Get muscle size gains with minimal weights and equipment!
by Dan Eiden
If you were like many people around the world this year you were stuck at home during a quarantine during the Covid 19 pandemic. If you were someone who regularly trained at the gym you suddenly had no where to train. If you wanted to still train you probably wondered what you could do at home with minimal or no exercise equipment. Trying to purchase exercise equipment during this time became difficult as everyone was trying to purchase in home training equipment. The goal of many people during this time was to just try to maintain their fitness level as best they could. Not many people actually thought about making gains and progress during this time.
But if you know how to train correctly and are creative you can make progress and get results no matter how much or how little exercise equipment you have at your disposal. Is it ideal? Of course not but you have to adapt to the situation you are given.
Here are 5 things you can do in your training program to continue to make progress that don’t involve needing more weight or equipment.
1) Increase the time under tension (TUT). This is the amount of time the muscle is stressed. This can be done by slowing the repetition speed down (in particular the negative as this is where the body is at its strongest) and isometric or static holds. This not only make the exercise more challenging but overloads the body forcing it to handle more than it is used to.
For example, you could do a push up where you lower yourself down for a 1 second count and come right back up for a 1 second count. If you did 10 reps it would stress the muscle for 2 seconds per rep or give you a time under tension of 2 seconds per rep and a total of 20 seconds for the entire set of 10 reps. If you slowed the negative (eccentric) phase down where you lower yourself down to a 3 second count and still came back up contracting the muscle for 1 second you would have a time under tension of 4 seconds per rep. For 10 reps that would be 40 seconds of time under tension. You are stressing the muscle twice as long as before.
You can also increase the time under tension by adding isometric or static holds in an exercise. For example, in the push up you could hold the bottom position about an inch or so above the ground for an extra second or two and create more time under tension.
Manipulating and changing the rep tempo or rep speed is one of the best and simplest ways of forcing the body to have to adapt to something new and for creating new muscle growth and strength and it can be done on any exercise.
2) Add more reps. Adding more reps is a very simple way to progress in any exercise program and like time under tension can be done with almost any exercise. Exercise is like cutting with a blade. If you continue to cut with the same blade it will get dull and its effectiveness will diminish. You need to continue to sharpen that blade so to speak. You can start small by just adding one extra rep per set. It doesn’t seem like much but it will add up over the course of a training program and can end up making a big difference.
3) Add more sets. This is another simple approach. It is real simple. If you are doing 3 sets of an exercise add a 4th set. This will increase the total volume in your workout (the total amount of work you are doing. Volume is defined as sets x reps) and increase the total amount of work you are doing. Now you can’t continue to keep adding more sets and more volume long term as you will end up getting over trained. It is a good way though to make a workout more challenging and force the body to handle more to create a greater training effect.
4) Add more training frequency. This is just adding another workout to your training program. If you are training 3 days a week try adding a 4th day. This, like adding more sets, will increase the total overall training volume in your program and increase the amount of work you are doing. Like adding more sets you can’t do this over the long term or indefinitely as you will get over trained quickly. In the short term adding another training day or two can be a good approach for a certain training phase (4 to 6 weeks or so) that focuses on more volume as the main stressor for training gains.
5) Become more efficient with your movement (aka focus on better form and technique). Most people only focus on doing more, more, more as the only way to make progress in a training program. More reps, more sets, more weight, etc. Now these are all good approaches as previously discussed but just getting better at executing your exercises and improving your form and technique can lead to gains and progress in a training program. For example, you could have two guys both doing the same exercise with the same weight and for the same number of reps. On the surface they could both look like they are doing the same amount of work but if one guy is using poor form and the other is using strict form they are getting two totally different training effects. Focusing on recruiting and using the right muscles and in the right pattern will allow you to more thoroughly work those muscles and get a much more effective workout and lead to overall more exercise gains.
From skinny guy to buff guy! My client Charlie packed on muscle and slashed his body fat nearly in half during a quarantine training with me at his home with minimal weights and equipment.