By Natasha Caleel Freutel, OTR/L
If you cancelled your gym membership and are concerned that you are going to lose muscle mass by only working out at home, don’t worry!
There are many exercises that will help you get the physique you want and keep muscle where it matters!
You can perform many exercises with minimal equipment and by applying the right principles you can gain strength and look lean and shredded without an expensive gym membership.
Take a weight off
So how is this possible? First of all, ditch the idea that you can only build mass by lifting heavy weights. Although it may help you get there sooner, there are many other strategies you can use to build muscle without machines or heavy barbells.
It all comes down to the progressive overload principle, an essential component of all well-designed muscle-building (hypertrophy) programs.
In order to continue experiencing changes in muscle size and strength, you need to progressively place greater-than-normal demands on your body. You can do this by increasing the resistance with heavier weights, increasing your volume with more repetitions or a higher training frequency, or boosting the intensity by decreasing rest between sets.
Following a constantly varied workout regimen is also important. If you follow a workout program that has you doing the same thing every day, without pushing yourself to the point of muscle fatigue, there is a good chance you are not going to realise any gains.
But if you follow a program that has you working to failure, pushes your limits and constantly varies what you do, you are far more likely to see results.
The equipment factor
So, what equipment do you need? Although it is possible to get a full-body workout using just your bodyweight, it is always helpful to have some basic equipment to further overload your muscles and work different body parts more exclusively.
Dumbbells: It’s true, heavier weights will help you reach failure faster. Just think of how many bodyweight squats you need to do until your legs start burning. Now imagine adding 9kg dumbbells. It’s highly likely that you will reach that threshold much sooner. Dumbbells are multipurpose and can be used for many different muscle groups, so it’s best to choose a mid-range weight that you can use for upper and lower body exercises. You want a weight that offers a challenging shoulder press but could also be used for squats and lunges.
Resistance bands: These are great tools to have at home because you can adapt them for many different exercises. They can simulate cable machines, which offers constant tension, and can target muscles from a different angle than dumbbells. Choose a resistance that is challenging but allows for full a range of motion.
You can choose to complete a full-body workout multiple days per week, or split your muscle groups up into different workouts.
Some ways to progressively overload your muscles include;
- Supersets: Perform one exercise after another with no rest (e.g. dumbbell bench press followed by pushups)
- Sets to failure: Do your last set of an exercise to failure by pushing yourself until you can’t do any more repetitions of that exercise without a rest (e.g. max repetition jump squats).
- High repetitions: Doing exercises for high repetitions (e.g. increasing the number of body weight repetitions you do for squats, pushups, or burpees) will help to increase endurance and build muscle strength.
Pulsing and static holds: Perform an exercise in a shorter range of motion (e.g. moving up and down only an inch or two), or hold it in one spot to quickly exhaust your muscles since the muscle remains isometrically contracted the entire time. You will know your muscles are responding when everything burns, which won’t take long, especially after a full range set.
Ideal exercises for a gym-free muscle-building workout include:
- Dumbbell squats
- Glute bridges with dumbbell
- Banded lat pulldowns
- Dumbbell shoulder presses
- Double crunches
Back to basics
There are many ways to get a great muscle-building workout at home with minimal equipment. Using a constantly varied program that consistently challenges your muscles to perform will lead to muscle growth and increases in strength.
Remember, progressive overload should never be prioritised over proper form. Progressive overload only works when you push yourself to do more over time, the right way. Improper form can lead to overworked muscles, making them more prone to injury.
Natasha is a Board-Certified Occupational Therapist and fitness professional. She is the owner of Fit Mama Santa Barbara where she coaches women of all ages through her online platform to help them feel strong and confident in their own skin. You can find her on instagram @fitmamasb or online at fitmamasb.com.
This contribution was created in partnership with FITposium, an annual educational and inspirational seminar focused on success in the fitness modelling and entrepreneurial industry. Held in Arizona in the US, this workshop features a variety of sessions to prepare fitness talents with everything they need to know to enter the market and succeed. For more info about FITposium, visit fitposium.com.
Author: Pedro van Gaalen
When he’s not writing about sport or health and fitness, Pedro is probably out training for his next marathon or ultra-marathon. He’s worked as a fitness professional and as a marketing and comms expert. He now combines his passions in his role as managing editor at Fitness magazine.