Home Workouts Don’t Build Muscle
Not to mention the fact that I’m a teacher and it’s summer time, so I am usually up very late. So at 4 a.m when I’m relaxing in bed and watching shows on my cableless, bedroom T.V. I am forced to run into multiple infomercials selling these types of products because my HD Antenna only gets a handful of channels. So I am well aware of the abundance of products and workouts that promise to build tons of muscle, help you lose weight, and look better. The truth is that home workouts only deliver on 1.5 of these promised effects. (Yes 1.5 .. I will explain.) Let’s find out why this is true.
What are “home workouts”?
When I say “home workouts,” we are discussing workouts that consist of body weight exercises and/or exercises with minimal to no added resistance. To make this more clear, not only have you seen these workouts on infomercials, you most likely have encountered an annoying internet salesman disguised as your online friend that tries to get you to buy products that this company sells.
Now that that is clear….
What I do NOT mean by the term “home workouts,” is someone who has an extensive weight set in their house and uses it properly.
So as you can see, the catalyst is not the fact that the person works out at home, it’s actually the lack of proper resistance.
Glad we got that out of the way.
Why Does Resistance Matter?
Resistance is huge. Without the ability to increase resistance you limit the most effective means to change your body: progressive overload.
Progressive overload means that over time the resistance is increased as you progress through the program.
Let’s use traditional weight training as an example. A person might begin bench pressing with 225 lbs for 5 reps. Every week or so, this person will incrementally add more resistance to the bar. So 225 at week 1 will increase to 230 at week 3, 235 at week 5, 240 at week 7, and so on and so forth. Let’s say that at the end of the year this person has progressively overloaded to 315.
Can you say: “GAINS!” I know you can… try it. It’s fun.
This gradual, yet impactful, increase to the resistance is the key to building strength, muscle and size, and to ultimately to get results.
The problem with home workout programs is the fact that progressive overload, as far as resistance is concerned, is thrown out the window. It doesn’t exist and this is a monumental problem. Without progressive overload change simply does not occur, particularly in terms of muscle gain.
Progressive overload does exist in home workout programs, but in another fashion. The overload occurs in the form of increased volume, but this is a double edged sword.
Will progressive overload in terms of volume work for beginners? Most definitely, but anyone who works with body weight exercises or very light resistance for an extended length of time will ultimately stop gaining muscle. Or, the gain in muscle will be so minimal it will go almost unnoticed.
To understand why this is true, you have to understand the law of diminishing returns.
The law of diminishing returns states that every rep and set performed during a workout yields less in return. This means rep 1, of set 1 yields the most return and every rep and set following decreases in it’s yield. This law also states that unfit individuals who begin working out will see drastic changes quickly, but these changes will slow down over time as a person gets closer to his or her genetic potential. I like to think of these views as the micro and macro approach to the law of diminishing returns.
If that was over your head, let me simplify it…
For every rep and set you perform during a workout you get less in return. By less in return I mean you will see less changes to your body overall, including but not limited to gaining muscle. Likewise, over the span of your training (if you continue to train consistently) each workout will yield fewer results than the last.
So for beginners, progressive overload by adding volume works fine, but over time changes will stop. Not to mention the fact that your strength stamina will eventually increase to the point where you can successfully perform 20-30 push ups in a set. Likewise, the longer you train in this fashion the greater your work capacity will grow, so eventually you will be completing around 8-10 total sets of 15-30 reps.
If you are out of shape currently this probably sounds good to you, but you have to realize that at this point you’re getting wacked by the law of diminishing returns from both ends.
You have basically developed your strength and work capacity to a point where you have to do such high volume of low resistance exercise just to get something that feels similar to a decent workout (if you can call it that). This is the exact opposite of optimal, but if you like wasting your time, developing tendonitis from over use, and working harder than you need to for minimal to no results, maybe this is for you…
But most likely this is not what you are looking for….. that is unless you’re some kind of push up, body weight lunging masochist who gets off on accomplishing pointless exercise feats that mean nothing to anyone and yield no aesthetic or strength results ….
Enter exhibit A….
Let’s count them…. Zero, Zero, Zero … Her low back has got to be screaming! Okay I’ll stop now…
Back to what I was saying….
Once you build a decent strength level and work capacity, home workouts become a waste of your time.
You may be thinking, “I know people who have developed some muscle doing these kinds of programs.”
And that is probably true. But, they will never get past the point they are currently at and it took them way, WAY longer to get there than it needed to. I don’t know about you, but my time is important and I don’t like to waste it.
How long can it take for a person to reach the point of minimal to no returns?
A person can reach this point quickly or relatively slow depending on his or her fitness level when they begin the program. Some people will reach this point after a few months, while others who are extremely over weight and very deconditioned might do well with these types of programs for a year or so.
You also have to factor in that as you lose weight, the resistance is actually decreasing for a majority of these exercises. This is exact opposite of what you want.
You might be saying, “Well I don’t want to gain muscle. I only want to get toned.”
If this is your stance you are terribly misguided. “Toned” doesn’t exist. It is a fake, made up term used by fitness companies mainly that mainly push products for women. The body can’t “tone”. The only thing it can do is lose or gain both fat and muscle.
The popular misconception that high reps or particular exercises build “sleek” or “toned” muscles or body parts is a flat out lie.
Likewise, to think that you will gain incredible amounts of muscle and look like a neanderthal by weight training is also a misconception.
Think about this…..
Fitness companies sell you products and market products by telling you it won’t cause you to build big muscles. This conveys the message that it’s so easy to build muscle that if you do too much, you will look like the Incredible Hulk.
Yet in the same breath… these companies market protein powders and other supplements that claim to “preserve muscle” and “help build muscle” because they it is so difficult to gain muscle. They make you believe without these specific products it is nearly impossible to gain and keep muscle from your workouts.
Seems kind of contradictory doesn’t it?
Understand that these companies will use any tactic and flat out lie to the general consumer to push a product. They want your money at the cost of integrity. They are snakes.
Also, for future reference, when you see extreme opposite views on a subject, the truth usually lies somewhere in the middle. This theory can be applied here.
So do not be scared to add muscle to your frame. In fact, here are the reasons you SHOULD put on a decent amount of muscle…
- Muscle increases your metabolism so you will burn more calories at rest
- The more muscle you have the more calories you can afford to eat
- Weight training has an extremely high thermic effect post workout, as the recovery is demanding and this also increases the calories you can consume while losing fat
- Weight training helps create denser bones and helps reduce the chance of osteoporosis later in life
- Results come quicker
- Joint strength and stability increases
- Body composition changes happen much quicker
These benefits do occur from home workouts, particularly for untrained individual, but they happen much slower and over time pale in comparison to the results you would get from weight training.
So Who Would Actually Benefit From Home Workouts?
- Beginners… the more deconditioned the better and longer these programs will work for you
- People working out for general health purposes without major aesthetic or strength goals
- People without disposable income for a gym or equipment
- People who just hate weight training and would rather do something that is less beneficial just because it’s easier or more fun to them (something is definitely better than nothing… so if nothing is the alternative then get your home workout on!)
The point of this article is this….
Don’t waste your time and money on over priced products and workouts that can only get you minimal results. As shocking as it may seem and contrary to what all of these fitness companies and self proclaimed “fitness gurus” tell you, to truly change your body there is no “weird trick”, “easy” or “quick” fix or “secret” to adding muscle, losing fat and changing how you look.
It boggles my mind how much effort, energy, and money people put into finding gimmicks and quick fixes all the while getting no results. It reminds me of this meme I recently saw online….
Though it may be in poor taste, this is the case a majority of time when I discuss losing weight, gaining muscle and getting fit with people. They run off a list of gimmicks they have tried, purchased, and wasted their time with, and complain that they have gotten little to no results. When I ask them if they resistance train or workout they say “no,” or they name a gimmick workout they have followed in the past. I then ask if they eat properly and they respond with another list of gimmicks and fad diets they have followed.
If you took half the energy that these people used finding these gimmicks and instead used that energy to actually work hard, these people wouldn’t be in the situations that they are currently in.
The truth is that the easy road simply doesn’t exist, so stop wasting so much energy and money looking for it. Instead, put that energy into your actual workouts.
If you choose to go the home fitness route as a true beginner, realize that eventually you will need to start lifting some actual weight to get the results you probably are looking for.
I honestly am sick of explaining these concepts to people, so I am glad I finally had some time to put this stuff together in an article. I hope it stops everyone from wasting their time and hard earned money on crap they simply don’t need.
If you know someone who is a beginner and doesn’t know where to start, I ask that you please share this article with them. Thank you so much!