4 Ways To Make Your Home Workout Work For You
Whether COVID-19 has closed your regular gym (again), or you just know you’re more likely to workout when there’s not a commute involved, building a functioning at-home workout routine can be a key part of making your cross-training more enjoyable.
Well… maybe. If you’re like me, the idea of an at-home routine that’s all Instagram Influencers, pushups, bodyweight squats, and ten thousand burpees sounds like pure torture. And if you don’t have a power rack and a few hundreds pounds of weight plates at home, it can be hard to imagine how, exactly, you’re going to keep building strength and making measurable progress.
But you absolutely CAN - your training just needs to be adapted to its new environment. Here are a few ways to make the most of this time.
1. Go back to basics. You probably have a good idea of what you need to work on as a physical artist and where bad habits come creeping into your movement. (If you don’t, working with a trainer who's familiar with your art form is a great way to figure those out. Just saying.)
Do you know that your quads always grip in grand battements? Do your wrists and forearms fatigue quickly during sword work? Is your stiff back limiting your options on lyra? Would being better conditioned help your performances overall? With gyms and studios closing down again, this is a great time to shake up your physical practice to address some of those comparative weaknesses.
Be honest with yourself, make a list of where you struggle in the rehearsal room, and design a game plan to tackle those areas first. The good news: really specific goals can be met by really specific work, which rarely require the equipment of a full gym.
2. Work unilaterally.
Not only is this something that, as a movement artist, you should probably be doing anyway (a full post on that coming soon!), but it maximizes the challenge at a given weight. If you’re working bodyweight-only, or with limited weights, you might not be able to load up a traditional squat in a way that’s actually challenging (though, with creativity and a willing partner, there are ways around that, too). Switch that squat out for single-leg squats, Bulgarian split squats, Cossack squats, or a pistol squat progression, though, and not only are you able to challenge yourself in a new way, but you’ll also be using this time to improve any imbalances that have been lingering.
Tempo work, that is. Strength movements consist of three parts: the eccentric, isometric, and concentric phases. In a standard squat, the eccentric is the lowering portion - when your hips shift back, your knees bend, and you descend. The isometric portion is that moment at the bottom when you’re not travelling at all, and the concentric phase takes place during the ascension back up to standing. Typically in a squat, we’ll do the eccentric and concentric portion in about the same amount of time, and just gloss over that isometric moment altogether. But adding tempo work can increase the challenge of even bodyweight movements. Try it! Perform a bodyweight squat as you normally would, then try one in a 3-3-0 tempo: that is, 3 seconds down, 3 second hold at the bottom, and 0 seconds (aka explode as quickly as possible) on the up. Feel the difference? You can utilize this principle with virtually any movement - if you’re working with bodyweight-only, squats, lunges, push-ups, pull-ups, and superpersons can all be spiced up with tempo work.
4. Spend a little money.
Look, I know. But it doesn’t have to be a lot. My absolute-minimalist-but-fully-functional home gym can be created for about $100, with a few options to increase that price. In order of importance, you’d be looking to acquire 1) a selection of bands; 2) a mid-weight kettlebell; 3) some kind of weight at or under 10 pounds; and 4) a pull-up bar.
Bands can easily be purchased for less than $10/each, or a selection of different weights for around $25-$40. If you’re only going to get one thing from this list, please let this be it: not only do they add the ability to train pulling movements to the otherwise pull-less land that completely-equipment-free workouts live in, but they’re massively useful for both progressing and regressing exercises by playing with the direction of tension. Keep your eyes out for a band-only workout coming this week!
A mid-weight kettlebell will be different for everyone, but hits around 16kg for me (for around $60). A mid-weight kettlebell is one you can swing (great for posterior chain strength, hip drive, and overall power and explosivity development), but will also be great for things like loading squats, Romanian deadlifts, 2-handed cleans, and push presses. If you’re only going to get one weight, I do recommend a kettlebell over a dumbbell just for its sheer versatility. And don’t worry about finding the exact right weight - if it’s a little light, well, you can add bands in different configurations to increase the challenge. I particularly love having a couple lighter weights for performers because they’re great for shoulder work - halos, windmills, Turkish get-ups, and weighted shoulder rolls all ask the shoulder to stabilize a load across a variety of angles, which translates beautifully to any aerial work, sword work, partnering, or acro-style floorwork. And, frankly, this doesn’t even need to be something you purchase - a filled water bottle or a heavy book will work just fine for these movements.
An over-the-door pull-up bar might not be an option for everyone (the door frames in my current apartment don’t allow for one, and I'm getting along just fine without it), but if you CAN, they’re a great option for back, shoulder, and ab work; and, of course, if you’re an aerialist, there’s really no replacement for actually being able to hang from something (though, to be clear, you should NOT be inverting on these. That’s how you get dead).
As much as I personally find joy in lifting heavy and loading on the weight, I understand that that's not always an option. With at-home workouts as our standard for the foreseeable future, I hope this post has given you ideas on how to keep things progressing when you're lacking in equipment. Interested in jump starting your home workout routine, but not so keen on doing it alone? Athletes On Stage runs open PWYC strength & mobility classes on Saturdays, 10-11am ET on Zoom, and offers sliding-scale individualized personal training, working with your goals and the equipment you have available to you, whatever that may be. More information on that here!