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.


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.


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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