The creative guide to home workout with no equipment [101-lockdown]

This article will take you 13 minutes to read. Feel free to leave your questions in the comment section, they will be answered!

Table of Contents

Home-workout guide: the situation

We all know the situation; times are hard and there is no vision of the future at the moment. Before thinking about working out, firstly we are sending our thoughts to the world and those who are being affected by the terrible Covid-19 virus.

But let’s try and carry on with life as best as we can, and help those people who want to continue with their workout routine. If you are wondering what workouts you can do at home, this complete home workout guide will be a great tool for everyone stuck at home. 

gym during lockdown at home

The ultimate goal of this article is to make this negative situation into a positive one. No way should people lose their gains. No way should YOU lose your gains. I give it a 100% for you to help you keep the results you’ve worked hard for. We are long term thinkers here – even for more advanced people for whom it is harder to maintain results. Alternatives like back-end work will benefit you in a few months’ time and pay off as a result.

Beginners and intermediate gym-goers can even actually improve with this type of program at home as they usually use lighter weights than more advanced people. So everyone is welcome to invest some time in reading this piece.

1-) Matching your new home-workout routine as closely as possible to your normal gym routine

a) Working out at home in the context of a lockdown

The real difference here is that you don’t have the same equipment at home as you usually do in the gym. Otherwise, there would be no problem at all, you would not even bother thinking there is an issue. So our goal is very clear: matching things as closely as possible to your normal gym routine so you don’t lose muscle mass and strength.

The closer you get to your normal routine, the less you’re going to lose strength/size. Training at home is a bit of a similar situation as changing your routine, which I highly discourage in general. You can read this article where I discuss this here.

Sadly, in this case, it isn’t up to us.

one arm pushup at home

We all understand very well why we’re having to train at home. Training at home is like changing your routine because you must re-adapt everything. This implies learning new exercises which your nervous system is not used to… This is slowing down your progression.

We will have to follow a few rules. One thing which is very important as a bodybuilder is to do a decent amount of volume while progressing on the weights you lift. Progressive overload. If you read “how many repetitions to build muscle naturally”, you know what I am talking about.

So when talking about matching what you do in the gym in normal times, we are talking about trying to match the same heavyweights and the same amount of volume. By the way, we will try and avoid “pumping sessions”. We don’t really fall for the hype of elastic bands. Sure they can be interesting in some situations, but to maintain size and strength, they’re not the best.

b) Find similar exercises, which you can go heavy with

The exercises you will struggle to match at home are compound ones. They usually require a lot of weight. Here what we have to do is to consider isolation movements to be “the new compound exercises”. What I mean by that is that we usually use compound movements as the basics – here we have to use isolations movements as the basics. Why? Because you don’t need hundreds of kg like on deadlifts to get something out of it!

Let’s imagine this was your gym chest session (chest is life)!

  • Bench-press
  • Dips
  • Flies on the flat bench
  • Cable flies for upper chest

Certain exercises you used to do are still possible to do at home even without any gym equipment. For example, you can continue to do dips at home by using two chairs. For bench-press, you can’t exactly do it, so we have to match this exercise the closest way possible.

dips at home with boxes

Try and see what kind of similar exercises you can replace it with, for example, push-ups. For flies, you’d be able to do some with elastic bands. Unfortunately, this isn’t all easy. Flies and elastic bands are quite similar but you can’t go heavy the same way.

Therefore, we are not going to take it. We have to keep what you can go heavy/pretty heavy with. This is why we are going to start talking about specialisation.

In this situation, specialising is a must.

c) Specialising is key

Let’s get into the topic of specialising and see how it can benefit you. Doing a lot of sets with one exercise is incredibly powerful, even more so if the exercise you perform is a good one. One that is adapted to your body morphology for example.

By doing more on one exercise, you surely are focused – you are not wasting time shifting from one thing to another. This is quite a problem in the gyms these days. Doing too many exercises. It is certainly better to do more sets on one exercise which highly benefits you, than too many exercises where you always lose focus by switching left and right.

focused natural bodybuilder

Coming back to the example of this chest session, what does it mean? This means we don’t particularly want to do flies at home. We kick out this exercise and keep the closest and efficient ones from your normal routine. In this case, dips and push-ups. Not only they’re almost the same movements, but you can scale up the load with these exercises, just like in the gym.Unlike elastic bands, you can add some extra weight with heavy bags for example on your back to do your push-up and dips sets.

d) Unilateral work

We took the example of chest but it could be any other muscle. What to do if you don’t have any dumbbells and want to perform heavy curls or lateral raises for example? This is when unilateral work comes into play.

As you will struggle to do heavy work with what you have got at home, look for ways to do unilateral work with certain exercises. If you have 15kg in a luggage which you can curl with, these will be beneficial with one arm. But with two arms, you are wasting your time with such low weights! (if you’re advanced).

unilateral work at home workout

One side then the other. It can also be applied for things like legs. Squats will be a hard thing to do, so it is time to do some unilateral Romanian deadlifts or Bulgarian split squats. Unilateral work does make the sessions longer. This is annoying but this is what we have to go through. Try and match two bags if you can. Anyway, if you are bored at home, why not!

e) Best exercise first!

In any session you do, I’d recommend you start with the best exercise you have got. If at the gym you had a choice between doing bench-press or pushups you would probably choose the bench press. It’s the same at home. Always go for the best option in the given situation. In the given situation above, and the chest routine we took as an example, you have a choice between dips and push-ups.

We will go for dips!

Do your best to find chairs and set them up in a solid way so they won’t slip when they take your weight. Then get a bag and find the heaviest thing you can put on there. Creativity is on! A bag on your back, around your head…Do your best and try to keep it as comfortable as possible.

best exercises come first in bodybuilding

It might feel a bit awkward, but we get used to it. This is why most advanced people will still kind of struggle. You will probably be able to reach 20 to 40kg on the dips, which is great, but maybe not enough for you.

Now that we have learned to chose our exercises in this particular situation, we are going to see what kind of volume we have to do with these. As said above, specialization is very important. You might wonder: do I really have to do a whole session with only dips and push-ups?

In my opinion yes, it is probably one of your best option.

2) As much volume as you can

When I recommend trying to go as heavy as possible, I know for most advanced people this will only be as much as 40%, 50% of their full strength which is quite low. This is why volume is so important here. If you are a beginner or intermediate, this part might not be as relevant for you as it is for advanced people. There is still something to learn so don’t skip!

natural bodybuilder with a pump

a) Matching your normal volume to one or two exercises

Let’s take the above example of chest with dips and pushups for a session at an advanced level – as explained, you should better start with the best exercise (here dips).

If you are advanced, a normal session in the gym probably represents 20-30 sets for you.

push ups at home natural bodybuilding

Here you will have to do 20-30 sets with these two exercises: dips and pushups. I would recommend giving more sets to dips because it is your best exercise. Your work-out could look like:

  • 20 sets of dips, 10 sets of push-ups. Then some additional and back-end work if you wish (see in the next chapter).

The volume you have to do all depends on how advanced you are and how heavy you’re actually able to match while training at home. The heaviest you can go at home, the less volume you have to do at home. More volume just compensates the lack of load you can use at home.

So 20-30 sets divided with two exercises might sound like a lot right?…

But let’s look at this one huge benefit that comes along with training that way.

b) Specialisation makes you become an expert at certain exercises

Do you know what’s the bright side of this all?

Specialising makes you become an expert at what you do. If we talked above about some benefits of specialising which are:

  • No waste of time
  • Focusing on the best exercises at home

Then I should point out that a direct benefit to these: you become very good at what you do the most.

As the saying goes – practice makes perfect. Just like in the lifting world, you have many options – bodybuilder, powerlifter, calisthenics, weightlifter. All of these disciplines will give you strength in general – but someone doing calisthenics will have a very hard time doing some snatches like a weightlifter. 

pull ups at home natural bodybuilder

He will be very good at muscle-ups, front levers – things that a weight-lifter is far from excelling at. It is the same principle within the bodybuilding world itself. You will become very good at the exercises you perform the most. If you do rows for back but never do pull-ups, you will gain strength with rows and indirectly get better at pull-ups.

But if you were doing pull-ups regularly more than rows, you’d simply be better at pull-ups than rows.

In this example, if you are going to do 20 sets of dips – you are going to become a dips machine! If you ever dreamt of getting a 80kg dip, or be it 100kg – this is how you will get it.

Hammer one exercise, become an expert!

Of course, be careful. If this exercise is not good for you or you don’t warm up and make sure that you’re setting yourself in the right frame of mind, forget about it. 

3) Being locked-in, an actual opportunity to work on your weaknesses

a) Weaknesses and “forgotten muscles” at home  

This is a great time to work on your weaknesses, or simply your muscles which are lagging.

Ex: calves, traps, rear delts, brachialis, forearms, abs

calves weakness gym

The back-end work you start implementing now is what will make you a better athlete later. The short and mid-term horizon might not be so good, but in the long term, you will be winning from this experience.

But how does it work?

b) Replacing steroids, the natural way?

Lightweight work – sets of 100 reps to save your weaknesses and work on small muscles:

Use light weights, not to build muscle in the short term, but for the longer term. Here we can use light weights to work on our weaknesses. If you are a natural bodybuilder, there is a chance you might struggle with your rear delts – for instance. 

The goal of using light weights is to learn a movement and know that you are targeting the right area. When it comes to small muscles like rear delts, this becomes very interesting. In all seriousness, try and buy massive water bottles of 2 litres, then 2 kg in reps of hundreds can start doing the job.

high repetitions bodybuilding

This is a way of stimulating the muscles which are not responding very well on your body (blame your genetics). This frequent work should not be enough to fatigue the muscle, but still enough to make the blood pump through and teach you how to feel it.

You will then be able to benefit from it on your heavy working sets. As an example, if you have a massive thoracic cage, big triceps, but lagging shoulders, then doing very high reps with some light weights on lateral raises as back-end work could be highly beneficial.

You drive blood in there, bringing nutrients and testosterone. You make those unresponsive areas more responsive. Doing very high reps or the so-called reps of 100 is a bit like trying to be as “lucky” as enhanced athletes and their androgen receptors. Here we are just trying to do this the natural way with constant stimulation over time in your sessions.

Before going onto the next chapter, I also wrote an article about the brachialis which is the muscle to work on for the biceps peak. You can learn a few more things here “How to develop your biceps peak? not your average tips!”

c) Time to re-look at your old routine and make it the best possible for when you go back to the gym.

Looking at your diet and body-morphology is also something you can focus on in a period where you’re stuck at home. The way you warm-up and stretch – it’s time to give it all a good analysis and a new strategy if it was not well optimised! This is the opportunity to make this negative situation into a positive one. Get ready for going back with a great routine. One that you would have never taken the time to write if you were not forced to take a break.

workout plan bodybuilding

This article about warming up can help you. In the gym you might be skipping on muscles like abs – no one really takes the time to focus on them. But here we have the opportunity to do them loads and build a nice base.

Why not build a nice base now by working hard and then maintain them with minimal work once back in the gym?

This is literally one of the best muscles you can train at home, you can increase weights as well and add it to your torso to do some interesting working sets. So now that you’ve got quite some information and new ideas (we hope), I’ll advise you on how to build your new routine asap.

4) Build a new home workout program as soon as you can

Making a new routine for yourself as soon as possible is essential.

gym workout routine

The way you have improved in the gym is by writing everything down, knowing exactly what you do and what you should aim for in order to consistently improve. You’ve always followed a “progressive overload” approach, and this should remain the same at home.

Now that you’ve tried everything mentioned above – you should do a PR test session.

The goal is to find out all your new PR’s or what’s close to your one-rep maxes with these new exercises and adjust your workout routine to these. These exercises might feel different so you have to know what you can do with them.

For example, if you are curling with a suitcase, this will feel heavier than a classic dumbell for the same weight.

Why?

Because the overall mass is different, a suitcase takes more space. Therefore it is more awkward to lift.

Do a PR testing session, know where you stand, and write a solid program. If you are lost with how many repetitions to perform, you can read this article: “How many repetitions to build muscle naturally”.

a) Questions you might ask yourself:

I really want to do exercises with resistance bands, how can I implement them in my workout and benefit from these?

If you want to do shoulder presses as an example even though this means doing sets with a 15kg bag/dumbells (depending on what you have at home) or do some flies with the bands, here is my advice:

You have to do this at the end of your workout when you are “exhausted”, “pre-fatigued”. They will feel more like working sets. If you have done 15-20-25 sets of lateral raises following the principles of specialising described above, you should be quite exhausted and the shoulder presses with 15kg will then be more beneficial here. Same with the resistance bands.

resistance bands natural bodybuilding

You could also use the resistance bands to simply add some difficulty to your other exercises. For pushups as an example, if you’ve already done everything you could do to pack weight on yourself and now need more resistance – you can use the resistance bands as a last option to add that difficulty.

The reason why we’re not big fans of resistance bands, in the long run, is because you can really scale up heavier. A band is a band, you cannot scale progression on it like you can do with any other exercises by adding more weight and following the principles of progressive overload.

Can’t I just take some time off the gym?

Why not – you can!

But you will lose quite a lot of strength, and this also depends on how long you’ll have to keep working at home. If you consider this as an opportunity to focus on other aspects of your life, then go for it! Just be prepared to have to work even harder when you can go back to the gym to get back to where you were before.

resting at home from the gym

You might also just want to train and have fun with your training?

Set yourself some challenges. For instance bodyweight exercises, muscle-ups (if you have some sort of set-up for pull-ups).

Set yourself ONE challenge if this is something which you think will make you happy in your training journey at home.

In application: (beginner vs advanced)

Are you a beginner, intermediate, advanced?

It is important that after reading this article, you know how these tips can benefit you and how to adapt it to your current level.

BEGINNER

gym beginner at home

As a beginner, you’re lucky. You can improve without much gym equipment. You are not as impacted as long time gym-goers who will have a very hard time because they are used to lift a ton of weights. As a beginner, because you are starting, you are probably still “not very strong” (not meant in a bad way). 

You have a lot of room for progress, therefore, you can match the heavy type of workouts that you would usually do it the gym fairly easily. As mentioned above, 20-30 sets for one exercise is definitely not for you! You will get away with less than that.

Don’t overdo, don’t under-do either. Try 15-20 sets a whole session, splitted between the “best exercises” you’ve chosen. I would recommend avoiding failure here, and do most of your sets leaving some energy in the tank.

You can do the back-end work, there is never a time that you should not work on weaknesses. The only difference here is that an advanced person will know better what is lagging for them than beginners.

As someone starting the gym, you might not have built the foundations to be able to see what is lagging yet. Analyzing your body-morphology might be a bit hard if you haven’t built enough muscle yet. Nevertheless, you can still do this work.

You can also work on your diet, warm-up and stretching strategies which are important at any level. 

If you think you are doing something wrong or scared of not doing enough/too much, leave a comment down there so we can help you.

INTERMEDIATE

gym intermediate

You are a bit stronger than the beginner so it will be slightly harder to match the heavy workouts and you might need to rely more on volume and back-end work to benefit from this time out the gym. Improving is not totally impossible with the principle of specialising. You should come out of this very well as an intermediate.

Also, practicing back-end work will pay off in a few months’ time.

Start analyzing your body-morphology with the foundations you have built so far. Anything like re-thinking your routine for when you get back to the gym or taking a step back to re-visit your diet is something to do!

ADVANCED

The priority here is to maintain your muscle mass as much as you can and do a lot of back-end work. 

30 to 50 sets a session, depending upon how advanced you are, is a good range.

Try and analyze your body morphology the best you can. Take this time to come back to the gym with the best program you’ve ever followed. All the principles of this guide should be followed.

A list of the best home exercises to perform for each muscle:

For each muscle, I will give exercises which you can do at home and categorise them in these 3 parts:

  • Main exercises (the best ones to be focused on)
  • Additional exercises (the ones coming after your best exercise, where you might not be able to go heavy but can still be beneficial if you are pre-fatigued)
  • Back-end work (should be used at the end of your sessions, or between your sessions)

For a BACK at home-workout, focus on:

->pull-ups (main exercise)

->Rows with heavy luggage/bag unilateral (additional)

-> elevated shrugs with luggage(additional)

For a LEGS at home-workout, focus on:

-> unilateral Romanian deadlifts (main exercise)

-> split squats (main exercise)

-> squats piggy back (main exercise-additional)

For a BICEPS-TRICEPS/ ARM home-workout, focus on:

-> pull ups (supinator) (main exercise)

-> biceps curls, unilateral (main exercise)

-> hammer biceps curls/ preacher curls (main exercise)

-> narrow dips (main exercise)

-> narrow push ups (additional exercise)

-> skull crushes unilateral (additional exercise)

For a SHOULDERS home-workout, focus on:

-> lateral raises (main exercise)

-> rear delts flies (back end work, main exercise)

-> shoulder presses (additional exercise)

For a ABS home-workout, focus on:

-> crunches (main exercise)

-> leg raises (main exercise)

For a CHEST home-workout, focus on:

-> dips (main exercise)

-> push-ups (additional exercise/ main exercise)

Example of a few home-workouts for each level:

If this is too much, start slowly. The key here really is to match your usual volume with these exercises you have chosen to do home, but this is an example.

Warming-up is super important and should not be neglected, please read this article.

ARMS home workout

BEGINNER

Reminder: as a beginner, there is almost no difference whether you train at home or in the gym. You’re lucky there!

4  sets of pull-ups

4 sets of bicep curls

3 sets preacher hammer curls

4 sets of narrow dips

4 sets of narrow push-ups

3 sets of unilateral skull crushes

INTERMEDIATE

Reminder: as an intermediate, it’s already hard to match the heavy type of training as compared to in the gym. The volume has to increase.

8 sets of pull-ups

6-8 sets of bicep curls

4 sets of preacher curls

8 sets of narrow dips

6 sets of narrow push-ups

4 sets of skull crushes

ADVANCED

Reminder: As an advanced, considering you are the kind of person with at least 4-5 years of gym in the tank and high strength levels, you will really have to up the volume, and work hard on the back-end work.

10 sets of pull-ups

8 sets of bicep curls

6 sets of preacher curls

10 sets of narrow dips

8 sets of narrow push ups

6 sets of unilateral skull crushes

SHOULDERS Home- workout

BEGINNER

8 sets of lateral raises

5 sets of rear delts

3 sets of shoulder presses

INTERMEDIATE

12 sets of lateral raises 

6 sets of rear delts

3 sets of shoulder presses

ADVANCED

15-20 sets of lateral raises

4-5 sets of rear delts

5 sets of shoulder presses

BACK home-workout

BEGINNER

10 sets of pull ups

5 sets of one arm rows

5 sets of elevated shrugs

INTERMEDIATE

15 sets of pull ups

5 sets of one arm rows

5 sets of elevated shrugs

Advanced

20 sets of pull-ups

5 sets of one arm rows

5 sets of elevated shrugs

LEGS Home workout

BEGINNER

8 sets unilateral romanian deadlift

8 sets split squats 

6 sets of squats with family member 

INTERMEDIATE

10 sets romanian unilateral deadlift

8 sets split squats

6 sets of squats piggy back

ADVANCED

12 sets romanian deadlift

10 sets split squats

6 sets of squats piggy back (the heaviest out there, and feed him loads!!)

ABS HOME WORKOUT

Whether you are advanced or beginner – if you have not really trained abs before, there should not be much difference between the trainings. It should be about starting to do them in your sessions.

Get heavy bags or luggage, put it on your torso. Anything you can add for some extra weight.

Now let’s try and make a weekly routine for these! We are going to add some back-end work for the ones who might have lagging shoulders and would want to improve their biceps peak.

Here is an example for the advanced person:

EXAMPLE OF a WEEKLY HOME-WORKOUT ROUTINE (FOR ADVANCED)

Monday: CHEST/BICEPS

20 sets of dips

10 sets of push-ups

10 sets of pull-ups

8 sets of bicep curls

6 sets of preacher curls

3X100, 2 KG lateral raises

Tuesday: LEGS

12 sets romanian deadlift

10 sets split squats

6 sets of squats piggyback (the heaviest out there, and feed him loads!!)

Wednesday: BACK SHOULDERS

20 sets of pull-ups

5 sets of one arm rows

5 sets of elevated shrugs

15-20 sets of lateral raises

4-5 sets of rear delts

5 sets of shoulder presses

Thursday: ABS

5 sets heavy crunches

5 sets leg raises

5 sets obliques

3 sets pull-up bar leg raises

5 sets preacher curls for brachialis (20-30 reps)

Friday: CHEST/TRICEPS

15 sets of dips

8 sets of push ups

8 sets of narrow dips

6 sets of narrow push ups

4 sets of skull crushes

SATURDAY: BACK/SHOULDERS (light shoulder work)

20 sets of pull-ups

5 sets of one arm rows

5 sets of elevated shrugs

5×100 2kg lateral raises

SUNDAY: ABS

5 sets heavy crunches

5 sets leg raises

5 sets obliques

3 sets pull-up bar leg raises

You can do more, you can do less. You know yourself better than anyone else. You have to adjust things to yourself.

Don’t take risks for yourself, some people can do much more than this at an advanced level but beginners should do less.

If you give it a great warm-up, all these sets should not cause any problems. Considering you will also be using probably a load of 40-50-60% of your full potential, this should be fine.

If you are unsure and want to know what you can do/should do, leave your questions in the comments so I can answer them.

ALSO, feel free to share this article if this helped you.

This is pretty complete and I believe this will save your gains!