If you heard the phrase “shelter in place” and immediately thought it meant “no gym,” you’re not alone.
Since strength athletes can’t train together or go to the gym, they are trying to find ways to adapt to being socially distant. This includes finding ways to get the muscular and mental therapy that barbells offer. If you’re hoping to find ways to stay motivated to work out without going to the gym, you might be wondering if it’s possible to maintain muscle mass without using weights.
Redefining What “Gains” Are
You won’t be able to improve as much without equipment when working out, so it’s important to be accepting of that fact. To be honest? If you’re not careful, you might lose some of your muscle mass. There is still hope left, and all your hard work has not been fruitless.
You can maintain muscle mass without weights and make all sorts of gains without going to the gym, but you may have to adjust your definition of gains.
Need to work on mobility? If you’re a strength athlete, it’s likely that you want to make gains in mobility. I can guarantee that your lifts will improve when you get back to the barbells.
Doing lateral or rotational movements is rare because you spend most of your time in the sagittal plane with your big three? I understand your feelings, now get moving and do some lateral lunges. If you want to improve your squat and deadlift, you should try to make your grip more stable.
If your cardiovascular capacity needs improvement, there are some things you can do to fix it. Do lots of burpees. The better you can breathe, the better you can lift.
Sure, sure, you’re saying, but what about muscle gains? Alright, I hear you. Let’s get into it.
Can Bodyweight Exercises Maintain Muscle?
The short answer: yes. The long answer: if you do them with intention.
If you typically do high-volume squat days with four sets of eight at 60-70% of your 1RM, then doing 50 or even 100 bodyweight squats as a substitute for leg day is not going to be good enough. When training, it is important to consider both the volume and the intensity of the workout. Regular bodyweight training may not provide the same stimulus as something that is heavier and more difficult.
The best way to maintain muscle mass at home is by getting in plenty of explosive, dynamic work. This is because so much of this is about your muscle fibers. You want to be able to continue recruiting the type II muscle fibers that are so active when you’re lifting heavy barbells. The fibers that give you powerful contractions but fatigue quickly are your priorities for maintaining or building muscle without a gym.
To train your fast-twitch fibers, you need to focus on moving explosively. In some cases, you also need to move slowly. Developing your fast-twitch muscles with bodyweight moves is going to improve your strength and give you the pump you’ve been missing.
If you want to maintain muscle mass without equipment, the best way to do it is to get creative.
How To Maintain Muscle Mass Without Gym Equipment
There is no one way to get fit, but depending on what you want to achieve and what your weaknesses are, you may want to spend more time doing bodyweight exercises. It may be tempting to stay with exercises you are already familiar with, but it is important to also include new exercises that challenge your body. This is how you will see the most progress.
Hate tempo training? If you spend just ten minutes of your workout time doing this, you can use the rest of the time doing things you love. You will be grateful to your lifts when you return to your platform.
Even if you’re used to training slowly for power lifts, now is a good time to do some explosive work. This text is discussing a variety of exercises that are considered to be challenging. These exercises include clapping pushups, jumping lunges, and burpees. To recruit fast-twitch muscle fibers, you need to add some power to your movements- bodyweight movements that are explosive will do that.
If you live in an apartment above someone else’s, you may understand how difficult it can be to jump around without disturbing them. I’m not trying to make noise on my neighbor’s ceiling, even if it’s in the middle of the day. This is an example of something you can do to get your heart rate up. Sometimes, I take my workout outside and find a hill to run up quickly to get my heart rate up. Hill sprints are a great way to develop muscles. And if parks are open near you, you should take advantage of that and do some workout outside, even if it means getting your clothes dirty.
You can still do plyometric work even if you live above your neighbor and don’t want to make too much noise. You just have to get creative with your modifications. Perform 10 to 15 plyometric pushups, keeping control of your descent to avoid making noise for your neighbor. You should try to imitate the movements of jump rope as best as you can, but only lightly touch the balls of your feet to the ground. Your calves will start to hurt a lot, and your neighbor won’t want you to be so close to them.
Can You Build Muscle With Light Weight?
My clients are worried that they don’t have enough resistance in their training to make it effective. If you don’t have a fully equipped home gym, you may have the same worry.
You can build muscle by using lighter weights than you are accustomed to. A 2016 study found that there was no significant difference in muscle gains when using 30% or 80% of your 1-rep max and training to failure. A study in 2018 found that different loads (40%, 60%, and 80%) produced equal amounts of growth. They found that 20% was suboptimal though. Other studies have found that similar muscle growth occurs when training to failure with reps ranging from 5 to 30. We can say with confidence that you will be fine as long as you are using weights around your 30-rep max (or heavier) and you train to failure.
Not a Time for Wacky Workouts
Working out from home is not an excuse to do weird or unconventional workouts. Although you may not be able to train as usual in the gym, this does not mean you should begin workouts that involve strange exercises.
The principles of training still apply!
You should base your workouts around six key movement patterns.
- Squat pattern (single leg versions – like lunges, split squats, pistols, step-ups count!)
- Hip hinge
- Horizontal push
- Horizontal Pull
- Vertical Push
- Vertical Pull
If you put in the effort, you can make a lot of progress with your at-home workouts by following these movement patterns.
Still not convinced? Consider these 5 key things:
- Maintaining muscle is much easier than building it
- 1-3 weeks of no training might actually be just what you need
- Given the wide rep range that is effective, your workouts don’t need expensive gym equipment
- When training (in the gym or at home) we are trying to create an internal response in the muscle to an external load. This external load can come in various forms. Bodyweight, bands, heavy backpacks, and a TRX can do the job just as well as barbells and dumbbells (at least in the short term)
- This is an opportunity to take advantage of one of the key mechanisms of hypertrophy which is often neglected – this could actually unlock some gains that remain untapped by your normal training
Hopefully, that puts your mind at rest!
Metabolic Stress-Focused Workout For Home
There are three mechanisms of hypertrophy:
- Mechanical Tension
- Metabolic Stress
- Muscle Damage
Home workouts are the perfect opportunity to improve your flexibility.
- Metabolic stress is commonly known as the “pump” and it refers to the cell swelling and increased acidity (the “burn”) in a muscle during training.
After a month of doing metabolic stress workouts, they become much less effective. This type of training seems to work very well for me. When the gains start to slow down again, that’s when diminishing returns set in. I hope you feel better about the idea of working out from home and see that the next month could be a chance for you to build muscle.
The training techniques that create the most metabolic stress require less weight than what is typically used in the gym. They also often need more repetitions, shorter time to rest between sets, and using intensity-enhancing methods such as partial repetitions, circuits, using different weights for different sets, multiple sets of different exercises, and continuing to lift even when tired.
Resistance Training Not Weight Training
We usually think of our gym training as weight training. We frequently lift weights to create an internal effect, rather than depending on an external load. If you do it correctly, you will see an increase in size and strength. Technically, the correct term is resistance training. Resistance can come in many forms and doesn’t have to be limited to dumbbells, bars, and weight plates.
The resistance needs to create enough tension on the target muscle in order for it to be effective at building muscle.
It is possible to create metabolic stress using only bodyweight exercises, however, some cheap gym equipment can help make workouts more effective. Here is a list of equipment I have suggested to my clients to maximize their progress during their home workouts:
- Adjustable DBs
- Resistance Bands
- TRX or similar
- Slider Discs
- Ab Wheel
- Swiss Ball
- Heavy Backpacks
- Pull-up bars/stands
- Weight vests
- Large water bottles (filled up obviously!)
- BFR cuffs
- Stationary bikes
You might have some of these items. If you cannot obtain some of them, you may be able to obtain others. If you work hard, you can make a lot of progress even if you’re only working out at home.
Nutrition for Maintaining Muscle
You’re probably going to want to eat comfort foods more now than when you can go about your regular routine. It’s perfectly normal to feel that way, and it’s important to remember that you’re taking care of yourself both mentally and physically. If you are accessing the chocolate that you have hidden away, good for you. Remember that nutrition is very important for gaining muscle mass.
Don’t Give Up On Protein
First, don’t despair. It may be tempting to think that protein isn’t important anymore because your muscles will waste away, but that’s not necessarily true. To keep them looking good, you need to continue to feed them. That means protein. If you’re working your muscles hard, make sure to stick to your normal intake of lean protein. The average person should consume at least 0.7 grams of protein per pound of body weight every day, according to experts.
Adjust Your Carb and Calorie Intake As Desired
Many weightlifters I know are doing more cardiovascular exercises than they did when they had access to barbells. To maintain muscle mass, do things like hill sprints and strength-oriented cardio (for example, kickboxing and AMRAP work). However, you may discover that you are still getting more cardio than usual. This means that you can continue eating the same amount of carbs and calories without any negative consequences.
Even though you are not commuting, going outside, or interacting with colleagues during the workday, be honest with yourself about how much movement you are getting. If you are not moving as much as usual, you may want to reduce your intake of calories and carbohydrates to prevent losing muscle mass. You should prioritize carbs around your main workout, just as you would if there was no quarantine.
Your muscles need water to function properly, just as the rest of your body does. Although you may think that you will be able to better maintain your hydration level while under quarantine, it can actually be more difficult to keep track of how much water you are consuming. continue hydrating in the same way you normally would, by carrying a water bottle with you and making sure you drink enough water to stay strong.
Go Forth And Maintain Your Mass
Although there are plenty of ways to maintain muscle mass through bodyweight training, it’s normal to lose some of the specific strength you can gain from lifting heavier weights. If you focus on your weaknesses and train effectively, you will quickly get back to where you were before, and your lifts will look and feel cleaner.
Believe in yourself and you will be able to overcome anything. Your muscles will help you get through this tough time.