The 8 Best Home Exercises for More Muscle and Strength

How an elite powerlifter stays in shape at home!

If you’re not fortunate enough to have a sweet home gym set up where you can squat, bench press, and deadlift while your gym access is limited, all is not lost. With a little creativity, you can still train like a beast at home.

You can gain muscle, increase strength, and improve your conditioning without hoisting a weight. It will also give your joints and mind a rest from the strain of heavy weights while still progressing using other equipment. Below, we’ll go over eight of the best home exercises you can do to get in or stay in shape, along with how to program them and the benefits of at-home training.  

Best At-Home Exercises

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Skater Squat

Think of the skater squat as Pistol squats-lite. They grant you the same benefits — namely, unilateral strength and coordination — but they’re easier to perform because less balance and flexibility are needed. When you take the balance out of the equation, you’ll be able to focus on the muscles of the quads, hamstrings, glutes, and the smaller stabilizer muscles in the hips, ankles, and knees.

Benefits of the Skater Squat

  • You don’t need as much balance or flexibility as a pistol squat, making skater squats easier to perform.
  • Like with most unilateral lower body variations, he skater squat helps strengthen muscle imbalances between sides.
  • Improves leg drive for both your squat and deadlift.

How to Do the Skater Squat

Stand on your left leg and grip the floor with your foot. Slowly lower your right knee to the ground behind you, touching it to the floor right next to your left ankle. Then stand back up again without touching your right shin or right foot on the ground. If you lack the balance, flexibility, or strength to do this unassisted, hold on to something secure in front of you and perform as described — such as a suspension trainer or the end of a power rack. To make the move harder, hold light dumbbells in each hand.

Elevated Split Squat

Elevated split squats address two things that most lifters need: hip mobility and increased leg drive. The longer range of motion — which comes from elevating your rear leg on a workout bench — improves your hip flexor mobility and strength on the back leg and puts more quad tension on the front leg. Improving both of these factors will have a huge carryover to your squats and deadlifts.

Benefits of the Elevated Splits Squat

  • Split squats reduce muscle imbalances between legs, strengthening weakness, improving technique,, and reducing the chances of injury.
  • More leg muscle recruitment, as split squats make you work harder to recruit more muscle fibers to perform the same squat movement.

How to Do the Elevated Split Squat

Put your foot on an elevated surface and place a weight plate in front of your big toe,, allowing you to change sides and not waste time finding your ideal foot position. Keeping your chest up and shoulders dow, drop your back knee towards the floor while maintaining a slight forward lean in your torso. Push your front foot through the floor to return to the starting position. 

Push-Up

The push-up is a tried-and-true exercise with many benefits — core activation (as it’s essentially a moving plank), triceps, chest, and shoulder growth, and more body control. It carries over to your bench press, and can be done in any space — large or small. You’re never too advanced for push-ups and if there is no barbell around, busting out push-ups should to be your go-to. 

Benefits of the Push-Up

  • It trains the same muscles as the bench press but it is more of a total body move because your core muscles are engaged.
  • It’s a move that is easily progressed or regressed, which is great for beginners and advanced lifters alike.
  • The push-up strengthens more stabilizing muscles than the bench press.

How to Do the Push-Up

Get on your hand and knees, placing your hands slightly wider than your shoulder width. Straighten your arms and legs, so you’re on your toes and hands and engage your glutes to maintain a neutral spine. Lower your body until your chest nearly touches the floor (not your face) and pause for a second. Push yourself up and repeat for reps. 

Decline Push-Up

The pectoral major muscle is fan-shaped and has two separate attachment points, the sternum and the humerus. And to fully develop this region, you need to change the angles of your presses. This is where decline push-ups come in. By placing your feet on a bench, the focus of the push-up shifts to the upper chest and anterior deltoid to add more size and strength to this area. 

Benefits of the Decline Push-Up

  • Strengthens the upper pecs, which enhances the appearance of your overall chest. 
  • Increases the intensity compared to standard push-ups.

How to Do the Decline Push-Up

Kneel down with your back to the elevated surface with your hands on the floor underneath your shoulders. Place your toes on the elevated surface and brace your core, quads, and glutes and lower your upper chest to the floor. Pause and push into the floor and return to the starting position. 

Walking Spiderman With Hip Lift and Overhead Reach

This is one of the best bang for your buck mobility exercises you can do. This exercise takes you through a variety of movements, so you’re effectively warming-up and engaging your entire body. It targets the adductors, hip mobility, hamstring flexibility, hip flexors, and thoracic spine mobility. If you’re really tight on time and can only afford a few minutes to warm-up, this is the move you should do. 

Benefits of the Walking Spiderman with Hip Lift and Overhead Reach

  • This exercise is referred to as the ‘microwave’ because it warms you up in a hurry. Doing just five reps on each side will have you ready to go.
  • Targets, ankle, hip, shoulder, and thoracic mobility.
  • It can be done with no equipment and minimal space, making it perfect for those who own a home gym

How to Do the Walking Spiderman with Hip Lift and Overhead Reach

Step into a forward lunge and bring both hands down inside the forward leg. Then straighten both legs while your hands are on the ground, then come back down and get into a deep lunge. Reach and rotate the arm furthest away from the forward leg with your eyes following your hands. Return the hand to the ground and stand up and step through to the other side, and repeat.

Banded Pull-Up

The pull-up is as ubiquitous as the push-up, but it can be argued that the former is a better test of upper-body strength as you’re moving your entire bodyweight. By comparison, push-ups use around 65-70% of your body weight. Pull-ups train your grip strength, core, and upper body pulling strength. One issue with this move is that, well, pull-ups are hard. For that reason, we suggest that you use bands to make these easier by helping you out of the bottom position.

 Benefits of Banded the Pull-Up

  • Increased hypertrophy potential because of the ability to do more reps due to the band assisting the bottom of the move. 
  • Better bodyweight strength and endurance because you’ll build strength and endurance with the band, which should transfer over to your unassisted chin-ups.
  • Great movement for those who cannot do one chin-up or pull-up.

How to Do the Banded Pull-up

Attach a moderate resistance band to the bar and from a chair/bench put one foot inside the band.  Grab a chin-up bar with an underhand or overhand grip and engage your core and grip tight to pull yourself up until your chest is even with the bar. Then pause for a second and lower down slowly and repeat for reps. When finished, step back onto the chair and release your foot from the band.

Bent Over IYT

Outside of the pull-up, it’s not easy to find bodyweight exercises that train the entire back. The bent over IYT is a fantastic bodyweight exercise that trains the lower back isometrically in a hinge position and the important muscles in the upper back. Plus, if you have light dumbbells (or even soup cans), it makes a great exercise even better. 

Benefits of the Bent Over IYT

How to Do the Bent Over IYT

With your feet hip-width apart and toes pointed forward, hinge at the hips until your torso is almost parallel with the floor. Maintain the position for the entire exercise. With your arms hanging straight down and thumbs pointed, raise your arms until they’re by your ears. Return to starting position. Then raise your arms and form a Y, return to the starting position, and raise your arms out to the side until you form a T shape. That’s one rep. 

Side Plank

There are exercises lifters love to hate, even though they know said exercise pack tons of benefits. The side plank is one of those exercises. With only two points of contact (feet and forearm) versus gravity, it’s a great exercise to strengthen your lateral core of the obliques and quadratus lumborum, which help prevent unnecessary rotation of the lumbar spine. Plus, it helps strengthen your shoulder stabilizers as well. 

Benefits of the Side Plank

  • Side planks strengthen the quadratus lumborum, a muscle that plays an important role in preventing lower back pain.
  • Lower back pain often comes from a lack of endurance from the core muscles. Side planks help solve this problem.

How to Do the Standard Side Plank

Lie on your left or right side with your knees straight and your elbow directly underneath your shoulder. Prop your body up on your elbow and forearm and raise your opposite hand until it’s perpendicular to your torso. Align your feet, knees, and hips together. Brace your core and raise your hips until your body forms a straight line from ankles to shoulders and hold for time.

The Benefits of Training At Home

Although you don’t have access to the same equipment as the gym at home, unless you have a decked-out home gym, there are several benefits of training at home if the gym isn’t an option.

Woman doing pull-up
Microgen/Shutterstock

If you’re a motivated lifter and don’t mind where your train, training at home is convenient. Life is always busy, but training at home takes the travel, cost, and time out of the equation, making it easy to fit training in when you have the time.

Your training environment is how you want it, having the temperature right for you, your music as loud as you want it, and germs are less of a concern because they’re your own.

When trainign at home, you can also focus on yourself — there will never be a wait for the equipment or someone asking you for a spot mid-set.

Three Day At-Home Workout Program 

Here’s three-day workout routine you can do at home using a mix of the moves above and other worthwhile exercises. 

Day One

  • Push-Up or Decline Push-Up: four sets of 10 reps.
  • Resistance Band Hinge: four sets of 15 reps.
  • Lateral Raise/Upright Row superset: five total sets for max reps
  • Resistance Band Pushdown: accumulate 200 reps in as few sets as possible

Day Two

  • Banded Pull-Up:  four sets of 10 reps
  • Walking Lunge: 20 steps per leg
  • Resistance Band Pullover: four sets of 20 reps
  • Bent Over IYT: four sets 15-24 total reps
  • Resistance Band Biceps Curl/Reverse Curl superset: accumulate 100 reps of each in as few sets as possible

Day Three

  • Skater Squat or Elevated Split Squat: four sets 12-15 reps each leg
  • Push-Up: three sets of 15 reps
  • Single-Arm Row: four sets- 15-20 reps
  • Leg Curl: four sets 12-15 reps
  • Side Plank: four sets 15- 60 seconds each side

Use the following on a six-day rotation and train core and 30 minutes of light cardio three times per week. This is a great way to maintain body composition and strength until you can get back to the barbell. 

More At Home Training Tips

Now that you have a handle on the best home exercises to keep you strong, you can also check out these other helpful training articles for strength, power, and fitness athletes.

Featured image: Microgen/Shutterstock