Building muscle, raising your heart rate or burning through stored fat are all activities that don’t require any special equipment. You can do this from anywhere and everywhere, all you need is a body.
When a microscopic virus has turned the whole world inside out, or shall we say outside in, people are being forced to adapt to a new reality where access to the gym is restricted, social distancing is paramount and drowning in sweat has been replaced by drowning in hand-sanitizer.
Nevertheless, now more than ever we should focus on what we can control rather than what we cannot.
Staying fit, working on bettering our health and eating nutritious foods that we love and love us back are some of the ways in which we can exert some agency in the current times.
Perform bodyweight exercises to absolute failure
Whether you are trying to build muscle mass, or improve your general body composition, it’s possible with bodyweight exercises. It all depends on your approach.
Brad Schoenfeld’s research proves that muscle mass can be increased through lightweight and bodyweight training, as long as the exercises are executed through increasing time under tension and performed until absolute failure.
When training for home or while travelling equipment is often very minimal and space limited. When exercising from home becomes a must I always revert back to one of the most famous studies ever done on body weight training from the ACMS Health and Fitness Journal where researchers put together a 7 minute workout designed to build muscle and improve the cardiovascular system at the same time. Each exercise is performed for 30 seconds with a 10 seconds rest non stop for 7 whole minutes. That is a true burner, don't knock it till you try it.
Jumping jacks followed by wall sits, push ups, crunches, step ups,, squats, dips, plank, high knees, lunges and side planks for 30 seconds each for 7 minutes rounds. For optimal results repeat it 3 to 4 times! Sorry not sorry.
Whether or not you lift heavy or count your reps when it comes to building muscle and improving your fitness the key is to exercise till failure.
Invest in affordable, apartment friendly workout gear
Let's be honest for a second here, sometimes just using your own body won’t cut it. We need extra motivation, some novelty, some new tools to spice things up in the bedroom (or wherever you’re working out). With your local gym out of action, let's get down to business and look into tools that will give us the most bang for our buck when it comes to working out from home.
One of the most famous pieces of equipment that was brought to us originally from Russia and is now used worldwide. Due to their shape, kettlebells are harder to manoeuvre because their centre of mass is distanced from the body.
This study from 2018 showed that a very popular and familiar move such as the kettlebell swing, is capable of a dramatic rise in growth hormone and testosterone.
One thing incredibly powerful boxers and agile little girls have in common is jumping rope. It is one of the smallest, cheapest and most efficient pieces of equipment that will fit into a bag and can be used pretty much everywhere. Lower impact than running on your fav treadmill at the gym, and it combines a full body workout with endurance, coordination, speed, agility, reaction and power components. One way to take your jumping rope game even further would be to look into weighted ropes that will strengthen the grip and shoulders even more than a traditional one.
As a strategy to amp up the intensity of your workouts one very simple thing one can use is a weighted backpack. Grab your travelling backpack that has been collecting dust cause lets be honest we aint going anywhere, fill it with whatever you can find (books, laundry detergent, your girlfriends cashew milk) and start squatting, planking, lunging.
Most of us have a love/hate relationship with these little evil, but enticing cylinders. Their benefits can be divided into two groups, mechanical and neurophysiological.
Mechanical - Improving blood flow, lymphatic system and breaking up fibrous musculature. Neurophysical relating to the the stimulation of relaxation of muscular tension.
A 2019 systematic review of 21 studies demonstrated how foam rolling results in improved flexibility. Joint range of motion is also impacted positively through foam rolling which consequently will allow you to perform better in and out of the gym walls. If your home workouts with your weighted backpack and mind-muscle connection focus are are leaving you sore for days definitely consider foam-rolling in order to achieve prover pain/soreness reduction.
Understand the importance of timing your meals and workouts
Dr Rhonda Patrick is an expert on restricted dieting research. In 2019 Patrick shared a study where they carried out a trial on thirty men classified as overweight or obese .
The participants were divided into two different groups. Group one, exercised before eating, group 2 exercised after eating.
Group 1, that exercised before eating burned double the amount of fat than group 2. They also had a much better insulin response and showed greater increase in key muscular proteins.
If your goal is to reduce your body fat, many studies have proven that fasted morning exercise increases fat oxidation in the body, and some go even further demonstrating that fasted cardio increases 24 hour fat oxidation by 50% in young men.
However, one thing to take into consideration is the fact that gender plays a huge role in the outcome of these papers. Most of the positive outcomes of fasted exercise were seen in male subjects based studies. Sadly, there is a very evident gender bias when it comes to studies about women. The scarcity of female subject based studies is due to our 24h and 28 day cycle (infradian rhythm), whereas men possess one single 24h cycle (Circadian rhythm) making them essentially easier to track.
Train your mind muscle connection for better gains
In a hypertrophy study from 2018, researchers asked 30 young men to “train with an internal focus, mind-muscle connection, or an external focus.” The internal focus was instructed to “squeeze the muscle” at every repetition and the external focus group to “get the weight up”. At the end of 8 weeks the mind-muscle connection group had almost double the muscle growth in their biceps compared to the external focus group. Apparently, the gym bro and the trainer at the gym constantly shouting mind muscle connection were right all along.
Another study from 2016 looked into how muscle building is triggered simply just by muscle flexion. Being this in front of the mirror, sucking the belly in or imagining we are about to get kicked in the abs while performing core exercises it all triggers, even though at a different level, muscle mass.