Quick Reads

Quick Tip: Some Tips To Make At-Home Workouts More Effective.

April 28, 2020

If you read the post on “Helpful Information for At-Home Workouts” you know that muscular tension (the pulling forces generated and experienced when muscles contract) and metabolite accumulation (accumulation of metabolic by-products from repeated contractions) are important variables when seeking to induce a stimulus to maintain or grow muscle.

This leads to the question: how can you better emphasize these variables when training with limited equipment?

Here are 3 strategies to consider to enhance your At-Home Workouts while utilizing minimal (e.g. DB/KB, bands) or no equipment (i.e. bodyweight).

Tempo: Simply slowing down movements can help improve movement patterns, enhance your mind-muscle connection, and be a beneficial technique when trying to set repetition limits. @drcodyhaun makes mention in his free newsletter that there is also some evidence that suggests the production of force needed to perform a bodyweight push-up is ~65% of an individual’s body mass. Authors of one of the studies he discussed compared 20%, 40%, 60%, and 80% 1RM over 12 weeks within the same subjects (different limbs used different loads). Growth in the limbs that used 20% 1RM was lower than growth from using 40-80% 1RM. In the example @drcodyhaun gives, he weighs 200lbs and his bench press 1RM is 315lbs. So, completing a push-up requires ~130lbs of force production during each push-up repetition which is approximately 40% of his 1RM bench press. With strict form, he’s able to perform ~30 repetitions per set. This is in line with the study’s findings that participants completed around ~30 repetitions, on average, when 40% 1RM training was performed. Thus, capping sets ~30-40 repetitions using an external load, unfamiliar movement variations, or tempo variations may lead to better results.

https://journals.lww.com/nsca-jscr/Fulltext/2011/10000/Kinetic_Analysis_of_Several_Variations_of_Push_Ups.31.aspx

20,40,60, 80% study: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29564973

There is also some evidence that suggests that if you lift a relatively lighter load quickly, compared to lifting it slowly, more motor units are likely to be recruited at loads as little as 33% 1RM.

https://journals.physiology.org/doi/full/10.1152/japplphysiol.00543.2006?url_ver=Z39.88-2003&rfr_id=ori:rid:crossref.org&rfr_dat=cr_pub%3dpubmed

Thus, if we consider both pieces mentioned, a potential structure for the bodyweight push-ups that utilizes both concepts mentioned could consist of a deliberate and controlled eccentric action lasting between 3-5 seconds followed by a rapid concentric action for ~30 repetitions per set.

Rest times: I’ll be the first to admit that I feel your pain (metaphorically and literally) when it comes to having to complete a high repetition set in order to get to a RIR value ~1-2. It can lead to a lack of adherence simply from boredom and after a while just doesn’t seem practical. As such, simply decreasing rest times in between exercises (or even supersetting exercises) can help accumulate metabolites in muscle tissue which can lead to that “burning” sensation you often feel with strenuous exercise. This likely aids in the signaling of muscle cells to grow.

Unilateral movements: For most of us, a bilateral bodyweight squat may be too easy. In an effort to continually emphasize muscular tension and metabolite accumulation, try implementing unilateral movements (e.g. bulgarian split squats) over bilateral movements. This will keep your repetitions at a manageable limit, will be more challenging per rep, and potentially help you work on imbalances you may have.

Utilizing all 3 techniques mentioned in a varied and progressive manner throughout this period of training with equipment limitations can likely allow you to achieve a sufficient stimulus for continued progress, or maintenance of adaptations, in a more efficient manner.