Self-isolation is helping manage the spread of the coronavirus, but is it helping our physical and mental health? At this challenging time, it’s important we protect our wellbeing by remaining active at home.
Maybe you’re trying to hold onto your hard-earned muscle mass during the pandemic; maybe you now have the time to finally start building it. Whatever your current mindset, now is the time to start resistance training to stay fit at home.
To help get you get started, we’ve explained the benefits of resistance training and listed some exercises below for you to perform.
The good news is you need only your bodyweight and some basic furniture to make this type of exercise effective while you’re at home during this challenging time.
THE CASE FOR RESISTANCE TRAINING
Resistance training is a central component of healthy living. Resistance training is a form of physical activity that is designed to improve muscular fitness by exercising a muscle or a muscle group against external resistance.
If you’re efficiently pushing or pulling a given weight, you are exercising a muscle or group of muscles with resistance.
Studies have shown the benefits of resistance training to be numerous. Researchers have consistently demonstrated significant increases in lean weight and metabolic rate, accompanied by significant decreases in fat weight.
In the multiple areas that involve physical performance, resistance training has been associated with reduced low back pain, decreased arthritic discomfort, increased functional independence, enhanced movement control, and increased walking speed.
With respect to cardiovascular health, resistance training research has demonstrated reduced resting blood pressure, improved blood lipid profiles, and enhanced vascular condition. Resistance training appears to have greater impact on bone density than other types of physical activity and has been shown to significantly increase bone mineral density in adults of all ages.
The demonstrated mental health benefits of resistance training have included decreased symptoms of depression, increased self-esteem and physical self-concept, and improved cognitive ability. Finally, and fundamentally, resistance training has been shown to reverse ageing factors in skeletal muscle.
And the even better news? All of these benefits can be enjoyed through home workouts.
BENEFITS FOR OLDER ADULTS
Evidence that resistance training is of benefit to older adults is overwhelming. It has been shown to markedly increase muscle mass, strength and power, reduces the difficulty of performing daily tasks enhances energy expenditure and body composition, and promotes participation in spontaneous physical activity apart from the regimented exercise training.
Those of you who regularly build resistance training into your lifestyle will already understand and feel some of these benefits.
Those of you who are new to resistance training, now may be the perfect time to get started a build a solid foundation. Use some of our suggested exercises below and build them into your daily routine at home. You’ll quickly find the progress addictive.
Listen to how real resistance training has improved the lives of these Masters ladies…
While your exercises may change, your training principles should not.
Follow these 6 principles to ensure you’re getting the most out of your resistance training and stay fit at home:
- Be consistent
Consistency is the single-most important fact that underpins progress. Try to schedule specific times during the week to dedicate to resistance training and stick to them. You’ll feel much better for it.
- Warm up (3 – 5 minutes)
When at home, it may be tempting to begin training without warming up first. Don’t give in!
If your muscles aren’t prepared for resistance, they are more prone to tear and pull. Ensure you elevate your heart rate and get the blood flowing to the muscles by performing some gentle movements. Even if it’s jogging back and forth in your hallway!
- Maintain proper form throughout
The exercises you use are only as effective as you make them. With resistance training, we’re looking for quality over quantity. Take time to learn how to properly perform them and never sacrifice good form for more repetitions.
- Remember to breathe
Too often we forget to breathe properly when exercising. Take long, deliberate inhalations and exhalations in time with your movements to ensure you remain focused. Your movements should be slow and controlled.
- Nurture mind-muscle connection
To complement proper form, deliberately focus on contracting the muscle or muscle group you’re working with each exercise. This will allow you to maintain proper form and achieve the objective of the exercise. For example, when squatting concentrate on squeezing the quadriceps, gluteals and core.
- Use the RPE tool
Rate of perceived exertion (RPE) will help you measure the intensity of your workouts. Instead of setting yourself target repetitions for each exercise, use RPE to determine how long you should perform the movement.
A similar tool is ‘reps in reserve’ (RRR). For example, setting yourself ‘RRR 2’ for push ups means you stop when you think you have 2 push ups left in you.
The tool will allow Masters of all experience levels to get the most of resistance training, as using the same RPE will mean you’re working as hard as another athlete who’s done more or fewer repetitions than you.
Use this chart to help determine your rate of perceived exertion.
Below we’ve listed some exercises suitable for an at-home resistance workout. Your bodyweight provides enough resistance for an effective workout, but if you want to add weights to your movements you can do so.
The exercises are split into four main groups that will ensure your entire body is worked: push, pull, legs and core.
Maintaining leg strength is paramount, especially for older adults. The lower body muscle groups present the biggest challenge when trying to increase strength, but with these exercises you should be able to maintain what you’ve built up so far. If you’re a beginner, you will certainly experience increased leg strength using only your bodyweight.
Here are some exercises that will help target your most valuable muscle group.
The king of leg exercises. The squat is a movement every able-bodied person should be able to perform. Squat slowly and with proper form – you may be surprised at the difficulty.
Make this exercise easier with a chair…
One for the behind! Concentrate on mind-muscle connection and squeeze your glutes. Once you’re accustomed to this exercise, try performing it unilaterally (one-legged) to target your weaker side.
BULGARIAN SPLIT SQUAT
Intermediate and advanced trainers can try the Bulgarian split squat. This will work the legs unilaterally, allowing your weaker leg to strengthen at a faster rate. You can use a chair or your sofa to rest your back leg.
The push up is one of the simplest and most effective exercises to build upper body strength. It’s easy to cheat when performing push ups and not use correct form, so make sure you keep your entire body rigid and concentrate on engaging your chest and arms.
Mastered the push up? Make them more difficult by changing your hand placement (narrower placement targets the triceps) or try lifting one leg up (not as easy as you’d think!).
To make push ups easier, perform them from your knees until you can do them in a plank position. If you find it difficult to kneel, then simply use a wall.
Did you know the triceps is the largest muscle in your arms? Make sure you pay them some attention.
Use a firm object that won’t move when supporting your weight. Make this exercise harder by elevating your feet, and make it easier by bringing them underneath you.
HANDSTAND PUSH UP
For advanced trainers, try the handstand, or vertical, push up. This exercise is a great way to load your shoulders and upper chest without adding weight. Begin with your torso at approximately a 45-degree angle to the floor, and gradually increase the inclination as you progress.
The bodyweight row is a great exercise to help maintain your posture after a long day sitting hunched over your desk.
There are two options for performing bodyweight rows at home:
- Use a very firm table that won’t move under your weight
- Use a bedsheet and doorframe
Option 1 (you can keep your feet on the floor to make it easier)
For this exercise, you’ll need a resistance band. Resistance bands are relatively cheap, versatile and worth the investment as they present many exercise possibilities.
SEE RESISTANCE BANDS HERE
Finally, we’re going to work the core. Strong core muscles make it easier to do most physical activities. They are also important for athletes, such as runners, as weak core muscles can lead to more fatigue, less endurance and injuries. Weak core muscles can also leave you susceptible to poor posture, lower back pain and muscle injuries.
It’s useful to work in at least one core exercise to your workouts. A good rule is to have one exercise that brings your knees up to your chest and one that brings your chest to your knees.
You can perform this one on your sofa, a chair, or the floor.
Instead of using RPE to perform this exercise, try holding it for a set amount of time and gradually increase the limit as your progress.
If you need some plank inspiration, check out George Hood. At 62 years old, George is the current world record holder for the longest abdominal plank at 8 hours and 15 minutes!
THE IMGA HOME WORKOUT
We’ve created a simple full-body workout to allow you to stay fit at home. Complete this workout 3 – 5 times a week (depending on your ability and capacity).
You want to complete the specified sets of each exercise close to failure, or high RPE, which means for most of the exercises you’ll perform them until you think you have 2 or 3 left with good form and then stop. If you’re a competent trainer, take the last set to failure or maximal effort.
For the core exercises (E1 + E2), complete one after the other with no rest. This equals one set.
You can substitute any exercise with another from the corresponding push / pull / legs / core group and create different workouts for different days of the week.
We hope you find this article useful and will consider implementing some resistance training into your weekly exercise routine. It doesn’t matter if you can’t get out to exercise, you can easily stay fit at home with the exercises listed here.
Remember, any tensile stimulus on the muscle is going to be better than no stimulus at all. Stay happy, stay positive, and stay healthy.
PLEASE NOTE: you should not feel pain when you perform these exercises. Some discomfort is expected as you adjust to the movements, but if you feel pain, please stop.
If you’re looking for more inspiration, a place to ask questions, or simply to have a chat with other like-minded adults, visit our dedicated Facebook Group.