Bodyweight Strength Workouts to Get Healthy During the Quarantine

James Shih

During quarantine, there are those who have used the stay at home orders as an excuse to put on the "quarantine pounds." Gyms are closed or they only offer limited outdoor training options and many people are wary about working out near other people, even outdoors

For myself, the pandemic has reverted me back to the days before I could afford gym or dojo membership and doing home and park workouts just using my bodyweight.

I've collected a few of my favorite workouts below that hopefully might be helpful for you to stay healthy as we decrease the spread of COVID.

Picture from Crossfit Xtreme Athletics

Pistol squats - This exercise is incredibly useful for building leg strength and balance. What you do is you balance yourself on one leg and then, keeping the other leg in front of you (thus forming a pistol shape) you lower yourself to the ground until your butt is near the heel of your squatting foot.

From this position, you want to push yourself back up, envisioning the force of your push going through the back heel of the pushing leg. I generally do 3 sets of 5 reps on each leg, but you can adjust this number based on your workout schedule and needs. This exercise works out the major pushing muscles of your leg.

A trick I learned from reading Pavel Tsatsouline, was to use your breath as a way to help guide the movement, a technique that's good for all the movements listed in this article. Tsatsouline recommends breathing in as you push up on the leg and imagine a balloon filling with air.

Having said all this, you may be thinking, "This looks crazy hard!" It's all good! You can work your way up to a full pistol squat by placing a chair or using some support device that is around waist height to the side of you. From there, as you lower your weight, you can use your hand on the support to keep balance and ease the amount of pressure on your standing leg. You may also use a TRX strap for support as well.

Picture from Daily Burn

The important thing though, is to allow yourself to sit all the way to the bottom, even if you fall. Why? I think this helps break the psychological barrier, i.e. fear, of falling onto one's butt. Once you do fall on your butt a couple of times, I think it helps overcome that fear.

Another thing to keep in mind when doing this exercise is to make sure that the knee is not going off to the sides or overextended when bending. It can be helpful to place the other hand that is not using a support, on the knee to keep it from shifting. Listen to your body and if it becomes painful, stop the movement right away.

Picture from Muscle & Strength

Chest Dips

This is one of my favorite chest exercises. Push ups are great, however it's good once and a while to hit the chest from a different angle. To do this exercise, you'll need to find two parallel bars that are slightly larger than shoulder width apart and are about chest height. From there, lift yourself up onto the bars so that your feet our off the ground, you may bend your legs so your feet don't hit the ground. From this position, lower yourself until your upper arms are approximately parallel to the ground. Then push and lift yourself back up so that your arms are straight again: be careful and do not overextend your arms, this might cause you to dislocate your elbow.

If you're unable to complete the exercise, you may use elastic bands to support your legs and reduce the amount of the weightload on your arms and chest. Another tip, if you don't have access to parallel bars, you can use two high chairs or tables spaced from each other. Be careful! Make sure that whatever surface you use is balanced and can support the weight you place on it.

For dips, I generally do 3 sets, approximately 5 to 10 reps with higher reps to build definition and endurance and the lower reps to focus on strength.

Photo by Coach Mag UK

Push-ups variations

Push-ups are great because you can do them anywhere. To mix it up, there's the diamond push up variation: place your hands close together on the ground so that your index fingers and thumbs touch, forming a diamond shape on the ground. With the arms closer together, it works out your chest muscles at a slightly different angle as well as stablizing muscles due to the less stable position of the arms.

Photo from Top Fitness Home

Another variation is instead of putting your palms on the ground, putting your fist to the ground. Be careful with this one, as it requires strong wrist strength and you can injure your wrist if you happen to collapse on the wrist area. To help with this, you may use wrist bands or starting with doing such pushups from a kneeling position first. The fist push ups can be done with the thumbs facing towards your center line or the thumbs positioned upwards. Fist pushups help build up wrist strength as well as stabiliizing muscles and is good for those that do boxing.

Photo by Men's Health.

Pull ups and pull-up variations

Along with the push ups, pull ups are an incredibly common and incredibly useful exercise. Where the push ups target the chest, pull ups target the back pulling muscles. A typical pull up is placing your hands shoulder width apart on a pull up bar, palms facing away from you, pulling yourself up so that your chin passes the bar and then slowly lowering yourself down.

If this is too difficult, you can place a chair beneath you to use some leg strength when you're unable to complete the movement or elastic bands to help reduce the weight.

Photo from Youtube.

There are many variations of this exercise, one is doing the pull up with the palms facing towards you (a chin-up), kind of like a reverse uppercut, which engages more of your bicep. An advanced level move, that I only recommend to those who have been doing pull ups consistently for a while, is slightly releasing the grip on one of your hands as you lower yourself down. What this does is it puts more weight on one arm as you lower yourself (aka the "negative"). You would want to do this alternating on both arms and eventually work up to completely release one arm as you do the negative. Don't try to attempt this without first trying the slow release, because if you completely release one hand as you do the negative, you may injure yourself.

Photo from MindBodyGreen

Core: Hanging Leg Raises

For my core, one good bodyweight exercise is using a pull up bar, just hang from it, and then lift your legs (keeping them straight) up to an almost parallel position to the ground so that it makes an L shape or if you're really good, up into a V position (see above). These leg raises are great for working out your ab muscles, particularly the lower abs. If this is too difficult, from the hanging position lift your knees up to you. There are also leg raise variations from the lying down position.

What are some of your favorite exercises you've done during the quarantine? Feel free to comment below. Hopefully the list above gives you some good ideas of what to add to your regime. Remember, listen to your body and if there's any unnatural pain or discomfort, stop doing the exercise. You may reach out to a physician, physical therapist, or other professional if you have any concerns.

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I enjoy writing about film/TV, travel, slice of life, language, Asian American issues, and other interests. Thanks for reading! Please leave a comment or message if you have any thoughts to share =).

Los Angeles, CA

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