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4-Week At-Home Workout

Stay home, train hard, and see great muscle and strength gains with this full-body do-anywhere training program.

At Home Full Body Workout

There was a time when men were men and women had to be just as tough and durable. They didn’t go to Gold’s Gym and do their cardio on smooth, non-impact elliptical machines. No, they plowed rutted fields behind mules. They built their own living and storage spaces. They harvested or killed, prepped, and cooked every meal from scratch – that is, when they were lucky enough to find food. There was no option back then but to be fit and strong. And somehow, people did it all without gyms.

Maybe you think you’re too manly to lift a few objects around the house, all because you lift heavy weights in the gym. Well, try going out and deadlifting the rear-end of your car, Mr. World Record deadlifter! You ain’t so bad now, are you?

Okay, now that our egos are in check, it’s time to get a grip. For whatever reason (kids home sick from school, traveling for work, maybe a global pandemic), you have no access to your commercial gym. So, you have two options: (1) Give up and lose all your gains, or (2) apply some science and ingenuity to what you have access to at home and not only maintain what you built in the gym, but add some new gains to it. (Hint: Option 2 is the way to go.)

This program – the centerpiece of my $5K At-Home Challenge – uses your own body as your main exercise machine, along with a few items that are lying around almost any household. I’ve already given you workouts for individual muscle groups in my At-Home Workout article series, but here I’m putting it all together with a weekly training split and periodized progressive overload over the course of four weeks.

At-Home Training Split

If you’re thinking I’m going to make you do a bunch of calisthenics, Insanity-style, think again. Those types of workouts may be good for calorie burning, but they won’t help you build real muscle mass. To do that, you need an organized plan.

Instead of just training the whole body with a bunch of bodyweight moves, my 4-week plan uses a typical training split that includes a chest day, back day, leg day, shoulder day, and arms day (triceps and biceps). That’s a 5-day split – very similar to a split you’d use in the gym. Here’s the workout-by-workout breakdown every week:

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Adding Abs and Calves 

I didn't include abs or calves in the training split; I've left it up to you to add those smaller muscle groups into your training if you want. Feel free to train abs or calves (or even both) at the end of any of the above workouts – up to three days per week for either muscle group. Or, just go ahead train abs and/or calves whenever you want, like on active rest days or at separate times during the day from the other workouts.

Workouts for abs and calves can be found in my At-Home Abs and Calves Workout article. When adding abs to a workout in the above training split, choose only one of the ab routines in the aforementioned article. 

For example, if you wanted to train abs three days a week and calves twice a week, you could add the Tabata abs routine to Day 1 (after chest), the abs extended set to Day 3 (after legs), and the crunch around the clock routine to Day 5 (after arms). And then you could add the calves extended sets to Days 2 and 4 (after back and shoulders, respectively). 

At-Home Intensity Boosters

Without heavy weights and machines to push you to your limit, we’ll need to organize exercises in a manner that allows for the same intensity as your normal gym workouts. That said, exercise order is crucial in these workouts.

All workouts start with a general warm-up for 10-15 minutes to increase body temperature. Here, I recommend a stationary cycle, treadmill, jumping jacks, running in place, or other comparable activity.

After the general warm-up, each workout follows with a specific dynamic warm-up, typically involving calisthenics exercises like walking lunges, arm circles, and arm swings. This form of warm-up can actually prime the nervous system to allow for more strength during the workout.

After the dynamic warm-up, most workouts follow with more dynamic work. You’ll do fast, explosive reps with light weight to develop more power when the fast-twitch muscles are at their strongest.

From there, the workouts attack the target muscles to exhaust them with intensity techniques like pre-exhaust, extended sets, and Tabatas, just to name a few. Feel free to add HIIT cardio in any form to the end of these workouts if you like. 

However, you’ll find that the challenge and calorie burn you get from these workouts are significantly greater than you’re typically used to at the gym, due to using bodyweight exercises to train the target muscle groups.

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Workout Breakdowns

Below you’ll find the breakdowns for how you’ll be training each day of the workout week. Nearly all of these exercises can be performed using bodyweight alone, with the help of some household locations and items like doorways, tables, chairs, and a loaded backpack.

What exactly do I mean by “loaded”? Check out this video, where I explain how to load up a backpack for training at home:

For more detailed overviews of each workout day, you’ll find links in each section leading to the individual articles in my At-Home Workout training series

Day 1

At-Home Chest Workout

The below at-home workout uses nothing but your body weight, and an optional backpack, to allow you to get an amazing chest workout at home, in a hotel room, or in whatever non-gym environment you find yourself.

Warm-Up: Arm Circles + Arm Swings

Before getting started, consider doing a 10-15-minute general warm-up of walking, running, cycling/biking, or calisthenics.

The formal workout starts with a dynamic warm-up. You’ll do 10 small forward arm circles (about 1 foot in diameter), followed by another 10 in the opposite (reverse) direction. Then, you’ll do 10 forward arm swings with bigger circles (about 2 feet in diameter), and 10 big reverse arm circles. You’ll finish off with 10 horizontal arm swings, crossing your arms in front of your body.

Power-Up Complex: Power Push-Up + Incline Press Throw

After the dynamic warm-up, it’s time to target the fast-twitch muscle fibers of the chest with fast, explosive movements. Here, we’ll use complex training to magnify power development.

To learn more about complex training and Postactivation Potentiation (PAP), read the Power-Up Complex section of my At-Home Chest Workout article.

For your at-home chest complex, you’ll pair three sets of power push-ups (3-5 reps per set, depending on which week of the program you're in) with three sets of “medicine ball” incline press throws (5-10 reps), done with a loaded backpack or other weighted object to stand in for a medicine ball (unless, of course, you have a med ball at home). 

Rest no more than 30-60 seconds between push-ups and incline press throws to take advantage of the PAP effect from the push-ups. Rest 1-2 minutes between complex sets (i.e. after incline throws)

Manual Resistance: Chest Press

Before gyms were commonplace, old school bodybuilders like Eugene Sandow and other strongmen used manual resistance to build their muscles. This simply means that while one muscle is pushing on one side, the opposing muscle is pushing against it to provide resistance.

This concept can be applied to almost any major muscle group, including chest. For this workout, you’re going to perform a manual chest press. Watch my video demonstration to learn how to properly perform this exercise:

Keep in mind, you can get as much out of this as you’re willing to put in. Go hard for a very challenging workout, or lighten the resistance with the off arm if you want to dial back the intensity.

Pre-Exhaust Extended Giant Set: Leaning Flye + Decline Push-Up + Push-Up + Incline Push-Up

You’ll finish off the at-home chest workout by combining three of my favorite intensity-boosting techniques: pre-exhaust, extended sets, and giants sets

Pre-exhaust involves doing a single-joint/isolation exercise before a multi-joint/compound move for a given muscle group. This will fatigue the target muscles (in this case, the pecs) with the isolation move so that, when you do the compound exercise, you can be assured you’re reaching failure in the target muscle, not smaller assistance muscles.

An extended set involves doing multiple versions of one basic movement, starting with the most difficult version and moving to the next easier one every time you reach muscle failure.

A giant set is four or more exercises for the same muscle group done consecutively with little to no rest between moves.

In this workout, you’ll start the giant set by pre-exhausting the pecs with a leaning flye, using a doorway or similarly stable, vertical structure.

To perform the leaning flye with your right arm, hold on to the doorway with your left hand about halfway up, feet together and positioned against the doorway. Hold a backpack, water jug, dumbbell, or other weight in your right hand with an underhand grip. 

Start with your right arm hanging straight down toward the floor and, with a slight bend in the right elbow, chest out, and keeping the right shoulder blade pulled back, contract your pecs (right side) to bring the right hand up and across your body toward the left shoulder.

After one set of leaning flyes (both sides), follow immediately with an extended set of three push-up variations.

The extended set starts off with the hardest version of push-ups – decline push-ups – with your feet elevated (using a chair, couch, coffee table, or bench) around 1-2 feet and your hands on the floor. 

After hitting failure, immediately drop your feet to the floor and do standard push-ups. After hitting failure again, move to incline push-ups with your feet on the floor and your hands elevated 1-2 feet, or even as high as 3 feet.

For tips, modifications, and a more detailed overview for Day 1: Chest, read the complete  At-Home Chest Workout article.

Day 2

At-Home Back Workout

When you’re stuck at home, getting in an effective back workout – which relies on pulling moves like pulldowns, pull-ups and rows – can be a challenge. Not everyone has a pull-up bar in their garage or spare bedroom, let alone a lat pulldown or cable row station.

But as you can see, a little desperation and ingenuity can go a long way toward building muscle and gaining strength in the absence of a gym – even when training the back.

Warm-Up: Torso Twists + Arm Circles + Arm Swings

Again, consider starting with a general 10-15-minute warm-up such as riding a stationary cycle, walking or running, or calisthenics.

The workout itself starts with a similar dynamic warm-up as for chest and shoulders, since the muscles surround the same joint (shoulder). But here, we’ll start with 20 straight-arm torso twists.

Stand with a shoulder-width stance and extend both arms straight out to your sides so that your body forms a “T.” Keeping your feet stationary and arms in place, twist your torso to the right until you can’t go any further. 

Hold this position for a second, then twist in the opposite direction as far as you can (you’ll be facing to the left here). Hold this position for a second, and continue the alternating torso twists until you’ve completed 20 reps total (10 per twists per side). 

Follow torso twists with the same arm circle and arm swings warm-up from Day 1.

Power-Up: Doorway Power Row

Once you’re warmed up, it’s time to get explosive with some fast, powerful reps. Here, we’re going to do three sets of doorway power rows. 

You’ll begin in the same position as the leaning flyes from Day 1, with your feet together at the bottom of the doorway and one hand gripping the doorway about mid-to-shoulder height. Lean until your arm is at full extension, and allow your body to pull on the lats as much as possible for maximum range of motion. 

Then, using your lats and biceps, pull your body toward the doorway as quickly and explosively as possible, Keep your shoulder turned slightly so that, as you complete the rep, you move into the open doorway and not the doorframe or wall next to it. 

Watch my video demonstration below to see the doorway power row in action:

Upper Body Pulling Strength: Door Pull-Up

Now that the upper body pulling muscles are primed from the power rows, you’re going to use the extra strength you have in your back to assist on one of the hardest back exercises there is: the pull-up.

You don’t have a pull-up station? Don’t worry. Instead of the doorway, we’re now going to use the actual door to do pull-ups. 

With a door open and held in place with a doorstop placed below the doorknob or handle, face one side of the door and grab the top of it, hands spaced at least shoulder-width apart. Bend your knees and use your lats to pull your body up as high as you can, then hold the top position and focus on contracting the lats as hard as you can before lowering yourself to the floor. 

Tabatas: Table Inverted Row

As you’ll see later in the program as well, this routine uses Tabatas to make bodyweight exercises all the harder. Here, it’s the inverted row, done on the underside of a table. 

With the Tabatas, you’ll count time versus reps, doing 8 intervals of 20 seconds of table inverted rows (using only your body weight), and resting 10 seconds between all intervals – 4 minutes total. 

Don’t worry if you can’t do continuous reps for 20 seconds for 8 rounds; after all, Tabatas are brutal for challenging bodyweight exercises like table rows. Just do as many reps as you can in each round.

Watch me demonstrate the table inverted row in the video below:

Pre-Exhaust Superset: One-Arm Straight-Arm Pullback + Doorway Row

Now that the lats are toast from 4 minutes of bodyweight rows, it’s time to finish them off with a pre-exhaust superset. 

We’ll start with one-arm straight-arm pullbacks, a single-joint movement for the lats. For resistance, use a loaded backpack, a full shopping bag, a water jug, or other implement around the house (unless, of course, you have a dumbbell).

The multijoint (compound) exercise will be the doorway row. If you remember how easy it was to do the doorway row at the start of the workout, be prepared to be shocked at how hard it will now be at the end when your lats are fatigued and they’ve just been hit with a pre-exhaust set.

Here’s how to do the One-Arm Straight-Arm Pullback:

Stand with your feet about hip- or shoulder-width apart and a slight bend to your knees. Hinge at the hips so your torso is close to parallel with the floor and your lower back is arched, chest out. Extend your right arm straight below you to grab the backpack or other object. 

Keeping your shoulder blade pulled back and down, use your lats to pull your right arm back alongside your torso and then past it, as high as you can. Hold the top position for a second as you contract the lats, then slowly lower your arm to the start position and repeat until you reach failure. 

Immediately go to the doorway and, using your right arm,

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