Stuck at home, and feeling like Billy Madison here above?
Trying to keep up with your exercise routine, but you don’t have all the equipment you normally do?
The best you are really working with is a half empty bottle of laundry detergent, some bands, and your kids as weapon.. I mean weights.
I assume you are worried about how you can not only keep your progress, but get somewhat comparable workouts.
Well, that is why I am writing this article for you homie, I got your back.
I get that circumstances are unprecedented right now, and all of us don’t have access to state of the art equipment or even dumbbells.
I am going to teach you some ways in this article that can lead you to still keep your workout intensity up, still challenge yourself, and honestly probably still make progress.
But first, let’s peel the curtain back a bit and understand WHY we can still get quality workouts with soup cans or laundry detergent bottles.
Alright peel the curtain, or scroll down farther what you are waiting on?
Your Muscles Are Stupid.. Don’t Worry, Mine Are Too
Haha, this meme is funny. Anywho.
What does this mean? Why am I insulting your muscles, and mine? You thought I was a pretty cool guy now here I am making fun of you.
Let me break it down.
Without going too nerdy on science here, your muscles get worked through how much force they have to produce.
Now, using load (dumbbells, barbells, cables etc), USUALLY lends you to produce the most amount of force to them.
This is because you can continuously increase the force output by adding reps, adding weight, adding total volume, to name a few.
But, you don’t have the weight you normally do.. So that is why this principle comes into play even more.
Your muscles need to have a high force output to be able to stimulate and grow. That is it. They don’t NEED weight (though clearly this is the best way), you just need to find a way to make them produce a high amount of force still.
How can you do this?
Continue reading on, quarantiners.
Manipulating Rep Movements
One way I LOVE increasing the amount of force your muscles have to be produce is by manipulating WHAT your reps actually look like.
Every rep has 3 movements, the concentric, isometric, and eccentric.
Concentric means the raising portion, so think in a bicep curl when you are actually curling the weight up.
Isometric is the static portion, so NOT when you are brining it up, and NOT when you are lowering it down, but when it is at the top of the bicep curl motion.
Eccentric is the lowering portion, so think as you are returning the weight down from the top of the bicep curl, letting your arm go straight again.
Why did I just tell you this? They are going to be important for modifying your intensity and how much force you apply to your muscles.
Let’s now use a squat for the 3 movement parts above.
For the concentric, if you EXPLODE up as hard as you possibly can, that is going to provide a TON of force.
You HAVE to use force to explode up as fast as you possibly can, or else you won’t move fast. You can easily manipulate you pushing yourself back up out of the bottom of a squat by making it explosive.
BUT, not JUST that, you can add in an isometric hold to that!
At the bottom of a squat, if you are flexed in that position (aka not just sagging and hanging out waiting for a coffee), your muscles have to work to keep you there.
If you even had 15 20 lb weights, and you add in an isometric hold at the bottom of a squat, that is going to light your legs on fire.
Think about it, if you have weight, gravity is pushing you down, you fight not only the gravity by keeping yourself in that position, but also fatigue from doing 5 10 12 reps of squats. That will BURN.
So now you are holding yourself at the bottom, and then EXPLODING back up rep after rep after rep..
Best part is, that is not all!
If you REALLY think about a squat, was is the easiest part? Lowering the weight down. Yea getting back up is hard, but if you just FALL down, you can easily bounce back up.
So, on your squats, if you can slowwwwly control the eccentric, do 3 4 5 seconds on the way down, your muscles are going to have to work more.
Instead of just letting the weight drag you down, you actually control yourself on the way down. Feel your leg muscles do this.
They are not used to having to go 3 4 5 seconds on the way down, so when you add this in, especially if you don’t have the load (weight) you would normally use, it can make a huge difference.
So now you can 3 seconds on the way down, hold at the bottom in a flexed position for a 2 second pause, and then EXPLODE up as fast as you can.
That has me grimacing just typing it.
Your bodyweight will be enough to make you work hard there, add any kind of weight… Consider your muscles toast.
Work Your Muscles Where They Are Weakest
As we just learned above, there are different parts to every rep. And every rep has a spot where it is the hardest and or easiest.
Take a side shoulder raise for example.
When you have the dumbbell in your hand, and are lifting your arm up and out to the side, what is the hardest part?
If you think about gravity, when you get to the top of the rep, where your arm is up around your ear, that line of gravity is pulling STRAIGHT down on your shoulder muscle.
That dumbbell in your hand is pulling straight down, but you are keeping it up via your shoulder muscle.
This is where your muscle is also the weakest, because it is damn hard to keep your arm up there as gravity is pulling you straight down, that is why we do one rep and drop it.
Therefore, this is the hardest part of the rep… So, if you only have say a band, or a can of soup, what can we do?
Work the muscle where it is the hardest / weakest.
Get that band or can of soup, raise your arm up and out to the side, and HOLD IT THERE!
You don’t have the weight you normally do, but you do have gravity still. And if you can put some extra work where it is hard, that will be another way your muscles have to produce more force.
What you can do it pre fatigue the muscle, so get that band, hold your arm up and out for 30 seconds… Your shoulders will be on fire from fighting that gravity, then what you can do is do 10 reps of your normal shoulder side raises.
Your muscles will already be burnt up a bit, and then you can do your “regular work”.
Though nothing about this will be regular, you will be BURNING up.
This concept can apply to a bicep curl, a glute bridge, a push up, anything.
Mind Muscle Connection
This is something that can instantly change the effectiveness of your workout.
For not only at home, but when you return back to the gym.
Think about it, if you are doing a shoulder press… What is supposed to be working in theory?
But if you are using your legs to push it back up, if you are using momentum, if you are basically just trying to move the weight from point a to point b…
You are kind of missing the point.
One thing I CHALLENGE you to do (because trust me, it is a challenge especially at first) is to actually FEEL the muscle you are trying to work.
If you are doing a bicep curl, make sure you feel your bicep the whole time.
If you are doing a deadlift, make sure you feel the hamstrings and glutes work.
What this can automatically do is increase the intensity of the workout, and increase force via that.
Logic will tell us, if you make the muscle ACTUALLY work, instead of having momentum do it, then you will be increasing the force production of that muscle.
It will go from just moving the weight from A to B, to using force on the concentric, isometric, and eccentric…
Pop quiz from earlier! What do those words mean?!
If you want to get a more effective workout, and honestly build the body you want to, start incorporating more mind muscle connection into your exercises.
This will be hard at first, and will require mental effort. You can’t just sit there on Facebook and do this. But I promise if you can give me some effort to do it, it will help you.
Nice, Dense… Sets
What did you think I was going to say? Jeez.
Alright so if you don’t have the load you normally do, what does that mean?
You also aren’t getting the regular volume you normally do.
What is volume? The total amount of weight you lift.
So say you normally go 10 reps of squats with 40 lbs.
That would be 400 lifts lifted, 40lbs x 10 reps.
But if you only have 20 lbs now, that mean 10 reps would equal 200 total lbs.
Now, you can just do 20 reps, that is certainly one way to equate volume and keep your force production high.
But meh, 20 reps?
So, what you can also do, is make sets very very dense.
What I mean by that is, say you take that 20 lbs and do squats, reverse lunges, forward lunges, and side lunges, all for 10 reps.
Do all them back to back, with resting after all 4 exercises are done.
You are now getting 4 different exercises with 40 reps in. Rest 1-2 minutes, and do it again, now you have 80 reps.
You are getting a lot of volume in a short amount of time. Since you don’t have the load you normally do, you can condense volume with getting a lot in a short period of time. Thus, that will be a ton of force your muscles have to produce to keep up.
So, all of these words are cool, but what does it actually look like?
Well, you are in luck. For my online coaching clients in The Clubhouse, I filmed some exercise intensification techniques they can use to ramp up their at home workouts.
I am going to share them with you here.
If you have no weight, only bands, laundry detergent, whatever, these will help you.
You can see what a slow eccentric looks like, or you can see what isometrically holding looks like.
DB Front Squat
Bulgarian Split Squat
Rear Delt Row
So there you have it.
First and foremost, I know circumstances are abnormal, but remember something is always better than nothing.
If your car ran out of gas, and you only had $7, you wouldn’t NOT put the $7 in and leave your car on the side of the road for someone else to take.
You would put in $7 and get the hell home.
This is no different, if you can’t do your normal routine, do SOMETHING.
Truthfully, if you implement these strategies above, there is no reason it can’t be BETTER than what you may even normally do.
I mentioned my coaching program The Clubhouse earlier, every month I give my clients new workouts, new nutrition guidelines, new intensification techniques like the ones above.
We also have a bad ass, supportive private group that we communicate in. Support and accountability are the glue that keeps fitness goals together, and a good community like that is hard to come by.
We certainly have that in The Clubhouse. If you want to learn more about The Clubhouse, feel free to visit erfclubhouse.com to dive in.
Or reach out to me via email @ email@example.com .
Would love to hear from you, and help out if I can.
Happy Quarantining -E.