I, Mark Roemer, know there are various ways to increase strength, stamina, and flexibility with little or no equipment, whether you’re constrained to your living room or a hotel room.
It’s one thing to develop the ideal full-body workout in ideal circumstances but staying in shape becomes more difficult when you’re stuck at home during the COVID-19 pandemic or caged up in a hotel room while traveling. We polled exercise experts—including top personal trainers from Daily Burn and Equinox, technique-driven martial artists, and a seasoned wellness writer—for the best strategies for maintaining strength, flexibility, stamina, and coordination in cramped areas with little or no equipment.
“During this lockdown, it’s easy to lose desire and stop training,” says Phil Cruz, co-founder of Unlimited Martial Arts in Brooklyn, who has been leading Zoom lessons with his co-founder, Anthony Fontana, since mid-March. “However, if you continue to work out on your own, it will be much simpler to return to your regular regimen once things begin to open up again.”
If sticking to a strict fitness plan isn’t in the cards for you, one of the experts we spoke with has some innovative ideas. Dominique Astorino, a fitness and health blogger, says, “I have a small beach home and not a lot of space to work out.” “I prefer to include workouts into my everyday activities, such as squats while brushing my teeth, barre leg lifts while doing the dishes, planks or clamshells while watching TV, and so on.” If I don’t have the stamina, focus, or ambition to do a full-on workout, this keeps me active throughout the day.” Read on to discover how to make the most of your movements, no matter how busy you are.
Treadmills, standing bicycles, and other heavy equipment are frequently associated with indoor cardio training. These things are helpful, but your body weight is all you need to get a sweat going. Phoenix Carnevale, personal trainer and a media personality featured on The Daily Burn (a streaming fitness website that offers both live and pre-recorded lessons), says, “Basic athletic calisthenics is one of the finest methods to get in a terrific cardio exercise in a small space.” Simple workouts like these help you feel the burn in a shorter amount of time by activating your core and major muscle groups:
- Jumping jacks are a great way to get your heart rate up.
- Knees that are too high
- Climbers of mountains
- Jumping squats
Repetition of these movements with no breaks until the end of the set is one way to approach bodyweight cardio. For example, if a set consisted of 30 jumping jacks, 30 mountain climbers, and 30 burpees, you would execute all three motions back-to-back, rest for 30 seconds, then begin the next set.
Another option is to execute fewer, slower movements in a set, such as five step-out squats, five push-ups, and five leg lifts, but spend 10 to 30 seconds on each rep to increase the burn and decrease the rest period between exercises. “Controlled motions with minimum rest may have a significant ROI with little danger or impact on the joints,” says Todd Anderson, a Tier X coach at Equinox. So if you have a weak back or bad knees, a slow and steady approach is safer and more sustainable for your fitness.
Checking your heart rate with a Fitbit, smartwatch, chest strap, or armband is the most accurate way to keep track of your cardio workout at home. Working at 60 to 85 percent of maximal heart rate is recommended by Carnevale. According to the Mayo Clinic, you may figure out your maximum heart rate by subtracting your age from 220: “Simply subtract 45 from 220 to get a maximum heart rate of 175, for example, if you’re 45 years old.” During exercise, this is the maximum number of times your heart should beat per minute.”
Strength training, which has far-reaching benefits beyond killer biceps and brawn, is as important as cardio. “Strength training is necessary for maintaining muscle mass, increasing metabolism, reducing discomfort, improving posture and muscular imbalance, and lowering the risk of osteoporosis,” Carnevale explains.
It turns out that, like cardio, you don’t need a lot of exercise equipment to build and maintain strength. “When you’re indoors, having control over your body weight is fantastic,” adds Fontana, who recently adapted his Unlimited Martial Arts strength conditioning workshops for Zoom. “Repetition is the key. Begin with three sets of ten push-ups, then on to squats and lunges. You’ll eventually want to work up to 10 sets of ten.” Carnevale recommends full-body exercises that emphasize core activation, which burns more calories in the long run. Here are a few examples:
- Lunges with a single-leg rise as a follow-up
- Push-ups with a side plank transition
- Squats followed by squat leaps
To get the best results, Anderson recommends varying the tempo of your reps. “Changing the tempo and speed of a workout can fundamentally modify the stimulation that is applied to the body,” he explains.
Resistance bands (both loop and tube forms) are Carnevale’s secret weapon because of their adaptability and because they take up little room. “Never underestimate the value of a decent resistance band,” she advises. “Many products provide interchangeable sets, so you can utilize a heavier laden band as you develop.” And it doesn’t take up as much room in your backpack as a folded shirt.”
One of the most usually disregarded aspects of any fitness program is flexibility. However, a muscle’s limited capacity to stretch causes posture problems and can even contribute to injury, according to Carnevale, so flexibility practice is very crucial.
“Allowing oneself time to stretch and relax stiff muscles improves performance while also reducing repetitive stress injuries and discomfort,” she explains.
Fortunately, incorporating flexibility into your daily routine is simple. “We think of flexibility training as ‘stretching,'” Anderson explains, but “there are various techniques to enhance flexibility beyond stretching.”
During a strength training activity, Anderson recommends concentrating on obtaining the full range of motion. To put it another way, when doing squats, go as deep as your body will allow you to reach the limits of your flexibility.
According to Astorino, another approach to incorporate flexibility into a busy schedule is to break up your day with a few simple yoga poses—either in between work duties or while waiting to take cookies out of the oven. The roll-down is one such pose: “Sweep your arms out overhead, tuck your chin, and slowly slide down vertebrae by vertebrae while standing,” she explains. “Hang there for a few minutes to massage your back and spine.” During the lockdown, Astorino has been focusing on hip-opening exercises like pigeon position and legs up the wall, which are “excellent for when you’ve been sitting forever.”
Look for exciting ways to put techniques into practice
While cardio, strength, and flexibility exercises offer numerous advantages, combining physical skill with a personal passion—be it dancing, boxing, or even rowing—is a pleasant approach to embrace many of these principles at once. The growth of online seminars teaching new skills to homebound people worldwide is a silver lining to the pandemic.
Anderson is a rower who has been utilizing his quarantine time to work on his abilities with his coach via internet training. “Find someone who understands the fundamentals of a sport or skill set, and learn the proper manner,” he advises. “Fortunately, in this day and age, we can interact via video chat and various apps.”
Many institutions have opened their classrooms to the internet world for the first time. Unlimited Martial Arts, which is based in Brooklyn’s hip Williamsburg district, has converted its entire facility into a virtual classroom where students may learn boxing, Muay Thai, capoeira, weapons training, and strength conditioning. Yoga, Gyrokinesis, salsa, and meditation have all been added to the school’s curriculum.
Cruz explains, “It was an intriguing experiment to see how far we could push the arts in an online class setting.” “We go over the various shadowboxing combos that can be used. We also come up with novel techniques to practice timing, which is crucial in fighting technique, such as having the teacher strike the screen with a punch or kick, and the pupils respond with the appropriate response.”
Fontana recommends that those who are still unsure about their technique, whether it’s salsa dancing or shadowboxing, videotape themselves—but also spend time alone to improvise and freestyle the techniques they’re learning.
“Shadowboxing, like other art forms, is moving meditation,” he says. “You’ve got us as coaches, and now you’re learning to play.” Listening to the teacher and following the curriculum isn’t enough. This is your chance to use what you know in new ways.”
If there is one thing I, Mark Roemer, know, it is that being stuck inside without a way to work out is a terrible feeling. We have been shut out of gyms, but that should not stop us from getting a good workout.