Strength Training You Can Do At Home

Strength Training You Can Do At Home

Lives are getting busier and it’s hard to fit in work, kids, couple-time, AND exercise.  So my husband and I decided to combine a few things and try getting stronger at home together. All we needed was some basic equipment, a systematic approach, and a positive attitude. 

You can check out our article about couples working out at home together and our workout plan here. After following this plan together for a month, we thought we’d share a little more about how we started and the progress we’re making.

Make a Plan

First of all, we made a plan. It includes exercising a major body part, such as your chest, and a smaller one, such as triceps, together on one day. For each body part, we choose three exercises and complete three sets of repetitions which increase, or decrease, in quantity each day. This allows us to systematically increase weight over time, while differentiating the quantity of repetitions. In doing this, we keep our muscles guessing as to how hard they will have to work every day and don’t let them get comfortable with a set routine.

Make it Attainable

Small steps is the key to this workout. The book that helped inspire this workout plan is ‘Atomic Habits’, by James Clear. If you are looking for something to help set you up for success, this is it! In his book, Clear mentions the 1% rule. Basically, by looking for very tiny improvements and repeating them consistently, over time they add up to huge results. Therefore, John designed our program to start with very light weight. 

Now John has worked out with weights for a long time, however, he had never used this approach before. What he noticed was that the workout was very easy at first. He got through his first one quite quickly. By not taking up too much time, he felt as though he was able to schedule it into his daily routine. When it came time to exercise, he did not have that, “Oh, I don’t think I have time for this.” Instead, he knew he could get it done with minimal effort. 

Now you might be thinking, “Isn’t the point of working out to put in a lot of effort? Well, we would argue that starting with easy, quick workouts, and then consistently increasing effort in very small amounts is more effective over time. This also helps to prevent injuries as it allows your muscles to slowly adapt to these exercises, especially if you haven’t done them before.

Be Consistent

Next, we needed to create habits to be consistent with our workouts. This is another huge key to seeing results. We told ourselves that we would work out every day, no matter what, and never miss it twice! 

We recently moved houses, (within the same city) and because we were working out from home, we had to move our equipment to the new house. However, we left our home gym set up until the very last day and worked out the night before the move. 

The day of the move was absolute chaos with boxes piled up everywhere so our focus was to get beds set up for our two boys and ourselves. After a very long day, we were so exhausted that we did not get to work out. The very next day though, John headed out to the garage, cleared a spot, and set up the gym enough for us to complete a workout. Here is what it looks like now:

Having the gym setup kept the momentum going and we were back on track! Sometimes life will put up barriers in your path, but if we plan for these obstacles we can make sure they don’t keep us from doing what we want.

Systems, NOT Goals

Set up a system, NOT a goal. Goals don’t get you to where you want to be. Clear also mentions this in his book. Goals are the end results achieved after all the work is done. Systems move you toward goals. Everyone can have the same goal, to win a championship, for example, but only a very few achieve that reality. Why is this? It is because when you set up a system it helps you create actionable routines which add up over time. When this is progressive and consistent, positive results are unavoidable.

Our system is simple. We have a set plan as mentioned above. We make it attainable by starting off with very light weights and slowly increasing them over time. And we make it a priority to work out every single day, no matter what. (Never miss twice!) 

With this system in place, we don’t really have to worry about setting goals such as, “I will lose 20 lbs”, or “I will be on the cover of a magazine”. Instead, it has become our lifestyle, and we can enjoy watching the progress our bodies make over time. 

Keep Track of Data

Finally, make sure to keep track of your progress. Using spreadsheets helped us keep track of our plan as well as progress. Having a digital copy allows us to access it from either of our laptops or iPhones, but you could use whatever method works best for you. 

It gives us the information we need to know how much to lift each day so that we are not just going to the gym and guessing what we should be doing. This minimizes the time spent exercising, gives us clear guidance as to what to do, and allows us to get on with our day. 

Collecting data over time also allows us to see the progress we have made from the start. I wasn’t able to lift a 45 lb bar for my bench press when we started, and now I’m able to complete three sets of 12 with 50 lbs!!

There is also psychology behind creating streaks. When you have worked out for 14 days in a row, it makes it that much more important to do the next workout. And when those days come around where you absolutely are not able to get a lift in, then starting a new streak is fun too!

Bibliography

CLEAR, JAMES. ATOMIC HABITS: an Easy and Proven Way to Build Good Habits and Break Bad Ones. RANDOM House BUSINESS, 2019.

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Building Muscle at Home

Building Muscle at Home

After I finished my cancer treatments a year ago, I slowly went back to my old regime of exercise. But even though I was going to kickboxing class a few times a week, I wasn’t regaining my strength. 

I was feeling quite frustrated with my lack of progress and needed to try something else. I couldn’t even open jars! 

My husband is a very fit guy and has been lifting weights since he was in university.  He created a home gym for himself, so we talked about ways he could help me. We were excited to have something we could do together and a way to keep ourselves accountable and motivated 

Why is building muscle important?

  1. To be stronger (opening jars, stamina).
  2. To increase metabolism and reduce BMI.
  3. To improve health (reduce risks of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and other chronic diseases related to a higher BMI).
  4. To increase energy levels (not tire as quickly).
  5. To prevent injury, especially as you get into your 40’s, 50’s, 60’s, and beyond.

Equipment Basics

You can find used equipment online. Just check the quality and compare to new equipment online. You can find these on any buy and sell sites such as Kijiji in Canada, Facebook Marketplace, Gumtree in Australia, or any other local buy and sell websites. 

Recommended equipment is an exercise bench. There are a variety of benches out there and you don’t need anything fancy. A simple, basic one will do, however, if you want to get a little more variety out of it, you can buy one which allows you to adjust the angle up and down.

You will need a rack to hold the bar. We have a basic adjustable rack which allows us to do a bench press when lowered and squats when it is extended. Having a full cage would be ideal, but takes up more room, costs more, and takes a little more to set up. 

Other than this, a set of dumbells are needed.  Although these can range from 1 lb weights all the way up to 200lbs and more, we are currently using a set with the range of 3 lbs to 40lbs.

Exercise Principles

There are many different programs and ways to do this but the underlying principles are pretty much the same (see below for a sample Workout Plan).

When you weight train, you want to put enough stress on your muscles to cause them to break down existing muscle proteins and replace them with greater amounts of new muscle proteins.  They do this to meet the higher demands placed on the muscle. 

Then you allow them to recover using proper nutrition and sufficient rest. 

Basically, each time you work out, you want to push your target muscles to your limit, and then try to go a little beyond. Doing this causes the muscle to get micro tears. And that can be somewhat uncomfortable. But it’s worth it!

In essence, you have to tear your muscles in order for them to grow stronger. Each time you do this and take in enough protein (which your body uses to repair the torn muscle) your muscle will grow bigger, and stronger.

Proper Form

Using proper form is key to building muscle in a safe, effective manner. It is also very important in order to reduce the risk of injury. If you are ever unsure, check with someone who knows what they are doing first.

Consistency

As with anything else, making sure you have a plan that you can commit to is crucial. No one achieves success without determination and a clear goal. Having a gym in our home helps us maintain our consistency through sheer convenience. Also, having a supportive partner gives us the motivation needed, especially when one of us is feeling reluctant to work out. We keep each other accountable.

Sample workout plan

The plan we decided on is a four-day cycle where we work on different body parts each day. We combined a larger body part, like the chest, with a smaller body part, like triceps. 

Starting with the larger muscle first, complete three different exercises with three sets of four to 10 repetitions. Start out with weight which is manageable, and increase it slowly over time. Do not allow your body to get too comfortable with any of the weights since it will just adapt quickly and not grow. We have included links to different exercises you may not know.

Nutrition:

Your body needs a mix of complex carbohydrates and lean protein to build muscle. Plain and simple. Muscles need glycogen (in the form of carbohydrates) to build the muscle and protein helps to repair the damage done to your muscles. We really like having protein shakes 15 to 30 minutes after our workouts. 

Here are a few of our favourite recipes:

Apple Pie and Vanilla Smoothie

Chocolate Protein Smoothie

Cherry Choconut Smoothie

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