8 Exercises to Build Muscle Without Leaving the House

8 Exercises to Build Muscle Without Leaving the House

You can probably think of at least five ways off the top of your head to burn calories without leaving the house. But what about building muscle mass? Creating your own at-home workouts to build muscle can seem daunting, especially if you’re working with limited weights. But here’s the truth about building muscle: even if you don’t own a single dumbbell, you already have everything you need to build muscle mass from home. When it comes to building muscle mass, your own body weight can be just as effective as a state-of-the-art gym — and it’s much more convenient.

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Can You Build Muscle at Home With Limited Equipment?

Hypertrophy, the scientific term for muscle growth, is a complex physiological process that hinges on one thing: resistance. When you use your muscles to squat, lift, push, and pull against resistance, their fibers endure microtrauma, or small tears. In the recovery period following your sweat session, your body repairs the damaged fibers, building muscle tissue that’s bigger and stronger.

The resistance that’s so crucial to building muscle can come from anything: a cable machine, an exercise band, a kettlebell, or, thanks to gravity, your own body weight. Your muscle fibers respond to the stimulus, not the equipment. Whether you’re bench-pressing a barbell in a boutique fitness center or crushing a set of incline push-ups in your basement, your chest, arms, shoulders, and core are getting the workout they need to build muscle mass.

 

8 Exercises You Can Do at Home to Build Muscle

Use these eight bodyweight exercises to create your own at-home workouts to build muscle mass. As your body grows stronger and adapts to these movements, you can increase their difficulty by adding reps, slowing down your tempo, or, in some cases, performing them on an uneven surface.

You can also try adding resistance with weights and exercise bands. Working with limited equipment? Recruit everyday household items like soup cans, bottled water, and bags of grain or kitty litter. Remember: your muscles don’t know the difference!

1. Bear crawl

  • Get on all fours with your hands directly under your shoulders, and your knees bent 90 degrees below your hips and hovering a few inches above the ground. This is the starting position.
  • Keeping your back flat and core engaged, move forward using a “cross-crawl” pattern, simultaneously moving opposite hands and feet together (i.e., left hand and right foot, right hand and left foot).
  • Continue moving forward with opposite hands and feet in unison for the specified number of steps, then reverse the movement to work your way back.

2. Decline push-up

push up variations - decline push up

  • With your hands on the floor and your feet elevated on a sturdy bench or box, assume a standard push-up position: arms straight, hands slightly wider than your shoulders, core braced, and body straight from head to heels. This is your starting position.
  • Keeping your body straight and core engaged, lower your chest as far as possible toward the floor.
  • Slowly straighten your arms and return to the starting position.

3. Triceps dips

  • Grab the parallel bars on a dip station and push yourself up into the top position. Your arms should be straight, shoulders down and back, abs engaged, body straight, and ankles crossed.
  • Keeping your forearms vertical and your elbows at your sides (not flared), slowly lower yourself under control. Stop when your upper arms are parallel with the floor.
  • Pause, then push yourself back up to the starting position.

4. Russian twist

  • Sit on the ground, balancing on your tailbone with your knees bent 90 degrees. Keep your heels on the ground and your feet flexed. Hold your hands together in front of your torso.
  • Keep your back flat and chest up as you twist to your right side, bringing your hands down toward your right hip. Then reverse the movement, twisting to your left side.
  • Hold the seated balance as you twist from left to right, performing an equal number of reps on each side.

Intensify it: Make the Russian twist extra challenging by speeding it up, lifting your feet off the ground, or holding a light weight in your hands (shown in video).

5. Superman plank

  • Begin in a high plank with your arms straight, wrists under your shoulders, and feet shoulder-width apart (or slightly wider for better balance).
  • Keep your back flat and engage your core as you extend your right arm forward while lifting your left leg. Hold for five seconds, then lower your arm and leg.
  • Extend your left arm forward as you lift your right leg. Hold for five seconds before returning to a plank position.
  • Continue alternating sides, performing an equal number of reps on each.

Trainer tip: Keep your active arm and leg parallel to the floor. Trying to raise them any higher often results in the hips dipping downward, which puts stress on the lower back.

6. Single-leg squat

  • Stand with your arms extended straight in front of your chest and lift your left heel a couple of inches off the floor. This is the starting position.
  • Keeping your core engaged, push your hips back, bend your right knee, and slowly lower your butt as far as possible.
  • Push through your right heel, straighten your leg, and return to the starting position.
  • Perform equal reps on both sides.

7. Hip thrust

  • Sit on the floor with your back against the edge of a bench (or the seat of a couch or other stable object of similar height) and your feet flat on the floor. The bench’s pad should be positioned just under your shoulder blades.
  • If you’re using weights, hold them across your waist.
  • Engage your core and push through your heels to lift your hips toward the ceiling. Keep your chin tucked to prevent your back from arching excessively.
  • At the top of the movement, squeeze your glutes, and then slowly lower your butt back to within a few inches of the floor.

8. Reverse lunge

  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your hands on your hips.
  • Keeping your chest up, back flat, and core engaged, take a large step back with your right leg
  • Lower your body until your left thigh is parallel with the floor. Your knees should be bent about 90 degrees, with your right knee hovering a couple of inches above the ground.
  • Pause before pushing off your back foot to return to the starting position.
  • Perform equal reps on both sides.
Jenessa Connor

About

Jenessa Connor has written for Men’s Journal, Shape, Runner’s World, Oxygen and other health and fitness publications. When it comes to exercise, she’s a bit of a dabbler, but she always comes back to running, CrossFit and yoga. Follow her on Twitter.

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