It’s more important than ever to understand how to adapt your training to keep getting results.
With gyms closed globally, the question fitness fanatics keep asking is, “Can you still get results from doing home workouts?”
The answer is- Yes. Can you continue getting consistent results? Yes, assuming you understand some key intensity strategies to implement progressive overload effectively. In this post, we’ll be giving you the six key ways to keep getting results from the comfort of your home using simple intensity adjustments.
First of all, it’s essential to understand that you can make serious gains just using your bodyweight.
While it’s contrary to a lot of popular fitness culture, the gym isn’t the only place where you can lose weight, build muscle, and improve your performance. Here’s a quick run-through of how you can use bodyweight training as a critical component of your fitness goal.
Is Your Goal Weight Loss?
If your chief fitness goal is to lose weight, your primary focus should be on creating an energy deficit – meaning that you are expending more energy than you are intaking. Creating an energy deficit is typically done through caloric restriction and increased physical activity.
Whether you’re increasing your physical activity during gym sessions or home workouts, what matters is that you’re moving and pushing yourself regularly.
Bodyweight workouts can burn a lot of calories, mainly if you are performing high rep, with limited rest time and doing high-intensity exercises.
Is Your Goal to Build Muscle?
To build muscle, you need to stimulate muscle hypertrophy. Without getting too much into the exercise science, here’s what you need to know: muscle hypertrophy requires three mechanisms:
Muscle damage can occur if you do a workout of sufficient length with enough sets per body part. Mechanical tension can arise if you perform each exercise slowly, alternating concentric and eccentric tempos. Metabolic stress can occur if you perform an exercise for a high amount of reps.
Optimally, you would be using heavy weights with progressive overload, with a different rep and a set range to build muscle. However, it’s possible to build muscle doing bodyweight exercises if you follow a specially curated workout that promotes each key mechanism for hypertrophy.
Is Your Goal to Build Strength?
Bodyweight workouts are for you. Using your body’s weight as resistance is one of the most effective ways to build strength.
Doing functional movements focuses on strengthening key movement patterns that transfer into your daily life and increase your body strength.
Compared to using weights, bodyweight workouts are not necessarily superior, but they are equally as beneficial and arguably more practical, particularly in the current climate.
Strength is built by increasing power and endurance, and bodyweight training is ideal for both of these goals. Plyometric exercises help to develop power, and performing bodyweight exercises with a high rep is a great way to build endurance.
What determines your results in bodyweight home workouts is your ability to implement progressive overload. In the gym, this is easy. But at home, it can get a bit more complicated. If you’re new to the concept of progressive overload, here’s a quick run-through of what you need to know.
What Is Progressive Overload?
The principle of progressive overload states that for muscles to grow, performance or strength to increase, or for any similar improvement to occur, the human body must be forced to adapt to a tension that is above and beyond what it’s previously experienced.
Ignore every person who has ever told you that you need to switch up your workout routine every few days to shock your muscles. There is zero scientific evidence to show this; your muscles are muscles, not people. They don’t know what you’re doing, only that they’re working under tension.
Research shows that the most effective way to build muscle is to repeatedly do the same movements and exercises, increasing the intensity of the workouts, to keep forcing your muscles to work and adapt.
This increase in intensity is the concept of progressive overload. Progressive overload forces your muscles to work harder each time, so they continue to tear, repair, and grow.
If you want to learn more about this, check out this article. So: keep the exercises the same, but increase the intensity.
Logically, the best way to do this is by increasing the weight you’re using. But if you’re stuck doing home workouts, does that mean you need to keep buying heavier dumbbells? That would make your fitness journey way more complicated than it needs to be. So here’s what you need to do.
Implement Progressive Overload
Increase the weight – this is the most typical way of implementing progressive overload. Even just increasing the weight by five pounds will force your muscles to work harder and adapt quicker. Make a note of the weight you’re using each workout, so you don’t forget. Increase the volume of sets/reps – increasing the sets or reps forces your body to adapt to a higher intensity. It also builds metabolic stress, which makes your muscles look pumped. However, it also causes high amounts of muscle damage and glycogen depletion, which requires extended recovery periods. Plus, you can’t keep increasing your sets and reps forever, it isn’t practical. Nonetheless, this can be an effective intensity strategy for bodyweight or low load isolation exercises – avoid doing this method for compound exercises like squats and deadlifts. Decrease the rest time between sets – this causes you to work harder and keep your heart rate up. This method is better for endurance based exercise rather than hypertrophy (muscle building). So feel free to implement this on the upper body or lower body/HIIT superset day, but not for heavy lower body days when the rest time is important.
So now we’ve covered the bases, what are the more advanced methods for intensifying your bodyweight home workouts?
1. Alter the Tempo
As mentioned, this is an effective way to stimulate mechanical tension, one of the fundamental mechanisms for muscle building.
Mechanical tension involves increasing the time under strain, i.e., the amount of time your muscles contract, and the force they generate to complete the movement.
Remember, your muscles do not know the size of the weights you use; they only know the amount of tension.
The tempo of an exercise is the timing in which it’s performed, so if you wanted to increase the tempo of a squat, you’d count in your head ‘down 2, 3 4’ ‘pause, 2 3’ and accelerate up in ‘one.’
This is an example of a slow eccentric (lowering) phase, a pause at the bottom of the squat, and an accelerated concentric phase that brings you back to standing.
Performing an exercise slowly, alternating between a slower concentric and fast eccentric, or vice versa, increases time under tension and forces your muscles to adapt.
2. Play Around With Set Intensities
There are not just sets and reps. There are a wide variety of set and rep styles:
For intensity, you can perform a superset (performing each exercise immediately after the other).
There are various types of supersets:
Read more about different supersets.
3. Manipulate Range of Motions
When you perform an exercise with weights, you are causing axial loading, which may prevent a full range of motion.
For example, when doing a squat with a barbell on your back, your spine is in a manipulated position, so the full range of motion may be less.
Without any external weight, your range of motion is likely to increase. So play around with the depth and breadth of movement planes.
4. Manipulate Your Stance
Similarly to the above, you can alter your form to activate different muscles. Following the example of a squat, narrow squats target your quads while wide squats target your glutes.
With just slight alterations in your stance or position, all exercises can feel different.
5. Change the Position of Your Torso
While this doesn’t work for all exercises, some bodyweight exercises can be made more intense by changing the position of your torso.
For example, next time you do a pushup, try to put one hand behind your back and shift your weight onto the grounded side. This slight torso shift changes the plane of motion and rotation of your shoulder joint to hit differently.
6. Use Partials and Constant Tension
When you’re doing an exercise, play around with partial reps and constant tension.
For example, when performing a squat, you can try doing constant tension pulses while coming a quarter of the way up of a regular squat and pulse there for reps.
So, now, you have gotten six tips, let’s put them into practice to get the most out of your bodyweight training; whatever your goal.
Exercise Sets Reps Stance Tempo Bodyweight Squat 5 25 Wide Slow concentric, fast eccentric Pushup Superset
a) Conventional pushup
Constant tension push up
a) The standard for the first exercise
b) Keep constant tension by staying low and not coming all the way up
Performed quickly for metabolic stress to failure Burpees 5 15 Can be plank burpees, floor burpees or push up burpees Performed quickly as possible to increase heart rate Push-pull Superset
b) Can be wide or narrow
Slow concentric to increase intensity and muscle damage Plank 2 Failure N/A N/A Bulgarian Split Squat 5 50 each leg Wide Standard