How to have effective home workouts

With most of us in self-isolation and exercise equipment scarce, the need for high quality exercise sessions with as little equipment as possible is at an all time high. Many of us rely on a gym and base our routines on the equipment available. With all of this taken away, many of us are struggling to devise workouts at home or are concerned that they are not getting the same benefit.

Effective exercise always depends on your goal; whether its strength, cardio or power, home workouts can help you achieve it.

I’ve teamed up with Harry Smith (Personal Trainer) to give you some good tips to get the most from your home workouts!

 

Competing Supersets

Supersets have two main subcategories, competing and non-competing. Non-competing supersets, the more commonly known superset, is where two exercises done back to back hit different muscle groups (for example a deadlift and chest press).

Competing supersets are where both exercises will challenge each other, this is done to increase the difficulty, increase fatigue and achieves more effective reps with lower weights.

An example would be body weight squats and Bulgarian split squats.

Supersets allow for lower load exercises to reach enough stimulus for hypertrophy and strength.

 

Household items can be gym equipment too!

Things like books in a bag, Tupperware or any other sort of plastic lid, towels and paint cans are great examples of home workout equipment without the need for splashing out for the, now overpriced, equipment online.

Tupperware can be used to reduce friction to make slider exercises, towels can be fixed securely in doors for basic a basic TRX, and bags filled with books can be used to load up lower leg exercises!

The goal of the paint cans or liquid containers is to add a stability component to the exercise, this increases the challenge of the exercise and can help get more out of each rep!

These suggestions will hopefully give you a few ideas for your own home and hopefully sprout some other ideas of things you could use. 

 

Unilateral exercise

Unless you’re a novice, movements like bodyweight squats and hip thrusts aren’t challenging enough. Whilst we will discuss pushing to failure next, doing 20+ body weight squats is asking for a lot of reps and can make the session longer than it needs to be.

Shifting to unilateral (single arm or leg) movements such as single leg squats and hip thrusts are a viable way of making the exercise challenging without increasing rep demand drastically.

Another way would be to focus on a unilateral movement in a bilateral exercise. This would be done by adding height to one arm in a push up, for example. This allows people to get effective upper body workouts without having to do something very difficult like a single arm push up!

Push to failure

This is arguably the most crucial way to gain good effects from your home exercise regime. Exercising to failure has shown in research to be the best stimulus for building muscle and strength.

Exercising to failure is essentially continuing an exercise until you are physically unable to perform another repetition.

For home workouts, load is limited which is one of the easier ways to stimulate exercising to failure. The other way would be to increase the amount of repetitions.

We advise finding out yourself how many you can do when you first try the exercise, usually between 10-20, and then aim for at least that in the following sessions.

Don’t mistake failure for difficult! Many people when not given an amount of reps to aim for can just stop when it gets difficult, rather than when they can’t physically complete another repetition of an exercise.

Focus on slow eccentric movements in the exercises, this increases the difficulty to allow you to get more from each exercise.

If you’re not sure how hard you should be pushing, you shouldn’t be able to do the same work out again the next day!

 

Conclusion

We’ve gone over some basic tips to help you get the best out of your home exercise routine. Many of us are having to think outside the box and this is a learning experience for everyone!

Finally, try not to mimic the gym – make the most of the new adapted exercises rather than trying to replicate the exact same thing. This can help keep you motivated in these trying times!

If you want to find out more about Harry here’s a link to his website and his Instagram where he has a free home workout guide!

Thanks for reading and stay safe.

Aran and Harry.

Aran Pemberton

Aran qualified as a Physiotherapist graduating from the University of Worcester in 2017. He has since been working within the NHS, rotating into different specialities such as the Emergency Department, Critical Care, Orthopaedics and MSK.  He has worked with people of all ages and different levels of health and fitness, encouraging exercise as an essential part of health and wellbeing and providing the best care for his patients.

Aran has a keen interest in soft tissue mobilisation and movement re-education as part of the rehabilitation process. He has an interest in sports injuries and has experience treating players and working with the strength and conditioning coaches under the physio in Worcester County Cricket Club.

Harry Smith

Harry lives his life by a mantra: “Honesty, always. Better, together. Science matters, and so do you. No detail is too small.“ From fat kid, to skateboarder, to avid gamer / Netflix connoisseur before settling on Natural Bodybuilding.

Harry has always had a deep appreciation for the Golden Era physiques of old. Wanting to replicate these physiques is what led Harry on a journey of discovery through just about every internet forum, qualification, course and publication out there related to muscle growth, Finally leading him to the coach he is today.

Harry loves nothing more than having his opinion challenged and changed through an intense debate. The nittier and grittier, the better. Want to get in his good books? Make sure your critical thinking skills are up to scratch.

Further Reading

Lasevicius, Thiago et al. “Muscle Failure Promotes Greater Muscle Hypertrophy In Low-Load But Not In High-Load Resistance Training”. Journal Of Strength And Conditioning Research, 2019, p. 1. Ovid Technologies (Wolters Kluwer Health), doi:10.1519/jsc.0000000000003454.

Santos, Wanderson Divino Nilo dos et al. “Resistance Training Performed To Failure Or Not To Failure Results In Similar Total Volume, But With Different Fatigue And Discomfort Levels”. Journal Of Strength And Conditioning Research, 2019, p. 1. Ovid Technologies (Wolters Kluwer Health), doi:10.1519/jsc.0000000000002915.

Wallace, William et al. “Repeated Bouts Of Advanced Strength Training Techniques: Effects On Volume Load, Metabolic Responses, And Muscle Activation In Trained Individuals”. Sports, vol 7, no. 1, 2019, p. 14. MDPI AG, doi:10.3390/sports7010014.

Exercise and the immune system

Exercise, as we all know, is an essential part of our physical and mental well-being. And with the COVID-19 running rampant, health officials are still telling us to still exercise daily – why is that?

Many have shown the benefits of exercise to pain, cardiovascular health and our brain. Our immune system, as quoted by my biology teacher, is “magic”. It works tirelessly preventing a whole range of conditions and diseases day in, day out. We know that diet, sleep, age and genetics influence our immune system – but so does exercise.

The effect of exercise on our immune system is still being researched with many articles suggesting new mechanisms of how this occurs. We will quickly discuss what benefits and potential risks exercises pose for our immune system. Exercise has a profound impact on our bodies – almost every cell in our body is affected during and after exercise (1). Exercise works, we’re just not completely sure how!

Long-term effects of exercise

We’ve known for a while that lifelong activity and exercise is a crucial way to reduce the risk of many diseases such as cancer, heart conditions and other chronic conditions (2). However, there is increasing evidence showing that keeping an active lifestyle lowers chances of contracting a range of infectious diseases such as bacterial and viral infections (3).

This study (4) showed that adults over 60 years who were active undertaking vigorous exercise upwards of three times a week showed significantly higher immune system responses to a vaccine than a sedentary group of the same age. Suggesting that consistency of exercise, throughout our lifetime, is key in looking after our immune system.

Age related decline of our immune system is a natural process where detection of disease, clean up and protection from further disease all slow down; it’s inevitable – right? Well, it’s been shown that active individuals over 60 that have kept consistent throughout their lifetime, slow and negate some of the aging processes of our immune system (5).

Short-Term effects of exercise

Whilst long-term benefits of regular physical activity have been shown, the effect of a single session of exercise is still disputed (6).  Many say that high intensity and volume of exercise can be detrimental to your immune system in the short– term, making your body at higher risk of contracting an infectious disease (7). Perhaps this adds to the notion that too much of anything can be a bad thing?

However, others have investigated the immune systems of elite athletes and show that over the course of a year of following intense training of ultra-marathon runners, showed an average report of sickness days of 1.5 days versus the US average of 4.4 (8). This may contradict the notion that high intensity or volume of exercise is detrimental – as the highest level of athletes with the highest intensity and volume of exercise, show less risk of sickness than the average person.

Maybe the question we should be asking is does a level of exercise that we are not prepared for, have detrimental effects to our immune system?

Conclusion

We have briefly touched on the long-term effects of exercise and the surrounding debate around the short-term effects. Exercise has a profound effect on our immune systems. The benefits of exercise have clearly been highlighted, but how this happens we still don’t fully know!

In these troubling times its important to look after yourself and that means keeping active. Be kind, stay at home and wash your hands!

Thanks for Reading.

Aran Pemberton

Aran qualified as a Physiotherapist graduating from the University of Worcester in 2017. He has since been working within the NHS, rotating into different specialities such as the Emergency Department, Critical Care, Orthopaedics and MSK.  He has worked with people of all ages and different levels of health and fitness, encouraging exercise as an essential part of health and wellbeing and providing the best care for his patients.

Aran has a keen interest in soft tissue mobilisation and movement re-education as part of the rehabilitation process. He has an interest in sports injuries and has experience treating players and working with the strength and conditioning coaches under the physio in Worcester County Cricket Club.

References

1. Kostka T, Berthouze SE, Lacour J, Bonnefoy M. The symptomatology of upper respiratory tract infections and exercise in elderly people. Med Sci Sports Exerc (2000) 32(1):46–51. doi:10.1097/00005768-200001000-00008

2. Warburton DER, Bredin SSD. Health benefits of physical activity: a systematic review of current systematic reviews. Curr Opin Cardiol (2017) 32(5):541–56. doi:10.1097/HCO.0000000000000437

3. Pape K, Ryttergaard L, Rotevatn TA, Nielsen BJ, Torp-Pedersen C, Overgaard C, et al. Leisure-time physical activity and the risk of suspected bacterial infections. Med Sci Sports Exerc (2016) 48(9):1737–44. doi:10.1249/MSS.0000000000000953

4. Kohut ML, Arntson BA, Lee W, Rozeboom K, Yoon KJ, Cunnick JE, et al. Moderate exercise improves antibody response to influenza immunization in older adults. Vaccine (2004) 22(17–18):2298–306. doi:10.1016/j.vaccine.2003.11.023

5. Campbell, John P., and James E. Turner. “Debunking The Myth Of Exercise-Induced Immune Suppression: Redefining The Impact Of Exercise On Immunological Health Across The Lifespan”. Frontiers In Immunology, vol 9, (2018). Frontiers Media SA, doi:10.3389/fimmu.2018.00648.

6. Walsh NP, Gleeson M, Shephard RJ, Gleeson M, Woods JA, Bishop NC, et al. Position statement. Part one: immune function and exercise. Exerc Immunol Rev (2011) 17:6–63.

7. Nieman DC, Johanssen LM, Lee JW, Arabatzis K. Infectious episodes in runners before and after the Los Angeles Marathon. J Sports Med Phys Fitness (1990) 30(3):316–28.

8. Martensson S, Nordebo K, Malm C. High training volumes are associated with a low number of self-reported sick days in elite endurance athletes. J Sports Sci Med (2014) 13(4):929–33.

“I’m active during my job, I don’t need to exercise”

Many people we see have very busy, sometimes physically demanding, jobs which by the end of the day may feel like a day’s worth of exercise. Working 7-12 hours physically and mentally drained by the end, must be exercise, right?

Surprisingly, this isn’t the same as exercising and potentially have the opposite effects to our health and well-being.

It was found that cleaners that had relatively high occupational physical activity (OPA) were more at risk of cardiovascular diseases (CVD) and had a higher resting heart rate and blood pressure than those with lower OPA(2).

Why isn’t my job exercise?

Exercise, defined by the World Health Organisation, is a subcategory of physical activity that is planned, structured, repetitive, and purposeful(4). It also aims to maintain or improve our cardiac output (how much of our blood our heart pumps out in one minute).

Here are 6 potential reasons why activity from your job is not the same as exercise or leisure time activity(1):

1. Too low over too long – Job related activity is too low intensity over too long a duration to provide any benefit to your fitness or health, not putting enough demand on the heart.

2. Raises HR It raises your resting heart rate during and even after you finish work. This is a risk factor for CVD and mortality.

3. Raises BP – Prolonged static postures or heavy lifting raises your 24-hour blood pressure which is also a risk factor for CVDs. Whereas, heavy lifting over short, controlled conditions does not raise 24-hour BP.

4. Lack of Rest – There’s not enough recovery during or between activity within the occupation. This is similar to over-training, where consistent fatigue and exhaustion over consecutive days may increase risk to health problems.

5. Lack of control – Over factors such as: tasks, speed, schedule, hydration and access to rest which may contribute to the harmful effects of OPA. In contrast LTPA is performed under self-regulated conditions and the person has control over these factors.

6. Raises levels of inflammation – These inflammation markers will stay raised until the body has recovered. High OPA over consecutive days can cause prolonged and continual inflammation which increases risk of CVD and all cause mortality.

Physically demanding jobs can put too much on the body which results in the opposite effects of exercise(2). There are of course many varied risk factors for health problems and heart disease, but just because you’re busy doesn’t mean you’re exercising with any positive benefits.

What can I do?

It is important to be active outside of your job to have positive effects to your health.

The world health organisation recommends moderate intensity for 150mins/week or 75mins/week of vigorous intensity aerobic activity or any combination to maintain and improve heart health.

The World Health Organisation – What is Moderate vs Vigorous?

MET is the ratio of a person’s working metabolic rate relative to their resting metabolic rate. One MET is defined as the energy cost of sitting quietly and is equivalent to a caloric consumption of 1kcal/kg/hour.

If you have a busy manual job, you are still able to gain the positive benefits from doing vigorous exercise in only one or two days a week if this is all you can manage in your schedule(3).

The idea is to improve your fitness and strength to cope with the stresses of your job and keep you happy and healthy.

Thanks for Reading.


Aran Pemberton

Aran qualified as a Physiotherapist graduating from the University of Worcester in 2017. He has since been working within the NHS, rotating into different specialities such as the Emergency Department, Critical Care, Orthopaedics and MSK.  He has worked with people of all ages and different levels of health and fitness, encouraging exercise as an essential part of health and wellbeing and providing the best care for his patients.

Aran has a keen interest in soft tissue mobilisation and movement re-education as part of the rehabilitation process. He has an interest in sports injuries and has experience treating players and working with the strength and conditioning coaches under the physio in Worcester County Cricket Club.

References

  1. Holtermann A, Krause N, van der Beek AJ, et al. The physical activity paradox: six reasons why occupational physical activity (OPA) does not confer the cardiovascular health benefits that leisure time physical activity does. British Journal of Sports Medicine 2018;52:149-150.
  2. Korshøj, M., Lidegaard, M., Krustrup, P., Jørgensen, M. B., Søgaard, K., & Holtermann, A. (2016). Long Term Effects on Risk Factors for Cardiovascular Disease after 12-Months of Aerobic Exercise Intervention – A Worksite RCT among Cleaners. PloS one11(8), e0158547. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0158547.
  3. O’Donovan G, Lee IM, Hamer M, et al. Association of “Weekend Warrior” and Other Leisure Time Physical Activity Patterns With Risks for All-Cause, Cardiovascular Disease, and Cancer Mortality. JAMA Intern Med 2017;177:335–42.
  4. World Health Organisation. Global recommendations on physical activity for health. http://www.who.int/dietphysicalactivity/factsheet_recommendations/en/