Have your social distancing and a circuit workout, too

Josh Holt does the Bench Triceps Press at Little Rock Racquet Club for Matt Parrot’s Master Class column. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Celia Storey)

These days, exercisers are steering clear of fitness routines that require quick transitions from one piece of equipment to another.

The cleaning and social distancing guidelines within fitness centers have proved effective, but they have also changed the way people work out. Circuit workouts were popular before the pandemic. It’s still possible to do a mini circuit workout that aligns with safety protocols in place at many fitness centers.

The social element of the fitness center experience is important. It’s one reason the industry has grown to more than 60 million members across the United States, nearly 20% of the nation’s population. The human connections and group dynamics that occur inside a fitness center are truly powerful, and people can change their lives because of them.

Of course, social connection has been a challenge over the last year. To prevent the spread of a very contagious and sometimes deadly virus, fitness centers are (understandably) required to reduce how many patrons are on site at one time and to enforce social distancing, limit the size of group classes and basically reduce all the activity inside their four walls. As a result, members’ behavior has also changed.

Today, a higher percentage of members are sticking with one machine or creating their own little activity space within fitness centers. Some operators have supported the practice by creating individual workout “pods” with plexiglass separating people from one another.

It’s a bizarre time, but there are strategies for maintaining social distancing while exercising in a fitness center.

First, plan the workout before you go. If possible, choose exercises and activities that require less movement around the facility. For my workouts, I like to create a little pod of my own with an adjustable bench and two or three sets of dumbbells of different weights. For cardio, treadmills make a lot of sense because they require only limited contact with the machine. You simply hit a start button and you’re off and running, literally.

Once inside your own pod, perform movements that challenge large muscle groups. Squats, deadlifts, pushups and lunges are a few examples of exercises that can be done with very little equipment and without moving around the facility. In fact, performing three sets of 12 of each of those four exercises would be a pretty solid workout for many people.

This week’s exercise is another example of an ideal “personal pod” movement. The Bench Triceps Press challenges the upper arms by using the body’s weight as resistance against the bench, which (in my view) is a necessary part of the personal pod experience.

1. Stand facing the side of an exercise bench, so that its long ends are to your right and left.

2. Place your hands about a foot apart on the edge of the bench and walk your feet back so that your entire body is parallel and slightly inclined with both arms fully extended.

3. Bend both elbows and lower your chest toward the bench while keeping your posture in alignment.

4. As your chest gets close to the bench, you will feel a strong contraction in the triceps.

5. When this happens, press back up by extending the elbows until the arms are fully extended.

6. Perform two sets of 12 repetitions.

The Bench Triceps Press is a tough exercise, so it would be prudent to start by performing the exercise while kneeling instead of extending the legs fully. This will help to build confidence and strength while you learn how the exercise feels. Enjoy!

Matt Parrott has a doctorate in education (sport studies) and a master’s in kinesiology and is certified by the American College of Sports Medicine.

[email protected]

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