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We are slowly coming out of lockdown but it may still be a while before gyms reopen. This has been a source of strain both for fitness enthusiasts and gym owners. A few days ago, a survey by the Delhi Gym Association claimed that 70% of the city’s gyms may shut for good if they can’t reopen in a month. However, the safety aspect of working out in an enclosed space when the covid-19 pandemic is showing no signs of slowing down cannot be wished away. So even if gyms do open in the near future, you may feel the need to take things easy for a while before you go back to using them.

But that’s no reason why you should skimp on training. Mint spoke to fitness trainer Minash Gabriel about the different ways you can stay fit, and get even better at your form and strength, while working out from home. The Hyderabad-based Gabriel is a rehab trainer, an osteopathic manual therapist, and oversees the 34 Indian gyms of the Australia-based functional fitness franchise F45. He has also trained Telugu film stars like Mahesh Babu with specifically tailored programmes.

Staying fit without a gym, says Gabriel, poses different challenges for people of different fitness levels. For someone like him, i.e. a trained athlete, it’s difficult to compensate for the extra overload that weights and bands can offer. “I can do 50-plus push-ups at a go," he says. But if he were in a gym, “if I want to do 10 push-ups, instead of using my own bodyweight, I would put maybe a 50kg plate on me and do 10," he says.

For people with advanced training and fitness, the lack of a gym can be frustrating. So Gabriel suggests learning a skill. “It could be a handstand. It could be a callisthenic-based workout, it could be walking handstands. Doing big exercises like pistol squats, one-hand push-ups, one-hand pull-ups," he says. This is also a good opportunity to work on an area of weakness. Gabriel says even people with advanced training have weak areas, like stability, “so you could work on a bunch of poses, on one leg, on your toes, with your eyes blindfolded".

For beginners and those with intermediate fitness levels, nothing beats bodyweight circuits, both because of the sheer number as well as variety. Gabriel says that varying the tempo of an already-known exercise, or complicating it, yields great results. For example, the hardest part of a push-up is the bit where you are pushing up, off the floor. But for someone with intermediate training, push-ups are easy. So try moving to something more advanced. “You could push up explosively," he says. “Or push up into a clap. Or push up into a superman, where both your hands are off the ground, around your ears. Or slow down the descent, which is using your bodyweight against gravity. Instead of pushing up, you can jump into a squat. So it’s a jump-squat suddenly."

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Photo: iStock

Playing with tempo can be time-based, repetition-based or speed-based. “Do 20 jump squats, then you go and hold a wall squat for as long as you can. Now try holding the wall squat on just one leg," says Gabriel. This way, you are improving stability, power and control. When you start doing things like explosive push-ups, or single-arm push-ups, or single-leg squats, you are moving from an intermediate stage to an advanced stage of training. And you are doing all this just by using your bodyweight.

I use weights to train at home. So I ask Gabriel that if one has some weights at home, either two sets of dumbbells of two different weights, say, a 3kg and a 5kg, or even just one set of weights, how can you use these in training? Gabriel suggests what is called unilateral training. For example, hold just one weight, say, a 5kg dumbbell, in one hand and do lunges. “Now there’s an extra 5kg pull on one side. So the entire body has to counter that 5kg force and a lot of the stabilizing muscles on the other side get really switched on. Or you do a drill where you do the lunge with a 3kg weight in one hand and a 5kg in the other. So now instead of a 5kg pull, you are stabilizing a 2kg pull on one side," says Gabriel. By adding these variations into your workout, you keep your brain stimulated as well, by learning something new.

What if you need some weight resistance but all you have are chairs? Would it be advisable to work with non-structured weights like these? It’s possible, says Gabriel, but you have to be ready for it. If you are exposing yourself to a new stimulus, you must be prepared for after-effects like muscle soreness, imbalance, tight hamstrings. “You need to ensure that your hand has the grip to hold something that is a little out of shape that you are using as a weight. Make sure your forearms are ready for that." That, however, doesn’t mean it’s inadvisable to lift a chair. “Earlier, we got strong not by using specific weights or dumbbells which had a measurable unit to them, we just picked heavy sh*t and moved around," says Gabriel, laughing.

A STAY-AT-HOME WORKOUT

This exercise from Gabriel combines strength and cardio training

1. Push-up (10 repetitions)

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2. Burpees (30 seconds)

30 seconds rest

3. Squat press (10 repetitions)

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4. Seal jacks (30 seconds)

30 seconds rest

5. Reverse lung to biceps curl

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6. Plank twists

30 seconds rest

Repeat circuit 3-4 times

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