Updated: Aug 28, 2020
Every fitness “influencer” and their mother are posting at-home workouts right now all over social media. 50 jumping jacks, 100 air squats, 200 crunches, repeat 5 times. Sounds fairly harmless, but would you ever do this workout normally at the gym? Probably not.
Is something still better than nothing? Yes, for most people getting some activity and sweating a little is better than sitting and watching TV. That being said, you shouldn’t change the entire structure of your workout simply because you aren’t in a gym. You don’t want to go from training in a controlled, stable environment with specific goals, to jumping around your living room cranking out hundreds of low-quality reps.
This sounds harsh, but it’s necessary to reinforce the point that performing these extreme high volume workouts will likely lead to ingraining faulty movement patterns and potentially leading to injury upon return to the gym. Just like when you have equipment at your disposal, the attention should be on how you perform the reps, not how many of them you do.
Okay so you don’t have any equipment or even bands at home, and the default is to think that to make up for the lack of weight, you have to perform a significantly higher number of reps per exercise to achieve the same result. While this is a reasonable train of thought, you are likely to see a breakdown in form along the way which may lead to a good sweat and heavy breathing, but won’t do much in terms of building muscle.
This is where implementing eccentric isometrics comes into play. While this is a training protocol that can be highly beneficial with any loaded movement, it becomes especially useful when training with bodyweight only. All eccentric isometric means is to have an extremely slow negative or descent of the movement (lasting 3-5 seconds), pause at the bottom or stretched position (2-4 seconds), and come up in a forceful but controlled manner. This is a protocol employed by Dr. Joel Seedman, as you’ll see his training videos referenced throughout.
Again, this is how most movements should be performed and while it can be arduous, it provides a much greater training stimulus and muscle feedback then just cranking away at reps. Not to say there isn’t a time for fast explosive reps, of course there is, but think of this as your default to performing reps for any exercise.
That being said, below are 5 excellent bodyweight exercises that if done with precise, crisp reps, can provide an effective workout.
BODYWEIGHT SPLIT SQUAT
A split squat is basically just a lunge but your feet stay in a split stance position the entire time, you perform your reps, then switch legs.
This is not a single leg movement, the back leg works as you descend to the ground, and the front leg works as you come up.
Split your stance, and poke your butt out a little so your torso comes forward.
Push into the back leg and come down so your knee is just above the ground.
To come up, push through your front foot as if you want to push forward rather than up.
You should feel the quad of your back leg, and hamstring/glute of your front leg.
REVERSE LUNGE TO JUMP W/ KNEE DRIVE
Pretty much like it sounds here, same principles of the split squat apply as well. You are stepping back into a reverse lunge, pausing at the bottom, then as you come up to jump, driving your back leg under and through to bring it up towards your chest.
Pause at the bottom of the lunge, focus on loading through your front glute as you go into your jump.
Pump your arms as if you were sprinting, so when you step back with your right leg, your right arm comes forward and left arm goes backwards, and vice versa when you come up.
The jump is optional if it’s too difficult, simply perform the movement exactly the same without ever leaving the floor by still driving the knee through and finishing with it at 90 degrees.
Very classic and therapeutic core exercise here that helps work on cross-body patterning as well. You are laying on your back with your arms straight above your body, and your feet off the ground with knees at 90 degrees. You then extend the opposite arm and leg outwards while the other two limbs stay still, then bring them back in, and switch.
Don’t move the two limbs staying still until the other two return to position, only one arm and one leg should be moving at any given time.
Pull your hips in so your lower back stays flat on the ground the entire time.
Before you extend, inhale and try and maintain as much tension and rigidity in your core as possible.
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PUSH-UP (INCLUDING PROGRESSIONS/REGRESSIONS)
The classic push-up when done with eccentric isometrics is a very effective exercise. If this is too difficult, rather than doing them on your knees, find a couch to do them on an incline as this more accurately emulates the full body plank position of push-up. If you can do 10 clean and crisp push-ups easily, then try them on one leg.
Don’t let hips fall or even come down at the same rate as the head, the nose comes to the ground first, trailed by the hips.
Don’t squeeze your glutes, focus on hollowing your core out instead.
Make sure you set up with your hands under your shoulders, and on your tippy toes.
Another great core cross-body patterning movement that will correct movement dysfunctions and get your heart rate up. Go into a table top position with hands under shoulders and knees under hips, and lift your knees 3 inches off the ground. You will then crawl on the floor without letting your knees touch the ground by moving the opposite arm and leg in unison.
Take small steps, 6 inches at most at a time and make sure the size of the step of the hands matches that of the foot.
Don’t rotate your hips, keep your hips and shoulders square and pretend you have a cup of hot coffee on your back.
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Now you may be wondering how to piece this all together and how many sets and reps of each to do. Well below is a great way to combine these exercises for an effective 30-minute workout, following a brief warm-up.
1A, 1B, 1C just means to perform with no rest in between, then rest the designated amount.
And remember, ECCENTRIC ISOMETRICS on all these movements! They will only be as effective as the effort and attention you put into them, so make each rep count! As you can see there is no high rep movement (excluding the bear crawl), so treat every exercise and rep as if you have 200 lbs on you. Enjoy!