Working out from home can be overwhelming, especially if you are accustomed to attending a gym, group class, or working out with a personal trainer. The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown a spanner in the works for a lot of people when it comes to fitness, however it is a fantastic opportunity to mix things up and build confidence in your own ability to design your own fitness program. 

This simple step by step guide will provide a starting point to structure a home workout program to suit you. 

Where can you workout?

Where you can workout will fundamentally impact the workout you can achieve. For example, if you have limited space, it would be impractical to follow a workout which requires a lot of equipment, or a lot of space to move around in. Similarly, if you are in an apartment building or have other members in the household you will need to consider them in terms of noise and inconvenience.

To get yourself mentally in the game, a great start is to set up your home workout space in a way that motivates and inspires you, and gives you easy access to set up. Clear out the area and organise any equipment you have. If possible, you may want to place down some rubber mats to protect flooring and reduce noise. Bunnings has a great affordable range. I personally chose a large roll and cut it up to fit my space.

If space is limited at home, outdoor workouts are a good way to get out of the house and can be just as effective as those indoors. Think about convenient locations which are close to your house to fit in with travel restrictions, especially those with undercover areas for when it rains. Invest in a good yoga mat and if you have access, keep any light equipment such as exercise bands, skipping ropes and dumbbells in one easily accessible location, such as your car or exercise bag.

I personally decided to clear out my living area to accommodate my home workout area. I invested in a treadmill (being in Melbourne it is not always practical to run outside), and picked up some old basic weights and arranged these on my balcony area. 

The biggest tip here is to get creative but also be practical! If you hate the cold, don’t expect yourself to venture outside in the early morning during winter. Think about the style of training you love and the way to implement this with the resources you have. 

What home workout equipment do you have?

When the pandemic first hit, my biggest concern was how to work out without equipment! I generally stick to weighted exercises, and had absolutely no equipment when the first COVID-19 lock down hit. After a mad dash to Rebel sport, I realised I was going to have to quickly adapt, as stock was extremely depleted. I managed to pick up one measly resistance band, and a very cheap yoga mat. 

Fortunately, I soon learnt that you don’t need equipment at all to have a great workout. And there are also many creative ways to use regular household items for equipment too! Think cans of food, bulk items such as washing detergent and dining chairs. This article has a lot of creative ideas to get you going!

If you have the resources and access, I would recommend investing in a set of resistance bands, a moderately weighted set of dumbbells, a kettlebell, yoga mat and skipping rope. Boxing is also an excellent option to improve overall strength and conditioning (and let off some steam). If you have a partner or household member who is willing to participate I recommend investing in a good quality pair of training gloves, two pairs of inners and some training mitts. 

If you can’t get your hands on equipment, don’t stress! Body weight exercises and cardio are great ways to work out and it is an amazing opportunity to diversify your programming by trying new methods. Personally I did eventually scrounge up enough equipment to get by, however I still found myself opting for bodyweight exercises, as I enjoyed the switch up so much!

What kind of exercises do I include in a home workout?

The options are truly endless here! Although you may not have access to heavy weights, in most cases there are ways we can mimic the movements and create loads to get similar results. 

This is because our body does not know if we are performing a squat with a barbell and rack at the gym or in our lounge room holding a bulk pack of laundry detergent. To build strength, our muscles simply need to undergo a level of stress that causes damage to the muscle. The response of the body is to stimulate a repair response, ultimately resulting in an increase in muscle size. This phenomenon is called muscle hypertrophy.

To continue to experience muscle hypertrophy, we need to progressively overload the muscle. Put simply, we need to ensure we are always challenging our muscles, as they grow and adapt to the previous stresses they have been put under. 

There are many ways to progressively overload our muscles. The most obvious way is to increase the resistance through the load or weight used when performing an exercise. However, since we are working out from home,  in most cases weights will be limited. 

Fortunately we can overload our muscles in many other fun and variable ways such as:

  • Increased reps
  • Increased sets
  • Decreased rest times 
  • Exercise progressions (e.g. push ups on knees vs push ups on feet)
  • Time under tension (TUT). TUT refers to the amount of time a muscle is held under tension or strain during an exercise set. To progress time under tension, perform exercises at a slower rate, or hold for a longer period (for example when performing a plank). 

If cardio is more your thing, there are also endless options, consider outdoor running, bike riding, track or hill sprints, sand drills, stair climbs or performing a HIIT cardio circuit. I absolutely love a steep hill for sprint rounds!

If you look in your local area, there really are so many options for getting outdoors when performing cardio and utilising the park and recreation grounds right on our doorsteps.

How do I structure a home workout?

This will depend on what kind of workout you are looking at doing. 

If you are performing strength training, a good rule of thumb is to perform 12 repetitions of 5-6 exercises 3-4 times each. However this is generally used for weight training where the load is about 75% of your maximum effort. As we are working out from home, the weight may be insufficient to achieve results in this method. 

I have personally erred towards circuit training when performing at home workouts as this allows you to vary the time of work:rest to achieve progressive overload. A few of my favourite examples:

  • Intervals: choose a number of exercises and perform work:rest sets, repeating a number of times through. 
  • Every minute of the minute (EMOM):  complete a prescribed number of reps of an exercise at the top of a minute and then rest for whatever time you have left until the next top-of-minute. 
  • Escalating repetitions: repeat a circuit through a number of times, each time increasing the number of repetitions e.g. 10/20/30/40/50 

Don’t be afraid to get creative- you can combine different circuit styles together, play around with timings, and even throw in distance based cardio between circuits, e.g. 500m sprints between each round. 

In any case I would highly recommence downloading gym boss which is a fantastic free interval timer that many personal trainers use. 

Although home workouts can be daunting for those like me who have come from very structured programs, there are so many fun and diverse ways to achieve the very same results from the comfort of your lounge room. 
FemmeFit also has a range of online programs to keep you motivated and on track!