We know this is hard to believe, but you can get the same muscle building results by exercising at home as you can at the gym. Great news as most of our nation is bogged down with COVID-19 logs. If you’ve been an avid gymnast, you are likely working with a much smaller arsenal of equipment and space. That’s okay.
For the turn of the year we will equip you with a list of minimal equipment movements. These are perfect exercises to do at home as they make the most of your body weight or easily accessible equipment. You can even put them together for your own intense muscle building workout.
You will find that they are a league above typical bodyweight exercises. There’s nothing wrong with doing push-ups or pull-ups with your door frame, but innovating classic movements and challenging a program is a great way to breathe new life into your workout. Light up your whole body with these muscle building exercises at home.
Best Home Exercises to Build Muscle Without the Gym
1. Bear dogs
What it works: Full body
Why is it effective?: Bear dogs force the core and lumbar spine to create rotational stability to protect the spine. Simply put, they help stabilize the core while maintaining balance throughout the body as you move limbs off the floor and break that stability. They make for a serious conditioning exercise and raise the heart rate in a hurry.
How it goes: Take a bear pose, that is, on all fours (four-legged friends) with your knees a few centimeters above the ground. They should only be on your toes and hands. Slowly raise one arm right in front of you while at the same time lifting the other leg off the floor with your foot bent. You have to fight hard to keep your hips straight. Keep the movement slow and controlled. Lower to the starting position and repeat on opposite sides.
Do 3 times 5 alternating repetitions per side (total of 10 repetitions).
2. Reverse lunge from deficit
What it works: Glutes and quads
Why is it effective?: Reverse lunges (instead of traditional lunges) protect your knees from stress because the body does not have to stop the forward impulse. By adding a deficit to the foreleg (via a step or platform that is 8 inches or less), the glutes will work harder due to the additional range of motion to complete the lunge. It also makes for great hip stretch.
How it goes: Hold a dumbbell in each hand and stand with both feet fully on the platform (including your heels). Pick a foot and drop the crotch into an inverted lunge. As you descend, hold more weight in your front leg and let your trailing knee gently fall to the ground. Next, step back to the platform and switch legs.
Do 3 x 10 repetitions per side for a total of 20 repetitions.
3. Back plank
What it works: Rhomboids, lower traps, and posterior deltoid muscles
Why is it effective?: This isometric exercise really challenges all of the postural muscles of the back, using only your body weight as resistance. It can reveal a weakness in muscle endurance – especially in muscles that you thought were strong.
How it goes: Set up two chairs or benches beyond shoulder width and sit on the floor with your feet planted flat. Place your elbows and triceps over each bench and raise your fists in the air (you should look like you’re about to do a shoulder press). Next, press firmly on the benches with your elbows and raise your body to a table position. You are in full grip, only your feet touching the ground. It’s okay if your knees are bent 90 degrees. Squeeze firmly and keep your body level with the bench. Don’t let it sink down
Perform 3 x 20 to 30-second holds
4. Archer Pushup
What it works: Chest, triceps, and anterior deltoids
Why is it effective?: Archer pushups add a new dimension to your push up game by highlighting one side at a time as you shift your weight from one side to the other. This is a great conditioning exercise and a stepping stone for performing one arm pushups.
How it goes: Set up for a typical push-up, but choose a side to work on first. For this explanation we choose the left side. Adjust it so that the right hand is a little forward in the starting position and much wider than the left hand. Then, pressing firmly on the floor with your right hand, lower your torso into your left hand so that your left elbow bends fully and your right arm stays straight as your torso lowers to the floor. Return to the starting position and repeat on the same side before doing the same number of repetitions on the opposite side.
Do 3-4 x 6-8 repetitions per side
5. Banded extensor muscles
What it works: Quads and abs
Why is it effective?: These create a massive pump for the quads and raise the heart rate without a machine or device other than a simple tape (a thin loop tape works best).
How it goes:: Stand in a bear pose with your knees a few inches off the floor. Keep the ribbon wrapped around the back of your knees and tied to the ground with your planted hands (wrapped over your palms and hooked onto your thumbs). Next, kick your knees back as far as you can to straighten your legs. Try to focus on pushing your knees back instead of lifting your bum and you’ll really isolate the quads.
Do 3-4 x 15-20 repetitions
6. Banded L-sit
What it works: Quads, hips, core, triceps, and upper back
Why is it effective?: With the help of a thin ribbon, you can use it to recreate an exercise clamp, even if you don’t have the strength-to-weight ratio of a gymnast. It’ll be one of the toughest full body moves you’ve ever done.
How it goes: Sit flat on the floor with your feet outstretched and hook your loop tape around one foot. Wrap all of the ribbon around your back and hook the other side around the other foot. Fully straighten your legs to stretch the ligament and place your hands flat on the floor. Point your toes hard, dig your palms into the ground, and keep your knees straight (try to lift your feet!) Until your body leaves the ground. Stay as far from the ground as possible.
Perform 3-4 x 15 to 20 second holds
7. 2-to-1 Swiss Ball Hamstring Curl
What it works: Hamstrings, glutes, spinal erectors
Why is it effective?: Performing hamstring curls with this simple twist doubles the workload for one leg at a time during the eccentric phase – ideal for building strength and triggering muscle growth.
How it goes: Lie face up on the floor and place a Swiss ball under your heels. Plant your hands in the ground and lift your hips off the ground. Next, roll the ball in with heels without dropping your hips. Once the ball hits your glutes, gently lift one foot off the ball (it’s okay to keep your knee bent). Use one leg to slowly bring the ball back to the starting position. Put your free leg back on the ball. Repeat.
Do 3-4 x 6-8 repetitions per side
8. Lying weight transfer
What it works: Posterior deltoids, rhomboids, lower traps and lats
Why is it effective?: This movement is a great way to set the postural muscles on fire for conditioning and endurance, but also serves as a means of developing mobility in the shoulder joints. For people suffering from poor posture, doing this well is easier said than done.
How it goes: Lie face down on the floor with one hand holding an agile object that weighs 5 pounds or less (weight plate, dumbbell, or other object in your house). Activate your core and glutes to lift your limbs off the floor, then transfer the weight behind your back to the other hand. Don’t let it touch the ground. Now bring it from the second hand over your head back to the first hand.
Do 3 x 8-10 repetitions in each direction
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