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Sam Wood: How To Stay Fit At Home During Self-Isolation

Luke BenedictusBy Luke Benedictus.
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Don’t be fooled by the photogenic lifestyle – the stunning wife, the magazine shoots, the social media empire. In person, Sam Wood talks with the sort of hard-baked realism only a dad with two kids under three and a teenage stepdaughter can. “I’m turning 40 in eight weeks,” the Melbourne trainer admits. “In my 20s, it was important for me to have a six-pack. But I really don’t care anymore.”

“I’d rather do a half-hour workout that enables me to stay fit, stay strong, sleep well and be able to pick up my baby without hurting my back,” he continues. “I’d rather do that if it means that I can then spend an extra hour playing with my kids in the sandpit.”

As I said, real talk from a real dad. Like many others, Sam is scrambling to adjust at a difficult time. COVID-19 has just forced him to close The Woodshed, his Brighton gym where 30-odd trainers are based. “It’s been a hard 48 hours,” he sighs.

But while gyms across the nation are now empty, Sam insists you can still keep training. In fact, it’s probably more important than ever.

When you’re cooped up in self-isolation, exercise becomes a vital form of stress-release for both mind and body. Life is tough right now, so it’s critical you look after yourself in order to take care of other people.

“Unless you’re a bodybuilder, you really can stay fit at home just with bodyweight exercises and a couple of pairs of dumbbells,” Sam insists.
Lately, he’s been showing exactly how via free daily 9am workouts on his Facebook Live to help people stay fit while stuck at home (the Tuesday and Thursday workouts are for kids as well).

The footage, that can include Sam’s wife Snezana and two young kids, highlight both the possibilities and challenges of working out at home. “Willow (his two-year-old) is my resistance, Charlie (his 8-month-old) is on her walker banging into things… It’s mayhem, it’s a circus, but parents like it because that’s their reality, too.”

Ain’t that the truth. Coronavirus is making life ever more complicated for parents as the boundaries between work and family life suddenly vanish. Faced with this raging shit-storm, it’s all too easy for your good intentions to fall away. As Sam says, “If you thought your day was unpredictable before in the office then just try working from home.”

That’s why his golden rule for home training is to get it done early in the morning before your plans are derailed by the domestic calamity du jour.

“Negotiate a 30-minute window with your partner and offer the same to her,” Sam suggests. “Explain that it’ll make you sharper mentally and physically. Personally, I get up and do a 30-minute workout before breakfast. That way it’s done for the day.”

You can construct a demanding workout purely with bodyweight exercises. But for a modest outlay – Sam reckons about $100 – you can also create a solid home-gym. Hesitating over the expense? Let’s put this into perspective: “Only 15 per cent of people use their gym membership more than four times a year,” he reveals. “Most memberships are just lying dormant.”

When it comes to kitting yourself out, Sam recommends two sets of dumbbells – a heavier pair that you can use for lunges, squats and deadlifts, plus a lighter set for curls, shoulders and lateral raises. Optional extras might include a suspension trainer or a set of bands to target your back. “You might also want a skipping rope or kettlebell, too.”

But whatever equipment you have at your disposal, for an efficient workout that delivers maximum bang for your buck, Sam suggest doing a circuit like this with short rests (say 30 seconds) between exercises.

Suspension rows: 20 reps
Push-ups: 20 reps
Squats: 20 reps
Plank: 60 seconds
Then repeat for 5 rounds.

“You can change it up by having less recovery or adding more reps,” he says. “Or you can throw in 10 burpees or 60 seconds of skipping between each exercise.”

To make all this more likely, Sam recommends following a training program (he’s doesn’t spruik his own, but some 300,000 Australians have already downloaded his 28 App). “Follow a program so you don’t have to think about your workout,” he says. “There’s loads of great free content out there. Just find someone that you like and trust.”

I’m also intrigued to get Sam’s thoughts on “microworkouts”, a training methodology that’s suddenly possible when you’re working from home. The idea is that every hour (or half-hour) you drop down and bang out a set number of push-ups (or similar exercise) throughout the course of the day. By 6pm, you’ll have completed a significant number of reps through a format that only takes a minute at a time. It sounds good on paper – but does Sam feel this form of cumulative exercise offers real-world benefits?

“I don’t mind them,” he says. “People used to think that doing six five-minute workouts wouldn’t give you the same benefit as one 30-minute workout. But they pretty much do. Just as long as you actually do them.”

What it comes down to, he says, is simple practicality. Knuckling down to start a workout is often the hardest part, so attempting multiple microworkouts could risk an increased chance of distraction. But if this is something you want to try, the key thing is to mix it up and pick a different exercise to repeat at regular intervals each day. “Otherwise you’ll end up doing 7000 push-ups in a week and creating a muscle imbalance.”

Ultimately, the real mistake you can make is inactivity. As the old gym cliché advises: “the only bad workout is the one that didn’t happen.”

“When you’ve got a lack of time as a parent, you just have to find what works for you,” Sam says. “The most important thing of all is consistency.”

For more Sam Woods workout programs click here