Training at home has become popular for a number of reasons. The obvious reason is the restrictions on fitness center access. Many of us are used to training in a gym filled with qualified trainers and masses of equipment. The other reason is the reduction in price and improvements in quality of home workout equipment. But most of us are still getting used to home workout practicalities and learning about the the advantages and disadvantages. We're also guilty of workout mistakes, easy to do when nobody's watching. Switching to home workouts is like venturing into new territory. Our options are limited and in most cases, it’s on us to motivate and plan our training.
Mistakes are inevitable when starting something new. But, when it comes to fitness, a workout mistake can hinder progress or worse – cause injury. Let’s take a look at some of the most common home workout mistakes and what you should do to avoid them.
1. Not Following a Plan
How do you structure your home workout sessions? Stick on a random workout on YouTube? Make something up on the spot? While these are great options to get you moving, they’re not the best method for optimising your gains.
To get the best out of your training, you should to be following a plan that is specific to your goals. Good training plans work on the principle of progressive overload. Progressive overload is the gradual increase in training intensity, volume, or weight. This methodology will help you achieve your goal safely and successfully.
If you can, invest in a personal trainer who can develop an individualised workout plan to help you reach your goals. Personal training isn’t for everyone, and that’s fine, you can also create your own plans with workout apps, software, and free resources.
2. Skipping the Warm Up and Cool Down
We’re all guilty of skipping the warm up or cool down every once in a while. We get it, they’re pretty boring and don’t seem as important as the workout itself. To save a bit of time, we skip them altogether. Sure, the workout is quicker, but we’re not setting ourselves up for the best session. Plus, we’re putting our bodies in a vulnerable state of injury. If you’re not familiar with the benefit of warming up and cooling down, here’s a quick overview:
- Warm Up: Increases flexibility and temperature of our muscles, heart rate, and breathing. Our body is set in a prime position for optimal performance and minimal injury.
- Cool Down: Returns our body to rest by reducing heart rate, and blood pressure, and promotes recovery.
It’s pretty clear we need to be warming up and cooling down. To ensure you’re not caught out by time, schedule your workout like you would with going to the gym. Give yourself enough time to warm up, workout, and cool down. Trust me, your body will thank you later.
3. Maxing Out
If you’re lucky enough to have a bunch of weights in your home gym, you might be tempted to constantly max out. While maxing out is fun to do, it’s not helping anyone in the long run. As weightlifter Sergey Bondarenko puts it, “maximum weights demonstrate your technique and strength, and moderate weights build your technique and strength”. In short, if you want to get better, you’re going to have to train with lighter weights.
What’s the solution? Follow and stick to a plan. Trust the process and you will see results.
4. Not Resting
Working out at home definitely has its perks. There’s no commute, you don’t have to get ready, you just start your workouts in your living room or garage. Many people are motivated to work out at any given chance, 7 days a week. But before you do that, know that pushing your body through workouts every day isn’t the best approach for overall health or performance. Every time we exercise (especially when we perform high intensity exercise) we essentially damage our bodies – tiny muscle tears are the mechanism by which muscle fibers regrow and become stronger. It’s the recovery process that builds our fitness.
Without sufficient rest, we put ourselves at an increased risk of injury because we’re straining an already damaged body. Make sure you’re taking at least one rest day every week. If you do have the itch to get up and move go on a short walk or practise yoga.
5. Cherry Picking Workouts
Being in charge of our workouts gives us the power to do whatever we want with them. Want to grow your chest? Chuck in some push ups. Don’t want to run? Skip it. The thing is, what if that run has been programmed for a reason? Ignoring it isn’t going to help you achieve your desired goal. Sure, it’s easier and more pleasant to pick what you want, but no one ever got anywhere by choosing the easy way out. Stick to the plan and trust the process.
Our homes are where we relax, sleep, live with our families, and get away from the stresses of work. For many people, the gym is that third space to go and exercise. When we combine the two, we’re creating an interesting environment that doesn’t exactly go hand in hand. It’s hard to zone out and focus on your workout at home because there are so many distractions. You might have the TV on, kids running around, and dinner on the go.
While multitasking might appear to be an impressive show of organization and efficiency, your workout won't receive the attention it deserves. When working out at home, dedicate a specific time and place for exercise. Give the workout your sole focus and you’ll get a lot more out of it.
7. Not Working Out
Finally, one of the most common mistakes – not working out at all. When we go to the gym we build a routine. It becomes a habit to show up each week. Some people use it as an opportunity to see friends as much as get some exercise. When we’re left with no option but to workout at home, our motivation can slip. The idea of sweating at home becomes less and less appealing. Needless to say, this is the worst case scenario. But it happens.
What can we do to prevent procrastination and inaction?
- Find a new why: When we start working out at home, our goals might have to change. Let's say you're aiming to get a new squat PR, but all you have at home is a set of dumbbells and some resistance bands. With the risk of stating the obvious, it’s difficult to perform heavy squats without any weight. But pressing a lot of weight every time you train is a mistake. Mix it up! Improve your mobility and strengthen the stabilizer muscles in your legs. Although you’re no longer directly working towards a new squat PR, improved mobility and stronger stabilizer muscles indirectly support that goal.
- Embrace online workouts: There’s nothing like seeing your friends in person, granted. But “joining them” for an exercise session online is the next best thing. Find a time you can all work out and make a commitment to each other to turn up. Adding in a scheduled call keeps you accountable not only to yourself, but to your peers too. If you’re all part of the same club or online fitness community, perform the workout routine your coach set and help each other through it.
- Use a fitness tracker: Fitness trackers help keep you accountable when no one else will. Use them to track your steps, calorie burn, monitor your hear rate, and more to ensure you’re still moving while being stuck at home.
Transitioning to home workouts when you’re used to a gym can be a bit confusing. Where to start? What to do? They’re all questions we ask ourselves. The truth is, any movement is better than no movement. Whether you’ve got a full home gym, or using body weight, progress can be made. Find a training plan that suits your goals and circumstances and follow it like you would in the gym. Just because you’re at home it doesn’t mean you can slack off. Don't make the same home workout mistakes that derail your fitness goals.
CrossFit fan. Ex-personal trainer, triathlete, and cross-country mountain biker. Masters Competitive CrossFit athlete. Writer and blogger.