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5 At-Home Workout Hacks

Your home offers more usable workout equipment than you realize. Here are five ways to get a great muscle-building workout without a gym.

5 At Home Workout Tips

Note: The above is a past Facebook Live featuring JYM product promotional pricing that may not be available when you're watching the video. 

People often complain about losing muscle size and strength when training at home (like nearly all of us have been forced to do during the COVID-19 pandemic). Sure, you're able to burn calories and get a good general workout with basic bodyweight exercises and calisthenics, but damn, do you miss those challenging sets with heavier weights that lead to serious muscle gains. You can only get that type of workout – and those types of gains – in a gym, right?

Wrong! My style of at-home training, which I've shown you in my 4-Week At Home Equipment-Free Workout program, has you doing actual resistance-training workouts without a gym. I'm not just talking about endless sets of push-ups, running in place, burpees, and jumping jacks here. I'm talking about getting bigger and stronger using implements you already have at your house or apartment. 

I've boiled it down to the below 5 at-home workout hacks. These recommendations are proof that you don't need a commercial gym to build muscle. 

1) Use Common Objects as Resistance

Whether you realize it or not, there are a number of things laying around your house right now that make for great workout equipment.

First example: a backpack. Pretty much all of us own a backpack. And what else do we all own? Books, which are very dense, heavy objects. Throw some books in a backpack, and there's your resistance! You can do exercises holding the weighted backpack (i.e., goblet squats, throws like you'd do with a medicine ball, overhead presses, etc.); put the backpack on the standard way and do squats, step-ups, or lunges; or even grab the end of the backpack and do "kettlebell" swings, biceps curls, rows, one-arm flyes, or lateral raises. 

Other common household items you can use are water jugs, six-packs of water or soda bottles, and reusable grocery bags filled with relatively heavy items. If you don't have bands at home, you can even use bungee cords, even though they're not ideal. Bottom line: Be resourceful and get creative. 

If you're having trouble coming up with exercise ideas or need help with technique, check out my At-Home Equipment Shoulder Workout, which features both a backpack and six-packs, including videos. Also, my At-Home Equipment-Free Leg Workout includes a backpack swing (à la kettlebell swings). 

Of course, when it comes to finding resistance around the house, you can also use your own body for resistance. Not just common bodyweight exercises like push-ups and pull-ups, but also manual resistance exercises, where the off arm provides resistance that the working arm works against. A great example of this is the manual resistance biceps curls I included in my At-Home Equipment-Free Arm Workout

2) Use Structures Around the House

Similar to finding objects in your home that can serve as resistance, you should also be able to find sturdy structures to help you execute the same types of exercises you'd do in a gym. Specifically, I'm talking about items you can use for bodyweight exercises to make them more challenging so that you don't have to do 20, 30, or more reps per set to hit failure. 

For example, a chair. Find a sturdy one at home, and you can do bench dips with it (your hands on the chair arms, and as an option, your feet up on another chair to add difficulty). You can also use the chair to put your feet on for decline push-ups. Or, you can use a couch arm or bench for incline push-ups (hands elevated, feet on floor). 

In the above video, I even show you how to use a ladder to do HIIT cardio "climbs" (right around the 12:00 mark). Put a backpack on while doing it (Hack #1), and you're using one household item as resistance and another as a "structure."

Another helpful structure to use is a sturdy table (like a dining room table) or desk. The reason I like this structure is because finding good bodyweight back exercises at home can be tough when you don't have a pull-up bar. With a solid table, you can do inverted rows without a Smith machine or squat rack – I call it a Table Inverted Row. This is a great mass-building row movement for the back. To see it in a routine, check out my At-Home Equipment-Free Back Workout. You can also use the table for Biceps Table Curls

You can also use a sturdy coffee table, chair, or bench for step-ups. To make the step-ups weighted, put a loaded backpack on, or hold onto whatever weights you have (water jugs, etc.). 

Another great at-home "structure," particularly on back day, is a door. The frame of the doorway can be used for doorway power rows, but the door itself can actually be used for door pull-ups. Both of these exercises are featured in the aforementioned at-home back workout, and I demonstrate door pull-ups in the above video starting at around the 18:00 mark. 

3) DIY – Make Your Own Equipment

Being resourceful with at-home workouts means not only finding equipment around the house but also literally making your own equipment. In the below video (starting at around the 12:00-12:30 mark), I show you how to make your own cable pulley system using materials (wood, metal, cables, etc.) you can find at most any hardware or home-improvement store. I also show you my DIY pulley system in the above video at around the 20:00 mark. 

If you're handy and have the space to build this type of pulley setup, you can do all types of exercises – cable crossovers, triceps pressdowns, straight-arm pulldowns, and many more. As a kid, I actually did much of my resistance training with homemade equipment. My dad (Jim Stoppani, Sr.) was very resourceful and outfitted the basement of our house with DIY equipment, including a pulley system and even a homemade leg press. 

I realize not everyone is quite so handy, but if you're creative and have the desire to optimize your at-home training, you can build your own makeshift gym pretty inexpensively. 

4) Utilize Intensity Techniques to Make Exercises More Challenging

What most people are lacking in their home gym setups is pure tonnage. You likely don't have a set of dumbbells going up to 80-100 pounds, or an Olympic barbell, power rack, and a bunch of 25- and 45-pound plates. Because of this, you're going to be doing most of your exercises with relatively light weight – bodyweight only, a backpack loaded with 20 or so pounds of books, water jugs that weigh 10-15 pounds, maybe an old pair of light dumbbells, or what have you. 

But this doesn't mean you're going to have to do every set with high reps. You can make light weights feel much heavier and get a great muscle-building workout by using certain intensity-boosting techniques. This is how I make grueling workouts out of six-packs of soda bottles weighing only 7 pounds each – yes, seven pounds.

My favorite methods for building muscle with relatively light weights include extended sets, pre-exhaust, complex training (as programmed in my Power Push-Up/Backpack Incline Press Throw complex set in my at-home chest workout), and giant sets. What I also like to do is combine intensity techniques to make each of them even more challenging – for example, my Pre-Exhaust Extended Giant Sets for chest and shoulders.

All of these techniques are featured prominently in my 4-Week At-Home Workout program. 

5) Create an At-Home Ritual

One of the most important elements for getting great workouts at home is to get in the same "zone" you get in at the gym. This is easier said than done, especially when your makeshift home gym is in the same room where you watch TV (living room), park your car (garage), or do your work (home office). The key is to create a routine that gets you into the mindset of focused training.

When you go to the gym to train, think about your routine leading up to the workout. You have some Pro JYM maybe, sip on your Pre JYM, put on your favorite training clothes, listen to motivating heavy metal or rap music in the car on the way to the gym, and so on. All of these things you do in the 30-60 minutes before training signals your brain that it's time to train and zone everything else out. 

So when you're training at home, try and do the exact same things to prep yourself mentally for a productive training session. You need to have a pre-workout ritual to follow, regardless of where you're training. If you don't have a ritual, it will be very difficult to get in the right frame of mind for a great workout.

I hear a lot of people say that they can't get good workouts at home because of the distractions, so they let their fitness go in times when they're stuck in the house. I call B.S. on that – that's a lame excuse. Your workouts can, and should, be just as good at home as they are at the gym. 

Do what you have to do to get into the training zone and cancel out all distractions. Eat optimal pre-workout foods, stick to your pre-workout supplement regimen, put earphones in with your favorite music, and turn it up loud so you don't hear the kids or the TV in the next room. If you're training in the same space as you work, do NOT check emails during your workout. This is your time to train, so set your at-home environment up for success.

Your training location may be different, but the goals are still the same: more muscle, more strength, more fat loss, better overall fitness. With my 5 at-home hacks, you shouldn't have to sacrifice any results... even during a global pandemic! 


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