If resistance training is not an option, it takes a little imagination to figure out how to create programs that will constantly challenge you and as a result you will progress week after week. Here are two overlooked ways to do more, with or without any hardware you have.
These days, you won’t find coaches and athletes who tell you that training at home is essentially “no different” from training in the gym. Just keep using the good old progressive overload on a completely different set of exercises and you should be fine!
However, when equipment is expensive, this is easier said than done. Of course, you can vary the tempo of the exercise, painfully drawing out each rep, thereby increasing its difficulty. But your options don’t end there. You can – and I would say you should – also look for ways to increase your training volume, not just the difficulty or intensity of the work you do.
Moreover, this philosophy is especially well suited for training with a limited amount of equipment. Here are two techniques to help you make this a reality when you’re at home.
Method # 1: Temporary Cluster Approaches
Let’s say, after a quick warm-up, you do the following: push-ups, 1 set, 4 minutes, using a rubber band or weight vest for extra resistance to work in the range of 6-10 reps at a time.
But … you can’t do push-ups for 4 minutes in a row. Especially with added resistance. So what should you do? Simple: strive to exceed your strength threshold and strive to maximize the amount of work you can get done in that 4 minute period.
Here’s what it looks like in action: start the set, then stop at the first sign of muscle fatigue. This is the first slowdown. Work in failure is not allowed! Then rest 15-20 seconds, 30 if you really need it, and start again.
With this style, those 4 minutes will go remarkably fast – and you can do a lot of reps. But they won’t look like traditional “set and repeat”. It is more like a long set made using the rest-pause method. This training style is also called “cluster training” because you do many mini sets rather than a few complete ones.
On subsequent workouts, try to either add time or do more reps over the same period of time. Either way, if you use the same extra resistance or just your weight, you will end up doing more work than in previous workouts.
And guess what? This equates to progressive overload. (Pro tip: If you are using weights to exercise, you can keep track of the total weight lifted over your period of time and try to increase it in future workouts. This is a favorite approach for many powerlifters and other elite athletes.)
This general strategy bears some resemblance to the training system created by strength coach Charles Staley in the early 2000s called Density Training (EDT). In Staley’s EDT model, you alternate between two antagonist exercises for 15 minutes, resting as needed.
Here’s how he describes it: “The basic premise is that physical form is the result of work per unit of time. In the context of resistance training / hypertrophy, if you don’t exceed your capacity for recovery, the more work you can get to improve your performance. ”
The difference with home muscle building workouts is that you will perform one movement for a shorter period of time and gradually increase it, rather than just working for a fixed amount of time. But the main attraction is the same: use your time as a tool to help you do more common work.
But what about training to failure?
Question: “But isn’t training to muscle failure the key to muscle growth?”
There are quite a few professional trainers who advocate that at least some of the approaches in training be brought to a “technical muscle failure”, when you can no longer do a single repetition without losing technique.
Brad Schoenfeld and Jacob Wilson have outlined the reason for this training in their respective articles “Should You Train to Failure?” and “Training to failure: benefit or harm?” . And I’m not going to disagree with the effectiveness of such a technique in some cases.
Training to failure does have a drawback, as Wilson points out: “Once your nervous system is fatigued, all subsequent sets will be performed at much lower performance. For example, if on one set you can do 10 reps, bringing the muscles to failure, then in the second you will only get 6 reps. However, if you settled on 9 reps on the first set, you can probably do 8 or 9 on the second set. This is because the CNS is less fatigued. ”
Think of it this way: in any given workout, you have to choose between failure or volume. Look a little further. There is nothing to suggest that you cannot get the best of both worlds. You just can’t do it at the same time. In other words, train in cycles.
Do a full body home workout for four weeks. After a busy month with a Density-Based Approach (EDT), switch to an approach similar to the one outlined by trainer Paul Carter in his BodyFit Jacked at Home: Muscle Building Workouts. According to Carter’s plan, you do a lot of classic bodyweight exercises to failure and try to increase your total reps week after week.
Doing the workout phase to failure can allow you to set some precise benchmarks to program your future density workout as well as give your muscles a different type of overload. After a month of training to failure, return to the model where you stop at the first sign of muscle fatigue.
Method # 2: Sets with extra high reps
This method is similar to cluster sets, but in reverse order. Instead of starting with a unit of time and trying to fit everything you can into it, you start with total reps, using as much time and as many mini-sets as you need to get them done.
In bodyweight training, an example of this approach looks like this:
One-legged glute bridge: 1 set, 60 reps (alternately, 30 per leg). Do 30 reps per leg, breaking them into as many sets as needed.
Not so bad, right? Rest assured, the number of repetitions will grow every week.
Self-weight reverse lunges: 1 set, 100 reps (alternating, 50 per side). Rest as needed to complete all reps.
By the end of week 4, you should be up to 250 reps or 125 per side. Now that’s a lot of work. And that’s the whole point.
Doing these ultra-high rep sets forces you to think and train, focusing on working skillfully and continuously, loading the muscles, and not getting tired too quickly. This allows you to track your progress from workout to workout, as well as increase muscle mass and strength.
The positives of these techniques far outweigh the disadvantages. This is the kind of workout in which you can make significant progress over the years, both in the gym and at home.