Example Home-Based Workout Schedules That Are Scientifically Proven

Example Home-Based Workout Schedules That Are Scientifically Proven

Originally Published:  Last Updated:

The three core pillars of health are your diet, your exercise, and your sleep. If you don't eat nutritious and healthy food, your body will suffer from it. If you don't get enough sleep, you can't recharge, heal, rest, and recover. If you don't get enough exercise in the right ways, your body will develop bad habits and poorly use the energy it gets. A sedentary lifestyle has many repercussions, up to and including premature death, so it's critical to get the right kind of exercise.

So, what is the right kind of exercise? Isn't that always the question?

The truth is, there are many different exercise plans as there are personal trainers, and more.

Some people get and stay healthy with nothing more than running, while others spend all their time lifting weights, and both can be equally healthy in different ways.

Speak With Your Doctor First

First, talk to your doctor, trainer, whoever has a full picture of your health and enough expertise in exercise to put together a routine that works for you.

Just like there's no perfect diet for everyone, no perfect supplement, no lifestyle and schedule, there's no one-size-fits-all exercise program.

The exercise needs of a healthy 30-year-old male will vary a lot from those of an overweight 50-year-old male. Even two people with similar health situations will have different proclivities and different exercises that work best for them.

Speak with doctor

On top of this, goals are different. Some people exercise to lose weight, some to gain stamina, and some to train for performance goals like running 5Ks or marathons or competing in exercise-heavy sports. Some just want to lift the heaviest things they can. All of these are valid, and the exercises necessary to reach those goals are very different.

That said, not all exercises are created equal. Some only work for specific goals, some can even run counter to your goals, and you can even have cases where a particular exercise is a risk to your health if you push yourself too hard in doing it.

Talk to your doctor, dietician, or trainer who know you and your goals, your health, and your situation, and can recommend something that works for you.

If you want to try to put something together on your own, take it slow, listen to your body, and don't hurt yourself. Injuries – and the rest required to recover from them – can set you back more than if you just take a slower and steadier approach to your exercise.

General Tips for Successful Exercise

If you're looking to build strength and muscle alongside your health or even just exercise to improve your overall health and bodily systems, there are some important things to keep in mind. Some of these tips are psychological, while others are physical and based on exercise science.

If you would like to see these tips in video form, I have a video running through them on YouTube, here.

Don't worry about getting too muscular.

A surprisingly common concern amongst people looking into exercise – especially women – is that they will end up too muscular. Concern over body image is normal – you always want to feel comfortable in your body – but this is an unfounded worry.

Simply put, it requires exercise and training to achieve significant gains in muscle mass. Bodybuilders spend a significant amount of time training, have heavily regulated diets and swings of cuts and bulking cycles, and dedicate an immense amount of time and effort to grow those muscles.

Dont worry about getting too muscular

It's not something that can just casually happen to you because you've started lifting some weights. You can achieve those results if they're what you desire and you put your mind and body to work for it, but they won't happen accidentally.

Use concentric-eccentric exercises where possible.

Concentric motion is the contraction of muscle fibers. When you do a curl, the muscle fibers in your bicep contract as you lift the weight. Eccentric is the opposite; it's muscle fibers lengthening as you lower the weight.

You may have seen people who lift weights putting a lot of effort into the lift and then essentially just drop the weight to reset for another lift. While some exercises are intentionally designed for this, like powerlifting, most exercises can benefit from both forms of motion. A slower, more controlled descent engages muscles in the eccentric process.

Use Concentric Examples and Exercises

This will also tire you out faster because you're engaging your muscles more than with a concentric-only exercise. In fact, eccentric training may actually be better than concentric, making the combination more than just double concentric training. You may find that you can't do as many reps as you're used to or can't handle as heavy a weight as you're used to for as long as you thought you could. This isn't a bad thing; it's just an adjustment you need to make.

On the plus side, a controlled release helps reduce the risk of injuries as well. Many hyperextensions and joint injuries can be attributed to dropping weights too quickly and putting a sudden shock stress on the joint, which is never good.

Use a full range of motion.

Another common issue with exercise is not using the full range of motion when performing an exercise. A lot of "easy" and fad exercise programs end up doing this, where you might perform a pull-up that doesn't bring you all the way up to the bar or a push-up that doesn't fully extend your arms or lower you back to the ground with each repetition.

Exercise

The less of a range of motion you do, the less engaged your muscles are throughout the exercise and the less work they put in. Less work means less gains.

More weight, less repetition… to a point.

Perhaps one of the more interesting results to come of modern exercise experiments is the optimization of resistance. The dose-response relationship seems to indicate that a higher weight and lower number of repetitions in each set is the ideal for gaining strength.

Generally, what you want to aim for is as heavy a weight or load on a given exercise as you can handle for around 1-5 repetitions per set. Similarly, you're aiming for around 2-3 sets.

Or are you? Modern research seems to indicate that the extreme end of the spectrum isn't necessarily the best. While you aren't going to gain much doing 50 sets of 100 reps of lifting a pencil, you might benefit more from moderate-to-high balance. Something like 8-12 reps for your sets, and 4-5 sets may be better. At the very least, studies seem to indicate that this more moderate and balanced approach still gives you good returns (though not necessarily peak returns) with a dramatically lower risk of injury.

Range of Motion

The problem that crops up with higher weights and lower sets is, generally, diminishing returns. If you can handle four reps for six sets, those last couple of sets aren't going to do as much for you as the first few. Instead of doing more sets or more repetitions per set, as your strength grows, increase the weight or load you're lifting.

Even if strength isn't your overall goal, this concept can still apply. HIIT, or High-Intensity Interval Training, is a similar concept that focuses on building cardiovascular health and stamina over pure weightlifting strength but still places intensity over duration.

One area where this varies is when you're trying to focus more on endurance than strength. Endurance – performing the same exercise a larger number of times per set for more sets – can benefit more from lower weights than higher weights. So, the balance of weight and repetitions can vary based on your goals.

One special note here is for older individuals. The older you are, the more likely you are to have some kind of limit or condition that inhibits pushing yourself to the maximum, whether it's osteoarthritis, generalized pain, or an age-related disease. Studies have indicated that in older individuals, lower-weight, higher-repetition exercises are often better for muscle and strength growth and endurance, with a lower risk of injury.

The biggest caveat to the high-weight, low-repetition paradigm is that training to the point of failure is much more likely to lead to injury. You have to be very careful when using weights at or near the heaviest you can lift to avoid an injury that sets you back months of progress.

Beware of training to failure.

The concept of training to failure is to do your heavy lifts in sets until you physically cannot continue. The idea is that pushing yourself to the absolute limit is the best way to maximize your gains.

The truth is, research doesn't seem to back this up. Training to the point of almost failure, but not all the way to failure, seems to have just about the same level of returns, with a lower risk of injury from that point of failure.

How much short of failure should you push? That, I can't tell you. There's no real existing research to come to a tangible conclusion on that front just yet.

As you might have noticed by now, one of the biggest limiters you need to pay attention to is the point where your body tells you to stop before you hurt yourself. Pushing for that one more rep might feel like an achievement, but if you tear a muscle or injure a tendon in a joint, you're going to lose more while you recover than you would have gained from that rep. It's simply not worth it.

Get Appropriate Rest

One of the core pillars of health is sleep, but sleep alone doesn't tell the whole story. Rest – both physical and mental – is critical even throughout your day. Surprisingly, it's also critical even within a workout session.

An interesting recent study indicated that people in general perform better and get more results from exercises when they perform each individual set in a minimally fatigued state. The breakpoint for the study was two minutes of rest in between exercises; subjects chaining exercise to exercise with less than two minutes between them had worse results than those who spent two or more minutes in between sets resting.

Get Appropriate Rest

When you exercise, you feel sore, fatigued, and weak. That's because exercise, the use and pushing of muscles, builds up fatigue in those muscles and tears the fibers. You're likely aware that muscle growth happens when muscles are torn and heal back stronger, but it can sometimes be difficult to recognize that this means it's not the exercise that builds strength; it's the recovery. Nothing is more important than properly recovering, allowing your body to heal and build appropriately.

Customize Your Plan

Out of everything, if you take anything away from this post, let it be that you should customize your routine for your own needs, your own body, and your own goals. I can't tell you how many reps to do of what weight or what set – at least not unless you're my patient – because those answers will vary for everyone.

Workout Plan

Whether you're a beginner at exercise or you're more advanced and trying to take your health to the next level, there's always another step you can take on your health journey. The roadmap to success isn't fixed. You have to balance what you want with what you can do and make sure you're addressing all three core pillars of health, not just relying on one to solve the equation.

Don't be afraid to take it slow, to work out what you need as you go, and to build up as you go along. Most people aren't going to jump head-first into setting up a home gym, after all. We all start somewhere; what's important is that we start.

Sources

  1. The effects of eccentric versus concentric resistance training on muscle strength and mass in healthy adults; a systematic review with meta-analysis: https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/43/8/556
  2. The American College of Sports Medicine brochure Information on High-Intensity Interval Training: https://www.acsm.org/docs/default-source/files-for-resource-library/high-intensity-interval-training.pdf?sfvrsn=b0f72be6_2
  3. Loading Recommendations for Muscle Strength, Hypertrophy, and Local Endurance: A Re-Examination of the Repetition Continuum: https://www.mdpi.com/2075-4663/9/2/32
  4. Maximizing Strength: The Stimuli and Mediators of Strength Gains and Their Application to Training and Rehabilitation: https://journals.lww.com/nsca-jscr/Fulltext/2023/04000/Maximizing_Strength__The_Stimuli_and_Mediators_of.22.aspx

About Dr. Brad Stanfield

Dr Brad Stanfield

Dr. Brad Stanfield is a General Practitioner in Auckland, New Zealand, with a strong emphasis on preventative care and patient education. He runs a YouTube channel with over 240,000 subscribers, where he shares the latest clinical guidelines and research to promote long-term health. Dr. Stanfield is also involved in clinical research, having co-authored several papers, and is a Fellow of the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners.

Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.