The last few weeks have been just complete madness. Many of us are now having to resort to at-home workouts. This is causing a lot of unease for many people who were in a good routine with their fitness or people who are afraid of losing muscle mass.
The good news is that muscle is super easy to maintain (here is my blog on maintaining muscle), another good thing is that muscle comes back even easier once you do start lifting weights again, and probably the best news for most is that this break from the gym will be great for recovery as well.
The most important thing is that you continue to do some type of resistance training during this time off from the gym, even if you lose muscle it will be such a tiny amount that you won’t even notice. Plus, the people who are most at risk for a little bit of muscle loss are those who have trained for many years, since it will require them to do more than just bodyweight exercises.
So now instead of focusing on what’s the best thing you can do, we need to shift our focus to avoiding the worst thing.
The #1 worst thing you can do is nothing. I have talked about time and time again how people are black and white when it comes to their fitness and nutrition goals. This is the time to avoid that, 2 bodyweight workouts are going to maintain more muscle than 0 days. Is 2 bodyweight workouts going to beat 2 gym workouts in terms of building muscle? Most likely not, but this is our situation right now and we must do what we can.
Here are the people who will have the most trouble maintaining or building muscle during this time:
- Have been training 2 plus years
- Have periodized your workouts (taken deload weeks every 4-6 weeks, taken extended maintenance phases every 3-4 months, have a phasic structure to your routine etc.)
- Train with good technique (this is very subjective, but I bet most of you havent..sorry? But not sorry)
- Have consistently trained 3 plus times per week during this period (taking multiple extended breaks from the gym excludes you from this list).
- Track your workouts and use progressive overload
This list just wiped out 99 percent of you.
Even if you do hit all of those, you still need to do whatever you can to limit how much muscle you lose during this time, but most likely you will still maintain. Plus, the time away from heavy weights will do more wonders long term than any small amount of muscle you lose.
The more equipment you have at your house the better, but even if you have nothing, you can still manipulate exercise variables to make the bodyweight workouts challenging.
Alright, let’s go over:
- Top bodyweight exercises
- How to make the workouts more challenging
1. Bodyweight exercises
- Bulgarian Split Squats
- Walking Lunges
- Reverse Lunges
- Single-Leg Squats
- Lateral Step-Ups
- Lateral Squats
- Good Morning
- Bodyweight Hip Hinge
- Push-up (if you cannot do a regular one, then do something off a counter or wall)
- Close Grip Push up
- Wide grip Push
- Deficit Push up
- Chair Dips
- Chin Ups
- Inverted Rows
- Planks with shoulder taps
- Side Plank
- Mountain Climbers
2. How to make the workouts tougher
Slower Tempos: Slow down certain parts of the exercise. For example, 2-8 seconds on average on the lowering part of an exercise, like the squat. This requires you to do each exercise with intent. It will get tough but if you keep the slow tempo it will burn like you are doing heavy weights.
Isometrics: Hold at one part of the exercise. For example, at the top or bottom of a push-up. This is another way to make something like a push up tougher. No more just flopping up and down with no intent.
Less Rest: When training in the gym the amount of weight lifted requires extra rest so you can recover and have another productive set since we are not using as heavy of weights, we can rest less. If you have less equipment then shorter rests can make the exercise tougher
Superset: Supersets can be a great way to make both exercises challenging. An example of a superset would be where you do a set of squats and then with no rest go straight into a set of glute bridges, then take a rest, then do it all over again.
Increase Range of Motion: Many people shorten the range of motion in the gym due to weights and ego, increase it and challenge the muscle more. The cool thing about increasing the range of motion is it requires less weight to be used, but it could give your muscles the same stimulus. A win for your joints and muscles.
Go Closer to Failure: Muscles need to be challenged to grow, going to failure all of the time would be the best for muscle growth but when we train with heavy weights in the gym, most of the time we should stay away from failure because going to failure constantly with weights can cause a lot of fatigue over time, which leads to burnout, increased injury risk, etc. Since we are just using our bodyweight or limited equipment we can go closer to failure and really challenge the muscles.
Increase Training Frequency: Another positive of not using as much weight is that you can increase how often you train. Since we won’t be stressing our joints as much, we can increase how often we train in general or a particular muscle group. For example, if you used to train 4 days per week, not you could do 6 days. For some, 2 a days may be an option as well.
For many, this will be a great change of pace for a bit. If there is one takeaway from this article its that as long as you train with intent (slow down) and challenge your muscles, you will at the very least maintain muscle, but you may even grow a little bit depending on your situation.
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