With gyms being closed until further notice due to global lockdown, many people turned to at-home workouts and started researching the best way how to build muscle at home. True, full-body HIIT workouts are a great way to lose weight fast and get fit in general, but if you really want to build muscle at home, you'll need to do a bit more than just jumping around to music in your living room.
The key to muscle building is good diet – ample amount of protein, healthy carbs and good fats – and resistance training. Beginner at-home bodyweight workouts can be a good starting point but after a while, your body adjusts to the load and you will need a bit more than just the weight of your body to increase the girth of your upper arms.
We collected five bullet-proof tips that can seriously improve your home gym sessions and build muscles more effectively. These tips are great for home gyms but can also be used elsewhere too; some of them are even useful for people who don't want to work out at all.
Without further ado, here is the list of the most effective muscle building tips for home.
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1. Eat your protein
We keep on harping about protein here at T3, mainly because consuming enough protein and maintaining a healthy diet is just as important as pumping weights when it comes to building muscles. You can source protein from protein powder supplements, weight gainer powders, protein bars or protein rich food, as long as you eat enough, you'll get ripped sooner.
How much is enough? For someone actively working out, the appropriate amount of protein is around 1,6-2 grams of protein per body kilogram per day. For a 70 kg person, it's 112-140 grams of protein per day. 100 grams of chicken breast contains around 30 grams of protein, but even kale has over 4 grams in it per 100 grams.
When it comes to protein supplements, the options are pretty much endless. We recommend getting a good quality protein powder, like ONNIT's plant based protein or its whey protein, derived from grass fed cows. If you are after vegan protein treats, check out One Pro Nutritions protein bars: these vegan bars are high on protien and low on sugar, the perfect post-workout snacks.
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2. Get an adjustable dumbbell or kettlebell
When it comes to working out, dumbbells and kettlebells are your bread and butter, real must-have accessories if you’re looking to build muscle. Saying that, knowing where to buy weights online is a bit tricky at the moment but if you keep your eyes peeled, you can come across some good deals still. For an hour, the extremely versatile Bowflex SelectTech 840 kettlebell was back in stock at Fitness Superstore last week.
Bowflex Selecttech 1090i dumbbells are a particularly convenient option given their adjustability, effectively providing you with 15 sets of weights in one. If you’re short on storage, these adjustable dumbbells will be your best friend. By simply turning a dial on the side, you’ll have access to weights ranging from 4 kg to 41 kg.
Similarly, JAX JOX’s Kettlebell Connect product requires just the touch of a button to alternate between six different weight options whatever your muscle growth goals. Dumbbells and kettlebells are simple yet incredibly effective and can be used in hundreds of different workouts including cardio routines, a much cheaper alternative to high-end machines.
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3. Use the ‘Time Under Tension’ and Maximum mTor Activation techniques
The time under tension (TUD) technique can be used by anyone and requires no equipment. A key technique if you’re looking to enhance muscle growth, TUD refers to the length of time a muscle is under strain during a movement / exercise. The length of time that is recommended depends on the number of repetitions and sets per exercise, but generally, it is advised to do less reps in a longer period of time.
To give you an extreme example: it could be more beneficial to do four to six reps within 60 seconds, than 20-25 reps in the same period of time. With less reps, the window of time during which the muscles are actually under tension is therefore longer, the end result being hypertrophy (muscle growth). 15-25 seconds is often used as somewhat of a benchmark as to how long you should look to place the targeted muscle / muscles under strain.
Similar to TUD is a technique called maximum mTor activation (mTor). This technique focuses on the negative movement and requires you to focus on muscle activation as you return to the starting position. For example, doing overhead presses, you push the bar over your head in an explosive fashion, but release it back down onto your chest in 3-5 seconds. Try this when you do the best full body workout session next time.
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4. Introduce EMS (electrical muscle stimulation) into your daily regime
Electrical muscle stimulation is without a doubt a growing sector and although just using EMS gear alone won't give you an instant six pack, using it in adjacent to working out can speed up the results. Japanese brand SIXPAD are arguably the top dogs when it comes to EMS technology, offering a range of products from small butterfly-like stimulation pads, all the way to complete abs belts that cover your obliques too.
According to SIXPAD's research, its products can help users achieve a 12% improvement in abdominal muscle size after 8 weeks when used alongside a balanced diet and exercise, while an 8% improvement was seen after just 4 weeks. As we noted in our SIXPAD review, the emphasis is on the "alongside a balanced diet and exercise" bit, so don't expect the belt to give you a washboard stomach without any effort.
On the upside, you can stimulate other body parts than just your abs with SIXPAD products, forcing those biceps and shoulders to pop. The best thing is, you can literally sit back and relax as you perform your SIXPAD sessions. Brilliant.
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5. Supercharge your bodyweight workouts by wearing a weight vest
As mentioned in the intro, bodyweight workouts can supply enough resistance for many people, especially beginners who work out at home, but also for hardcore gym buffs: just try following the hardest calisthenics workout or the Navy SEAL workout. If you are not quite ready for performing the hardest workouts just yet but doing regular pushups feels a bit less challenging, consider donning a weight vest when you exercise.
The Hyperwear Hyper Vest PRO is our top pick here: you'll be pleased to know that the CORDURA fabric used for these vests is water repellent, comfortable and most importantly, odour resistant…everyone else in the house will appreciate that we’re sure. They also offer 5lb booster packs to add additional weight if desired.