Going to the gym may be the most straightforward way of gaining muscle but it is by no means the only way. I’ve written previous articles on how to stay in shape without a gym, and what to do if you don’t have access to a gym. For today’s focus I’d like to spend some time talking about how to consistently keep building muscle and strength beyond just adding weight.
If you are stuck at home and don’t have the variety in weights as you would in a gym, focusing on rep manipulation is one tool you can use. First, I would recommend trying different rep ranges. We often get stuck doing the same exercises in one rep range, only to see our weights incrementally going up because we’ve just spent so long on it. It’s actually good to break away from this plateau if you find you are getting stuck. If you’ve been doing squats for 5-10 reps, spend 4-6 weeks shooting for 10-15 reps. It will give your body a new stimulus to adapt to, and you’ll find you’re making quicker adaptations than if you had stayed with your previous routine.
We can make it even simpler than that. Stop trying to add weight or change the exercise every single time. Shoot for one rep more than you did the workout before. So if you are doing squats for 10-15 reps, choose a weight or movement you can get 10 reps on. Next week try for 11 reps, then 12, etc. This is still progression and will give your body the signal it needs to grow.
Increase Your Range of Motion
Studies show an exercise done with a full range of motion stimulates more muscle growth than an exercise done with a shortened range. You are recruiting more of your muscle fibers by doing so, and forcing it to do more work within a given set. I think it’s super easy to get caught up in the gym at solely increasing weight that you don’t even realize you’ve been shortening up on your form for the sake of being able to do more work. Spend your at home workouts focusing on increasing that range of motion, so when you do go back to a gym you may start off with less weight, but ultimately you will grow more muscle.
Increase Your Mind Muscle Connection
If aesthetics is your goal, then you need to feel the muscle you want to grow, actually working when doing the exercise it’s meant to hit. You can do chest work all day, but if all you do is feel it in your shoulders, then guess what? Your chest probably will not grow as much as it could be. Again, this comes back to technique, and mobility. You don’t need a gym for this. Use your time at home, or wherever you are training to go lighter in weight, and focus on building a strong mind muscle connection to hit that target muscle.
If you are at home doing push-ups, try slowing down the pace with which you do them and really focus on letting the chest do all the work both lowering and pushing up. You might find you do a lot less reps to get the same job done.
Change the Tempo
This is another great tool if you are stuck at home to help make the workouts more challenging to stimulate muscle growth. Do the opposite of what you’ve been doing. So if you’ve been spending a lot of time on faster, explosive reps, now try slowing everything down. Let your body take 4 seconds to come down on a squat and hold it at the bottom for 2 seconds. This will completely change the amount of reps you are going to do. If you haven’t ever done this, be prepared to see your muscles get sore and grow from this new stimulus. You can also spend time focusing on the squeeze. If you were doing curls, utilize a 2-3 seconds contraction at the top and really feel that muscle contract before lowering it again.
The More You Know
Try utilizing one method at a time and see how your body changes. This is the beauty of training to gain muscle. It doesn’t have to be about solely adding weight to the bar. All of the above methods can be done if you are stuck at home with little to no weights and STILL provide gains. Cycling through each technique can provide you with years of new gains, and new ways to max out your potential which ultimately should be the goal if muscle growth is the goal.