Last Updated on July 29, 2020 by Milo Martinovich
In these uncertain times, we are faced with issues like avoiding the gym for the sake of public health. Even without a worldwide pandemic on our hands, it’d be nice to know how to build muscle at home without the need for costly gym memberships and travel time.
But, the question always seems to come up: can you build muscle at home? Well, you definitely can, as long as you train correctly!
Is it possible to build muscle at home?
To build muscle at home, you need to train accordingly to maximize muscular hypertrophy. While it is an easy task when you are served up unlimited equipment in a gym setting, doing it at home can seem impossible. Also, training at home gets a bad wrap for building muscle, since a huge amount of home trainees don’t adhere to the research-based guidelines for building muscle. Instead, you see people working out at home only doing a few sets up pushups and sit-ups every day.
Those people tend to plateau very quickly and that gets blamed on working out at home. But, the same result is easily found in daily gym-goers.
Designing a home workout plan
What makes a workout effective for building muscle isn’t the equipment or location. It all comes down to your training volume, intensity, and recovery.
For volume, you need to train each muscle group with enough sets and reps/set to maximize muscle fiber recruitment. The basic guideline for volume is to perform 10-20 sets per muscle group per week with reps coming somewhere between 6-20 reps per set.
The intensity of your training doesn’t have to do with the weight you use on each set. Instead, it is more about how close you are to reaching muscular failure (when you can’t perform another rep without cheating). Ending the majority of your sets with about 1-3 reps left before failure is the best option. You can also take a few sets to full failure here are there. Just don’t make it a habit, as it impairs recovery and doesn’t benefit hypertrophy to a much greater extent.
Your recovery has to focus on getting enough volume while still being able to recover and perform at, or above, the same level as previous workouts. If you find yourself losing performance, you need less volume and/or intensity. If you are recovering great, go ahead and bump on the volume over time to reap more muscle growth!
You’ll notice there are no mentions of equipment needed to build muscle. That’s why you can build muscle at home effectively and efficiently. Simply follow the guidelines!
How can I build muscle without going to the gym? What equipment do I need?
The best equipment that you can stock in your home gym is free weights and resistance bands. Free weights allow for a myriad of exercises are tried and true muscle builders.
If you want to stick to a minimalist home gym, I’d go with a pair of Olympic Adjustable Dumbbell Handles and a bunch of weight plates, with the majority being 5 and 10 lb plates for easy weight changes. You could add on an adjustable bench to open up more exercises as well.
How to build muscle at home with dumbbells
Simply follow the guidelines to build muscle at home and build the program out with dumbbell-based exercises.
Here are my favorites:
- Chest Press
- Overhead Press
- Upright Rows
- Reverse Flies
- Bent Over Rows
- Hip Flies
- Goblet Squats
- Dumbbell Calf Raises
- All Biceps Curl Variations
These movements offer the best bang for your buck and will activate all major muscle groups in the body. Throw in your favorite core movements and you have a complete program!
What about other equipment?
If you want to switch up from dumbbells but want to avoid taking up a lot of space, resistance bands are great tools for muscle growth. When used properly, you can achieve the same results from bands as free weights. Again, it comes down to how you train.
Last, but not least, you can get a full power rack and barbell set up to open endless exercise possibilities.
I know this all sounds like a lot of money. What can you do if you are on a shoestring budget?
How to build muscle at home without equipment
Calisthenics has been around forever and represents a great training opportunity! You can hit every muscle group effectively using only your bodyweight.
Simply doing pushups, pull-ups, squats, and lunges, and nordic hamstring curls hit every muscle group in the body. On top of the basics, each of those movement patterns has tons of variations that you can use for variety and different muscle activation patterns.
Can you really build muscle without weights?
One thing to note about training with Calisthenics: you might hit the upper rep range of optimal hypertrophy training easily after a while training with your bodyweight alone. That’s when you have to use harder variations, increase the training volume, or get out your wallet and get yourself a high-quality weight vest that will act as additional resistance for bodyweight exercises.
Once you are hitting 20+ reps easily on each set, you have to make adjustments to make Calisthenics effective to build muscle at home.
If you think you can bang out sets of 50 push-ups and create muscle activation to the point of maximal hypertrophy, you will be disappointed in the results. Staying in the right rep range during all of your sets is imperative for continued muscle growth.
How to build muscle at home for skinny guys
I know, you are a hard-gainer and just can’t put on muscle mass. You have the worst genetics ever and even the most well-equipped gym in the world won’t get you huge!
Calm down skinny guys, I don’t want to trigger you. Building muscle for hard gainers only comes down to optimizing training and eating more food! Skinny guys shouldn’t train as much as possible, since it will burn more and more calories. Instead, getting just enough activation in a training session and stopping there is the right choice. Then, eat and eat and eat!
In my years as a Personal Trainer, I never met a hard gainer skinny guy that couldn’t build muscle at home when the right tactics were put into use.
How about a women’s muscle building workout routine at home?
Glute building workouts are all the rage right now. I’m not saying that’s a problem at all. But, a huge amount of those programs focus on using specialized equipment that you certainly won’t find at home.
Luckily, with minimal equipment and the right program design, a specialized program for women to use at home is entirely possible. Just like training in a gym, you can build muscle at home effectively, even if you don’t have all the best glute-training equipment in your garage or bedroom.
If you want to know more about Glute specialization programs, I highly recommend checking out Bret Contreras, known as the Glute Guy! He’s the trainer behind tons of popular fitspo pics online.
Can I get a good body without going to the gym?
Yes, hopefully by now you realize that training for hypertrophy at home can be easily implemented. However, you have to avoid the common pitfalls of training at home.
For example, a lot of people can’t get in the right mindset at home for training intensely. Make sure you set up a dedicated training area and have a routine to get in the zone. Take your pre-workouts, listen to your pump-up music, or do whatever else that will get your mind right to tackle hard workouts regularly.
Another thing is keeping home workouts fresh. Try switching things up often enough to ward off boredom. Micro workouts can be a useful tool to accomplish great training volume without taking away from your day. Try out popular home workout programs aimed at muscle gain. Invest in equipment when you get tired of using what you have on hand for fresh exercises and renewed attitude.
Just like training in a gym, getting a good body by training at home takes work, but is readily accomplished.
30-day muscle building workout plan at home
All that talk, now it’s time for a simple program to use! This program is on a 4-week cycle and can be repeated indefinitely when volume and intensity are adjusted accordingly.
It’s a simple full-body workout that can be completed 3 times per week. Each session focuses on different equipment: dumbbells, resistance bands, and bodyweight-only.
Session 1 – Dumbbells (all exercises are 3 sets of 6-10 reps per set)
- Goblet Squats
- Chest Press
- Bent Over Rows
- Dumbbell Hip Thrust
- Overhead Press
- Dumbbell Calf Raises
- Upright Rows
- Alternating Curls
- Dumbbell Crunches
Session 2 – Resistance Bands (all exercises are 4 sets of 10-15 reps per set)
- Leg Extensions (need an anchor)
- Band Chest Flies
- Leg Curls (need an anchor)
- Band Lat Pulldown
- Bad Girls
- Front Raises
- Band Calf Raises
- Face Pull
- High Band Curls
- Band Triceps Pushdown
- Band Wood-Choppers
Session 3 – Bodyweight (all exercises are 5 sets of 15-20 reps per set)
- Alternating Lunges
- Nordic Hamstring Curls
- Lying Leg Lifts
Aim to complete more total reps each time you do an exercise. If you complete all required reps on each set (example – you finish 10 reps of Goblet Squats on all 3 sets), go up in weight the next time you do the workout. For bodyweight movements, you need to change to a harder variation of the movement (example – adjusting Alternating Lunges to Bulgarian Split Squats).
After your 4-week cycle is up, take a rest week and repeat!
Ready to build muscle?
Hopefully, you have a good idea of how you should be training at home to maximize muscle growth. It isn’t rocket science, but it does take a little time to develop a program right for you. Remember, continually test your program and analyze your results. Make a change when you need to.
Have any other tips to build muscle at home? Let me know with a comment below!