Whether you’re a full-blown fitness fanatic or just getting started on your exercise journey, the gym is probably your first port of call when it comes to strength training. But choosing to build muscle at home can be just as effective as sweating it out at your local sports centre. Muscle building exercises can be performed just about anywhere, with or without equipment. So, if you’re looking for more flexibility in your workout routine, you’ve come to the right place.
Just because you can build muscle at home doesn’t mean you should do it without a plan. Some muscle building exercises are more effective than others, but how well a routine works for you really depends on your individual needs. Before you get started, you’ll need to consider what your goals are, your current level of fitness, and what has and hasn’t worked for you in the past. This will help you to create the best muscle building workout for you right at this moment, so don’t worry if the exercises you do change over time.
While it’s true everyone needs to tailor their workout to suit their own needs, it will be difficult to build muscle at home if you’re focussing solely on cardio and stretching. These definitely have their place and will help you to develop an all-round level of fitness, but if you’re looking to hone in on muscle definition, it’s important to focus on muscle building exercises.
We’ve broken down some of the different types of workouts you can do to start off. There’s something for everyone, including beginners without equipment to more experienced gym-goers with a home setup of their own.
The easiest entry into building muscle at home is undoubtedly bodyweight training. Requiring no equipment whatsoever, you can put together an effective routine using an exercise mat and a little bit of willpower. It’s true that lifting heavier weights help you to make progress more quickly, but bodyweight training shouldn’t be disregarded even by the most seasoned athletes as a way of building muscle.
A workout classic, push-ups help you to build the muscles in your chest and arms. While most people will be familiar with a standard press-up, there are many variations you can try to work different muscles and give yourself an extra challenge. For beginners who are struggling, we’d recommend starting with push-ups on your knees or incline push-ups, which involve using a bench or box under your hands. Don’t feel pressured to go straight down on the floor if you’re finding this move too difficult. Instead, try a wall press-up to strengthen your muscles.
If a standard press-up is proving to be too easy, decline push-ups offer an extra challenge. These involve resting your feet on an elevated surface rather than your hands. You can also perform a press-up one-handed to really build your arms. Make sure you repeat this exercise an even number of times on each arm, switching after a set number of reps rather than alternating with each press-up.
Moving onto your legs, squats are one of the many muscle building exercises that get right into your glutes, hamstrings and quadriceps. Squats are accessible to beginners but will require you to have proper form to avoid injury. Remember to make sure your knees track over your toes and aren’t extending any further.
There are many different kinds of squats that you can perform to build muscle at home, from sumo squats to jump squats. To work your calves as well as your glutes, lift your heels to stand on your toes when rising out of your squat. While you don’t need any equipment to perform squats, many people add mini bands into their workout to add an extra layer of resistance. Simply loop the mini band around your thighs and your squats will be even more intense than before.
When it comes to strengthening your core and back muscles, planks are an all-time favourite for a reason. They’re easy to perform but not so easy to hold for longer periods of time, so don’t worry if you can only stay there for 15 seconds or less. In time, you’ll be able to build up to holding your planks for a minute or more. With planks, you need to make sure your body is in one long line with your hands directly underneath your shoulders. Avoid arching your spine throughout the move.
Similarly to push-ups and squats, there are plenty of plank variations that can help you to challenge your strength. Side planks, reverse planks and planks with shoulder taps can all help you to build muscle at home. Exercises like mountain climbers and plank jumps allow you to combine cardio with your strength training and can be incorporated into a HIIT routine as well.
If you’re looking to step up your strength training, using weights can help you to create the best muscle building workout you’ve had to this day. Beneficial for both your upper body and lower body, incorporating weights into your routine can accelerate muscle growth and challenge your body like never before. However, it’s important to remember to start small. Never push your body beyond its limits, especially with heavier weights, and prioritise good form over more reps.
Here are some of the most popular ways to incorporate weights into your home workouts.
Probably the most accessible way of lifting weights at home, a set of dumbbells can be incorporated into your current bodyweight routine. While you can use dumbbells on their own to perform bicep curls, lateral raises and overhead presses, they can also be used while lunging and squatting to work more muscle groups.
With dumbbells, you have two choices. You can either choose a lighter weight to perform a higher number of reps or increase the weight you lift for a smaller number of reps. Both of these exercises help you to gain muscle mass, but performing more reps can make you more likely to sacrifice your form as you get tired. Equally, if your dumbbell is too heavy, you won’t be able to maintain your form properly to avoid injury. We’d always advise a variety of dumbbells that you can swap between depending on how you feel.
Not unlike dumbbells, kettlebells can be incorporated into your bodyweight training programme. Particularly popular for using during squats, kettlebells can give your muscles an extra challenge. We’d usually recommend kettlebells to users who are already familiar with dumbbells. If you’re an absolute beginner, you may find it difficult to master some of the moves, making it harder to perform exercises to gain muscle effectively.
One of the best workouts to gain muscle, barbells are the ultimate challenge. While we invite beginners to begin barbell training, they should only do so when they’re fully confident in their form.
Barbells are commonly seen in gyms, but you can buy barbells for your home as well. They’re more of an investment than other kinds of weights and require more space to store, but you are likely to see benefits more quickly when using them regularly.
If you’ve never used barbells before, starting off with a standard technique Olympic bar is an affordable and versatile choice. Even if you’re interested in moving onto powerlifting, using a power bar should only be attempted by experienced weightlifters. Once you’ve got your bar of choice, add plates to customise the weight you lift.
While barbells are typically associated with working on your upper body, you can strengthen any muscle group depending on the movement you choose. With your standard Olympic bar, you’ll be able to perform a range of exercises like deadlifts, squats, overhead presses and bench presses. If you’re ever unsure about performing an exercise, make sure you consult an expert to avoid injury.
While working out is going to be the main thing that helps you to build muscle, your diet plays a significant part as well. Even the best muscle building workout won’t help you to improve your fitness if all you eat is junk food. If you’ve been working out for a while and aren’t seeing the results you expected, what you’re eating might be the culprit. Here are some food groups you need to be considering when taking your strength training more seriously.
You can’t build muscle without protein. Foods containing protein are made up of amino acids, which are essential building blocks that help to promote muscle growth and repair tears after working out. Make sure your meals contain plenty of lean meat, seafood, eggs and some dairy products. Plant-based alternatives include tofu, lentils, chickpeas and beans. If you’re struggling to get enough protein, you could look into protein powders that you can mix into smoothies and breakfast bowls.
The so-called enemy of dieters everywhere, carbohydrates are essential to maintaining energy levels no matter what your workout routine looks like. Even if you’re looking to lose weight while building muscle, cutting out carbs is a recipe for disaster. Make sure you’re incorporating carbohydrates into your diet so that you have enough energy to work hard. Popular carbohydrates amongst gym-goers include quinoa, oats, sweet potatoes and whole grains.
A mistake that many people make with strength training is cutting out their greens in favour of protein-dense foods. It’s important to keep your diet balanced and fruits and vegetables are filled with essential nutrients to keep your body working properly. Pair your steamed fish with a side of leafy greens and add a handful of berries to your porridge in the morning.
Don’t underestimate the power of rest. No matter what stage you’re at in your workout journey, rest should always be factored into your routine. Lifting weights every day is likely to result in an overuse injury, even if you’re lifting safely. This could write you off from working out for a much longer period of time, so when your body feels tired, it’s time to take a break.
On the days when you’re not strength training, it’s important to stretch and keep your body moving with some gentle exercise, like going for a walk. Having time off doesn’t mean you’ll lose the progress you’ve made, in fact, your rest days are giving your body time to build up those muscles you’ve worked so hard.
If your muscles are feeling particularly sore, you could try using a foam roller. This helps to lessen knots and feelings of tightness while promoting normal blood flow in a similar way to a massage.
Some of the best workouts to gain muscle can be performed at home, but if you’re an avid gym-goer you might be wondering whether the switch is right for you. Working out more at home can give you more flexibility in not only your schedule but also your strength training routine. You’ll be able to customise the equipment you use and take control of when you use it. Many people who are serious about increasing their muscle mass find it easier to stick to a routine when they can fit their exercises around their everyday life.