Tom, the personal trainer who founded Waite Training in Leeds has many tips to help you get started on working for your fitness goals.
Many people think that they can't make progress exercising at home and that without the gym, their training is pointless. But building solid foundations with bodyweight movements are essential. They should be done whether you have access to a gym or not!
In this article, I will be focusing on the four main bodyweight movements which recruit big muscle groups. These are the squat, the push-up, the lunge and the pull-up/inverted row. We can find a variation that's right for everyone to make progress in their home workouts.
Each movement is discussed as:
I would only advise you to attempt progressive movements once you've mastered the standard bodyweight exercise with excellent form for over 20 repetitions. If the standard version proves to be more struggle than achievement, start with the regressed version. Practice it at least until you can do at least 10 repetitions with great form and not struggling.
You might find that for some of these movements, you'll be working with different movement standards. That's normal. Whatever your level on these exercises, the more you practice them, the better you will become. Keep up the great work, and you'll come out stronger.
Pre-Set Isometric Hold: Before starting the air squat, include 10-60 seconds of an isometric squat hold. That means keeping maximal tension in the bottom position of your squat - feet screwed into the floor, chest up, posterior chain active and rigid throughout. Then progress with your squat set as planned.
Option A. Elevate your hands to a height where you can perform the movement as above. You can use the wall, your kitchen counter, a sturdy table or your couch. Find the height that makes the exercise challenging but achievable with the correct form. The higher your hands, the easier the movement will feel so you can progress this to a full push up by getting your hands lower to the floor.
Option B. If you haven't got anything to use for elevation, you can also perform the push up on the floor but shortening the lever. You can achieve that by putting the knees on the ground from the plank position and then aiming for full depth on the arms.
In-Set Isometric Hold: Perform an isometric hold at the bottom position of the push-up. This means stopping when your upper arms reach parallel, keeping your chest off the floor, so you retain tension in your arms and chest. After your hold time is up, you can continue with the press part of the movement. Start with 2s hold, then progress towards more extended periods as you get stronger.
Regression: Split Squat
Time Under Tension (TUT): Add a more prolonged lowering phase to get into the bottom position in the lunge movement. For example, count to 5 as you go down until the knee touches the floor. When that becomes easy, increase the time to 10 seconds and so on.
Walking Lunges: In this version, you need more space as you will be moving forward with the lunging movement. It requires greater control in the hips. You can make this one even harder by holding something as a weight in each hand.
Bulgarian Split Squat: In this modification, you perform the same movement as in the Split Squat. But you elevate your rear foot onto a step, a bench or a sturdy chair for an added challenge.
The Pull up / Inverted Row
DIY Half Pull-Up: If you don't have access to a pull-up bar at home, you can use a broom handle between two sturdy kitchen chairs. Sitting under the 'bar', reach up and complete the movement as above. Since you are only lifting half of your body weight, this version counts as a regression. Ensure that the construction is safe or ave someone near to help you if any issues.
Inverted Row: If you can't do a pull-up yet but have access to a bar, you can put on your door frame, lower the bar and perform an inverted row. You grab the bar just like in a standard pull-up, shift your feet ahead of you until your chest is under the bar and your body between your shoulder and your feet forms a straight line. Think of a plank position but downside up which makes the pull towards the chest more diagonal than vertical. The goal is for your chest to touch the bar.
Jumping Pull-Up: It's what it sounds like. You jump up and catch the top position of the pull-up, then lower your body slowly in an eccentric fashion.
Eccentric TUT: If pull-ups feel too easy, you could try slowing down the negative portion of the pull up by lowering yourself slowly back to the hang position. For example, you count to 5 on the way down. As you get stronger, you can lengthen that period.
Concentric AND Eccentric TUT: If you want even more challenge when performing pull-ups, try to control the tempo of the reps on the way up as well!