In Part 1 of “lockdown-proof you (gym) life”, I outlined the absolute necessities that the budding home gym enjoyer would need to assemble in order to defeat the forces of evil and maintain their gains during another tedious Covid shutdown.
Now that we’ve got the equipment, we should think about what it is that we are going to do with it. In this article we’ll look at ways to train for strength and fitness with limited means that do not mean limited results.
For the purpose of this article, we will assume that you have only a barbell and some weight plates to hand.
Lockdown: full body
If you have been training for longer than a week, it has probably dawned on you that full body exercises offer the most ‘bang for your buck’ in terms of getting in and getting it done.
With simple exercises added together you can create powerful complexes – such as the Bear Complex – which will beat you up and leave you begging for mercy.
More traditional full body lifts like the clean and press, the power clean and the deadlift are also remarkably simple and brutally powerful tools in your home gym workout.
Clean and press
The clean and press is an ancient and venerated lift and, until the 1970s, the third lift in Olympic Weightlifting. The ultimate battle against gravity, this lift offers the satisfaction of taking something very heavy from the floor and then locking it out overhead.
The clean and press is a behemoth of a lift and one that every lifter – home gym or not – should look to incorporate in their training occasionally.
Just focusing on the ‘clean’ part of the lift allows you to develop huge leg strength as well as what legendary Weightlifter and Bodybuilder Tommy Kono called “pleasing thickness” in your upper back.
The clean is a very technical lift, one that you can spend a lifetime trying to master. Luckily, the ‘power’ clean is a much less complicated being. See weight on floor. Grab bar. Rip up to shoulders. Drop. Repeat.
Form – whilst still important – gives way to power here. Practical applications including picking up your un-cooperative children having a tantrum on the floor of a supermarket, injured pets and/or women from dancefloors. You owe it to your ancestors to master this lift at home and emerge from a future lockdown an unstoppable force.
I don’t need to explain the deadlift, especially when so much has been written about it elsewhere on this site. But I do need to emphasise that deadlifting at home in your garage, with your music blasting, making as much noise as you want to make, using as much chalk as you want to use, is one of the most satisfying ways to spend an evening.
Get yourself a home gym just so you can experience this thrill.
Lockdown: upper body
Just because you haven’t got access to your usual gym doesn’t mean that you need to let your precious upper body gains go to waste. There are lots of good barbell-only exercises that will keep your torso fighting-fit.
You may or may not have a bench, but you will certainly have a floor. Some lifters prefer Floor Press due to it being safer on the shoulders and keeping the triceps interested for longer than the regular bench press. Ideally, you could do both – but lockdown necessity is rarely ideal. If you are locked out of the gym for a few months, Floor Press will keep your bench ticking over until you can get back in the gym.
Rows are proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy. Why else would he offer so many ways to get a juicy upper back?
Whether Pendlay rows, cheat rows, or Dorian Yates-endorsed 45 degree supinated grip rows, each of these variations has different carryover to a different section of the back but all of them will leave you with a wonderful pump and a slab-like rear profile.
Mix and match until you find the one that you enjoy the most but be sure to keep rows in your home gym lockdown program as a matter of priority.
You don’t just have to focus on the big compound lifts with your spartan set-up. Front raises can be done with either a plate or a light bar on its own. High reps and a sickening pump are the aim here – your front delts will thank you but your shirts may feel the strain, so hopefully the clothes shops haven’t been shut by your nannying local government.
Without stands or a rack, squats become a more tiresome prospect. You could go ‘mad scientist’ and try to master the Steinborn Squat – but for everybody else I would suggest you are probably limited by what you can power clean up to your shoulders for front squats.
Just remember that high rep front squats are not ideal in the way high rep back squats are due to the bar sitting on your windpipe. Be mindful and keep the reps relatively low. Or save up and buy some squat stands!
FIVE SQUAT VARIATIONS YOU SHOULD BE DOING
That the squat is the King of The Lifts is unarguable – everyone from the Instagram fitness model to the grizzled old gym veteran who trains in work boots recognizes the squat’s place in the hierarchy.
However, there are times when the faithful high bar or low bar squat just won’t cut it.
Sometimes an injury, training plateau or plain boredom might require you to mix things up a little. In such events I would recommend taking one of these variations out for a spin.
A lockdown is a stressful and annoying time for everyone but as long as you have acted decisively, securing yourself a barbell and some plates you can be comfortable in the knowledge that almost all your gym needs can be catered to at home.
This is by no means a definitive list: there are lots of good lifts that haven’t made it in.
Play around with combinations of lifts described here, perhaps 1 full body lift for 5 sets of 3-5, and 2 upper body lifts for 3-5 sets of between 8 and 10 to make a real session – and don’t forget that bicep curls exist. Just because the government has decided that your social life needs to lag doesn’t mean that your bicep development must.
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