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12 Hacks to Boost Your Home Workout

By Heather Balogh Rochfort | November 25, 2020 | The Washington Post

COVID-19 isn't going anywhere anytime soon, which makes maintaining a workable fitness routine important. While states such as Georgia and Oklahoma began reopening fitness facilities on May 1, states such as California and Colorado are opting to keep gyms closed for now. And some folks might not be ready to return to fitness facilities in states that have opened them; even before the pandemic, gyms were petri dishes of invisible germs.

So, for those who are still trying to break a sweat in quarantine, we asked five coaches to share their favorite at-home fitness hacks to keep their clients active and engaged while using items they might have around the house or might be able to borrow. Try these fun tips to boost the intensity of your workout; perhaps they'll inspire you to think of other ideas.

Movement: Push-ups

Use: Basketball

Basketball push-ups are a great way to build core strength and advanced upper body muscles, says Jess Allen, a certified strength and conditioning coach through the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Elevate one hand on the basketball and keep your other hand on the ground. Complete the push-up and then roll the basketball to place it beneath the opposite hand.

Movement: Goblet squats

Use: Cinder blocks

Heather Hart, a certified exercise physiologist through the American College of Sports Medicine and co-owner of Hart Strength and Endurance Coaching, says rectangular cinder blocks are one of her favorite household tools. Because each weighs 25 to 35 pounds, she recommends using both hands to grip the block in front of your chest for a modified goblet squat. Pro tip: Wear gloves; the concrete can be rough on skin.

Movement: Farmers carry

Use: Bucket

Any CrossFitter can attest to the full-body workout of the farmers carry, in which the athlete grips heavy objects in each hand while quickly walking a predetermined distance. If you don't have dumbbells or kettlebells, Allen suggests using buckets. You can fill them with sand, ice salt, gravel or even canned goods. If you have only one bucket, switch hands on your way back to work both sides evenly.

Movement: Pullups

Use: Sturdy table

Without any equipment, pullups are a tough exercise to mimic - unless you have a very sturdy table. If so, Courtney Donmoyer, co-founder of Ferux Athlete, suggests using it for modified pullups. Crawl underneath the table and lie flat on your back. Reach up to the edge and grip it like a pullup bar. Pull your chest to the table's edge while leaving your heels on the ground.

Movement: Planks

Use: Bag of mulch

Embrace the ab burn with planks but dial it up a notch with this trick from Allen. Snag one of those bags of mulch lying in the corner of your garage and use it for plank drag-throughs. Set the bag on the ground and get into the plank position with your elbows fully extended as if you are at the top of a push-up. Then pick up the hand on the opposite side of the bag and reach underneath your body. Grab the bag of mulch and drag it through until it rests on the opposite side of you. Put your hand down and repeat with the other arm.

Movement: Decline push-ups

Use: Stairs

If you've moved beyond standard push-ups and want a challenge, consider decline push-ups using any staircase in your home. Begin on your hands and knees facing away from the base of the steps, with your hands just over shoulder-width apart. Carefully place your feet on the bottom step and walk your hands out until you are in a full push-up position. From here, bend your elbows to complete a push-up before returning to the top of the movement. As you grow stronger, you can move your feet to higher steps for added intensity.

Movement: Mountain climbers

Use: Socks

If you love mountain climbers, Allen suggests you rock 'em with your socks on. Standard mountain climbers also begin in a plank position. Squeeze your glutes, pull your shoulders away from your ears, and bring your right knee into your chest. Then, quickly switch by replacing your right foot back and bringing your left knee to your chest. The quicker you move, the harder the exercise. To intensify the movement, replace your sneakers with a pair of socks and find a small patch of hardwood or tile floors. Do the same movement, but slide your feet against the ground rather than picking them up. This will activate your stabilizer muscles and increase your core stability.

Movement: Biceps curls

Use: Laundry detergent

Curls are a great way to isolate your biceps, but what happens if you don't have any dumbbells? Hart suggests looking to your laundry room. Most household detergent jugs weigh more than 10 pounds so you can grab the handle and use the soap bottle as a weight. If the detergent is too heavy, try filling gallon containers with water to the appropriate weight (a full gallon weighs a little more than eight pounds), or snag a couple of canned food items from your pantry. The lighter canned goods pull double duty for triceps kickbacks, too.

Movement: Sled drags

Use: Cinder block and rope

Functional fitness often involves dragging a sled laden with weights (holy hamstring burn!), but most of us don't have one of those at home. Instead, Hart recommends tying a rope to the block and dragging that down the street. For an upper body workout, turn around and face the block. Pick up the rope and pull the cinder block toward you with a hand-over-hand movement.

Movement: Bosu squats

Use: Couch cushions

Most gyms have a handful of Bosu Balance Pods, squishy rubber platforms that are designed to be unstable surfaces for exercises like squats. The theory is that performing the movement on wobbly terrain increases stabilizer muscles and core strength as the body fights to remain upright. At home, perform the same squats, only nab a cushion from the couch to use as a platform. The soft stuffing will provide similar instability from the comfort of your living room. Extra credit: Instead of standard squats, pick up a foot and complete your rep scheme with "pistols," or one-legged squats.

Movement: Dips

Use: Dog leash

Alexander Haizman, CrossFit Level 1 and United States American Weightlifting Level 1 coach, says dips, which can be done at home between two study chairs stacked with heavy books, are a great way to burn up your triceps. But, if you want to increase the intensity, he suggests finding a dog leash. Wrap the leash around your waist and tie the other end to a heavy object, such as a gallon of milk. Place the chairs shoulder-width apart with their backs facing each other. Load a set of heavy books on each chair so it does not tip. With one hand on top of each chair back, extend your elbows. Once your body is in the air, bend your knees to keep your feet off the ground. With control, bend at the elbow and lower your body until your elbows reach a 90-degree angle. Then return to the top position.

Movement: Front Squats

Use: Dog

If seeing the leash has gotten Fido excited, give him some extra loving. Victoria Karim, a certified personal trainer through the National Council of Sports and Fitness, frequently holds her massive pit bull, Mickey, against her chest to complete her squat exercises. There is nothing like a happy dog to make a workout fun again.

This content is licensed with permission. Read more in health and wellness at www.washingtonpost.com.

Heather Balogh Rochfort
The Washington Post

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