It is perfectly possible to get a ‘gym body’ without ever leaving the comfort of your own home.
Working out in the house is often cheaper, quicker and may be more efficient for you than taking time out to travel to a regular gym.
If you want to know how to build muscle at home then this is the post for you.
Because coming up with a plan on your own can seem daunting, we’ll look at the basics of how muscle building works. We’ll then look at some different exercises you can do with no equipment other than basic free weights.
How Muscle Building Works: The Basics
Muscle hypertrophy (that’s muscle growth) occurs when stressed and damaged muscles repair themselves.
Exercise beyond what the muscle is used to will cause the muscle to run out of fuel and the small elastic fibres in the muscle will develop tears.
During rest, the muscles repair themselves using nutrients taken from food.
Resting is the other essential component in muscle building. If the muscles are worked constantly they just don’t get the chance to rebuild. Muscles grow during recovery, not during workout: that’s science.
If you can’t bear to take days off, you can follow a split-routine plan which focuses on different muscle groups on different days – that way you take minimum time off each week but your muscles still get repair time.
Trust Your Body
The path to building muscle at home might get a little lonely without some support. There’s no personal trainer or gym staff to question, and no induction process to make sure you’re doing things correctly.
Our advice is to trust yourself. Take things steady and listen to your body. If something doesn’t feel right, chances are it isn’t.
If this is the case then remember to stop and check out some advice online. There are plenty of articles and videos demonstrating how to perform most exercises. Once you’ve checked them out, try again, slowly, with more knowledge.
It can be easy to film yourself doing exercises whilst at home – and far less embarrassing than trying to do it at the gym. By reviewing videos, you can analyse your form against the guides you’re looking at online to ensure you’re going about things the right way.
Exercises for Muscle Building At Home
For building muscle at home, we need exercises that can be done in a small space with little-to-no equipment.
Whilst you can get decent bits of workout machinery like home gyms, we appreciate that most people want to work out from home due to two things: cost and motivation.
If you pick yourself up a home gym, it’s much easier to think of routines to do as there are often at least ten different exercises you can do on each machine.
Below, we’ve got some suggestions for bodyweight workouts, free weights, cardio along with ideas on some basic equipment that could take your home-built muscles to the next level.
Exercises that use your own bodyweight are a great place to start with at home.
These exercises use no complicated or expensive equipment and will teach you to listen to your body and align your main muscle groups.
Bodyweight exercises are what give martial artists their lean toned physique, so it’s perfectly possible to achieve great muscle tone and definition this way. You can also build extremely strong, ripped physiques using bodyweight alone in a process known as ‘calisthenics’.
Focus on your form in the following exercises for the fastest way to build up.
We’ve listed our favourite bodyweight exercises for the home below:
One of the best exercises to target the chest, arms, and shoulders. The push-up needs no equipment whatsoever, and there are plenty of ways to switch it up and make things more difficult once you can easily handle the basic version.
A staple of most workouts, the simple squat is highly effective at building the legs. Keep your back straight with a neutral spine and your chest and shoulders up – focus on keeping your knees and shoulders aligned.
Hailed as a miracle exercise, the plank might not be miraculous but it is a simple and very effective way of working the whole body. If you can hold a plank for 1 or 1.5 minutes you’ll start to feel the burn. The challenge is to build up your time.
These crunches, in which alternate knees are brought towards the opposite elbows, are a popular exercise for working the abs, obliques, and core.
The burpee is a monster of an exercise that will work every part of your body, including the cardiovascular system. It is a good addition to a circuit training workout, but if you live in a flat, your downstairs neighbours might not be impressed.
To perform a burpee start from a standing position. Drop down, placing your hands either side of your feet then jump back into plank position. Do a push-up then jump forward placing your feet in between your hands. From here, jump straight up, raising your hands above your head.
If you’ve seen great results from bodyweight exercises but would like to go further you will need to invest in some equipment. Keeping the equipment to a minimum will keep costs low, avoid clutter and keep things simple.
We would recommend using a barbell or dumbbells and a flat bench. With these basic pieces of equipment, you can do a number of exercises that will take you past the point you can reach with bodyweight alone.
Using free weights has the advantage that you must use your core strength to stabilise during each exercise, working on a wider range of muscles than gym machines which restrict your range of movement.You can also use your new set of weights to add difficulty to the familiar bodyweight exercises – holding a weight to your chest when you squat for example.
The following free weight exercises should give you some ideas to start building your at home free weight routine.
Lunges using bodyweight only will work your glutes, hamstrings, and quads, but adding weights makes them super effective.
To lunge, hold your dumbbells with your hands hanging down at your sides. Take a long step forward with one leg, bending the front leg to 90 degrees. The back knee should bend and graze the floor.
Work your arms and back with the barbell row.
With an overhand grip on the bar, fold forward from the waist keeping your back straight. Raise and lower the bar at 90 degrees to the ground, keeping your elbows tucked in.
Watch your form and if you have back problems, avoid this exercise.
What everyone thinks of when they imagine a powerlifter; the barbell deadlift.
This will mainly work your hamstrings but will call on your core, lower back, glutes, and quads.
Dumbbell Bench Press
Lie back on your flat bench and grip a dumbbell in each hand. The dumbbells are pressed straight up in front of the shoulders until the arms are fully extended, and lowered under control, towards the armpit area.
Dumbbell bench presses will build your chest and require you to use many smaller muscles to stabilise the exercise. Changing your grip on the dumbbells tweaks the exercise to emphasise different muscles.
This exercise is very similar to the bodyweight squat you learned about above but uses the barbell to increase the difficulty level. Your glutes, legs, and core will all get a thorough workout from this one movement.
During the normal squat movement, your shoulder blades are squeezed to form a rest for the barbell, with the hands facing forward as they grip the barbell. The added weight will ensure you build more muscle than using bodyweight alone.
We know cardio isn’t strictly about building muscle, but it will help you keep down fat so that your muscles look their best. Cardio for burning fat works best when restricted to short bursts lasting less than 20 minutes in Hyper Intensity Interval Training (HIIT).
Beyond 20 minutes of cardio, the body begins to break down the muscles for fuel, cancelling out any muscle building exercise you have been doing.
Skipping is an ideal exercise to get your heart-rate up in a small space and short time. You could build it into a circuit routine – all you’ll need is a skipping rope which is cheap and compact too.
Circuit training is a great, no-equipment workout that will bulk up muscle and cut fat at home.
An all-strength circuit can burn 30% more calories than an ordinary weights session.
Circuits help you stay motivated too, as moving through the different exercises keeps things fresh. Combine cardio, free weights and/or bodyweight exercises for your ideal plan.
With these muscle building at home ideas, you’ll be able to save time, money, and still build a body you can be proud of.
Let us know how you get on with building muscle at home.
What are your favourite exercises? How are you keeping motivated?