Fitness in the time of physical distancing
With Gyms closed the question is how to stay fit and strong.
Firstly it should be said, at the time of this writing, most of us aren’t locked into our homes. So things like running, biking and definitely going for a walk is a good idea. Just don’t do it in groups. So no group runs or rides for the time being.
But what about strength training at home?
How Muscles get strong
Some background first as to how you get stronger / larger muscles:
To summarize this video series very crudely: As you overload your muscles, they break down and then rebuild stronger. There is of course a lot more going on and I recommend watching the series, but with this in mind even at home the goal is getting to the point where you get to that stage without the help of heavy weights.
There are in general two ways to overload the muscles:
- Heavy Weights
- Many repetitions.
Now unless you happen to have a full squat rack and plates at home the first option probably won’t work, so we will have to concentrate the second part.
Maximum Sustained Power (MSP)
For the last two years I have been following the MSP approach to strength training.
Traditionally people did three sets of 8 or 12 with ample recovery time between sets (gotta check that Social Media while at the Gym after all). MSP is different. It greatly reduces the recovery time between sets and increases the number of sets.
A typical complete set for me consists of sets of:
5, 4, 4, 3, 3, 3, 2, 2, 2, 2, 1 reps
Between each set there is a 15 second recovery.
The weight for the first five reps should be so that you can finish the set with only a little bit of power to spare. So it shouldn’t be too easy but also not to the point where muscles are totally fatigued.
So now to adopt this without the help of heavy weights, we have to increase the number of reps in each.
I do have a 30lbs bar at home I can use as an additional resistance, but my current set for squats for example will look like this:
50, 40, 40, 30, 30, 30, 20, 20, 20, 20, 10
Now how well this is going to go we’ll have to see, I am starting this today, but if I cannot finish the entire set all it means is that I will continue with it on my next workout. Once the set is easy to complete the solution is to up the reps and keep going until you reach the outcome.
The same will be done with pushups, though here I will go for a lower number but with a similar distribution.
How many reps you should chose is going to be a bit of a trial and error and depends heavily on how strong / fit you are right now. Experiment!
Other exercises you can do.
I mentioned this before, but going for a walk is a great idea as well. Just chill, keep your distance to others and you can get a good, low intensity cardio workout. Do it in a park / the woods for some extra calm.
Watch your form
A final video I want to share is about how to do body weight exercises correct. A lot of what he addresses here I have seen and some I have even done. Well worth a watch.
One little note here is that if you do not have any weights at home you might be able to improvise some. For example a gallon / 4l jug of milk / water can be repurposed as a weight. If you have crates / boxes you can fill them with something heavy, say books, and use that for additional resistance.
At the end of the day, use your imagination, it might not be ideal, but it may turn out to be a lot of fun.