Whether it be vacation, bad weather, or lack of gym membership, sometimes we are stuck at home for a short (or long) duration for which we cannot go to the gym to work out. Just because you are stuck at home (or decide to not go to the gym) does not mean you have to get sub-par results in your fitness journey. At home work outs have always received a bad reputation due to the lack of free-weights available in most homes and the majority of marketers (product sellers and trainers) that promote at home training. These marketers focus on "toning" and fat loss without enlightening the masses to the potential of improvements in body recomposition, athletic performance, and muscle mass. In this article I will be covering how you can build muscle at home through level analysis, exercise selection, and progressive overload.
When you first get into working out at home the idea of at home training can be quite generalized and confusing. In one corner you have the (non-certified) at-home pilates and yoga instructor that is telling you all about how YOU TOO can "tone" your body to perfection. At the other corner you have the clearly enhanced lifters that use free-weights who decides to make videos at home demonstrating how easy it is to build an IFBB-Pro bodybuilder level chest with JUST a few light push-ups a day. Both corners leave you hesitant at the thought of having to work out at home, whether it is due to the promised results of only "toning" your body, or having followed someone's advice and not make the massive muscle gains they promoted from doing just a few sets of light exercise a day. When it comes to at home training, the progress lies within the effort in execution and planning that you bring to the table. Before actually getting into a training program and executing, it's time to plan the attack. Before selecting exercises for your at-home work out routine, you need to determine your fitness level.
Determine Your Fitness Level
When it comes to designing your at-home work out routine, you have to first determine your fitness level. Countless times I have heard people speak about "getting back into shape", just to start back into their fitness journey at the level they were before quitting. In theory, this sounds logical. Contrary to the popular idea of continuing where you left off, your fitness level is either improved, lowered, or maintained. This is because fitness is never static. Your physical abilities require overload and adaptations in order to progress, a minimum (differs amongst people) stimulus to maintain, and will decrease if not even maintained. This leaves a HUGE margin to where your physical capabilities could be when you are either getting back into fitness or you are starting your fitness journey. A great method to determining your fitness level is to analyze what you do on a daily basis (if you do not currently perform exercise consistently). Do you work at a desk all day? Do you perform manual labor? Do you ride a bike everywhere you go? These are all questions that can help you determine your physical capabilities. By finding out what you can perform on a daily basis, you can determine your daily fitness level (daily minimum). After finding your current fitness level, it is time to select exercises based off your fitness goals and level.
Example: Someone who is only used to walking everyday would determine their daily minimum as walking, not just straight into sprinting on a daily basis. Someone who is used to lifting weights or manual labor can expect to perform a lot more work at a higher intensity/difficulty during their work out.
When trying to reach your goals, it is vital that you put a lot of consideration into the exercises you perform. A mistake that many people make when creating a work out routine (regardless of location/situation) is selecting exercises that are not according to their fitness level. Time and time again I witness people that were previously sedentary going straight into high intensity training. Although high intensity training will elicit faster results, longevity and progression is key to maintainable (for the long term) progress. You typically find these individuals making great progress at first, just to have "burned out" later down the road. The best method of exercise selection is to determine your goal, select exercises based on your goal, start small, then build momentum. If your goal is to build muscle at home, you should be selecting exercises that place the muscle under tension, are challenging, and have potential for progression. If you are very sedentary and have never performed any sort of push-up, squat, or pull-up, then the goal should be to BUILD UP TO that...not starting off with it. An example would be to start building up your work capacity (ability to perform more work in one given work out) by increasing the amount you walk, swim, and/or bike. If you are used to working out at the gym and you cannot afford to get a gym membership or you just cannot get to the gym, finding equal alternatives to the exercises you have performed recently is the best method (performing the same amount of sets/reps as well to keep your routine as similar as possible). Regardless of whether you are used to no physical activity or using free-weights, by selecting exercises based on your goal and similar to exercises you have performed, you are setting yourself up for long-term success.
Example: Someone who is used to walking would incorporate basic movements to learn bodyweight exercises (planks, squats, etc), while someone used to lifting weight may perform harder movements such as pull-ups and dips.
Regardless of your fitness level, progressive overload is your golden ticket to progress. Without progressing your work outs, you will not progress in your fitness journey. There are countless ways to utilize progressive overload. The easiest and most common ways to progress from work out to work out is to add repetitions to your exercises, add more resistance/difficulty to each exercise (using weights, resistance bands, or change to a harder exercise variation), and reduce the rest time between sets/exercises. In doing so, you will be able to provide a greater stimulus for your body to adapt to and grow.
Example: A person who can only walk can increase their walk distance, increase their speed gradually to a jog, or walk with a weighted vest. A person who can do push-ups can increase the number of repetitions, reduce the rest time between sets, perform dips or close-grip push-ups when regular push-ups become too easy, or utilize a weighted vest/resistance band to add weight to the movement (same repetitions).
You can build slabs of muscle and melt tons of fat by working out at home. Just because you may be limited in regards to equipment does not mean you are limited in regards to making progress. In order to build muscle at home you must first determine your fitness level. When you have determined your fitness level, you should select and plan exercise for your work outs based off of your fitness level. Once you have selected exercises for your work out routine, you must progressively overload those exercises in order to make progress. By taking the steps outlined in this article, enjoy reaping the muscle build benefits of exercise in the comfort of your own home!