Structuring Your Home Workouts During The Covid-19 Quarantine
Posted on April 05 2020
With the rapid spread of the Coronavirus globally, our local and federal governments as well as many businesses have created policies for our protection and the protection of those most vulnerable to the virus. Yet such policies have created a significant disruption to physical training for many of us. While many may see this as the perfect excuse to take it easy and relax, Sheepdog Strong has always insisted that maintaining our ability to perform optimally is not a luxury but a necessity. This is especially true if you are in the military or serve as a First Responder. Structural fires won’t cease during this time, criminal activity may actually increase as shops close around the country, and last I checked, there are still malicious state and non-state actors seeking to create conflict across the globe. We have to maintain readiness. Many of us, however, have lost access to a training facility and don’t have home gyms. So, what can we do?
Improvise, Adapt & Overcome
First things first, we have to change our mindset. The Marines have always had to deal with limited or hand-me-down equipment. As such, they developed the mantra of Improvise, Adapt and Overcome. Many of us look back fondly on those “deployment gyms” that consisted of cinder blocks on a pipe, sandbags, MRE box benches and more. It wasn’t ideal but there was a raw authenticity to it and whether or not we grew stronger, we felt stronger, grew fitter and working out was a great mental break from the long patrols and other missions. The at-home options we now have are even better than what we could have scrounged in the sands of the Middle East.
Got a backpack? Stuff it full of books. With it, you can do goblet squats, deadlifts, overhead lunges, rows, push-ups and more. Think of all the different exercises that someone like Brute Force Sandbags promotes. Why couldn’t you do the same with a backpack? And pull up bars are everywhere if you’re looking for them (rafters or tree branches for example).
However, there’s a deeper part of the mind we have to look at. Most of us had certain goals related to our fitness and if that had to do with something specific to strength, such as in a squat or bench total, you’re going to have to put that specific goal on pause. Therefore, you’ll need to reframe your goals. That may be simply maintaining strength or a complete pivot to building stamina, getting more cut, more flexible or something else. The point is, though, that you create a new goal. Don’t see this as a road block; just a pivot and a temporary pivot at that. Goals have been proven via research to create motivation and purpose in any journey. Without one, it’s easy to grow stagnant and simply stop caring. Whether it’s a goal of “don’t miss a single workout,” or “achieve a 7 minute mile,” create a goal and work towards it.
Secondly, if your job is currently on pause or your career is on hold due to this quarantine, you’ve got to make this time of working out a priority. Perhaps even do it immediately upon waking up. But don’t roll out of bed whenever you want, binge watch some Netflix, maybe eat a little junk food, and then plan on working out, because it won’t happen. Be productive throughout your day and working out first thing in the morning can help get the fire going.
Structure Your Workouts
Whether you’re doing something that is completely at bodyweight or you’ve got some equipment, here are a few potential ways to structure what it is you’re doing.
Upper Body / Lower Body Split (Best for Building Endurance)
Similar to what many do in the gym, here you would elect only to do Upper Body movements one day and Lower Body movements on another. One of the benefits of this is the amount of volume you can do. Let’s say for instance, that you have 30 minutes to work out. With a split, you will be spending the full 30 minutes on your Upper Body (or Lower Body) only. However, it is not so much the volume that is the difference. After all, if you did a full body workout every session for a week, at the end of the week, you’d likely end up with the same amount of time spent on the Upper or Lower Body as you would if you split it. The real benefit here is that as you spend more time just on one portion of your body, the last few exercises you will be conducting in a more fatigued state, because you’ve been working those same muscles the entire time. This will increase your overall muscular endurance.
Here’s a real-world example of this. Let’s say the program states to do 500 Push-Ups today and no more push-ups the rest of the week. If you do 500 Push-Ups right now, in the next hour, you’re going to be really sore and those last 250 push-ups will probably be one at a time as you collapse after each, questioning your existence. Now if the program states do 500 push-ups in a week, well you’re getting the same amount of push-ups done in that week. But 71 or so per day is much more manageable and you will be much less fatigued. 500 in a day will bring endurance to you at the loss of building power (how fast are you going to be coming up that last 400 push-ups…not very). So, evaluate what you’re trying to achieve and go from there.
If electing to do the split, make sure that you are balancing out appropriately. Our philosophy has always been if you push, you have to pull. And if you pull, you have to push. For an Upper Body Day, choose one to two chest exercises (pushing movements) and one-two back exercises (pulling movements). You can then do some additional work that focuses more on your arms, again hitting both triceps and biceps for balance. Do likewise for the lower body.
It is also important that even if doing this split, you hit some core in every workout. All strength and stability comes from your core so don’t neglect it. You can further finish the workout with some cardio or full-body work like Burpee’s or Jumping Jacks.
Supersets (Good for stamina and strength)
To keep your heart rate elevated, you do two (or more) exercises back to back before taking a break. The exercises should be selected specifically to account for the antagonist muscle worked in the previous exercise. In other words, if you just worked chest, then work your back. If you just worked triceps, work your biceps. If quads, then hamstrings.
You’ll still want to take a brief break before repeating the superset.
Full Body (Best for Building Strength)
Just as it sounds, you will work both Upper Body and Lower Body in one session. Choose an Upper Body pushing movement, an Upper Body pulling movement, then a quad dominant (the push) Lower Body movement and another hamstring dominant movement (the pull).
Similar to the split, do some core work in every workout as well and finish with a full-body circuit or other form of cardio.
Tabata (Best for Stamina and Power)
Tabata has been proven to be highly effective in burning fat and increasing cardiovascular capacity. However, it is not advised to do this every day. For a bodyweight Tabata, choose a few exercises like push-ups or lunges. Do the exercise as hard and fast as you can for 20 seconds, then rest 10 seconds for total of 8 rounds. You can do this with any exercise for multiple, back-to-back Tabata’s.
As mentioned, this would be a great activity to perform interspersed throughout your week. If you were doing an Upper / Lower split for instance, you could do Monday Upper, Tuesday Tabata, Wednesday Lower, Thursday Tabata, and Friday do long slow distance cardio or other full-body training.
Circuits (Best for Stamina and Power)
Create a circuit using any number of exercises. You could do this as a full-body circuit or as a split. The way to set these up is to alternate muscle groups. For instance, the push-up focus is on the chest and the triceps. Once fatigued, move to a back and bicep movement (if sticking with strictly upper body) or a leg movement (if doing full-body). The point is, don’t rest / keep moving but as you alternate body parts, you’re giving what you just did time to recover before coming back to the exercise.
Day splits may be Upper Body Monday, Lower Body Tuesday, Wednesday a day off, Thursday Upper, Friday Lower Body, Saturday just do some cardio, HITT or a circuit. Ultimately it just depends on your goals.
As mentioned, you need goals and a plan, so you’ve got to monitor progression. There are a few ways to do this, by sets or by reps. A set is one exercise done multiple times. A rep is each individual movement. So, 1 set of 20 reps of push-ups means doing 20 push-ups one time, all at once before taking a break. Take notes on each of your workouts and attempt to progress from workout to workout. You can progress in number of sets or number of reps. Using the previous example, in week one you could do 1 set of 20 reps of push-ups. The next week you could progress to 1 set of 25 push-ups. Or you could do 2 sets of 15 push-ups (totaling 30 reps). Either way, continue to progress in one way or the other.
You can also progress in the number of days you work out. Base this on your level of fitness and ability to recover. For instance, if you do an Upper/Lower Body split just two days per week, eventually go to two Upper/Lower Body splits in a week.
Wrapping It All Up
At this point, start piecing it all together with various exercises. Coronavirus isn’t the only time you will need to understand these programming options. You may find yourself on a deployment with no equipment or a week’s long exercise in the field. Either way, this lack of access to a training facility likely isn’t new to you and if it is, it will happen again with or without a global pandemic.
In the meantime, we have updated our Daily Reps to provide you a daily workout option utilizing minimal equipment. All you need is a pull up bar…or rafter, a jump rope, and either a sandbag (fancy one or one from Home Depot) or a backpack full of books. Also, don’t hesitate to wear a flak or body armor during the bodyweight movements if you have it available.
We’re also selling sleds for 10% off during this time. Sleds are incredible developers of strength and power working both the upper and lower body and a staple in Westside Barbell programming, a gym well known for building monsters. Check them out here.
Stay safe out there and wash your hands.