Editor's note: Part 18 of USA TODAY's Working Out From Home (#WOFH) series focuses on how weightlifters are competing from their own homes. Sign up for Good Sports, our weekly newsletter that will bring you more home workout tips and the best stories of the good throughout the world of sports:
Bodybuilders are used to living highly regimented lives. Every calorie they eat serves a purpose; every weightlifting session is targeted; every cutting and bulking season is oriented toward achieving peak appearance before competition.
But ever since the COVID-19 began, there are no competitions to prepare for and no places available to train.
For someone like Osazee Edebiri, who competes in NPC-sanctioned bodybuilding events and also trains 10 clients in the San Jose, California, area, that means improvising and adjusting goals since nobody’s sure when the next competition is going to take place.
"Not having the gym affects my bodybuilding clients the most, and it affects me personally so I try to make adjustments to how people workout at home basically just focusing on maintaining size and using whatever they have as weights,” Edebiri said. “Some clients are ordering Bowflex type machines and adjustable dumbbells but the delivery times are all really slow right now so we’re improvising and it’s pretty funny to see the stuff we’re using.”
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A big problem for Edebiri and others whose workout programs are built around lifting heavier weights is that most home equipment isn’t going to have the same impact as a set of barbells and plates.
So what Edebiri and some of his clients have done is repurpose various household items that can provide more of a gym simulation than your typical resistance bands.
For dumbbells, he’s filled bags with books and magazines. He’s used a barstool for press movements. A bulk-sized container of laundry detergent has been used for kettle bell swings and lunges. He purchased a 50-pound bag of rice to balance on his back for squats, and he started doing slider workouts just by putting towels under his hands and feet on a hardwood floor, which has the same effect as the gliding disks that can strengthen legs and core and add flexibility.
“There are so many ways to be creative with items,” Edebiri said. “The main point I stressed to my clients is you don’t know how long the situation is going to last, and at the end of the day being healthy is the key because realistically people that are overweight are going to be at a higher risk when it comes to getting any sickness.”
Even in the best-case scenario, though, Edebiri acknowledged that the household items can only take you so far if you’re trying to maintain size as a bodybuilder. Legs, for instance, have been a particular challenge just because he’s used to working out with such heavy weights. But part of the key for an advanced weightlifter is changing the way you work out, focusing on volume of repetitions and putting your muscles through more time under tension in order to achieve a similar result as the gym. Doing something simple, for instance, like doing uneven pushups where one hand is on a stack of books will increase range of motion and allow for “full contraction in both directions.”
Are there compromises? Sure. But this time without a gym doesn’t have to be a disaster, even for someone who usually relies on having a full menu of weightlifting options.
“I’m just under 227 pounds so my goal is to stay around that,” Edebiri said. “If I was aiming to go up two pounds a week, at some point not having heavy enough resistance is going to be an issue that I’m going to be gaining too much fat. Especially because I was squatting over 400 pounds so you have to think about that in relation to right now where I don’t have access to that type of weight, so it’s just an adjustment.”
Edebiri said some other bodybuilders he talks to are continuing to prepare as if their competitions in June are going to go on as scheduled. Others have gone back into a bulking phase because they’re just unsure when they’ll need to start cutting.
But for his regular clients who are just trying to stay in shape, there are no excuses.
“I have a few clients where they’re like, ‘Man, I can’t do anything we won’t be able to get any results,’ so it’s overcoming that mentality and saying, ‘No, no no,’” Edebiri said. “Especially for people trying to lose weight, you can still get results regardless of having the gym or not you just have to make sure you’re eating correctly and making sure you’re not going to eat in a way that will gain 20 pounds through this pandemic. I’m having them do more HIIT (high intensity interval training) type workouts. I’m doing that too and for the bodybuilding clients what I’m focusing on is having them maintain size. If they can manage to make adequate enough weights to have them push very very very slowly. Ideally, they should stay around the same weight but get a little more cut as each week goes.”