Get the maximum out of your lockdown workouts by following these four simple steps
Home workouts can be a struggle.
Few are lucky enough to have the equipment – or space - to train effectively at home.
Fewer still manage to stay motivated.
The novelty of blasting through a body weight session in your Star Wars pajamas soon wears off. And training can become a grind.
Making it doubly difficult to maintain the gains you've worked so hard for. Especially if you’re focusing on power or hypertrophy.
But relax. All is not lost.
By following these four simple but effective steps, you can transform your home workout program. Keeping your fitness, physique and athletic progress on track - making every rep count.
#1. Aim for higher total volume loads
We know that more training volume typically results in greater muscle growth. Multiple sets of an exercise are far superior to single sets.
Research shows pretty conclusively that aiming for ~10+ sets per muscle, per week will put you in a prime position for building solid muscle mass.
Greater training volumes means greater mechanical tension - and a more potent trigger for muscle protein synthesis. This is the process that leads to more muscle cells and greater muscle hypertrophy.
More volume means more work. And more work means more growth. Simple as that.
One rep at a time
But… common sense must prevail. More isn’t always better.
In fact, too many sets can be counterproductive. Especially if you’re starting your training program from zero.
Realistically, you shouldn’t just dive into high volume training. If you’re taking a more introductory approach, it makes sense to shift through the gears over a period of a few weeks. Adding more reps to each set as you progress.
Or if it’s an exercise you can load up, you can add weight as you go. And when you feel ready, add an additional set or two until you reach your target.
It’s all about training to your individual work capacity - and ability to recover!
Train smart not hard
It’s more about training smart than training hard. The program best suited to you will show the best results.
Going for a super-high-volume workout before your body is ready will lead to muscle of soreness and a whole bucket load of junk volume.
You don’t need a huge number of exercises for an effective home workout. Just a few solid and reliable compound exercises peppered with a small number of isolation exercises.
Focusing more on total volume for each muscle is the key here.
Takeaway: Higher volume training will lead to greater muscle growth - providing you’re at a level of fitness and you can recover effectively. Add more load, more reps and more sets for a better training response.
#2. Use twice-daily workout cycles for maximum productivity
Yes, you read that right…
If you’re already at an advanced stage in your lifting career and you want to ramp things up to ten, it’s time to think about an AM/PM workout schedule.
One huge daily workout presents challenges. It’s difficult to do the volume of work you need to trigger the adaptive process - without being badly hit by fatigue.
High-volume training can lead to spikes in central and peripheral nervous system fatigue. So you’re likely to end up sore, unproductive and feeling progressively weak as the days pass.
Plus, each workout can take an enormous amount of time to complete.
With twice-daily workouts you literally split your workout in half. Doing the first half in the morning and the remaining sets in the afternoon or evening.
Double-down on home workouts
This method has multiple advantages.
You won’t feel as tired towards the end of the workout. So can complete more total work across the session with higher amounts of effort. This will lead to greater volume load – key for muscle growth.
Not only that, breaking up longer sessions can help with motivation. You will feel fresher and more inspired to push hard in every rep of every set. Especially if you have the luxury of a meal or two in between sessions.
To get the best bang for your buck, make sure you have 3-6 hours rest between workouts. And do the more complex exercises in your morning workout.
Complete the heavier, more challenging lifts when you’re fresh and ready to rock. Followed by the easier, smaller exercises (curls etc.) in the evening.
It will help you keep tabs on the overall ‘feel’ of your progress. Delaying the dark cloud of fatigue from gathering over the tail end of your workouts.
Don’t forget to deload
This is not a long-term strategy.
Twice daily sessions will soon add up to super-high volume. So you’ll quickly build up levels of fatigue no matter how much you try and avoid it.
So to begin with, run a 1-2 week twice-daily cycle and then deload. This will help you adapt and also shake off any fatigue you’ve accumulated along the way.
You can then evaluate your overall progress from that cycle and use it as a benchmark to calculate the length and ferocity of the next phase. If you progressed well and feel sharp and strong, you could run the cycle a little longer next time. Or perhaps throw in more volume.
If you feel beat up and sore - even after a few days of deloading – it’s probably a sign you overdid things and need to dial it back. Remember, soreness isn’t necessary to build muscle and it’s a poor proxy of progress.
Summary: Twice-daily workouts can be a great way for the more advanced athlete to achieve high training volumes and develop more muscle mass. Just use this method wisely and run for short cycles.
#3. Change up your rest periods
If your goal is related to overall fitness and conditioning, one of the most powerful weapons you have at your disposal is recovery.
That’s right, what happens between sets can make a huge difference to the intensity and adaptive trigger of your workouts.
Longer inter-set recovery periods have been shown to result in greater muscle growth. This is because you build up lower levels of fatigue and can therefore achieve higher volume loads per muscle.
Alternatively, keeping your rest periods low during conditioning sessions will make you more fatigue resistant. As you build up higher levels of endurance and stamina.
Work + rest = results
There are no hard and fast rules here.
Much of what you do is down to perceived effort and ‘feel’. But aiming for 30-60 second break between sets is a useful general rule of thumb. It will lead to higher heart rates, greater respiratory load and stroke volumes, and ultimately a higher cardiovascular response.
Over time your body develops ways to deliver more oxygen to your working muscles through enhanced capillary density and mitochondrial biogenesis. In other (simpler) words, making the network of blood vessels that transport nutrients and oxygen to your muscles work better.
Not only that, your ability to tolerate higher levels of blood lactate* means you can complete more reps with lower effort – leading to greater endurance.
(* Well, strictly speaking it’s your body’s ability to cope with an increase in hydrogen levels and a drop in blood pH. But either way – it will help you fight fatigue.)
Summary: Keep your rest periods to a short and punchy 30-60 seconds to boost conditioning, stamina and endurance.
#4. Ramp up the tempo to develop power and speed
Every variable you apply to your training dictates the adaptive process.
If you lift heavy you get strong. If you lift fast, you get fast. Shorter rest periods lead to a cardiovascular effect (as described above). And higher volumes result in greater muscle mass (likewise).
The force-velocity curve1 suggests that with heavier loads, the speed at which you perform a rep slows down. It has to in order to give the machine-like properties of the muscle enough time to produce enough force to lift the weight.
Conversely, lighter loads can be moved at blistering speed as they require less force-production.
Research shows that if you’re a power or speed athlete (a sprinter, thrower, weightlifter for example), lifting heavy for prolonged periods can lead to a reduction in high-speed muscle contraction ability.
It is therefore important that you choose exercises that allow you to apply high speed… and train with maximal intent as you perform them.
Here is a list of power-based exercises you could include in your lockdown home workout training plan:
- Squat jumps
- Medicine ball throws
- Jumping lunges
- Box jumps
- Plyo push-ups
What you need to know here is that high-velocity exercises like these won’t help you grow muscle.
There’s not enough time under mechanical tension to stimulate muscle protein synthesis. So, if muscle hypertrophy is your goal - you’ll want to use this approach sparingly.
Summary: Perform reps with blistering speed to develop power and performance.