The rise of the living room gyms could see people doing more harm than good, so we consulted an expert.
Regardless of where you're at in your fitness journey, being faced with the prospect of not having a gym or a class to go to for the next few months has encouraged lots of people to start working out from home.
With everything that's going on, this renewed focus on physical and mental health is doing wonders for calming anxious minds, as well as providing much-needed bursts of mood-boosting endorphins. Social media is full of trainers and studios posting free workout videos, affording lots of us the chance to try classes that might usually be ruled out due to price or location, too.
And while any/all movement is beneficial of course, you do need to be careful of how it’s done. There's a lot to unpack with working out properly from home and without a PT or instructor, the margin of error for bad form and even injury can increase exponentially.
So, in an effort to get to the root of the most commonly made WOFH (working out from home) mistakes, we asked one of Dublin's top personal trainers, Sam Breen for his advice on recognising form-issues, debunking the myths and avoiding wasting our workouts.
From skipping the warm-up to not engaging our core correctly, scroll on for what Sam has to say on nailing the basics of WOFH...
Make sure Your warm-up is Targeted
Despite all being aware of the benefits of a proper warm-up and cool-down, before and after exercising, Sam says he knows of so many people who skip these essential steps. But if you're reading this feeling smug that you always do a few jumping jacks or lunges before getting your sweat on, know that that won't cut it.
"When it comes to warming up for a session, the biggest mistake I see people make (besides not doing one at all) is putting a completely random selection of movements together, instead of tailoring their warm-up to their chosen exercise. For example, before a run, we should be focusing on our feet, legs and hips rather than doing some pec stretches and over-head reaches!"
Sam recommends making your warm-up specific. "The goal when it comes to warming up is to elevate the body's core temperature, while at the same time increasing blood flow to our muscles, firing them up. Generally speaking, a 6-10 minute warm-up will suffice for a home workout, maybe a little longer before a run."
Form over everything Else
Focusing on form might not sound like a hot-take but without a professional present to constantly remind you, it can be all-too-easy to fall into bad habits when the tiredness kicks in. "Performing each rep with close-to-perfect execution (even those sticky last few) will not only help to prevent injury but will also allow progress, more quickly and efficiently," says Sam.
Strength and conditioning is an area of training that Sam is particularly passionate about, and according to him, feeling acute pain when doing an exercise is never a good thing... muscle soreness afterwards, of course, is a different beast.
"When it comes to resistance training, not engaging your core (as if you're anticipating a punch) can be the difference between the perfect rep and a sore lower back. If there is pain in the knees while squatting, or in the lower back when doing a plank, please stop and take a different approach – Youtube is full of videos demonstrating the correct technique for most exercises."
Another thing Sam recommends to clients is recording themselves doing the offending exercise – it's a great way of monitoring form and recognising any signs of over-compensation.
Train With Intent
When it comes to exercising, there can a fine line between pushing yourself and over-doing it, and while more doesn't always equal better, Sam maintains that it is important to change up certain variables, in order to see results from our training.
"It's known in the industry as progressive overload, but basically, it just means making the exercise harder than it was the previous week or session. That could be done simply by adding another rep or two, or increasing a run by another kilometre."
"Increasing volume either through reps, sets or distance is how most gym-goers would ramp up their workout, but there are other options available that yield great results, such as TUT (time under tension - the length of time we can keep a muscle under stress), less rest between sets, training frequency, training intensity. I always tell clients how crucial it is to train with intent, as the results come quicker and you will also enjoy your training more."
Structure your workouts
If you were Spartanic about your training regime before the global pandemic, now is a great time to give your body some well-earned rest, but if even the mention of the 'r' word is enough to make you start crawling the walls, consider it more of a change of pace.
Your approach to working out from home shouldn't be the same as smashing out an hour in a busy gym - now's an ideal time to put a plan around your exercise, not only for strength training but for cardio as well.
"Recording each session with a pen and paper and knowing exactly what was done previously is a great way to monitor progress. Knowing that you did 3 sets of 12 squat reps last week will push you to level up with an extra set/rep/less rest this time around. Structuring your workouts this way will ensure you stick with the programme, as well as moving people away from randomised workouts and constant HIIT sessions."
"I know the repetition can sometimes be boring, but believe me, it works," says Sam. "The person that you see with abs and firm glutes in week 11 of quarantine isn't doing random HIIT sessions, but instead, nailing the basics and following a structured programme."
About Sam Breen
While Sam's Dublin 2 studio is closed right now due the coronavirus pandemic, he is currently training all of his clients online, as well as running two FREE classes a week over ZOOM (Wednesdays at 1pm, Saturdays at 11am) that are open to anyone to join and are suitable for any fitness level.