How Do You Lift Weights at Home? (Full-Body Workout)Apr 29, 2022
How do you lift weights at home? There are a lot of ways to progress with lifting at home—you just got to get a little creative. Let's go over a few things that you can focus on.
How to Lift Weight at Home (the Right Way)
There are many different ways that you can progress at home. As I mentioned, we want to make sure that we're focusing on a few different things to make sure you're getting the best bang for your buck. Let's start with equipment.
I would say having bands is going to be a really good tool, and maybe a few dumbbells, but you can get a lot done with just having bands. Having some bands is going to be great getting creative with the things that you have available. You can use a backpack as weight. Just fill it with books or other items to add resistance, and then put the backpack on.
Use wine bottles as small dumbbells or water jugs for even greater weight. Hold up your dog, your cat, or even your kids—you don't need expensive equipment to lift weights at home and get a good workout.
How to Progress With At-Home Lifting
The first way to make sure you're progressing at home is to find ways to make exercises harder. The easiest place to start is with double-leg work vs single-leg work. If you're finding it really easy to crank out squats, then switch to doing it single-leg and see how easy it is. Same thing with something like pushups. Finding yourself cranking them out without too much difficulty? Switch to one-arm pushups.
Other exercises and variants might include split squats, single-leg Romanian deadlifts, and the like. You're going to be using your entire body weight on one leg versus two, so it's just going to increase the amount of intensity that you're doing with that exercise.
For the upper body, you want to think about single-arm movements like single-arm curls, single-arm overhead presses, and single-arm push-ups. But there are different ways that you can progress maybe from your knees or on the wall or things like that. Think about ways that you can do unilateral movements and make those harder and progress with those if you have limited weight.
Crank Out Effective Reps at Home
The next thing you want to focus on is that you're doing enough effective reps. When we're at home, we have to make sure that we're not just kind of going through the motions, but we're actually getting close enough to failure to stimulate muscle growth. We know in the research that we can do as many reps as possible, but if we don't get close enough to where we're failing that exercise, then we're not going to get close enough to that effective reps.
What I mean by effective reps is those last few reps, typically between three to five reps before you fail—those are the reps where the most muscle growth occurs. That is going to be super, super important. If you're looking to continue building muscle at home, you need to make sure you get enough effective reps.
RIR and RPE Scales
When I'm working with clients, we use an RIR scale or an RPE scale. An RIR scale just stands for reps in reserve. That basically means how many reps do you have left in the tank before you fail before you can't do anymore. So you want to typically get between three to four reps in reserve, on you know, your exercises to make sure that you're getting enough effective reps. Don't just go through the motions, but actually get enough intensity to see that stimulus occur and see that muscle growth happens.
The RPE scale is another common scale. It stands for rate of perceived exertion, and it's actually just the opposite of our RIR. The scale is typically one through 10. And 10 would be failure. So with our RIR we know that it goes the opposite way.
Some people like to use RPE. Some people like to use our RIR. Typically, when you know we're talking weightlifting and lifting weights, I like to stick with our RIR because it just makes a little bit more sense practically—like how many reps you have left in the tank, how many reps can you do before you fail. If you're getting close enough to failure in that three to four range, that's going to be what you want to focus on because that's going to mean that you're getting the effect of reps in and you're building muscle over time.
When you're at home, just make sure that you're doing what you can to get close enough to failure. You don't have to necessarily go to failure—but just close enough so you're stimulating that muscle growth.
Progress Your Workouts (Progress Overload)
The next thing you want to focus on is just making sure that you're progressing from workout to workout or at least you know, every few workouts. You want to make sure that you are moving forward. Without progressive overload training, we're not going to grow and the reason for that is because you have to send the signal to your muscles that says, "Hey, let's grow." You need to do more and more over time, in order for your muscles to grow, because they're going to adapt to whatever you're doing.
If you're not doing a little bit more—you know, an extra rep, a little bit more weight, maybe another set—you're not going to be building, you know, muscle effectively. Just thinking of making sure that you're progressing, you know, each workout or at least week to week, and find the ways to be able to do that.
When you're at home, like I mentioned, doing an extra rep, an extra set, maybe a little bit more weights, or you can do things like drop sets, where you are maybe doing a certain weight, and you do that as much as you can, and then you drop the weight, and you immediately go into bodyweight. If you're getting an effective stimulus with that, you can even think about creating some pauses between your reps. For example, if you're doing a split squat, and you have your back foot on the couch, you can as you come down, pause for one second and then come back up—that's a good way to add a little bit more time under tension when you're training.
Time Under Tension (TUT)
Time under tension just means how much your muscles are under tension. We know that mechanical tension is the main way that muscles grow. And it's just your muscle tissues are under that tension. As long as you're getting enough tension, your muscles will grow—as long as you're getting enough stimulus your muscles will grow. Finding ways that you can increase that tension is going to be super important.
Add a pause in the middle of a set or a middle of a wrap or slow down your set or slow down the eccentric. I gave the split squat as an example—as you're coming down in this split squat, maybe think about, you know, counting down three to one, maybe pause at the bottom, and then come back up. Paying attention to different ways to kind of manipulate the tempo of what you're doing is going to be super important. And that's going to be effective for continuing to grow.
You can also think about increasing the range of motion. If you're doing certain exercises—say you're doing like a push-up on the floor—maybe putting your feet up on the couch and doing a push-up is going to increase that range of motion and make it a little bit harder. You can also get creative with adding bands to exercises that you wouldn't necessarily think about. Again, with a push-up, if you're doing a push-up and you have a band wrapped around your hands, you can do that. And that will increase tension at different parts of the pushup. So just adding things in that you might not necessarily think of.
And like I said, just get creative with what you're doing. Again, going back to the split squat, for example, that's an exercise that everybody hates, but it's very, very effective. So adding, you know, a backpack with books in it, putting that on your back, and then doing split squats, or just holding it above your head or whatever ways that you can find that can increase that tension within the muscle.
There's lots of different ways that you can progress at home. You just need to make sure that you are getting creative, you're thinking about the different things that you have available.
Maybe purchasing some bands online is going to be an easy way to add a little bit of variety to the exercise equipment that you have available. You can get adjustable dumbbells you can get a bunch of different stuff. Those are a few ways that you can think about increasing your training at home and making sure that you're progressing over time.
Want to improve your at-home weight lifting? Check out the other workout topics on the blog to find new ideas.
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