Working from home?
Worried about losing your gains?
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Disclaimer:It is your responsibility to prioritise the health of yourself and those close to you. Try to stay healthy, maintain your mental, and physical well-being, and reduce the risk of spreading this disease through social distancing, proper hygiene practices, and everything else recommended by the medical community. This might mean self-isolating and taking rest. Don’t try to workout if you’re feeling unwell!
The Reality of the Situation When it Comes to Training
Firstly, a few weeks off the gym will not cause you to lose all your gains. In fact, you won’t lose any. There is plenty of research to back that statement up.
Secondly, some time off the gym might be just what you need! Strategic deconditioning is a fundamental principle of Hypertrophy Specific Training (HST). It can actually help you build more muscle long-term. Taking some time away from training “re-sensitises” the body to the stimulus and you get a better response when you return to training than you would have by simply grinding away in the gym non-stop.
Note.I recently interviewed the creator of HST for the Breaking Muscle Podcast. To learn more about Strategic Deconditioning, how to plan your training in the medium and long-term to build maximal muscle, and a whole lot more give the episode a listen. It will be live very soon and I’ll share the link with you ASAP.
Deloads are another well researched and understood element of long-term program design. Despite their benefits, almost nobody uses them. You might just about to be forced to take a deload. If you’ve been training hard for the past couple of months this is just what you need.
So, long story short, if you’ve been training hard this year then, having some time off from training is no bad thing. It might even be just what you need.
Up to 3 weeks without any training will be fine for all of you (assuming you have been training hard up to this point).
Beyond that 3-week mark though, you probably do want to some resistance exercise to keep making gains.
Since many of us are without a gym for the foreseeable, it makes sense to have some contingency plans. I have been putting together lots of home workouts for my online and in-person clients.
Some of them have no equipment at home and some of them have quite a lot. I’ve had to get a bit creative to provide them with effective workouts, but I’m very confident they will all see great results from these workouts.
You will too if you follow them.
Do Not Do Weird Junk Random Workouts!
While you may not be able to train as normal in the gym it does not mean you should start doing crazy workouts with funky exercises.
The principles of training still apply!
As such, you should program workouts with the 6 key movement patterns at their core.
- Squat pattern (single leg versions – like lunges, split squats, pistols, step-ups count!)
- Hip hinge
- Horizontal push
- Horizontal Pull
- Vertical Push
- Vertical Pull
If you do workouts based on these movement patterns and work hard you can make progress.
To put your mind at rest, remember these 5 key things:
- Maintaining muscle is much easier than building it
- 1-3 weeks of no training might actually be just what you need
- It is possible to create effective workouts without expensive gym equipment (remember gyms are relatively modern invention!)
- When training (in the gym or at home) we are trying to create an internal response in the muscle to an external load. This external load can come in a wide array of forms. Dumbbells are effective, but they are not magical!
- This is an opportunity to take advantage of one of the key mechanisms of hypertrophy which is often neglected – this could actually unlock some gains that remain untapped by your normal training
Before I get into the nitty gritty of explaining in detail why muscle won’t vanish if you stop training, the best cheap equipment to have at home, and the specific workouts I suggest, let me give you a quick overview of what builds muscle and how we can use that info to help guide your workouts throughout the Coronavirus pandemic.
There are three mechanisms of hypertrophy:
- Mechanical Tension
- Metabolic Stress
- Muscle Damage
Home workouts are the perfect opportunity to take advantage of the metabolic stress mechanism. This is an extremely powerful training stimulus. I often program phases aimed at targeting this muscle building pathway as the final block of a bulking phase. In my experience, this type of training is an extremely effective growth stimulus in the short-term.
For about 3 or 4 weeks I have found the body responds incredibly well to this type of training. Then diminishing returns kick in and the novelty factor subsides and the gains slow down again.
The next month might actually represent a muscle building opportunity for you by following a metabolite style training plan.
Fortunately, the type of training needed to stimulate metabolic stress requires lighter weights than normal, higher reps, short rest periods, and special techniques like super-sets, tri-sets, giant sets etc.
All of this is doable with minimal equipment.
Equipment I Have Suggested to Clients:
- Adjustable DBs
- Resistance Bands
- TRX or similar
- Slider Discs
- Ab Wheel
- Swiss Ball
- Heavy Backpacks
- Pull-up bars/stands
- Large water bottles (filled up obviously!)
- BFR cuffs
You might have, or be able to source, some of these items. If you can then, you are well placed to make great gains.
If you can’t, then bodyweight training alone can serve you very well for the next month.
Resistance bands probably offer the best bang for your buck of the list above. If there is only one bit of kit you can get then these would be a very cost-effective way to go. They are extremely versatile.
The term weight training is most commonly used when it comes to building strength and muscle. The broader and more correct term should be resistance training.
To quote natural bodybuilder, coach, and researcher, Chris Barakat,
“Resistance can come in so many different forms such as water resistance when swimming or gravity resistance when performing bodyweight exercises.
The important thing is that resistance in itself can create tension within a muscle. This tension causes your muscles to activate, and this is responsible for a lot of the muscle-building effects of strength training.
So, anything that helps you increase the tension in the muscle fibre can help you build muscle.”
Resistance bands achieve this at a relatively low cost.
A Logical Approach to Planning Your Training
I mentioned earlier the three mechanisms of hypertrophy and that of these, metabolic stress, would be the one to focus on when training with limited equipment.
The reason for this is that mechanical tension refers to the amount of force that your muscles have to generate to move a weight. This is most efficiently targeted with relatively heavy weights. Most of you probably don’t have weights at home heavy enough to make mechanical tension the key focus of your workouts.
Muscle damage, is highest with exercises that place the muscle under a big stretch under load or emphasise slow lowering phases. This leads to an upregulation of growth and repair pathways. While muscle damage can contribute to muscle growth it is more of a secondary factor or by-product of mechanical tension and metabolic stress. So, while you can use techniques to target muscle damage I don’t think making it the priority in your training is optimal.
Metabolic stress is commonly known as the “pump” and it refers to the build-up of metabolic by-products in the muscle after multiple contractions. The acidity of a muscle increases during this process. This happens when performing higher rep sets (e.g. 15+).
There is a large quantity of scientific research showing that it causes muscle growth.
In my experience, it is best achieved with sets of 15-30 reps. This is a rep range often neglected in training. As such, it will be a novel stimulus to your muscles. The great news is that a novel stimulus yields greater disruption and, therefore, greater adaptations from your body. For example, bigger and stronger muscles. Essentially, for a short period of time (e.g. 3-5 weeks) it will cause a heightened muscle building response.
Key Point – To Get the Most From This Training You Have to Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable
When training to create metabolic stress, and build muscle in higher rep ranges, there are a few important things to remember.
The MOST important is training close to failure. This is not a time to leave reps in the tank. Push yourself to failure or at least very close.
You can get the same muscle building effects from 30 reps as you can from the standard 6-12 reps you do in the gym, but the research indicates it is MORE important to go close to failure when using lighter weights for higher reps. Don’t do a set of 20 when you could have got 30!
All of your training in this phase should be close to muscular failure. For those familiar with RPE I recommend performing all sets at a rate of perceived exertion (RPE) 8+/10 and taking the final set of EVERY exercise to complete failure (RPE 10/10). For those that have used the Reps in Reserve (RIR) variation of RPE that means an RIR of less than 2 on all sets and 0 on the final set of every exercise.
IMPORTANT– Never leave more than 2 reps in the tank on these exercises. Push to failure on the final set of every exercise.
Here is an example workout that has some equipment:
A Offset Rear Foot Elevated Split Squats, 4 x AMRAP (0-2RIR), 4211, 30-45s
B Standing Single Arm Shoulder Press, 4 x AMRAP (0-2RIR), 4010, 30-45s
C Push Ups, 4 x AMRAP (0-1RIR), 4211, 30-45s
D Chair Dips, 3 x AMRAP (0-1RIR), 3211, 30-45s
E Floor DB Flyes, 3 x AMRAP (0-1RIR), 3211, 30-45s
F DB Lateral Raise, 3 x AMRAP (0-1RIR), 3211, 30-45s
A Chin Ups, 5 x AMRAP (0-2RIR), 2010, 30-45s
B Inverted Rows, 4 x AMRAP (0-1RIR), 2111, 30-45s
C Leg curl sliders, 4 x AMRAP (0-1RIR), 3111, 30-45s
D DB Biceps Curls, 3 x AMRAP (0-1RIR), 3010, 30-45s
E Rear Delt Fly, 3 x AMRAP (0-1RIR), 3111, 30-45s
F Slider Disc Mountain Climbers, 3 x AMRAP (0-1RIR), 3111, 30-45s
AMRAP = As Many Reps As Possible
RIR = Reps In Reserve
Tempo is listed as four numbers (e.g. 4211). Each number corresponds to a phase of the lift. The first number is always the lowering/lengthening phase.
So, 4211 on split squats means, lower in 4 seconds, pause for 2 seconds at the bottom, lift in 1 second, hold at the top for 1 second…repeat for the next rep.
On chin ups, 2010, means lower in 2 seconds, no pause at the bottom, lift in second, no pause at the top…
Do this on a 2 on 1 off OR a 4-day split for optimal progress.
Example 2 on 1 Off:
Mon – Session 1
Tue – Session 2
Wed – Off
Thurs – Session 1
Fri – Session 2
Sat – Off
Sun – Repeat sequence starting with session 1
Example 4-day Split:
Mon – Session 1
Tue – Session 2
Wed – Off
Thurs – Session 1
Fri – Session 2
Sat – Off
Sun – Off
Don’t Have The Equipment Required?
Don’t worry I have put together body weight only, and band only alternatives. If you want those or the above workout on an excel tracker sheet then email me (email@example.com).
Want a Bespoke Plan Based On Your Exact Equipment?
I am offering bespoke program design as a service. Given gyms across the world are shutting I’m aware many of you are desperate to keep training and moving towards your goals but are confused how best to do it. Now is not the time to do junk workouts with weird exercises. Instead follow a plan based on the principles of training. Since there is a very high chance my gym will have to close at some point, I will then have more time to work from home and help you to reach your goals. It will also help to support me and contribute towards replacing the lost earnings I will suffer from not coaching people in-person. If you do hire me to write your program I would very much appreciate the support.
Get a program designed by me. Email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) with the equipment you have and I’ll build your program