With the recent crisis of COVID-19, many of us are without our favorite facility, the gym. Whether you enjoy a large amount of heavy lifting, conditioning, or even just the community, it’s a weird and tough time for us all. Being away from the gym means that we’re potentially away from the tools and modalities that we’re used to using for our fitness. But, that doesn’t mean fitness stops. There are many ways to get in a great workout while being quarantined in your home, and here we look at three ways you can challenge yourself, work on building great positions, and optimize your training and fitness while at home.
The first method to challenge yourself is by using tempos in your movements. Tempos can be used for any strength movement and provide a detailed prescription as to how fast or slow the movement should be done. This leads to a control point for resistance training and can allow for a unique training response due to the increased time under tension. Using tempos doesn’t rely on external load to make progress in a specific movement pattern, making them great for at-home training as they require minimal equipment and less stress on your connective tissue. To learn more about the use of tempos specifically, check out our blog here for a more in-depth analysis on the use of tempos in resistance training.
Tempos can be used during all phases of a movement - from the starting point (rest), eccentric phase (loading), stretch position (pause) and the concentric phase (action). At Central Athlete, we prescribe tempos using a 4 digit format for each phase of the movement respectively. Let’s use the push up as an example, with the prescribed tempo 3310. This means the individual would start in the top push up position with arms extended, lower themselves down into the bottom position for 3 seconds, stay in the bottom of the push-up with tension for 3 seconds, and push back up for 1 second, with a zero second rest at the top before the next rep. This makes one rep take approximately 7 seconds to complete, whereas if there were no tempo prescribed, it could be done in 1-3 seconds. Increasing the time under tension can take a relatively simple movement, like the push-up, and increase the difficulty to provide a harder challenge without having to add any other external load on the body.
The second method is incorporating isometric contractions. Isometric contractions happen when a muscle is actively held at a fixed length. The muscle does not change in length and the affected joint does not move, but the muscle is still firing forcefully. These contractions are great for maintaining strength and also reducing pain as the contractions do not load the joint, and allow for the strengthening of connective tissues. These holds are a great accessory to compound movements as they require a large amount of stability and strength to maintain a solid position.
A common isometric exercise used here at Central Athlete is the Front Leaning Rest. The Front Leaning Rest, or FLR, is an isometric exercise great for trunk strength and stability, but also for upper body pushing strength. The FLR has the individual starting in a push-up position on their hands and feet. Keeping the trunk engaged, the individual will protract the shoulders, meaning to push the shoulders forward in front of their body, causing slight flexion in the thoracic spine, then lean their upper body over their hands to distribute more of the bodyweight into the upper body and arms. Holding this position gives a tremendous demand to the entire upper body and trunk while placing minimal stress on the joints. At Central Athlete, we use isometrics often to not only build trunk and upper body strength, but lower body strength and stability as well. The Wall Sit and Straddle Glute Hold are two more isometric exercises that we use to engage the lower body in this type of contraction. See those and 1200+ more exercises here in our Exercise Video Library.
One and One-Quarter Reps
The third and last method is using one and one-quarter reps. Similar to using tempos, one and one-quarter reps increase time under tension but do so by adding an extra eccentric and concentric contraction to every rep. With the addition of these contractions, it forces more blood into the area that’s being worked to give more of the “burn” feeling we all try to push through, drastically increasing the difficulty of an exercise. One and one-quarter reps can be used for almost any strength exercise, with external load or even bodyweight alone. One way to incorporate this method is with the classic bodyweight air squat. Squats are simple in that the individual will start standing, feet hip-width apart, and arms extended out in front. They will then sit their hips back and down as the knees travel over the toes until they reach the bottom squat position, then push with the legs to return to standing. To increase the difficulty using one and one-quarter reps, the individual will lower their body down, push up only ¼ of the way, then lower their body back down, and push again all the way back to the standing start position. Give this one a try and feel the increased demand to perform a simple bodyweight exercise.
During this time, there is a lot we will have to change and adapt. With such a large population being affected by the closure of gyms worldwide, this forces us to think outside the box and get creative with our fitness. While some of us may be missing our favorite squat rack, machine, or class, there are still methods to increase the demand of training with little to no equipment. Using tempos, isometric holds, and one and one-quarter reps are a great way to add some new creative ways to challenge your fitness in the comfort of your own home.
To have professional guidance to your fitness, nutrition, and lifestyle during these times, Central Athlete offers a remote coaching service that’s more than just a program. This model allows you to receive expert coaching and guidance in fitness, nutrition, and lifestyle habits without needing to leave your home. Schedule a FREE strategy session with one of our coaches and see how we can evolve your fitness and keep you on track to being the best version of yourself.