23 Exercises to Build Muscle at Home

“Ability is what you’re capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it.”  -Lou Holtz

Please consult your doctor before embarking on any exercises outlined in this post. If you’re a beginner, you need to do less than is outlined. These workouts are intended for intermediate to experienced individuals. Thanks!

Life can become pretty busy at times and it may not be possible to get to the gym regularly, even if the world isn’t on lock-down.  But when you’re required by law to stay indoors or if you’ve decided to work for yourself with a new online business, working out is still very possible. Working out every day isn’t just good for your physically but it can help fight off depression too. Sure, chasing naughty kids with a slipper, or avoiding projectiles hurled around the house, can work up a good sweat, but it just doesn’t give you the muscle focus required to ensure positive gains.

What you need is an easy to follow workout guide to really focus on each body part to ensure you remain flexible and continue to stack on the muscle while you’re stuck indoors (who knows, your new “home built” physique might make you even more appealing to your “other half” and you can try out some sex tips to blow their minds further)

All that’s required is a good attitude, a little motivation, a couple dumbbell weights and a few square meters for you to be able to move about. If your family won’t leave you alone, take the weights into the bathroom and workout there. The puffing and grunting will cause them to think you’re dealing with terrible symptoms of the virus. This should keep them away long enough for you to make some good progress.

Also, when you emerge from the space all red-faced and sweaty, chances are they will stay clear of you for the rest of the day, the benefits are endless.

For some of the exercises it would be helpful to also have an adjustable bench but it’s not essential.

While I appreciate and acknowledge the value of exercises like “bur-pees” and “star-jumps”, to keep lean and help you stay fit, this is not where you are going to find any of those exercises. This post is for guys who are serious about beefing up. I’m not here to make you look like you’re auditioning for a 1980’s Jane Fonda video.

Frequency of Workouts

How often should you train each body part, for how long and how many times a week? My answers to these questions usually depend on what your goals are and how many times a week you intend on getting to the gym. In this case though, we’re unpacking best practices for building muscle at home, so this makes addressing these questions a little easier.

Whatever your muscle goals, it’s important to get some good sleep each night and ensure you follow a balanced diet.

You want to keep the workouts short and fun. It takes a little more motivation to train at home so the last thing you want to do is make it feel like a chore. My suggestion, to ensure you make gains while training indoors, is to just train a single body part a day (excluding calves which should be trained with upper legs). 

The order in which the muscles are trained below, will ensure adequate time to heal before calling upon them again.

Warming Up

In my post  5 Tips to Keep Building Muscle Over 40,  I touch on the importance of stretching and warming up, but this pertains to everyone at any age. If you’re not warming up and stretching before a work out, you are allowing tiny injuries to occur to your joints and tendons and I promise you, they will rear their ugly heads as you get older (trust me on this).

The best way to begin your workout is by stretching the muscle you want to work on, slowly. Because my suggestion here is to just train one body part each day, warming up won’t take long. Begin by extending the appendage you are going to work on, and slowly range through the movement until the tendon is at full length, then slowly retract it again. Do this at least 10 times for a few seconds at a time.

NB: Never bounce or jar the tendon! I have seen cold tendons snap from people bouncing like plonkers and it is a very long, uncomfortable road to recovery for such a silly event.

Once you have stretched the muscle and tendon, ensure you begin each exercise with 1 light set of between 30 and 50 repetitions (reps). This will adequately warm up the muscle before you start pushing harder. In some cases you will be using your own body weight as resistance and in these cases, just begin with 4 or 5 very slow reps to ensure the maximum number of muscle fibers are called into play and are sufficiently warmed up.  

How to Execute Exercises

All repetitions (reps)/exercises should be carried out slowly yet deliberately through the full range of motion. Do NOT go too heavy. Remember to carefully control the weight or your body through the movement. Going too fast will not allow the muscle to call on enough fibers for growth and will increase the chance of injury.

If you find yourself being able to do a press-up too easily, even on your last set, then try doing the movement at 1 third of the speed you normally do it. The decrease in speed will have the effect of increasing time under tension and maximize the load on your muscle. Remember, 1 very slow rep can be more effective than 5 quick reps.

In What Order Should You Train Each Muscle on Each Day?

On the surface, this may seem like a silly question. I mean, what does it matter in which order your muscles are trained? And if you were just trying to stay fit and supple, the order in which you trained wouldn’t matter, but we are trying to build muscle, so we will be pushing ourselves a little harder than the average hop skip and jumper.

It’s no good working your triceps really hard on Monday and then trying to do 100 painful press-ups on the Tuesday with aching triceps. It’ll hurt and it will limit your range of motion while training chest.

Training in the below order will ensure that each workout you attend, is not hindered by having trained a supporting muscle the day before.


Day 1: Chest

Day 2: Back

Day 3: Legs

Day 4: Shoulders

Day 5: Triceps

Day 6: Biceps

Day 7: Abs

Time to Train

Day 1: Chest


Set 1: 40 reps (on knees)

For your warm up set, do between 30 and 50 reps depending on your fitness level

Set 2: 15 reps (normal)

Your 2nd & 3rd set should be in standard press-up formation

Set 3: Rep till failure, slowly (Normal form as in set 2 but take 3 seconds to lower yourself and 3 seconds to raise your body again, do not pause at the top or bottom)

Set 4: Decline for 15 reps

Elevate your feet for this one to focus on the chest (don’t dirty your wife’s couch please, put a towel down first)

Flyers: (using light dumbbells on bench or floor)

Set 1: 20 reps with very light weight

You can do this on a bench or the floor. In either case, keep your arms slightly bent

Set 2: 20 reps (slightly heavier weights – never go heavy on these, you will injure yourself)

Set 3: Rep until failure (with the same weight)

Pectoral Pullovers: (on a bench or the floor)

Set 1: 20 reps (very light weight)

These can be done on a bench or on the floor

Set 2: 20 reps (slightly heavier weights – never go heavy on these, you will injure yourself)

Set 3: Rep until failure (with the same weight)

Day 2: Back

1 Arm Dumbbell Rows

4 Sets: Use incrementally more weight for each and go to failure

Alternate between your left and right side

Door Pull-ins: 3 sets of 20 (slowly)

Be careful doing this one if your door breaks or your feel slip you will be talking like a little girl for days

Hyper Extensions

4 sets: 20 reps each (slowly)

Great exercise for lower-middle back, don’t lift your hands too far above your head

Day 3: Legs

Squats: (body weight)

1 set: 50 reps

Squats: (with dumbbell)

3 sets: 15 reps (increase weight with each set)


3 sets: 15 reps (increase weight with each set, start with no weight)

Calf raises

1st set: 30

2nd – 5th set: (20, 30, 30 & 30 slowly!)

Pause with a deep stretch at the bottom and hold it at the top for a good pump (you HAVE to work through the pain barrier on this one)

Day 4: Shoulders

Shoulder Press: (seated or standing)

3 sets: Increase weight for each set (don’t forget to warm up!)

Seated or standing. The name of the game here is slow and controlled. Do NOT bounce them off the bottom

Lateral flyers

3 sets: Increase weights for each set, go to failure, keep your back straight

Bent over flyers

4 sets: Keep the weight light. Begin very light and increase but never go heavy

You can do these standing if you’re a pro but seated if needed, like for us mere mortals

Front Raisers

3 sets: Rep till failure (keep the weight the same and light)

Don’t go too high with these, just above shoulder height and don’t rest at the bottom. Pause at the top, lighter is better.

Day 5: Triceps

Tricep Extensions

3 sets: Increase the weight with each set (don’t forget to warm up)

Lower the weight slowly behind your head and back again


4 sets: Begin without weight (if you are an old hat, add some weight between your legs)

Ensure you do this on a sturdy bench or solid chair. Don’t use a bed, you will hurt your wrists.

Close hand press-ups

3 sets: Rep till failure (if your elbows hurt, widen your hands until the pain almost stops (i said almost.. we don’t want you getting soft)


4 sets: Till failure (Incrementally heavier but keep it light)

Do your best to keep your elbow still. Upper arm must remain perpendicular to the ground)

Day 6: Biceps


4 sets: Rep till failure on 3 sets after your 20 rep warm-up set (incremental weights for each set)

Keep your body still. Bend your knees slightly. do not swing your arms. Twist your wrist as it comes up. Do 1 arm at a time, never move both arms simultaneously.

Front curls

3 sets: All till failure (incremental weights)

Great for outside bicep-head development

Concentration Curls

3 sets: 20 reps each arm

Never lean back and hyper-extend your arm, always lean into it, your arm should NEVER experience a 180 degree extension EVER when training biceps

Day 7: Abs


4 sets: To failure please Sir

Never pull your head forward, you will injure your neck. touch your ears instead of placing your hands behind your head.


4 sets: To failure again please

Once you get used to training abs hard a couple times a week, as with calves, you will need to push through the pain barrier. It’s only pain.. PUSH through it!!


Alright Sir, good work on seeking out ways to build muscle while stuck at home. This shows a dedication not seen by me very often. There is a great Afrikaans slang word, it’s pronounced “HOUDING!”

“Houding” denotes a type or hardiness, grit and determination that we South Africans know all too well. Remember the word, when the going gets tough, say it out loud and keep pushing.

If you stick with the above routine and eat correctly, you will be the envy of your friends and your partner’s dream. You will feel light years ahead of everyone else as they emerge into a world filled with out-of-shape folks.

Power to you my friend!

If you require any other tips about training or dieting, please feel free to contact me and I’ll gladly assist.

Thanks for reading..

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7 Replies to “23 Exercises to Build Muscle at Home”

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