When the initial lockdowns were put in place worldwide, many of us were forced to train at home with little to no equipment. Fast forward to today, many of the gyms are opening back up. However, plenty of individuals have developed a taste for the extra convenience of training at home.
Being able to workout at any time. Not having a group of gym bros hogging a piece of equipment for an hour. These are all benefits of training in the comfort of your own home.
But there is one inherent problem in-home training, especially if you have no or little equipment. And that is how do you overload your training sessions? Sure, performing more volume is relatively easy. Just perform more sets and reps. However, this will only get you so far if your goal is to gain size and strength with your predominantly bodyweight workouts.
Instead, you need to be able to increase the intensity of your training sessions. By intensity, I don't mean heart pounding, HIIT style group classes. I mean manipulating an exercise to put more load or more stress through the working muscles.
Get Creative To Intensify Your Workout
Exercise Variation: Upper Body
Starting with pushing exercise, we can either:
- Remove limbs in contact with the ground
- Move more weight over the arms
- Use extra ROM to increase the intensity
- Push-up with 1 leg
- 1-arm Push-up
- Decline Push-up
- 1-leg Decline Push-up
- Feet up Wall Push-up
- Feet up Wall Push-up
- Banded Push-up
- Handstand Push-up
Extra Range of Motion
- Hands Elevated Push-up
- Hands and Feet Elevated Push-up
Pulling exercises are a little more difficult with minimal equipment to increase intensity. Using bands can help with variation and loading. I'm going to assume you don't have a pull-up bar at home.
Half-Kneeling 1-Arm Band Row
- Band Pull Aparts
- Band Face Pulls
- Seated Band Rows
- Bent Over Band Rows (band anchored with feet)
Exercise Variation: Lower Body
Like the upper body pushing exercises, we can remove limbs in contact with the ground and increase exercise intensity moving from two-legged to one-legged exercise.
- Pistol Squats
- Lunge Variations
- Single-Leg RDLs
- Single-Leg Glute Bridge
- Single-Leg Hip Thrust
- Single-Leg Calf Raise
When There Aren't Enough Exercise Variations, What Can I Do?
Intensity is usually described as a percentage of the maximum load you can lift. We can use intensity techniques to make the exercise harder and, therefore, more intense.
Introducing new exercises or new ways of performing these exercises increases training load to a greater extent.
Tempo: Slow eccentric and/or concentric. For example, 4-6sec down, 4-6sec up. If you're crazy, 60 seconds up and down!
Partials: Performing 10 bodyweight squats, then immediately perform 10 partial reps from bottom to midway.
Isometrics: Isometric exercises are moves that contract a muscle or muscle group and hold it in the same position for the exercise duration. These are great for tendon health.
- Split Squat isometrics 1x1-5min/leg.
- Performing 10 bodyweight push-ups, then immediately perform a 10sec isometric in the bottom position.
- Push-up with 10sec isometric hold at the bottom, next rep equals 9sec at the bottom and so on all the way to 1sec. This will be 10 total reps made much harder than performing regular push-ups.
Hypertrophy Ladders: something simple to also get your heart pumping and sweat going. It is an excellent way to build some work capacity along with it. Here's a simple hypertrophy ladder I have used with development athletes.
- Reverse Lunge (each leg) x4, 8, 12, 16, 12, 8, 4
- Push-up x5, 10, 15, 20, 15, 10, 5
- Bent Over Band Row x5, 10, 15, 20, 15, 10, 5
After you finish 4 reverse lunges on each leg, move onto 5 push-ups, then 5 rows. Immediately move to the next set of reverse lunges and repeat.
What About Conditioning?
I'm using conditioning here as a loose term for general aerobic/anaerobic energy system development. A great way of keeping some general conditioning at home is the use of circuits. Made popular by Cal Dietz, a contralateral circuit can be performed with minimal equipment at home with a few modifications.
Circuit Performed Exercises: 15sec on/10sec off
- Reverse lunge w/ contralateral band row
- Step up w/ contralateral band press
- Band RDL w/ Band Row
Another option is the use of mobility circuits. These are great for athletes that need extra conditioning work but are already training a lot. You can keep your heart rate relatively high, especially if you pair mobility exercises in different positions. E.g., on the ground, then quadruped or standing.
- Knee hug to Reverse Lunge w/ Overhead Reach 5x5/side
- Birddogs 5x5/side
Repeated in a back and forth fashion.
- Bodyweight squat – 20 reps
- Lunge – 10 reps each leg
- Step-up – 10 reps each leg
- Squat jump – 10 reps
Bodyweight training doesn't create the same tiredness as heavy strength training, sprint training, or long-duration endurance training. But training at home can be done more frequently than you may typically train.
You could perform full-body workouts every day if planned well! Don't let inactivity deteriorate your health during this time at home.
- 15 "Next Level" Push-Up Variations
- The Hand Release Push-Up: A Twist on a Traditional Favorite
- Why You Should Ditch the Kneeling Push-Up