If you've ever had a grueling workout in your garage, you're aware that at-h0me workouts are no walk in the park, despite what some people may think. Depending on the exercises you're doing, they're not necessarily safer at home either.
Though at-home workouts have a reputation of being easier and safer than exercising in the gym, that's not always the case. During your next at-home session, avoid these five common mistakes to stay safe and injury-free.
1. You Skip Your Warm-Up
If you're used to working out at the gym or going to group fitness classes, it's easy to breeze through or completely neglect your warm-up. But that can leave you sore, achy or even injured.
"One of the most common mistakes I see with at-home workouts is the absence of a proper warm-up," says Jereme Schumacher, physical therapist at Bespoke Treatments. "Warming up is essential to ensure that the body is primed and ready to perform the movements in the workout. Without a proper warm-up, you're at greater risk of injury."
Perform at least two minutes of light cardio to get your heart rate up and your muscles primed for work. Then follow it up with some mobility drills.
If you're unsure what you're supposed to do during your warm-up, start with some slow and controlled body-weight movements, replicating exercises in the workout, Schumacher says.
For example, if your dumbbell workout involves a chest press and squat, warm up with a few rounds of push-ups and body-weight squats.
2. You Have No Workout Plan
For some, staying motivated is a big challenge when they exercise at home. But your lack of drive can be even worse if you don't walk into your training session with a solid plan.
Typically, when people go into a training session with no plan, they revert to an exercise routine they've done in the past, Schumacher says. Doing the same moves over and over again can lead to overuse injuries. Plus, you probably won't see much progress if you stick with the same routine day in, day out.
Consider splitting up your routines by body part. "For home workouts, I usually suggest alternating between upper body and lower body each day," Schumacher says. Have a plan at the start of each week and vary your exercises over time.
Split Up Your Training Routine
3. Your Workouts Are Too Complex
Working out at home with limited equipment can definitely become monotonous. But similar to having no fitness plan, you don't want to go too far in the other direction and create a complicated program either.
A little creativity in your training routine isn't a bad thing, but you don't want to fill your entire training session with complex social-media inspired exercises, especially if they're beyond your current fitness level, Schumacher says.
"If these movements are too complex for you or you lack the specific set-up, this can quickly lead to injury or accidents occurring during your workout," he says.
Instead of looking for complex movements to experiment with, try switching up your reps or adding intensity. Instead of doing 10 reps of squats, try a minute-long AMRAP (as many reps as possible).
"Even though it may be the same movement, the stimulus and feeling of the workout will be totally different," Schumacher says.
4. Your Form Isn't Up to Par
If you typically attend fitness classes with an instructor correcting your form, it can be tough to transition to exercising on your own.
Practicing and monitoring your own form takes practice, particularly if it's not what you typically do at the gym. But even performing body-weight exercises with poor form can lead to improper joint loading, which can cause joint or muscle pain over time, Schumacher says.
If you're unsure of your form, try to practice each exercise in front of a mirror. This will help you pay close attention to your movement patterns. Or, consider hiring a virtual trainer. A trained professional can watch you work out and ensure you're doing each exercise properly.
5. You're Using Homemade Equipment
There's plenty of creative and safe ways to use household objects in your workout. No barbell? Fill a backpack with heavy objects. No dumbbells? Soup cans will work in a pinch.
But you don't want to get too experimental with your at-home fitness equipment swaps. Sorry, leg pressing the couch probably isn't a good idea, despite what social media influencers may be doing.
"Lifting with items that have an irregular shape or different weights can lead to asymmetries in your body and irregular loading on your joints," Schumacher says.
Try to find items that are similar in shape and weight to use during your exercises. If you're doing biceps curls with a water bottle, make sure each bottle is filled with the same amount of water. Also, make sure the items you use are stable and won't break while you use them.