I've witnessed some fantastic ingenuity over the past year when it comes to training at home. Truth be told we've had some non-starters and epic fails. BUT on the odd occasion, if I do say so myself, we absolutely smashed it!
Sessions around the home can be logistically tough for various reasons. Equipment is usually limited, hitting certain muscles can be difficult, the ones you can hit more often than not need more weight, setting up can be a faff, the list goes on.
But as we all came to the realisation that gyms opening for long periods of time wasn't going to happen (including our personal training studio here in Sheffield), we had to get creative. 'Improvise to Survive' became my motto for training clients at home and thinking outside the box was a necessity.
Usually ideas came in a spur of the moment during a session, grabbing a random household item and instantly transforming it into a useful training tool. Other ideas where more thought out and took a little planning.
So here's our top 5 moments of genius/madness...
1 - Mark's storage box inverted row
Back is notoriously hard to work whilst training at home. If you haven't got TRX's or a pull up bar, adding any substantial weight to this muscle group can be tricky.
Two months in to the first lockdown of 2020, early may-ish, Mark's home gym was still under construction. Training heavy push movements constantly was getting pretty monotonous, so it was time to think on our feet if we were ever going to work Mark’s back muscles.
In stepped some sturdy storage boxes and a metal pole used to shoot fireworks out the ground (the random items in garages never fails to impress). Together they formed our glorious makeshift inverted row.
2 - Hannah's makeshift squat rack
Me: I'll be honest with you Hannah, I'm not sure that bench press will work for squats.
Hannah: Hold my beer...
This might the the best piece of ingenuity I saw from a client during Covid. Having only a bench press and dumbbells available in her home gym set up, when it came to training legs, Hannah was relatively limited on how much weight she could lift.
She had plenty of plates. But unfortunately, lifting the barbell, on her back, off the bench press, just wasn't happening. We toyed around with ideas on different variations and how we could potentially make this work, but I wasn't hopeful.
Then few hours later I got sent a picture, followed by a video.
Bravo Hannah, bravo!
3 - Tamara's plant pot squat
This is another very strong girl I train who during the first lockdown on 2020, struggled to find the required weight for her legs to continue growing. All she had to her disposal was a couple of 4kg dumbbells.
I had exhausted pretty much every hypertrophy technique to assist in growth, but without heavier weight, Tamara's legs were shrinking.
It's a horrible and helpless position to be in as a coach - and one I've found myself in several times in the past year. A client with a goal and a desire to work, but not having the required tools to achieve them, within their home gym set up.
One session, I got slightly frustrated with our situation and the idea of Tamara regressing. So said "Right! - I want you to go around the garden and start picking things up". With a peculiar look on her face, Tamara obliged and began picking up garden furniture, rocks, discarded paving slabs, garden tools - most of which were either too awkward or too unsafe to life.
But eventually at the back of the garden we found one of Tamara's Mum's big potted plants. It was heavy enough and sturdy enough to do goblet squats with. Her mum probably wasn't best pleased, neither were her legs the day after come to think of it.
But, eureka!! - There shall be growth!
4 - James' Elevated Pike Press
As with most of the bright idea's we've had so far, they originate from a need for more weight and usually make use of house hold items. This one's no different. James is a strong bloke who was lifting some serious weight whilst training at our Sheffield personal training studio.
The one area we struggled with most during James' home based sessions was shoulders. We had only 12/8kg kettlebells and resistance bands at our disposal. These worked great initially but as ever we needed to progress.
We had been trying an exercise called a pike press. But as the weight was spread over both hands and feet, it was still in the high rep exercise category. But whilst using one of James' dining chairs for dips, I had a light bulb moment.
If we could elevate his feet during a pike press it would transfer more of the weight into his hands and ultimately into his shoulders whilst pressing. I give you the 'elevated pike press'...
5 - Two Man Inverted Row
It's back! The infamous inverted row. But let me introduce you to the two man version, performed during a session with Phil and Lee.
Now on the surface, granted, this does look a little wrong. And if Lee and Phil weren't a couple I would probably have thought differently about making them do this exercise. But it was too good not to try!
Grabbing a broom, one man acts as the base holding the broom steady, whilst the other is underneath rowing from floor to broom.
If you're going to give this one a go at home, bare this in mind. The person holding the broom must be able to deadlift the weight of the person underneath, ensuring they have the capacity to hold them throughout the lift and not injure themselves. They must also maintain a straight back throughout the exercise, again, as not to cause any pulled back muscles.
We also tried this with a supinated grip for biceps, worked a treat!
It goes without saying (but from a legality point of view, I must say) I would advise you not to try any of these exercise at home. However, if you do, be sure both the equipment and environment you perform them in are both safe.
All the best in your home workout gains!