Don’t let the current circumstances strip away your gains. Follow these 5 steps to maintain muscle mass, work capacity, and power while training at home.
With the spread of COVID-19, many strength athletes find themselves gymless and stuck at home with minimal to no equipment at their disposal.
While you won’t be hitting any major PR’s or slabbing on muscle during this time, there are still strategies we can implement to help you hold onto your gains.
In particular, you want to maintain the following to the best of your abilities:
- Muscle Mass
- Aerobic Work Capacity
So that when things return to normal you can pick up more or less where you left off.
Because what you want to avoid is doing absolutely nothing for the next 2-4 weeks, and have all your performance metrics fall off a cliff.
We are looking to hold on for dear life and minimize your rate of decline.
In the graph below, you want to be on the blue line and you want to avoid the orange line.
If you follow the 5 steps I’m laying out for you today, however, then you will end up on the blue line.
And when the gyms reopen, you’ll hit the ground running.
Let’s get started.
Featured Download: Be sure to download your FREE 1-week at-home training program to protect your gains. We built this with the assumption that you have access to zero equipment so anyone can do it. Enter your info below to access it:
*P.S. We recorded a podcast episode on this topic that you can listen to here*
Applying Stress Without Load
The major downside to getting stuck training at home is that you lose the ability to manipulate load and thus mechanical tension.
This is why you won’t be making serious hypertrophy or strength gains while stuck training at home.
Fortunately, we know there’s another variable that comes into play when we are talking about hypertrophy and creating change at the muscle: metabolic stress.
And that’s exactly what we are going to rely on using our first two steps.
Step 1: Statodynamics and Isometric Holds
When we take load off the table, we must turn to metabolic stress as our primary way to drive adaptation at the muscle.
You can do this using statodynamics and/or isometric holds because they change the metabolic milieu surrounding the muscle (think hypoxia and acidity), and thus turn on some pretty powerful signaling pathways.
They achieve this via occlusion because the sustained muscle contraction blocks arterial inflow and venous outflow thus limiting the delivery of oxygen and nutrients and removal of metabolic byproducts.
You can think of it like pinching off a garden hose.
The other bonus here is that you’ll tap into the size principle as the lower threshold motor units fatigue.
Here’s how to do each.
For statodynamics, you will perform a movement with a 3-5 second eccentric and 3-5 second concentric while moving through 95% of the available range of motion. For this method to work, it is critical that you never stop moving, and never fully lockout or reach the bottom.
Remember, we are trying to block new blood from showing up and create a nasty acidic environment.
If you pause or go through a full range of motion, you will come off tension and lose this desired effect.
Perform 3 sets of 10 reps with a 45-60 second rest between sets.
Here’s what a sample day may look like:
Isometric holds obviously work in a similar fashion and don’t need much of an explanation. Take a movement to wherever you feel the most tension and hold there for as long as you can. For example, lower yourself in a push up until your elbows are at 90 degrees and hold for as long as possible.
You can rest 30 seconds and repeat that a few times.
Step 2: Timed Sets
Timed sets are another way of creating a local hypoxic environment at the muscle, and provide some much-needed novelty if you’re stuck at home for too long.
Don’t overthink this.
Set a clock for 30-60 seconds and do as many reps as you can.
Rest 30 seconds and repeat for 3-5 sets.
Feel free to turn this into a circuit with 5-10 movements.
Here’s a sample of what that might look like with some isometric holds sprinkled in on the backside:
Step 3: Central Nervous System (CNS) and Power Stimulus
We need to give the CNS some love while you’re at home as well to try and maintain things like recruitment, rate coding, and synchronization.
And without load, your best bets are plyometrics or sprinting.
Fortunately, these are “easy” to do and require nothing but your bodyweight.
Granted, if you live on the top floor of an apartment complex, your neighbors beneath you may not be your biggest fans, but they’ll get over it.
The execution of this is quite simple.
Pick some type of repeatable jump (repeat squat jump, alternating split squat jumps etc.) that you can go max output on for 8-12 seconds. Try resting for 48-52 seconds and hit 6-10 total reps.
If fatigue starts creeping in and the quality of your jumps decline, then increase the rest as needed. The #1 goal here is high-quality force development.
The other bonus to this type of work is that you’ll keep your creatine phosphate pathway running smoothly.
Here’s what a sample day may look like:
Step 4: Aerobic Work Capacity
You want to maintain your ability to supply and utilize oxygen because it lays the foundation for just about everything else.
If you let this generalized work capacity fall off, then you won’t be able to handle and recover from stress as well.
Again, keep it simple.
Do something for 15-45 minutes that gets you breathing heavy and drives your heart rate up.
It can be walking/running up and down the stairs in your apartment complex, going outside for a jog, doing 100 burpees for time, or creating some metcons to do in your room.
Really anything goes.
Here’s a sample:
Step 5: Eat Enough Food
The last thing you want to do is go and lose 5-10lbs of hard-earned muscle because you’re undereating and not training. That is the quickest way to put you WAY behind the eightball and ensure you have a long uphill road to climb.
If you follow the 4 training steps I’ve laid out for you, you should be able to eat ample amounts of food and hold onto the vast majority of your muscle mass while we are stuck training at home.
So eat your food!
In Closing: Be Creative and Make the Best of the Situation
While this period of time is stressful for everyone involved, if you follow the steps I’ve laid out for you in this article then your gains should be well protected.
I wrote this with the assumption that you have access to zero equipment, but if you have dumbbells, kettlebells, or a pull-up bar then use them!!
Anything that can help create tension and bring some novelty to the table will help.
Get creative with how you apply load.
Load up your backpack with books or put a bunch of clothes in a duffel bag.
If you have a house, get outside and do some good ol’ fashioned manual labor. Throw a bunch of crap in a wheelbarrow and lug it around….
Your imagination is really the only thing holding you back.
Let’s stay as strong, jacked and powerful as possible while we work through these strange times together.
And be sure to download your FREE 1-week at-home training program. We built it with the assumption that you have access to zero equipment so anyone can do it. You can snag that below: