No gym, no problem, as comedy writer Ralph Jones reveals some innovative ways to maintain strength and muscle using
bodyweight moves and household items.
Could you lift your hoover above your head 10 times? Could you deadlift your sofa? During these unprecedented times of virus lockdown, we are all asking ourselves some extremely odd questions.
Denied the ability to go to the gym, we’re being forced to make the most of what we have immediately in front of us. In the living room, in the bathroom, and in the cupboard under the stairs, everyone is desperately trying to work out how they can work out.
Now, ‘staying home’ and ‘keeping fit’ don’t go hand in hand. (No-one goes hand in hand at the moment, it’s too unhygienic.) But this isn’t a time for defeatism. This isn’t a time for complacency. This isn’t a time to let fear get the better of you. This is a time to stand in the middle of your living room, raise your hoover high above your head and say, “Gnuuuaaaaaaaaargh!” You’ve heard of WFH (working from home), well this is WOFH (working out from home.)
Turning your home into a makeshift gym can be done. I don’t pay for a gym membership; I’ve never seen it as good value for money. Instead, for the last ten years or so, I have been working out from home.
I’m not pretending it’s as effective or as varied as the gym, but it serves me perfectly well, and I don’t need to travel, talk to a ‘human being’, or listen to high-tempo dance bangers. As you can imagine, I took to self-isolation without too much trouble.
I have weights at home, and lifting these comprises a hefty chunk of my workout. But let’s assume that not only has your gym membership been frozen, but you have been unable to buy any weights or exercise equipment, because literally every other person on the planet has had the same idea and Amazon is all out.
Look on the bright side: there are obvious benefits to WOFH. As well as those I’ve listed above, it forces you to be creative, you can do it all while watching Tiger King on Netflix, and you don’t have to look at anyone else’s balls when you’re getting changed.
To seek advice on how to work out properly from home, I called personal trainer and fitness model Shaun Stafford, who looks like Fernando Torres crossed with a bear.
“The whole point of keeping active when you’re in a situation like this is to keep blood flow, keep positivity, and have fun with it,” Stafford says. “Go out there to enjoy it, keep it short, keep it sweet, and just really try to keep a positive mind frame around it.”
Get out of your pyjamas, he says. Put on a t-shirt and shorts. Keep some water nearby so that you’re staying hydrated. If you can, do the workout in a well-ventilated room. And give yourself more space than you think you’ll need.
“The last thing you want to be doing is knocking vases and denting your walls,” says Stafford. This is true: remove all Ming vases.
Home Workout Plan
PACK YOUR BAGS
I ask Stafford for specific exercise recommendations. First up, in place of weights, he recommends filling a rucksack with magazines or books until it weighs between 10kg and 20kg.
You may feel like you’re about to set off for school, but the rucksack is your versatile friend for the next 30 minutes or so. With the rucksack on your back, do 10 lunges on each leg. Then rest for 30 seconds and get into a squat position. Do 20 squats like this, rest for 30 seconds, then repeat the two exercises 4 times. This is great for working your quads, glutes and core.
Then, with the rucksack still on your back, get into a press-up position and do 10 press-ups, with 30 seconds rest as a reward. Here you’ll be giving a workout to your chest, shoulders and triceps.
Lastly, you can do a rucksack row, working your back and biceps. With the rucksack on the floor in front of you, get into a squat position with your upper body between 45 degrees and horizontal. Hinge your hips and pull the rucksack up to your stomach while squeezing your lats. Do this 10 times, have a 30-second break, and repeat 4 times.
Stafford recommends doing the following exercise with the weighted rucksack, but I see no problem with getting out the heavier, denser hoover at this point. Whip it out from the utility room and detach its pesky nozzle. Hold it in front of you then bring it straight up into the air and over your head, keeping your arms straight all the while. Bring it back down. Do this for 10 reps and take another well-deserved 30-second break.
Hell, take a minute-long break. Have a satsuma. You’ve just shoulder-pressed a hoover.
GRAB A CHAIR
Now your chair’s going to start seeing some action, with some step-ups. Make sure that a) the chair is stable and b) no-one is sitting on it. To work your quads, put one foot on the chair (test sturdiness beforehand), then step the other foot up. Do this 10 times with one leg, 10 times with the other, then take a 30-second break. Tell your mum she can sit back down now.
Then tell her that actually she’ll need to get up again because you’re going to do some triceps dips. With the chair behind you, bend down and put both hands on it. Your knees should be bent, your feet flat on the floor. Then, keeping your back straight, lower yourself down until your bum touches the floor. Then lift your body up again. That’s one. Do 10 of those, take 30 seconds, and repeat this and the previous routine 4 times.
If you’re lucky enough to have stairs in your home, work your calf muscles by standing on the edge of a step and doing calf raises: push through the balls of your feet until you’re standing on tip-toes. Do this 10 times for each step on your flight of stairs, and pray that you don’t live in the Eiffel Tower.
“But what about my abs?!” you’re screaming. This is where your sofa comes into its own. Sit on the sofa, extend your arms over your head behind you so that you’re holding the back, and crunch your knees into your chest, before straightening them out down to the floor.
This is a V crunch. Do 10 of these and, you guessed it, take a break for 30 seconds. While you’re there, change position: pop one foot up onto the sofa, sole up, and bend down with your other leg. This is a Bulgarian split squat, working your quads, glutes and core. Do 10 of those, change leg, take 30 seconds, then do both sofa exercises 3 more times each.
Then the moment you’ve been dreaming of: your chance to deadlift your sofa. And again, it’s probably best if there’s no-one sitting there.
“You need to bend your knees,” says Stafford. “Grab the end of the sofa, keep your back and core engaged, keep your head in neutral, then lift up, pivoting through your hips and driving up.” Do as many of these as it feels acceptable to do in a room full of people watching Chris Tarrant: Extreme Railways.
If you have a child, consider lifting them above your head like you did the hoover. My eight-month-old daughter weighs around 7kg so is a convenient weight to shoulder press. If you can lift a good deal more, consider contacting other, more substantial members of your family. (Given the lockdown conditions, this may be difficult unless you’re both wearing some kind of hazmat suit.)
Because of the inevitable restrictions within a home, this routine is more about maintenance than anything, says Stafford: “I would do it every other day and then alternate it with a run or some stretching.” It won’t necessarily cut the mustard for hardcore gym-goers, but for most it’s a decent all-round workout.
And who knows, once you’ve lifted a hoover above your head, you might be hooked. You might cancel your gym membership and work out in the confines of your home for the foreseeable future, lifting hoovers, sofas and relatives high above your head to your heart’s content.
Follow Ralph Jones on Twitter @OhHiRalphJones