A question I get a lot as a trainer is how to build muscle at home? Muscle building seems to be more of a gym thing, and if we have minimum equipment at home, it seems like we think it is not possible anymore.
We only need to look at gymnasts to be reminded that we can achieve muscular physiques without any dumbbells or barbells. So how do go about it?
How muscle is built
First, remember that there are three pathways to build muscle:
Mechanical load: Put more and more tension on your muscles. This sends signals to your brain that you need more muscle to sustain more load.
Muscle damage: As you lift weights, microscopic tears happen in your muscles, when they get repaired, they gets bigger.
Metabolic stress: As you workout and feel a burn in your muscles, the environment around your muscles gets filled with various molecules (lactate, hydrogen ions, creatine) that stimulate growth hormone.
Assuming you don't have very heavy weights at home, it just means that it'll be harder to place a lot of mechanical load on your muscles. Not impossible, just a bit harder than if you went to a gym. The good news is that the other two pathways, muscle damage and mechanical stress are still available to you.
How to build muscle at home
Muscle damage happens when you lift very heavy weights a few times, or when you lift lighter weights many times. If you only have a couple pairs of dumbbells at home, simply trying to do more and more reps per exercise is a good place to start.
Let's say you are doing lunges with 15 pounds dumbbells. You do 3 sets of 15 reps per leg and feel tired. You come back the next day and do 3 sets of 20 reps. Then the day after that you do 3 sets of 25 reps. Then you can start adding sets. The important thing here is to keep adding reps regularly. It doesn't have to be every workout, but at least every other week.
Metabolic stress happens when you get that burning sensation in the muscle. The longer you can withhold that burn, the more your muscles will adapt and grow. Doing exercises back to back without taking breaks is my go to method for this one. Giant sets, drop sets, adding reps workouts, circuits and amraps are all great ways to achieve this.
For those of you who do my live classes or youtube workouts, this is exactly what we're trying to do.
Here is an example of a giant set:
Do all of the following without taking a break.
10 dumbbell squats
10 dumbbell lunges
10 jump lunges
10 pistol squats
1 min wall sit
Take a 1 min break and do this two more times.
You can see that even without heavy weights, your leg muscles would get very tired during this set, you would tap into the muscle damage and metabolic stress pathway at the same time, and this would be how you can build muscle at home.
Want to start building muscle or try new workouts? Try these two below and let me know how it feels!
45 minute full body workout at home
30 minute full body workout
Happy training guys,