For 2020 and 2021, a lot of us have been forced to train exclusively at home, and if you’re a regular gym-goer, you’ve probably struggled to make your training as challenging or productive as it was before.
This guide is written to help you maximize your home workouts by looking at improvised equipment options, how to set up your environment, as well as offering specific workout, set and rep scheme recommendations.
Improvised and Low-Cost Equipment Options for Home Workouts
If you’re used to having access to dumbbells, barbells and resistance machines it can be difficult to think of ways to replicate those kinds of training effects at home. Don’t let that put you off though, because it’s 100% possible to get a great resistance workout at home with a bit of ingenuity, or a small investment. Some options include…
A basic set of resistance bands will cost you about £30, and provide you with easy options for chest, biceps, triceps, rear delts, side delts and front delts, as well as your lats. That’s your entire upper body workout sorted for £30.
Plus, with enough inventiveness you can use the bands to set up leg extension and hamstring curl options, as well as deadlift and squat variations
Another option is to grab a simple backpack (ideally one with strong, thick straps) and load it with things from around the house, books, cans, tins etc. You could even head to a DIY store, grab a bag of sand and load it with that.
You can then use the backpack essentially just like a dumbbell or kettlebell, performing overhead presses, bent over rows, bicep curls, squats, lunges and anything that comes to mind.
If, for whatever reason, you can’t use one of the two equipment options above then you’ll just have to use your own body as your resistance. If you need some ideas for exercises, check out our guide on the 5 best bodyweight exercises for home workouts.
And if you’re not sure you can get results from bodyweight training, just remember that it’s all gymnasts ever do, and they’re some of the strongest, most athletic people on the planet.
Setting Up Your Environment
One of the biggest differences training at home versus training at the gym is that you don’t associate your home as being a performance environment.
Think of it this way, when you go to the gym, you walk into a place with energetic music and lots of people training, and your brain automatically associates it with being a place to work hard and perform. Whereas at home, your rooms are more likely to be automatically associated with relaxation.In order to address this, you can do three things…
1) Designate one room of your house as your workout room
Ideally, this should be a room that you do not spend as much time relaxing in. The best choices include a guest bedroom or conservatory space (or the garden if it’s warm) and good secondary options include places like the kitchen. The living room is probably the least ideal option, but you can still make it work if needs be.
2) Prepare your training space beforehand
Allow yourself 5 or 10 minutes to properly prepare your training space before you train. This means moving furniture out of the way, as well as grabbing any equipment you might need. You’ll also want to make sure you have a drink ready. By doing all of this, you’re allowing yourself to get straight into your workout once you decide to hit the ‘time to train’ switch in your brain.
3) Remove distractions
Once you’re in your training space you should be focused on your workout. That means no going off to do other tasks, no sorting things, tidying things or doing unrelated tasks. You can have your phone in the room, but only for training music. That means no checking social media. Maximizing your home workouts requires focus.
Workout, Set and Rep Scheme Recommendations
Now that you’ve picked your low-cost equipment and created a good training environment, you’ll need to structure your workouts so that they’re actually effective, which might mean a few changes from what you’re used to.
1) Workouts should mostly be aimed at hypertrophy and work capacity
Just being realistic, if you’ve gone from squatting hundreds of kilos in the gym to now using a 10-15kg backpack, you’re going to have a hard time training for pure strength. It makes more sense to see this as a time to build some muscle, burn some fat and increase your ability handle lots of work.
2) Exercises should use higher reps
Linked to the above, sets of 1 to 5 reps are unlikely to be challenging with most home workout exercises. Instead, aim to make most of your sets something in the region of 10 to 30 reps, really focusing on feeling the targeted muscles working.
3) Use Shorter Rests
3-to-5-minute rests might be great for strength training, but are a complete waste of time at home. Instead, keep your rests short, around 45 to 60 seconds.
4) Add in ‘Metabolite’ Techniques
Training techniques like supersets, tri-sets, drop sets and even circuits can be great options for home workouts. They’ll allow you to create an insane burn or ‘pump’ in the targeted muscle groups, which may serve to augment muscle activation (Dankel et el. 2017) plus they’re really good at squeezing a lot of work into a small timeframe.
Summary – Maximising your Home Workouts
And that’s it, everything you need to know to start maximising your home workouts…
- Pick yourself some low-cost or improvised equipment
- Prepare your environment ahead of time and remove distractions
- Use high rep, low rest hypertrophy style training, and aim to get a lot of work done
If you follow those three rules, there’s absolutely no reason why you can’t achieve some fantastic results whilst training at home.
References / Further Reading Dankel, S.J., Mattocks, K.T., Jessee, M.B. et al. (2017) Do metabolites that are produced during resistance exercise enhance muscle hypertrophy? Eur J Appl Physiol 117, 2125–2135.