Working Out at Home
If you’re in the former category, there’s not much for me to say. If you’re truly limited by time, money or available facilities, however, don’t lose hope! You’re probably not going to be able to perform a fully-fledged gym workout in your living room, bedroom or basement – but you can still get some solid training and lay a foundation for a more optimal regimen down the road.
First, let’s get the not-so-good stuff out of the way – the limitations you’ll face and the compromises you’ll have to make as you figure out a good home workout. If you’re on the fence about whether or not to pick up a gym membership, there are the drawbacks that should swing your decision!
-No Barbells. For me and my online clients, the lack of barbells, benches and squat racks is the biggest downside to training at home. Barbell exercises allow you to move more weight through space than any other type of movement, making them the best bet for building muscle, losing fat, gaining strength – and just about every other goal! If you can get even a cheap, rickety barbell set into your home gym, it’ll be far better than no barbells at all.
-No Machines. As much as I love and prioritize barbell training, I’ve got to admit the merits of machines. They’re rarely the bread and butter of my training programs, but they can be great for working around injuries, aches and pains. They’re also nice for further stimulating muscles that have already been fatigued from free weight exercises. Again, anything is better than nothing, and even an infomercial-style, multipurpose cable machine is better than nothing at all.
-No People. Depending upon your mood and personality, this could be a negative or positive. If you’re the kind of person who feeds off others’ energy and gets amped up to train in a crowd, then the isolation of a home gym will be a drawback. If you’re more introverted and couldn’t care less about being social in the gym, then this could actually be a positive!
With the downsides out of the way, let’s move onto the benefits. These aren’t reason enough to choose your house or apartment over a gym, but they are the advantages you’ll have on your side if that’s your only option. You might be surprised at how well it works out!
-You’re the Boss. Even if you’re the type of trainee who likes to work out around other people, there’s no denying the benefits of being in charge! Play whatever music as loud as you want, do whatever exercises you want, and never worry about having to work in or wait for a piece of equipment. You can take up as much space as you need for any exercise, and you can superset, drop-set and giant set whatever equipment you do have at your disposal.
-You’ll Save Time. Time is your most precious commodity, and while it’s more than worth it to drive to an available gym, you’ll certainly cut down on your commute training at home. This means that you’ll not only be left with more time for other stuff – like preparing proper meals! – you’ll be less likely to skip a session. You’re already at home, your “gym” is seconds away, and you don’t have to factor in the time it takes to drive during rush-hour.
-Simplicity Leads to Results! If there’s one thing I really love about training at home, it’s the simplicity! Sure, barbells, dumbbells and a squat rack are ideal, but the lack of fancy equipment can actually lead some people to BETTER results. With only a few simple pieces of equipment and a few basic exercises at your disposal, you won’t be able to spin your wheels switching from one routine to the next. You’ll have to get better with what you’ve got!
Making it Work
Alright, you’ve decided that a home gym is your only option. Here are a few tips on making the most of it! Whether you’ll be working out at home for a few weeks or a year or more, these tips will help you make the best, fastest progress possible.
-Up the Frequency. With any training program, the three main variables you can manipulate are volume (the amount of work done per session), frequency (the number of sessions per unit of time) and intensity (the weight used or percentage of your max). Since you’re not going to have heavy weights at your disposal, your main stimuli need to be HIGH volume and frequency!
High volume is a no-brainer – obviously you’ll be doing high reps and lots of sets with push-ups, body weight squats, pull-ups and light dumbbells. But you’ve got to ditch the usual bodybuilder mentality of training each body part only once per week. You’ll recover fast from the light loads you’ll have to use, so train everything three times per week or more!
-Add Weight. At the same time, don’t think you have to go ultra-light on everything. There are plenty of ways to add weight in a home gym! Adjustable dumbbells or a cheap barbell set is the best option, but barring that, you can use water jugs, sand bags, and anything else heavy you’ve got laying around. It also helps to make body weight exercises harder by doing them one limb at a time. A one-legged squat effectively doubles the “weight” you’re using compared to a normal body weight squat!
-Track Your Progress. Finally, it doesn’t matter that you’re not using “real” weights or doing traditional gym exercises. You still need to track your progress and make tangible improvements! More reps, more sets, higher frequency and extra resistance by whatever means you can add it. Improving these variables is going to be key to making real, noticeable progress in a home gym.