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  • Alex Phillipos

FOR WANT OF A NAIL

The Benefits and Basics of Home Strength Exercises.


Australia has been experiencing the effects of the Coronavirus Pandemic for more than six months. For more than one hundred and eighty days, the lives, routines and livelihoods of millions have been disrupted by a particle smaller than a mote of dust. Gym closures and restrictions on personal training have forced people to go home and be inventive with what they do, and while those opportunities to exercise in the community may open up again, some people are going to make the switch to home exercise permanently.


Exercising at home is an easy thing to do, contrary to what expectations might suggest. Healthiness and wellness are achievable without spending money on memberships, equipment, or training. The science behind using the human body to train itself has been understood and practically applicable since the time of the ancient Greeks, and the usefulness of the human body has remained undiminished in the thousands of years since the Parthenon was raised.



Home-based exercise programs have many benefits over gym-based programs. The absence of equipment means that exercises and movements performed at home either don't require much setup, or can make use of things already there and in the environment. Walls, floors, furniture and other objects can be used without any issues. Additionally, because a person doesn't need equipment, they can do these exercises anywhere, at any time, using nothing more than their own weight and their own muscles. The human body is self-propelled by virtue of the fact that its muscles act on itself. By changing the posture as well as the speed of movements, it's possible to work different physical systems in simple but dynamic ways, from applying resistance, increasing tension, or testing endurance. Lastly, home based and equipment-less exercises cost nothing to do. You don't need to subscribe to a membership in your own body (State tax notwithstanding) and you by eliminating the need to travel you save on time. Anything that improves your independence as an individual makes you less dependent on facilities and professionals who may not always be available, for professional or pandemic reasons.


Basic exercises done at home.


The five cardinal strengthening movements are the bench press, the squat, the overhead press, the bent row, and the deadlift. These exercises form the core of most foundational strength training routines because they work major muscle groups, and because they resemble movements that we need to perform in life. When we bend to pick up a bag of groceries, we squat. When we pull with our arms, we complete a row. When we lift a child from the ground to our chest, we complete a deadlift. Training these basic movements prepares us to meet the demands of life comprehensively and well.


Push Up: The pushup improves your ability to push away from your chest, using your arms, like pushing a shopping cart. lie on your stomach and place your hands directly under your arm pits. From here, move your hands away from your body by exactly one hand—this will give you a good base start position. Try to imagine that you have a broom stick on your back, and that your head, upper thoracic (upper back) and top of the pelvis are all touching the broom stick with only a slight gap at your lumbar spine. This will give you your neutral spine, and will keep your arms directly in line with your shoulders.


Squat: The squat improves your ability to push your body up using your legs, similar to standing up from a chair. Set your feet shoulder-width apart, toes slightly turned out. Pull in your lower abs, and keep your eyes forward. Slowly bend at the knees and drop your hips to lower your body. Keep your heels flat on the floor. At the bottom of the exercise pause for a moment and strongly push back up to the starting position, mirroring the descent. Repeat for desired number of reps.


Overhead Press: The overhead press trains your ability to push a weight above your head using your arms, kind of like stacking boxes on a shelf. Hold a box or weight in your hands, at chest height. Lift the weight above your head. Try to keep your legs and your back straight - it can be tempting to bend your knees a little to get a little more push, but this means you're working your arms less effectively. Pause at the top, and lower the weight down to chest level.


Deadlift: The deadlift is like the squat, but it improves your ability to pick weights up off the floor and straighten your body, like lifting bags of groceries from the ground. Start by standing over a box, or by having a bag inbetween your feet. Start by squatting down, and reach out to grasp the bag by its handles or straps, using both arms. Make sure to keep your back straight. Straighten your legs, while lifting the weight off the ground. You should end standing with the bag hanging from your grasp. Gently lower it down to the floor.


Row: The row trains your ability to pull back with your arms and your shoulders, similar to the movement you make when starting a lawn-mower. Start by bending your knees and hips, and keeping your back straight. Reach down between your legs, and grasp the straps of a grocery bag. Pull the bag up to chest level using your arms, tucking your elbows in. You should keep a straight and still back, as well as keeping your legs still. Pause at the top, and lower the bag down.


Basic Equipment for Working In.


At home, you might not have access to the same variety of equipment that you'd have at a gym. You might instead have a few pieces of furniture, a little space, and a staircase into your home. All of these things can be used as part of an exercise routine - you can perform squats using your chairs as a safety guard, you can do calf raises on stairs, you can do shoulder and tricep dips using bedframes and tabletops. The variety of furniture you may have at home is an advantage - use it!


Being inventive.


Beyond equipment, you'll need to find a way to increase the weight you're using. Milk jugs are good for this - a few three liter milk jugs in a grocery bag can give you an additional 12 kilograms of resistance, and you can play around with it to find out how to make it work in the context of your home and your life. It may be tempting to use broomhandles as squat bars, but they are often made of lightweight material and so won't be able to take weight. If you can't find a solution immediately, don't worry. You've got time to figure it out, and even if you need to ask questions, the knowledge you get from working through the problem will equip you well.


Progressing.


Despite the flexibility of exercising at home, there are limits to what you can achieve. The trade-off to the amount of freedom you have is that unless you're willing to shell out money for equipment, or being particularly inventive, you'll reach the limit of what you can accomplish fairly quickly. You can still continue to achieve gains despite this limitation, but if you're looking for variety and difference in what you do then you're going to get bored fast. This is the unfortunate consequence of working out at home - you've seen it all before. But regardless of that, you'll be able to get some good work done, and at least tide yourself over until the gyms and workout studios open up again.



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