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Two Adjustments An Expert Recommends For Nailing At-Home Workouts

Courtney Ustrzycki
mbg Contributor By Courtney Ustrzycki
mbg Contributor
Courtney Ustrzycki is a nutrition, strength and confidence coach. She has her advanced certificate in sports and exercise nutrition, as well as a diploma in diet and weight loss management, both from Shaw Academy. Courtney is also an international, competitive powerlifter
Woman Working Out Outside with Medicine Ball

With gyms and studios closed around the world, we're all doing our best to get our workouts in at home. And while it's an adjustment, you can still have an effective and progress-aligned workout, as long as you're focusing on your goals and what really matters.

You don't need a full-blown home gym setup, or even an entire line of dumbbells, to have an effective resistance training workout. Mainly, it's important to remember what your goals are. Right now, your mind is the best piece of equipment you have because that's where your discipline, focus, attention to mind-muscle connection, and attitude come from.

And of course, it's always important to remember to have fun during your sessions. Sometimes it's more about doing what feels good at that time while keeping goals in mind to continue feeling successful in your workouts. Here's my "equation" for a great workout, no matter where you are.

Foster mind-muscle connection.

Movement is controlled by the brain; When you're working out, the brain is signaling your muscles to contract. This mind-muscle connection happens at the "neuromuscular junction," or the point where the mind meets the body.

The brain releases a chemical called acetylcholine to make this contraction happen. When the chemical is released at the junction, it crosses a little space between the nerve and the muscle where it then binds to the muscle fibers, and—bam!—muscle contraction courtesy of your brain.

The more you can improve this communication between the mind and muscle, the more fibers you'll recruit. And the more fibers you recruit, the greater the impact on muscle growth. To do this, you want to increase the time under tension to create hypertrophy (muscle damage and growth) in order to continually build the muscle group.

Let's say this triceps series is part of your usual gym routine, for a total of 12 sets: 

  • Overhead cable tricep extensions: 4 sets of 10 reps
  • Tricep dips: 4 sets of 10 reps
  • Dumbbell kickbacks: 4 sets of 10 reps

Now you're at home, without dumbbells. Good news is, there's no rule that says you can't do 12 sets of the same move. Sure, 12 tricep dips aren't the most exciting thing ever, but it gets the job done. Just remember to work each set under the same amount of tension, in order to make it effective.

Other ways to maximize muscle stimulation include increasing the weight during working sets, increasing the reps performed within the working sets, or slowing down the movement entirely to increase the time under tension. And when we are limited with equipment, usually the latter option is the best choice. (Focusing on time under tension means increasing the time that the muscle is activated.)

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Your attitude matters.

No matter the scenario, it always comes down to attitude in everything you do (and that goes beyond workouts). If you let yourself become discouraged by working out at home, you can inadvertently set yourself up for a crappy session.

People often feel workouts at home are inferior to workouts at the gym, but attitude can make or break your success, especially now. For example, instead of "at-home workouts," I've been referring to my athletes' routines as "flex phases," to encourage a positive mindset. They're still on a plan that's aligned with their goals, we're still able to measure progress—the only thing that's changed is the location.

Why flex? Think "flexible and creative," like using household objects in your routine, for example.

M + A = S.

Putting those two factors together—emphasizing your mind-muscle connection and having a positive attitude—is absolutely a recipe for success. The location of your workout doesn't matter nearly as much as how you approach challenges with a positive outlook. Treat this time as an opportunity to learn about yourself, connect even more with your body, and believe that you can still perform to the best of your abilities.

Challenging situations build strong people. You're going to feel way more successful if you choose to give your absolute best right now rather than not trying at all. And when we can finally all hit the gym once again, you'll be that much stronger, both physically and mentally.

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