Can you build muscle at home, without the gym? Yes, but doing hundreds of push ups every day isn't going to get it done. Read on to see how you can use some advanced techniques and science to your advantage.
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What Makes Muscles Grow?
Your muscles will grow when:
- The right type and amount of stress is placed on them regularly.
- You consume enough calories and protein to have the extra resources to build muscle.
Regardless of what methods you're using, there are 2 things that lead to muscle growth:
- Mechanical Tension - The muscle can sense the resistance it's being forced to work against.
- Metabolic Stress - The buildup of lactate in the muscle from doing higher repetitions. This is what causes the "burning" in the muscle, usually resulting in a "pump."
The two are not completely separate. There must be enough mechanical tension to stimulate growth, meaning you must challenge the muscle.
Doing hundreds of standard push ups might feel tough, but the body will quickly adapt to the load being placed on it.
If you want a much more thorough explanation on how the body builds muscle, check out my article: How to Build Muscle: The Full Guide to Gains. Otherwise, let's move on.
How to Build Muscle at Home: 5 Methods
Here are 5 methods you can use to build muscle from home. I'll throw in some specific examples and workouts too.
1. Use Explosive Movements
People are too hung up on just doing basic push ups and body weight exercises. These certainly have value, but are not optimal long term for building muscle at home.
Explosive exercises will force your body to recruit fast twitch type II muscle fibers. Your fast twitch muscle fibers are capable of far more growth than the slow twitch fibers.
Just look at a sprinter vs. a marathon runner, and think about how differently they train.
Here are some explosive exercises you can use from home:
- Squat Jumps
- Explosive Push ups
- Split Squat Jumps
- Box Jumps (onto any platform)
These explosive movements force the body to recruit the maximum amount of muscle fibers as quickly as possible (rate of force production.) As a result, this is an excellent way to train to be more powerful and to build some quality muscle.
2. Use BFR Bands for Faster Muscle Growth
If you've read some of my other articles, then you already know I'm a huge fan of BFR Bands (blood flow restriction bands.) I'm a fan of them because they work. Research says so.
Specifically, BFR Bands are meant to be used with lighter loads and higher reps. In the video below, I'm doing plate curls.. but you can grab anything.. a gallon of milk, a jug of water, or anything you can hold and perform high reps with. You can use them for push ups, or any high rep body weight exercise.
How BFR Training Works
Normally, during a high rep set (15-30 reps), the slow twitch muscle fibers would be dominant in performing the movement. However, the bands restrict blood and oxygen into the muscle. As a result, the slow twitch fibers are unable to keep up, forcing the fast twitch muscle fibers to take over.
Adding in some BFR training (also known as occlusion training) into your body weight routines can make a big difference in your ability to build muscle at home.
Check them out below. These are only $28 and have lasted me well over a year so far.
3. Use Tempo Training For Bigger Gains
Tempo training means performing each rep at a specific pace. For example, on a push-up: 2 seconds up, 2 seconds down, trying not to pause at all (continuous movement).
Changing the tempo of an exercise can dramatically change how it feels. Try a set of tempo push ups with 2 seconds up and 2 seconds down with no pauses. The muscles will be burning with fatigue (metabolic stress.)
Tempo reps keep the muscle under constant tension. By slowing down the rep, you are forcing the muscle to recruit more and more muscle fibers as the muscle fatigues.
The more muscle fibers you recruit, the bigger the response. This is why bodybuilders often do slower repetitions.
4. Use Exercise Variations to Challenge the Body and Build More Muscle
If you want to build muscle from home, you have to find ways to challenge the body. Doing hundreds of push ups every day is just not going to work.
Instead, use variations that can challenge the body from different angles. For the push up alone, there are probably over a hundred variations.
Here are a couple of my favorites. If you want to see more, check out my article: 20 Awesome Push Up Variations
There are variations of every exercise. Body Squats, push ups, sit ups, and pull ups all have several different variations that can make the movement both different and more challenging.
Start playing around with some variations and get better at them. Challenge your body!
5. Use Resistance Bands
When it comes to building muscle at home, resistance bands are a tool you definitely should have.
A 2019 Study showed that working out with resistance bands resulted in similar strength and muscle gains compared to using conventional methods (the gym).
With a set of resistance bands, you can replicate almost any gym movement. Squats, Deadlifts, curls and rows can all be performed with a set of bands.
Here are a few examples from my article: 16 Muscle Building Exercises With Resistance Bands.
They're affordable and extremely versatile. A set of bands can completely change up how you work out at home. Get a few with varying resistance so you can use them for your whole body effectively.
Workouts that can Build Muscle from Home
The best approach would be to combine all 5 methods from above.
Start with explosive movements, then pick some challenging exercise variations. End each session with 10 minutes of BFR training with resistance bands and/or tempo training.
Here's 2 muscle building workout examples you can try from home:
Tip: Check out the articles below if you need to see video descriptions of these exercises and others you can use.
Upper Body At Home Workout
|B. Pull ups/
|D. BFR Circuit:
|D1 - Close Grip
Tempo Push ups
|D2 - Band Curls
|D3 - Band Chest Fly
|D4 - Band Pull-apart
Lower Body At Home Workout
|A. Jump Squat
|B. Step Ups
|C. Banded Good Mornings
|D. BFR Circuit
|D1 - Walking Lunges
|D2 - Banded Tempo Squats
Create Your Own At-Home Workouts to Build Muscle
You can use the above workout templates to make your own home workouts up. Just plug in different exercises.
Choose an explosive type exercise to start. Then try to look for a challenging variation or two to challenge the body.
Lastly, pick a few exercises you can get relatively high reps with, strap on your BFR Bands and hammer out a 10 minute circuit.
You may have to be creative. Find a way to do pull ups, whether it's from a beam in the garage or a doorway pull up bar. Find objects you can use for curls and other exercises.
I used to work in a prison, and inmates would fill up trash bags with water or fill pillowcases with books. Where there's a will, there IS a way.
You CAN build muscle at home. You just need to do things a little differently and use methods that can actually force the body to build muscle.
If I had to put it in an ordered list, it would look like this:
- Get yourself some BFR bands and resistance bands
- Start using explosive exercises, tempo training and BFR circuits
- Eat more and make sure you're getting enough protein (0.7 grams/pound of body weight, approximately).
Stop doing the same old thing, and take your home workouts to the next level!
As always, I hope this article helped in some way to get you a little bit closer to that best version of you! Leave a comment and follow my blog for more awesome fitness articles and workouts.