In-Home Muscle Conditioning

Monday, March 30 2020

Looking for a challenging but safe muscle conditioning workout to follow along with at home?  The Total Body Conditioning Workout is a simple routine I teach in my Muscle Works class at the YMCA.  Designed for all ages and fitness levels, this workout uses just a set of hand weights (or cans from the pantry) and targets every major muscle group with a progressive approach to utilizing the powerful force of gravity. 

Muscle Works is simply the name of a class at the Sarasota YMCA where I teach.  The goal is total body muscle conditioning and instructors who lead this class can use whatever equipment they want.  Changing routines frequently, I use a variety of equipment, including hand weights, rubberized tubing, stability balls, step benches and more.  The routine in the Total Body Conditioning video is one that I teach during season, January to April, when classes are packed and space is limited in the studio.  Using just a set of hand weights, every major muscle group is targeted with a progressive approach.

Small or medium hand weights are recommended for this workout.  Several progressions of repetitions are performed for each muscle group and a heavier set of weights would likely lead to premature muscle fatigue, poor form and potential injury.  The goal in this workout is muscular endurance, or the ability of a muscle group to sustain repeated contractions against a resistance for an extended period of time.  In lieu of hand weights, consider using cans from the pantry, or go without any hand held equipment if you prefer.

The “resistance” in this workout is gravity and my goal is to better educate participants how to utilize this force by repeating a 4-part progression of repetitions throughout the workout.  The first set of repetitions is performed at a faster cadence.  The second set of repetitions is performed at a slower cadence, thus interacting with the downward force of gravity for a longer duration.  Slow, controlled isotonic muscle actions, both up and down are key to utilizing the force of gravity.  The third progression of repetitions is an isometric contraction.  There is no movement at the joint in an isometric muscle action, but force is still generated in gravity by holding the move.  A blend of both isotonic and isometric muscle actions in a fitness regimen is ideal.  The fourth progression of repetitions decreases the range of motion in the mid-range with a small pulsing action.  Watch the video to better understand the force of gravity and how it applies to exercise. 

This 42-minute In-Home Workout is split into 6 segments, targeting all of the major muscle groups.

Segment 1:  Warm-up
The goal of a fitness warm-up is to warm the body, gradually elevate the heart rate and prepare the muscles and joints for the exercise to come.  A warm-up for a muscle conditioning class should spend extra time on the shoulder and hip joints, as well as limbering the hands and wrists to prepare them for holding weights. 

Segment 2:  Chest, Shoulders, Quads & Glutes
Performed in stride/lunge stance, this segment targets the anterior (front) upper body muscles with upward shoulder flexion in the downward force of gravity.  A careful distinction is made between shoulder flexion and elbow flexion.  Lengthening the arm and flexing from the shoulder joint is very challenging and requires a lighter set of weights.  Attempting to use heavy weights will likely default the movement into elbow flexion.  Elbow flexion targets biceps only.  Shoulder flexion targets chest, shoulders and bicep.  Hip extension, targeting glutes, can be optionally paired with the shoulder flexion for a muscular and balance challenge.  This segment also includes stationary rear lunges and shoulder raises (forward & lateral).  The shoulder raises are performed at a slower cadence to demonstrate the power of gravitational forces when movement is slowed.

Segment 3:  Back & Hamstrings
Also performed in stride/lunge stance, this segment features unilateral deadlifts combined with exercises for muscles in the back.  When teaching group fitness, I prefer instructing deadlifts in stride stance because the hip is automatically loaded into an anterior pelvic tilt, allowing for better form and less hunched posture.  This segment also includes additional upper body exercises performed posterior into the downward force of gravity. 

Segment 4:  Bicep & Tricep and Inner & Outer Thigh
Performed in a wide stance, this segment first targets the biceps and the triceps with the 4-part progression of repetitions.  The inner thigh is also targeted with this progression.  Inner thigh is executed in a wide plie stance because the ball & socket joint adducts inward in the upward extension of the hips and knees.  This segment also includes exercise for the calves and outer thighs. 

Segment 5:  Standing Core
During season, there is limited space in the studio and having a mat would simply take up too much room.  Therefore, I have become adept at creating standing core routines.  In this short routine, the abdominus rectus and internal/external obliques are targeted with spinal rotation, flexion and lateral flexion by performing three different knee lifts.

Segment 6:  Final Stretch
Finally, the workout ends with a stretch routine for all of the major muscle groups that were targeted in the workout.

Given that pools have closed and everyone is stuck at home, we are temporarily switching to more educational content and in-home workouts.  From late March to early May, three in-home fitness videos and three AEA CEC approved aquatic education videos will post.  If you like these in-home workouts, please pass on the PoolFit or Fitmotivation site to your class participants as there is no charge to join either site for 30-days.  Your students can enjoy the land workouts or if they have their own pool – they can follow along with the water exercise videos.  An app is being launched for PoolFit in early May that allow users to take their iPad or iPhone to the pool without the need of wi-fi.  

It is my sincere hope that Fitmotivation and PoolFit can keep both fitness professionals and fitness consumers connected to their passion and connected to exercise during these stress times. 

Author: Mark Grevelding is the founder of Fitmotivation. He is also a training specialist and consultant with the Aquatic Exercise Association’s (AEA). Mark has been active in the fitness industry for 22 years as a group fitness instructor, personal trainer, international presenter and a continuing education provider for AEA, AFAA & ACE.