For a workout program to be effective and bring you the results you’re after, it must be focused, structured, and progressive.
Progressive means that over time, you increase the demand being placed on your body.
Many people believe that the only way to progress a workout is by increasing the amount of weight you lift. And right now, with gyms closed and people isolated in their homes, there is much concern about the best way to keep progressing with workout programs done at home, given that most people don’t have racks of weights readily available.
But I’m here to show you how you can make the most of your home workout program and how you can continue to progress your workouts, even if you don’t have access to the usual equipment.
In order to illustrate how to progress your workouts, I’ll be using dumbbell bicep curls as an example.
If you performed 2 sets of 8 reps using 5kg dumbbells and rested for 90 seconds in your last workout, here are 8 ways you can progress that exercise.
The most obvious way, and the first thing that most people think of is increasing the load. In the example above, this means performing 2 sets of 8 reps using a heavier weight — for example, 6kg dumbbells.
However, it’s very important that you are performing this exercise with the correct form and a full range of motion before progressing with extra weight. Otherwise, you increase your risk of injury.
By increasing the total number of reps using the 5kg dumbbell, you’ll be increasing the volume of your training. For example, you could perform 2 sets of 10 reps (for a total of 20 reps) or 3 sets of 8 reps (for a total of 24 reps). Once again, be sure that you are performing this exercise with correct form and full range of movement before progressing.
Another way to increase your volume is to increase the number of exercise sessions you do in the week. For example, if you currently do 1, you can increase it to 2.
You can also progress your workout by increasing the density. This means performing the same amount of work in less time. Using our example of bicep curls, this may mean doing 2 sets of 8 reps, using the 5kg dumbbell, but only taking 60 seconds rest in between sets, instead of the 90 seconds we were taking beforehand.
4. Range of motion
In a bid to increase the weight they lift, many people don’t focus on their range of motion when performing an exercise, and are very quick to add extra weight. But performing your exercise with a full range of motion, and engaging all the relevant muscle groups will lead to better results without the risk of injuring yourself.
In our example, you can increase your range of motion by making sure your arm is fully extended when on the downward movement.
Improving your stability is one area that many people overlook because they’ve been led to believe that more weight is better. However, being more stable will reduce the risk of injury, improve your coordination and will help you activate more muscles efficiently.
You can work on your stability by making your exercise more challenging by introducing a slightly unstable surface. In the example above, this may involve sticking with the same weight, but sitting on a Stability (Swiss) ball to do your exercise.
6. Tempo / Time under tension
The final way to progress your home workout is to slow down your exercise and increase the time your muscles are under tension. This will make your exercise more difficult, even if you perform it at the same weight with the same amount of reps. As you slow down your movement, try to maintain a steady tempo, and not rush through any part of the movement. Slowing down the tempo will help you focus on engaging the right muscle groups, but it may fatigue you, so pay attention to your form. Ensure you do your reps with a full range of movement.
It’s normally the most under-rated aspect of training, but focus is the most important. Focus will help keep you safe from injury, and will help you get better results from your training. Increasing your focus on your reps each session is also a way to keep progressing your workout.
8. Track your sessions
An important part of being able to progress your home workouts is to record what you do and track your results. For every session, write down what exercises you do, what your weights and rep counts were, and note down anything that you need to work on. For example, you might record that you find your left arm weaker than your right.
You should also make notes about how you feel before and after your training, and note down any things that you need to focus on while exercising. This might be switching your core on, or not rushing through your sets. This data will help you to understand when you’re ready to progress your workout, and which type of progression might be best.
The more data you have, the better your workouts will be, and the better your results.
9. Refuel your body
In order to keep progressing with your workouts, it’s important to pay attention to your nutrition.
The best results don’t happen to those who smash their workouts, but to those who consistently recover from their sessions, so they can put in their best effort the next time they workout. Part of that recovery is eating the right food after your workout.
Once again, record what you eat before and after your session, and how that impacts how you feel during your session, and how well you recover from it. This will help you tweak your pre- and post-nutrition in order to know what works best for you.
10. Allow Time to Rest and Recover
Finally, you need to allow enough time to rest and recover, so you’re ready to train again at your next session. Strength training causes tiny tears in muscle tissue. While these aren’t harmful, it’s the healing process that builds muscle. If you don’t give yourself enough time in between workouts, you won’t maximise your results. You also won’t be giving your best at your next session, which means you’ll increase your risk for injury or burnout.
Adequate rest and recovery is just as important to progress your workouts, as the workouts are themselves. Remember, the best results come from consistency, and the better you recover from your sessions, the more consistent you’ll be.
11. Exercise the right way
At Eternally Fit I help my clients reach their goals by devising personalised exercise plans that involve different levels and styles of progression. This enables me to help them get closer to their goals, regardless of limitations such as injuries, inability to get to the gym, or lack of workout equipment. There is always a way to make progress!
Knowing when and how to progress your workout can be tricky, especially if you’re unsure whether you’re performing your exercise correctly. That’s where I can help. Even if you’re training at home, by videoing your sessions and sending them to me, I can provide expert guidance on your technique, and give you things to work on, or advice on how to keep progressing with your exercise. That way, you can be sure that you’re continuing to get closer to your goals.
If you’d like help with your training so you can reach your goals this year, and want to know that the workout you’re following will get you the results you’re after, my online coaching program is NOW OPEN. This program, delivered completely online includes guidance on exercise, nutrition, and habit and mindset change. Find out how it works here and then click the links on that page to see if you qualify.