The gym isn’t for everybody, the loud noises, crowded machines, and just busy schedules really can make the trip unappealing. For those reasons, many people prefer breaking a sweat at home instead. In this article, I’ll help you do that by learning how to program workouts for your home gym.
Programming workouts for your home gym means creating a program that takes into account your personal limitations. This includes available equipment, if any, space and time. But overall, just treat your home like a new gym. You use what is available to you.
So let’s break down all those parts and what it means to get it all right.
Creating your workout space
Before you even learn how to program workouts for your home gym, you actually need a home gym. This can come in many forms, a whole garage filled with equipment or maybe just your living room floor and dumbbells.
What equipment do you have available to you? What do you need?
Your tools will largely dictate the kind of exercises you can do. You can’t do heavy deadlifts for example if all you own are resistance bands.
If you don’t know where to start, don’t overwhelm yourself with all the options. A pair of adjustable dumbbells are more than enough to get you started.
Bowflex is my personal favorite, as you can change the weight on each dumbbell in a matter of seconds. Check them out here!
You can create a full-body workout with just those.
Other home-friendly options could be bands, kettlebells, or TRX bands.
Regardless. Make sure you know what kind of equipment you will have at your disposal.
Having a space dedicated to exercise is ideal to keep you on your A-game. Although not always possible depending on your living circumstances.
However, if you do have the ability to, setting a small section in your home to exercise can help set the tone before you get started. Motivation only lasts so long, the key is to create habits. And the best way to keep a habit going is to make it incredibly easy to maintain.
So have your workout space clean and your equipment ready to go. The idea of setting up and getting organized can quickly become a huge deterrent.
You also might find it incredibly hard to start if you decide your home gym is in the same place you relax in, like your bedroom.
Creating a reasonable schedule
Once the home gym area is established, it’s time to start thinking about your workout schedule. How often you work out will determine things like your overall workout duration.
Time of day
When do you plan to work out? Are you gonna be a rise and shine lifter first thing in the morning? Maybe end your busy day with a stress-releasing session?
There are pros and cons to both plans.
Generally speaking, you can typically notice these key differences between both options.
A morning workout is a great way to start your day on the right foot. You can get your mind focused on your health and make great choices. The downside is that you might not have a lot of energy to equally grind every single day.
Afternoon or nighttime can be great for releasing any bottle-up stress or energy you accumulated throughout the day. There is a good likelihood that it can help you get a better night’s sleep as well.
The problem with working out later in the day is that you might really have to squeeze in your workout somewhere. Not exercising first thing, means other priorities can quickly get in the way.
Times per week
Next up, how many days per week do you plan to work out? 5 days per week, means splitting up your muscles so as to not overtrain. 2 days a week could mean doing two full-body workouts so you work each muscle enough.
If you are new to exercise or are just someone with a history of periods of vigours workouts followed by periods of an unmotivated sedentary lifestyle, I would suggest starting low. Maybe you do have time for 5 workouts a week, that’s great, but diving headfirst like that can quickly lead to burnout and regret if you aren’t careful.
Try just 2 days a week. Do that for a month. If you haven’t been doing much before, you should see big improvements with that strategy alone.
But, if you do feel like you can do more even after a month, you can throw in another day. Slowly building up the days, so they can stay manageable.
How to program workouts for your home gym step by step
Let’s get into the meaty part. Now you have a space and workout schedule. Now we can actually learn how to program workouts for your home gym.
We are going to use a functional movement style of programming. What that means, is picking exercises that we naturally see.
These are vertical push, vertical pull, horizontal push, horizontal pull, lunge, squat, hinge, and core.
Hitting each one equally can help give you a more balanced body.
Let’s keep it simple.
Step 1: The main lifts
We are going to start creating your workout by selecting two main lifts for each session. What do you want to see make the biggest improvements, or what will help you the most?
The first exercises in your routine will use the most energy, so by default, they will most likely improve the most. If you choose to include any power lifts or near-max lifts, doing them here while you aren’t fatigued is great for safety reasons
For simplicity, pick an upper-body one, and a lower-body one.
If you don’t know where to start, most people could benefit by improving their squat mechanics, and also a horizontal pull to help posture.
Step 2: Filling in the rest
The next step is to fill out your sessions with the other movements.
All you have to focus on is making sure you are getting the same sets and reps for each of the functional movements we discussed.
Create that equal balance throughout the entire week regardless of how many days you plan to work out.
Don’t disregard this one. For example, if you do a lot of horizontal pushing ( like a bench press) but little horizontal pulling ( like rows) then you can create rounded shoulders. Muscle imbalances are a pain to deal with once they become established.
Step 3: Optional, add in accessory lifts
This one isn’t a necessity but might interest you depending on your own personal goals. With the functional movement approach, we are hitting each muscle group.
But maybe, you want to put a little more focus on developing your arms or calves. This is where those can go, doing them at the end ensures you won’t exhaust the accessory muscles before any big compound movements.
Step 4: Optional, the finisher
Another optional one depending on your goals. But a finisher is a great way to maximize a workout once you are tired. They typically or simpler movements that don’t require a lot of thinking.
Things like HIIT cardio, isometrics, or planks for example.
Step 5: The warmup
I put creating the warmup as the final step because you want it to be relevant to the routine you created.
The warm-up is about getting you primed to get moving. It could be as simple as 5 minutes of light cardio, but if you choose warm-up exercises specific to your session, you could have greater success.
For example, doing good mornings before deadlifts.
By honing perfect form on good mornings, you can focus on “waking up those muscles” and developing a mind-muscle connection before going into a heavy lift like the deadlift, which uses the same muscle group.
Corrective exercises go here at well.
This part is NOT optional, don’t forget to warm up.