You wanna build muscle?
You wanna get strong?
You wanna get ripped?
You wanna do it with short muscle building workouts you can do at home? In a sweet, minimalist garage or basement gym? Where you can avoid the expensive public gym memberships and the nonsense that goes along with those hell holes?
I feel you. I hate most public chain gyms.
Walking into that type of place usually sickens me and makes me question humanity as a whole.
The sight of guys loading on weight plates and doing a two inch range of motion.
The smell of fake tanner and protein shake farts.
The sounds of the annoying cardio machines.
I can’t stand it. There’s very little going on that has to do with real fitness.
That’s why I prefer to train in a basement or garage gym any day. So, if you feel the same way, I can relate and I’ve got you covered.
In this post I’m gonna tell you exactly what you need to train at home. And then I’m going to give you 20 great training tips.
First thing is the set up. What do you really need?
Well, not much.
The list is short and sweet. Here’s what I recommend for a great minimalist home gym set up, followed by the exercises you’ll be able to do with each implement:
Rings are the greatest implement there is for training the upper body.
Pushups- This is my favorite chest building exercise and is also very easy on the shoulders. Great for older or injured trainees.
Rows- Keep the shoulders healthy and build up the upper back muscles.
Chin ups- A safer, more wrist/elbow/shoulder friendly way to do chin ups. Great for building the lats.
Front levers- An incredible exercise for core stability and isometric strengthening of the lats.
L-Sits- This is a fantastic exercise for building shoulder stability and overall core strength.
Ab fallouts- This is a more advanced move for the abs that trains anti-extension. Brutally hard and effective.
Muscle ups- If you have no shoulder issues and can easily bang out at least 10-12 perfect chin ups you may want to try progressing to the muscle up.
Dips- An old classic for packing size on the triceps, shoulders and chest muscles.
Scarecrows– This moves helps prevent shoulder injuries and should be a staple in your workouts.
Curls– Who doesn’t want to rock a sweet looking pair of biceps?
Triceps extensions– When you do triceps extensions with a bar they can be pretty stressful on the elbows. But doing them on rings and moving your body through space, as opposed to just your limbs, is much safer and more effective.
Kettlebells are awesome for building real world, functional strength and conditioning. And they don’t take up a lot of space. This makes them a great addition to any home gym.
Military presses- This is the most basic shoulder exercise you can do and also one of the most effective.
Cleans- A great exercise for building up your shoulders, traps, upper back, lower back, glutes and hamstrings.
Clean and presses- This one is a beast builder. In addition to the muscle groups listed above the clean and press also strengthens and builds the triceps and upper chest.
Bent presses- A rarely seen, often forgotten old school classic. Great for strengthening the obliques and increasing range of motion.
Get ups- An incredibly functional exercise that trains a huge amount of muscles.
Swings- One of the best movements you can do for developing explosive power and strengthening the hamstrings, glutes and lower back muscles.
Snatches- Another total body movement which is unbeatable for conditioning and burning fat.
Goblet squats- Squatting is an essential human movement pattern. Most people don’t need to and shouldn’t ever load the squat with a barbell. But a kettlebell goblet squat is a phenomenal exercise that just about everyone can do.
Sumo deadlifts- You need to be able to pick up heavy loads off the floor. But most people don’t need to use a barbell for that. Heavy kettlebells will do the job incredibly well.
Single leg deadlifts- I was introduced to this movement by my friend and rehab specialist, Dr. Mark Cheng. It soon became a favorite in my arsenal for strengthening the hamstrings, glutes and lower back. You should do it.
You can grab a pair of these at Home Depot for around ten bucks. They are extremely versatile and help you do a variety of very cool bodyweight moves.
Fly/pushup combo- Start with the kneeling version as this is an advanced move. As you lower into a pushup let your arms slowly drift out to the side. When you start to come back up pull your arms together while simultaneously pressing. An absolute killer for the chest.
Chest fly- This should also be done kneeling until you get really strong. Keep the abs braced and squeeze the glutes throughout.
Ab fallout- This is done just like the movement on rings. Be sure to start on your knees and keep the abs braced and glutes squeezed.
Mountain climber- Simultaneously strengthen your core and boost your conditioning levels with this one.
Pike- You can improve shoulder and core strength with this one simple (but far from easy) move.
Leg curl- Training knee flexion is important for full hamstring development. But you don’t need a clunky, expensive leg curl machine to do it. Bodyweight versions like this one can be very effective.
Ab pull in- It looks simple but it will smoke your abs.
Slide reverse lunge– This is a very knee-friendly single leg squat variation that is incredibly effective at building the lower body.
Bands are super light and you can take them anywhere. They come in all different strengths/tension levels so a beginner to advanced trainee can use them. If you have bands you don’t really need a big cable stack as the bands can replace may of the exercises you’d do with the stack.
Face pulls- This should be a staple movement that you do multiple times per week, every week.
Pull aparts- Another great, staple exercise for strengthening the upper back, improving your posture and helping to prevent injuries.
Leg curls- You do need a bench or chair to sit on to do these. But once you get the set up right be prepared for an awesome hamstring pump.
Good mornings- The barbell version of this exercise is too risk for most. But high rep, banded good good mornings can be done very safely to target the hamstrings, glutes and lower back.
Pushdowns and extensions- Doing these with bands is actually a lot safer than doing with a cable stack because there is less resistance in the bottom position and more at the end range. The fully flexed/stretched position on the cable versions can injure some people’s elbows. That problem doesn’t exist with bands.
Mobility drills- Everyone should be spending a bare minimum of 15 minutes per day on their mobility. If you don’t you’re almost guaranteeing yourself some shoulder, lower back or hip pain. Some of the most effective mobility drills require bands.
Chops and lifts- Great exercises for strengthening the entire core.
Pallof presses- An esssential movement for improving oblique strength.
Clam shells– The regular version of this exercise is great for activating the glutes. However, you’ll need more resistance to build and strengthen them. Enter the band resisted clam shell.
Monster walks- With the band around your knees walk forward, backwards and laterally. This will strengthen numerous muscles throughout your core and help activate the glutes before a big workout.
Those implements will pretty much cover the majority of your home gym needs. If you want to take it up a notch you could also get a set of adjustable dumbbells, a box to jump and do step ups on, a sled and maybe some medicine balls.
That would definitely be all you’d ever need.
Now that you have your gym set up here are some muscle building workout tips that will help you get strong, lean and jacked…
1) Plan Ahead
Before you walk into your home gym make sure you have your workouts planned out. You can’t just go in and wing it or make it up on the fly. Failing to plan is planning to fail.
2) Use Visualization
Prepare a few minutes before by visualizing the workout in your head. See yourself going through each of your exercises and dominating your sets with crisp, perfect reps.
3) Keep Your Workouts Short
Limit your workouts to 45 minutes, tops. You really don’ t even need that long and could get a great workout in with just 30 minutes to spare. Use a stopwatch or GymBoss Interval Timer to keep yourself in check.
4) Warm Up Properly
Start each workout with a brief full body dynamic warm up to fire up the CNS, lubricate the joints and activate the muscles.
Here are is a sample warm up:
Jumping Jacks- 30 reps
Ali Shuffle- 30 seconds
Assisted Cossack Squat- 10 reps per side
Slow Split Squat w/ 4 sec. pause at bottom- 6 reps per side
Bodyweight Squats- 20 reps
Shoulder Dislocations with Band- 15 reps
Forward Flexion Repeats- 20 reps
YTWL- 5 reps each direction
Cat/Camel- 5 reps done VERY slowly
Kneeling Scap Pushup- 10 reps
Pushup- 15 reps
Rolling Plank- 30 seconds each position
Thai Sit- 10 reps per side
Glute Bridge- 20 reps
Band Face Pull- 20 reps
Band Pull Apart- 2o reps
5) Stay Warm
If you have nagging injuries stay covered up and dress warm for your workouts. I usually start with a hoodie on unless it’s over 75 degrees in the gym. As the workout progresses I slowly strip away layers. I try to do it as provocatively as I can.
Compression tights also work well. Knee and elbow sleeves can also be a great friend to the older or injured dude. I’d recommend a pair of each if you’re over 35.
6) Get Explosive
Begin your workouts with some type of throw, jump or dumbbell Olympic lift for 3-10 sets of 1-5 reps to fire up your CNS. On lower body days do box jump. On upper body days do a chest or overhead medicine ball throw. If it’s a full body workout you can do either.
If you know how to do them safely, a dumbbell Olympic lift can start any type of workout. To keep it simple just do three sets of five, regardless of the movement.
7) Skills to Pay the Bills
After the explosive stuff pick a skill component you want to work on that day. It could be handstands, front levers, hollow body position, planche progressions or whatever. Spend 7-10 minutes on that. Just practice perfect reps, don’t go to fatigue and rest enough to be fresh before your next attempt.
8) Get Strong
Next, pick a strength movement. Handstand pushups, 1 arm dumbbell presses or rows, pistol squats, single leg kettlebell deads are all great choices. Do 3-6 moderately heavy sets of 5-8 reps. There’s rarely a reason for most dudes to train with more than 85% of their one rep max on any exercise.
9) Get a Pump
With the speed, skill and strength components out of the way you now want to do some higher rep training to build muscle and help prevent injuries. Choose an exercise like an inverted row, glute ham raise, split squat or pushup and do 2-4 sets of 8-15 reps. On some lower body exercises you can go as high as 20 reps. Get a few hard sets in and you should be good to go.
10) Conditioning is King
Being strong is great. But not if you get winded tying your shoes. To avoid that include a 5-10 minute workout finisher. Battling ropes, kettlebell swings, sled drags, heavy bag work, farmers walks and jumping rope all make for great choices. Go hard for 10-30 seconds then rest for 30-60 seconds. Repeat for 5-10 minutes.
11) Cool Down
After your workout do a brief cool down of static stretches for the lats, pecs, hips, quads, glutes and hamstrings. Then do some light activity like a 5-10 minute walk to bring your body back down to normal.
SOME OTHER RANDOM TIPS:
12) Train Your Forearms
Using Fat Gripz helps you get both grip and forearm work in without adding any extra training time. It also helps save your elbows.
13) Variety & Safety
Use a variety of bodyweight exercises to prevent boredom, stagnation and overuse injuries. Always strive for maximal muscle stimulation with minimal joint stress.
14) Throw Dem Bows
Be careful to avoid elbow pain. When your elbows get screwed up you will most likely have to deal with it for years.
15) No Sloppy Technique
Take the required time to truly learn proper exercise technique. This is way above and beyond most people. There are elite level lifters and gymnasts who still don’t feel satisfied with their technique. You can always get better. Small changes can make a huge difference.
16) Traps Make The Man
If you want traps like the late, great Road Warrior Hawk (and who doesn’t?) do lots of face pulls, shrugs and farmers walks. Some dumbbell Olympic lift variations work well, too.
17) Time it Right
Do high intensity conditioning either immediately after strength training or as a separate workout on the same day, 4-8 hours later. It’s not the best idea to do it in between strength training days since it’s pretty much the exact same type of stressor to the body.
18) Ask Yourself This
Before doing anything in the gym always ask yourself a couple questions. Will it help me? How? If you can’t come up with a good answer don’t do it.
19) Keep the Goal the Goal
Your goals and what you do during workouts should always coincide. And you can’t become super strong and train for The Boston Marathon at the same time. Know what your goals are.
20) Have Fun
At the end of the day most people will not continue to do something for the long haul if it’s not fun. That means choose the exercises and methods of training that you enjoy most. Don’t worry about what anyone else says or what everyone else is doing.
So get a training partner or group to come join you in your basement or garage. Then challenge each other, get strong and have fun.
Building muscle isn’t rocket science. It just requires hard work, dedication, persistence and a never-say-die attitude.
If you’re relentless and train with passion on a regular basis changes will happen. It’s not an overnight process so you’ve got to patient. Remember that it’s a sprint and not a marathon.
A lot of people start training with all kinds of hopes and aspirations. Most of them quit a few months into it.
But you’re not most people.
Now go crush your workout.
If you enjoyed this post the slightest bit I’d appreciate you sharing it with others who might like it as well.
Thanks a lot.