Among the many inconveniences associated with being trapped in the house, loss of gym access is right up there. Home fitness is just not the same. It significantly reduces the amount of equipment available to you, and it means trying to make use of a cramped space. You’ll naturally be walking much less, and lack of sunlight can leave you drained.
But different doesn’t mean worse! You now have two choices: submit to the situation and watch as your fitness deteriorates, or embrace the challenge and find new ways to develop and grow your body.
This is the perfect opportunity to experiment with some other aspects of your fitness, and there are countless tools and resources out there to help you do just that.
My hope is that once you’re done reading this article, you’ll feel inspired about the possibilities home fitness can offer!
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Explore different training modalities
Losing access to the gym sucks if you’re used to squatting 250kg, running the rack on the dumbbells, hitting the cable machine, or tearing up the treadmill. Those types of training are hard to recreate at home. But there are plenty of other styles of training that are far better suited to your new situation. Many of these can mimic the benefits of those other methods, or help you improve your fitness in other areas.
Studies show that we can maintain muscle with minimal activity.
Taking time off your usual workout actually doesn’t do as much damage as you might think. Studies show that we can maintain muscle with minimal activity, while factors such as gene expression and satellite cells help us regain any lost strength more quickly. So why not take this opportunity to add to your mobility, your cardio, or your rotational strength?
That said, if you just want to stay lean and toned, there are plenty of fun ways to train at home.
Kettlebells are essentially oddly shaped dumbbells. The unique shape offsets the weight in relation to the handle, which in turn changes the angle of resistance. The real power of the kettlebell, though, is that it can be swung. This puts the body under all kinds of pressure, as it fights against the torque and momentum. This can develop ballistic strength and amazing strength endurance.
Kettlebells are also a good replacement for a barbell when it comes to certain compound movements. You can grab two 36kg kettlebells and perform some squats or clean and snatches and you’ll develop the same kind of explosive power you would with a barbell. Most people will be better starting with two 10kg or 20kg bells.
For those just wanting to stay lean and maybe tone up their buttocks, light kettlebells swings are the perfect at-home resistance cardio.
Take a look on YouTube and you’d be forgiven for thinking that everyone has suddenly become a calisthenics expert!
That’s no bad thing: training with bodyweight is a fantastic way to develop relative strength, as well as greater control and awareness over your own body.
Bodyweight training can take two forms. Either you use high repetitions of simple bodyweight moves (like push ups and pull ups), along with tougher variations that isolate the muscles to build work capacity and muscle size (non contractile hypertrophy, mostly); or you train for calisthenics skills like the handstand push up and planche. The latter won’t change your physique as quickly, but will develop incredible mobility, agility, and straight arm strength.
Of course, you can always combine the two.
One of the great things about bodyweight training is that you actually don’t need any equipment at all. However, there are a few items that can help you to get a better workout more easily and you should at least pick up a pull up bar.
Movement training is quickly gaining popularity in the fitness community, and there are several different approaches to choose from. Animal movements involve quadrupedal patterns like crawls among other modes of locomotion, often strung together as “flows.”
Essentially, this type of training allows you to move freely between different positions, as a way to build core strength along with mobility. It’s fun and expressive, though a little obtuse and difficult to wrap your head around if you’re a beginner.
Bodybuilding often uses slightly higher rep ranges combined with lighter weights. You can then use a number of intensity techniques in order make this more difficult — such as drop sets, pyramid sets, cheats, and burns.
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The main aim of bodybuilding is to build size and aesthetics, and this is something you can do with relatively light weights! Get yourself a set of adjustable dumbbells and you’ll be good to go.
HIIT is high-intensity interval training. This form of training essentially replaces or supplements low-intensity steady state cardio (LISS) in order to torch fat and improve fitness in a short period of time. You’ll be alternating between periods of all-out intensity (sprinting on the spot, or pounding the heavy bag), and periods of active recovery (gentle walking). There’s a lot of science that goes into explaining how this works, but suffice to say you’ll burn more calories in less time. It’s trendy, and it’s ideal for intermediate fitness from home.
Tip: Combine with kettlebells for an intense workout.
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Most lockdowns still permit people to head outside for basic exercise while remaining two meters apart from other people. If you’ve yet to get into running, this is a great way to get some fresh air while also improving your fitness. What’s more, is that steady-state cardio offers benefits that other forms of training cannot: such as improved resting heart rate.
Not into running? That’s fine! You can get the same benefit from skipping or using a stationary bike.
Martial arts are not just useful for kicking ass! Hitting a punching bag or even just shadow boxing is a great workout that will develop explosive power, endurance, and mobility, while also burning fat.
Yoga is ideal for home workouts, and has a huge number of unique benefits. This form of training is about building core strength, correct posture and breathing, mobility, and control. While you won’t burn a large number of calories or build big muscle, you’ll develop health and fitness inside and out.
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Yoga is well suited to those who just want to stay toned and healthy during quarantine, but it can also perfectly complement other training styles. If you’re a bodybuilder or powerlifter for instance, you might find the improved mobility offered by yoga can help you to make greater gainz once you return to the gym. Why not use this opportunity to check some yoga videos on YouTube?
The best home fitness YouTube channels
YouTube is a fantastic resource for home fitness, and there are countless channels out there that offer follow-along workouts, as well as general advice and theory. Seeing as you won’t be attending any exercise classes or getting one-to-one training, YouTube offers the next-best thing.
The Body Coach (Joe Wicks) is a fantastic option for those that are just looking to stay in shape and tone up. He’s high energy, and right now he’s offering free P.E. lessons for kids!
When it comes to smart training advice, Jeff Cavalier of AthleanX is absolutely the man. Jeff has an in-depth understanding of physiology and anatomy, which he uses to advise correct form and technique in workouts, as well as smarter ways to build muscle. The channel is all about training for longevity and building an athletic physique, and the amount of free information available on his channel is staggering.
Jeff Nippard is a bodybuilder and one of the best YouTubers when it comes to training for hypertrophy primarily, and is known for applying a lot of research to his advice. You can follow along with practical workout advice, or just assimilate all the information and then choose how to apply it to your own training.
I don’t really understand why the site needs “Official” in the name but, that aside, this is a fantastic resource for those looking to train with bodyweight. There’s a great combination of beginner workouts and advanced tutorials to pick from, and everything is beautifully edited and shot.
Okay, so I’m a little biased here! The Bioneer is my own personal YouTube channel, where I discuss combining different forms of physical and mental training in order to become “SuperFunctional.” Recent topics on the channel include using micro-workouts throughout the day, and how to train like Batman in real life. I also have a collaborator called Grant Stevens who shares martial arts training tips.
People seem to like it!
If you’re interested in training movement, Vahva Fitness is a really fascinating channel to check out. You’ll be able to learn a bunch of animal movements that you can work into a flow, as well as to see how some of this translates to martial arts and general performance.
If you want to see what’s possible, check out Ido Portal. He doesn’t have a lot of advice on his YouTube channel per say, but simply watching him in movement is extremely inspiring.
Home fitness apps
The right home fitness apps can help you out on your fitness journey, giving you inspiration and ideas for your training, while also helping you to track your progress.
You can train as hard as you like with these training styles and tools, but if you don’t eat right, you won’t see the changes in body composition you’re looking for. That means hitting your protein targets if you want to pack on muscle mass, and it means keeping your calories below your active metabolic rate (AMR) if you want to lose weight.
MyFitnessPal is an app that lets you track your calories. It makes the process extremely simple (you can even just scan barcodes!), and it has a host of social features to keep you motivated.
The ThenX app is an extension of the YouTube channel, containing a large number of bodyweight workouts. While the full version is paid, the free membership still provides a lot of great information.
There are lots of running apps on the app store. Other good options include Strava and RunKeeper. I’ve always used Endomondo though, thanks to its large variety of different features (you can get motivational messages from friends and family while you’re on your run!), and accurate route tracking.
Zombies, Run! is a unique fitness app that gamifies your runs. You’ll be running from zombies while collecting supplies that you can bring back to your base. It keeps running fun and exciting, and offers a much-needed bit of escapism!
Seven – 7 Minute Workouts
Short workouts offer a great option for fitting training into your daily routine. Seven is an app that offers precisely those kinds of microworkouts.
I find the two Xs to be… excessive. But if you’re looking for a good resource that will offer at-home HIIT routines, then this app has got ‘em!
Home fitness is not just about your body – it’s about the mind too. This is especially important during stressful times. Headspace is an app that can help you get started with guided mindfulness meditations. The first ten of these are free. Another great option is Calm.
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Fitness trackers, GPS watches, and heart rate sensors
Fitbit Charge 3
The Fitbit Charge 3 is our pick for best fitness tracker. This is a focused device that benefits from accurate settings, an impressive battery, and one of the most well-rounded apps in the industry. A lack of built-in GPS is probably the biggest letdown though, so it’s not a perfect choice for runners.
Garmin Vivoactive 4
Garmin makes fantastic fitness trackers. With a strong focus on running (Garmin is a GPS company after all), in-depth metrics, a great design, and robust smartwatch features, there’s very little not to like here.
Read our full Garmin Vivoactive 4 review here.
I’ve been having a great time using the Apple Watch lately. While the Watch isn’t strictly the best fitness tracker nor does it have the most comprehensive fitness features out of the box (no sleep tracking), it does have a very robust set of sensors, a fantastic UI, and amazing app support. One of my favorite third-party apps is AutoSleep. This is a sleep tracking app that even rivals dedicated hardware. You’ll even get a readiness score based on the quality of your sleep, combined with your resting heart rate and heart rate variability.
Simply put: The Apple Watch offers things that other fitness trackers do not.
Polar H10 chest strap
While wrist-worn fitness trackers can tell you your heart rate, they aren’t as accurate as dedicated chest straps. This is partly due to the way that muscle contractions alter blood flow. The good news is that a Polar chest strap will sync with your fitness trackers to help you more accurately estimate your calorie burn, max heart rate, and more.
If you’re looking for a fuller list of home fitness tools – your dumbbells, squat racks, and pull up bars – you can check out our list of the best home fitness equipment here.