Post from Jay at AWorkoutRoutine.com
Hey, what's up?
It's your internet buddy Jay, coming to you live from my secure underground bunker, surrounded by my 12,000 rolls of toilet paper, currently soaking myself in a bathtub filled with hand sanitizer.
Just a typical Sunday for me, really.
Soooo... let's talk.
As you may have noticed, there's quite a bit going on in the world at the moment.
You know... the C-word.
Now, I'm not sending you this email to provide any sort of advice or recommendations regarding the C-word itself, because that's not something I'm qualified to do.
What I am qualified to do is answer the workout and diet related questions you might have at this time.
Specifically, the two questions I've been getting asked the most over the last few days, which are:
- How to maintain muscle if you can't work out.
- How to work out at home.
Let's figure that out right now.
How To Maintain Muscle
Your gym may be closed already. Or it may be closing pretty soon. Or, if it's open, you may just not want to risk being there.
Whatever the case may be, you're unable to work out and you're concerned about losing muscle.
I hear ya, and here's what you need to know...
- Muscle loss doesn't happen quickly.
In my experience, as long as your diet is in check (more about that below), muscle loss doesn't happen to any meaningful degree until around 4 weeks of not training at all. And even at that point, we're talking very tiny amounts of muscle being gradually lost at a slow rate.
- Muscle is regained quickly.
I've said it before but I'll say it again, "muscle memory" is real and it's spectacular. Sure, losing muscle sucks (something I've experienced myself at times due to injuries), but the silver lining is that you will gain back what you lose significantly faster than you initially gained it.
- Consume 0.8-1.3g of protein per pound of body weight.
Above all else, protein is THE key nutritional component when it comes to preventing muscle loss. Shoot for at least 0.8 grams per pound of your current body weight (use your goal body weight if you're very overweight).
- Keep your calorie intake at maintenance (if possible).
If you were bulking and in a surplus, you're going to want to bring your calorie intake down to maintenance until you're able to work out again, otherwise you'll just end up gaining a bunch of fat.
And if you're in a deficit for the purpose of losing fat, being at maintenance would be more ideal for preventing muscle loss. So, unless your fat loss goals are more important to you than your muscle maintenance goals over this specific period of time, I'd recommend going back up to maintenance until you're able to work out again.
- Keep sleep and stress levels where they should be.
That means getting 7-9 hours of sleep each night, and keeping stress levels to a minimum. This is easier said than done under normal circumstances, and the C-word sure as hell doesn't help matters. So, do the best you can.
- Whatever you can do at home = better than nothing.
Even if you have no equipment at home besides your own body weight, whatever little bit you can do to provide some sort of training stimulus will be beneficial for minimizing muscle loss (and maintaining your sanity) during this time.
Speaking of which...
How To Work Out At Home
If you normally work out at a gym and now need to work out at home with minimal equipment available, here's how to do it...
- Pick ANY workout routine that suits you.
You don't need a "home workout." You just need "a workout" that you can then adjust to become a "home workout."
I'll show you how to do that in a second.
But first, you need to pick a well-designed workout routine that suits you. Here are some of my own to choose from:
The Beginner Workout Routine
My basic 3-day full body program.
The Muscle Building Workout Routine
My 3-day or 4-day upper/lower program.
The 5-Day Workout Routine
My 5-day (duh) upper/lower + push/pull/legs program.
- Keep most of it the same.
The overall template of the program should remain unchanged. Specifically, stuff like the schedule, exercise order, and the type of exercise prescribed (e.g. chest exercise, quad exercise, etc.) should stay about the same.
- Replace exercises you can't do with similar variations you can do.
Look through each of the individual workouts in whatever program you've chosen, and make a list of the exercises you won't be able to do at home.
Then, replace each of those exercises with a similar exercise that you will be able to do with whatever equipment you have available.
Your options for each exercise will depend on exactly what equipment - if any - you have at home.
For example, some people may have a bench, various dumbbells, resistance bands, a suspension trainer (e.g. TRX), pull-up bar, weighted vest, or some combination of these items. Others may have nothing but their body weight and the floor.
The more you have, the more options you have.
So, if you have nothing but your own body weight, my recommendation would be to go to Amazon (or wherever) and order whatever you can to increase your options. Resistance bands are a good place to start, as they are versatile, cheap, and easy to store.
Then it's just a matter of making exercise substitutions.
Here are some examples to choose from...
Push-ups (lots of variations), band chest press, dumbbell bench press, dumbbell floor press, dumbbell fly, dumbbell floor fly, band chest fly.
Inverted rows, seated band rows, bent over band rows, bent over dumbbell rows, pull-ups/chin-ups, band pull-downs.
Overhead dumbbell press, overhead band press, dumbbell lateral raises, band lateral raises, dumbbell front raises, band front raises.
Dumbbell curls, band curls.
Overhead dumbbell extensions, overhead band extensions, dumbbell skull crushers, band push-downs, dumbbell kickbacks.
Dumbbell squats, dumbbell split squats, dumbbell lunges, dumbbell goblet squats, dumbbell step ups, band squats, band split squats, pistol squats.
Dumbbell Romanian deadlift, band Romanian deadlift, single-leg Romanian deadlift, band leg curls.
Glute bridges (lots of variations), hip thrusts (lots of variations), band kickbacks, band side-lying clam.
- It may be light/easy, so make it harder.
Unless you're lucky enough to have tons of equipment at home, chances are pretty good that many of your exercise options will be lighter and easier for you compared to when you're training at a gym.
Even with bands and some dumbbells, if you're past the beginner stage, a lot of what you're going to be doing at home will be less challenging than you would like it to be.
So, what's the solution?
Make it more challenging.
The best way to do this is by doing more reps than you normally would.
We have some good research showing that lighter weight can work for building/maintaining muscle as long as you do enough reps to bring yourself as close to failure as you would normally get with heavier weight in lower rep ranges.
So, instead of the usual 5-15 reps you might do in the gym with heavier weight, you may need to 15-30 reps (or more) per set at home to provide a similar training stimulus and make it as challenging for you as it typically is.
Granted, it may be impossible to make it exactly the same as when you're at a gym, but the closer you can get, the more beneficial it will be for preventing muscle loss.
Shortening rest periods, choosing harder exercise variations (e.g. split squats instead of squats), and doing slower negatives are useful options as well.
And of course, if you're able to add bands, a weighted vest, TRX, an adjustable dumbbell set, or whatever else to the mix, that would be even better.
I don't know what comes next with this whole C-word situation, but on the bright side, you'll at least know how to maintain muscle and work out at home during this period of time.
So... stay safe, stay calm, do the best you can with what you have, help others whenever you can, and for the love of all humanity... get your information from actual qualified experts.
P.S. Oh, and please ignore every fitness guru that tries to sell you diets or supplements that will supposedly prevent or cure this thing. It's all bullshit, and they are all assholes.