Today, I’m teaching you exactly how I’ve been programming for my online clients without gym access to keep them progressing towards their leanest, strongest selves. You’ll get…
→ Plug & play templates to build your own at-home program
→ How to effectively load movements & build lean muscle at home
→ The CRUCIAL piece of at-home training most programs are missing
→ And much more…
I’m writing this article because I’ve heard from dozens of people, worried their physiques will drastically regress during quarantine.
This doesn’t have to be the case.
You can 100% still make progress the next few weeks.
When your life circumstances are less than optimal, all-or-nothing thinking is the enemy of progress.
You can still train effectively, even though you’re stuck at home – it just takes a smart approach.
Today, you’ll learn how I’ve been programming for my online clients without gym access to keep them progressing towards their leanest, strongest selves.
So first and foremost, we need to address the elephant in the room…
…Uhhhh, I don’t have any weights to train with. How can I expect to build lean muscle at home?
So here’s the thing – your muscles are dumb. All they know is tension.
This means that your muscle don’t know whether resistance is being applied to them in the form of a dumbbell… or a backpack filled with cans. As long as adequate tension is applied, you’ll be able to create growth. (Remember, build lean muscle is KEY to achieve a lean & strong physique, for both men and women – so we can’t neglect this.)
The MOST important factor for building lean muscle with your training at home?
You need to be able to take a movement the movements you train close to failure.
Basically, the closer you take a set to failure, the more muscle fibers it recruits and fatigues. Thus, the closer a set is to failure, the more effective it is at stimulating muscle growth (because it recruits and works more fibers.)
Thing is, only the reps ~3 from failure → failure are really going to recruit and fatigue enough muscle fibers to stimulate growth. These are the “effective reps” of the set.
The dope thing is, as long as you hit the “effective reps” zone, the actual number of reps (although ideally~5-30) doesn’t make that much difference. You just need to push it to the point you only have a few reps left in the tank.
So as long as you find a way to train all of your movements to ~3 Reps In Reserve (RIR) or less in the 5-30 rep range, you can achieve great results… regardless of your available equipment.
Over the last 4 weeks, my online clients and I have gotten very creative with the household objects used to create resistance, and the results have been great.
Here are a few of the most effective loading methods we’ve found so far ↴
→ Bands – These can be added to just about any movement to increase resistance. This is a must for your at-home training tool kit. (Don’t worry, they’re super cheap.) I would recommend getting at least two larger loops – one that’s ~5-15lbs, one that’s ~10-35lbs resistance. Something like these.
I would also recommend grabbing a hip loop band – something like this.
^That’ll put you at a total of $20-25, and will help your progress tremendously.
→ Loaded Backpack – Who knew your backpack was so versatile? My online clients have been loading backpacks with books, cans, and water bottles.
You can really load this up pretty damn heavy, and use it as an object to press…
To add load to hinges…
And even as a weight vest, to make lower body movements, push-ups, pull-ups, and plank variations much harder…
The loaded backpack + bands combo has really been the cornerstone of my online clients at home training progress. Between the two, you can create A LOT of resistance for most any movement.
→ Towels – Towels or Tupperware lids make good substitutes for floor sliders…
Super useful for a variety of core and hamstring movements.
→ Water Jugs – Both 1 gallon and 5 gallon water jugs can essentially be turned into adjustable dumbbells.
→ Wine Bottles & Water Bottles – Great for lateral raise variations, back flys, and other movements that require lighter objects.
As an example, here’s my online client Jenna crushing some Wine Bottle Around The World Lateral Raises.
→ Slower Negatives & Iso-Holds – We can increase the time-under-tension for each rep by slowing the “lowering” portion of a movement down to 3-5 seconds. Similarly, iso-holds (a 3-5 second pause + hold at the bottom of each rep of a split squat, for example) make a movement much more challenging WITHOUT the need to increase weight.
→ Increasing Range Of Motion – We can also make a movement more difficult by increasing the range of motion. (E.g. deficit push-ups with hands on books, deficit reverse lunges from books.)
→ Single-Leg & Single-Arm Movements – When we focus on single limb movements, we’re able to apply double the resistance you would have for a movement that used both arms or legs simultaneously.
For example: While all the backpack + band resistance you have might not be enough to make a traditional squat feel very challenging, it will DEFINITELY be enough to make a Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat absolutely brutal.
Every program I design for an online client puts a major emphasis on training all of the foundational movement patterns at least twice per week…
1. Squat/Knee Dominant Movement
2. Hinge/Hip Dominant Movement
3. Upper Body Push
4. Upper Body Pull
As long as you’ve trained these 5 patterns, you’ve trained every major muscle group in your body. So making Knee / Hip / Push / Pull / Core the skeleton of all your programs is a smart way to ensure you’re training effectively & efficiently.
Progressive overload is the key to building lean muscle – meaning your goal for most of your movements should either be:
1. Add reps with the same load & RIR target weekly – Example: You’re doing Split Squats wearing a 50lb back pack. Choose a rep & RIR range to progress these in (e.g. 3 sets 6-15 reps with 2RIR).
If Week 1 you can do 7 reps with 2RIR, then Week 2 your goal should be to hit 8 or more reps with 2RIR. Keep progressing this until you can do 15 reps with 2RIR. At this point, add load (more weight in the backpack or more bands), and start the progression over OR choose a new rep range to progress in.
2. Increase load for the same reps & RIR target as last week – Example: If you hit 8 reps of deficit push-ups at 2RIR wearing a 50lb backpack Week 1, aim to hit 8 reps at 2RIR wearing a 55lb backpack Week 2.
I’ve been using mostly option 1 for my online clients. It’s much easier to measure progression week-to-week – you essentially keep lifting the same exact object, but for more reps.
Option 2 leaves a lot more room for measurement error when it comes to determining if the object you are lifting is actually heavier than last week.
When it comes to building lean muscle, the 3 main variables we’re manipulating in an online client’s program are:
1. Frequency – How often you train a muscle group or movement pattern.
2. Volume – The number of hard sets (3RIR or less) you train a muscle group or movement pattern with.
3. Intensity – The load you are training with.
Now, if all 3 variables – frequency, volume, and intensity – are HIGH across your training week, you’ll do too much to recover from.
But, if all 3 variables are low, your training won’t provide enough stimulus to grow lean muscle.
Generally, one of the variables is high, one is moderate, and one is low.
Now, with at-home training your intensity will naturally be lower – you don’t have access to hundreds of pounds of dumbbells & barbells.
If volume goes too high, you’ll be VERY sore from all of the new movement patterns.
So for most, a high-frequency, moderate volume approach will be most effective here.
For most of my online clients, this means training full body, 3-4x/week has been the way to go.
Ok, FINALLY. Here’s what you came here for – your own plug & play training templates.
These are full customizable, so you’ll be able to fit them to your specific goals & equipment.
I would progress the same movements & rep ranges for 4 weeks here. After this, you can plug in new movements for all of your secondary exercises (all the movements after b1), and change your rep ranges (and movements if desired) for a & b1.
Movements plugged into patterns should be different for each training day. For example if your Knee Dominant Movement on Day 1 is a Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat, Day 3’s Knee Dominant Movement could be a Wall Slide Hack Squat.
And finally, here are movements for each pattern you can plug in (click the movement name for video links. *=Moves that can be loaded heavier with bands, loaded backpacks, etc.)
Delt/Upper Back Focused
And that is your exact prescription for crushing your at home training, regardless of how long quarantine lasts.
If you need more expert guidance and accountability with your nutrition & training, CLICK HERE NOW to apply for online coaching.
Jeremiah Bair is a certified nutrition coach, strength coach, and owner of the online coaching business Bairfit.