Ultimate At-Home Workouts
Volume One: The One with the Session from the Night of March 7th
Recently, I’ve been forced to do almost all of my training at home. At first, this might not sound like that big of a deal to you. If you have read my posts—or my articles—for any length of time, then you know that I trained at home for years. But that was different. At one time, I had over 1,300 pounds of weights in my garage. (I counted the total amount of weight one point, but I don’t remember what it was—and I probably accumulated even more stuff after I counted it.) My entire garage was a gym. This included a squat rack, a bench press (Forza, good stuff), and a deadlift platform.
When my wife and I separated a couple of years ago, I trained with minimum equipment. At the time, I really didn’t know how to train using minimal equipment, since I hadn’t done it since I was a teenager and my father bought me one of those old, concrete DP sets for my 15th birthday. (On a note unrelated to the rest of this post, I want to say that a lot of lifters around my age owe a great debt to DP for getting us started in the iron game. I digress…) Anyway, I experimented with minimal-equipment training and I got some good results. (Which you can read on past entries here on the blog.)
But that didn’t last too long. After a couple months of at home workouts, I moved all of my weights to a friend’s garage/wrecker pen. And I’ve been training consistently there for the last year and a half (or so).
That changed recently. I had to move my weights. So I called up my training partner Puddin’ (or, rather, he called me) and we moved all of those weights to a mini-storage. I’m sure that before long I will once again find a place to store my weights (such as a new house), but until that time arrives I am going to make the most of my situation. (Puddin’—also known as “The Ox” and “Big Perm”; occasionally known by his given name, Richard—will have none of this bodyweight and limited equipment training. He needs his heavy iron—or so he says—and so he plans on joining a local gym for the time being.)
And so, I go it alone.
I’m kind of looking forward to it. I’ve wanted to write a bodyweight-training article for some time, so I’m going to experiment with several training strategies that I believe to be effective—strategies that I didn’t use during my last stint with this sort of training. So far, I’m enjoying the workouts, and the results that I’m getting.
I’m limiting my weights even more than my situation requires. I have space where I currently live for more equipment, but for the time being I’m going to stick with a few pair of dumbbells.
Before we go any further, I want to give you some advice about at-home workouts. Much of this advice applies to workouts in your garage gym or your average commercial gym, but I think that it would do some good to discuss it. (By the way, some of this advice is not the typical stuff you’ll hear from the “experts” in a lot of the muscle magazines or—God forbid—the internet forums.) But I think it’s sound advice none-the-less:
· Train hard. True, I don’t always recommend training to “failure”. But you still need to push yourself. The harder you push yourself—always striving to move more and more weight; always striving for a few more repetitions—the better the results.
· Stick with basic exercises. One of the beauties of at-home training is that it forces you to work hard on basic exercises. You could do worse than a hard session of bodyweight squats, push-ups (in whatever variety you choose to use), overhead dumbbell presses, dumbbell rows, and farmer’s walks.
· Don’t be afraid to train long. I know that it’s popular these days to workout for 45 minutes, then call it quits. But I want to go on record right now and say that some of the best results I’ve ever gotten are with hard workouts that lasted 1 and a half to 2 hours long. When I was powerlifting, I broke all my personal bests with Russian-style training that typically lasted 2 hours. And in the past year, I put on a lot of muscle mass—not to mention strength—when I trained 4 to 5 days per week, with sessions lasting at least one and a half hours.
· Overtraining is for pussies! Okay, maybe I went slightly overboard with this one. But, seriously, the whole overtraining thing has been way overdone. Guys from the past that were massively big and strong ( such as Anthony Ditillo) and guys currently (think Christian Thibaudeau, Charles Staley, Chad Waterbury, and myself) always recommend that the more frequently you can train, the better. Of course, the frequent training has to be tempered with wisdom and insight, but it’s still the best way to go as long as you know what you’re doing.
To give you a good idea of what an “ultimate at-home workout” might look like, here is the workout that I performed this evening:
· After a couple sets of hill sprints to get the blood flowing, I started the workout with dumbbell deadlifts for speed. Using 80-pound dumbbells, I performed 5 set of 10 reps. The goal on each repetition was to explode as fast as possible, then lower the weight under control.
· Next up was one of the best exercises you can ever do with a pair of dumbbells in your hands: the farmer’s walk. For these, I walked back and forth in my back yard until I felt fairly fatigued. (Yeah, I know, you think that’s kind of vague.) Using the 80 pound dumbbells again, I walked until I felt as if I was about to drop the weight, rested a couple of minutes, then repeated this for 8 more sets.
· The third exercise was one-arm overhead presses. Once again, it was the 80s. I didn’t push these as hard (since I did a whole shite-load of push-ups the night before), but I still did 5 sets of 5 reps.
· The “heavy” stuff out of the way, I grabbed my 30 pound dumbbells and cranked out 5 sets of 20 reps of dumbbell overhead presses. I moved fast here; resting just long enough to catch my breath.
· For the final “weighted” exercise of the session, I did 100 reps of dumbbell curls with the 30s. For these, I did a set of 20, rested very briefly, did a set of 20, rested very briefly again, and then repeated for another 3 sets.
· Last, but definitely not least, I did sets of 50-rep bodyweight squats for 30 minutes. I’m not sure how many sets I did here. I did a set, rested long enough to get my strength back, did another set, and repeated in like manner until the 30-minutes were over.
· All told, the workout took around an hour and 45 minutes to 2 hours. Of course, half of the workout was comprised of farmer’s walks and bodyweight squats.
The key to making this training effective is to string several of these kinds of workouts together during a week. And then to string the weeks together into months, and the months into years, and then… well, you get it.