How can I get ripped at home without equipment fast?

When you don’t have weights at home, strength training can be a challenge. For stronger athletes, simple bodyweight exercises and endless repetitions are probably not enough to stimulate a strength-training effect. That’s because, once you do more than 15 to 20 repetitions, you enter the zone of muscular endurance and conditioning rather than strength training, says John Mark Seelig, captain of the men’s U.S. Rafting team and owner of Goat Training in Edwards, Colorado. “Doing a bunch of reps might work for somebody for a couple of weeks, maybe a month,” he says, “but long-term, it’s not very effective, and the repetitive motion can lead to overuse injuries.” Without weights or gym equipment, how can you keep the rep scheme low while making the intensity high enough to build strength?

“With my athletes, I’ve introduced isometrics and tempos to their at-home programming,” Seelig says. Isometric exercises force muscles to contract without changing length (think static holds, like wall sits, planks, and lock-offs). Tempo increases muscles’ time under tension and emphasizes the eccentric phase of muscle contraction (when muscle fibers elongate under a load, also called negatives). “These techniques are incredibly effective for strength,” Seelig says. “You don’t need additional weight, and you can continue to progress through the workout in a linear fashion by adjusting the timing.” For those who want to improve upon their training routines at home, he recommends these moves for a full-body strength workout.

Start with a good warm-up: run for five minutes, then cycle through three rounds of pull-ups, air squats, push-ups, and single-leg straight-leg deadlifts, performing ten reps each at a steady pace. Gradually increase your speed and intensity each round. For the workout itself, aim for three to four sets of each exercise, with one to two minutes of rest between each effort. When you’re counting reps, don’t go until complete failure. “That’s a common mistake I see with home-gym workouts,” says Seelig. Adjust your intensity so that you always have one to two reps left in the tank during each set.

“Even if you’re not training for a specific goal or race, know this will help you maintain your strength. More importantly, it’s going to be good for your mental health,” Seelig says.

The Moves

Squat Hold

What it does: Strengthens the quads, glutes, hamstrings, calves, and core.

How to do it: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart or slightly wider. Hold your chest and head high, pull your shoulders back and down, and keep your spine stacked in a neutral position. Then lower into a squat until your thighs are slightly below parallel to the floor (or as low as you can go with good form). Hold this position for 30 to 45 seconds. Then engage your glutes, and push through your heels to stand. “If you can’t reach 30 seconds, reduce the range of motion to a manageable level by staying higher in the squat,” says Seelig. “If you can easily get to 45 seconds, add weight.” If you don’t have free weights, fill a backpack with canned food, water bottles, rocks, textbooks, or anything that’s heavy until you can hit the target time range.

Push-Up Hold

What it does: Strengthens the chest, triceps, shoulders, back muscles, and core.

How to do it: Start in a standard push-up position, with your arms straight, your hands below your shoulders, and your feet together. Maintain a rigid plank form, with your body in a straight line from your heels to your head. Bend your elbows backwards along your sides to lower your chin and chest until they are an inch or two from the floor. Hold this position for 30 to 45 seconds, then push back up to the starting position.  “This is very challenging,” says Seelig. “If you can’t get to 30 seconds, elevate your hands on a bench, cooler, or some raised surface. If you can easily hit 45 seconds, elevate your feet.”

Too monotonous? Mix it up with the Bring Sally Up challenge. Play “Flower” by Moby, and lower every time you hear “down.” Hold the low position until you hear “up,” and continue like this for the duration of the song—if you can make it until the end.

Tempo Single-Leg Deadlift

What it does: Emphasizes the eccentric (lowering) phase of the movement to strengthen the hamstrings and glutes, while training balance.

How to do it: Stand on one leg, with a slight bend in your knee. Engage your core, and square your hips. Then, without rounding your back, reach forward and down toward the floor slowly (taking three to five seconds), lifting your free leg behind you until your upper body and leg are in the same plane, parallel to the floor or as far as you can go with good form. Pause for a second, then reverse the movement for one repetition. Keep your hips level (point your raised foot toward the floor) and your back straight throughout the movement. Focus on leg control and balance. To make it even harder, extend the duration of the lowering phase. 

Volume: Eight to twelve reps on each leg. Complete all reps on one leg before switching to the other.

Tempo Pike Push-Up

What it does: Strengthens the shoulders, triceps, chest, upper back, and core.

How to do it: Start in a downward-facing dog position, with your feet together and your hands just wider than shoulder-width apart (the closer your feet are to your hands, the harder the exercise). Then slowly (taking three to five seconds) bend your elbows and lower your head between your hands, just above the floor. Hold the low position for a second or two, then push back up to the starting position for one repetition. Keep your hips high and your heels low, and maintain the inverted V position throughout the movement.

Volume: Eight to twelve reps. 

Split-Squat Hold

What it does: Primarily strengthens the glutes, quads, and inner thighs, while also working the hamstrings, calves, hip stabilizers, and core.

How to do it: Stand tall, with your feet hip-width apart, square your hips, and engage your core. Then take a large step backwards to enter a split-squat stance (also known as a stationary lunge). Bend your knees to lower your hips until your front thigh is roughly parallel to the ground and your back knee is hovering just an inch or two off the floor. Hold this low position for 30 to 45 seconds, then engage both legs to stand for one repetition. Keep your chest high, your pelvis neutral, your torso upright, and your back straight throughout the movement.

Volume: Eight to twelve reps on each leg. Complete all reps on one leg before switching to the other.


Handstand Hold

What it does: Builds upper-body and core strength and trains balance, body awareness, deep breathing, and focus.

How to do it: Enter a handstand, either unassisted or with your heels up against a wall. Hold this position for 30 to 45 seconds. Remember to breathe.

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