WORKING OUT FROM HOME: LOCKDOWN EDITION 1
By Guest Writer Arby Keheli, Top London Personal Trainer
The COVID-19 situation and its induced quarantine has been the cause of stagnation in many people’s fitness journeys. My goal over these next few weeks is to bring some element of clarity and to help you push forward despite present obstacles.
One of the most important questions for me at the start of quarantine for me was “how should I adapt my training?” how can I ensure that some element of progression is made for both myself and my clients?
Due to the absence of gyms and other facilities a lot of training options get taken away, therefore we need to manage our expectations. During this time the likelihood of gaining muscle without equipment is pretty slim. Instead we should shift our focus and attention on maintenance and working on the areas that often get left to the side in favour of the “sexier” forms of training. This quarantine is the best time to work areas that will underpin your training and will ensure that you are in good place to bounce back and surpass your pre-lockdown condition. I’ve dubbed these areas as “The Foundations”.
Foundation 1 – Nutrition:
It’s time to clean up your diet. Nutrition as you probably well know is pivotal to your training success. The term “abs are made in the kitchen” is true, nutrition will facilitate your aesthetic development from muscle building to cutting (losing fat mass) in addition to supporting your performance by providing energy and aiding recovery.
During this period for the most part it’s likely that your general daily activity would have decreased. With this decrease in activity there will be a decrease in energy expenditure meaning that you might not be burning as many calories as you would have normally before lockdown. Due to this you will need to make a small adjustment to your intake in order to ensure that you aren’t gaining any unwanted weight.
The availability of time and the fact that a lot of people are still working from home means that you can form good eating habits and cut the 💩 out. Being surrounded by food and having nothing to do is not a good combination, before you know it you would have raided your fridge of every snack it has to offer. Therefore, I would suggest potentially writing yourself a realistic meal guide, so you don’t deviate in addition to making a shopping list for when you go out and sticking to it.
Additional time also means you can actually make your meals instead of eating for convenience (those cheeky PRET croissants 🥐🤤 every morning). One area that I have been investing a lot of time in is my cooking and I must say I think I’m ready for MasterChef. Expanding your repertoire of healthy recipes, learning to prep and how manage your consumption in terms of tracking your calories will really help you during this period.
Foundation 2 – Mobility:
Mobility is the combination of flexibility, strength and stability. I classify mobility as bullet proofing the body by strengthening areas of weakness and improving general movement.
Let’s use this time to work on nagging areas that create barriers in your training. As a personal trainer one of the main limitations I tend to see is a lack of flexibility to perform standard movements. For example, poor mobility in areas like your ankles, hamstrings and hips will result in poor depth on a movement like a squat. Lack of movement range means that you aren’t able to fully reap the rewards of the movement you are performing.
Mobility issues can also be associated with a lack of gains as certain muscle can become inactive due to restrictions. One common example would be the 🍑. The glutes engage when the hips enter full extension (i.e. top of a glute bridge), however if the quads and hip flexors are excessively tight the hips can’t get into that fully extended position and the glutes therefore can’t fully engage. This example demonstrates the link between mobility and muscular development.
Aside from your training constantly dedicating time to your mobility will negate many aches and pains that we experience on a day to day basis; lower back discomfort, rounded shoulders, stiff neck, seem familiar? These issues are very common and come as a biproduct of sitting at a desk for prolonged periods of time which is unfortunately a necessary feature in most jobs.
I would suggest trying to build a routine where you are dedicating a little bit of time every day to working on your mobility. Try to be consistent and targeted in your approach, first dealing with areas that you know are creating obstacles and then look to generalise.
If you are having trouble figuring out what to hone in on, from experience I would suggest releasing areas including:
- IT band (side of the leg)
- QL (Either side of the lower back)
- lower back
Through techniques such as foam rolling and stretching.
I would also suggest trying to mobilise areas including:
- Lower Back
- Thoracic Spine
Through dynamic movement and strength work.
There are so many amazing resources on platforms including YouTube and Instagram that will act as great references. Some that have really helped me include The Prehab Guys, Skill Yoga, Phase 6, Animal Flow, Saturno movement, Tom Merrick, Ollie Frost, AK_fitness 😉, the list goes on.
Foundation 3 – BW Strength
No equipment? No Problem. There is a lot that can be done with just your body weight. Bodyweight training will provide the base for everything you do and should always be a common feature in your training.
In my opinion BW strength doesn’t get as much of the spotlight as it should. Progressing to weighted movement without having a BW strength foundation is like skipping a step and believe me you will have to return back at some point.
Training simply bodyweight movements should provide the body with enough of an incentive to grow if the movements are performed correctly and the right modifications are made (changing tempo, increasing volume, reducing rest) .
A great benefit of nailing BW movements during this time is the technique crossover to weighted variation. For example, Bench Pressing or Barbell Squatting is directly parallel to Push-Ups and Squats as they follow the same movement pattern. If you have poor technique on a BW Squat you will have poor form when you add a barbell. Due to this cross-over, by taking away the weights and simply working on the technique we can fine tune the performance of specific movement patterns so that when we get back to the gym we are in good place to pick back up some weights.
Core training is an essential form of bodyweight training. Other than looking good a developing a strong core will support your body making you more resilient to injury in addition to aiding your control going hand in hand with improving technique.
Foundation 4 – Conditioning:
With strength training it takes a while before you begin to become weaker due to inactivity 🙌. However, in terms of your conditioning that isn’t the case. Unfortunately, your endurance tends to deplete very quickly during periods of inactivity, therefore I would suggest that during this period you are making regular attempts to work on your conditioning.
There are two forms of conditioning-based training 1) Aerobic 2) Anaerobic conditioning. Aerobic conditioning would be your longer lower intensity forms of training such as running and cycling. Whereas Anaerobic would be your short sharp forms of training such as HIIT; basically, the training that makes you feel a little bit sick during its performance (really selling it there). Both of these types of training are invaluable for maintaining a good base of conditioning in addition to developing a lean physique.
Conditioning work hosts a wide variety of benefits including helping you to get lean due to fat being the primary source of energy during prolonged cardio vascular exercise (aerobicing) in addition to improving brain health, regulating blood sugar, aiding immune functioning, reducing asthma symptoms… wonder why those would be important at the moment...
Now something to nip in the bud. A common response to the COVID situation has been to pick up running. This is great however going from 0-100, couch potato to part time marathon runner isn’t a great idea. When you run you put around 5x your body weight worth of force through each foot and therefore your knee, hip and so on up the chain. As you can imagine this can be somewhat problematic in terms of injury. Physiotherapist that I have worked with in the past are seeing an influx of running related injury’s such as calf strains, shin splints, tendonitis etc during quarantine. Now I’m not saying you can’t go and run I would just suggest that you progressively build up the duration and intensity to ensure that the body adapts to the demand of running in addition to coupling your running with some form of glute activation pre run. Something like cycling would be a great non-weight bearing alternative.
This period has flipped a lot of things on its head but maintaining an element of consistency and direction in your training will do you wonders.