Creative Exercises At Home - Quarantine Edition

Discussion in 'Hypertrophy-Specific Training (HST)' started by mikeynov, Apr 12, 2020.

  1. mikeynov

    mikeynov Super Moderator Staff Member

    Edit: note I've changed the title as I'm going to share a few more of these and encourage you all to do the same. I enjoy seeing new exercises available at home that I haven't tried before, and I hope you guys do too!

    For part 1 of this thread, I wanted to show you guys what's probably the most practical/useful version of a belt squat that I've discovered training at home. I had been leg pressing at a gym I work at, but Coronavirus has derailed that.

    The reference video to watch first for the basic setup is as follows:

    Now here's my video showing me performing the movement:

    My notes from the video:

    Brief instructions:
    1) Put rack safeties at approximately bench press height in your rack, with the close side slightly lower than the far side and JUST the pipe on the close side so that you can slide it in/out to rack and unrack the weight.

    2) Use a dip belt or something like it (I use an old Ironmind Super Squat Belt) with the ability to hold the barbell somewhere around mid-thigh level and stand up with the weight. This depends on you getting your setup right - when you stand up with the weight, the weight should be fully unracked from the close safety.

    3) Slide the pin out and do your squats. I prefer a constant tension style to limit the loading needed in the exercise as shown in this video. I also prefer holding onto the uprights for balance as I feel like it makes the exercise feel far more natural, much like a normal belt squat machine.

    4) After you're done, re-slide the pin back into place and lower the weight back onto the close pipe safety.

    Finally, here are a couple pictures of what the setup looks like:



    If you have any questions, let me know. As I said initially, this is by FAR the most useful and practical at-home belt squat setup I've found, and I've experimented with a lot of stuff. The only downside is that I do worry one could run into using enough weight such that he/she might bend the pin. You could feasibly just start this from the ground on the first rep to avoid this, or maybe offset to one side on some raised platform, but it'd take some experimentation.


    A couple of other notes I wanted to add after having used this movement for a while.

    1) This leverage belt squat motion doesn't work quite like a normal squat, the weight you're lifting goes down and forward, so this draws your balance somewhat forward. In normal squat movements, I like the "midfoot" cue in terms of where to have your balance, i.e. right in the middle of the foot with both heel and forefoot in solid contact, and in principle the bar when viewed from the side would go straight down and up. However, in this movement, because your balance is more forward at the bottom than the top, STARTING at midfoot balance tends to make you shift a bit onto your toes at the bottom. So instead, walk your feet more forward at the top than you think such that you feel your weight solidly on your heels. This has the effect of making you more midfoot at the bottom, and if you had to pick your poison, having your weight slightly towards the heel is probably significantly safer than towards the front of the foot. So walk the feet forward such that you're more on your heels at the top of the motion.

    2) The height of the safety on the opposite side of what you're lifting should be high enough such that the bar is straight at most when you stand up, if not tipped down towards you, so as to prevent the weight from shifting towards that end of the rack. If you cinch your squat belt tight and have the opposite side too low, you can get an annoying effect where the bar starts to slide away from you as you do this. So make sure the opposite side is high enough such that, at most, the bar is level at the top, and if anything, still slightly pointing down towards your end.
    Last edited: May 20, 2020
  2. _Simon_

    _Simon_ Active Member

    This is truly awesome @mikeynov, thanks for this!! Never heard of this, it's given me ideas... very creative! Don't have a dip belt, but could figure out something.

    How would you say it loads the body, more on quads less on lower back? (Similar to leg press?)

    And I also hope you and everyone on this forum is well and safe. It's such a bizzare time at the moment huh...
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  3. mikeynov

    mikeynov Super Moderator Staff Member

    Yah, it feels very leg-y. I probably feel it most strongly in my quads and glutes. And it feels very low back friendly, far friendlier to me than a normal barbell squat.

    To me it's probably the closest one can get to feeling leg-press-like in terms of muscle usage for at-home exercises using free weights.
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  4. NWlifter

    NWlifter Active Member

    cool idea Mike! Looks better than a squat to me, cool
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  5. Old and Grey

    Old and Grey Super Moderator Staff Member

    Pick up your weights Mikey!!! :D:D:p:p:cool:

    Nice video!
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  6. NWlifter

    NWlifter Active Member

    haha man I can't say anything, my weight room is like that.. plates all over the floor lol

    "Where is that damn other 2.5.... oh here it is, hiding under a 25" lol
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  7. Jester

    Jester Well-Known Member

    This is awesome, thanks @mikeynov

    Time to re-align the rack in the garage
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  8. mikeynov

    mikeynov Super Moderator Staff Member

    I've changed the title of the thread so I can upload a few more of these videos over time, as I have some creative stuff I do at home. For part 2 I'm going to demonstrate how to do weighted pushups if you have a barbell and rack. The main problem with pushups, which in theory might just be better than the bench press, has always been how to incrementally load the things. Backpacks and vests get awkward as heck from firsthand experience, and the method I'm showing here is, much like the rack belt squat example, the most practical way I've found of doing them.

    Here's the video:

    Instructions from the video:

    A video to demonstrate how to do weighted pushups with a conventional barbell rack.

    1) Place a bench to elevate your feet well behind the rack. This obviously needs to be adjusted such that you're in a normal pushup position to start.

    2) Similarly, place a barbell against the front of your rack such that the bar is in contact with the rack and your setup approximates a normal pushup. As a guideline, I find placing the barbell JUST above the height of the bench behind you probably works best in order to allow you to add weight without the weight hitting the ground.

    3) Using an adjustable dip belt, attach weights to yourself as needed, but note that you're going to have to cinch this up pretty darn close. As you can see in this example, 25 lb plates probably work best here, as anything bigger risks running into the floor without elevating the bar to an awkwardly high height.

    4) Similar to #3, this is probably most easily accomplished for a bit higher reps. As per the research demonstrating similar hypertrophic outcomes up to something like ~30-35 reps per hard set, this is probably a good time to do 15's (shown here), 20's, or even higher as needed, though if you have a lower level of strength obviously conventional sets/reps work just fine.

    5) Unlike a bench press, I'd actually encourage scapular motion. In a bench press we generally advocate for retraction, i.e. a shoulders back/down type position, but in a pushup, the shoulder blades should retract naturally as you lower yourself, and protract on the way up.

    6) Also unlike a bench press, you may have to cue yourself to keep your torso stable (avoid hyperextension), as your core is going to actively fatigue throughout the set, particularly if you use higher reps here.

    7) Given all the above, I simplify my form into shoulders back on the way down and forward on the way up along with bracing my abs.

    Hope this helps!

    Any questions, just let me know. Yes, I know I'm using gloves, but I find these can cause a sort of point/pressure discomfort in my hands as the weights start going up, and I prefer to be comfortable :)
  9. mikeynov

    mikeynov Super Moderator Staff Member

    You are definitely going to dislike this latest video btw O&G. It's weights on the floor gore :(
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  10. _dark_master_v2

    _dark_master_v2 New Member

    Point load at ‘mid-span’ I don’t like the idea of the shearing forces involved there... A little weight could do a lotta damage.
  11. mikeynov

    mikeynov Super Moderator Staff Member

    If you allowed it to pull you into gross hyperextension I could see it being problematic, but like any exercise involving the muscles around the core, part of the point is to train said muscle to resist appreciable spinal motion. Which is already built into pushups, for most people you have to cue bracing the abs, particularly as the set progresses, as gravity is trying to pull you into hyperextension, much like a plank.
    Last edited: Apr 26, 2020
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  12. mikeynov

    mikeynov Super Moderator Staff Member

    For a little more perspective here, I'd caution against causally talking about exercise doing a "lot of damage" and the like in the absence of compelling data, as this is an area of particular interest to me (pain and injury research, my academic background being exercise phys). How we talk about risks has a meaningful impact on people's pain experiences, and there is an emerging trend in medicine to be super, duper careful about language which has the potential to do more harm than good via the nocebo effect:,_minimize,_or_extinguish_nocebo.23.aspx

    For a good research-based discussion on this topic, i.e. how form relates to injury in the first place (it's far less clear imo than most of the Jeff Cavalier types of the online fitness world would suggest), I'd recommend giving this discussion a listen when you have the chance:

    So yah, my personal opinion is that you can't really talk about injury risk out of context, and it's normally not helpful to think of biological structures as being mere analogues of non-living structures, as biological structures have the inherent ability to adapt to stressors. Obviously the physics/biomechanics of movements factors in, but even in a biomedical perspective of pain & injury, injury isn't really suggested to happen independent of positions. I.e. the moments on your lumbar spine segments in a deadlift aren't risky because of the shear forces, but rather when your capacity to resist those shear forces is compromised and your lumbar spine undergoes flexion under load, which people like Stuart Mcgill believe replicates the bulging/herniation disc mechanism.

    To relate that back to the original comment here, even if the weight of an exercise involves shear forces trying to pull you into hyperextension, there is a long road between that and then suggesting a casual, injury-related risk, particularly independent of the positions you maintain in the exercise. If you're more the Stuart Mcgill, biomedical type, I'd suggest shear forces trying to pull you into mild hyperextension in the absence of simultaneous compressive forces (like a squat or deadlift) aren't going to do anything too wonky to your discs, as it's technically in the opposite direction of the bulging/herniation mechanism of flexion (and rotation) under load. But even more realistically, most of these relationships are super unclear, and the best evidence seems to indicate that injury risk is far more a function of the overall, chronic fatigue managent and structure of your programming rather than minor form deviations.

    I realize doing obviously stupid stuff with very heavy loads is a good recipe for injury, but if you use more moderate reps and loading (which imo we should all be doing if our goal is hypertrophy), you tend to give biological structures the chance to adapt along the way (e.g. unweighted pushups to adding small amounts of weight to larger amounts of weight over time), and in that context, it becomes really, really unclear how inherently risky even allegedly suboptimal form is.
    Last edited: Apr 27, 2020
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  13. _Simon_

    _Simon_ Active Member

    Very insightful @mikeynov, very well said :)
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  14. _dark_master_v2

    _dark_master_v2 New Member

    Mmm - I still stand by my original post.
  15. mikeynov

    mikeynov Super Moderator Staff Member

    I understood your original meaning, the dip belt basically puts the loading right in the middle of the kinetic chain such that it has optimal leverage to pull you out of position, in this case into (lumbar) hyperextension. You're relating the body to some sort of simple mechanical structure (e.g. a bridge) and pointing out that placing the loading in the middle would be the easiest way to maximize shear and cause mechanical failure. I obviously disagree with this analogy on multiple levels (don't let the bridge bend appreciably in the first place via muscular action, our bodies can inherently adapt to stressors of reasonable magnitude), but some sort of harness attached to the chest would probably be a more ideal place to put the load, I'd concede. The problem is that this would also require some sort of specialty handles (besides the specialty harness) to attach to a rack as it'd interfere with the performance of the lift. There are companies that make specialized equipment for it, like Fortis:

    That said, all I can offer is that, if you're unwilling to engage on the subject, i.e. present more specifics in terms of evidence or rationale as to what body structures are at risk from a particular exercise, it's not overly helpful to just blindly assert stuff and then fall back to re-affirming that evidence-less assertion in the face of counter-reasoning.
    Last edited: Apr 27, 2020
  16. _dark_master_v2

    _dark_master_v2 New Member

    I’ll concede that the force vector on the fortis is more favourable and preferable. The spine is not adept to resist segmental loading, neither in the vertical nor horizontal orientation - so I won’t be playing “bro jenga” with your take on loaded press-ups (UK definition)
    Stay safe

  17. mikeynov

    mikeynov Super Moderator Staff Member

    edit: I'm open to entertaining this conversation further but as I thought about my reply here I think I'm at risk of derailing the point of this thread (sharing non-traditional, at-home type exercises people may not have seen before). We can definitely agree to disagree here, and belaboring this might not be warranted.
    Last edited: Apr 27, 2020
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  18. Jester

    Jester Well-Known Member

    One exercise to consider is going to your local nature trail/park/or even old quarry. Find a big ass stone and pick it up a lot.

    ‘Humbling’ is the operative word.
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  19. _Simon_

    _Simon_ Active Member

    Old school ;)

    Tree logs are always good too!
  20. Browner

    Browner Well-Known Member

    Thought id share my Hack Squat idea

    If you have a wall, DBs and a foam roller you can hack squat. Add a band round your shoulders and under your feet for added leg pump

    mickc1965, _Simon_ and mikeynov like this.

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