to breathe heavily near you or invade your space, talk loudly on cell phones and cause you to lose your focus, leave sweat all over the machines, forget to put away their dumbbells or kettlebell or make you wait to use a specific piece of equipment. Although it can be nice to work out alongside other people, working out at home can be a more serene environment — the type of environment many people prefer and thrive in. In fact, some people even canceled their gym memberships all together when gyms opened back up because they realized just how much they enjoyed working out at home.
The key to working out at home is making sure the muscles in your body are all getting trained properly.
A full-body workout aims to hit all the major muscle groups in a single session. The goal is to train the major muscles in your body, like your chest, back, arms, hamstrings and abs, in one workout. This can involve resistance or strength training, or cardio, plyometric and HIIT workouts to get your heart rate up and burn calories quickly.
Upper body resistance or strength training focuses on boosting muscle strength and endurance in the arms, back, chest and shoulders specifically; lower body workouts build strength and power in the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes and calves specifically.
To have a complete home workout regimen, consider switching up your workout and target muscle groups by dividing each day into upper and lower splits. Splitting your daily workouts into upper and lower body sessions will enhance your strength and hypertrophy gains. Doing a full-body workout every day will burn you out — you need to take additional time between workouts for that muscle to heal. Conversely, limiting your workouts to just one muscle once a week will leave you having too much recovery time. Working out one muscle group once a week isn’t an effective way to make gains. Seven days of recovery is more than you need and can minimize progress. Splitting your workouts into full-body workout days with days of upper body and lower body workouts is an efficient way to workout at home.
Speaking of efficiency, in order to get the most out of your workout, you’ll need to allow your body to recover. Supplementing with protein powder will help aid in muscle recovery. A 2018 study published in the journal Frontiers in Physiology also found massage to be a powerful technique for recovering from fatigue. Always make sure you factor in warm-up and recovery time into your at home workout plan.
The key to working out at home is finding variety and figuring out which workouts will best help you achieve your fitness goals. You can go outside, download workout apps, create weights using household items, do some cardio, do a pilates workout or throw in some yoga — the list is seemingly endless.
Whether you’re ready to give home workouts a try for the first time, or looking for something new to spice up your at home workout routine, try some of these at home workout ideas below:
Short for “cardiorespiratory training,” cardio refers to an exercise that raises your heart and breathing rates, strengthening your heart and lungs. Cardio is known to help jumpstart weight loss — a 2013 study published in the peer-reviewed journal Obesity found that even if the only workout you do is aerobic exercise, it can result in clinically significant weight loss.
You don’t need expensive machines — or even a large amount of space — to complete an effective cardio workout. If you’re looking for a no equipment cardio workout, try doing sets of jumping jacks, running in place or fast feet exercises. Doing jumping jacks for 10 minutes straight can burn around 100 calories, so create a playlist that includes two or three of your favorite songs and do jumping jacks until the playlist ends. You can also alternate between jumping jacks and running in place with high knees, switching off with each new song. For a cardio workout of fast feet exercises, keep your feet at hip-width and lower your body down into a half squat position. Reach out with your arms in front of you and lift up your heels so you are on the balls of your feet. Holding this position, begin running as fast as you can on the spot. Stay low to feel the burn in your quads.
In need of another at home cardio workout idea? There’s an additional cardio workout that doesn’t require much space, but it does require one simple piece of equipment: A jump rope. Jumping rope is a great cardio workout for all ages; in fact, a 2020 study published in the Journal of Pediatric Endocrinology and Metabolism found that 12 weeks of jump rope exercise improved body composition, insulin sensitivity and even academic self-efficacy in adolescent participants. Build endurance by freestyle jumping rope in three circuits: Freestyle jump for 30 seconds, then rest for 30 seconds. Repeat this five times total, then freestyle jump for 40 seconds and rest for 20 seconds. After five times, move onto your third circuit. Freestyle jump for 30 seconds and rest for 30 seconds, repeating five times total.
The cardio workouts mentioned above are steady-state, aerobic workouts: They require oxygen, they are performed at a steady-but-challenging (but still manageable) pace and they are fueled mostly by stored fat. HIIT, or high-intensity interval training, workouts are anaerobic. They don’t rely exclusively on oxygen and are fueled by mostly stored carbohydrates. For a HIIT workout, you want to perform a brief activity as hard as you can, the pace being 90-100% of maximal capacity. While you have rest intervals in HIIT, these high-intensity workouts typically make you breathe harder and can burn more fat than steady-paced cardio. Researchers at the University of New Mexico found that HIIT can reduce abdominal and total body fat in 50% of the time as compared to steady-state training programs.
HIIT workouts can be done easily at home, no equipment required. If you’re new to HIIT, try starting with three sets of a four-minute Tabata, which is a style of HIIT developed by Japanese professor Dr. Izumi Tabata in the late 1990s. Do burpees for 20 seconds, then rest for ten seconds. Then, do jump squats for 20 seconds, then rest for ten seconds. Finally, do caterpillar planks for 20 seconds, then rest for ten seconds. Repeat until you hit the 4-minute mark, completing the set. Rest for two minutes, then move onto another set.
For additional moves, you can add in mountain climbers, jumping jacks, plank jacks, star jumps, step touches or butt kicks into your HIIT workout. Give each move your all for about 20 seconds, then rest briefly before switching to your next move or next set.
Unlike HIIT, which is high-impact exercise, pilates is a form of low-impact exercise that aims to strengthen muscles while also improving postural alignment and flexibility. Pilates tends to target the core (although other areas of your body are strengthened and toned, as well). The focus is on slow, precise movements and breath control, and you might find that many pilates moves mirror traditional yoga poses.
Try this easy at home pilates workout: Stand with your feet parallel, hip-distance apart. Inhale, then exhale as you extend your arms up. Inhale, then exhale and slowly roll your body back down toward the floor one vertebrae at a time. Touch the ground, then move your body into a sitting position, as if there was a chair beneath your bottom. From chair pose, reach back up, lift your heels, and return to a standing position. Repeat this five times.
Next, walk your hands out to a plank position. Engage your abs to draw one of your knees into your chest. Extend that leg back, pointing your toes to the ceiling and engaging your glutes and hamstrings. Repeat for 5 reps, then switch to your other leg for 5 reps. Reposition your body so that you’re kneeling on the floor with your knees directly under your hips, feet touching. Slowly hinge or lean your upper body back about 45 degrees, engaging your abs, glutes and feet, as you lower and lift your arms. Repeat 10 times, then from your kneeling position, lower your left hand to the ground and extend the opposite leg out into a side kick. Lift your right leg to hip height, then lower for 10 reps. Then, hold your leg at hip height and rotate leg in small circles for 10 reps. Switch sides, and finish off your pilates workout with scissor legs, roll-ups and V-crunches with fluttering arms.
Bodyweight exercises use a person's own bodyweight to create resistance against gravity to improve strength, flexibility and balance.
For a short-but-efficient upper body bodyweight workout, focus on push-ups and chair dips. You can add challenge and variety to your push-ups by using a chair to adjust your incline. After your push-ups, place your hands on the seat of the chair to do dips that work your triceps. Handstand walks against the wall will work your shoulders and triceps, as well as your upper traps, lats and serratus as you try to maintain stability. Position yourself in a handstand position with your feet planted against a wall, then move your hands forward and walk down the wall until you’re in a plank position. When you walk your hands back toward the wall and find yourself back in a handstand position, try adding a handstand push-up to really feel the burn.
For bodyweight workouts that target the lower body, switch off between squats, frog kicks, lunges and single-leg bridges. If available, you can use resistance bands to further train your hip abductors and adductors, flexors and obliques. Place a resistance band around both legs, then do lateral stands, shuffles, glute kickbacks, squats and other lower body band exercises to complete your leg day at home.
For a full-body bodyweight workout that will target your core, legs, arms, chest and shoulders all at once, try spider walks: Start in a push-up position, then raise one foot off the floor and bring your knee up towards your elbow. Pause, then return to the starting position and repeat on the other side.
The best part about working out at home is that you can tailor your workout program to fit your individual needs. Every person’s fitness journey is specific to them and their body, so that means someone else’s home workout regimen will probably look a lot different than yours.
At Gainful, we believe your post-workout protein should also be personalized to better align with your goals.
Protein powder can help maximize the benefits of working out at home, as protein is one of the most crucial nutrients for building muscle and fat loss. Your body naturally breaks down protein during your workout, so to make up for the protein that your body breaks down, you should consume a protein supplement around the time of exercise. Supplementing with protein powder can also give your metabolism the boost it needs to stay raised all day long.
Curious about bundling your at home workout routine with personalized protein? Let Gainful lead the way: Start by taking Gainful’s quiz. You’ll answer questions about your dietary preferences, fitness level and overall wellness goals, then the nutrition experts at Gainful will create a protein powder that’s made specifically for your body. If you’re unsure about which type of protein powder is best for you, Gainful will point you in the right direction.
Once your blend has been created, we’ll send you everything you need in the perfect amounts each month, making you’re getting enough protein to achieve your goals and fuel your body post-workout.
Customized protein powder can help you get the most out of your at home workouts.
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© 2023 Gainful Health Inc.