5 At-Home Training Mistakes You May Be Making

An unprecedented result of COVID-19 so far has been the rise of the living room gym.

There are a lot of reasons why you may be working out at home. Gym memberships are expensive, you’re tired of serial grunters, or, you know, there’s a global pandemic going on. Living room gyms have also meant an increase in bodyweight workouts, which can be incredibly valuable if used smartly. However, another side effect of the living room gym has been the rise of random and thoughtless training programs. Or at least, constant social media scrolling tells me many people going through the motions, performing hundreds of reps a day with little regard to established training principles.

Here are five mistakes you may be making training from home.

1. Your Workouts Are Random

Are you picking and choosing a new, random hard workout each day? Something that someone who looks fit posted on Insta, perhaps? There’s a better way: Just because you’re at home doesn’t mean you can’t still follow a progressive training program that builds on itself from the week before. This will also ensure you’re not overtraining one area at the expense of another, which is bound to happen when you’re haphazardly selecting a workout of the day.

In short, a home training program should still be:

  • Progressive (builds from one week to the next)
  • Balanced (in terms of the movements you’re doing — squat, hinge, push, pull, carry, core — as well as the intensity each day)
  • Individual (the intention of the training program should be designed for the individuals’ fitness level, limitations, needs, and goals)

Takeaway: Just because the equipment is gone doesn’t mean the concept of the training program needs to change.

2. You Neglect Strength

Many of us assume because we don’t have the equipment, we’re essentially limited to high-rep bodyweight workouts made up of air squats and burpees, and maybe some ab and core work at the end of the session.

This is simply not the case. You can still train strength in your living room, to a certain degree, especially bodyweight strength movements. For example, it’s a great time to improve your pushing strength via tempo, isometrics, or deficit push-ups, or handstand push-ups. Secondly, you certainly can still train some explosive power and speed from your living room.

Here are two resources to point you in the right direction:

3. You Over-Push, and Neglect Pulls

It’s much easier to push than pull without equipment. I see way more push-ups, burpees, and handstand push-ups being performed at home, for example, than any kind of pulling work. That said, it’s important to continue to find ways to pull, as well. It is possible; it just takes a little creativity. Three ways to work on pulling, or at least using your pulling muscles, with just your bodyweight include:

TYI Movement T
TYI Movement T

Prone T-Y-Is:

  • Lay face down and place your arms out to the side. Keep your elbows straight and raise your hands off the ground as if you’re making the letter T with your arms and body. Hold for five seconds.
  • Lower your arms and raise your arms so they’re at a 45-degree angle, effectively forming the letter Y. Raise your arms again, keeping your elbows straight, and hold for five seconds.
  • Relax again and bring your hands straight overhead. Raise your arms off the floor again, keeping the elbows straight, and hold again for five seconds, focusing on getting as long as possible as if you’re forming a capital I.

Seated towel rows:

  • Find a big beach towel — ideally a really long one that is longer than you are tall. Take a seat and bend your knees all the way to your chest. Then put the towel around your feet, and hold on to one end of the towel with each arm.
  • From there, build tension in your body and try to pull your elbows back as far as you can in a max effort pull. Hold for 10 seconds and then relax.
  • Now straighten your legs out a bit and repeat. Hold for 10 seconds and relax.
  • Then straighten your legs out a little bit more until they’re almost straight, and aim for one final 10-second max effort pull.
  • As you’re doing this, keep your collarbones nice and broad and your sternum neutral. Also, make sure your shoulders don’t slump forward.

Reverse scapular push-ups:

  • Start face up in a reverse bridge with your arms extended and hips in an open plank position. Then use your scapular to retract and protract your shoulder blades making a push and pull motion.

4. You Don’t Hip Hinge Enough

Similarly, squats and lunges have been playing a bigger role these days than any kind of bending or hinging action. Just like incorporating pulling work, you also want to make sure you’re continuing to find ways to hinge at home. Here are three exercises you can incorporate into your at-home training routine to up your hinge game. 

Bodyweight Hip Hinges

Add 50 hip hinges to your warm-up to get yourself bending. Or if you have a resistance band, then banded good mornings are also a great option.

Also include some single-leg hip hinges. They will get your hinging and will allow you to work on your balance and single-leg strength in the process. Keep these slow and controlled and focus on perfect form.

Hip Thrusts

While these aren’t a hinge per se, hip thrusts are a great way to continue to work the muscles of the posterior chain. All you need is a couch and your body.

  • Position your shoulder blades and upper back on the couch. Keep your bum and your feet flat on the ground.
  • Then drive your hips straight up until they’re extended, squeeze your butt cheeks together, and hold for two seconds.

You can also do these as a single-leg version.

Hamstring Bridges

Similar to the above, hamstring bridges are useful for working the hamstrings, glutes and lower back, which you’re going to need when you resume hinging with weight.

  • Lay on your back and place your feet and lower calves on the couch. Keep your knees straight and drive your hips straight up until they’re extended. Hold for two seconds.

Again, you can also do these as a single-leg version.

5. You Do Too Many Reps

The default solution to our lack of dumbbells, barbells, and kettlebells has become reps, reps, and more reps. While logging a high-rep workout of walking lunges, squats, burpees and sit-ups has its place, it’s certainly not what most of us should be doing five or six days a week.

For one, high reps can lead to overuse injuries. This is because high rep means high fatigue, which leads to improper movement patterns, because when you fatigue you begin to compensate elsewhere in order to continue to keep performing the reps.

Second, high reps are also notoriously prone to be tough on your joints and connective tissues. Finally, as already mentioned, frequent high-rep workouts can lead to an increase of cortisol in your body, and now isn’t the time to increase stress in our lives.

Featured Image: Gorodenkoff/Shutterstock