Home workouts for the socially distant | Features | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Home workouts for the socially distant

Tips for staying in shape if your gym has closed

click to enlarge No gym? No problem. Even your dog can join in on the fun. - CP PHOTO: AMANDA WALTZ
CP photo: Amanda Waltz
No gym? No problem. Even your dog can join in on the fun.
As a personal trainer, the hardest part of social distancing is staying away from the gym. Exercise is great for stress relief and sleep, both needed now more than ever. It also helps prevent the shoulder, back, and neck pain that comes from slumping on the couch and quarantine-binging Succession. And then there’s the number one question troubling any self-respecting gym rat: What will happen to my gainz if I can’t hit the weights?

Luckily, it’ll take more than a few weeks of rest to undo your hard-fought gym progress. In fact, if you eat 0.6 to 0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight and follow a home workout two to three times a week, you shouldn’t lose much muscle or strength at all.

When doing equipment-free home workouts, the number one rule is to keep it simple. Work your major muscle groups — core, chest, back, shoulders, and legs — and don’t worry about smaller muscles like the biceps or triceps. The second rule is to challenge yourself. Choose an exercise variation that you can only perform for eight to twelve reps.


This quick home workout is great for people with any level of fitness experience. Do the workout in a circuit style, moving straight from one exercise to the next without pausing. Rest for two minutes once you reach the end of the circuit, then start over. Do between two and five circuits.


Plank Variation: Hold for up to two minutes

Start with your hands on a step or a sturdy coffee table. Place your hands beneath your shoulders and lock your elbows while keeping your toes on the ground. Tuck your chin, keep your core and butt tight, and don’t let your upper back round or lower back sag. If this is too easy, you can move from your hands to your forearms, placing a pillow on the surface for comfort. Progress the plank by moving to the ground and doing an arms-extended plank, then a forearm plank, a forearm side plank, and an arm-extended side plank.


Push-Up Variation: Eight to twelve reps

Start with your hands level with your shoulders on the wall. Bend your elbows and bring your chest toward the wall, keeping your entire body straight, then press back up. As you lower yourself, be sure to tuck your elbows in at a forty-five-degree angle to your torso instead of letting them flare out by your shoulders. Progress the push-up by lowering the surface — kitchen counter, coffee table, lowest step — until you can do them on the floor.

Bent-Over Row: Eight to twelve reps

Back exercises are tough without equipment, but if you’ve properly prepared for social distancing, you have everything you need in your kitchen. Fill a sturdy reusable shopping bag with canned goods. Holding one handle in each hand, hinge back at your hips, as if you’re closing a door with your butt. Tuck your chin and let your knees bend just slightly. Pull the bag up toward your waist, squeezing your shoulder blades back and down. Lower the bag to return to the starting position. You can also do this one arm at a time.

Bent-Over YTAs: Eight to twelve reps

Grab two of those cans of beans and hinge your hips back again. With your thumbs facing up, raise your arms above your head in a Y position. Lower your arms, then raise them out to your sides in a T position. Lower them again, then raise them back toward your butt in an A position. That’s one rep.

Squat Variation: Eight to twelve reps

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, toes pointed slightly outward. Hinge your hips while bending your knees, like you’re sitting in a chair a foot behind you. Get as low as is comfortable, then push off your heels to return to the starting position. If this is too easy, squat in a split stance, with one foot flat on the ground in front of you and the other on its toes behind you. And if that is too easy, stand in a split stance with your rear foot elevated on a shin-high surface.
Ian Riggins (he/him/his) is a NASM Certified Personal Trainer and Corrective Exercise Specialist and a Health At Every Size® practitioner. He has a BA in English Writing and Film from the University of Pittsburgh and an MFA in Creative Writing from Chatham University and works as a part-time college writing instructor. He is also the husband of Pittsburgh City Paper senior writer Amanda Waltz and the loving father to Villanelle the dog.

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