The Massive Plug-and-Play Home Workout Guide

Everyone is stuck performing home workouts right now because of the COVID Pandemic.  I have had to redesign countless workout programs for my clients and my athletes who can no longer train in a gym and may not be able to for an extended period of time. 

Initially, I was getting frustrated trying to balance out who could do what with their specific equipment until I realized I need to create my own template that would help sort and organize everything for me.  In creating this for myself I thought others might find it useful.

One of the biggest challenges in setting up a home workout is figuring out exactly what equipment the individual has.  Some have bands but no weights, others just have dumbbells and no bands, and some might only have their bodyweight.  To that end I have divided up these workouts into 5 different categories based on what equipment is available:

  • Bodyweight
  • Bands
  • Dumbbells
  • Stability Ball
  • Rings

If someone has a bar and a squat rack then they can pretty much perform any free weight exercise they could do in the gym and this article isn’t for them.  I am also going to include some common kettlebell, cardio and stone exercises in case you have access to those implements. 

Secondly, a significant challenge is making the exercise the right intensity, some at-home exercises are pretty wimpy and others can be extremely challenging even for fit individuals.  Often your bodyweight is a factor, and that means a higher bodyweight might make one exercise hard for one person and easy for another. 

EXERCISE OPTIONS

As a result of these factors, I am dividing the exercises into 5 levels of difficultly using the following scale:

A – About as easy as the exercise can be made, good if you are a beginner

B – A little bit easier than “normal” or standard form

C – Normal difficulty, use if you are an intermediate or strong for your weight

D – A challenging exercise

E – About as hard as we can make the exercise be, good if you are advanced with good body

awareness and high relative strength

The exercise list is divided by the primary muscle group working in the exercise.  A simple template will be provided at the end so you can plug-and-play to set up your own style of workouts.

Chest Exercises

Chest – Bodyweight only

Exercise A B C D E
  Couch Push-ups Push-ups to block Push-ups to Floor Feet Elevated Push-ups 1 arm push-ups
  Negative Hands Elevated Push-ups Neg Modified Push-ups Hand Release Push-ups Uneven Push-ups Power Push-ups

Chest – Bands

Exercise A B C D E
  1 arm chest press 1 arm chest fly 1 arm crossover Banded 2 arm chest press Banded Push-ups
  1 arm chest press walk out 1 arm chest fly walk out 2 arm fly 1 arm plank fly  

Chest – Dumbbell

Exercise A B C D E
  Floor DB Press DB Press DB Incline Press Alt DB Press Alt DB Incline Press
  Floor DB Fly DB Fly DB Incline Fly Alt DB Fly Alt DB Incline Fly

Chest – Ball

Exercise A B C D E
  Push-ups Ball at waist Push-ups Ball at knees Push-ups Ball at Feet Push-ups Hands on Ball Push-ups Toes on Ball

Chest – Rings

Exercise A B C D E
  Hands High Elevation Ring Push-ups Hands Med Elevation Ring Push-ups Ring Push-ups Uneven Ring Push-ups 1 arm ring push-ups
  Hands High Elevation Ring Fly Hands Med Elevation Ring Fly Ring Flys Feet Elevated Ring Fly 1 arm ring fly

Back Exercises

Back – Bodyweight and assuming a Pull-up bar

Exercise A B C D E
  Leg Assisted Chin-ups Flexed Arm Hang – Chin Partial Chin-ups Negative Chin-ups Chin-ups
    Leg Assisted Pull-ups Flexed Arm Hang – Pull Partial Pull-ups Negative Pull-ups Pull-ups

Back – Dumbbell

Exercise A B C D E
  DB Row Chest Supported DB Row DB Wide Row DB Pullover Weighted Chin-ups

Back – Band

Exercise A B C D E
  Band Row Band Wide Row Band Lat Pulldown Pull-ups with Band Pull-ups against Band
    Alt Band Row Alt Wide Row Alt Band Lat Pulldown Band Straight Arm Lat Pulldown Band Pullover

Back – Rings

Exercise A B C D E
  Bodyweight High Row Bodyweight Medium Row Bodyweight Low Row Feet Elevated Bodyweight Row 1-arm Bodyweight Row
    Ring Flexed Arm Hang Ring Pullovers Ring Pull-ups 1 arm pull-up Iron Cross

Shoulder Exercises

Shoulders – Bodyweight (these exercises will also hit the core)

Exercise A B C D E
  Elbow Side Plank on knees Elbow Side Plank on ankles T-Push-up Handstand Hold Handstand Push-ups

Shoulders – Dumbbell

Exercise A B C D E
  DB Front Raise DB Lateral Raise DB Rear Delt Raise DB Military Press Alt DB Military Press
    Alt Front Raises Learning Lateral Raises Power Rear Delts Neutral Grip Military Press Alt Neutral Grip Military Press
  Front Raise Hold Lateral Hold Rear Delt Holds DB Push Press 1 arm DB Clean and Press

Shoulders – Ball & DB’s

Exercise A B C D E
  Chest on Ball Front Raise Sit on ball Lateral Raise Hips on Ball Rear Delt Raise Sit on ball DB Military Press Ball T-Push-up Hold

Leg Exercises

Legs – Bodyweight

Exercise A B C D E
  Half BW Squat Full BW Squat Reverse Lunge Reverse Lunge with Hip Flexion Jumping Squat
  Wall Sit Squat to a chair Forward Lunge Walking Lunge with Hip Flexion Box Jump
  Glute Bridge Legs Straight Glute Bridge Hip Thrust Step-up Single Leg Hip Thrust

Legs – Bands

Exercise A B C D E
  Band Assisted Squat Band Leg Extension Band Leg Curl Band Squat Band Leg Press on back
  X-band Walk X-band Lateral Walk X-band walk backwards Fire Hydrant with bands Squat w/bands around knees
  Band Glute Bridge Band Hip Thrust Band Quadruped Hip Extension Band Donkey Kick Band Single Leg Hip Thrust

Legs – Dumbbell

Exercise A B C D E
  Straight Arm Goblet Squat Goblet Squat Goblet Reverse Lunge Goblet Walking Lunge Goblet Jumping Squats
  1 DB Deadlift DB Stiff Legged Deadlift DB Good Morning DB Leg Curl DB Single leg Stiff Legged

Legs – Ball

Exercise A B C D E
  Ball Squat Bent Knee Bridge Feet on ball Straight leg Bridge Heels on ball Ball Leg Curl Single leg Ball Leg Curl

Legs – Rings

Exercise A B C D E
  Ring Assisted Squat Ring Assisted Pistol Squat Feet in Rings Bridge Feet in Rings Leg Curl Alt Feet in Rings Leg Curl

Core Exercises

Core – Bodyweight

Exercise A B C D E
  Incline Crunch Crunch Sit-up Sit-up holding weight Sit-up feet not anchored
  Reverse Crunch Leg Raise Toe Touch Crunch Dead bug Deadbug with weight
  Couch Plank forearms Couch Plank hands Forearm plank Hand plank Side Plank
  Standing Rotations Side Crunch Bicycles Russian Twists Floor Wipers

Core – Bands

Exercise A B C D E
  Incline Crunch w/bands Crunch w/bands Sit-up w/bands Kneeling Crunch with bands V-sit iso hold w/bands
  Reverse Crunch w/bands Leg Raise w/bands Toe Touch Crunch w/bands Dead bug w/bands Banded Mountain Climbers
  Band Rotations one side Band Rotations double Band Side Bends Alternating Dead Bug w/bands 1 arm plank with band lat pulldown

Core – Dumbbell

Exercise A B C D E
  Sit-up w/DB on chest Sit-up w/DB arms straight V-sit Iso Hold w/DB Unilateral Sit-up w/DB Sit-up w/DB behind head
  Reverse Crunch w/DB Leg Raise w/DB DB Side Bend Russian Twist w/DB T Push-up w/DB

Core – Ball

Exercise A B C D E
  Crunch on a ball Sit-up on a ball Side Rotations on a ball Dead Bug w/ball Ball in Hand inchworm
  Leg Raise off ball Forearms on ball plank Hands-on ball plank Toes on ball plank Floor wipers w/ball

Core – Rings

Exercise A B C D E
  Rollout on rings High Rollout on rings Med Rollout on rings Low Dead Bug w/ball 1 arm ring rollout
  Hands in rings plank Feet in rings plank Feet in rings inchworm Feet in rings mountain climber Foot in ring side plank

Stone Exercises

Exercise A B C D E
  Stone Pick-up Stone Row Stone to Shoulder Stone Shoulder Squat Stone overhead
  Stone Carry Stone Bench Press Shoulder Carry Stone Throw Stone Overhead Carry

Kettlebell Exercises

Exercise A B C D E
  KB Deadlift KB Swing KB Clean KB Snatch KB TGU
  KB Row KB Squat KB Chest Press KB Shoulder Press KB Side Swing

Cardio Options

Exercise A B C D E
  March in Place Jumping Jacks Mountain Climbers Jump Rope Hill Sprints
  Brisk Walk Climb Stairs Jump on Trampoline Burpees Shuttle Run

The first thing to do is to figure out your primary goal that these workouts are trying to accomplish.  Keep it simple and select one of the four options below.

CHOOSE YOUR GOAL

Strength – one of the toughest goals to achieve with minimal equipment.  Choose challenging exercises for 1-10 reps (if you can do more than a dozen figure out a way to make it harder).  Rest 1-3 minutes between sets.  Look to do 3-10 sets of each exercise.

Power – choose some of the harder, most explosive total body exercises available.  Look to do 1-8 reps, rest 1-3 minutes between sets, aim for 4-8 sets.  Power is generally expressed against either a heavy resistance (power clean, shot put) or a light resistance (pitching a baseball, throwing a punch).  It is noticeably easier to train for power against a light resistance at home.

Muscle Endurance – this is the most common goal and is easy to build with in-home workouts.  Choose moderately difficult exercises: if you can’t perform 5 reps it is too hard; if you can do it easily do 50 make it tougher.  Generally, complete 10-30 reps but feel free to step outside that range.  Rest 0-2 min between sets and perform 1-5 sets.  Watch for overuse and tendinitis over time in the shoulders, elbows, and knees particularly and scale back/modify if that develops.

Cardiovascular Endurance – perform exercises in a circuit fashion, generally with 10-20 reps each set.  Rest minimally after each set and 0-1 min after each circuit.  Look to include the cardio options interspersed with the strength training options.  Of course, you can also use the classics of running, riding a bike, rollerblading, etc. to accomplish this goal but that is not the scope of this article.

CREATING THE PROGRAM

The final step before plugging your exercises in is to select the type of program you want.  Generally, this is set up as total body, split, or cardio options.  For each of those I will give two options, typically a shorter option (30 min or less) and a longer option (~1 hr).

Total Body Short Total Body Long
1 chest exercise
1 back exercise
1 leg exercise
1 core exercise
Optional shoulder exercise
Optional repeat exercise
Optional Cardio exercise
2 chest exercises
2 back exercises
1-2 shoulder exercises
2 leg exercises
2 core exercises
Optional Cardio or Bonus exercise
Split Set Up Short Split Set Up Long
Pick one of the following:
A. 1 primary muscle group
B. 2 primary muscle groups
C. 1 primary muscle group + other
Pick one of the following:
A. 2 primary muscle groups
B. 3 primary muscle groups
C. 2 primary muscle groups + other
A. Pick 2-4 exercises for the primary muscle group
B. Pick 2-3 exercises for each of the primary muscle groups
C. Pick 2-3 exercises for the primary group + 1-3 other exercises
A. Pick 3-5 exercises for each of the primary muscle groups
B. Pick 2-4 exercises for each of the primary muscle groups
C. Pick 2-4 exercises for each of the primary muscle groups + 1-4 other exercises
Cardio Workout Focus Cardio + Resistance Training Focus
Pick 1-5 cardio exercises and perform them each for 1-10 minutes Perform 2-4 RT Exercises
Perform 1 cardio exercise for 1-5 minutes
Repeat that 2-5 times, it is okay to swap out exercises on the repeated rounds if desired

PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER

To summarize, to use this template you will do the following

  1. Pick your Goal
  2. Pick your Type of Program
  3. Pick your Workout Length (long or short)

That will create a skeleton template of what your workout program should look like in general.  After that you will select the exercises you have access to which you like and believe are effective and then apply the number of reps, sets, and rest that match your goals and ability.  Be sure to record these workouts just like you would in the gym – you might need even more detailed notes about band set up and body placement, etc.  When you repeat these workouts look to add in overload by doing more reps, using better form, going faster, resting less, using more resistance, or choosing more challenging exercises.  

The weeks will go by and soon it will be time to return the gym.  Do you want to be one of the fit ones returning or one of the people that gained the “quarantine 15”?  When you are back at the gym, or if you have noticeably more home equipment than just a pair of dumbbells or a band, you might find my book All About Program Design to be quite useful in setting up programs when more equipment is available.

Stay fit, healthy, and safe during this time and look to be kind when you can.

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