We're up against time more often than not in the modern world. Time is one of the biggest factors in not being able to schedule our workouts. This article will inform you of the three pieces of equipment (complete with programs!) for the best home workouts to ensure ongoing fat loss/fitness progress. Whether you always want to train from home, or can't get to the gym on any given day, this article will serve both scenarios.  

The Home Barbell Weight Set  

I used one of these during the Covid-19 induced lockdown, and told everyone my surprising discovery: it's harder than training at the gym! Even after 10+ years of lifting experience, it was not easy at all. This is because there's no hiding. You can't go and slack off on a machine. You have to perform a taxing movement; every time. 

The at-home barbell workout

The following workout is full of compound movements; there's nowhere to hide. No pin-loaded machines to hide away on, just old-fashioned tough lifting!

You'll aim for 12-15 reps to muscle failure, and always do more if you can. For some of you, the weight will be lighter than if you were to go to the gym. But don't be concerned, higher reps to muscle failure still illicit muscle gains (1). 

In this program, you'll get two days off, Thursday and Sunday. Here's what muscles you're working across what days:

Monday: Quads, chest, back, hamstrings.

Tuesday: Shoulders, Triceps, glutes, biceps.

Wednesday: Quads, chest, back, hamstrings.

Thursday: OFF

Friday: Repeat Monday (Quads, chest, back, hamstrings)

Saturday: Shoulders, triceps, rear delts, biceps

Sunday: OFF

We're not adopting a traditional: Monday = legs, Tuesday = chest approach, because that's not an ideal approach for muscle growth and strength gains. This is because after 48 hours, your muscles have healed and they can be trained again (2). In this program, chest, quads, and hamstrings will be trained three times each, with 12 sets performed across the week in total. This is because 10-20 sets is a good range for muscle growth (3). 

Here's what the first day will look like for you, utilising a barbell only:

Monday:

4 x walking barbell lunges (Walk as far as you can and turn around and keep going until muscle failure).

barbell lunges

4 x weighted push-ups

weighted push ups

4 x barbell bent-over rows

barbell bent over rows

4 x stiff-legged deadlifts 

barbell stiff leg deadlift

Tuesday:

4 x standing military barbell press

standing barbell military press

4 x skull crushers -- You can perform this lying on the ground with a yoga towel as you likely don't have a bench at home.

barbell skullcrushers

4 x elevated single-leg hip thrust. (Here, place the barbell on the thigh of the glute you are working on and balance it with both hands. Target one glute at a time, and try the exercise against a step, chair, or lounge. If you can't find something reasonable, simply lie flat on the floor as seen in the second picture and add resistance with the weight plates on your lap).

elevated single leg hip lift

4 x standing barbell curls

standing barbell curls

Wednesday:

4 x Barbell Bulgarian split squat (again, use a chair or something elevated outside as you likely don't have a bench).

Bulgarian Split Squats

4 x Decline push-ups

Decline push ups

4 x barbell bent-over rows

barbell bent over rows

4 x stiff-legged deadlifts

stiff leg deadlifts

Thursday:

Off.

Friday: (repeat Monday)

Saturday:

4 x Standing side raises

standing barbell lateral raises

4 x bench dips -- Add weights to your lap to increase difficulty. Use a chair against a wall for a bench for maximum stability. 

bodyweight bench dips

4 x standing rear delt raise (Use the handles on the weight plates that you put on your barbell).

standing dumbbell rear delt raises

4 x standing barbell curls

standing barbell curl

Sunday: 

Off.

That's a challenging program that will really test you, regardless of whether you find the weight light or not. Be sure to eat adequately and recover with 8-10 hours of sleep.

On the days you can't get to the gym, try this for size, and you'll see how hard it really is!

The second piece of home gym equipment can also be worked into this program:

Tube Resistance Bands with Handles AND Loop Bands

Resistance bands are easy to store away, are not heavy at all, and are very effective for your training. They have been shown to be potent for muscle strength and growth in not only the elderly (4) but in healthy university American football players men from 18-30 years old (5).

With one of the key principles of muscle growth being metabolic stress, resistance bands will fatigue and fill your muscles with blood in a way free weights cannot, in turn allowing for metabolic stress (6).

You'll need at least five bands of both varietys with various resistance. You want your fifth to be very challenging, and the rest to be a little less with each band.

Here, you're able to work many muscles, just make sure you take the sets to muscle failure or thereabouts for optimal results!  

Below are some exercises you can use the resistance bands with for the mentioned muscle group:

Chest

There's no need for bands here for the push-ups, but don't discount how difficult old-fashioned pushups are!

resistance band chest press

Quads

Simply perform squats as you normally would, except hold the handles as if it were a squat bar.

resistance band squats

 

Hamstrings

Every second hamstring workout, I'd recommend swapping out the stiff-legged deadlifts with the banded hamstring curls:

lying down resistance hamstring curl

Biceps

These are the standing bicep curls. Use both hands.

During other sets, you can isolate one arm at a time. You can do this by dropping the opposing handle to the arm you're working, and taking a little step towards the bicep you're working, to increase the resistance!

standing resistance band bicep curl

Triceps 

Perform banded tricep kick-backs by using your extended elbow to call upon the triceps. Don't use your shoulders to throw your hands towards your glutes!

Remember: Let your elbow extend and call upon your triceps.

standing resistance band tricep kick back

Again, it's the same deal with the one-arm tricep extensions below: slowly extend your elbow to be sure to not cause injury.

single arm resistance tricep extension

Glutes

The glute kickbacks below will really get the blood pumping! Be sure to hold it at the end position to really get a strong contraction.

resistance band glute kick backs

Shoulders

For the shoulder presses, we're imagining the handles of the bands are the handles of dumbells.

Tip: The further back your leg is (see the left leg of the performer below) the more resistance you can create! 

resistance band standing shoulder press

To emulate side raises with a dumbbell, perform the lateral raises below:

resistance band standing lateral raises

Back

The bent-over rows are very testing! 

resistance band bent over row

Try one arm at a time for added difficulty. Do that by getting yourself into the position as seen below, and bring the handle up to your chest region:

resistance band standing one arm row

The best at-home workout for muscle growth

You can swap out any of the barbell exercises on any given day for the bands, or add some bands to the current barbell program.

Here's what I mean by adding in the bands:

Monday:

4 x walking barbell lunges 

4 x weighted push-ups

4 x barbell bent-over rows -- Do just 2 sets of barbell bent-over rows and 2 sets of the banded bent over rows (below) to make 4 sets:

4 x stiff-legged deadlifts (Every second workout, do 4 x banded hamstring curls instead).

You can do this with all exercises to mix it up. 

At home dumbbells

These go up to 24 kilos, enough for even some seasoned lifters on lots of exercises. They can be stored outside undercover or in a garage, and work by you setting them at the weight you want and lifting them out of their case. They save a lot of time compared to other dumbbell options as you don't have to screw on and off your desired weight. 

Here are some exercises you can do utilising these dumbbells:

  • Floor chest presses
  • Dumbbell lunges
  • Dumbbell split squats (utilise a steady chair)
  • Standing barbell curls:
  • Triceps extensions (do them on the floor)
  • Dumbbell curtsy lunge: To work your LEFT glute, lunge back with your RIGHT foot slightly more to the LEFT than where your RIGHT foot is:
  • Lateral raises
  • Shoulder presses
  • Standing rear-delt raise
  • Bent over rows
  • Single-arm rows

Again, these exercises can be performed on the days you are training that specific muscle group. Otherwise, here is a program using all three pieces of equipment: The barbell, the bands, and the dumbbells:

Monday: Quads, chest, back, hamstrings.

4 x Barbell walking lunges 

4 x floor chest presses (dumbbell)

4 x single-arm dumbbell row

4 x banded hamstring curls

Tuesday: Shoulders, Triceps, glutes, biceps.

4 x dumbbell presses

4 x barbell skull crushers

4 x curtsy lunges

4 x standing barbell press

Wednesday: Quads, chest, back, hamstrings.

4 x dumbbell split squats

4 x decline push-ups

4 x banded bent-over rows

4 x barbell stiff-legged deadlifts 

Thursday: OFF

Friday: Repeat Monday (Quads, chest, back, hamstrings)

Saturday: Shoulders, triceps, rear delts, biceps

4 x standing military barbell press

4 x banded tricep extensions

4 x standing dumbbell rear-delt raise

4 x banded bicep curls

Sunday: OFF

Remember: You can use just the barbell program solely if you like, or bring in other banded exercises and dumbbell exercises where you'd like. If you're new to resistance training, try all exercises ahead of a workout with no pressure to see which ones you test you the most. 

For an honourable mention, I'd suggest a fourth piece of a equipment in the form of an exercise bench. However, you should be able to improvise and work around it! But if you find you'd much rather train at home, it could be worth investing in one.  

But regardless of what path you chose, by following the above workouts, you're sure to be tested and progress as you please!  

References

(1) Mitchell CJ, Churchward-Venne TA, West DW, et al. Resistance exercise load does not determine training-mediated hypertrophic gains in young men. J Appl Physiol (1985). 2012;113(1):71-77. doi:10.1152/japplphysiol.00307.2012

(2) Phillips SM, Tipton KD, Aarsland A, et al. Mixed muscle protein synthesis and breakdown after resistance exercise in humans. Am J Physiol. 1997;273:E99–E107.

(3) Schoenfeld BJ, Ogborn D, Krieger JW. Dose-response relationship between weekly resistance training volume and increases in muscle mass: A systematic review and meta-analysis. J Sports Sci. 2017 Jun;35(11):1073-1082. doi: 10.1080/02640414.2016.1210197. Epub 2016 Jul 19. PMID: 27433992.

(4) Lee JW, Kim SB, Kim SW. Effects of elastic band exercises on physical ability and muscular topography of elderly females. J Phys Ther Sci. 2018;30(2):248-251. doi:10.1589/jpts.30.248

(5) Ghigiarelli JJ, Nagle EF, Gross FL, Robertson RJ, Irrgang JJ, Myslinski T. The effects of a 7-week heavy elastic band and weight chain program on upper-body strength and upper-body power in a sample of division 1-AA football players. J Strength Cond Res. 2009 May;23(3):756-64. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181a2b8a2. PMID: 19387404.

(6) Schoenfeld BJ. Potential mechanisms for a role of metabolic stress in hypertrophic adaptations to resistance training. Sports Med. 2013 Mar;43(3):179-94. doi: 10.1007/s40279-013-0017-1. PMID: 23338987.