Believe it or not, designing home workouts now that you have extra time isn't as complicated as you may think. We have created some guidelines to help you stay on track and tailor your programs to ensure you’re still hitting those 2020 goals.
When designing programs, turning your focus on the STRUCTURE of the program is the secret to success. Shifting away from the mindset of “what specific exercises should I do?” is super important because you’ll end up fixating on the wrong part of the program, when what really matters are your goals, and creating a properly structured program to adequately meet them.
So let's ask ourselves the “how” questions. HOW do I create a negative energy balance to stimulate fat loss? HOW do I create a stimulus that will best build muscle in my chest? HOW do I create a physiological environment to lose fat around my abdomen and tone my stomach up? So let's focus less on what exercises best work for this goal or that goal, and more on the design and structure of our programs to ensure we’re process driven on reaching our targets and goals.
Programming For Muscle Building
Building muscle comes down to three key components, and we have broken them down below to make super sciencey things sound simple.
- Recruitment of High Threshold Motor Units (HTMU)
Put simply, if we lift a small amount of weight we only activate a lesser number of our muscle fibers and consequently less of our total muscle tissue. These smaller, less intense movements are caused by the recruitment of lower threshold motor units. Our body is smart and conserves energy well. But when we lift heavy, or sometimes when our muscles are stimulated in a fatigued state, we begin to activate high threshold motor units or HTMU’s. When HTMU’s are stimulated, this is a good indication that we are activating many more muscle fibers when compared to the activation on only lower threshold motor units. Why is this important for muscle growth? Because we want to place stress on as many muscle fibers in a given muscle group as possible in order for the whole muscle to have the stimulus required to adapt and change in response.
- Inducing fatigue and training to failure
Remember, you want to be training to failure, or within a few reps of failure to ensure you are creating that stimulus to promote muscular hypertrophy. Use fatigue to your advantage! If you don't have weights at home, you can induce fatigue by increasing the number of sets and reps, and decreasing your rest time all to a certain extent. If you do have weights at home to use, increase your load. This will allow you to train to failure a bit quicker and avoid having to bust out 20+ reps each set. Just remember to not let form suffer as a result of the increase.
- Time Under Tension (TUT) and Tempo
This is about manipulating the tempo of your movements to increase time under tension and another way to avoid having to bust out ridiculously high reps in your working sets, whilst still training at or close to failure. Some basic ways to do this are:
- Isometric pauses (try at the bottom of your movement and/or in the middle of the concentric phase anywhere between 1-5 seconds)
- One and a quarter reps (small pulse like ¼ reps typically at the bottom of the movement)
- Slow essentrics (Slowing down the component of the movement when the muscles are lengthening, eg the downward part of a squat or hip thrust). Try 3,4 and 5 second eccentrics, mix it up and increase to ensure progression from session to session. Not only has this been shown to aid in muscular hypertrophy, but also components of strength and injury prevention too. It’s a win-win.
Following these guidelines will this increase TUT, but it will also reduce the time your body will take to reach fatigue and ultimately muscular failure.
Structuring A Muscle Building Program
To get the most out of your workout, a basic guide would be between:
- 5-30 reps (depending on the movement, load and time taken to failure)
- 3-8 sets
- 60-120 seconds rest
If you are able to get your hands on some weights, whether that's household items or a pair of dumbells, or a barbell, that would assist recruiting those HTMU’s. If you are unable to do this then you will have to use bodyweight training.
Every person is different, so create to your fitness level. If you write something and then realise that it's too much or less, change it! Sometimes it’s trial and error, but just remember to keep it challenging for yourself.
How do I split up my program for muscle building?
The easiest, and arguably the most effective with NO equipment is by splitting sessions into upper and lower body days. Little to no equipment limits the amount of different movement patterns we are able to complete and it makes it very difficult to isolate certain muscle groups. You’ll get more bang for your buck splitting your program up this way under the circumstances of having no equipment.
If you DO have equipment and resistance, then we recommend a Push, Pull, Leg (PPL) style program. The only reason converting to this macro structure is because we now have the ability to isolate certain muscle groups, giving us the tools to train certain areas to failure perhaps on those areas that are lagging in our muscle building journey.
Programming For Weight Loss/Toning
If losing weight and toning up is your thing then listen up! It’s all about a really simple equation. In order to lose weight, your energy output has to exceed your energy input. Your input being food and nutrition, output being exercise, daily activity, thermic effect of food and basal metabolic rate. But let’s keep things simple and focus on what we have greater control over. Our exercise and daily activity.
We recommend incorporating two resistance training sessions into your exercise week. If you don't have equipment, you can do it with your body weight instead. Do full body sessions as it engages as many muscle groups as possible to both increase heart rate and burn more calories.
Additionally, incorporating a cardiovascular component can also be beneficial for weight loss. This helps increase the amount of calories you burn throughout the week as an extra to your resistance training.
One way to do this is by going for a run at a steady pace for 20 minutes. This certainly does the job, but it’s running, and running is boring.
So to mix it up, give circuits and HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) a try!
Structuring Circuit Training
Circuit training involves exercises that are back to back with only a rest at the end of a full round! As a guide, try to include at least six movements. If you can incorporate weight and resistance, that would be a bonus but not vital. But if you’re using body weight, try alternating through movements that incorporate all areas of the body like upper and lower body movements, as well as core movements. You can throw in a few full body ballistic type movements in there too to keep yourself on your toes and more accountable. Some examples include burpees, thrusters, mountain climbers or squat jumps just to name a few.
To get the most out of your circuit workout:
- Your rep range can be between 8-100 depending on difficulty of the exercise
- Aim for 3-6 rounds depending on your training age and time available
- Rest can last from anywhere between 30-150 seconds between each circuit, again depending on how large your circuit is and your training age.
Structuring HIIT Training
High Intensity Interval Training is another great way to train the cardiovascular system and burn lots of calories. Interval training typically has a work period, followed by a rest period.
A common form of HIIT known as Tabata follows the 20:10 seconds work/rest ratio but of course you can manipulate these ratios to a certain degree. As long as your work period is equal to or greater than your rest period, you’re going to be working aerobically which is what we want to aim for. Look for five exercises as a minimum to start, but preferably more.
Getting the most out of Tabata:
- Five exercises or more
- 20 second on, 10 seconds rest (your rest can be active recovery if you want to challenge yourself)
- Repeat and adjust accordingly
Exercise selection includes but not limited to full body, ballistic type movements such as jumps and hops. Feel free to throw in some upper and lower body compound movements as well, including core. Not only can you use these work/rest ratios in exercises like squats, lunges, push ups and burpees, you can also incorporate these into other activities like running, cycling and swimming to get similar effects and benefits. Mix it up and keep the variety high!
Don’t be afraid to tackle this beast head on. If you don't get it right the first time and your session isn’t hitting the spots you want, you’ve now got the opportunity to review, refine and adapt. It’s a great opportunity to learn how to design your own programs that are completely suited to YOU! If you can master this, then think about how good your own programs might become when those gyms open back up!