How to Do Strength Training at Home Without Equipment
From residing in a small apartment to living a minimalist lifestyle, there are many reasons to keep your collection of fitness equipment at a minimum. But how do you achieve gym-level results at home without any equipment?
Read on to find out.
The term “strength training” refers to the set of exercises that build muscles and—you guessed it—strength. This branch of fitness is commonly associated with weightlifting and calisthenics (otherwise known as bodyweight exercises).
Some of the advantages of strength training include:
- Muscle group growth and definition: Strength training causes muscle fibers to grow and become stronger. It also helps burn body fat (even at rest) which results in more muscle definition and tone.
- Burns calories: When you strength train, you burn calories. You won’t burn as many as you do with cardio or a High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) workout, but performing movement with resistance still requires energy (calories) to execute.
- Increased metabolism—even after workouts end: Muscles burn calories at rest, so the more lean muscle mass you have, the higher your metabolism is in its resting state. Strength training also results in Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC), which is when the body continues to expend energy after working out to return to its resting state.
- Better joint function: Strength training increases muscular strength and stability around the joints which provides more support and protects the joints during movement.
- Higher overall levels of fitness: Strength training is an essential part of building overall, general fitness. Strengthening your muscles provides a strong foundation for other forms of movement and activity.
The answer is yes! While gym equipment and other home gym essentials can often elevate a workout, strength training at home without equipment is possible. An entire branch of strength training called calisthenics (also known as bodyweight exercises) relies solely on something you have with you at all times: your own body weight.
Of course, there are certain parts of the strength training experience you simply can’t recreate with a bare-bones home setup. The social aspect is missing, and all those machines can be fun and inspiring to toy with. But on the flip side, there’s no ear-splitting music, no commute to the gym, and you never have to wait your turn for equipment.
At the end of the day, all you need is some motivation, a bit of space in your home, some home workout tips, a water bottle on standby, and your favorite playlist blasting in the background.
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Strength training doesn’t have to be complicated in order to see results. Below you’ll find our favorite bodyweight exercises that’ll help you build muscular strength and tone
Perform each exercise between eight to 12 reps, for two to four sets, with 30 to 90 seconds of rest between them. You can also cycle through each exercise as a circuit or do two exercises back-to-back as a superset.
Push-ups are the tried, tested, and true upper body exercise that requires zero equipment to build strength. Here’s how to perform them:
- Start in a plank position with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and your toes touching the ground. If you find this too challenging, you can perform your push-up from your knees to make it slightly easier.
- Engage your core as you bend at the elbows and lower your body down towards the floor. Keep your body in a straight line from your head to your heels.
- Lower until your chest touches the ground or your arms come to a 90-degree angle.
- Push back up to the starting plank position by straightening your arms, while keeping your body in a straight line.
Lunges are one of the best exercises to strengthen your lower body. They recruit all the major muscles in the legs including the quads, hamstrings, glutes, and calves.
Here’s how you perform a simple lunge:
- Start by standing tall with your feet hip-width apart and your hands on your hips.
- Engage your core and keep your back upright as you take a large step forward with your right foot, lowering your body until your right knee forms a 90-degree angle and your left knee hovers above the ground.
- Push off your right foot and keep your leg foot in place as you come back up to your starting position.
- Repeat on the other side, alternating between legs throughout your set.
Planks are one of the best exercises for strengthening your core without equipment. Hold them for as long as possible without losing your form (e.g. if your hips start to dip or your back starts to arch) and keep increasing your time little by little every time you do them.
Here’s a breakdown of how to do a plank:
- Start in a quadruped position (on your hands and knees) with your hands directly under your shoulders and your knees under your hips.
- Lower your forearms to the ground, with your elbows directly under your shoulders and your hands clasped together.
- Engage your core and plant your forearms on the ground as you kick your legs out behind you to a straight and balanced position on your toes and forearms.
- Hold this position while maintaining a straight line from your head to your feet.
- To come out of the plank, gently lower your knees to the ground and rest.
Like lunges, squats are essential for building lower body strength. Don’t skip out on this classic movement when training for strength.
Here’s how to perform a squat:
- Stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart and your toes pointing forward.
- Engage your core and keep your chest up and your shoulders back.
- Lower your body down by bending at the hips and knees, pushing your hips back as if sitting in a chair.
- Lower until your thighs are parallel to the ground or slightly below.
- Push back up to the starting position by straightening your legs and squeeze your glutes at the top.
Glute bridges will really help to build strength in your glutes and hamstrings. Plus there’s some sneaky core work involved with the movement, so they’re great for your entire trunk section.
Here’s how to perform them:
- Start laying down on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the ground, hip-width apart.
- Place your arms on the ground alongside your body with your palms facing down.
- Engage your core as you lift your hips off the ground, using your glute muscles and pushing through your heels.
- Squeeze your glutes at the top.
- With control, lower your hips back down to the starting position one vertebra at a time.
Despite what the name suggests, there’s neither a bird nor a dog involved in this movement, but it’ll strengthen your core muscles while getting the upper and lower body involved.
Here’s how you perform a bird dog:
- Start on your hands and knees with your hands directly under your shoulders and your knees under your hips.
- Engage your core and keep your back straight and your head in a neutral position.
- Slowly lift your right arm straight out in front of you while lifting your left leg straight out behind you at the same time. Imagine you’re reaching for the wall in front of you and behind you (and avoid arching your back).
- Keep your arm and leg parallel to the ground and hold for a second.
- Lower your arm and leg back down to the starting position.
- Repeat the movement on the other side and continue to alternate between sides.
Bicycle crunches are one of lululemon Studio’s favorite ab exercises. They’re great for strengthening the core muscles and getting the heart rate up.
Here’s how you do them:
- Start laying on your back with your hands behind your head, knees bent, and feet flat on the floor.
- Engage your core and lift your shoulder blades off the ground while bringing your right knee towards your chest and extending your left leg out straight (hovering over the ground).
- Twist your torso to the right, bringing your left elbow towards your right knee as you straighten your left leg out.
- Hold the contraction for a second, then switch sides, continuing to alternate sides.
This is a functional fitness exercise that targets your core, shoulders, hamstrings, and glutes. Here’s how to execute them:
- Start in a plank position similar to your push-up starting position.
- Drive one knee forward as far as possible while keeping the other foot planted on the ground.
- In a fluid motion, switch legs and drive the other knee forward.
- Keep repeating until you reach your desired rep count.
For an added challenge, cross your knee over to the other elbow rather than straight forward to further increase your core strength.
The exercises listed above are all examples of movements that can help build muscle without the use of equipment, especially if you incorporate them into your routine with progressive overload. This means you’ll consistently challenge your limits once an exercise gets too easy (more on how to do this below). You can use this principle to guide your workouts with the above moves or a myriad of others.
You’ll find these moves and other functional fitness exercises in our Strength: Total Body Classes.
Once you master the basics, it’s time to take your strength training workout at home from fine to fantastic. Test out these five home strength training tips the next time you get your sweat on—you can thank us later.
- Slow It Down: Crank up the intensity of any exercise just by doing it slower. It may seem backwards, but it’s true. As a bonus, slowing down your exercises allows you to focus on proper technique, which keeps injuries at bay.
- Increase the Number of Reps: When working out without equipment, increasing reps is a good way to add difficulty. Aim to slowly increase the number of reps you perform in a set over time while maintaining good form throughout. Always listen to your body to avoid straining yourself.
- One Leg, Not Two: Rather than doubling the weight, you can cut the muscles supporting the weight in half. Single-leg exercises like squats and bridges present a different challenge than their two-legged counterparts. Making exercises slightly harder, such as bringing your hands closer during push-ups, can have long-term benefits.
- Start-Stop Reps: Disengage your muscles at the beginning of each repetition and return to a resting position before continuing. For instance, during push-ups, lift your palms off the ground when your chest reaches the floor.
- Use Resistance Bands: Resistance bands are a space-saving alternative to gym equipment that can be used in warmups and workouts. Using them can increase difficulty and engage different muscles by stepping into them for squats or using them around your wrists during arm exercises.
Can I Build Muscle at Home Without Weights?
Yes, you can absolutely build muscle at home without weights. The key to doing this is to challenge your muscles. To build muscle, you need to take them to the point of fatigue (or close to).
An example of this would be doing a set of push-ups until your body hits a point where it can’t do any more. When doing this, be sure that you’re never compromising your form. So only push yourself to your maximum performance with good form. Doing any movement with improper technique can result in injury.
Is 10 Minutes of Strength Training Enough?
Generally speaking, 10 minutes of strength training isn’t enough time to get a good workout in—especially if that’s the only movement you’re doing throughout the day.
10 minutes might be enough to see results if you do 10 minutes daily or are new to fitness. If you’re taking the “workout snack” approach of doing 10 minutes of strength training multiple times throughout the day, this would also be an instance where 10 minutes of strength training is enough to see results and build strength.
Ultimately, it’s less about the time spent strength training and more about the quality of the strength training itself. lululemon Studio Trainer Lonnie Poupard Jr. says “to build muscle, you should focus more on lifting heavier weights and taking longer rest periods.” In the instance of using no weights, this applies to our tips above about advancing your workout.
“Your workouts might take longer because you're resting longer, but prioritizing two to three days of strength training for 20 to 30 minutes is recommended”.
For most people, two to three days a week of strength training is enough to maintain and/or build strength as part of their weekly fitness routine.
Here’s one way you could schedule your strength training throughout the week:
- Monday: 20 to 30-minute strength training session (full body workout)
- Tuesday: Cardio day
- Wednesday: 20 to 30-minute strength training session (upper body workout)
- Thursday: 20 to 30-minute strength training session (lower body workout)
- Friday: Active recovery workout (yoga, swimming, etc.)
- Saturday: Cardio day
- Sunday: Rest day or active recovery day (e.g. go for a walk)
Strength training should be done in tandem with other forms of exercise such as cardio, yoga, Pilates, kickboxing, etc. Poupard Jr. says “you should be getting activity every day. Whether it's an actual workout or taking a walk. You don't necessarily need to exercise but you should always be getting in some activity”.
What Do I Need for Strength Training at Home? Just lululemon Studio.
In reality, you don’t need much. Resistance bands or free weights can augment certain exercises, but they’re completely optional.
The factors that make strength training from home challenging are the intangible ones: motivation, camaraderie, and encouragement.
That’s what makes lululemon Studio so special. You know that strength training at home is possible—lululemon Studio’s nearly invisible home gym makes it better. Trainers lead you in strength training via live and on-demand classes from your fitness mirror, and social features allow you to train with friends around the globe—it’s like having your own certified personal trainer any time!
The future of fitness trends is here, and a stronger, healthier you awaits.
A lululemon Studio Membership makes strength training from home simple. Join today and gain FREE access to hundreds of classes focused on building resistance with no equipment for 30 days.