The global spread of the COVID-19 disease has led to the vast majority of people participating in some form of self-isolation. Many people worldwide are entering uncertain times having made a significant lifestyle shift in an instant as a response to government advice.
Social distancing has been at the forefront of the advice over the past few weeks and measures are now becoming more significant across the glove. Specifically in the UK, following on from school closures, on Friday 20th March the UK government enforced closure of all gyms along with pubs, clubs, theatres, and cafes/restaurants.
It’s undoubtedly a difficult time, and while it’s unknown how long this will be the new normal for, it’s certainly going to be the state of play for weeks, likely months.
During this time it’s important for people to try and maintain as many of their usual activities as they are able. Finding ways to keep as physically active as possible during this time is a must and google trends data shows that it’s at the forefront of many people’s minds.
Search Trends for Home Workouts
The global search volume for ‘home workout’ illustrates the general public’s surging desire to learn about effective methods for keeping fit in these uncertain times.
Google reports search volume on a relative basis, so while we can’t say exactly how many searches occurred on a given day we can know how many searches occurred on a day compared to another day. The relative search volume is maxed at 100 for March 17th. This is 300% higher than it was on the 13th March, 400% higher than the 12th, and 500% higher than the 8th.
We also looked at tweet frequency for the same term ‘home workout’ which speaks more to discussions that are ongoing as opposed to google searches which are primary information requests.
Conversations as well as searches
This chart shows the hourly tweet frequency on tweets matching the search criteria “home workout”. This further demonstrates the public desire to stay on top of their fitness in light of this uncertain period of isolation.
Looking at more specific search queries gives further insight on how the nation plans on keeping fighting fit.
The search trend for ‘home yoga’ shows an almost 200% increase in a matter of days.
The trend for ‘bodyweight workout’ shows a 300-400% jump in search volume.
Google trends data further suggests that many are going to be parting with their money in order to purchase equipment to enhance their at-home workouts.
Home Gym Equipment
As we all get used to a more isolated existence for at least a little while our behaviours are going to change. With more time spent at home and more hours to fill with entertainment due to fewer commutes and less outdoor socialising people are expected to spend significantly more time watching TV streaming services. Twitch viewership is producing record numbers and online gaming servers are being overwhelmed.
In light of these more sedentary activities seeing such a surge in numbers it’s positive that we can also see an uptick in people keen to maintain their physical activity levels during this unique period of time we face.
In light of this, the team at OriGym have put together the following guide – packed full of actionable tips on exercises and equipment culminating in a home circuit guide – to help you stay physically active while remaining isolated.
Home Workout Equipment List for Isolated Fitness Enthusiasts
We know how important it is for the population to stay fit during the social distancing period, whether they’re regular gym goers or just getting into fitness.
Not only are they facing the frustration of having zero access to their usual fitness equipment, but they’re also finding it difficult to get their hands on anything that might be of use to them at home thanks to the increase in demand.
If you find yourself in this position, then you can rest-assured that we feel your pain here at OriGym. We’re all fitness junkies ourselves (as well as qualified fitness professionals), and certainly struggling with being away from our usual fitness programmes!
This is why we wanted to step in and give a real insight into some actionable steps that you can take to maintain your gains, build your own home gym, or get leaner than you were pre-social distancing.
We’ve put together a quick-fire list of essential home workout equipment, along with alternatives that you can put together in the event of a shortage. Not only this, but we’ve also provided a guide to putting together your own workout programme, which is vital if you want to see progress and make it sustainable!
DISCLAIMER: if you are self-isolating due to having symptoms of COVID-19, we would recommend that you avoid exercise altogether, especially if you have any signs of respiratory illness.
#1 - Dumbbells
If you don’t already have a set of dumbbells and you’re able to order a pair online then we’d definitely recommend investing in some.
The best product to buy for home use would probably be an adjustable set of dumbbells, depending on your budget and the weight that you require.
The great thing about adjustable dumbbells is that they will help you to make rapid progress over the coming weeks/months. If you buy a singular dumbbell you risk reaching a training plateau, which is fine if you’re just looking to maintain but not the best option for building lean muscle mass.
Household alternatives that ACTUALLY work…
If you’re unable to get your hands on one of these products or you’re looking to build muscle on a budget, you’ll be glad to know that there are feasible alternatives out there that can get you similar results.
Now is the time to get creative!
In terms of dumbbells, one of the best alternatives that we’ve tried and tested ourselves at home are weighted cans, water bottles, or handled laundry detergent bottles if you’re really looking to push yourself.
Here are some ways that you can make them heavier to suit your preference:
- Wet sand (for extra-heavy D.I.Y. dumbbells)
- Cement (if you happen to have any lying around in the garage!)
#2 - Kettlebells
Kettlebells have been described as the one piece of equipment that you need for a home gym, especially due to their portability and the fact that they’re inexpensive compared to other free weights.
If you take a look at our article on kettlebell history, you’ll see that they’ve been prevalent in the fitness world for a long time.
While the modern kettlebell is said to have originated in Russia in the 19th century, handled weights have been a thing since ancient Greece (take a look at Bybon’s stone if you don’t believe us!).
The great thing about kettlebells is that they’re incredibly versatile. While a heavy dumbbell or barbell will see you pack on more lean muscle mass, kettlebells are still a great way to keep your body fat percentage down, especially when you use them to perform high-impact workouts.
They can either be used for kettlebell-specific exercises (like kettlebell swings and the kettlebell snatch, clean and jerk), or you can perform the likes of bicep curls, hammer curls, rows, etc. and really use their versatility to your advantage when you have limited equipment available to you.
Sadly, kettlebells are difficult to imitate without proper DIY tools, but they are incredibly easy to come by in your local sports shops. We’ve even caught sight of them being sold in supermarkets across the UK in the past year, which is pretty exciting.
However, if you do feel like getting creative, you can try kettlebell swings with anything you have lying around the house that has a decent handle, as long as you don’t overload it.
You could use:
- A kayak dry bag
- A backpack (with a sturdy handle)
- A handled bag of rice
#3 - Resistance Bands
Resistance bands are probably the least expensive piece of fitness equipment that will help you to gain a ton of resistance for your workouts.
Resistance bands come in a variety of styles, but we’d recommend grabbing a set of resistance tubes. Their handles make them incredibly versatile and mean that you can attach them to objects around the house (such as door handles) and gain a varied workout.
You can even use them to perform traditional strength training exercises, such as bicep curls or tricep extensions; the possibilities are endless!
Typically they come in a set ranging from around 10lbs-50lbs in resistance and have things like door anchors and ankle straps included.
Another great thing to note is that they will likely be easier to get hold of in the great rush for more popular pieces of equipment (like dumbbells or yoga mats, etc.) so we’d urge you to order some as a backup even if you’re not planning on using them for your main regime.
You can even try browsing pull-up bands online, as they sometimes pack even more resistance due to their thick nature and offer more opportunity for progression.
#4 - Pull-Up Bars
There are articles flying out left, right, and centre instructing people to try pull-ups on their door frames, or by gripping beneath their chairs and coffee tables in a plank position.
The problem with this is that their grip will be limited, which is dangerous for a multitude of reasons. Not to mention, they could also risk damaging their property...
As long as you take the time to pick out a well-reviewed and sturdy product, it’s much safer to try a pull-up bar that attaches to a door frame, or even a freestanding pull-up bar if you can afford to make the investment.
Bodyweight workouts aren’t just a popular fitness fad, but they’ve been used as an essential part of strength training for many years.
Naturally they’re most effective when you use your entire body weight as a source of resistance, which is why pull-ups are one of the best bodyweight exercises for packing on muscle mass and shedding body fat.
They’ll work especially well alongside strength training, which we’ll guide you through later on in the article!
Unsure on whether you can manage a pull-up yet? Not to worry, if you’re purchasing a set of pull-up bands then you can use them to assist you while you’re starting out.
#5 - Medicine Balls
We hate to admit it, but one of our favourite reasons for using medicine balls in our home workouts is that they’re so much fun. There’s something addictive about medicine ball slams, as they make you feel as though your explosive power has improved in a single session!
But, are they effective in helping you to build muscle mass and keep your body fat percentage down?
While they’re known for their use in sports rehabilitation and for improving things like stability, coordination, and balance, they can definitely double as an effective piece of strength training equipment.
Through exercises such as medicine ball slams, squat throws and lying chest throws (especially with a heavy medicine ball), you can really attack your upper body.
As well as this, you can use medicine balls to perform exercises like squats and deadlifts, much like with kettlebells, especially if they come with grips. This will help to build power and muscle mass in your lower body, and is certainly better for maintaining your figure than focusing solely on bodyweight workouts if you’re used to using free weights in the gym.
Medicine balls are relatively cheap online, and we’ve even seen these products weighing up to 15-20kg advertised on online retailer websites for under £30
#6 - Sandbags
All that working on strength and power is great, especially when you’re working out from home with limited resources. However, sandbags add something else to the mix that you’ll struggle to get from other pieces of equipment.
That’s right, they provide a challenging workout as you have to work against their unstable centre of mass, which is constantly-changing.
If you thought the off-set centre of mass in kettlebells was difficult to get used to at first, you’ll definitely have fun figuring out your sandbag technique!
They’re great for building strength (especially as you build up the weight you’re working with), but also for conditioning your body.
They’re great for changing up your workouts and ensuring that you’re not just working on the same components of fitness, ultimately meaning that you’ll stay in better shape.
Another thing to note is that sandbags are extremely affordable, even when you’re adding more weight. You can usually pick up a 30kg bag for under £40!
The great news is, they’re also easy to imitate...
If you don’t have access to a commercial sandbag but you have a gym bag or backpack lying around, you can use that instead!
You can add as much weight as you wish (within reason), from things that you have lying around the house. Just make sure that you pad it out to make it comfortable to work with.
You can even order jute sandbags online which are usually around 20kg, come in multipacks, and are much cheaper than trying to purchase this amount of weight commercially. You can fill your custom sandbag with as many as you please!
Home Workout Suggestions: Putting Together a Programme
Let’s face it, there’s no use in throwing a list of exercise equipment your way and not explaining how to use it.
We want to get you motivated and make sure you stay that way. So, let’s take a look at a sample workout programme that can be used with all of the equipment above.
The best thing about the equipment that we’ve listed (which you’ll soon see) is that it can be used interchangeably for each of the exercises in our sample circuit.
Even if you only have access to one piece of equipment, you’ll be able to complete the whole workout!
Home Workout Circuit for Strength & Fat Loss
#1 - Push-Ups with Row (Renegade Row)
It may look easy but trust us, this killer combination is heavy on your upper body.
If you want to maintain mass and stay lean, they’re twice as difficult as regular push-ups and will target your latissimus dorsi (back) as well as your abs, arms, chest, shoulders, and even your legs if you maintain great form!
You don’t necessarily require dumbbells for this exercise, you can use kettlebells or even homemade weighted cans as we mentioned earlier.
- Get into a push-up position, holding the dumbbells just underneath your shoulders
- Ensure that your elbows are at a 45-degree angle (in relation to your back)
- With your your back straight, abs engaged, and your feet spread out for stability, carefully push up into the top position
- Raise one dumbbell until it’s in line with your rib cage, then return it the ground
- Carefully lower yourself until you’re back to the original position
- Keeping good form, push up into the top position
- Raise the opposite dumbbell until it’s in line with your rib cage, then return it the the ground
- Lower yourself into the original position
Reps: 8-12 (the higher the weight, the lower the reps for building mass)
If you have a pull-up bar, try alternating between this exercise and that on different days, as this will help you to work against your own body weight in a completely different motion (pulling rather than pushing).
#2 - Clean and Press
Another exercise that targets the upper body and core is the clean and press. It’s actually a combination of the power clean and the overhead press, which are two of the most popular moves used in strength training!
It will work your biceps, triceps, lats, traps, rhomboids, lower back, abs, calves, glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps… the list is endless.
You can perform this with dumbbells, kettlebells, medicine balls, homemade weights, or even sandbags (like in our demo above). We even have a full guide to the clean and press plus all the variations that come along with it.
If you do use homemade sandbags though, be sure that you have a good grip on the bag and you’re extra careful throughout the movement due to the shifting centre of mass.
- Grab the sandbag (or alternative weight) and lift it carefully, letting it rest in a neutral position
- Keep your back straight and your legs shoulder-width apart
- Using your legs for explosive power, drive the bag upwards into a rack position, holding it neutrally once more
- Brace your core, and use your legs as the main source of power as you press the weight upwards
- Carefully bring the weight back down into the rack position, keeping good form throughout the movement
- Return to the original position
#3 - Squat
It’s time to shift your focus completely to the lower body.
Squats are fantastic for working your glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, core, etc. and will really help you to tone your lower body as well as building stability and strength in the area.
Our favourite thing about squats is that you can actually perform them anywhere, and they don’t necessarily need to be done with any form of equipment. In fact, one of the most challenging squats is the sissy squat, which is done using only your own body weight.
However, the more weight you can hold whilst keeping good form during a squat, the more potential there is to build muscle mass in your lower body!
If we’re looking at the goblet squat, which can be done with kettlebells, dumbbells, medicine balls, sandbags, and even homemade weights, this is how it’s done…
- Start with your feet around shoulder-width apart
- Grab your kettlebell (or alternative weight) and hold it in a safe and stable position as you brace your core
- Carefully descend towards the ground with your body weight shifted onto your heels, making sure that your knees are positioned behind your toes (rather than collapsing inwards)
- Either break parallel or stay at a comfortable level (if you’re not used to performing squats yet)
- Carefully propel yourself and the weight back to the starting position, keeping your back neutral
#4 - Bicep Curls
If you really want to build or maintain mass in your arms, bicep curls are the way forward. Sure they’re one of the most commonly known exercises, but that’s for good reason!
We’ve included a demo from our OriGym trainer above using cables, as hopefully this shows you how you could use resistance bands for this exercise at home (especially when they’re packed full of resistance).
You can also use dumbbells, kettlebells, or even sand-filled laundry detergent bottles, which can get surprisingly heavy after a rep or two.
While they predominantly target the biceps, curls are also known to work the brachialis and brachioradialis, the muscles in your lower arm, as well as your wrist flexors and extensors.
- Grip your dumbbells (or alternate weights/resistance bands) and carefully lift them so that they’re hanging by your sides
- Make sure that your elbows are close to your core, and that your palms are facing outwards
- Keeping your upper arms completely still, curl the dumbbells up towards your shoulders in a controlled movement
- Move them back to the original position
Reps: 8-12, sticking with 8 or under if you’re looking to gain mass (and you’re lifting heavy)
#5 - Lunges
Just like squats, lunges are insane for your lower body.
They can be done using only your body weight, especially if you’re just getting used to them. However, if you’re looking to pack on muscle in your lower body then you can load them up as heavy as you wish!
If you’re wondering what muscles they’ll target, they include the hamstrings, quadriceps, glutes and calves, meaning that nowhere is left forgotten.
- Begin in a standing position with your back straight and a weight in each hand (if you’re using weights, be sure to lift them carefully!)
- Step forward with one foot into a lunge, keeping the weights stable, until your leg is at a 90-degree angle
- As you would during a squat, make sure that your knee stays behind your toes
- With your front leg, carefully push backwards until you’re in the starting position
- Repeat with the opposite leg!
#6 - Crunches
Crunches have grown a strange reputation in recent years as an exercise that ‘doesn’t work’ for the core or abdominal muscles, but this is mainly due to the fact that people don’t perform them correctly.
Many of those looking to burn fat around their stomach use crunches in an attempt to ‘isolation train’ the area. What they don’t know is that this is virtually impossible, and that they should be doing other exercises to tackle excess fat alongside the crunches.
If you want to know how to do crunches effectively to tone your core, you should definitely start by adding them into a circuit of other exercises.
As well as this, you can add weight to your crunches to build strength in the area and speed up the process!
Medicine balls and kettlebells are probably the best choices in terms of comfort and having the easiest grip, but there aren’t really any limitations.
- Using an exercise mat, lie flat on your back and bring your knees up at around a 45-degree angle
- Grab your weight and hold it securely over your chest
- Keeping your spine neutral and your abs engaged (the key to this exercise), pull your torso towards your knees in a controlled motion (you should really feel this in your core after a few reps)
- Carefully return to the starting position
Now, the biggest mistake that people make with this exercise is that they’ll do over 100 reps, thinking that this will surely help them to build muscle in the area.
However, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
It’s actually better to perform less reps with this exercise and load it up with some weight, so that you give your muscles time to recover and therefore grow in strength and size.
Before you go!
Now that you’ve got a good idea of the equipment and workouts that you should be completing at home in order to stay in shape (or get in shape if you haven’t exercised in a while), there’s no excuse to skip getting active.
While this is only one circuit workout, the possibilities are endless.
If you want to focus on your upper body then feel free to switch up the exercises that you’re doing on that particular day, and definitely don’t shy away from a full-blown leg day!
Whatever you decide to include in your home workout programme, you should aim to complete at least 3 sets of 6 different exercises per circuit. If you can manage 4, that’s even better…
The circuit that we’ve provided is a great place to start, as it’s well-rounded enough to target your entire body, especially with the help of some weights.
If you complete a circuit like this at least 3-4 times per week, you’ll get lean and build/maintain a good amount of muscle before you get back to the gym!
Just remember to progressively increase the amount of weight that you use in each workout, and to spread out your workouts so that you get enough rest in between to really allow your muscles to repair and grow.