How To Make At-Home Workouts More Effective for Getting Strong and Looking Lean
Getting strong and looking lean boils down to one thing: muscle hypertrophy. It’s the increase and growth of muscle cells resulting in an increase in muscular size achieved through exercise.
And yes, we can achieve this at home - even without access to a gym and all its equipment! Read on as personal trainer, Lex Chan from Lex Fitness Systems, breaks it all down for us in this short guide to make at-home workouts more effective for getting strong and looking lean!
To better understand what can be done to ensure your workouts are most effective for your ultimate goal, we need to first highlight what are the key factors influencing muscle hypertrophy:
Training volume refers to the weight you’re pushing or pulling and the number of reps and sets that is performed of the exercise (weights x sets x reps). Generally, the more training volume, the more you will be able to stimulate muscle hypertrophy.
Exercise volume is directly correlated to hypertrophy. There is no way you can stimulate maximal muscle growth by simply doing a single set of exercises to failure. While typically, the first set of any exercise will be the most productive set as you will feel most fresh and strong, additional sets are essential to achieve muscle hypertrophy.
It’s important to keep in mind that the volume required for you to achieve results is constantly changing. Factors such as age, gender, height, weight, physical and emotional stressors, and training experience affect how much volume you can tolerate and adapt to.
Also note that the volume required for you, may not be the same as the volume required for someone else. For example, a beginner won’t necessarily need a lot of training volume in order to achieve the same amount of hypertrophy as a more intermediate or advanced trainer. However, over time your amount of training volume will need to increase.
Maximum Recoverable Volume and Minimum Effective Dose
In addition to taking into consideration your training volume, figuring out your Maximum Recoverable Volume (MRV) and Minimum Effective Dose (MED) is also key. Your MRV is defined as the highest amount of training you can complete and recover. MED refers to the minimum volume or dosage you need in order to get results.
Tougher sessions usually need longer recovery time as compared to less intense ones. Train too hard with too little recovery and your body may not have the capacity to repeat the same workout intensity the next training session. Not giving yourself enough recovery, and training too hard can also cause injuries, lack of motivation and even illness. Consequently, if you don’t train hard enough, you’re unlikely to show any results, or progress will be slow. Figuring out your MRV and MED is key to finding that optimal balance.
For beginners, it doesn't really matter how much relative load is being used at the start. The key idea here for training intensity is progressive loading. The heavier you can lift, the stronger you get and the more your muscles will grow - so work on progressively increasing the amount of load you push or pull for each exercise. Focus on controlled motion throughout the entire movement of an exercise while maintaining proper and safe technique.
Time Under Tension
Tension is the currency in which your muscles get stressed and after which, adapts or grows to reduce the stressors in the future. Creating tension in the muscle is what causes your joints to move. There are 3 main types of muscular contraction that we can train with relative ease, isometric, concentric and eccentric. Isometric means the same length, which also means holding the same position. Overcoming isometrics (trying to move an immovable object with maximum effort) are a great way to add extra tension at home without much equipment. Concentric meaning the active movement of the muscle, and eccentric meaning the lowering phase of the exercise.
Apart from focusing on the lifting portion of the movement, try exerting the same effort during the execution of the lowering phase of an exercise when your muscles are slowly lengthening. Slowing down during the lowering phase will cause more muscle damage resulting in more muscle growth.
Metabolite Build Up
Metabolite training refers to the burning sensation that occurs when you are accumulating blood, lactate and other metabolites into the muscle you are training. This increase in metabolites is what results in cellular swelling and muscle growth.
There are many variables to play around with during a workout to induce metabolite build-up. This includes supersets, drop sets, training to failure, or giant sets. These are just some examples that not only increase metabolite build-up, but also keep your exercise routine interesting so you’re more encouraged to stay consistent!
Tips to make your at-home training more effective
Taking the above factors that influence hypertrophy into consideration, here’s a round-up of Lex’s top tips to make your at-home bodyweight training most effective!
• Increase training volume by increasing the number of repetitions per set
• Increase intensity by using household items as weights, doing single-limb exercises, plyometrics training, changing leverages of your body or even increasing the complexity of the movement.
• Keeping muscle under tension is king when training at home. Slow down on your eccentric contractions when doing your exercises.
• Overcoming isometrics involve trying to move an immovable object with maximum effort. These isometric (i.e., no movement) muscle contractions allow you to put every ounce of effort and energy into the movement, which recruits as many motor units and muscle fibers as possible.
• Try different types of workout structures such as circuit training, high-intensity interval training, EMOM (every minute on the minute) or tabata to see what works best for you.
Finally, try to combine all these important key factors in creating a training program structure for yourself, and you’ll reap all the benefits of exercising consistently even when you are at home.
Looking for a trainer who understands the science of training and who can guide you every step of the way to get fitter, stronger, and leaner, safely and efficiently? Get and guidance from Lex, or get in touch with him by dropping him an .
Featured Contributor: Lex Chan
Lex focuses on helping high performers stay healthy, move well and resolve chronic pain. By making consistent and progressives changes for their lifestyle and fitness goals.
Being fit and healthy to Lex means being able to move without pain and being able to enjoy life to the fullest. His training methodology for all his clients is focused on being able to move well, lift heavy, be powerful, and have pain free movement for the rest of their life.
Lex has a wide range of experience in sports and training methodologies, including strength & metabolic conditioning, primal movements, gymnastics training, and even basic martial arts training. Lex brings high energy levels, motivation, and drive to all his sessions. He ensures that training is both effective and fun at the same time.