There is no shortage of home workout options on the internet right now. And while it can be comforting to turn on a video and let someone else tell you what to do and how to do it, there’s a lot of utility in being able to put together your own well-balanced workouts customized to your personal fitness level and the equipment you have on-hand.
This is the system I roughly use when putting together my own home workouts. First, a few things to keep in mind:
Workouts vs Training
I’m using the word “workout” for a reason here. Training implies a specific performance goal: a sub-4:00 marathon, a 315lb squat in competition. When creating a training program, you work backwards from the end goal, carefully choosing the movements, times and weights needed to get there.
In quarantine, most of us will be putting our performance goals on hold. Common goals right now include maintaining our current weight, holding onto muscle mass, building the habit of daily movement, and exercising for the mental health benefits. These goals don’t require the same type of plan that a sports performance goal would. In this case, a series of workouts without specifically planned progression will do just fine.
If you do have specific goals, make them realistic
Despite all that, it is possible to reach some specific fitness goals right now. A lot of that will have to do with your starting point and what you have access to. My goal for the first half of the year was to bench 190lbs at the gym. Since I don’t currently have a bar, bench, or weights, it would be unrealistic to try to hold myself to that during quarantine.
Alternately, if you’re new to the strength world and have been inspired by the constant social media challenges to complete your first full push-up, you can make progress on your goal. It is achievable with the equipment you have (your body, a wall, a chair).
If you do have a fitness goal, like getting a push-up, you’ll need to be a bit more methodical about your workout plan. The goal is progressive overload – making the workout a little bit more challenging each time you do it.
Every human being who has started down the strength coaching rabbit hole can retell the myth of 6th Century wrestler Milo of Croton. Everyday, Milo would lift his baby calf. Everyday, the calf would grow a little bit larger, making Milo’s lift a little bit harder. As the calf grew, Milo did too, until he was a giant muscled man lifting a giant muscled bull.
The same principle applies to your training. If you want to get stronger, you’ll need to challenge yourself to lift a little more than you did the session before. In the gym, it usually looks like adding more weigh to the bar. At home, you’ll challenge yourself with harder varieties of movement, more reps of a given movement, less rest time between sets, or by adding resistance with items you have at home. An example:
You’ve never done a full squat before, so you start with a wall-supported squat.
You then move to a free-standing squat to a chair.
You then move to a free air squat.
Then you start adding some weight with bags of dog food, turning it into a goblet squat.
The Basic Template
Again, the goal of this template is movement for movement’s sake. It’s just a way of putting together a full-body workout that can be scaled to any fitness level and leaves room for EVERY variety of strength implement to make it harder. The workout is short, never more than 30-40 minutes, and can be as short as 10 if that feels like a good place for you.
It’s simple. You’re going to choose ONE of each type of movement (with the exception being core work, which you’ll see in a second). I’ll list some ideas at the end.
- Upper Body Push
- Upper Body Pull
- Single Leg
- Core/Abs x 2
I like to utilize supersets during home workouts, both to keep me moving and to keep things interesting. So in this case, I would pair things up as follows:
Superset A: Squat + Hinge
Superset B: Upper Body Push + Upper Body Pull
Finisher: Single Leg Move + Core 1 + Cardio Move + Core 2
Once you have a movement plugged in, using whatever equipment you have available, you get to choose how many reps and sets you’d like to do. My basic principles:
- Squat and Hip Hinge reps can be similar, like 10 reps of each. In home workouts, it’s often harder to find weighted hip hinge options, so I’ll typically add extra reps there.
- Your Upper Body Pull reps should be DOUBLE your Upper Body Push reps.
- Keep your Single-Leg Movement reps low to start (5 or fewer per leg) until you’re confident with the exercise. I like to do the core and cardio work for timed intervals, either all the same or I will make the cardio time period DOUBLE the core work time period.
You’ll then decide how long you want your workout to last, which is largely determined by the number of sets you’ll do. To start, just one of each superset is fine! That will be a fast workout and leave lots of room for growth (there’s that progressive overload). Eventually, you’ll be doing 3-5 of each superset. The amount of rest you take between sets will also contribute to your total workout time. Decreasing that rest time is another way to make these workouts more challenging (and time efficient), so keep an eye on the clock even when you aren’t moving.
Here’s a very beginner friendly version, using only bodyweight movements:
- Superset A, 3 rounds: Wall Slide Squat x 10 + Glute Bridge x 15
- Rest :90 after each round
- Superset B, 3 rounds: Wall Assisted Push-up x 5 + Lying T-Raises x 10
- Rest :90 after each round
- Finisher, 2 rounds: Chair-Assisted Reverse Lunge x 5 per + Elevated Plank Hold x :15 + Elevated Mountain Climbers x :15 + Alternating Dead Bugs with Limbs High x :15
- Rest :60 after each round
And here’s a more advanced workout using some bands:
- Superset A, 4 rounds: Banded Overhead Squat x 12 + Banded RDL (band doubled under feet) x 20
- Rest :60 after each round
- Superset B, 4 rounds: 1-arm Banded Overhead Press x 10 per + Seated Alternating Arm Band Row (band doubled behind feet) x 20 per arm
- Rest up to :90 between rounds
- Finisher, 4 rounds: Pistol Squat (using chair for assist when needed) x 5 per + :20 per Side Plank + :40 Spider Mt Climbers + :40 Hollow Body Hold
- Rest :60 between rounds
Wall-Assisted Squat (back on wall, sliding up and down)
Chair-Assisted Squat (hands on chair for support)
Squat to Chair/Box
No Lockout Squat
Kneeling Hip Hinge
Standing Hip Hinge
Romanian Deadlift with weight
Sumo-stance Romanian Deadlift
Weighted Glute Bridge
Feet Elevated (on chair) Glute Bridge
Single-Leg Glute Bridge
Upper Body Push:
Weighted Push-up (against band or plate on back)
Handstand Push-up (feet on wall)
Weighted Overhead Press
Upper Body Pull:
Makeshift TRX Row (using sheets or a towel)
Horizontal Row (to a table or something similar)
Seated Band Row
Banded Bent Over Row
Band Pulldown (using edge of a sturdy door)
1-arm Row with household item
Single Leg Movement:
Freestanding or Chair-Assisted Lunges
Reverse, Forward, Lateral, Curtsy
Single-Leg Squat to Chair/Box
Kickstand Single Leg RDL, with or without weight
Chair-Supported Single Leg RDL
Freestanding Single-Leg RDL
Single Leg Straight Leg Bridge, foot elevated on couch/chair
Plank on Knees
RKC (long-lever) Plank
Bear Position Hold
Bear Position Shoulder Taps
Lying Leg Raises
Lying Toe Touches
Dead Bugs (double and alternating)
Banded Dead Bugs (mini band on feet)
Hollow Body Hold
Mountain Climber variations
Run in place
The options are really endless, this is just a very small sampling. I’m happy to give more ideas based on your particular equipment situation, so please reach out if that’s you!
Hopefully this gives you some structure that makes keeping up with a fitness habit easier. These principles can be used in the gym too, so even if right now working out is not working for you, you’ll have some guidance when stress is lower.