But “realistic” also applies to what is practical in the lens of at-home workouts, when equipment for many of us tends to be limited. For instance, maybe your be-all, end-all goal is deadlifting your bodyweight. If you only have a few pairs of lighter dumbbells at home, you may not be able to achieve that in the short-term.
What you can do, though, is achieve mini-steps on the way to that, like maintaining strength in your hamstrings and glutes, and working on power that’ll help you get to that goal. Kettlebell work, for example, translates very well to the barbell, so you can use a kettlebell in the interim to help you successfully gain overall strength, Peel says. In particular, kettlebell swings and snatches are great for building hip-dominant strength, which translates into stronger deadlifts.
The virtual setting might not feel like it’s conducive to creating new fitness goals, but working with a good trainer makes it easy, approachable, and trackable—even if you’re not physically checking in with your trainer once a week to report on it. For example, Peel uses the True Coach personal training app with all of her one-on-one clients to help them track their progress and provide feedback.
4. Look at your progress in a different way.
Once you set goals with your trainer, be sure to communicate any and all equipment you have at home so they can design a workout program with this in mind. If you have the financial means (and they’re available), you may want to consider investing in two to three sets of dumbbells (with weight that feels light, moderate, and heavy for you), a set of resistance bands, and a suspension trainer, such as TRX, says Fagan. Communicating your goals with your trainer can help you determine which equipment is important for you.
Even if you have some dumbbells and bands, chances are pretty high that your equipment won’t be as robust as what you’re used to at a gym. That’s where flexibility comes in, especially if you’ve always tracked progress by going up in weights or adding another plate to the bar. You want a trainer who will find ways for you to keep getting stronger even without tons of equipment at your disposal.
“As long as your trainer is getting creative with the basic movement patterns—squat, hinge, push, and pull—you’re going to see real progress,” Fagan says.
Fagan assures online clients that you actually don’t need a ton of fitness equipment to get stronger. “You can use your own bodyweight as resistance,” she says. “I have clients who own only a pair of two-pound dumbbells and maybe one or two resistance bands that have made tons of progress because there are so many variables you can change in your program.”
Some ways your trainer can make your workouts more challenging without necessarily adding weight are including supersets, in which you perform two movements back-to-back, designing EMOMs (every minute on the minute) and AMRAPs (as many reps/rounds as possible), creating a tempo (slowing down eccentric phase—the lowering phase—of an exercise), and increasing the volume of reps and sets you perform.
Peel also provides different variations of exercises for her clients so they don’t ever get bored with their workouts or feel less challenged with the weight they have. When doing kettlebell cleans, for example, she’ll add a rotation. Or if you’ve been doing two-handed kettlebell swings for some time, she’ll turn them into one-handed or side-step swings.
5. Set up your space for success.
It can be challenging to create space for at-home workouts, especially if you live in a small apartment or have limited room. But taking the time to re-organize your area so you can dedicate a special spot for virtual sessions can make a huge difference in your training and the type of feedback your trainer can provide.