Optimize Your At-Home Workout: The 10 Most Effective Exercises

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ARTICLE AT-A-GLANCE

🕑  5 min read | Arianna Luther

2021 is upon us. A new year commonly brings new vision, goals, and lifestyle shifts.

Improved physical and mental health generally tops the list of resolutions and if this is the case for you, exercise is imperative.

Whether your gym is currently inaccessible or you’re choosing to do more of your workouts at home, you may need a new assortment of exercises to optimize your situation.

 

A lack of equipment does not equal less results.

Far from it. Even though you might not be able to always increase the weight of an exercise at home, we can modify the tempo and rest periods instead to increase difficulty and burn more calories as we progress.

For example, if it takes 20 seconds to complete one set of squats, the rest can be one minute. The second week, the rest can be 40 seconds, and the third week can be 20 seconds. The work to rest ratio went from 1:3, 1:2, to 1:1. Shorter amounts of rest equate to higher intensity training.

Every single training session should not always look like this. Back-to-back days of high intensity can lead to burnout, fatigue, minimal recovery, and decreased exercise adherence. Because of this principle, it is normal to have some high intensity days, mixed in with steady-state training to increase consistency and achieve maximal results. Some days shoot for an RPE (Rating of Perceived Exertion) of 8 or 9. Other days back it down to a 5 or 6 RPE so that you can recover and train harder next time.

Below is a list of 10 exercises that can be performed in the home.

1 Dumbbell Goblet Squat

The squat is a lower body bilateral push exercise that is great for building lower body strength.

For the Dumbbell Goblet Squat, the feet should be about shoulder-width apart with the toes pointed slightly out. The dumbbell will be held in the goblet position with the elbows pointed toward the floor.

Lower down with control, sitting down and back, pushing the knees out, getting as low as possible, then stand keeping the chest up and maintaining the dumbbell in its goblet position. This can be performed in a myriad of ways.

As stated earlier, tempos can be manipulated for more of a challenge. For example, lower down for 4 seconds, pause for 2 seconds at the bottom, come up for 1 second, and hold at the top for 1 second before performing the next rep.

 

2Push Up

The Push Up is an upper body horizontal push movement used to develop upper body strength. Push ups are extremely challenging and should be regressed if one cannot perform one properly.

A proper push up has the hands underneath the shoulders, feet hip-width apart, hips tucked under, and the hands pushing the floor away to involve more of the serratus anterior.

The tempos can be manipulated for a further challenge. For example, lower down for 5 seconds, hold for 5 seconds at the bottom, come up explosively, hold at the top for 1 second, and perform the next rep.

If a proper push up is too difficult, it is recommended to perform eccentric only push ups. For example, lower down for 8 seconds, lay fully on the floor, and place the knees on the ground to reset at the top to begin again.

 

3Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift

The Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift is a lower body pull movement that is hip-hinge dominant.

This heavily involves the glutes and the hamstrings.

The feet are hip-width apart and the toes pointed straight forward. The knees “unlock” and the hips push back as the dumbbells travel downwards towards the mid-shin keeping close to the body for the entirety of the movement. The back remains flat and the shoulders stay retracted as well.

As stated before, the tempos can be manipulated for a challenge.

 

4Inverted Row

 The Inverted Row is an upper body horizontal pull movement.

Many people do not have a squat rack in their home to perform this exercise. It can still be done – all that is needed is two chairs and a broom stick, mop stick, hockey stick, or any implement resembling a bar. The stick is placed on the chair seats and it sets up similar to the barbell inverted row. Please ensure that this stick is sturdy for maximal safety.

The hands are placed a little wider than shoulder-width apart, legs out straight, hips up, and eyes on the ceiling. The head should behind the bar/stick/implement as one pulls oneself to the bar, keeping the hips tucked under, and avoiding rib-flare. If keeping your legs straight is too difficult, walk to feet in, creating a 90 degree angle at the knee joint.

 

5Copenhagen Plank

Many are familiar with the classic front and side planks, but if monotony strikes, the Copenhagen Plank is a great variation and challenge for the core.

A bench or any kind of stool or chair seat will work for this exercise. One foot is placed on top of the bench and the other leg is straight and floats right underneath the top leg. Ideally, the elbow is on the ground, but if the bench or chair is too high, the hand can be placed on the ground, maintaining a straight arm.

If a straight leg on top is too difficult, bring the leg to 90 degrees, with the knee, calf, and foot all on the bench and the bottom leg also at 90 degrees.

 

6Bodyweight or Dumbbell Goblet Oxidative Split Squats

Bodyweight or Dumbbell Oxidative Split Squats are a lower body push movement utilized for aerobic conditioning.

This exercise needs to begin with body weight only. The oxidative nature of the exercise allows for hypertrophy within slow twitch fibers which enhances their ability to metabolize the lactate that is produced from fast twitch fibers in high-intensity training.

These should be performed 2 seconds on the way down and 2 seconds on the way up, never allowing the knees to fully lock out. A protocol for these are sets of 5-10 reps with 40 seconds of rest.

This can be performed anywhere between 10-30 rounds but it is advised to not jump directly into the higher numbers so one can build capacity over time.

 

7Dumbbell Floor Press

The Dumbbell Floor Press is an upper body horizontal push movement utilized to develop upper body strength.

Begin seated on the floor with the dumbbells in both hands, roll back and get set up at the top. Maintain a slight arch in the back, retract the shoulders, and have the legs straight out. Lower the dumbbells with control at a 45 degree angle until the elbows lightly touch the floor, then drive them up to the ceiling back to the start position.

 

8Staggered Stance Romanian Deadlift

The Staggered Stance Romanian Deadlift is a lower body hip-hinge movement utilized to develop lower body strength in the glutes and hamstrings. The staggered stance is a great regression to a single leg RDL which requires a great amount of balance.

To perform this exercise, place one foot in front, toe forward, while the other foot assumes a staggered stance with the heel slightly off of the floor. Unlock the knees, drive the hips back, and keep the dumbbells close to the body during the lower to about mid-shin. Maintain a big chest, keep shoulders back and stand with control.

 

9Staggered Stance Single Arm Dumbbell Row

The Staggered Stance Single Arm Dumbbell Row is an upper body horizontal pull exercise purposed for upper body strength development.

Assume a staggered stance, similar to the RDL, unlock the knees, and place one hand (same side as the leg in front) on a bench, chair, or stool of any kind. The dumbbell is in the opposite hand in a neutral grip position. Maintaining a neutral spine and a flat back, the dumbbell is pulled toward the back hip and lowered with control back to the start position.

Like the other listed exercises, manipulation of the tempo can establish another challenge.

 

10Forward/Backward Quadruped Crawls
 The Crawl variations are a great exercise for body and core control and serratus anterior activation.

Assume quadruped position with the hands underneath the shoulders and the knees underneath the hips. This creates a 90-degree angle at the shoulder and hip joints. During the crawls, the hips should not sway from side to side.

A great cue to remember is pretend there is a glass of water on the lower back – do not allow it to fall. You could also place a cone on the low back to avoid hip sway.

To crawl, the opposite hand and foot pick up off the floor and place back down simultaneously. Then the other hand and foot do the same. This applies to the forward crawl and the backwards crawls as well.

 

Arianna Luther is an Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach at the University of Miami for the women’s soccer, swimming and diving, and rowing programs. Luther holds a Master’s Degree in Kinesiology with an emphasis in Sport Psychology from Texas Christian University and is SCCC, CSCS, USAW L1, and First Aid/CPR certified.

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