The coronavirus pandemic and the measures that came along with it to curb its spread have been pushing people to accept this new world order and change their habits to protect themselves against this virus in both the psychological and physical sense.
Of course, such a rapid and widespread change has increased interest in online classes. This has also been true for fitness classes. People were suddenly left on their own, away from their gyms and trainers. As a result, those who already did regular workouts turned to online classes with their trainers while some, who did not have the time or failed to make it to a nearby gym, are now exploring new ways to get some exercise at home. This search has also been further fueled by statements by experts who have reiterated that the key to protecting ourselves against this virus is, first and foremost, a healthy immune system and a healthy body.
This stuck-at-home mentality and home gym situation have, of course, raised a few questions. What sort of exercise should I be doing at home? Should I be doing weight training? Can I follow any random video?
We asked Istanbul-based personal trainer and national athlete in classic bodybuilding Selahattin Şimşek to enlighten us on such issues and create a kick-ass routine for the readers of Daily Sabah.
Before we start, a word of caution from Şimşek: Before you start any strenuous exercise, make sure you are physically able and fit and do not have conditions that could lead to injury while doing the listed moves. “So this goes for anyone having problems with their back, shoulders or knees. It’s always best to follow the advice and recommendations of your doctor,” he says.
At this point we must think about our mobility, flexibility and physical fitness levels, explains Şimşek. Working at our desks all day and staring at computers or phones has caused some serious posture changes. From tech neck to decreased circulation in the legs, our limited movement throughout the day has negatively impacted our health.
For such posture problems, especially those related to the spine, Şimşek says it is important to strengthen back muscles while stretching the opposite muscles (chest and core) to provide relief for those constantly contracted.
He underscored, again, that such programs should be planned and adjusted according to the person's health baseline goal and training capacity.
Cardio or weights: the eternal debate
Some of us hate doing weights out of the fear of getting bulky while some of us would rather die than try to get in a 30-minute cardio session. Is one type better than the other, especially in times of coronavirus?
If the person does not have any diseases or disabilities restricting their movements and has not been advised to avoid certain exercises by their doctors, people can do both types, Şimşek says. It’s usually best to alternate between the two throughout the week, he adds.
If you have a relatively “sedentary” sports life, which according to Şimşek is light exercise three or four times a week, he recommends alternating between cardio or weight-bearing exercise. He also says cardio is better first thing in the morning before eating if your body can handle it and weight training at least two hours after eating.
A simple matter of energy balance
Social distancing and self-isolation have also had an impact on our eating habits. We have more irregular eating schedules and are snacking much more often due to spending more time at home in front of the TV or computer.
When it comes to food, Şimşek says we have to leave it to the pros, who are nutritionists and licensed dieticians in this case. The less we move, the less we must eat because we won’t be spending as much energy as normal. The opposite is true for those doing heavy workouts, as our muscles will need more energy and fuel from food to work at full capacity, he says.
At the end of the day, it is all about balance. “If more energy (food) than we burn throughout the day enters the body, gaining weight will be inevitable. Fatty, salty and sugary foods should be avoided as much as possible,” he adds.
And finally, there is the issue of sleep. Stuck at home all day, whether voluntarily or on government orders, people are either turning to eating or sleeping to cope with all the stress. Others are suffering from sleeping disorders and struggling to get quality sleep. Şimşek says when such problems arise, we need to think of two things: Are these issues due to anxiety or from being inactive all day?
Exercising helps the release of endorphins, the “feel-good” hormone that modulates our appetite, gives us a sense of general well-being and provides us with stress and pain relief, which could help individuals having trouble falling asleep. Working up a good sweat could be the solution to your sleep problems, Şimşek says.
Now back to the routine.
Şimşek says for beginners, exercising every other day (one day workout, next day rest) would be beneficial, exerting 35% to 50% of effort (or doing one to two sets of the exercises recommended below). Those more seasoned in the world of fitness can exercise four to seven days a week, he says, and do three to four sets of the exercises shown below.
Notes and tips
After completing the reps in one set, rest 15-30 seconds before continuing to the next move. Once you finish all six moves, you have completed one circuit. You can repeat it up to four times if you feel like it was not challenging enough. Rest about a minute between each circuit. Breathe in through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Remember, you should be breathing out during the hardest part of the exercise and breathing in at the easier parts.
Targets: shoulders, arms
How to do it: Stand with a dumbbell in each hand at your sides. With your back straight, slowly lift the weights out to the side until your arms are parallel with the floor, with elbows slightly bent.
Caution: If you are bobbing or bouncing up and down, your weights are too heavy. Dial it down a notch. Make sure you raise the weights no higher than your shoulders.
Modification: You can use water bottles or a resistance band.
Targets: core, arms
Time: 30 seconds to 3 minutes
How to do it: Plant your hands directly under your shoulders like you’re about to do a pushup. Squeeze glutes, toes firmly planted on the floor and make sure your back, neck and head are aligned. Hold the position.
Caution: You should be gazing toward the front of your mat, just a little further ahead. Don’t drop the hips, brace your core and keep them aligned. You will be shaking if you do it properly.
Modification: Lower yourself onto your forearms. Palms could either lay flat on the mat or be clasped together, as long as your elbows are directly under the shoulders.
Bent over dumbbell row
How to do it: Bend your knees and lean forward from the waist, keeping your back straight, with your neck in line with your spine. Raise the dumbbells to be parallel with your shoulders, and then lower them down. That's one rep.
Modification: You don't need a band or weights if you are a beginner; you can use water bottles. If experienced, you can add a resistance band.
Overhead triceps extension
Reps: 15- 25
How to do it: Feet hip-width apart, stand with a dumbbell in your hands. Bring the weight over your head, arms extended fully above. While keeping shoulders and elbows still, slowly bend your elbows so that the weight is lowered behind your head. Raise it back up slowly. That’s one rep.
Caution: Make sure your elbows aren’t turning to the side and are looking straight forward.
Modification: You can use water bottles, kettlebells or a resistance band.
Targets: front of legs, glutes
Reps. 15-25 each leg
How to do it: Keeping your upper body straight and shoulders back and relaxed. Step forward with one leg, bending at the knee and lowering your hips to create about a 90-degree angle. Make sure your front knee doesn’t pass your ankle and is aligned directly above. The other knee must not touch the floor. Push yourself back up through the heel and return to your standing position.
Caution: People with joint problems (knee or back, for example) should only do this move while under supervision.
Reps: at least 10
How to do it: With hands held slightly wider than your shoulders, get in the plank position. Elbows bending, lower your body until your chest nearly touches the floor. After a pause, push yourself back up. Repeat.
Modification: If that is too hard, try doing knee pushups. Instead of being on your toes, get down on all fours, crossing your ankles. Lower your upper body to the ground and push back up.
If you'd like to see this whole routine on video or try out two more challenging routines make sure to check out the video down below.
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