This week we cover a few topics on a lot of people's minds:
- progressing bodyweight workouts
- finding exercise equipment
- separating work from home when they happen in the same place
Roll up your sleeves, all these topics require a little work.
PROGRESSION FOR BODYWEIGHT WORKOUTS
There are several ways to make bodyweight exercises more difficult. We're going to focus on 3 progressions that require zero equipment.
This one is the most obvious. Do more reps. The added volume is a clear sign of progress in strength, endurance, or both.
A fun challenge for reps is picking an exercise and a big number (like 100 squats) and trying to get there in as few sets as possible. Rather than evenly splitting it into 10 sets of 10, do as many reps as possible until you have to rest, take a 30-60 second break, then do as many as possible again. Your squat workout could look like this: 43, 27, 15, 8, 7. That's 100 reps. Once you can do all 100 reps in one giant set, pick a bigger number.
2) Time Under Tension
The goal is to increase the total amount of time the target muscles have to work. This is best done through tempo, pauses, or isometric holds.
Tempo: Setting a number of seconds for each part of the movement can build time under tension. You can also use the tempo to target the most challenging parts.
Trainers use a tempo marker to note how fast to move for each part of the movement. For a squat, we may write "Squat, 3 x 10, 3:1:X:1." This means for our squat exercise, perform 3 sets of 10 reps. Each rep, perform a 3 second lowering phase, 1 second pause at the bottom, stand as quickly as possible, and 1 second pause at the top. Then the next rep would be repeated the same way.
Pauses: These refer to a brief hold at the middle of each rep. Doing a 2 second pause where you hold the most tension (bottom of a squat or pushup; top of a pull up or row) on every rep will get taxing very fast.
Isometric Holds: This is the same as a pause, except each set is one single rep until failure. This would be something like holding a squat in the bottom position, or holding a row at the top with your shoulder blades pinched, until you can't hold that position anymore. Then rest and repeat for as many sets as you'd like. The length of your hold will get much shorter each subsequent set.
3) De-stabilizing the Movement
Another way to challenge the strength of your stabilizing muscles is to perform exercises unilaterally (one side at a time), or using uneven and unstable surfaces.
Unilateral Exercises: Switching from a squat to a lunge increases the difficulty of the exercise in both strength and stability. One armed push ups or rows are far more challenging than the two-handed variations. This will also make sure you use both sides equally, ensuring that your dominant side isn't doing all the heavy lifting.
Unstable Surfaces: If you're already proficient with single-leg exercises, you can make them harder in one simple move. Instead of your weight-bearing leg being on the solid ground, fold up a towel and stand on that. The softness of the towel requires way more effort to keep your your foot, ankle, knee, and hip stable. You'll feel tiny calf, hamstring, and glute muscles for the first time in ages - even on basic exercises like a stationary lunge or a single-leg deadlift.
*Important Note* You will not be able to use maximal strength while destabilized. The foundation of your stability will be compromised, exponentially increasing your risk of injury using maximal weight.
HOW TO GET EXERCISE EQUIPMENT RIGHT NOW
You can't. People are being total assholes and marking up equipment to ridiculous amounts. I saw one 40lb kettlebell on EBay for just under $700.
Regular exercise equipment companies have long waits for shipping and Amazon is prioritizing shipping of essentials. I'm in the same boat as you when it comes to getting weights. We missed it.
SEPARATING YOUR WORK FROM YOUR HOME
If you're working from home you're probably hitting a breaking point. If you count your waking hours, your home is a workplace more time than not. I have friends and family reporting chronic stress and anxiety from "not leaving work".
You need and End-of-Day routine. It's a simple 2 part plan:
1) Wrap up routine for work. This could be making your to-do list for tomorrow or making sure you have good stopping points for the day. This will relieve any anxiety you have about unfinished work. Whatever routine you choose, the goal is to confirm you've finished what you need to today, left everything in a good spot, and have a plan for tomorrow.
2) Separation practice. I use a simple breathing exercise. I inhale for 8 seconds, hold it for 8 seconds, and exhale for 8 seconds. While I breathe I think "You're done with work. Relax." Your mantra can be different, but it should remind you that you're done working and refocus your attention to home life.
The more intentional you are about separating the parts of your day, the easier it is to relax, recover, and enjoy your free time.
AND MANY MORE....
I don't know how long these isolation measures will last. Personally, I'm happy to stay home as long as it takes to make sure we don't have a second spike in new cases, or even worse, have to start isolation over. My boredom (and insanely long hair) is far less important than the lives we can save by following WHO and CDC guidelines.
Until we are out of quarantine, I'll have more updates like these every week.
Stay safe, stay healthy.
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