Right now online workouts are a godsend – keeping us fit both physically and mentally. Apps and live streaming services have replaced our daily (OK, weekly) visit to the gym, and suddenly every ‘fitfluencer’ worth his or her salt is posting routines on Facebook, YouYube and Instagram.
These days your (workout) world is your oyster: you can do Hatha yoga for breakfast, HIIT for elevenses, resistance bands at lunchtime and 80’s aerobics for tea. Whatever takes your fancy, there’s a routine for you out there, and very often they’re free.
But what if you found that your workout isn’t actually as good as you think it is? That it isn’t getting you fitter and that it could be actually doing you more harm than good?
Personal trainer Aaron Roberts-Rudland believes there are a lot of bad online workouts out there and knowing what to look for is key. “Many trainers make their workout videos too difficult with really complex moves and equipment. When they’re that hard you can’t perform them well.
“I’ve seen a lot of routines online that marines would struggle to do, let alone middle aged people.”
Show-off trainers and impossible moves
Roberts-Rudland believes the key to a proper workout is being able to do each move correctly. “If you see people doing press ups with one hand behind their back and you think ‘I’m never going to do that’ then you will never feel like you are good enough.
‘A good workout should make you feel in control and confident in what you’re doing.”
Beware workouts that gloss over the important stuff
There are lots of workouts that zip through routines too quickly and don’t give you enough time to get into the right positions. It’s the fitness version of style over substance.
“An instructor should be constantly prompting and reminding you or you could be at risk of injuring yourself,” says Rachel Bateson, a Pilates trainer who livestreams her classes on Zoom. “Pre-lockdown it wasn’t the done thing to call people out and correct their positions, but on my videostream, I do now try to alert people in a subtle, friendly way.
‘A good instructor will also make sure they have the best view of you and check for injuries before they start the class.”
Look for workouts that offer ‘progressive overload’
‘Progressive overload’ means making your muscles work harder than they’re used to in order to get stronger. You will know a workout has this when a trainer suggests various options to moves to challenge you.
You can add overload in several ways. One option is to add resistance to your moves – for example, if you are doing squats, do them with weights. Or slow the tempo down so your muscles are under tension for longer; or increase the reps or sets. “It has to be in a safe and controlled way” says Bateson.
Roberts-Rudland agrees, “If you are being asked to perform moves that are so hard that you can’t add overload to them, you are never going to progress.”
Make sure there are ways to regress down
If you are finding what is asked of you challenging but are getting to a point that your technique is starting to falter, a good trainer will suggest options to make it easier. “If you start doing press-ups but then find you have to do some on your knees, that doesn’t matter, because you are still progressing,” says Roberts-Rudland.
Which is better – high or low intensity?
Whether you choose high or low intensity workouts (like yoga or a long slow run) is down to time, personal preference and what your goal is. If it’s just to burn calories, for example, you can do that in a high intensity session which won’t take as long.
The mistake some people make is fixating on one type of exercise which can lead to injuries in the long term. Mixing up both strength and resistance work and cardio in your weekly fitness routine is the best combination.
The online exercises to avoid if you’re brand new to them
“I would always advise that you need a coach in a gym to teach you the basics of some of the classic weightlifting moves like deadweights, dumbbells, barbells, and a lot of the Olympic (weightlifting) lifts,” says Roberts-Rudland. “Classic HIIT moves like burpees and jumping lunges can also be difficult if you’re new to them – do them wrong you could injure yourself.
“Start with the low-impact (where one feet is always on the floor) alternatives and build the moves up slowly or you could hurt your back or knees.”
Bateson agrees, pointing out that heart-raising workouts don’t have to be high impact, “If you are asked to do high jumps at home and there’s no spring to the floor that could cause people developing problems with their joints.”
And how should you feel after a good workout? “You don’t want to feel too sore, although a little bit of muscle ache is fine. If you finish a workout and can’t move, you are less likely to train again,” says Roberts-Rudland.
The golden rules of working out
Both trainers advise you check the difficulty of the class before you start any workout, be realistic over your level and don’t run before you can walk. “And choose something you find fun otherwise you will never keep it up,” concludes Roberts-Rudland.
You book sessions with Aaron Roberts-Rutland here or on Instagram. Roberts-Rudland also is the coach behind Annie Deadman’s Blast Plan. Rachel Gellis Zoom pilates classes are £3 for 60 minutes and 1:1 sessions are £25 an hour. Book through athomepilates.co.uk