The big problem with the average ‘train at home’ recommendations is that they spectacularly miss the point. They almost always focus pretty much exclusively on what exercises you can do with little or no equipment.
Much as that is useful to complete novices there’s so much of that available through YouTube etc. The world doesn’t need more of that content.
Here’s what the world DOES need. A guide of how to make your home training ACTUAL TRAINING!
Training involves creating enough stress that your body feels the need to get better to cope with future stresses. It needs to be hard enough to drive physical adaptation! The typically shared home workouts call for you to do things like ‘three sets of ten press-ups with 60 seconds rest in between’.
This is where they are completely inadequate.
If I were to look at my client base some people would smash that out of the park without breaking sweat. They wouldn’t even get a sweat on doing five sets and would definitely not stimulate any physical adaptation with three sets of ten reps and 1-minute rest periods.
On the other hand some clients can’t do a single press-up with decent technique so the whole suggested routine becomes pointless for them.
Here’s how to ensure you get an actual workout whatever your level:
Squatting – Bodyweight squats, split squats, Bulgarian split squats, skater squats…
Push – Press-ups, pike press-ups, elevated press-ups, suspension trainer press-ups, dips, bench dips, dumbbell, kettlebell or household object overhead press…
Hinge – Single leg Romanian deadlifts, glute bridges, single leg glute bridges, all potentially loaded with kettlebells, dumbbells or household objects…
Pull – Chin-ups, pull-ups, suspension trainer rows, dumbbell or kettlebell rows, household object rows or pullovers, rollouts…
Lunge – Forwards lunges, backwards lunges, side lunges, rotational lunges…
2. If there isn’t one exercise in the category challenging enough for you with the equipment you have, consider making it harder with super-slow partial reps only through the hardest part of the movement – so you don’t get a rest during the mechanically easy part of the reps.
In English that would mean only doing the bottom quarter of a squat out of the hole, really, really slowly. It doesn’t matter who you are, you can’t do that for long without knowing about it.
3.The ESSENTIAL part – Do a test set to fatigue and time it! ‘To fatigue’ is not to complete failure, it’s to something like a 9/10 effort. Then use the following table:
|Time to fatigue||Work to rest ratio||Number of sets|
|Less than 30 seconds||1:6 (so a 25 second set gets 150 seconds (6*25) or 2:30 rest between sets)||5|
|31 seconds to 60 seconds||1:3 (so 45 second set gets 2:15 rest between sets)||4|
|61 seconds – 3 mins||1:2 (so a 90 second set gets a 3–minute rest period)||3|
|3:01 – 5 mins||1:1 (so however long the test set lasts you rest the same)||2|
|Over 5:00||N/A – But much longer consider whether this is in line with your goals||1|
You only need to time the first set and then all the rest periods. The remaining sets just work to fatigue. This system ensures that your effort levels are high enough to get a genuine workout, that your rest periods reflect the energy system you are working in and that the overall volume of work matches the intensity level.
If you are focused on muscle retention then choosing exercises that are in the lower three time zones are going to be most effective. If you want an endurance and conditioning aspect to your training then one or two exercises in the two higher time zones will be valuable, particularly the fuller body options. Cycling the exercises you choose will obviously provide some variety and reduce the risk of imbalances if you end up doing this for a few weeks.
Utilising this test and then time system when training with limited equipment ensures you will actually be TRAINING, rather than just sweating all over the carpet!
Chris Peil is a Sports Rehabilitator who helps people to move better and then perform better. His best-known clients include Rebecca Adlington and former World’s Strongest Man, Eddie Hall. He can be found @themovewellproject on Instagram.