Tips to Build Muscle at Home

It is possible to get fit and build muscle without gym equipmentIt is possible to get fit and build muscle without gym equipment


Step №1. Proper Diet

Once you’ve decided to start working out, consider your diet first: it should be healthy and well-balanced.

Regardless of your body type, whether skinny or fat, you should eat 4–6 healthy meals every day. You should have a certain eating schedule. Hunger is the major enemy of every athlete during intense training. Therefore, you should avoid starving yourself. Closely monitor your well-being and satisfy hunger at the first sign of it. However, there are certain rules you should follow, because eating anything you want is not right. Eat more high-calorie foods for the maintenance of positive energy balance.

The foods you eat should contain all the essential nutrients, such as vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other micronutrients.

You can calculate your daily needed caloric intake, but you should know your metabolic rate for this. For the muscle growth, the amount of calories consumed must prevail over the number of the calories burnt by the body during exercise.

Working out, you should remember that your body needs protein which is the best building material for muscles. After each workout it is advisable to drink a protein shake.

Things You Should Avoid

First of all, you should delete from your daily menu the foods containing "harmful" calories:

  • Confectionery products high in refined sugars;
  • Deep fried foods with carcinogenic compounds;
  • Canned goods should be eaten only when you cannot cook or store fresh food for long.

Success in sports is incompatible with smoking and alcohol abuse. Even those not engaged in sports, should give up these bad habits. Of course, they are strictly contraindicated to the athletes leading a healthy lifestyle.

Also you should remove nightclubs and midnight watching TV from your life. After exercise the athlete’s body needs recovery and rest. To maximize your post-workout recovery and progress in sports, you need a healthy diet as well as a good rest. The muscle building process happens at night when you sleep: the growth hormone production during deep sleep promotes tissue repair and creation of new muscle fibers.

Top Foods to Build Muscle

There are animal- and plant-based proteins. The first kind is better for gaining the muscle mass; however, the second one is cheaper. Our muscles obtain protein when we eat meat, poultry, fish, eggs, milk, cottage cheese, and soy. Plant-based proteins are found in lean products: cereals, potatoes, and bread.

Carbohydrates provide our body with the fuel it needs for physical activity and proper organ function. There are two kinds of them: fast and slow. The advantage of fast-digesting carbs is that they provide the body with energy quickly. However, not all foods containing fast carbohydrates are useful. Among them you should eat only fruits and sports bars. Slow carbohydrates form the basis of a healthy diet. Porridge, rye bread, pasta, and potatoes are excellent sources of slow-digesting carbs.

It is important to understand that not all carbohydrates help increase your muscle mass – most of them can make you fat. Focus on slow compounds:


Do not forget to include in your diet more vegetables, especially green salads. The cellulose contained in such food is an additional energy source; it improves the digestive process and lowers blood insulin levels.

Step №2. Choose the Most Effective Exercises

There are different muscle-building workout routines which can be performed at home. The program below is focused on building of the upper body muscles. For working out your legs you can use another routine.


Get on the floor on all fours with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width. Extend your legs back keeping your body in a straight line without sagging in the middle. For the beginners 4 sets of 20 push-ups is enough.

You should rest between the sets for 30 seconds till a minute. Do not rest less, because such intensity of the training can provoke early muscle fatigue.

In several weeks you can start to increase the number of push-ups. However, do it gradually by adding 1–5 reps. You can also place your hands wider or closer: the bigger the distance between them is, the better your chest muscles work; and the closer your hands are, the better your triceps works.

Dip Bar Alternative

There are no special bars in an ordinary room, unlike at the gym. For this exercise you can use two chairs instead of them. The height of the chairs should be such that you could rest your hands on their backs and cross your legs at the knees, and lower yourself freely with your hands.

The number of such reps can vary from 20 to 30. The number of sets is 3–5. Do not perform too many reps, because it can shred your muscles, rather than stimulate their growth. If it is too easy for you to do the exercise, you can perform the dips with additional weights.

Bench Press

You cannot build giant muscles without special gear, such as bars, or dumbbells. But it is possible to  stay in a good shape without any equipmentYou cannot build giant muscles without special gear, such as bars, or dumbbells. But it is possible to stay in a good shape without any equipment

This exercise is considered one of the most effective for the development of the chest and shoulder muscles. However, you need a bench and a bar or dumbbells for it. You should better perform it with a spotting partner to help you get a couple of forced repetitions up.

Lie on the bench and grab the bar slightly wider than shoulder width. Push the bar up and slowly lower it to your chest. You can perform 4 sets of 10–12 reps.

Barbell, or Dumbbell Shoulder Press

The exercise can be performed with dumbbells, as well as with a bar (such variation is called standing military press). If you do not have either at home, then take two bottles filled with sand, and use them as dumbbells. This exercise helps make your shoulders bigger and stronger.

Place your feet shoulder-width apart, and slightly bend your knees to stay firmly on the ground. Hold the dumbbells at shoulder level. On the exhale lift your arms and straighten your elbows (not fully to avoid joint injuries). Then slowly lower them to the starting position. Perform 3–4 sets of 12–15 reps.

One-Arm Dumbbell Row

  1. Grab a dumbbell with your right hand. Make sure that it is heavy enough for you.
  2. Place your left knee and hand on the bench.
  3. Pull the dumbbell gently up as you squeeze your shoulder blades together.
  4. At the top point stop for 2 seconds and slowly lower the dumbbell to the starting position.
  5. At the lowest position of the dumbbell, try to stretch your upper back.

The exercise can be done without a bench. Place your right leg forward and rest your right hand on the knee. The inclination of the body at 45–75° is enough. Perform 4 sets of 10–15 reps. 

Bent-Over Lateral Raise

  • Take two dumbbells in hands.
  • Place your feet together.
  • Bend your torso at an angle of 45° or slightly lower. Make sure that your back is straight throughout the exercise.
  • Lower your arms with the dumbbells with the palms facing each other.
  • Slowly lift your arms to the side without bending them at the elbows or straightening up.
  • Pause for a second or two at the top and gently return to the starting position.

The last two exercises allow you to work out your posterior deltoid and back muscles. Besides, while performing the bent-over lateral raise, your trapezius muscles and biceps help transfer your body weight. Do 3–4 sets of 12–15 reps. 

Biceps Curls

According to the title, this exercise is aimed at training the biceps. It can be performed both with a barbell, and with dumbbells. The starting position is the same as in the previous exercise. If you use a barbell, grab it with a supinated grip (with the palms up). Lift and then lower the weights, squeezing your two-headed muscle, i.e. biceps.

It is hard to say what variation is better – dumbbell or barbell curl. Though, using dumbbells allows you to perform different actions, such as alternate dumbbell curls, curls with wrist twisting, or you can vary the grip. Different variations of performance allow you to work out different parts of the biceps. Do 3–4 sets of 8–12 reps.

Abdominal Crunches

There exist a lot of exercises for six-pack abs. But here is the basic one which you probably know from the physical education classes at school. For this exercise no equipment is required.

  1. Lie on your back with your knees slightly bent on the floor.
  2. Have your toes fixed under heavy furniture or by a partner.
  3. On the exhale, lift your shoulders and upper back up and away from the floor, and on the inhale, return back down.

Some athletes lift their lower back off the floor, but it is not obligatory. In fact, lifting your shoulder blades and squeezing your abdominal muscles can be enough to work out your abs properly. Perform 4–5 sets of 20–30 reps.

Rules to Follow

Regular workouts are the key to successRegular workouts are the key to success

Of course, at-home workouts can be less effective, than training sessions in specialized gyms with all the necessary equipment.

However, if you follow certain rules, you will be able to achieve the planned results:

  • You should better perform all the exercises with a partner. Invite a friend to your apartment, and work out together. Your partner can spot you if necessary.
  • Perform the exercises till complete muscle failure. It is the only way you can involve all muscle fibers as much as possible.
  • Do not get distracted by external irritants, such as TV, sofa, computer, etc. The temptation is high, so you can put on the headphones, turn on your favorite music, and start training. Try to concentrate all your attention on what you are doing.

Exercising at home, remember that the main rule of any workout is regularity.

Increase the Progress

Before you start building up the muscles at home, you should adequately assess your opportunities. Make sure that there is enough space and necessary equipment in your apartment. It is worth remembering the general state of your health: whether you were dispensed from physical education classes because of chronic heart diseases or musculoskeletal system disorders. If there have been no restrictions, then nothing prevents you from working out at home.

In any apartment it is quite possible to provide some space for sports equipment. Modern sports stores offer a wide choice of various devices for the muscle development, ranging from primitive rope expanders to bulky and expensive training devices. If you want to make a reasonable investment for your future training, buy a steel set: a barbell rack and an adjustable incline bench.

The muscles are built only with additional weights. Therefore, you need a couple of dumbbells and a barbell. It is very important that the dumbbells should be adjustable, as they allow various weights to be added or removed for different exercises. For at-home workouts, the dumbbells should have rubber plates. Such gear looks esthetically and does not thump during exercise. Moreover, if the dumbbell falls, it cannot damage the floor covering.

You can vary the set with a pull-up bar and parallel bars. You can buy a horizontal bar in a sporting-goods store, or make it yourself from the improvised materials.

Shesternenko Alexander
Fitness trainer, group instructor, dietitian
  • Counsels and educates on proper nutrition principles, body weight correction, and adjustment of individual diets and diets during pregnancy;
  • Develops meal plans that meet nutrition goals and dietary needs for obese and underweight people;
  • Specializes in modern functional testing techniques in sports, athletic recovery, sports supplementation, pharmacological support, and actual women's problems in sports;
  • On the website, provides analysis of different dietary schemes, reviews modern training techniques and effective exercises.


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