Home Physique Training
How to Build Lean Muscle & Shed Body Fat With Home Workouts
What’s the first thing you think of when it comes to home workouts, and home-based training plans? If you are an athlete or regular exerciser, I’d bet your initial feelings are mostly negative right?
They are limited in terms of training equipment and programming options. They may be adequate for beginners, and are a “good enough” option when certain situations dictate their necessity – traveling, busy work periods, stay-at-home parenting, mandated home quarantine during the current COVID-19 crisis, etc. But overall, they pale in effectiveness compared to traditional gym training.
Probably the only positive you can think of is in terms of time efficiency and convenience.
As a former meatball myself, I know these sentiments well, because I used to dwell amongst that demographic.
But what if I told you I’ve recently evolved, totally flipped the script, and believe that for certain training styles and goals (physique-focused training with body composition-based goals), home workouts can be equally, if not even more effective?
I’m sure you’d doubt me at first, but I hope you can spare a few seconds to just hear me out.
I now truly believe that you can get in some great, results-producing workouts with nothing more than a mat, your own bodyweight, and a few dumbbells. You just need to modify some of the program details to match your specific goals, and to maximize intensity levels.
Perhaps this is just personal bias. In 2019, I switched to a training style that easily transitions to home gym set-ups. I started alternating between gym workouts and home workouts at first just for convenience and a varied stimulus. By the end of the year, I was doing a higher percentage of my workouts at home.
How did it turn out? I believe I got into the best shape of my life. And I placed 2nd in the Master’s Division (40+ years old) at the Natural Mr. Universe Contest.
Now I know that’s useless for you. You just want to know how I can help YOU reach YOUR goals. Well, I believe if your goals are primarily physique/body-composition-based, I can. And home workouts can be the foundation of that.
Yes, that’s personal bias. But some of my friends’ and private clients’ results have further strengthened that stance. And most importantly, there is some unbiased science to back it all up. In fact, some of the research is why I even gave this training style (including home workouts) a chance in the first place.
More on that in a second, but first things first. We need to take a step back and look at the bigger exercise picture, a principle called training specificity, and how our training recommendations fit within the broad spectrum of options.
There is a principle in exercise physiology called the SAID principle -- Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands. In non-geek speak, all this really means is that your body adapts to the specific training that you do.
There is no one Right Way to train for everyone, everywhere. In broader terms, a boxer shouldn’t be training like a basketball player. A football player better not be training like a fitness model. A powerlifter shouldn’t be training like a ping pong pro, etc.
In more specific terms, the variables of your training program (exercise selection strategies, set and rep schemes, inter-set rests, etc.) need to be matched to your main training goal in order to optimize your results.
We’ll talk about this much more in our course. But it is sufficient to say for now that training to improve performance is different than training to improve appearance. There can be overlap amongst these plans. But there are definitely distinctions as well, that is if you want to take the most effective and efficient route to results possible.
So, we need to nail down exactly what you want to accomplish with your training program, and decide whether or not this course, and the approach within it, is the right fit for you. There are a lot of great reasons to work out, and a lot of ways to go about doing it. But we are teaching a very specific approach to a very specific type of person with very specific goals.
I don’t want you to waste your time, money, or energy if this course is not the right fit for where you are at, and more importantly, where you want to go. I want to be totally up front with the fact that we’re not trying to be everything to everybody.
If you are training for a triathalon, marathon, mma fight, NFL combine, powerlifting meet, or any other type of performance event; this course is damn sure is NOT for you. Please continue your search for a different resource, because there are coaches and authors out there who can better help you reach your performance-based goals.
But if you are training primarily to achieve some sort of a physique goal – drop body fat, build lean muscle, reshape your body, transform your physique -- and you are looking to do that primarily at home, we feel this course, and the strategies and programs within it, are the perfect fit.
Of course improving your health, energy, cognitive function, overall wellness, posture, muscle imbalances, and reducing chronic pain are all nice side effects of a targeted and informed routine.
But let’s not be delusional here. Your main goal is to be able to attend one of Ron Burgundy’s glorious pool parties in “physique style”. How are we going to make that happen?
Our Big Picture Approach
Vince Gironda's secret was in the combination of proper exercises, strict diet, and the strict adherence to exercise form. He used to say that the more you know about training, the less complicated the equipment you need. And the more you know about nutrition, the faster your results will be. -- Lee Hayward
The following is the most efficient and sustainable approach to transforming a physique that I know of:
1. Use your diet for the majority of your fat loss, or to maintain a low body fat percentage/lean physique year-round.
2. Increase informal activity (walk more) for general health purposes, and for a little extra fat burning effects.
3. Stretch and do mobility drills to offset the seated computer posture, improve muscle imbalances, reduce chronic nagging pain, restore natural functional range of motion, and prevent injury.
*4. Dedicate your formal exercise sessions to strength training in order to build lean muscle and shape, tighten, and tone your body.
The first three can obviously be done in the kitchen, outdoors, in your office, or at home.
*It’s the fourth that you might have some questions or concerns about in regards to the effectiveness of home-based training programs.
Don’t you need a bunch of modern gym machines for an effective training routine? Or don’t you need a bunch of squat racks, lifting platforms, and limit load training (heavy weights for 1-5 reps) to get the job done?
It depends on your training goals. This is where you’ll see that geeky theoretical rant about training specificity start to actually become practically useful.
"Any sound resistance training program is made up of several variables -- what exercises are chosen, the order in which the exercises are performed, the intensity or load of the exercise, the number of repetitions and sets of the exercise, and how much rest you take between exercises. We call these acute program variables because they are the variables that you can change within a single workout and that will determine the outcome of training over the long term. Moreover, you can evaluate any workout by examining the choices you made for the acute program variables and noting how these choices affect the training adaptations that may be associated with a resistance training program. In addition, the acute program variables are what allow you to create different types of workouts." - National Strength & Conditioning Association
For building lean muscle and physique transformation training (vs. sport specific or performance-based training), there is a lot more flexibility in terms of programming options. Body type, injury history, training location and equipment access (home training anyone?), and even just personal preferences should all be factored into the program design process.
Let me give you a brief summary of why I believe this to be true. We’ll dive much deeper into each individual topic, including the science and specific recommendations, within our course.
Exercise Selection Strategies
Unlike performance-based sports, there are no exercises or movements that you must do for physique-focused training.
For example, if you compete in powerlifting, you have to squat, bench, and deadlift. If you compete in Olympic Lifting, you have to do the Olympic lifts. If you are a shot putter, you have to throw the shot put. If you are a cross-fitter, you have to practice the exercises of your competitive events.
But to build lean muscle and transform the visual appearance of your physique, all you need to do is activate, challenge, overload, and ultimately develop all of the muscle groups on your body. This can effectively be done with machines, barbells, and cable systems.
But it also can be done with just plain ol’ bodyweight and dumbbell exercises.
You can choose the specific exercises that are right for you based on your body type, injury history, muscle imbalances and movement limitations, training space and situation, available equipment, etc. And you can rotate exercises for a varied stimulus.
Hypertrophy Principles & Broader Load & Rep Ranges
We used to think the effective training range for muscle growth (hypertrophy) was much narrower = 70-85% of your 1-repetition max for sets of 5-12 reps.
But research has shown that range is actually much wider if training with a high degree of intensity (at or near muscular failure). Training loads and reps from 40-95% of 1-rm for roughly 3-35 reps are equally effective for building lean muscle.
In other words, you have to train “hard” to transform your physique, but you don’t necessarily have to train “heavy”. If you push yourself with moderate to even relatively lighter loads, you will build muscle.
In even other words, pushing for new PR’s (personal records) in your lifts is not just for 1-rep max load lifting. You can try to hit 10, 20, or 30 rep PR’s, and that overload stimulus will be sufficient to trigger protein synthesis.
Post Home Workout Pump, hahahaha
Metabolic Stress Emphasis
Muscle tension is necessary to trigger muscle growth. And there is a lower threshold of sufficient tension necessary (40% 1rm).
But research has shown there is a secondary trigger of muscle growth, perhaps an even more important one -- metabolic stress. This is the “pump” and the “burn” that we used to think was just bodybuilding bro-science, but is actually backed by real science.
Programs that lean towards the higher end of the effective rep range (15-30 reps) combined with successive sets of shorter rest periods (30-60 seconds) place a much higher degree of metabolic stress on the muscles. This training style is perfectly suited to home-based training programs.
Combine all of the above together, and even an experienced lifter should be starting to see how a properly structured home workout can be an effective training stimulus to build lean muscle.
Take a unilateral exercise, do 3 sets of 20 reps with 30 seconds rests, pushing to muscular failure on each set, and see just how challenging it is.
What Does the Course Include?
1. A variety of home-based strength training workouts based on experience level & equipment available.
2. Video Exercise Demonstrations & Bullet Point Coaching Cues
Single Floor Press
- Lie with knees bent, feet and back flat on the floor.
- Lower dumbbell under control with elbow bending to its natural position. DON’T tuck elbow into the side or flare out wide.
- Rotate wrist slightly forward as you lower dumbbell down.
- Touch elbow to the ground in the bottom position, but keep the chest tensed.
- Keep core tight throughout the entire movement. DON’T arch lower back for leverage.
- Press dumbbell up, towards the midline of the body, and at a slight upward angle towards above the eyes.
- Rotate wrist towards the neutral position as you press.
- Keep chest up and flex pecs in the top position. DON’T lockout elbow or shoulder.
3. The Daily Mobility & Stretch Sequence to offset the seated computer posture, improve muscle imbalances, reduce chronic nagging pain, restore natural functional range of motion, and prevent injury.
4. A deeper look at the science & strategy of effective muscle building principles, and how to directly apply them to your home workout program.
Lasevicius, et al. Effects of different intensities of resistance training with equated volume load on muscle strength and hypertrophy. Eur J Sport Sci. 2018 Mar 22:1-9
Resistance training with intensity ranging 20–80% 1RM are effective to increase strength and muscle hypertrophy. However, low intensity (20% 1RM) was suboptimal for maximizing muscle hypertrophy. A wide spectrum of intensities, from 40–80% 1RM, are viable options to increase muscle mass. It is feasible that employing combinations of these intensities may enhance hypertrophic results, as well as allow for better recovery by alleviating joint-related stresses from continuous heavy-load training…
With respect to intensity, training with loads equating to 65–85% of maximum dynamic strength (1RM) has been recommended to increase strength and muscle mass
(American College of Sports Medicine, 2009). Alternatively, several studies have shown that low to moderate intensities (30–50% 1RM) promote similar gains in muscle mass compared to training with higher intensities (Lamon, Wallace, Leger, & Russell, 2009;
Leger et al., 2006;Mitchelletal.,2012; Ogasawara, Loenneke, Thiebaud, & Abe, 2013;Schoenfeld, Peterson, Ogborn, Contreras, & Sonmez, 2015). Mitchell et al. (2012) found that leg extension exercise performed at 30% 1RM until failure similarly increased quadriceps muscle volume compared to high-intensity exercise (80% 1RM) and was superior to a 30% 1RM non-failure condition. The authors speculated that this finding was due to complete recruitment of the motor unit pool when low-intensity exercise is performed to volitional failure and with a large volume of training (VT)…
Many studies have sought to compare muscular adaptations with low- versus high-intensity RT. Some have found greater increases in muscle hypertrophy with heavier intensity (Campos et al., 2002; Holm et al., 2008; Schuenke et al., 2012), while others showed no significant differences between low and high intensity (Lamon et al., 2009; Leger et al., 2006; Mitchell et al., 2012; Ogasawara et al., 2013; Popov et al., 2006; Schoenfeld et al., 2015; Tanimoto et al., 2008; Tanimoto & Ishii, 2006). A confounding issue in the majority of these studies is that VT was not equated between groups, and the few studies that endeavoured to do so all used the VT of the high-intensity group as the standard for the low-intensity group, which resulted in lower volumes for both groups and thus potentially limited muscular adaptations. It is well established that the VT plays an important role in muscular adaptations, with evidence of a dose–response relationship between volume and hypertrophy (Schoenfeld, Ogborn, & Krieger, 2017). Thus, when different intensities of RT are performed, VT must be matched at sufficiently high levels to help ensure maximal responses for each training condition….
The findings of this study call into question the American College of Sports Medicine guidelines stating that the use of loads ≥65% 1RM are required to promote hypertrophic adaptations (American College of Sports Medicine, 2009). Alternatively, our findings corroborate the results from other studies that demonstrated low-intensity RT performed until volitional failure can increase muscle mass to a similar extent as high-intensity RT at least with loads ≥40% 1RM, even when volume is equated between conditions (Mitchell et al., 2012; Ogasawara et al., 2013; Schoenfeld et al., 2015).
Schoenfeld, et al. The mechanisms of muscle hypertrophy and their application to resistance training. J Strength Cond Res. 2010 Oct;24(10):2857-72
It has been shown that many factors mediate the hypertrophic process and that mechanical tension, muscle damage, and metabolic stress all can play a role in exercise-induced muscle growth…Mechanically induced tension produced both by force generation and stretch is considered essential to muscle growth, and the combination of these stimuli appears to have a pronounced additive effect…Although mechanical tension alone can produce muscle hypertrophy, it is unlikely to be solely responsible for hypertrophic gains associated with exercise. In fact, certain resistance training routines employing high degrees of muscle tension have been shown to largely induce neural adaptations without resultant hypertrophy...Numerous studies support an anabolic role of exercise-induced metabolic stress and some have speculated that metabolite accumulation may be more important than high force development in optimizing the hypertrophic response to training. Although metabolic stress does not seem to be an essential component of muscular growth, a large body of evidence shows that it can have a significant hypertrophic effect, either in a primary or secondary manner. This can be noted empirically by examining the moderate intensity training regimes adopted by many bodybuilders, which are intended to heighten metabolic stress while maintaining significant muscular tension.
*Bonus Section - The 6-Pack Checklist Book
This is my Amazon Best-Selling book, and you get it for free in the bonus section of this course. The book covers the nutrition side of the physique transformation equation. It filters through the fitness industry fluff, hacks away the unessential, and teaches you a step-by-step fat loss diet process that works in the real world, not just one that sounds good on paper. Check it out to learn all about targeted calorie and macronutrient calculations, specific food choice recommendations, and daily diet template examples. Here's the table of contents:
Normally I write my author bios in the 3rd person in order to convince people that someone else was compelled to tell my most glorious tale. But since this is my own damn training academy that I’m super passionate about, I figured I’d flip the script, and just shoot the shit straight up with you.
So, who the hell am I to be teaching this course?
On the practical application side of the physique game, I’ve competed successfully in several natural bodybuilding and men’s physique competitions. I’ve also worked as a fitness model and representative for a few different fitness brands. Since I'm not blessed with anything below the belt line to brag about, I'm assuming I got paid because of the 6-package above it.
But I also realize that the ability to get myself into shape is one thing. In the end, that is completely useless to you.
Acquiring and applying the strategies necessary to help others do the same is a whole different ballgame. So I've spent a lot of time studying that craft. Professionally, my formal education includes post-baccalaureate studies in Kinesiology and several national training and nutrition certifications. I’m also a nerd, so I follow research reviews for fun.
I’ve written several Amazon best-selling books, and have had my work featured in Men’s Fitness, Men’s Health, Muscle & Fitness, LIVESTRONG, Bodybuilding.com, and T-Nation.
My main business, however, has been in the fitness trenches running a private training and nutrition consulting practice in San Francisco for close to 20 years. Throughout that time, I’ve worked with professional athletes, models, and physique competitors. But the majority of my clients have been just like you -- busy professionals with a life and career outside of fitness. Yet they still wanted to achieve high-level physique goals despite the many unique obstacles that demographic faces. They needed effective and efficient plans to get the job done.
Now, I know you don’t really give a shit about me, my career, or my private clients. You just want to know how I can help YOU reach YOUR goals.
Well, with this career focus as an athlete and coach, I’ve been able to work in a real-world lab studying, researching, applying, testing, failing, revising, refining, hacking away the unessential, and streamlining strategies down into simple, practical, and effective physique transformation plans. The culmination of that work is this training academy, and I truly believe the courses within it will help you reach your physique goals.
- BA, University of California, Berkeley
- Post-baccalaureate studies in Kinesiology, San Francisco State University
- Certified Personal Trainer, American Council on Exercise (ACE)
- Certified Specialist in Sports Nutrition, International Sports Science Association (ISSA)
- Certified Specialist in Fitness Nutrition, International Sports Science Association (ISSA)
- Science and Development of Muscle Hypertrophy Certificate, DSW Fitness/Human Kinetics Continuing Education
- The Janda System of Evaluation & Treatment of Muscle Imbalance Certification, The American Academy of Health and Fitness
- Functional Training & Corrective Exercise Specialty Certification (ACE)
- Sport Yoga Instructor Certificate (NESTA)
- Un-Certified Specialist in Immature Humor, my many clients and my mirror
Don't just waste your time following some random home workout tips, high risk boot camp drills, or YouTube videos and Instagram posts from unqualified and questionable resources. Get on a targeted, efficient, and proven home workout program today!