A lot of people these days are starting to take matters into their own hands. They are looking for freedom from the obligations that are weighing them down, both financially and personally.
For example, more and more people are looking to get into better physical shape and to be more healthy in general. No surprise there. But these people are also looking for ways to do this without spending ridiculous amounts of money and time in a setting that they do not enjoy. Gyms are often expensive, or they are far away, maybe they are smelly, crowded, and you are likely to run into jerks or get the feeling like you are being looked down upon because you’re not fit. (that’s usually not true, but most of us can’t stop feeling it nonetheless)
People are looking for alternatives. Ways to get fit without being forced to become a member in some club, without having to travel there regularly, without having to pay money…
The following article was inspired by an e-mail I received a few days ago. The author of the e-mail asked for advice on this very topic.
How to start building muscle at home without equipment?
The author mentioned that due to excessive cardio and dieting, her muscle mass was getting so low that she was starting to experience muscle pains (a topic worthy of another article in the future). Now, she is looking to gain some muscle to remain healthy and fit. And because she lives in a secluded area with no nearby gyms and doesn’t fancy the idea of spending a lot of money on instructional videos and gear, she wants to train at home without equipment.
So, the question is – How to start building muscle at home without any equipment? Can it be done?
It’s a common misconception that you need to join a gym or a fitness club in order to get fit and become more muscular. While there’s no doubt that both of those choices are a good way to go about it, they aren’t by any means the only ways to reach your goals.
The problem with home training has usually got to do with inexperience and a lack of knowledge in the field. When you are home alone or with someone who also doesn’t know what they are doing, it can be very hard to start exercising.
Where to start? What should you do first and how?
I’ll do my best to help you out.
First off I will explain some of the basics that apply to exercising in general (equipment or not, gym or no gym), so that you’ll have a stronger foundation of knowledge to work off of.
- Train all muscle groups in the body. This is a very important concept because neglecting certain muscle groups or body parts can cause muscle dysbalance, which can cause pain and lead to injuries. The body should be developed as a whole. This is also important if you wish to look great from every angle and not just from one side.
- Train regularly. Exercising causes stress for our body and that stress forces it to adapt. You become stronger, faster and more endurable. However, this adaptive stress only lasts for a few days after most medium difficulty work-outs. That means, that if you take longer than a few days off, your muscular and nervous system development will slowly stall and a few days later, even start to regress back to its original level, as the body no longer sees the need to improve of retain its abilities. Casual resistance training should be done at-least 3x a week to keep your body in this stress adaptation zone. It’s fine to take some extra time off if you feel like burning out, but don’t find excuses for being lazy. Getting in shape takes work and time. Being consistent over a longer period of time, even if you exercise light, is much more important than training balls to the walls once every few weeks. (This, bytheway, goes for most things in life, be it improving your physique, learning to play an instrument or learning any new skill)
- Progression is key. While training all muscle groups regularly is very important, progression is what keeps you improving. (again, this applies to just about all areas of life) If you never increase the difficulty of your work-outs, your body will soon completely adapt to the current work-load and any further exercising at that level will only serve to retain your current progress but will do next to nothing to improve it. So, always try to somehow increase the difficulty. Shorten the rest breaks during the work-out or add more weights or resistance to the exercises, more reps or sets, longer duration, greater intensity, you name it – just do something. It’s a good idea to keep a log book so you’ll know where you stand. In the beginning you might find that you can increase the work-load very often and it’s fine to do so. But as the time moves on and your physique improves, adding difficulty may become more and more difficult. Progression is not linear, it will always take more time and effort to reach the next level than it did the level before it. Because of this, don’t rush things. Increase the work-load only when you feel that you are ready. Still, with that said – don’t get too comfortable. If the work-out feels comfy, it’s getting too easy and is unlikely to improve your body further. Our body needs to feel a bit uncomfortable, because that means it’s being stressed and is forced to adapt.
Okay, so those are the basics.
Next up, we need to find some exercises that work different muscle groups and then string them together logically to form a proper work-out session.
At this point I must stress the fact that there is no right answer, no perfect work-out routine that is suitable for everyone in every situation. No one approach guarantees results for everyone. People tend to react differently depending on their body stats, medical conditions and their entire lifestyle. However, as long as the basics I outlined earlier are applied, any routine should bring results.
For beginners, simpler is often better. A work-out that is short, but interesting and intense, while taxing the entire body, is a pretty good way to start. And that’s the key. Start. Like right now.
I often recommend the following scientifically proven work-out for beginners:
The 7 minute work-out involves spending 30 seconds on each exercise and resting 10 seconds in-between.
This work-out will stress all the muscles of the body to some degree, while also considerably elevating the heart rate due to it’s high intensity. It’s a great routine that improves both muscle strength and endurance, as-well as helps build some more muscle tissue. Due to its intensity, a good amount of calories are also being burnt, helping with fat loss goals. And as a bonus, it’s over in just 7 minutes. (let’s be honest, most beginners are filled with dread when thinking about a potential 2 hour work-out in the gym. 7 minutes though? Not really all that scary…)
A beginner can make this routine work wonders for months. Adding progression to keep the stress adaption high is quite simple. The length of time for each exercise can be increased, while rest times shortened. Or, if the basic program is too difficult, exercise time can be reduced while rest times increased. Many exercises contain repetitions and the trainee can choose to either perform a lot of reps with high intensity (within the 30 seconds) or just a few to keep the intensity low. Furthermore, advanced trainees can do several rounds of all exercises or emphasize only a few to work specific areas of the body.
Here’s an example of a progression (you don’t have to it this way, but hopefully it gives some ideas on how to go about it):
Perform the work-out 3x a week on non-consecutive days. Every week, increase time spent on each exercise by 3 seconds. So, the first week you’ll do 30 seconds per exercise, second week 33 seconds and so forth. Do this for 5 weeks and you should have reached 45 seconds per exercise. Now, cut the time back down to 30 seconds per exercise again BUT add a whole extra round. So, starting week seven you are once again doing only 30 seconds per exercise, but you are basically doing two work-outs in a row. (Take perhaps a full minute to rest between work-out rounds)
The next 5 weeks once again start adding 3 seconds to the exercises, but only to the first round. After reaching 45 seconds on the first round, start adding 3 seconds to the second round for the next 5 weeks. Once both rounds contain 45 seconds per exercise, bring it all down to 30 seconds again and add a third round. You can use this pattern of progression for quite some time. And remember, this is just an example – you can increase difficulty every second week or even every third week if it’s too hard. The possibilities are limitless – just do SOMETHING to make you keep moving forward.
If this routine has run its course for you, either because it’s getting boring or too easy or whatever, you can look forward to trying different routines.
There really is no end to the different ways you can exercise, even at home without equipment.
At this point in the article I thought about writing dozens of examples of different exercises for each muscle group and then mixing and matching them together to create different work-out routines. However, as this has already been done thousands of times by other great trainers, I feel it’s better to simply direct you to them at this point. Nobody holds a monopoly on exercising, so it shouldn’t really matter where you get the information and from whom, as long as it’s good and helpful.
Now, you might think that there are no trainers at home to teach or motivate you but that’s only half true. While there might not be a real live trainer in the room, in this day and age, your very own personal coach is just a few feet away on a computer screen. If you are reading this article, that means you have internet access and if you have internet access, you have the means of watching videos online. Free videos. There are thousands of videos of trainers giving advice and coaching full work-outs on Youtube. The key however, is finding a video that contains proper advice.
To help you out, I’ve reviewed a few of the channels posting training videos on Youtube that you can watch and follow along.
These aren’t all meant for beginners so don’t be afraid to tone down the intensity or increase rest times if the work-outs seem too tough. The goal here is to broaden your understanding and make you aware of all the different ways you can exercise and improve yourself. Look forward to mastering even the most difficult work-outs in the future.
FitnessBlender – this channel has massive amounts of different videos. Cardio exercises, weight training, bodyweight training, you name it. Pick your poison and go! Keep the training fundamentals in mind and you’ll do great.
Here’s a few full length, full body work-out routines.
This is a good work-out for novice trainees who don’t have a lot of strength yet. It helps you to get to know the various muscles in your body and gives you that basic musculature tone-up to tackle harder stuff.
This is a more advanced work-out routine that requires more strength, but is also considerably more suited for building muscle mass. Notice the requirement for some added weights. (you can use things like water jugs, or books or whatever else you have handy. No need to buy special equipment for the basic exercises)
HASfit with Coach Kozak! – this looks like a very good channel with a lot of different work-outs, utilizing a lot of cool exercises.
Here are a couple of videos that use pretty interesting exercises to get the most from your own bodyweight as resistance. No equipment needed.
These work-outs provide a very decent work-load for many different muscle groups, though they are probably more suited for the intermediary trainee.
I’m just scratching the surface here with these few examples, there are so many more to discover. Take a few minutes every now and again to surf through Youtube and look for fun exercise routines to try out.
However, do keep in mind that for best results, you need consistency. If you settle on a work-out routine, keep doing that routine for a few months. If you change things up too often and don’t keep detailed notes, you’ll find it very difficult to consistently make improvements. After all, different exercises offer different levels of resistance to different muscles – if you exchange exercises, you usually need a few work-outs to tune in to the right effort level again to continue making proper progress.
Whew, this has been a pretty long article… I hope you’re still with me.
Now it’s time to tie up this topic so that I can take a breather and start working on the next one. So, let’s review:
Building muscle at home without equipment. Can it be done?
Sure, and here’s how:
- Learn the basic concepts. Train often, train the whole body and keep progressing. If your work-outs stagnate, so do you.
- Start simple, start light. You have your entire life to make progress and reach your goals. Long term consistency gets results, not short term overachieving.
- Use the internet for ideas and coaching. Thousands of great trainers are waiting you on Youtube, looking to share their work-out videos.
- Stay focused and stick to a single approach for several weeks before changing things up. You will stumble upon routines that won’t work all that well or ones you just learn to hate, but you’ll only discover that if you stick to it long enough.
- Have fun and stay positive! If you don’t learn to enjoy improving yourself, you can’t expect to keep doing it long enough to get and retain results.
- Start today! The first step is always the hardest, so do the hardest part first and just get going.
And that’s my take on this topic. Hope you guys learned something useful from all this! Don’t forget to comment and share this if you liked it. There will be more to come!