Let’s face it, COVID-19 has flipped our daily schedules and fitness regimens completely upside down. Maybe you were hitting the gym regularly, pumping iron, feeling good, and crushing your goals. And then COVID-19 reared its ugly head and now you’re in your house all day, endlessly looking for food in the fridge, and wondering how you interacted with your friends before Zoom.
You know you should exercise at home, but maybe you don’t know how to effectively organize your bodyweight exercises to produce an actual workout. Or, you want to exercise, but you feel doing some bodyweight exercises in your living room has little impact on your health the way that lifting weights in the gym does. With people not being able to readily access their beloved gyms and fitness environments during this time of quarantine, it’s understandable to feel frustrated and a little lost.
Thankfully, we don’t have to wait out this pandemic before feeling strong, fit, and back to our normal selves.
Turns out there is research to suggest we’re not as screwed as we think during this quarantine. These articles are relevant and timely since a lot of individuals are nervous about their body’s response to not being able to hit the gym since COVID-19.
In one study in 2017, participants who completed a 4 week resistance training program did NOT experience any reductions in lean muscle mass, muscular strength, or muscular endurance after a 2 week de-training period (AKA they were completely physically inactive). The only thing these individuals did during those 2 weeks was consume consistent protein supplementation (Hwang et al, 2017)
In another study, scientists looked at the effects of detraining (physical inactivity) in young adults following 16 weeks of consistent resistance training. After 16 weeks of consistent resistance training, they separated the individuals into three groups.
One group exercised once per week at 1/3 of their normal training volume, another group exercised once per week at 1/9 of their normal training volume, and the last group avoided physical activity all together (this was named the detraining group).
The group that performed 1/3 normal training volume once per week was still able to gain muscle mass (hypertrophy), the group that performed 1/9 of their training volume maintained their muscle mass, while the detraining group lost muscle mass (muscle atrophy). However, in the detraining group that performed no physical activity, both muscle size and muscular strength did not decrease as expected. While muscle size decreased in this group, their actual physical strength was retained during physical inactivity. (Bickel et al, 2011).
So, what does this mean?
I like to think of this as the shampoo effect of exercise (a little bit can go a long way). If you’ve been training regularly prior to being self-quarantined and were consistently exercising for quite some time, even if you were to cease ALL physical activity over this quarantine you wouldn’t be losing as much muscular strength as you initially thought. Maybe complete physical inactivity may cause some muscle atrophy (reduction in muscle mass) but that’s assuming you don’t do anything for weeks on end during this phase of self-isolation. And we know the benefits of exercise for our immune system, productivity, mood, and brain health. So completely kicking your feet up and cutting out exercise all together isn’t an option during this time anyway!
This means our bodyweight exercises aren’t so useless after all, and we’re not declining in our fitness as much as we think we are during this stressful time. Even if you exercise a few times per week and do so efficiently during this quarantine, you can maintain some of your muscle mass and strength that you so gloriously obtained at the gym prior to COVID-19. While we can’t go to a gym and use different external loads (AKA weights) to build muscle or burn as much fat as we want, we can still MAINTAIN most of our muscular strength and size. The goal is to stay active and to embrace physical maintenance as much as we can. Even if I’m being a realist, I’d rather engage in a consistent body weight movement practice over the next few months and return to the gym two steps behind, than avoid physical activity all together and feel five steps behind. We must control what we can control, and we must keep moving.
Your Workout Solution
You might be asking, “How do I stay active and organize my workouts? How do I workout without any equipment at home?” I got you covered.
Every week, I’ll be posting a 7-day regimen to help guide you through your workouts Monday through Sunday. That means all the hard work is done for you. Exercises, reps and sets are all laid out for you with videos to ensure you’re doing the exercises correctly. Your only job is to follow along the workout and reserve a few yards of space. And, the best part, it’s free!Subscribe for workouts each week
How the Workouts are Structured:
The weekly regimen that’s laid out for you consists of 3 days of bodyweight resistance training, 2 days of cardio, one day of active rest and mobility work, and one day of full rest to let your body recover.
Resistance days are composed of 6 main movement variations – Squat, Lunge, Hinge, Push, Pull, and Core. Cardio days give you the option of either going for a run (if you can/want/feel safe) or performing the full body circuit. The mobility day is more-so a day to momentarily pump the brakes and keep your joints healthy at the same time.
Quick Definitions/Comments That Are Important For Your Success:
- AMRAP – stands for “As Many Rounds As Possible.” You’ll experience this type of training for your cardio days. This type of training allows you to maintain a sustained heart rate as you perform different exercises. You can also self-pace or rest as needed for these workouts.
- CARS – stand for “Controlled Articular Rotations.” This is a method of training in both the rehab and performance world that preserves joint function, increases joint lubrication, and strengthens tissues surrounding the joint. These movements are essentially “joint circles” in a slow, intentional, and controlled manner (Functional Anatomy Seminars, 2018). They seem pretty easy and simple, but they’re not. You’ll find this type of exercise on your active rest day.
- If there is an exercise in this program that is too challenging for you: modifying that exercise to fit your needs is completely acceptable. For example – Wednesday’s workout includes a “single arm overhead hold while performing a forward lunge”. If doing this exercise is challenging for you, or just not feasible, it’s perfectly okay to modify the exercise to just a normal forward lunge for the reps and sets indicated. Modifications or even regressions of exercises are welcome, especially since this is YOUR movement practice!
- As always, if you have any questions or concerns about the exercises themselves, please reach out. I’d rather you contact me and ask how to perform a particular exercise than you assume you’re doing an exercise correctly. Just like with any fitness regimen, your safety is priority #1!
- Lastly, if you are in pain or are unsure if you are able to exercise due to other health concerns, please see a local medical professional (Primary Care Physician, Doctor of Physical Therapy, Chiropractor, etc) in your area for an appropriate medical screening and evaluation prior to exercise.
Enjoy the week and stay safe!
Nati Schnitman, CSCS
- Bickel, Scott; Cross, James; Bamman, Marcas. “Exercise Dosing to Retain Resistance Training Adaptations in Young and Older Adults.” Med. Sci. Sports Exerc., Vol. 43, No. 7, pp. 1177–1187, 2011. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21131862
- Functional Anatomy Seminars. “What is FRC®?.” https://functionalanatomyseminars.com/frc-details/. Copyright Functional Anatomy Seminars. 2018.
- Hwang et al. “Resistance Training-Induced Elevations in Muscular Strength in Trained Men Are Maintained After 2 Weeks of Detraining and Not Differentially Affected by Whey Protein Supplementation.” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. Vol. 31, Issue 4, pp. 869-881, 2017. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28328712