Limited Equipment? You Can Still Progress Your Home Workouts
Posted Sep 06 2010 11:00am
Since I’m still on holiday another couple of days, things here are still in the capable hands of my good friend Jon Coulson .
When it comes to training and fitness, Jon’s got a huge treasure-trove of valuable stuff in his head to share. So I know you’ll get a lot out of these incredible workout ideas.
Progress Your Workouts
Most people associate being stronger with being able to lift the bar with more weights on. Not only is this a very one dimensional view of what strength is, it is also very restrictive for people who work out at home.
With a home gym set up there is usually only so much weight you have access to. There is also usually a limit to how much weight you can safely lift yourself without a spotter being needed i.e. if you get pinned during a bench press, squat etc you need someone about to help you out.
This is where it pays to look at various progressions you can apply to your workout which challenge your muscles.
1) Add more weight
Ok, so the very basic progression most people have is to just add weight to the bar! It is a straight forward sign of improving your strength levels and is simple to measure and compare against previous workouts for example:
Week 1) Squats – 3 x 10 @ 155lbs
Week 2) Squats – 3 x 10 @ 160lbs
Week 3) Squats – 3 x 10 @ 165lbs
The drawback to this, as mentioned in the open paragraphs is that a home gym set up usually only has access to so much weight and there is only so much that can be safely handled at home without a spotter.
2) Add more sets
Another straight forward progression that people often use is to add more sets to their exercises. Again, it is another straight forward sign of your muscles being able to handle more volume and therefore getting stronger. For example:
Week 1) Squats – 3 x 10 @ 155lbs
Weeks 2) Squats – 4 x 10 @ 155lbs
Week 3) Squats – 5 x 10 @ 155lbs
It is another good progression but the drawback is that there are only so many sets you can keep adding before your workouts end up lasting 90 minutes – 120 minutes.
3) Adding more reps
This is another good strength progression indicator but not everyone thinks about comparing this to previous workouts. Intuitively it makes sense when you think about it – a muscle that can handle 10 reps of a same weight is stronger than a muscle that can only handle 5 reps of the same weight. The progression would look like this:
Week 1) 3 x 6 reps @ 155lbs
Weeks 2) 3 x 8 reps @ 155lbs
Week 3) 3 x 10 reps @ 155lbs
One potential drawback is that you might only want to work within a certain rep range. This is where you can combine adding weights with this progression in the following way:
Week 3) 3 x 10 reps @ 155lbs
Week 4) 3 x 6 reps @ 160lbs
Week 5) 3 x 8 reps @ 160lbs, etc.
4) Reduce rest times
This is a progression that not many people tend to utilize or even think about as a progression. It is a sign of fitter, stronger muscles where you can handle your workouts in less time. In this case you could follow something like:
Week 1) 3 x 10 reps @155lbs @ 60 seconds rest
Week 2) 3 x 10 reps @155lbs @ 55 seconds rest
Week 3) 3 x 10 reps @ 155lbs @ 50 seconds rest
Once you start getting your rest times down to 30 seconds and less, it might be time to look at bumping the weights or sets up to continue challenging yourself
5) Increased timed sets
In the previous point, the progression was to look at reducing your rest times. On the other end of the spectrum you can work in timed sets and look to increase the length of time of the sets. This is mostly applied to circuit training but there is another way this can be applied:
Circuit training example:
1) Press ups – 60 seconds
2) Lunges – 60 seconds
3) Crunches – 60 seconds
1) Press ups – 70 seconds
2) Lunges – 70 seconds
3) Crunches – 70 seconds
Escalating Density Training (EDT):
This is a method invented by Charles Staley which is a fantastic and brutal self regulating progression. In its simplest form it would look like this:
Week 1) Lunges & bicep curls – 5 minutes – as many reps as possible (AMRAP) in the set
Week 2) Lunges & bicep curls – 6 miunutes – AMRAP
You can work up to sets of 10 – 15 minutes using this method. The simplicity of this method is that you can also use various progressions within this frame work. For example you manage 50 reps initially, once you can improve your reps by 20%, add 5% weight and start again.
6) Make the exercise harder / Move to single limb
This final progression idea is more obscure than the previous ideas and is another fantastic progression idea. This is mainly due to it being difficult to measure progress in the strictest sense as you are looking to make an exercise harder.
Once you can handle a certain amount of weight in an exercise such as bench press, squats and Romanian deadlifts, look to move to single limb versions of these exercises i.e, dumbbell bench press, single leg Romanian deadlifts, rear foot elevated single leg squats, full single leg squats.
This is also where the TRX kit pays dividends – trying to do press ups in a TRX is a lot harder than trying doing press ups on the floor.
The other way to look at making exercises harder is to use odd objects, bands etc. For example:
1) Shoulder press with a barbell
2) Shoulder press with dumbbells
3) Should press with sandbags
The 6 progressions in this article can be used during your workouts. Ideally not all at once though! The main thing that I should point out is that if you use any of these progressions, they do cause your muscles to work harder so watch your recovery and also don’t try and apply the progressions to all the exercises in your workout straight away. Look to apply one of the progressions to a big exercise in your workout and keep the other exercises the same – trying to push too much too soon with these will fatigue you.
Wow, those are great tricks to progress anyone’s workout … and really appreciated by those of us who work out at home with limited equipment!!
Thanks again to Jon for covering me while I’m away. Feel free to get in touch with Jon on Twitter where he tweets as @JonCoulson .