How To Get a Great Workout at Home With Limited Equipment

building muscle general health strength training workouts Jul 06, 2020

Want to know how to get a great workout at home when you’ve got limited equipment?

Prior to 2020 I avoided working out at home at all costs. Personally, I love the vibes, energy and equipment selection a gym has to offer.

But alas....2020...sigh.

Things have changed, and for me, I'm actually really surprised and delighted to say that I've come to really love working out at home. Want to know why?

  1. I LOVE the time efficiency of working out at home. No drive time, and no opportunity for distraction to and from the gym. I love that in 2.5 seconds flat I can start a workout at any time.
  2. It's hard to negotiate skipping a workout when all you have to do is walk into another room and get started.
  3. I care less about my appearance or what I'm wearing. This year I even did one workout in my PJ's!
  4. I feel free to experiment with new or "strange" moves as I know no one is watching (other than Buckley. But he seems to love everything I do, so there's that).

This year I started leading free, live workouts on Saturdays as a way to support you during these isolating times. I was also craving more face-to-face connection with my community.

Very quickly I realized a big problem with home workouts.

Probably the most important concept in body transformation, and strength development is the progressive overload.

Progressive overload is the necessary (and often overlooked) component to improving your strength, fitness, and body composition.

In order to spark new fitness, more muscle, and improved strength, it's essential that you challenge your current abilities. This means requiring your muscles to work harder over time.

The problem is, what to do when you have limited equipment at home?

If your long-term plan is to always work out at home, I encourage you to invest in expanding your home fitness equipment over time. More equipment is pretty much always helpful.

And, if you are limited in your resources and options for tools at home, I got you! Today I'm covering a few tips on...

How to Get a Great Workout at Home with Limited Equipment

Tips to Make Your Workout Harder

This is for you if you need more resistance, but don’t have just the right weight options.

  • Add a pause. Add a 1-2 second pause at the point of transition where it’s hardest to pause. For example, if you’re doing a Goblet Squat, add a pause at the bottom of the move before returning to the standing position.
  • Pause more. Lengthen the pause even longer. If you tried the note above, try doing a full stop, 4-5 second pause at the point of transition. This is one of my most favorite ways to make a workout harder. This dramatically increases the time under tension, making your muscles (and central nervous system) work much harder.
  • Do more reps. Using any given weight load, simply do more reps to overload your muscles. Now, this isn't my ideal approach in the long term because it tends to influence muscular endurance more than strength, but, it's better than nothing.
  • Do more sets. If your goal is to build muscle and adding reps doesn't feel right for you, the next best option is to keep your current weight loads the same, and do more sets. There have been times in the past when I would do 5-8 sets of a given exercise.
  • Use multiple forms of resistance. Are there other pieces of equipment you can use to make the exercise harder? Going back to the Goblet Squat example, you could add a band in addition to dumbbells. Or, you can add a second set of dumbbells and get creative in holding them. For example, if you have 5 and 10 pound dumbbells, use them both. It's a bit tricky finding the perfect way to hold them, but you can do it.
  • Move faster. By adding some energy and enthusiasm to your movements, you'll increase the "explosiveness" of a move. This changes how your muscles move and provides an additional stimulus.
  • Use supersets of the same muscle group. This is also known as compounding. Again, while this isn't my first choice when you're trying to add muscle, it's a great stimulus and some women do build muscle better this way. You can do this by doing two moves for the same muscle group back to back, with no rest in between the two exercises. Then, rest between the sets, and complete a second or third super set. A good example here is pairing a Goblet Squat with Walking Lunges, Bench Step Ups, or Deadlift.
  • Reduce rest. In general, I suggest at least 20 seconds rest between sets, but if you are used to resting 60 seconds between sets, consider reducing the rest phase to 20-30 seconds.

Tips for Making Your Workout Easier

This is for you if you are building up your strength and your weight options are too heavy for your current ability.

  • Use bodyweight. Pretty much every move can be done with just your bodyweight. And guess what? You might even get better results because this option allows you the ability to perfect technique before adding resistance.
  • Do fewer reps. Let's say you're doing a Goblet Squat and the only weight you have is a set of 20 pound dumbbells, and that feels too heavy right now. Grab one dumbbell and perform 5 reps. Rest for a few seconds, and do 5 more reps. Continue this approach for a total of 15 reps per set. In fact, this is an awesome way to get stronger.
  • Do one set only. Again, if the resistance you're using is a bit too much, focus on doing only one set per exercise. You may have to use the technique above (Do fewer reps), but just doing one set is better than none and can really improve your ability.
  • Take longer rest. If you're able to use your weight loads, but they're really hard, consider taking a longer rest phase. You can even rest 2-3 minutes between sets if necessary.
  • Do fewer exercises. Most of the time a workout is 30 minutes or more and includes many different exercises. While this is my preferred approach for body transformation, you can split up the workout. Consider doing 3-5 exercises during a workout, and then doing any remaining exercises another time or another day. By focusing on just a few moves, you're able to work hard for a short time, without the need for tons of volume.


The whole point of a workout is to challenge your body. You can do that in a variety of ways. The goal is to challenge yourself 20% more than your current ability.

Do you like this article? Share your thoughts, comments, and questions below. I'd love to hear from you!

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